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November 2009 Blog posts

What's missing in discussions about leasing Chicago's water

Recently, the media has zeroed in on a rumor that Chicago could lease its water system. Though the city has not confirmed such a deal, media coverage has helped spark an important discussion about the pros and cons of privatization. For the past several years, MPC has been researching the potential for private investment to keep Illinois competitive, particularly by supporting new public assets such as enhanced transit. (On a separate but related front, we've also been vocal advocates, along with our partner Openlands, for improved regional water supply planning.) Skepticism about privatization is understandable. On the one hand, public-private partnerships have potential to reduce traffic congestion or promote water conservation more efficiently than the public sector can alone.…

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'It's in business's best interest to back affordable housing'

MPC President MarySue Barrett's op-ed in this week's Crain's Chicago Business highlights a welcome trend: Employers across the region are putting their weight behind the creation and preservation of homes their workers can afford. At a time when all employers are pinching pennies, they're realizing investments in helping employees save money on housing and transportation costs pays great dividends. For instance, employers know all too well the detrimental effects long commutes have on employee absenteeism, turnover, recruitment and morale. That's one reason why Baxter, Walgreens, Lake Forest College, and Lake Forest Hospital recently lent their support to a proposal for a 17-unit affordable apartment development located near transit in Lake Forest. Support from the private sector city…

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Smarter spending: Investments vs. expenditures

Illinois government spends a lot of money. The annual operating budget is upwards of $50 billion. The capital budget, monies used to pay for infrastructure, adds even more. Combined with other sources from the feds and local government, this year’s capital budget tops $26 billion. Why is it that Illinois never seems to have enough money? Part of the reason lies in how Illinois spends the money it has. Over the past 50 years, the United States has been a wealthy nation compared with others on the globe. That position has led to careless spending of resources for political purposes. We at the Council believe dollars should be invested rather than simply spent. Past calculations for spending impact focused on, say, construction jobs created for a roadway project, with little concern…

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What Waukesha's water plan means for Illinois

When the Great Lakes Compact was signed into law in late 2008, it effectively ended the chances of any communities outside the Great Lakes Basin receiving permission to withdraw additional water from the lakes. Any community seeking to withdraw water from one of the lakes – let's say, Phoenix or Las Vegas, or even Beijing – would have to receive permission from eight states and two Canadian provinces ... which seems unlikely. However, the Compact is already being put to the test. As noted in this recent Wall Street Journal article, Waukesha, Wis., is planning to apply for just such a diversion. Waukesha is proposing to build pipes to, and buy water from, Milwaukee, and then return treated water to Lake Michigan by means of a creek. As documented in the article, the need is…

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Streetfilms features video from MPC's "What Makes Your Place Great?" Contest

It’s no secret that Chicagoland residents value their public spaces. When MPC asked for photos or videos of well-loved public spaces during its "What Makes Your Place Great?" contest this summer, more than 50 submissions poured in from all corners of the region. Now, one of those spaces is gaining national attention. A video about Drake Garden in Albany Park that was submitted by Kallan Benjamin, Jewel Otten, and Mary Kay Freese, was recently picked up by Streetfilms, an arm of the popular online community known as the Livable Streets Initiative. As the video branch of the Livable Streets Initiative, Streetfilms produces videos about innovative ways cities around the world are reclaiming their streets and enhancing their public spaces. Videos on Streetfilms regularly reach a…

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