Cynthia's Interests

The world as it unfolds - told from an African American woman's perspective...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


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On June 29th, a group of aldermen from Chicago’s city council introduced a measure that would ban smoking inside most public places in Chicago. The ban, if enacted, would be among the most strict in America, forbidding puffing not just in restaurants and bars, but also in bingo parlours, limousines, outdoor sport stadiums and on train platforms. The only indoor refuges for smokers would be private homes, hotels, motels and retail tobacco shops, provided patrons didn’t exhale too forcefully. Smokers would even be banned from indulging within 25 feet of an enclosed area where smoking is banned.

Chew on this
Chicagoans may associate the name with baseball, but the rest of the world knows Wrigley as a gum- and confectionery-maker. Based in Chicago since the late 19th century, it is the world’s largest such company. But on June 29th, William Wrigley Jr, the chief executive and the great-great-grandson of the company’s founder, announced that it would shut its last remaining Chicago-based factory on the city’s south side. The company is offering the 600 workers at the historic chewing-gum plant a choice between early retirement or a transfer—either to Yorkville, in the city’s far western suburbs, or Gainesville, Georgia, the company’s largest plant. The company’s research and corporate headquarters will remain in Chicago.

The south-side factory comprises a warren of multi-storeyed, interconnected buildings, some of which date back to its opening in 1911. The factory employs a mere 33% of the workforce it did as recently as the 1960s, even as the Wrigley company has grown. Wrigley recently acquired most of Kraft Foods' confectionery business, which includes the Life Savers and Altoids brands, and plans to transfer a number of former Kraft researchers to Chicago.

Sugary haze
Chicago has taken a dim view of marijuana-flavoured sweets: on June 29th, it became the first big city to ban the sale of lollipops, gumdrops and other sweets flavoured with hemp oil. The oil imparts the musky taste of marijuana but none of the high. The sweets, sold under names like Purple Haze, Rasta and Chronic Candy, are available at corner shops across the country. Though they are technically forbidden to anyone younger than 18, Chicago’s city council justified the ban by arguing that the sweets are designed to cultivate a taste for marijuana among children.

Edward Burke, who chairs the city’s finance committee, raised an even more frightening spectre: the sweets are endorsed by Snoop Dogg, a rapper who has made a career extolling the virtues of “the chronic”. If we need any other reason to vote in favour of this [ban], it’s now being endorsed by Snoop Dogg,” Mr Burke thundered. “Snoop Dogg wants all of our kids to buy this product.”

Higher and higher
On July 1st, Chicago’s sales tax will rise to 9%, the highest of any big American city, and the second-highest in Illinois (Stone Park, a wealthy western suburb of Chicago, boasts a 9.25% sales tax).

Heading for the hills
Chicago may be the country’s third-largest city, with an estimated 2.8m people, but its population has fallen by 34,000 since the 2000 census. Demographers cite two reasons for the decline: first, new arrivals to the area are settling in the city’s suburbs rather than in the centre; and second, much of the new housing construction in the city is aimed at singles, couples and empty-nest households rather than families.

Latinos have joined blacks and whites in fleeing the city, though demographers say that Chicago is retaining its population better than most other Midwestern cities. Among the country’s ten largest cities, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia all saw slight declines in their estimated populations. Nationally, the Sun Belt states of California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and Nevada saw the largest increases in population. Strangely, though, Joliet—a western suburb of Chicago most famous for its maximum-security state prison—is one of the country’s fastest-growing areas, thanks mainly to two riverboat casinos and a racetrack.

What's not being said is that Chicago has this gentrification going on all over the city. This is displacing many poor people. A few years ago, Mayor Daley said something to the effect (on a Sunday Morning talk show) that the city will change and people better get used to it and only those that can afford to pay the increase will be able to live in Chicago. Because of this, there are very few affordable houses/apartments and this is causing the flavor of the city to change. The crime in Chicago is decreasing while it is increasing in the surrounding Suburbs.

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