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Let's see, Arlington Heights is to Ford Heights as Germany is to France? Chicago Metropolis 2020 recently won the American Planning Association's Daniel Burnham award for its Chicago-area plan combining land use and transportation under a regional authority. Ruth Eckdish Knack writes in the April issue of Planning magazine that the group's executive director, Frank Beal, compares the arrangement to the European Union. "Here are nations that have fought each other in the past but are now giving up a measure of sovereignty," he tells her. "Why? Because they recognize that their economies will suffer if they don't. We are making a similar point."

Tale of two reforms. In 1988 the Illinois legislature gave power to elected local school councils in Chicago; in 1995 the legislature gave some of that power back to the mayor and the Chicago Public Schools central office. How much? According to Elizabeth Duffrin in Catalyst Chicago (March), "local control of principal selection has eroded, primarily in low-income communities. Today, the School Board holds the authority either to select or to remove and replace the principal in about 115 of 602 schools."

First they sold us on tearing down public housing by promising housing vouchers--and now that there aren't even gutted buildings to squat in, they're taking away the vouchers. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities ( reported March 17 that President Bush's budget plan would cut the housing-voucher program by more than $1.6 billion next year and by another $4.6 billion by 2009. The center estimates that 4,928 Chicago Housing Authority vouchers will disappear by 2005, 11,828 by 2009.

"'Do you have a gun?' I asked one 15-year-old in my parish," writes Bruce Wellems, pastor at Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Chicago (U.S. Catholic, April). "'Of course, I do, Father. I have to defend my people. I have to keep them safe.' 'Have you ever fired it?' I asked. 'Of course, I have, Father. I am a soldier and this is a war. I have to defend my family.' Finally I asked him, 'Did you ever hit anyone?' 'Geez, Father, I don't know. I didn't open my eyes.'"

"If a weekend receptionist is ordered to hand over her employer's computer equipment to FBI agents" under the USA Patriot Act's notorious section 215, writes Chicago attorney William Zieske in the Illinois Bar Journal (February), "the law strictly prohibits her from telling her boss on Monday where the computer went while it was under her custody. If she is charged with the theft, it's questionable whether she could even tell her attorney what happened. Because of the secrecy attending these orders [issued by a secret court], it is unlikely the public would learn whether this scenario ever occurs.... Section 215 of the Act is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2005 unless extended."

In the land of the cultists. Writing in the April 8 issue of the New York Review of Books, Garry Wills reports chatting with a fundamentalist friend who was looking forward to seeing Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. "While we talked, he got a phone call from his wife. Their pastor was not only encouraging but requiring his congregation to see the film, for which group tickets had been bought. She had called the pastor to say that she was having back trouble and, though she did plan to see the movie later on, she did not want to go now. The pastor would not take that as an answer. He insisted. She was calling her husband to ask him what she could do. They agonized over the problem while I withdrew."

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