December 2004 Media Tips - Metropolitan Planning Council

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December 2004 Media Tips

Note: This year-end edition of MPC Media Tips offers updates on some of the top regional stories of 2004.

From Road to Rail, Region Needs Better Funding, Planning for Transportation

Last Thursday, the CTA board voted to hold off on proposed service cuts until the summer, in order to allow state legislators time to craft a solution to the region’s transit funding shortfalls.

MPC President MarySue Barrett testified at the hearing, sending a clear message on behalf of area employers that regional transit agencies need not only increased funding, but also a strong coordinating agency to improve regional transit planning and service delivery and streamline transportation and land use decisions. Barrett’s full testimony is available on MPC’s Web site, www.metroplanning.org.

For decades, the Council has beaten the drum for improved coordination of regional transportation and land use planning, beginning with our vision for a strong Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC), which we helped form in 1957. In April 2004, MPC again laid out the benefits of merging NIPC and the Chicago Area Transportation Study into a single body that would guide development and transportation decisions.

“Reforming the way our leaders make regional transportation investments to ensure that they are balanced and coordinated with a plan for growth would have far-ranging benefits for all communities, city of Chicago and suburbs alike,” commented MPC Board of Governors Member John Baird, chairman of Baird & Warner, Inc., who also served as NIPC commissioner from 1961 to 1973, and president from 1966 to 1970.

Contact: Natashia Holmes, Senior Transportation Associate
312.863.6022 or nholmes@metroplanning.org

A+ Illinois Gears Up for Springfield ’05 After a Successful First Year

With January 13 and the start of the 2005 legislative session less than a month away, A+ Illinois is readying itself for a renewed push for comprehensive statewide education funding and quality reforms and property tax relief.

State legislators and the Blagojevich administration can be credited for raising the per-pupil funding level this year from $4,810 to $4,964. However, this $154 per child increase only keeps up with the rate of inflation and does nothing to narrow enormous disparities. Schools still receive nearly $1,000 less per student than the minimum amount recommended by the state’s Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) in 2002, when that recommendation is adjusted for inflation. On Dec. 2, A+ Illinois called on Gov. Blagojevich to fulfill state law and reconvene EFAB to recommend a new minimum per-pupil spending amount by January 2005. EFAB will be unable to meet that demand due to several vacancies on its board, which must be filled through appointments by Gov. Blagojevich.

On the morning of Jan. 21, 2005, legislators, mayors, business leaders, school officials, and community advocates will gather at The Carlisle, 435 East Butterfield Road , Lombard , Ill. , to build consensus and momentum to fix the state’s school funding crisis. HB 750, Senate amendments 1 and 2 – a promising approach that would provide school funding adequacy and long-term stability – will be discussed, as well as other key ingredients for school funding reform. Register by calling 312-863-6016 or at www.aplusillinois.org/calendar/calendar.asp .

“A+ Illinois launched in February 2004, and in just a few short months, we’ve established an incredible base of supporters statewide who care deeply about enacting real solutions,” says Bindu Batchu, manager, A+ Illinois. “We will marshal these supporters in 2005 to achieve lasting change.”

Contact: Bindu Batchu, Manager, A+ Illinois 312.863.6014 or
bbatchu@metroplanning.org

Campaign for Sensible Growth Advocates for Wise Use of Land, Water

On Dec. 16, Openlands Project and MPC, in conjunction with the Campaign for Sensible Growth, released results of a year-long study to examine relationships between development practices and water quality and quantity management in 12 northeastern Illinois counties: Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, McHenry, and Will.

The Joyce-Foundation funded report, Changing Course: Recommendations for Balancing Regional Growth and Water Resources in Northeastern Illinois , offers an overview of the state of the region’s water resources and makes recommendations for improving state policies, watershed planning, and local development practices and ordinances. If implemented, these actions will protect Illinois’ high quality streams, rivers and lakes from the ill effects of urbanization.

“It is critical for our local and state officials to make sound development decisions that sustain our water resources,” said Scott Goldstein , MPC’s vice president of policy & planning, and a project principal of Changing Course . “It can be done, and we intend to put our strategy into action in the coming months and years, by educating local officials, planners and developers on best practices for land use and water conservation.”

Meanwhile, the Campaign continues to “tour” the region with the popular Sensible Tools for Healthy Communities: A Decision Making Workbook for Local Officials, Developers, and Community Leaders . The workbook is intended to help local officials and developers make informed land use decisions based on best practices for sustainable development. At the request of local municipalities, Campaign officials host interactive training sessions, featuring a role-playing game that brings out the “inner showboat” in many local leaders. During the game, a hypothetical development proposal is put before participants, who take on the roles of town council and planning commission members, community residents and the media. Their charge: determining whether or not the development proposal belongs in the community.

Both Changing Course and Sensible Tools for Healthy Communities – as well as other resources produced by the Campaign for Sensible Growth – are available on the Campaign’s Web site, www.growingsensibly.org, or by contacting Campaign Manager Ellen Shubart directly.

Contact: Ellen Shubart, Manager, Campaign for Sensible Growth
312.863.6009 or eshubart@metroplanning.org

MPC Helps to Expand Affordable Housing, Shrink Jobs-Housing Mismatch

In 2004, MPC’s housing team did what it does best – and what MPC was founded on more than 70 years ago: increasing housing options throughout the Chicago metropolitan region.

To promote the success of the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation – the 10-plus-year initiative to redevelop public housing into mixed-income neighborhoods – MPC has spearheaded a number of initiatives. In April MPC launched a new employer-assisted housing (EAH) program designed to leverage private sector engagement in these new communities. Through EAH, companies invest in housing solutions for their employees, usually through down payment or rental assistance, and recoup their costs within a year, with the help of an expert nonprofit housing counseling agency. The CHA-EAH plan allows companies to provide incentives to employees who move into homes in the new mixed-income communities. Already, three companies around Park Boulevard (the former Stateway Gardens) have committed to offering this unique benefit.

By year’s end, MPC’s housing staff will make available on the Council’s Web site a year-end report on the progress of the CHA’s Plan. The focus of this analysis will be the work of partners key to the success of these mixed-income communities – school community members, partners in local economic development, and managers of community space/facilities in the neighborhood surrounding the new properties.

MPC has found EAH to be a successful tool in expanding housing options throughout the region. The Council has engaged new employers in EAH every year since the first program launched in 2000. Since then, more than two dozen employers have signed on, including large companies such as Allstate and Bank One, and smaller ones, such as Robinson Engineering and Rosenthal Brothers. Participants include both profit and nonprofit corporations and municipalities, and the program helps promote affordability in expensive markets as well as reinvestment in redeveloping communities.

Contact: Robin Snyderman, Housing Director
312.863.6007 or rsnyderman@metroplanning.org

MPC Helps Chicagoans Make the Most of Neighborhood Assets

When Chicago’s new zoning code debuted this summer, community leaders began examining how the tool would help revitalize their neighborhoods by steering development and housing to the most appropriate locations.

MPC has supported this historic zoning rewrite from the beginning, helping shape the new code and preparing neighborhoods for remapping. MPC designed a Zoning Change Strategy to help aldermen and residents identify local assets and challenges. The strategy is simple, but effective: Community leaders organize and recruit volunteers who learn about basic zoning concepts from MPC experts, then pound the pavement, observing and recording on camera the good, the bad and the ugly in their neighborhoods. MPC analyzes the information and provides recommendations that aldermen and community organizations can use during the remapping phase.

“The process is meant to empower and educate as much as it’s meant to encourage optimum application of the new zoning code,” says Peter Skosey, MPC vice president of external relations. “Targeting the right zoning category is critical to attracting market interest in a transitioning area, such as a retail corridor that could be reborn as a mixed-use and residential cluster.”

MPC has worked with several neighborhoods, including Lawndale , Rogers Park, East Village and an industrial group near Grand Avenue. Several other aldermen also have invited MPC’s assistance.

MPC Contact: Peter Skosey, Vice President of External Relations
312.863.6004 or pskosey@metroplanning.org

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