June Media Tips - Metropolitan Planning Council

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June Media Tips

Businesses to Urge Governor to Support Funding for Regional Transit System

The p.m. rush hour at Union Station will be the backdrop on Monday, June 25, for a news conference with business, university, and elected leaders calling on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to support a funding fix that will keep public transportation – and business – moving across Chicagoland.

Metropolitan Chicago is Illinois’ economic engine: two-thirds of the state’s population lives here, and two-thirds of total state revenue is generated here. Without a strong, reliable public transportation system, Chicagoland could easily be in the ranks of Cleveland … or Detroit. Alarmed by what’s at stake for the region and state if Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) are forced to cut service and raise fares, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) will hold a news conference downtown at Union Station, on the sidewalk between the Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard entrances, on Monday, June 25, at 3 p.m. Business leaders, university officials, and state legislators will call on the governor to support funding for the entire regional transit system.

The Illinois House Mass Transit Committee has passed a bipartisan bill that would provide funding and reform for the region’s transit agencies, but Gov. Blagojevich has threatened a veto due to the measure’s sales tax increase. “By standing in the way of a regional sales tax increase, which would provide adequate, sustainable funding for transit, the governor will do more harm than good to the region’s working people and businesses,” said MPC VP of External Relations Peter Skosey.

For more information, contact MPC Communications Associate Mandy Burrell, at 312-863-6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org; or Skosey, at 312 .863.6004 or pskosey@metroplanning.org .

Green Buildings Give Rise to Green Neighborhoods in Illinois

Whether motivated by personal finances (i.e. sky-high gas prices) or global stewardship (i.e. An Inconvenient Truth ), more and more local leaders realize that careful planning is key to being able to accommodate some 2 million new residents expected in the Chicago area by 2030. Marking a shift away from costly, energy-hungry development patterns, the Illinois General Assembly recently became the first in the U.S. to pass legislation supporting “green” neighborhoods that meet the strict standards of the LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) program.

At a July roundtable discussion, co-hosted by the Campaign for Sensible Growth and Northwest Municipal Conference, and sponsored by VOA Associates, panelists will discuss why the market wants more green communities and what municipalities can do to get these projects done. They’ll also discuss the new Green Neighborhood Award Act (SB 135), which will, if appropriated, provide incentives for development projects in Illinois that are consistent with LEED-ND standards of the U.S. Green Building Council . LEED-ND takes the highly successful LEED standards for sustainable buildings to the next level by creating standards to achieve energy-efficient neighborhoods through the core principles of sensible growth, such as promoting housing near jobs, services and transit, and improving access to open space.

The roundtable will take place Tuesday, July 17, 2007, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Oakton Community College, Conference Center Dining Room, 160 E. Golf Road , Des Plaines, Ill. Participants can register and pay online at growingsensibly.org. Media may attend free of charge, but should register through Mandy Burrell, at 312-863-6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org .

New Initiative in North and Northwest Suburbs Will Help Workers Afford Homes

When Maria Ortiz, a switchboard operator for Pace Bus Co. in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, began renting an apartment in nearby Mount Prospect, the late President Ronald Reagan was in office. Twenty-two years – and three presidents – later, Ortiz, a single, working mother, finally has a home of her own, thanks to Mt. Prospect’s first-time homebuyer program.

Ortiz, 46, makes less than $40,000 a year, and represents the typical employee who has found great job opportunities, but little to no affordable housing in the north and northwest suburbs. While the standard conviction is that, if an employee saves her money for long enough, then she eventually will be able to afford the downpayment on a home, that’s just not the reality for Ortiz and many others. “I was even saving money,” said Ortiz, of her two decades of renting. Yet it wasn’t until she received a $10,000 forgivable loan through Mt. Prospect ’s first-time homebuyer program that she was able to afford a condominium in Mount Prospect.

Across the region, thousands of employees, like Ortiz, are working hard but need help to become homeowners. That’s why MPC teamed up with Charter One Bank, Housing Opportunity Development Corporation, and 10 north and northwest suburban mayors to encourage more local companies to invest in programs like employer-assisted housing to help their workers afford homes. Through the Charter One Workforce Housing Initiative, employers large and small in Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Deerfield, Highland Park , Highwood, Lake Forest , Mt. Prospect , Northbrook, Palatine and Rolling Meadows are discovering how they can benefit by investing in workforce housing solutions. For information on the Charter One Workforce Housing Initiative, contact Mandy Burrell , at 312.863.6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org .

Meet the MPC Staff: MPC’s Roberto Requejo Helps Bridge Divides in Public Housing Arena

Before moving to the U.S. from his native Spain, Roberto Requejo, MPC housing associate, had already earned a master’s degree in the on-the-ground connection between urban development and political corruption and patronage. He could have chosen to move to any U.S. city to study urban planning and initiate change, but he chose Chicago. Today, he is instrumental in managing MPC’s role as both monitor and partner of the Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation.

Since 2003, Requejo has served as MPC’s housing associate in charge of the Council’s Public Housing in the Public Interest Initiative . In addition to partnering with the CHA, Requejo also works closely with other housing authorities across the region and with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development; and brings together policymakers, developers, service providers, community-based organizations, and researchers to ensure low-income families in the region are able to enjoy quality homes in areas with economic opportunity.

Requejo earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public policy from the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, and a master’s degree in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Before joining MPC, the Galicia, Spain, native worked for the American Planning Association providing planning advice for municipalities all across the country; and as a project manager for the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations. “Seeing things happen on the ground, and being able to go to places such as Oakwood Shores and see the new homes and schools and know that I had a part in making that happen” is what Requejo says he enjoys most about his work here in Chicago. If you’re working on stories related to public housing, contact Requejo at 312.863.6015 or rrequejo@metroplanning.org.

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