Gov. Blagojevich Outlines His Plans to Tackle Regional Growth Issues at Metropolitan Planning Council Forum - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Gov. Blagojevich Outlines His Plans to Tackle Regional Growth Issues at Metropolitan Planning Council Forum

Governor’s appearance comes exactly one month after Republican gubernatorial challenger Judy Baar Topinka addressed same issues at MPC’s 2006 Annual Meeting Luncheon; Council honors the late Sam Santell with the Jean Allard Regional Trailblazer Award

(Chicago)….. An affordable housing crunch. Extreme commutes. Crumbling roads. Transit service gaps. Poorly funded schools. As northeastern Illinois continues to expand in size and population, residents are calling for common sense solutions to the regional growing pains affecting their daily lives. Voters are putting the heat on local elected officials to address these and other challenges of growth – and in this election year, they’re looking to Illinois leaders to pledge their commitment to ensure residents across the state have access to the basics: affordable homes, transportation options, job opportunities, and good schools.

To ensure these issues remain top of mind for candidates and voters this election year, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) hosted Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich at a downtown event Sept. 7, and Republican candidate Judy Baar Topinka Aug. 7, providing each with a forum to explain their plans to increase housing options, ease congestion, invest in the transportation network, improve schools, and inspire sensible growth.

“For the past three gubernatorial election cycles, the Metropolitan Planning Council has hosted forums to educate candidates on the role of planning in ensuring all Illinois residents have access to the opportunities they need to be successful in business and life,” said MPC President MarySue Barrett. “We’re proud that these events have influenced past gubernatorial candidates, once elected, to commit to state-level policy changes that have expanded workforce housing, improved school funding, and increased investments in our transportation infrastructure. These advancements show that planning means progress in the lives of Illinois voters.”

Thursday, Gov. Blagojevich presented his plans before an audience of business, government and civic leaders at Chase Auditorium in Chicago ’s Loop. The governor was invited to attend the Metropolitan Planning Council’s 2006 Annual Meeting Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Aug. 7, where Topinka outlined her plans; however a conflict required him to reschedule.

Gov. Blagojevich and Treasurer Topinka responded to the same three questions MPC provided in advance. Craig Dellimore, political editor for WBBM Newsradio-780 AM, moderated both events. Each candidate made groundbreaking remarks on key issues integral to creating healthy communities, including school funding and property tax reform; a new state capital plan to invest in roads, bridges, schools, and public transit; the need to connect jobs and affordable homes to reliable, safe, and convenient transportation options; and the state’s role in stimulating innovative local community planning. Excerpts from Topinka’s remarks are available on MPC’s Web site . In addition, MPC media sponsor Comcast will begin broadcasting through its OnDemand feature both candidates’ remarks, in their entirety, beginning Monday, Sept. 18.

At Thursday’s event, MPC also presented the Jean Allard Regional Trailblazer Award to Beth Santell in honor of her late husband, Sam Santell, who passed away at age 52 on April 19, 2006.

MPC has long championed independence, leadership and regional collaboration, and few people have exemplified these principles more than Jean Allard, MPC’s president from 1991 to 1996. As the first woman partner of the law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal; the first woman on the boards of Commonwealth Edison, LaSalle National Bank, and Marshall Fields; and founder of the Chicago Network, Allard made a career out of breaking new ground. During Allard’s tenure with MPC, she was one of the first leaders of a major civic organization in Chicago to realize that being truly metropolitan meant changing the way MPC operated by reaching out to all parts of the region. After Allard stepped down from MPC and returned to legal practice, MPC recognized her with its first Regional Trailblazer Award in 1997, permanently naming the award in her honor.

Santell dedicated his career to regional planning, partnering with MPC on many projects and policy initiatives. Santell joined the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC) a year-and-a-half ago, helping complete the Common Ground regional planning process. In the words of NIPC Commissioner Wallace Van Buren, who spoke at Santell’s memorial service, “ The plan simply could not have been finished so well and so promptly without Sam’s leadership.” Santell was about to travel to San Antonio, Tex., with fellow NIPC commissioners and staff to accept the American Planning Association’s National Planning Award, when he passed away.

“Sam was one of those people who had a knack for getting people together, and feeling comfortable enough to work through their differences. Whether it was helping the Campaign for Sensible Growth provide technical assistance to Elburn in Kane County; serving on MPC’s Regional Development Committee and Community Building Advisory Board; or being a conduit between NIPC, MPC and other organizations in working through the startup of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Sam knew what it takes to form trust, build strong relationships, and get results,” said Paula Wolff, senior executive of Chicago Metropolis 2020 and an MPC executive committee member, who presented the Jean Allard Regional Trailblazer Award to Beth Santell. “As a person and as a planning professional at the top of his field, Sam is greatly missed.”

Since the Regional Trailblazer Award was established, only three other individuals have been recipients: Allard in 1997; Phil Peters, long-time executive director of NIPC, in 1999; and Elmer Johnson, in 2000, for his work spearheading the Metropolis Plan for the Commercial Club.

Founded in 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders committed to serving the public interest through the promotion and implementation of sensible planning and development policies necessary for an economically competitive Chicago region.

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