â€¢ The highest-paid legal minds of New York are hard to settle a jurisdictional disputeâ€"concerning a New York City billboard. State and city agencies disagree over who has authority to order the removal of an upper westside billboard. The City Planning Commission wants the sign removed, because it is in a residential area where such signs are prohibited. The state wants to be sure everything is done according to the letter of the law, or it could stand to lose up to $50 million under the Federal Highway Beautification Act. Legal briefsâ€"prepared by consulting attorneys at fees of $100 an hour and betterâ€"are flying back and forth. Film at 11.
â€¢ "Learn from Dazhai" was the slogan painted on thousands of Chinese walls to commemorate Chairman Mao's favorite commune. Dazhai's peasants were praised for putting the party ahead of personal profit, and for disdaining private plots in favor of communal labor. When Mao died, it was learned that this showplace of communism was a fabrication. The son of commune leader Chen Yonggui was exposed as a rapist and blackmailer. Chen himself, a former Politburo member, was accused of misusing his power. Recently, Dazhai has gone over to the "responsibility system," which allows peasants to keep some of their produce for private sale at the best price they can get. It wasn't the first time Chinese peasants learned that adaptability is a trait to be cultivated in a workers' paradise.
â€¢ Imagine the gall of Timothy and Belinda Wright! They actually thought they could get away with constructing a house in Cascade, Michigan, that looks different from their neighbors'. Because of a zoning regulation, the Wrights stand to lose the $25,000 they've already sunk into their energy-efficient home. Since most of the house is underground to retain heat, the square footage of the above-ground rooms falls short of township requirements. The Wrights' neighbors, who've sued to stop construction of the house, say they're only concerned with maintaining the value of their own property by not allowing such an eyesore in the neighborhood. All the Wrights' money is tied up in their house, which they started constructing after getting the approval of the town's building inspector. The love of sameness by the Wrights' neighbors could turn their dreamhouse into a nightmare.
â€¢ Keep your eye on South Dakota Gov. William Janklow. Anyone outspoken and free-thinking enough to suggest that scrapping Congress would solve America's budget problems bears close watching. "Nobody will miss them," he said of the nation's solons. "They are all a bunch of con men and women. It's the only free circus in the free world. The rest of America's problems would virtually take care of themselves." When he was asked who the Democrats are likely to nominate for president in 1984, Janklow suggested Mickey Mouseâ€""because he's the only one able to make Americans laugh at their misery for 30 years."
â€¢ The Indians in Wichita, Kansas, have stopped dancing out of fear that federal agents will swoop down and literally pluck the feathers off their bodies. In the never-ending battle to protect rare and endangered birds, federal agents raided the homes of two American Indians and confiscated feathers and other body parts of eagles, hawks, and owls. Under federal law, it's a crime to own, trade, or sell the carcasses or parts of an eagle. But the law contains some exemptions for American Indians, who've traded and worn eagle feathers before Columbus proved the earth is round. But fearing another federal raid, the Wichita Indians have canceled an annual dance. "The older people are especially afraid," says Montie Deer, a lawyer who is part Indian. "They've been wearing eagle feathers all their lives and they don't understand why they can't practice their culture." Oh to live in the land of the free.
â€¢ Hooray!! Only six years late and nearly four times its original projected cost, Woodhull Medical Center finally opened as a municipal hospital in New York City. With a daily Medicaid rate of $557 a day, the ultramodern hospital is $4 a day more expensive than the most expensive private voluntary hospital in the city. At a cost of $311 million so far, with more millions to be added on later, Woodhull far exceeded the original projected cost of $85 million. It seems that shortly after the project began, city and medical leaders decided they really didn't need another hospital in this section of Brooklyn after all. But by then it was too lateâ€"officials decided to open the white elephant, because it was too costly and too embarrassing to keep it closed. There's bureaucratic reasoning for you.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".