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Truant officers for parents. Collins High School outreach worker Deborah Michael is quoted in Catalyst (December) saying, "The initial response from many parents [of students who miss school] is: 'I can't do anything with my child.' I look at them and say, 'What do you mean you can't do anything with them?' I let them know that if they don't get their child in school, their public assistance can be cut off."

Forget Cabrini-Green--let's donate to Du Page County. From "Forumnotes" (January), newsletter of the Donors Forum of Chicago: "As Chicago's suburban counties grow, so does the need for social services. 'The suburbs as we knew them ten years ago no longer exist,' says Nanette Silva, program officer at the Community Memorial Foundation in Hinsdale. 'Yet there continues to be a misperception that the suburbs are mainly white and affluent, when in reality we are becoming a microcosm of the city.'"

Justice of, by, and for janitors. Last April 50 members of the Service Employees International Union, including 38-year-old Augusto Cuevas, sat down and blocked suburban traffic for two hours. They were arrested, but they also got what they wanted, writes David Moberg in In These Times (June 12). "Later that day, the companies that clean commercial and high-tech office buildings in the booming 'edge cities' outside Chicago returned to the bargaining table for the first time in 10 days and agreed to boost janitors' compensation by a dramatic 44 percent over three years. By the final year, Cuevas and his wife--also a janitor--will have family health insurance and each get paid $8 an hour, up from $6.65. This victory--as in other recent SEIU triumphs in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Cleveland--wouldn't have happened without the courage and zeal of workers like Cuevas, a recent immigrant from Mexico. A decade ago, most union leaders saw such immigrants as passive, frightened and unorganizable. Now many envision them as the militant heart of a renewed labor movement."

We're number seven! According to readers of Conde Nast Traveler (November), Chicago is the seventh most favored destination in the U.S.--behind San Francisco, New Orleans, Charleston, Santa Fe, New York, and Savannah--and just barely edging out Seattle, Boston, and San Diego.

"How does a poll-driven president summon the electorate to the routine burdens of citizenship, let alone heroic efforts?" asks conservative pundit Charles Colson in the suburban-based Christianity Today (January 8). "We have chosen a president-elect, not because he was persuasive on great issues, but because he promised wealth transfers to key constituencies and posed little threat to the comfort of everyone else."

Political parties rule the Illinois General Assembly with an iron hand--but not the ones you think, writes University of Illinois political scientist Kent Redfield in his new book Money Counts: How Dollars Dominate Illinois Politics and What We Can Do About It. They are "the House Speaker Michael Madigan Party, the Senate President James 'Pate' Philip Party, the House Minority Leader Lee Daniels Party, and the Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones Party. These legislative leaders perform all of the traditional functions of political parties. They recruit the candidates, raise the funds, and run the campaigns." Especially they raise the funds. Their personal war chests, amassed under Illinois' laissez-faire campaign laws, are huge and essential to candidates running in swing districts. How do the four leaders use their power? Redfield points to "the $49 billion state budget rubber-stamped by the legislature in April 2000. The budget was almost exclusively a product of negotiations among the four legislative leaders and the governor. It was brought forth and ratified in a single day. The individual policy decisions embodied in the spending decisions were not debated in committee or on the floor of the House or Senate. To say that the rank-and-file members of the legislature were largely irrelevant to the process would be an understatement. The four leaders buried more than $250 million in lump sum appropriations in the budget to be used for funding pork projects at their discretion. That discretion only tightens the vise grip leaders have on the rank-and-file members of each chamber."

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