Topinka remarks were in response to three questions posed by MPC in advance.
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) hosted Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka at its Annual Meeting Luncheon on Aug. 7, 2006, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich at a downtown event on Sept. 7, 2006, providing each with a forum to explain their plans to increase housing options, ease traffic congestion, invest in the transportation network, improve schools, and inspire sensible growth.
Excerpts from Judy Baar Topinka’s remarks follow; excepts from Gov. Blagojevich’s remarks are also available online. In addition, MPC media partner Comcast is broadcasting both candidates’ remarks, in their entirety, through its OnDemand feature until the election.
Remarks made by Judy Baar Topinka on Aug. 7 at the Metropolitan Planning Council 2006 Annual Meeting Luncheon:
On state efforts to support community planning “I would appoint a special assistant to the governor and create a sub-cabinet in my office for planning. … [T]hat person would coordinate state planning activities, work with regional and local planning agencies … and ensure public dollars are spent for projects that best fit into the state, regional and local planning processes.”
On the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
“The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, or CMAP … has great potential, I think, to move the region ahead in so many ways. … By consolidating agencies and creating a single regional body, we should be able to move forward in developing a more focused and coordinated regional vision for northeastern Illinois . [As] governor, I will direct my agencies, all of my agencies, to cooperate with CMAP and make it a success.”
On a new state capital plan
“As governor, one of my first actions will be to ask my chief of staff, my budget director, and secretary of transportation to develop a new infrastructure plan; and they will work with legislators, local public officials, and certainly with organizations such as yours. … Reducing traffic congestion will require significant investment in transit and freight systems, and not just in roads. So here’s the bottom line: Illinois grew to become an economic powerhouse because we are a transportation hub. Now, if we want to continue to be a powerhouse, we must maintain our strategic advantage, and that means we must invest in our infrastructure.”
On the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program (CREATE)
“[We] need to develop, fund and implement a large capital program with new state dollars committed for roads, transit, airports and rail projects such as CREATE. And we must include $300 million for CREATE and sufficient money for the O’Hare Expansion, otherwise Illinois will no longer be first in anything.”
On school funding reform
“Our immediate goal should be to dramatically increase the foundation level because it’s been an effective tool for increasing state funding for schools, especially those with less property wealth. The foundation level needs to rise and we need to commit to a specific formula for multiple years. … Now a second point is that new dollars for schools must be real and they must be sustainable. … The third principle is that we must realize it does cost more money to educate at risk kids and children who are living in poverty. … I would support more funds directed at schools with concentrations of needy children.”
On property tax relief
“High level property taxes hurt seniors and other people on fixed incomes. And over-reliance on local property taxes [to fund public schools in Illinois ] inherently leads to large disparities in school funding. And in Cook County , high property taxes discourage business development and job creation. Now, changing the system will not be easy. It will require new state funds that, frankly, don’t exist today. But at the same time, significant property tax reduction will have to be provided or there will be no reform.”
On school construction
“When the state addresses capital needs, we must include education as well. … I will fund school construction and I will provide a specific mechanism for funding it.”