Special Series, Part 7: Make or Break – Year One of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Special Series, Part 7: Make or Break – Year One of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

Part seven of an ongoing series on the development of the CMAP (formerly the Regional Planning Board)

For years, neighboring communities have had to compete with each other to attract the most tax dollars, often at the expense of local quality of life, economic development, school excellence, personal and social health, and basic needs like water and sewage. While some competition among municipalities is healthy, it’s become increasingly clear that any local victories are fleeting; we’re racing our neighbors to the bottom as long as we allow our region to fragment and decay. Thankfully, Chicagoland has an historic opportunity to unite and regain our competitive edge through the development of a strong Regional Planning Board. The state legislature has given the board just one year to develop a plan for success. This series, “Make or Break – Year One of the Regional Planning Board” analyzes the issues the board must tackle in the months ahead.

The Strategic Plan

Almost one year after it was created by the Ill. General Assembly to coordinate regional land use and transportation planning by consolidating the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) and Northeastern Illinois Planning Council (NIPC), the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP - formerly known as the Regional Planning Board) has reached a major milestone in making critical decisions about how it will lead the coordination of regional and state investments in land use and transportation projects. The CMAP board voted unanimously in late August to submit its required strategic report to the Illinois general assembly on September 1, 2006.

But there is no time to sit back and enjoy this accomplishment. CMAP still has a great deal of work ahead. Perhaps most importantly, the board has yet to iron out of the exact relationship between the CMAP board and the metropolitan planning organization for the region, which will continue to be the group formerly known as the CATS policy committee. The metropolitan planning organization is mandated by law to approve transportation projects submitted to the federal government for funding. CMAP is currently in negotiations with the former CATS policy committee over the development of a joint memorandum of understanding to specify how to handle the decision making process.

It is critical that the effectiveness of CMAP not be diluted by an approval process for plans and capital funding that continues to stovepipe transportation and land use investments. A debilitating process could easily compromise the mandate to truly coordinate land use and transportation planning and investments that the general assembly created by passing the Regional Planning Act.

Next steps

MPC and a team of volunteer experts from around the region did extensive outreach to the CMAP board and staff leading up to the submission of the report, and will continue to reach out to them. View our recommendations here:

  • May 2006 recommendations to the Planning & Priorities committee.
  • Letters of note to the CMAP board.
  • Feedback on the August 2006 draft strategic report.

Though CMAP has taken an impressive first step towards becoming an effective device to coordinate land use and transportation planning and investments by submitting a solid strategic report, it still has its hardest work ahead. Through legislation, contracts, basic operations, and outreach, the agency must turn the pleasing rhetoric in the strategic report into a functioning agency. CMAP is planning on using the fall legislative veto session to pass technical legislation to clean up the Regional Planning Act, which created the agency. Meanwhile, CMAP is already working with legislators on setting up hearings on the strategic report for the winter. The hearings will hopefully create the support needed to pass any additional legislation needed, including funding appropriations, in Spring 2007.

Click here to read the CMAP final strategic report.

Click here to read the rest of the "Make or Break" series.

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