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Letters & Comments: September 16, 2010

"This is a step in the wrong direction, as most of the bloggers I have seen are sycophants who have a political axe to grind."

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What Did It Reveal?

Re: "Want Property Tax Relief? Pay Up: Sarah Louise Klose was expecting a check from the city. Instead she got a bill," September 9

Typical Chicago government: anti-citizen from the cops to the bureaucracy. But your "solid case" was likely less a factor in the Department of Revenue's decision to dismiss the ticket than the suggestion you'd go public with your story. Everyone who's received a ticket unjustly has a story about contesting it, submitting photographic proof or other documents, only to have the hearing officer ignore the proof against the ticketing officer and decide the motorist is guilty and liable. This appears to be standard operating procedure, and stories like yours are as surprising for their outcomes as for their infrequency. —A Curious Party

This journal entry about someone's personal battle with city bureaucracy did not reveal anything noteworthy. It is the worst cover story I have seen in the Reader in a long time. This is not reporting, it's a long personal blog entry. Is this what we have to expect in the publication's new era under the new regime? —anemone

Everybody Is Not a Reporter

Re: "Everybody's a Reporter: The city makes it easier for journalists of all stripes to get to where the action is" by Ian Fullerton, September 10 at chicagoreader.com

A step in the right direction, but requiring a press pass in order to video tape a city council meeting still violates the state's open meetings act. —groucho

This is a step in the wrong direction, as most of the bloggers I have seen are sycophants who have a political axe to grind, have little to no professional ethics, insert opinion into their "news," and consistently miss the mark when it comes to reporting with some modicum of good taste. At some point, the council will probably revisit this idea after some idiot blogger proves themselves so unprofessional as to ruin it for everyone. —Everybody's A Reporter

The Croissant Clause

Re: "A Dozen or None: If you want a croissant at Logan Square's new La Boulangerie, you have to pay for a dozen upfront" by Mike Sula, September 13 at chicagoreader.com

I'm happy to have both New Wave Coffee and La Boulangerie in the neighborhood.

La Boulangerie knew the terms when it chose the location. It could have gone to a nearby or adjacent building and not have been subject to the restriction, but apparently the prime corner location was worth living with the terms.

Now we have both a coffee shop and a to-go bakery to patronize, and a toy store to boot. Win-win-win. —Lynn Stevens

Hello, Great City

Re: "Farewell, Great City: The speech we heard" by Steve Bogira, September 10 at chicagoreader.com

On vacation in Maine, I had just finished explaining to my 4-year-old why he needed to use his "library voice" while I went into the Brunswick Public Library to check e-mails. Imagine his confusion (and that of the typically phlegmatic New Englanders who populate this library) when I read of Daley's decision online, and suddenly let out an exultant whoop while dancing a fandango on the table. Maybe now we'll have a City Council that doesn't collectively bend over and let the mayor drive them to Idaho; maybe we'll have a mayor who actually cares about things like education and public safety; maybe now I can stay in the city instead of fleeing to the suburbs because I just can't afford the taxes, the nickel and diming of ordinary citizens, or the 40 percent increase in residential real estate transfer taxes that lost me thousands in home equity and made it impossible to sell my home even before the economy melted down.

One can dream . . . —Mamajuice

Talking to Actual People So You Don't Have To

Re: "The Chicago(s) of China: Will the real one please stand up?" by Lauri Apple, August 26

Lauri Apple writes:

The correspondence was a copy of the original article, folded lengthwise in quarters. Using a red pen, the sender, "Ray," circled the population figure cited in the article for the city of Chongqing, China: 32 million. In the margin, in black ink, he wrote: "Correction: 3.2 million. How and where did you come up with this ridiculous figure, Lauri? Shouldn't it read 3.2 million? Is this a misprint? Even Shanghai cannot come close to this over-bloated figure, and Shanghai is China's biggest city and one of the world's top ten!"

Being a smart-ass, I wrote "I'M NOT WRONG LOOK AT THE INTERNET" across the top and tacked it to the wall in the Reader's kitchen.

The next day, a postcard featuring a picture of San Francisco arrived in my mailbox. "Dear Lauri," it said, "You're right, Lauri. Somebody helped me look up the Internet, and sure enough, Chongqing purportedly has a mind-boggling population of 32 million! This would make Chongqing the world's biggest city, more populous than Shanghai, Beijing and Mumbai COMBINED!

"But common sense dictates that there has to be a ridiculously big mistake somewhere. Please don't be so gullible, Lauri. Would someone please contact whoever the idiot is who is responsible for this outrageous Internet website . . . Ray."

Running vertically alongside the left side of the postcard was this postscript: "The correct figure should be 3.2 million."

Ray's insistence was contagious. If he felt so strongly about this, maybe he was right! I looked up the Internet. Many reputable sources—from China Daily to Foreign Policy magazine to the website for the Woodbridge Institute—also used 32 million. But UCLA gave 3.12 million—as of 1990—and the city of Seattle's undated sister-cities site gave 4.4 million, 10.2 million for the metro area. Just three years ago, the New York Times, in a piece about the massive migration of Chinese from rural to urban areas, reported Chongqing's population as 12 million. Had 20 million more people really moved there in the past three years?

I called the Chinese consulate in Chicago and the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., but neither office had population statistics on hand; people at both offices told me to look up the Internet. Then I tried the University of Chicago, hoping one of their scholars might be able to clear up the confusion. As it turned out, U. of C. associate news director William Harms, who puts reporters in touch with faculty experts, has a brother working as an engineer in Chongqing. He queried them via e-mail, and the following day received this response from his sister-in-law, Cheryl Harms: "Generally people here say 32 million but it is unclear what area that figure is supposed to cover. It's a very Chinese thing with vague answers to concrete questions. I've heard numbers as high as 36 million but Chongqing covers a huge area and not all of it is city. In many respects it is more like one huge province with a lot of districts where high rises are going up which we in the US would define as the city. But here you can travel for hours in a number of directions and end up in rural areas which they also call Chongqing."

Her conclusion? "We live right near the river front where most pictures representing Chongqing are taken and I can say with authority there are a lot of people here but it's not 32 million."

But I wanted authority from an authority, so Harms also put me in touch with Guy Alitto, associate professor of Chinese history and East Asian languages and civilizations, who recalled that Chongqing had recently been declared the largest city in the world. "The 32 million is coming from the actual population," he said. "I don't know how these other numbers came up." Alitto points to the expansion of Chongqing's borders after changes in its governance in 1997, when the city officially became a municipality to be directly administered by the central government.

So in conclusion, the Chongqing metro area probably has a population of 32 million. But feel free to drop me a postcard if you have any evidence to the contrary.

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