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Let's hear it for rotting organic matter! "Fertilizers are best when they come from the yard itself," according to Ken Dunn of the Resource Center, who has been known to give away compost bins for yard waste at North Park Village Recycling Center on North Pulaski. "The yard then becomes like the rain forest whose lush vegetation is supported in rather poor soil, but feeds on ample nutrients from the decaying plant matter of previous seasons."

"Is e-mail going to destroy regular mail?" UIC network coordinator Mike Lanski asks rhetorically in UIC News (November 16). "I think the Post Office is doing a good enough job at that. I mean, you never find a PC with a bunch of mail on it burning in an alley."

Is this a vicious circle? Maureen Hellwig of Erie Neighborhood House on the neighborhood cycle as it often plays out in Chicago (The Network Builder, Fall): "During periods of neighborhood disinvestment, grassroots organizing keeps the neighborhood afloat and fosters the creation of alternative, community controlled institutions to fill the void caused by the flight of private capital." But then, "if the neighborhood organizing and alternative institutions are successful, private capital returns and the people who fought to make it happen get pushed out."

"The 26th Street corridor in Little Village is among the most lucrative business districts in all of Chicago, based on sales tax revenue," writes Jennifer Halperin in Illinois Issues (December). She quotes Little Village Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Velazquez: "In 1990 there were 480 stores in Little Village; now, four years later, there are 850."

The two members of the 1993-'94 Illinois congressional delegation with the worst pay-equity records, according to lllinois Politics (November), are downstate Democrat (and possible 1996 U.S. Senate candidate) Dick Durbin, whose female staffers get 56 cents for every $1 paid to males, and downstate Republican Thomas Ewing (53 cents). Best of the bunch was now-retired Democrat George Sangmeister ($1.34).

Words of comfort? Cook County Commissioner Bobbie Steele, interviewed in N'digo (November 24-December 7): "A Cook County commissioner is to county government what an alderman is to city government....We're with every citizen in Cook County from birth to death."

The big environmental groups should pull in their horns for roughly the same reason that Sears is selling Allstate, write Christopher Boerner and Jennifer Chilton Kallery of the Center for the Study of American Business in a December report. As the Sierra Club, National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, and Natural Resources Defense Council grew during the 1970s and 1980s, they gradually quit specializing in particular ecological problems and "strategically diversified to address a wide range of concerns from air pollution to species extinction...[hoping] to capitalize on Americans' increasing demand for environmental quality." Audubon, for instance, has made a concerted effort to get out of birds. "Unfortunately, as many U.S. corporations have discovered, expansion away from an organization's core competency often has numerous disadvantages"--fiercer competition between groups, emotional and sometimes misleading fund-raising campaigns, large internal bureaucracies distant from the grass roots, and, ultimately, some degree of public disenchantment.

Annual antidemagogue inoculation, from Illinois Tax Facts (September-October): "Illinois is a relatively high tax state when its 1992 state and local taxes of $2,202 per person are compared with the national average of $2,178. On this criterion, Illinois ranks 17th highest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, Illinois ranks relatively low in tax burden when its 1992 state and local taxes of $107 per $1,000 of personal income are compared with a national average of $115 per $1,000 of income. By this [economically more accurate] measure, Illinois ranks 37th among the states."

Sorry, my stereotypes indicate that this battle pits Republicans against people of color. "In the yawning political space left open by enfeebled Democrats [who failed to oppose Proposition 187 in California], a new extraparliamentary social movement was inadvertently ushered into existence, much the same way that anti-Vietnam protests moved into the streets 30 years ago as Democrats prosecuted the war," writes Marc Cooper in the Chicago-based biweekly In These Times (November 28). "Some 100,000 liberal and Latino opponents of Proposition 187 took their cause onto the sidewalks last month, organizing the largest political demonstration and march in recent Los Angeles history. When they arrived at City Hall there were no Democratic candidates on hand to encourage them." Unfortunately for the left's political theology, something very un-Vietnam-like happened then. "The first speech from the rally platform came from Ron Unz, the young millionaire Republican businessman who had challenged Pete Wilson in the June primary from the right but who at least had the backbone to say what [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Brown and [Democratic Senate candidate] Feinstein didn't: that Proposition 187 was morally repugnant." Cooper also notes that 50 percent of African American voters supported the anti-immigrant measure.

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

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