Ready for real campaign finance reform? Try a lottery. Sam Venturella writes in the "Illinois Georgist" (Summer), "Unfortu-nately, the mentality of our present day politicians will not permit a reasonableness in the matter of taxation. The temptation to buy votes and generate contributions to campaign funds is too much. What we truly need is a new system of choosing members for the three branches of government. Something like the manner in which we get jurors; or, like the Selective Service System used during war time. We need a random selection of citizens....
On the average we would get the same caliber of integrity, sensibility, intellect and understanding."
Don't count your change--watch the scanner. The city Department of Consumer Services spent six months investigating 278 retail stores and in September announced it had caught 116 of them overcharging. The most-cited offenders were Walgreen's (32 stores), Osco (24 stores), and Dominick's (15 stores).
Once upon a time, property law was as wacko as rape law still is, explains University of Chicago law professor Stephen Schulhofer in his new book Unwanted Sex: The Culture of Intimidation and the Failure of Law. "In the sixteenth century, the common law of theft protected an owner's property only when a wrongdoer physically removed it from the owner's possession, against the owner's will and by force....Shippers and servants who made off with property entrusted to them and scoundrels who obtained possession under false pretenses could not be prosecuted, and the law of theft didn't protect intangible interests or immovable property (real estate) at all." Today the law protects property owners against these offenses, but "there has been no comparable evolution and modernization of the law of sexual assault. In nearly all states, rape laws continue to require proof of physical force."
No environmental crisis here. Jerry Sullivan of the Cook County Forest Preserve District (and a Reader contributor), quoted in the "Urban Naturalist" (October, November, and December): "Not only are we seeing more coyote and fox in Cook County, but animals thought to be long gone, such as badgers and bobcat, have been seen in this area."
Tightening someone else's belt. Since Mayor Daley took over, the central office of the Chicago Public Schools employs fewer people--down from 1,200 to 904 in four years. But the salaries of those remaining have gone up so much faster that total salary expenditures have risen from $48.9 million to $50.6 million (Catalyst, September).
Why do more smokers try to quit in the fall than in any other season? Bonnie Spring, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the principal investigator for the Chicagoland Quit Smoking program, speculates that it's because the prospect of taking a cigarette break outdoors in the Chicago winter is less than enticing.
"On a per capita basis, there are more guns in more Maine homes than in any other state in the nation, with the possible exception of Alaska," reports Down East magazine (September). "At the same time, Maine is one of the most crime-free states in the country," with 33.9 reported crimes per 1,000 residents compared to the national average of 50.8 in 1996. Illinois' rate was 53.2 that year.
North Shore Republican U.S. representative John Porter is in an exclusive club--he's one of just eight members of his party nationwide endorsed for Congress by the Sierra Club (Sierra, September/October). The club endorsed 88 Democrats, including Chicago candidates Luis Gutierrez, Rod Blagojevich, Danny Davis, and Jan Schakowsky, plus downstater Lane Evans. No endorsement was made in the Illinois U.S. Senate race.