Executive Vice President Peter Skosey opened countless MPC events during his 20-year tenure. Here, he introduces the topic of resilient infrastructure.
When I was in college, I didn’t even know what urban planning was. I also didn’t know then that I’d spend 20 years at one of the most revered planning organizations in the country. The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve worked with have been unparalleled, but all good things must come to an end and I’m ready to open the book on the next chapter of my life. August 26 will mark my 20-year anniversary, and my last day at Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC). Fear not, I will remain in Chicago for my next challenge…stay tuned.
My final quarter of college at the University of Chicago I took two electives, one with Professor Doris Holleb—longest serving member of the Chicago Plan Commission, by the way—and the other with Gary Orfield, who later went on to teach at Harvard and then UCLA (both a step down in my book!). They both clarified my wonderful appreciation of cities, introducing me to a completely new vocabulary with which to express my feelings. As a life-long Chicagoan, I’ve cherished this city from birth and I was enthralled when Professor Orfield had Ferd Kramer come speak to class on his vision for Oakland. Little did I know that I’d be working at MPC where Mr. Kramer was a board member for 44 years. I recall professor Holleb famously saying in class, “I like cities, because I like to see the air I breathe!” (Fortunately, today’s Chicago can no longer boast such a claim but I suspect she’s happier for it.)
My path to MPC was influenced by another Chicago notable, Liz Hollander, who was the commissioner for the department of planning and development for Harold Washington. She was my neighbor when I graduated from college and I asked her for advice. She told me to attend the UIC college of Urban Planning because she found their graduates “eminently hirable.” I did, and was hired by MPC just a few short years later.
My first challenge at MPC was to research and provide amendments to an obscure piece of Illinois law that would later become a household name, the Illinois Tax Increment Finance Act, also known as TIF. After completing research with the Civic Federation, MPC proposed four changes to the law, including annual reporting to the department of revenue and making school operations an eligible expense. Working with then freshman senator Christine Radogno, we successfully passed these amendments through the general assembly and they are now law.
There have been many other policy accomplishments of which I am very proud, including passage of a City Council ordinance banning the use of restrictive covenants for grocery stores with Alderman Manny Flores; working with Zoning Chairman William Banks on rewriting Chicago’s entire zoning code; passing the Illinois Public Private Partnership for Transportation Act with Senator Heather Steans and Representative Elaine Nekritz; and being appointed by Mayor Emanuel to chair the Midway Advisory Panel to oversee the long-term lease of Midway airport and protect the public interest in the process. These are just a few of the amazing opportunities I have had while at MPC.
Executive Vice President Peter Skosey speaks alongside then-Chicago transportation commissioner Gabe Klein on the city's pedestrian plan.
For these opportunities and more, I owe a large debt of gratitude to MPC’s president, MarySue Barrett, who took a chance on me 20 years ago. Under her leadership, MPC has more than tripled in size and grown tenfold in stature. I have been pleased to play a part in the transformation of one of Chicago’s most reputable nonprofits and I am sure it will continue to positively affect the region for another 80 years to come.
No other organization can boast the same level of competent, dedicated staff as MPC. I have been so grateful to work daily with people who genuinely care about issues in the world, who are well read and keep up with current events and who pursue their work with dedication and passion. So many great people have worked at MPC over my tenure and then left and continued fabulous work. I would get myself in too much hot water if I tried to name them all so I’ll take the safe path and tell current and former MPCers that it has been my pleasure to work with each and every one of you.
There have been many people on the board that have steered me along the way, including long-time family friend George Ranney, who helped me get started and continued to support me throughout; the original members of the urban development committee and continued confidants Linda Goodman, Jim Mann, Mary Ludgin, Marty Stern and John McDonough; and other members of the board such as Bob Fitzsimmons, John Gates, King Harris, Jess Ruiz, Pedro Cevallos, Jim Franczek, Hill Hammock and of course Jim Stirling. Though I couldn’t resist the temptation to name names here I know I’ve left out dozens more. (After all, we have 60 dedicated volunteers on MPC’s board and without them we’d be half the organization we are.) To them all, and many many more, I say, “Thanks!”
While I am not sure where my next steps will take me, you can bet they will be somewhere on Chicago’s streets. I hope to stay in touch with all my colleagues. If we haven’t already linked up on LinkedIn, or following one another on twitter, that’s a good place to start.
Cheers for now.
Peter at a staff retreat in Blue Island, Ill.