Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on May 18, 1994 · Page 38
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · Page 38

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Wednesday, May 18, 1994
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Chicago Tribune Founded June 10, 1847 John W. Madigan, Publisher Jack Fuller, President Howard A.Tyner, Editor N. Don WYCLIFF, Editorial Page Editor F. RICHARD ClCCONE, Managing Editor Owen YOUNGMAN, Features Editor ELLEN Soeteber, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ann Marie LlPINSKI, Deputy Managing Editor 18 Section 1 Wednesday, May 18, 1994 Don't just look at us help us' After a dozen years of fighting, Haitian revolutionaries defeated the forces of Napoleon and, in 1804, established an independent state. Sadly, that historic victory was both the beginning and the end of Haiti's winning streak. Rather than growing into a strong, stable, prosperous democracy, Haiti remains weak, unstable and woefully impoverished, its environment damaged land, most important, its people oppressed by an illegitimate military government that rules by fear. To its credit, the Clinton administration lately has intensified efforts to oust this thuggish regime, which stole power from President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in -1991. And the administration has committed to end within days the repugnant U.S. practice of automatically returning boat people. These are positive, welcome steps. But much else will have to be done by Haitians and outsiders with fa variety of affiliations and a lot of aid money once a modicum of democracy has been restored. J What else does Haiti need? A great deal indeed, a j visit to that sad country last week indicated. Electricity is a sometime thing in Port-au-Prince, 1 except for the few who can afford their own genera-J tors. Clean water is scarce. Some streets and roads are not just pot-holed; they are washed away. ' Still, the city's thoroughfares are active places: Sell- ers of charcoal, mangoes, bread, cigarettes you name it line the streets, which can turn to mini-j swamps in this rainy season, while cars, trucks, , highly decorated conveyances called tap-taps, burros, ! That was then. Chicago is now. horses and the odd emaciated dog or piglet compete for space on which tc move forward. Despite the embargo, gasoline is readily available; it arrives by truck from the Dominican Republic. The fuel is dispensed not at service stations, which have been taken over for other uses, but via gallon jugs sold (for $7 or $8) by individual entrepreneurs. Medical care, by contrast, ranges from abysmal to non-existent, and expectant mothers, according to a nascent feminist group, are on their own. Food is a sometime thing for the very poor, like the hundreds of thousands fated to exist precariously in Cite Soleil, the low-lying slum known as a hotbed of Aristide support and thus also as a killing ground of thugs called attaches, army-sanctioned murderers. Anger, desperation and destitution are palpable in Cite Soleil, where an agitated man told visitors last week, "Don't just come and look at us help us." Other Haitians, such as a former member of Aris-tide's Cabinet, appreciated the interest of outsiders at this difficult time. He hadn't given up hope. Nor had the Haitian man who eagerly told Americans milling about in shabby downtown Port-au-Prince that, though Haiti had a new president (the aged jurist put in as the military's puppet), "the people" did not know it He meant that they would not dignify the latest abuse of their citizenship rights by acknowledging it. That die-hard spirit deserves support, not to mention the reward, sooner rather than later, of a durable upturn in Haiti's fortunes. Chicago doesn't have the Alamo, the French Quarter or Times Square. Not that we have to apologize for the site of old Fort Dearborn, or Ukrainian Village, or the corner of State and Madison. Different cities have different strengths. Democratic VIPs here this week to inspect Chicago as a potential site for their 1996 convention should note the categories in which we outrank San Antonio, New Orleans and New York, the others cities in the running. First off, you'll notice that politics is our favorite pastime. What other city named all its expressways after favored pols, be they Democrat or Republican, president of the United States or president of the Cook County Board? The Democrats may only be reanointing Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1996, but they'll be Page 1 news every day, guaranteed. What's more, nobody will accuse you of coming here to have a good time... even though you will. The folks back home probably think of Chicago as an early-to-bed, working stiff kind of town. You know, stockyards and steel mills. That's partly true, but Chicago is also a toddlin' town where you can venture out to buy a steak dinneror just about anything else long after they've turned out the lights in New Orleans or San Antonio. If you go down there, people will think you're out all night on Bourbon Street or on the Paseo del Rio, whatever that is, when actually you'll be back in your hotel room watching Spectravision. As for New York, you'd probably play it safe and order room service. What's the limit on your credit card? Chicago is one of the world's great hotel towns. Convention delegates can spend their free time watching the world go by in the grand lobbies of the Palmer House or the Drake. Down South a lot of delegates will have no free time. They'll be commuting by bus from motels with paper bathmats located halfway to Baton Rouge or Houston. Better make those buses air-conditioned, too. It gets mighty hot down there in August The average daily, high in San Antonio that time of year is 94.9 degrees l' fahrenheit It's cooler in New Orleans (90.7) but you'd never know it for the humidity. New York? Everyone who can afford it spends August at the shore. Chicago's big problem isn't the weather, of course, but memories of hippies, yippies, club-wielding cops and other lowlights of the 1968 convention. That was 26 years ago. It's time to forgive, forget, and pass the kielbasa. A time for accountability Accountability can sound like a fine thing until it's time to take account That's one thing the State Board of Education learned when in recent months it took the first steps to implement the Illinois Education Accountability Act Local educators objected to the sometimes ham-handed way the initial process was conducted. Now the Illinois Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, is asking for a one-year moratorium on the law's enforcement State board officials were quick to acknowledge the complaints, however, and they invited in some of their critics to help iron things out If wrinkles remain, the objectors should detail them and seek additional refinement, not further delay. The accountability law, passed in 1991, is designed to raise student achievement across the state. Each school is required to develop its own plan for improving education, measured in large part by scores on standardized exams that Illinois pupils now take in five subjects and seven grades. Schools that perform poorly and fail to get better face increasingly stringent state scrutiny and, if there isn't eventual progress, the possibility of takeover or even shutdown. State employees set out to 600 schools during the past year to begin assessing student performance and reviewing improvement plans with local educators. The visits were not always friendly occasions. Some teachers and administrators complained about inconsistent rules, inordinate paperwork and overbearing inspectors. 'Too much, too soon," was the most commonly expressed objection a not altogether fair complaint since the student assessment process was enacted way back in 1985 and the latest requirements have been on the statute books for nearly three years. But state board administrators, to their credit responded promptly. An ad hoc group of teachers, principals and superintendents was assembled to review the problems and recommend changes, which are being made. Some initial requirements were deferred, others were clarified and more information was supplied. If the IEA still sees flaws, it should ask for more fixes. Wholesale delay would be a terrible mistake. Improving the education of Illinois children is too important to keep postponing. Voice of the people Let's learn to live with urban pigeons CHICAGO The recent Chicagoland piece on the problem of pigeons in Chicago stirred up everything from fears generated by Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" to health matters, but it did not offer an objective picture. My wife and I are federally and state-licensed bird rehabilitators with the U.S. Department of the Interior and Illinois Department of Conservation with 15 years of field experience. We are licensed all the way to the eagle, but we help city birds like sparrows, pigeons, starlings and crows. We take no money for our work. My wife is a bird technician at an animal hospital I specialize in the peaceful sharing of the urban habitat between humans and animals, assisting various municipalities, individuals, businesses, etc., with bird problems. I do not participate in poisonings, trappings, glues or any other inhumane controls. Too much of anything is problematic, be it pigeons or humans. But a recent letter from the Centers for Disease Control stated, "pigeons in the wild do not constitute a clear and present danger to human kind." Pigeons are simply not the dangerous alien invaders that some people make them out to be. The Humane Society stated in an article on urban birds that a San Francisco study claimed a mass destruction of urban pigeon would create such a food source for city rats that their populations would explode. The extermination was canceled because pigeons do act as vacuum cleaners of street refuse. Pigeons pair up for life and actually mourn when one of them dies. They are devoted parents and the reason few see baby pigeons is their nesting sites are up and away from the normal line of sight. Babies leave the nest between seven to eight weeks and the mortality rate is catastrophic. Mark Spreyer of the Chicago Academy of Science, who established Chicago's peregrine falcon program, laughed at the idea of peregrines controlling pigeon populations. Peregrines eat about one pigeon a day and have a five-mile radius they guard as their own. Predators go after the easiest prey, and the easiest prey for the falcon is a small mammal known as a rat I think it's wrong to let small children go screaming into a group of pigeons. It would be far better to teach them kindness by allowing them to offer the bird some food. Maybe if we taught respect for all life at an early age we would not have teenagers blasting people into eternity at such alarming rates. I have been using a pigeon birth control since 1984 and it produces a 75 percent reduction in 18 months every time. Rapid flock reduction, such as from poisoning, causes birds to intensify their reproductive cycles in a Darwinian attempt to maintain their species. Ornitrol, the pigeon birth control, doesn't induce that reaction. Alas, the EPA has required retesting of the product, though not a single complaint against it existed, and because few people use it and sales were very modest the company could not afford the retesting. Pest control companies don't like it because it is not labor-intensive like the inhumane methods, and they are laughing all the way to the bank while they pollute us with more chemical proliferation that gets into the food chain and creates cruelty towards God's creatures. Buzz Alpert Death penalty OAK PARK The most common argument against the death penalty is the possibility that an innocent person may die. But living at all carries the risk of dying fairly or unfairly. Compare the chance of being accused of a capital crime and being executed with the chance of a fatal accident, inadvertently catching a lethal disease, or even the much greater risk of being killed on the street or one's own home by weapon or hand. The chance of getting executed by legal error is less by a factor of thousands than being struck by lightning, the rarest kind of fatality. Each year thousands suffer that fate. It isn't fair, but that's life, and it is a risk we run without becoming so neurotic or paranoid we won't wander outdoors without a lightning rod. Another argument is that minorities, especially, face a greater risk of being executed unfairly, but compare that infinitesimal chance with the probability they face of dying in a street crime or random gang shooting. The fear of execution by error is the least of their worries. The number of proven cases where individuals have been unjustly executed isn't a handful in the nation's entire history, but we have tens of thousands each year who run the risk of dying in heinous capital crimes. Even is, as many claim, execution does not appear to reduce crime, an executed murderer will never repeat his crime, and that will reduce the chance of any citizen being murdered by some very small factor. G.P. Lucchettl Keystone witness CHICAGO I had the pleasure to testify in the defense of the Melton family case better known as the Keystone case from a welfare perspective, due to me being a former long-term welfare recipient This story, I believe, was blown out of proportion by the media and it made me very angry how this story was reported. Before the Keystone case, I had never met the Melton family when I got a telephone call from their lawyer, Kathy Ward, asking me to testify about my own experience of being on public aid how people on welfare normally share apartments together to make ends meet I was glad that I did. I was so happy with the judge's decision for them to participate in Women for Economic Security Life Skills Program. Jail is not the answer but true reform is. I think the Keystone case opened up our awareness of how the system is in need of reform. Mary Hartsfield COCHAOt Women for Economic Security We invite readers to share their ideas in these columns. Write us at Voice of the People, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611. You also may send electronic mail to us at screen name TribLetter on Chicago Online. Include your name, address and phone number. The more concise the letter, the less we will have to edit to fit our space. Richard MiMand Look at the product CHCAGO-Jn the ongoing debate about riverboat casino gambling, one key point has been ignored by both supporters and opponents. The real issue is not the morality of gambling; it is not organized crime. It is the value of the product of this industry. Manufacturing produces items people believe they need, just as the service industry provides services that people require. Aside from redistribution of wealth, I cannot think of one positive product of gambling. To save the city from sliding further into the economic and social abyss, the mayor and his administration should be pursuing businesses that require all levels of skill and provide goods and services of enduring value. Do we want Chicago remembered for its cultural icons, its vibrant artistic and intellectual life, its ethnic diversity and its many invaluable industries and services? Or do we want it memorialized as another place where people came to lose money? Diane L. Schirf Concern for jobs CHCAGO-It appears that casinos will come to Chicago, replete with all its attendant problems. The Chesterfield Community Council, after listening to all the rhetoric and discussions offered by various political officials and others, wants to go on record as opposing certain aspects of the plans. Casinos can mean jobs for the members of our community and that is our primary concern. Jobs are important to the stability of our community. Legislators and others are so concerned about black casino ownership 1 that they lose sight of a very elementary concern. While ownership is an admirable goal, we say let's make jobs and contracts our primary concern, and ownership a secondary goal Frank M. Grego President Chesterfield Community Council Resolving the debt EVANSTON Hillary Rodham Clinton's many skills are truly remarkable. If her investment acumen persists, why not give her a sum consisting of 1 percent of the national debt Give her a year to play with it At the end of one year, she will have amassed a sum equal to the national debt She can bestow this upon the rest of us to resolve the debt Bill Komaiko Cover all injustices CHICAGO There's been so much talk about the importance of the Oscar-winning movie "Schindler's List." It's been deemed so important that some people want it taught in schools as a course. "Schindler's List" can serve only one purpose by being included in a curriculum: to educate those interested about the devastation to Jews caused by the Holocaust I think the movie and book should be offered as part of a much larger and more effective program. Let's talk about all the different injustices that have been inflicted on so many groups of people and how in essence each is as disturbing as the next. We can't deny the wrongs that have occurred against people here in this great, just country. Who will include the plight of the Native Americans in their schools? When will we teach the truth about slavery and all the pain that the African-Americans still endure as a result? Know that I was forever changed after seeing "Schindler's List" I know the movie affected so many others too. Let's not limit our ability to see the pain and suffering of those around us because their stories haven't made it to the big screen and maybe never will. Rudy Miles Put in perspective ELMWOOD PARK Thank you, Mary Schmich, for putting sex harassment against women in its proper perspective ("Sex harassment: Battle just starting," May 6). It seems it is okay for Democrats to have their playtime, but Republicans, such as Bob Packwood and Clarence Thomas, must pay a price even though they did nothing more than joke or pat a derriere. Certainly Congress never took any censure action, nor was any demanded by women's groups, against Ted Kennedy. No Republican left a damsel to die in a car driven off a bridge nor cavorted in nightclubs with young relatives. But then, he was a Democrat. It's a double standard and until NOW takes issue with any and all politicians regardless of party label, they cannot be taken seriously. Helen Norris Why earnings cap? FLOSSMOOR Mel Reynolds makes a lot of press about gun control and that's good. But he made speeches and promises about lifting the cap on Social Security earnings, the same as Dan Rostenkowski did. After the election, you never hear about it Last year at the Marie Irwin Center in Homewood, where Reynolds was addressing retired people, he answered my question directly that a bill with hundreds of signatures was in the works. What happened? We have not heard a word about this problem. Working seniors pay the same taxes as anyone else working, so why the limit on earnings? Bruce Tbibault

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