Mayor Richard M. Daley's keynote address at MPC's 2005 Annual Meeting Luncheon - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Mayor Richard M. Daley's keynote address at MPC's 2005 Annual Meeting Luncheon

Excepts from the mayor's remarks about his priorities for the city of Chicago.

On MPC
We are fortunate here in Chicago, for 71 years, to have the Metropolitan Planning Council. I think it is one of the oldest councils throughout the country. It has expertise and support on a wide variety of issues that are really critical to the metropolitan area: housing, jobs, preservation of water resources, school funding -- issues that confront us constantly. They are always in the forefront of building coalitions … Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, city, suburban collar counties. All the people coming together -- elected officials, as well as the business community and faith-based organizations -- understanding the quality of life issues that directly affect the people that we all represent and work with.

Constantly, when I talk to mayors and other business leaders, they ask me: “What’s the great success of the City of Chicago? What has really made Chicago a great success?” The key is where business and government have worked together. That doesn’t mean they may not have differences, but they work together. There are examples time and time again of working together.

On the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
What has made a difference since 1997 in a metropolitan area, I believe, is the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, which was formed in 1997. Many of the mayors are here. I encourage all of you, no matter where you live, make it your business to get to know your mayor. It doesn’t matter what size; just get to know that individual … the president of village, the mayor of your local community. Because there is where it begins and ends; right there, you understand what the city administration is all about, what they are talking about: the business community or school funding or crime or all the other issues. And what the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus has done is comprise over 272 mayors throughout the region – McHenry, Lake, Chicago , Cook County , Will County , DuPage County , and Kane County . We have the mayor of Rockford , the mayor of Peoria , even some of the mayors in Indiana have come to many of our meetings. We all come together dealing with the issue of really working together, not to divide the area and not to talk about political issues … “let’s see what we can do together.” And we have done a lot together, both in Washington D.C. and in Springfield , Illinois … on economic development, air quality control, deregulation of electrical power, water resources, tourism, brownfields redevelopment , transportation, just to name a few. I have supported their work in Washington or in Springfield dealing with our lobbying efforts in both the State Capital and Washington D.C. We have lobbied heavily in the Illinois General Assembly to expand the eligibility for heating assistance for low-income families.

On Lake Michigan
Our great lake is the key, that’s our front and back door of our great city. You think of what Burnham did many, many years ago just protecting that lakefront. As compared to cities in United States , in the world, there is no lakefront like it, and that’s a lot of vision. They understood that at the time, those business leaders, they understood the past and the present but they always looked to the future. And that’s what Chicago is always about; always looking to the future in regards to projects, in regards to quality of life, and never just living the past. And no city can do it alone. We learn from one another. I learn from Dick. I learn from other mayors not just here but across the city, across the country, and across the world. We learn from one another.

Of course the environmental issue is there because of our great lakefront, and that is a major issue for the City of Chicago and the metropolitan area. That issue goes hand-in-hand with good schools, affordable housing, economic development, and adequate infrastructure

On infrastructure
I believe this is a major issue, whether or not this country is going to deal with infrastructure immediately and not wait for another 10 or 20 or 30 years. That’s extremely important. And that’s why we invested billions of dollars on our infrastructure locally, with local money dealing with the quality of life of the city of Chicago . For example, not just the buildings downtown, the lakefront Millennium Park, but the smaller things in life: window boxes, flowers, shrubs, trees. The whole idea of landscaping in our city, that nature can coexist in an urban area.

On civic pride
There is something about Chicago that’s a hidden treasure. It’s unique. It’s a secret, and people have pride in our city and that goes back for a long way. When you have pride in the city, you think how well it looks from the airport to downtown, from one community to another, whether you are using CTA or using Metra or basically driving through any part of this city. You have to have pride in the city, and it has to come from the community block clubs, community organizations, business and faith-based organizations. That’s what we have to look at, and that’s what we have tried to do over many years, getting pride back in every home and every block in our great city.

We talk about the lakefront, we talk about the cultural and recreational opportunities for people in the metropolitan area, as well as 30 million visitors and business travelers who pour more than $20 billion into the Chicago-area economy.

On water resources
The lake, our great Lake Michigan, provides 350 billion gallons of drinking water each year to Chicago and 121 communities. It’s part of a regionwide system of our rivers, our streams, our sewers, our deep tunnels, water mains, floodplains. They are a most important resource and our biggest problem, depending how we use our water. Two years ago, the City of Chicago brought together water agenda. How well do we manage stormwater, protecting water quality, and promote conservation as part of the same goal? Water issues demand a regionwide perspective, and that’s why the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus has an agenda on that. Water pays no attention to region or even international boundaries. Actions taken by Chicago or Waukegan can affect Cleveland or Toronto.

The City of Chicago has taken a lead in organizing the mayors of the United States and Canada into a group called The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which lobbies in Ottawa and Washington D.C., on behalf of legislation such as invasive species, sewage overflows, water levels, toxic problems. We share our best practices of all the cities on the Great Lakes , and deal with the best practices of cleaning up the lakes. We began a major outreach campaign to educate the public on how they can protect our water resources. This campaign is part of a larger effort called Conserve Chicago that will enlist public support on recycling, energy conservation, air quality, as well as water conservation. Our campaign encourages Chicagoans to install water saving fixtures, plant rain gardens, pick-up litter, dispose of the hazardous materials at collection sites rather than pouring them down the drain.

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Of course, government has to set a good example. In Chicago, we have reduced water use by 160 million gallons a day in 10 years, by replacing old water mains, and through other conservation techniques. We are experimenting with new construction techniques in alleys to absorb much of the stormwater that otherwise would run into sewage system. We have installed water saving plumbing in city buildings and public park district pools. We are building a 3,000 foot tunnel to carry clean rainwater from the roof of McCormick Place to Lake Michigan. That will keep approximately 55 million gallons of rainwater out at the sewage system each year. We have installed rooftop gardens on city buildings to collect rainwater, which lower temperatures in the summer and reduce the amount of energy needed to cool our buildings. We are encouraging private building owners to follow our lead, and more than 100 rooftop gardens and green roofs -- covering 1.6 million sq. ft. -- have been constructed or are planned on top of public and private buildings in and around the city of Chicago . We are helping business improve their manufacturing process to reduce water use or use new road building techniques that keep road salt, oil, and gasoline from flowing into Lake Michigan and the Chicago River (which we consider the city’s second waterfront). We have launched a long-range program to turn the river into Chicago’s second shoreline, with nature trails, fishing areas, canoe launches, and other recreational assets. So far, we have acquired over 37 acres of public open space along the river. We have created over seven miles of riverwalk.

On the environment
Of course, our concern for the environment extends beyond water conservation. Chicago has created the most aggressive program in a nation to transform brownfields into new industrial facilities, green spaces, affordable housing, and manufacturing centers. This has helped the city increase its tax base, by more than $1 million annually and has created or retained more than 3,000 jobs.

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Last year, we implemented a new set of environmentally sensitive construction standards for public buildings that will ensure healthier indoor environments, reduce operating costs, and conserve energy. We call it the Chicago Standard. It's our commitment to build all city facilities, to assure they would be LEED certified. This means selecting sites that are convenient to public transportation, designing buildings that fit with the surrounding communities, have green roofs, use less energy and water, are built with recycled materials when possible, and use indoor daylight. So far, we have achieved LEED certification for several libraries and police stations; a dozen more city buildings are awaiting the approval.

We have created a Green Building Award Program to recognize excellence in the private sector. To showcase new methods of energy conservation, the city has financed the restoration of four model bungalows with geothermal heating and cooling, insulation made from blue jeans, and shredded newspaper (which I hope there is more), and innovative ways of reusing rain water. In their first year, these homes saved over $700 in utility costs. We have hosted a competition to design five affordable green residences, which were then built and sold for about $150,000 each. These models influence the construction of affordable housing, including replacement residences for public housing high rise residents we tore down.

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We have number of other environmental initiatives in Chicago, including the requirement next year that construction sites recycle a minimum of 25 percent of their waste. This will increase to 50 percent by January 2007. This effort is not simply based on idealism. It makes environmental and economic sense; that has never been more obvious than now, as we anticipate a rise in home heating costs by at least 40 percent. If we can lower the citywide temperature by one degree through green methods, we will save $150 million in energy costs here in the city of Chicago . If we can persuade Chicagoans to turn off the water when they brush their teeth, it would save 6 million gallons a day in the city of Chicago . Every 5 percent reduction in water use saves the city $1.2 million on the cost of treating and pumping water. When we talk about gasoline costs around $3 a gallon, people are finally understanding the value of good mass transit system -- a system the Metropolitan Planning Council has advocated for many, many years. And that’s why the modernization of the CTA, encouragement of residential development in the downtown area so people can walk to work is extremely important in this day and age. When a city exists in harmony with its environment it simply looks better, it feels better, and that’s good for the local economy.

On education
It is very important that the Metropolitan Planning Council has built a statewide consensus for education funding reform . And if we’re ever going to move in the metropolitan area, that is the issue, education funding reform. We have talked about it far too long, and now we have to do something about it. And I want to thank the Metropolitan Planning Council for really providing that strong leadership as well.

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Education is the number one issue here in our city. I know I may be traveling to see the White Sox tonight, but I will be back tomorrow morning for Principal for a Day, which I believe is as important as a White Sox. I am a White Sox fan, but education is the highest priority. And that’s what I believe is different in our city … taking on the challenges of education. No other city has taken that on in a personal way, from the business leaders and community people over the last ten years. And there is a difference right here in the city of Chicago .

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