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December 2009 Blog posts

Happy Holidays from MPC!

After yesterday’s lovely snowfall, Chicago is officially a winter wonderland -- and MPC is celebrating the season by going on holiday Dec. 24 through Jan. 3. As I take this time to reflect, I find myself revisiting hundreds of conversations, events, and strategy sessions with MPC’s many volunteers, who donated thousands of hours of their valuable time to assist us in 2009. From Board members and project teams to our Executive Committee, many of whom have dedicated years of service to MPC, these people believe strongly in the mission that has driven this organization for 75 years: shaping a more sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. My heartfelt thanks goes out to each and every one of our volunteers, as well as our partners in the civic, foundation, government,…

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Southern suburbs using foreclosure recovery funding as a springboard

The South Suburban Housing Collaborative, a joint effort of 28 communities working through the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), recently was awarded more than $9 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding by Cook County to address foreclosed and abandoned properties. It’s great news, but what’s even more interesting is their plan to make the most of this funding. First, a bit of background: In January 2009, just after the federal government announced the NSP funding, the SSMMA held an open meeting of its member communities to discuss a new approach to housing issues. This new approach meant the communities would tackle their shared housing challenges – including foreclosures and vacant properties – together, by…

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Good ideas for cities

The GOOD blog has been on a roll lately. For more than a month, the web site has posted one Idea for Cities each day, sparked by a brainstorm on the future of cities inaugurated at the CEOs for Cities Velocity conference in September 2009. Among my favorites: DIY Cities: This proposed open platform that would connect "citizen service-providers and problem-solvers with opportunities to serve." This idea reminded me very much of two of the 11 principles of Placemaking: the community is the expert, and you can't do it alone. Google Analytics for Government: Here's a welcome notion on a snowy day in Chicago: more sunshine! "Cities could make the success of governance measurable and known. Rather than waiting for the next election to recognize and promote results (or lack thereof), cities…

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With Kansas City 'nipping at Chicago's heels,' CREATE freight improvement must accelerate

A story by The Washington Post's Midwest Bureau reporter Kari Lydersen is calling attention to the need for additional investment in CREATE, the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program. This public-private partnership between the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, state and city government agencies, Amtrak, and six of the country's largest private railroad companies outlines specific investments needed to improve rail infrastructure and unclog the freight bottleneck in Chicago. Both MPC President MarySue Barrett and MPC Board member Paul Nowicki, assistant vice president of government and public policy at BNSF Railway, were quoted in the article, which ran this weekend. The article noted Kansas City, Miss., is "nipping at Chicago's heels" by investing in intermodal…

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A hidden cost of clean water

This article caught my eye recently: some 1.6 trillion gallons of water underneath Nevada – 16 years worth of the state's Colorado River withdrawals – have been determined to be functionally useless, made radioactive by decades of nuclear weapons testing. The cost of treating water would be prohibitively expensive, well more than the $48 billion utiliities and municipalities potentially would have earned from selling it. Fortunately for the Chicago region, we don't face the same scale of toxicity issues, but we do face some. Groundwater, particularly from deep aquifers (water reserves that lie some 500 feet or more below the ground), naturally contains many elements harmful to human health. Some of these, most notably radium, are radioactive. The good news is that…

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