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A+ Illinois Builds Momentum for Education Reform Rally, New Legislation

A+ Illinois, a campaign for comprehensive school-funding and property tax reform co-led by the Metropolitan Planning Council, is helping to generate what’s anticipated to be an impressive turnout for a school-funding reform rally in Springfield on Wednesday, May 18.

At the event, organized by Better Funding for Better Schools, school-funding reform supporters by the bus- and car-loads – including individuals and members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Chicago Urban League, and other members of A+ Illinois – will descend upon the State Capitol, donning school-bus yellow T-shirts and carrying the message that comprehensive reform is needed this session. They’ll meet up with participants of Chicago Public Schools’ “Fund Our Schools” bus tour, which will culminate in Springfield on May 18 after a three-day itinerary that kicked off in downtown Chicago on May 16 and featured stops in Rockford, Geneseo, the Quad Cities, Galesburg, Quincy, and Collinsville.

The rally falls just days after the Senate Higher Education Committee passed House Bill 755, senate amendment 2, legislation to reduce property taxes and provide more money for schools by raising personal and corporate income taxes. The consensus bill strikes a compromise between previous bills proposed by Sens. Rick Winkel (R-Urbana) and James Meeks (I-Chicago).

“House Bill 755 is a positive step and shows bipartisan Senate leadership toward making school funding and property tax reform a reality,” said Bindu Batchu, A+ Illinois campaign manager. “The bill meets important A+ Illinois’ principles, including raising the education foundation level to adequacy and reducing the over-reliance on the property tax to fund our schools. However, HB755 must be strengthened by targeting the tax relief to communities most in need and confronting Illinois’ structural deficit, which legislators must address because the state’s fiscal well-being determines crucial supports for children and families.”

MPC contact: Bindu Batchu, A+ Illinois campaign manager
312.863.6014 or bbatchu@metroplanning.org
Contact: Mike Vaughn, Deputy Communications Director, Chicago Public Schools
773.553.1624 or mvaughn@cps.k12.il.us

Business Leaders Say Expanded Regional Transit Service Makes Dollars and Sense

Media reports have covered the plight of transit-dependent workers and owners of small businesses located near commuter lines who will be devastated come “doomsday” if the Illinois General Assembly fails to find funding for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). A story that’s gotten less ink is how sustained operating and capital shortfalls at all three service providers – Metra, Pace and CTA – will deal a crushing blow to the entire region’s economic well-being.

Business leaders such as John A. Buck, chairman and CEO of The John Buck Company; John Gates, co-chairman of CenterPoint Properties; Edward H. King, director of government and community relations of Walgreens Co.; and J. Stanley Pepper, managing director of Green Products, are calling on state leaders to earmark adequate funding not only to maintain, but also to increase transit service to all parts of the region, particularly job-rich areas.

“Public transit is a major selling point that attracts business to this region,” said Buck, who also chairs MPC’s Board of Governors. “Before they make the decision to build new offices or headquarters here, business owners need to be assured that public transit will be available to get people from anywhere in the region to their chosen sites.”

Buck added that, while more than two-thirds of downtown workers use transit to commute to work, the region has many job centers, all of which depend on reliable, adequate public transit service. “The public transit crisis is not just a CTA crisis,” said Buck. “It’s a regional crisis.”

“Public transit provides regional benefits: it improves air quality, reduces highway congestion, and improves the flow of freight shipments,” said Ed King of Walgreens, which is one of the region’s top shippers. “The Texas Transportation Institute recently ranked the Chicago metropolitan region the nation’s second-most congested but noted that our transit system shaves 22 hours a year off the average traveler’s road time, quantifying transit’s value.”

MPC contact: MarySue Barrett, President
312.863.6001 or msbarrett@metroplanning.org
Contact: John A. Buck, Chairman & CEO, The John Buck Company; and Chair, MPC Board of Governors
312.441.4138 or jabuck@tjbc.com
Contact: Ed King, Director, Government & Community Relations, Walgreens Co.; and Co-Chair, MPC Transportation Committee
847.315.4931 or ed.king@walgreens.com

MPC, Openlands, Campaign for Sensible Growth Pilot Watershed Planning Efforts

While communities rightfully welcome the boost that planned development brings, unplanned growth can have damaging effects, such as flooding, water shortages and traffic congestion.

To create a model for a regional approach to sensible land use planning, MPC, Openlands Project and the Campaign for Sensible Growth have sparked two innovative partnerships with municipalities and county agencies in McHenry and in Kankakee/Will counties. The work is underwritten by the Joyce Foundation and initiated by the organizations’ recent Changing Course report, which identified a need for improved regional watershed management.

“Watersheds do not follow political boundaries – flooding can happen anywhere if there is not a strong regional approach to sensible growth,” said Scott Goldstein , MPC vice president of policy and planning. “The local communities we are working with in McHenry, Will and Kankakee counties are doing trailblazing work, coordinating land use decisions to ensure their communities prevent flooding and have clean, abundant water.”

“Through the watershed planning process, the local partners will identify problems that need to be addressed and will collaborate on specific solutions to protect and improve their water resources,” said Joyce O’Keefe, assistant director, Openlands Project.

On June 22, project organizers in McHenry County will host a public meeting aimed at achieving broad community consensus around the project’s goals. A public meeting in the Kankakee/Will county area is in the works for July or August. Visit the Campaign for Sensible Growth’s Web site, www.growingsensibly.org , for more details on these and other initiatives.

MPC contact: Scott Goldstein, Vice President of Policy and Planning 312.863.6003 or sgoldstein@metroplanning.org
Contact: Joyce O’Keefe, Assistant Director, Openlands Project 312.863.6263 or jokeefe@openlands.org.

MPC Supports Mixed-Income Development in Arlington Heights

As part of MPC’s ongoing efforts to support the implementation of Illinois’ first-ever comprehensive housing plan, which aims to increase the supply of quality, affordable housing options available in communities throughout Illinois, the Council recently spoke on behalf of a mixed-income condominium development proposal in Arlington Heights called Timber Court.

After three late-night meetings and despite voluble opposition to the project’s density, the Arlington Heights Plan Commission approved the proposal. Then, on Monday, May 16, the Arlington Heights Village Board approved Tandem Realty’s proposal for Timber Court with a vote of six to three in favor.

“Arlington Heights has been a leader on local workforce housing development, by endorsing in 2002 the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus’ Housing Endorsement Criteria, which supports the creation of quality housing options at all price points near jobs and transit,” said Robin Snyderman, MPC housing director. “The Timber Court development fulfills these criteria, and by approving the proposal, Arlington Heights is taking another positive step toward alleviating a regional and statewide shortage of workforce housing.”

Snyderman added that MPC will continue to assist Arlington Heights and other municipalities working to create more livable and attractive communities. Through trainings, advocacy and technical assistance, MPC supports local planners and elected officials in making decisions such as these that will meet their overall housing goals and objectives. The Council also recently hired Joanna Trotter to fill a new position designed to help suburban leaders, developers, and homebuilders tackle challenges related to the creation of workforce housing. Anyone aware of quality, mixed-income developments in need of support is encouraged to contact Trotter at 312-863-6008 or jtrotter@metroplanning.org .

MPC contact: Robin Snyderman, Housing Director
312.863.6007 or rsnyderman@metroplanning.org
Contact: Laura Walters, Housing Commissioner, Arlington Heights 847.507.4860

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