Putting the market to work - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Putting the market to work


As I head into our Board of Governors meeting this afternoon, I’m reminded what a vast resource our board members are to our agenda.  All prominent leaders in their respective industries, these individuals are committed to regional innovation and generously volunteer their time and expertise to promote a more prosperous and sustainable Chicago region.

We’ll be talking today about squeezing more efficiencies from our road network.  Joining for the discussion will be David Bennett, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and four mayors: Karen Darch of Barrington, Al Larson of Schaumburg, Jeff Schielke of Batavia, and Tom Weisner of Aurora.  Like our board members, these influential municipal leaders and their counterparts across the region provide invaluable insights, informing our policy, advocacy and implementation strategies.  The mayors will participate in a discussion about our recent study of congestion pricing for the Illinois Tollway.  The report, The Road Less Traveled: Exploring Congestion Pricing in Chicagoland, examines the negative effects of gridlock on our area and how congestion pricing could help to relieve it.  We also are fortunate to have the perspective of two Tollway board members who are on MPC’s own Board: Maria Saldana, Senior Vice President, Duncan-Williams, Inc.; and Paula Wolff, Senior Executive, Chicago Metropolis 2020, who was appointed chairman of the Tollway board by Gov. Pat Quinn earlier this year.  I know it will be a lively and productive conversation.

Demand management strategies don’t just make sense for our roads; they hold promise for our energy and water systems as well.  Another MPC Board Member, Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd, is spearheading an aggressive pilot program, the “ComEd Smart Grid Innovation Corridor.”  It is studying cutting-edge technology and its implementation through distribution automation, residential solar power, and customer freedom to sell back unused energy.  The lessons ComEd takes away from this pilot focused in part on West Cook County undoubtedly will benefit the Chicago region and spill over onto the national stage. 

It is this kind of bottom-up innovation that my friend Bruce Katz, vice president and founding director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, focused on in his piece for Politico last week.  He highlighted the fact that most groundbreaking policies are born at the municipal and state levels.  For example, before becoming our longest-serving president, New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt “experimented with interventions that foreshadowed the New Deal.”  Many of us in the policy world find ourselves in between those battling to fund a wide range of government programs and those wanting to limit the size of government.  But Bruce argues that neither raising revenues nor cutting, alone, can work.  Instead, we must adopt a “cut and invest” strategy to do more with less, by making tough choices and eliminating some functions and wisely selecting key investments that will transform our economy.

Investment reform also will be a main theme at a special discussion with U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).  Rep. Blumenauer is chair of the Livable Communities Task Force, which is working to advance the kind of sustainable, transit-oriented growth that MPC has been espousing for years.  In 2010, MPC is in the mix with more federal elected officials through events and presentations than ever before.  We hope to continue this trend!


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