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"There is no soil on vacant lots in Chicago," Elizabeth Tyler told a food conference last month at Northeastern Illinois University, speaking from her experience as supervisor of the Green Chicago community-garden program of the Chicago Botanic Garden. "Our lots grow rubble. We always have to haul in soil." But once that is done, she says community gardeners in town have successfully grown crops as seemingly exotic as sorghum, peanuts, and cotton. She adds, "I hear of more vandalism problems from gardeners in the suburbs than in the city."

Not heard on Milt Rosenberg. From a recent WHPK FM program guide: "Holmes and Roth interview Virgil Armstrong, author of The Armstrong Report and renowned authority on UFO contactees. Mr. Armstrong believes he is the reincarnation of General Custer."

"Most attacks on [44th Ward Alderman] Bernie [Hansen] have a classist edge," writes Jon-Henri Damski in Windy City Times (February 3). "Like Tonya Harding, Bernie didn't come up our way--privileged--he came up the hard way. He does not come from a connected family....Twenty-three years ago Bernie was a bouncer in a gay bar, the original Annex on Clark Street--the same spot now where the Rodde Center, with Bernie's help, is trying to sell us on their plans for a new lesbian and gay center. Bernie didn't start out in a law office, with Gold Cards and access to social contacts. He made money hustling on the professional bowlers' circuit. Later, he got a job in sanitation--garbage--and worked his way up in the 44th Ward organization."

Illinois' production of air pollutants declined drastically between 1973 and 1989, according to state EPA figures reported by Holly Korab in the Nature of Illinois (Winter). Among the bad actors: sulfur dioxide (production down 50 percent), nitrous oxides (down almost 20 percent), carbon monoxide (down 35 percent), particulate matter (down 81 percent), and greenhouse gases ("on the decline").

"I greet men who are dropping their kids off and picking them up from the center," explains Michael Poe of the Children's Home Aid Society of Illinois in the new booklet Getting Men Involved: Strategies for Early Childhood Programs. "At first, some of them thought I was gay, because they don't really think a man's place is working with little kids. But because I talk to them man-to-man, and let them see me out in the community, playing ball and hanging out, that makes them feel better about me as a man working in daycare."

Congratulations. I think. North Shore Democrat Jeffrey Schoenberg is the only member of the Illinois General Assembly whose 1993 voting record made him a finalist in the liberal Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) ratings and got him a better than 60-percent-favorable rating from the state Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee.

"It's not enough to debunk the spurious claims of scientific racism," writes Northwestern University political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. in the Progressive (February). "The real stakes of racism are political power and social hierarchy, and it can only be defeated on the terrain of explicit political struggle.... History shows the folly of claiming, as the 'new liberals' of the Clinton Administration and their academic lap dogs do, that we can best fight racism by pretending not to notice it."

What does it say about Chicago that the new fifth edition of the classic Chicago on Foot has been prepared by a resident of downstate Urbana?

"It is amusing for the University [of Illinois] to claim that it can be helpful by authorizing its professors to provide business advice to the vendors of Maxwell Street," writes Steve Balkin of Roosevelt University in a letter to Grey City Journal (January 28). "The vendors of Maxwell Street are far more resourceful, imaginative, and entrepreneurial than the UIC faculty. If you took away their PhDs and put them out on the street, the UIC professors would probably starve. It is the Maxwell Street vendors who can teach UIC faculty and students something about grassroots economic development, business survival, brotherly love, cultural diversity, and getting along with your neighbors."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.

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