first major economic address leading up to the Inauguration, on Thursday Jan.
8, then-President-elect Barack Obama outlined his
American Recovery and Reinvestment
Plan, promising not only to put some 3 million people to work in the short-term
through targeted infrastructure investments, but also to “set a new course” for
the U.S. economy.
"To build an economy that can lead this future, we will begin to
America," said Obama. "Yes, we'll put
people to work repairing crumbling roads, bridges and schools by eliminating the
backlog of well-planned, worthy and needed infrastructure projects. But we'll
also do more to retrofit
for a global
plan has many components, including building a “smart” energy grid, expanding
broadband technology, and providing skills training to better prepare American
workers for jobs in growing industries.
not yet clear how much of the $675 to $775 billion plan will fund infrastructure
projects. And while much public debate has focused on that dollar figure, MPC
and other sensible growth advocates are encouraged by the President's
pledge to change how those dollars are spent.
is of greatest significance is that this administration has signaled it’s time
to stop evaluating infrastructure investments based on the question, ‘Who asked
for this project?’” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. “President Obama –
and many members of Congress who have sworn off earmarking – know the question
we need to start asking is, ‘In addition to new jobs, what is this project going
to achieve in terms of untangling traffic congestion, reducing emissions, and
connecting job centers with workforce housing and
Obama referenced the lack of transparency in infrastructure decision-making as a
key factor driving “a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy,
our financial markets, and our government.”
nowhere in the nation are voters more fed up than in
, where changes
in state leadership appear imminent. A criteria-based approach to prioritizing
infrastructure projects not only would help restore voter trust, but also ensure
taxpayer dollars go to projects that achieve statewide goals. The state has not
passed a capital investment plan since 1999, and a criteria-based selection
process would identify significant projects and mark a new era of transparency.
also recommends infrastructure dollars be funneled first to metropolitan
regions, which account for the vast majority of national GDP and population.
Those regions also should have a say in how their portion of the dollars is
, money should flow through
the 14 metropolitan planning organizations representing the vast majority of the
state, including the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, charged with
developing a regional vision for northeastern
a sound investment strategy at the regional, state and federal levels, there’s a
very real danger the economic recovery funding will only serve to repeat and
reinforce past mistakes that led to the foreclosure crisis – which many would
argue sent the economy spiraling down into a recession.
Instead, the stimulus package should
be a down payment on making our communities more attractive, equitable and
“A good first step is to stop
distributing more money to places where people drive more, and instead reward
regions that are smartly planning housing near transit and jobs,” said Barrett.
“By focusing on repairing and preserving what we have, near where most people
live, we will reap the benefits of good jobs, reduced foreign oil dependency,
cleaner air and water, and expanded choices for shopping, schools and getting
Read more on MPC’s take on
President Barack Obama’s recovery plan in this recent Crain’s Chicago Business