MPC in Springfield: Cheap is good, free is better - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC in Springfield: Cheap is good, free is better

The Illinois General Assembly has some serious challenges to deal with this session – not least of which the more than $12 billion budget deficit threatening to hamstring state progress. While candidates and lawmakers talk about either new taxes or cuts as the potential solution, the reality is Illinois’ budget needs lots of both.

With such a gloomy pall hanging overhead, what of MPC’s legislative initiatives can we realistically expect the General Assembly to accomplish this year? MPC is focusing on three very doable ideas that won’t cost the State a single penny.

The Public Private Partnerships for Transportation Act, spearheaded by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), will authorize the use of PPPs as a tool for developing new transportation infrastructure in the state. With sufficient safeguards built into the bill, PPPs can be a resourceful way to tap private capital to supplement the Illinois’ low capital reserves and poor bond rating. It’s important to note PPPs aren’t for every project; there must be market demand to complement public financing a facility. MPC is particularly excited about the possibility of PPPs for Bus Rapid Transit.

Stormwater has historically been viewed as a nuisance to be dealt with, rather than as a resource to be harnessed. Seen in a different light, it’s the only water delivered free to our homes! Sen. Susan Garrett’s (D-Highwood) Rainwater Harvesting bill (SB2549) would allow homes and commercial structures to capture rainwater for non-potable use on site (most commonly flushing toilets). Seems like a sensible thing to do, right? Currently, however, there are no provisions in the state’s plumbing code that address rainwater use on site. Sen. Garrett’s bill would fix that – and also calls attention to the need for more creative approaches to maximize the use of our existing water supply, a fundamental recommendation in MPC and Openlands’ latest report.

MPC’s Placemaking project promotes better communities through resident-driven, on-the-ground solutions; sometimes, though, policy change is needed as well. Rep. Luis Arroyo’s (D-Chicago) Stop, Don’t Yield bill (HB43) requires automobiles to stop, not just yield, for pedestrians in a crosswalk. The sad truth: More than 6,000 pedestrian crashes occur every year in Illinois, with hundreds resulting in fatalities. This simple measure will help prevent those crashes, and encourage more walkable communities, by making drivers more aware and giving pedestrians greater protection.

These are just three initiatives from MPC’s Illinois legislative agenda that don’t require any new money – no new resources of any kind. In fact, they stand the chance to create economic opportunity and should be approved.  Amidst Springfield’s daunting challenges this session, I hope lawmakers will see these ideas as easy victories.


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