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City File



"If ordinary people cannot enlist the aid of lawyers when they need to, if the judiciary becomes a tool available only to the wealthy and powerful, the courts will become a source of oppression," warns Illinois Supreme Court chief justice Moses Harrison in a February 2 speech reprinted in the March issue of "CVLS News," newsletter of the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation. To serve the 1.3 million Illinoisans in poverty, he notes, "There are fewer than 200 full time legal aid lawyers. I'll do the math for you. That is only 1 lawyer for every 6,500 poor people. By any standard, 1 lawyer for 6,500 people is not a glut. It is a scandal."

Why nobody goes into farming for the money. The on-line newsletter "Between the Furrows" (March 2) lists the five-year average return on equity of several food-based businesses: Sara Lee, 20 percent; McDonald's, 13 percent; Wendy's International, 11 percent; U.S. farmers, 2.1 percent.

Can drugs prevent religion? "Imagine a man in his late twenties who is brought by his father to a psychiatrist," writes Tod Chambers of Northwestern University's medical school in the "Park Ridge Center Bulletin" (January/February). "The man seemingly has everything: great wealth, a happy marriage, and good health. Yet he is obsessed with death, sickness, and old age and derives no pleasure from life. The psychiatrist prescribes Prozac. Six months later, the man reports being relieved of his obsessive morbid thoughts and able to find life pleasurable again. A number of years go by, and the man becomes an extremely successful leader in a large corporation. Although I have taken a few liberties, this case is based on the life of Prince Siddartha Gautama"--who in real life didn't have the option of Prozac, which may be why he later became the Buddha.

"Fitzgerald's voting record shows why it's difficult to pick an adjective to use before his name," writes Lynn Sweet of Illinois' junior senator in Illinois Issues (March). "He voted to impeach President Bill Clinton and to reject Moseley-Braun's nomination as ambassador to New Zealand. However, after two full years, he is trending left toward the middle, not right. The National Journal pegged him as among the Senate centrists, calling him one of 'the 11 most liberal Republicans.'"

The house is packed, according to George Schmidt in Substance (March). "At the February 21 meeting, schools CEO Paul Vallas continued the practice of packing the Board chambers with bureaucrats and consultants to minimize the number of members of the public who can attend the meeting." On February 21, more than 50 ACORN members protesting large class sizes had to stand outside the meeting room until their speakers were called. "For more than a year, whenever the board meets at its 125 S. Clark St. headquarters, it reserves nearly one-third of the seats for 'CPS staff' (as the signs on the roped off areas say). Other seats in the area supposedly for the general public are also occupied by staff during the meetings."

From another city's file. "Oakland's Mayor Jerry Brown...has initiated a campaign to bring 10,000 new residents into downtown by the year 2003," writes Carl Anthony in "Poverty & Race" (January/February). "From a conventional environmental perspective, this effort is cause for celebration. The infill strategy will cut down on suburban sprawl.... Unfortunately, however, new investment in the area, driven by regional pressures, will raise land values and rents" for the 6,000 current downtown residents, mostly poor people of color. "This could bring gentrification and displacement into neighborhoods....No planning is currently being done by the city to meet the needs of these residents."

"Can something as utilitarian as a parking garage ever rise to the level of a historic site?" The answer is yes, according to Keith Sculle in Historic Illinois (February). Designed by Holabird and Roche and built in 1918, the Hotel LaSalle Parking Garage at 215 W. Washington "may be the oldest intact parking garage in the United States."

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