Reflecting on 10 years with MPC - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Reflecting on 10 years with MPC

One afternoon a month, at the end of the day, the MPC office slows down for a staff “wine and cheese.” We rarely manage 100 percent attendance because there is always someone whose work takes them out of the office to Addison or Andersonville or Aurora. Still, it is an important tradition that gives a tight-knit, dedicated group of people a little break. We socialize with each other, reflect on our successes and challenges, and often celebrate significant personal occasions. Our monthly gatherings have marked birthdays, weddings, new babies, and this April, my 10th anniversary as president.

I can hardly believe it has already been 10 years; so much has changed in metropolitan Chicago for the better. A recent profile by the Economist, the international news magazine, dubbed Chicago a success story, having thwarted the doomsday predictions of the 80s that we would “descend into rust-bound decay.” As the magazine eloquently reports, “Chicago is a city buzzing with life, humming with prosperity, sparkling with new buildings, new sculptures, new parks, and generally exuding vitality.” And while the report focuses on the city of Chicago, we know it is the regional collaboration that began to take hold in the 1990s that sparked this revival.

The Metropolitan Planning Council has embraced the precept of regionalism from the beginning and our Regional Civic Initiative, launched in 1992 to promote regional vitality through public and private sector cooperation, gave birth to efforts of which we can all be proud.

The Council helped create the state’s first guarantee of a per-pupil minimum funding level in 1997, and has successfully pushed the state to make regular down payments toward the goal of adequate funding for schools.

Our work has helped 500 residents become homeowners closer to where they work, thanks to the innovative use of employer-assisted housing – a tool that has worked in high-cost suburbs, as well as revitalizing urban neighborhoods, and has inspired a bill in Congress to mimic Illinois’ incentives.

Because we understand that metropolitan Chicago’s economic success is dependent on investing in our transportation infrastructure, the Council catapulted freight rail onto the regional priority list and became a champion of public-private partnerships.

However, our prosperity will be short-lived if we, as a state, fail to fix our broken school funding system. Even if you are not a parent, even if your community’s schools are already delivering a first-rate education, even if you oppose tax increases on principle, this matters to you.

We are not getting the job done when it comes to educating our children, which is going to cost all of us in the long run, and we are relying on an antiquated tax structure that cannot sustain our needs and is stifling our future. MPC has been committed to this issue since I began my tenure here, and we will keep up the fight.

And as I reflect on that tenure, and the awesome Council staff and volunteers who have accomplished so much on behalf of the people who live and do business in Illinois, I am confident that on one of these afternoons very soon, we are going to be celebrating our greatest victory yet.

MarySue Barrett


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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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