The Lightfoot transition report: What you need to know - Metropolitan Planning Council

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The Lightfoot transition report: What you need to know

MPC staff analyze the surprising, smart, and challenging ideas within its 232 pages

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Daniel Burhnam's famous edict, "Make no small plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood," may rightly apply to the work of Chicago's new mayor, Lori Lightfoot. She started as an outside candidate, pushed Toni Preckwinkle into a runoff, and was last week inaugurated... into a seat not long ago many expected Rahm Emanuel would still fill.

But between the big election an inaugration day, a magic of its own was necessary. Lightfoot's team assembled teams—a giant apparatus of over 400 individuals on 10 committees, meeting over a period of six weeks—to advise the Mayor on policy, moving forward.

The result is this 232 page-long "Report of the Transition Committees," or Transition Report. It's a big guide that captures the policy priorities of our new mayor, her advisors, notable and everyday Chicagoans. In case you you're short on time, the MPC team has reviewed the document for the exciting, challenging, smart, and surprising suggestions within its pages. Here's what you need to know:

“I had the amazing opportunity to work on the Transition team working on both Environment and Health & Human Services policies. I am the most proud of how strongly environmental justice and equity came through as central values at the heart of the work in both of these sections.” —Chloe Gurin-Sands, Associate, 

"I’m most excited by the substantial commitment to environmental justice as a value system, process and outcome to pursue in all decisions related to land, air, water and waste. Too often we make decisions—like where to site an industrial facility—without fully considering the unintended impacts and how they affect the most vulnerable people in society. The Lightfoot transition report flips that on its head, and it’s about time. Having a rejuvenated Dept. of Environment would help with that, but the report also clearly articulates that every agency of the city, and the Mayor’s office itself, needs to internalize and institutionalize environmental justice from the get go." —Josh Ellis, Vice President, 

Audrey Wennink, Director of Transportation,  noticed:

  1. Appointment of an individual or body to manage the city’s mobility strategy. Many cities have named Chief Mobility Officers who view transportation holistically and can help manage and coordinate among city agencies on emerging technologies, pricing and incentive policies, operations, and physical infrastructure. It’s time for Chicago to take this proactive approach.
  2. Transportation planning and project selection criteria are clear, transparent, and performance-based, and incorporate best principles for disability, accessibility, equity, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, design and public health. We owe it to our residents to set up a transparent process for how and where transportation investments are made.
  3. Bus Prioritization Network Plan that identifies where and when dedicated bus lanes will be added.Since bus speeds have steadily declined over the past decade, contributing to ridership losses on one of the most sustainable and space-efficient modes of transportation, we need to make buses run faster so they move large numbers of people faster and are more competitive.

"Serving on Mayor Lightfoot’s Transition Committee on Business, Economic, and Neighborhood Development was invigorating. It was a chance for me to rekindle professional links and form new connections for future Metropolitan Planning Council partnerships. And it was affirming to shape a transition report that embraces our city’s potential and confronts our inequities. The report reflects MPC’s recommendations on proactive neighborhood planning and coordinated investment, engagement with regional institutions like the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, and steps taken/steps to come on aldermanic prerogative. We are excited about shaping Our Equitable Future!" MarySue Barrett, President, 

"In addition to the Lightfoot team's emphasis on environmental justice, I’m very encouraged to see that water quality and stormwater management are at the forefront of the recommended actions. As a policy wonk, I’m most excited about the nod to strengthening the city’s stormwater management ordinance. This is one policy mechanism that harnesses the investment power of the private real estate market to pay for the new stormwater infrastructure we need. Here at MPC, we have been thinking of ways to leverage the mechanics of stormwater ordinances in order to channel new stormwater investments to flood-prone communities not seeing active real estate activity.

Our Stormwater team is also jazzed about the call to inventory existing green infrastructure in the city (something we have started thinking about, too)! This helps the new administration as well as other stakeholders have a better picture of what’s currently out there to help us maintain these investments while plan for where to place new green infrastructure with communities." —Sarah Cardona, Manager, 

"We are very optimistic about the overarching committing to institutionalizing racial equity through Mayor Lightfoot’s Transition Plan. Chicago has much to learn from other U.S. cities that have already taken steps down this path, and also has an opportunity to be one of the largest cities to embark on this journey. We are excited about the early steps of creating a Mayor’s Office of Equity and Social Justice as of committing to systematically conducting racial equity impact assessments. Over time, we look forward to the Mayor deepening this commitment through adequate resources and staffing, continued public leadership on the urgency of tackling structural racism, and meaningful accountability mechanisms.

We are also optimistic about the importance levied on housing, especially the focus on new revenue sources, preservation efforts, and affordable homeownership. We also encourage the administration to continue focusing on comprehensive strategies to combat the crises of unjust displacement and evictions, which primarily harm communities of color in Chicago. Recent research by the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing found, for example, an average of 23,000 eviction court filings per year in Chicago, with the highest concentrations in majority Black communities." —Juan Sebastian Arias, Manager,  

"Reforms to Aldermanic privilege create a fairer, more transparent City government. Both in the transition report and at her inauguration, Mayor Lightfoot doubled down on her campaign promise to limit aldermanic control over routine administrative functions like excavations and driveway permitting. This reform paves the way to dismantling aldermanic prerogative to build the kind of transparent, open City government that Chicago needs." —Justin Williams, Research Assistant

"I am delighted to see a number of items in this report—including overdue attention toward public health as it relates to critical water infrastructure and service needs. I am also heartened by the values outlined in the report: transparency, equity, diversity and inclusion, and accountability—we will fail to achieve any of the proposed goals unless these good governance aspects are practiced. One issue in this report that I see happening too often at the national, state and local level is the use of the word “infrastructure” as synonymous with transportation infrastructure. There are many types of infrastructure, including water infrastructure, which—although it may be less visible than potholes and overtaxed mass transit—has a $32 billion projected need over the next 20 years in Illinois. For me, the most inspiring part of this report is the inclusion of the youth perspective. Their voices, their opinions and values, and their ideas should be included and supported—it’s time to make room around the decision-making table for them." —Danielle Gallet, Director of Water Resources, 

"The most striking element of the Lightfoot Transition plan is the value of racial equity—defined as repairing the negative impacts of historic racism and exclusion—for identified communities in Chicago. In all value areas, diversity, equity and inclusion is explicitly mentioned, focusing on how City practices and structures need to be changed to equitably serve all City residents The Good Governance section summarizes this best: 'None of the initiatives described in this report will be truly transformative unless we first transform the way city government carries out the people’s business.' The vision for the equitable transformation of Chicago has been expressed; now it is on the City to make that vision a reality." —Adam Slade, Associate, 

All that work and we are, after all, only one week into Lori Lightfoot's administration. We at the Metropolitan Planning Council will keep tracking the policies and ideas that make Chicago its most equitable, sustainable, prosperous, engaged and responsible.


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