A look back at "Making Positive Change" in 2019 - Metropolitan Planning Council

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A look back at "Making Positive Change" in 2019

In our 85th year, with the help of countless partners and friends across the region, we changed perceptions, changed conversations, and changed the status quo. Today, we are building on that and reflecting on a year of growth and impact.

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2019 was a notable year of making positive change. As we busy ourselves with holiday traditions and look forward to extended time with friends and family, we’d like to take a moment to thank you: our partners, collaborators, and neighbors. Together we are building a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone. This recap highlights what we’ve been able to learn and accomplish in our 85th anniversary year because of your support and partnership.

Building deeper understanding of our region

1. In all but one of our seven counties, an increase in foreign-born residents coincided with a decrease in violent crime between 2012-2017.

Graph depicting Chicago's declining immigrant population from 2007 to 2017

Immigration is an enormous asset. Over the past decade, Chicago’s immigrant population shrunk by over 30,000 people. MPC research on immigration trends captured media attention and bolstered a new mayoral administration as they shaped their policy platform to be inclusive of all national identities.

2. In communities all across Chicagoland, our neighbors struggle to pay their water bills.

MPC's analysis challenges the conventional wisdom about the affordability of tap water in this Great Lakes region, revealing growing cost burdens for a resource we all need to survive. Supported by our advocacy, Mayor Lightfoot introduced a utility billing relief program with her 2020 budget. New data on water rate affordability will be released by MPC in early 2020.

“Critical reform [on water rate affordability] will ensure water service as a basic human right, advance equity, and help close the racial wealth gap.” – Danielle Gallet, Director

The ARO Dashboard, indicating all units of affordable housing currently under construction or complete in the Chicago region.

The ARO Dashboard, indicating all units of affordable housing currently under construction or complete in the Chicago region.

3. Community voices take center stage in discussions on housing affordability.

MPC Manager Juan Sebastian Arias has been tapped (by former MPC’er and current Commissioner of Housing, Marisa Novara) to co-chair a task force reexamining an affordable housing ordinance. And we celebrate the unprecedented approach the City took in accepting applications from across the city to serve on their committee. We believe wider perspective leads to deeper understanding.

4. New data reveals stark socioeconomic divides.

“...for children born in the 1980’s it’s now a 50-50 shot whether you’re going to do better than your parents.” – Raj Chetty, Harvard Professor, MacArthur Fellow, and founder of Opportunity Insights

In his keynote speech to 800+ decision makers at our 2019 Annual Luncheon, which raised almost $1M for our agenda of equitable growth and closing the racial wealth gap, Prof. Raj Chetty told the story of “the fading American dream,” highlighting the stark racial inequalities in economic mobility and job opportunity that exist across our region and country.

Engaging with community leadership

What tools exist for stakeholders to strengthen their engagement with diverse communities?

Lathrop neighbor night and ribbon cutting celebration

Communities up and down Chicago's three rivers are being activated thanks to the Our Great Rivers cohort which MPC helps administer, courtesy of funding from the Chicago Community Trust.

Leadership Circle Members get a tour of the Skender manufacturing facilities

Our Leadership Circle members got to know their city better through tours of Skender's new manufacturing facility on Chicago’s Southwest side and The Hatchery, an equitable transit-oriented development and food incubator.

East Garfield Park Community members convene on issues of gentrification and displacement in their neighborhood.

And technical assistance using MPC's Corridor Development Initiative and Preserving Affordability Together provide useful mechanisms to listen and learn from community voices. For example, in East Garfield Park this year, we are assisting residents in pursuing development without displacement

Advising a path forward

1. 33% of Americans over the age of 65 have disabilities.

Without access to transportation, people can't achieve success. That’s why we launched a set of policy recommendations, shaped by hard data and lived experience, which promote access to transit for seniors and people with disabilities. And people are listening; our Toward Universal Mobility report generated dozens of media stories and counting.

The Drinking Water 123 guidebook

2. Our water supply issues are significant, but they are fixable.

Last year, MPC launched the popular Drinking Water 1-2-3 guide to help leaders better manage their communities’ water supply systems. This year, we followed up on our guidebook with a mobile Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy—a series of four training workshops throughout the region.

3. In Illinois, nearly 40% of people return to prison within three years.

Nearly 40% of people return to prison within three years

Lowering the cost of housing for the formerly incarcerated and giving people a shot at stability is key to reducing recidivism. That’s why we're partnering with the Illinois Justice Project on implementing ideas from a detailed report outlining challenges and solutions.

4. How can we ease the transition into elected office?

MPC lent a hand across multiple transitions this year, from educating Chicago's aldermanic candidates on important issues through a Webinar series, to loaning staff to Mayor-elect Lightfoot’s transition teams, to doing the legwork to help our policy recommendations advance into implementation by the Pritzker and Lightfoot Cabinets.

Enacting tangible change

Map depicting risk of urban flooding in the Calumet region of Illinois

1. What does planning within a shared watershed look like?

The Calumet Stormwater Collaborative is an internationally-recognized model for cooperation across boundaries within a shared watershed. It's three-year workplan is guiding the creation of a baseline inventory of green infrastructure.

The Transit Means Business report

2. Securing dedicated transit funding.

Using our Transit Means Business case studies on companies like McDonald's and mobilizing cranky commuters through our  #BustedCommute social media campaign, we achieved a huge win this year—a $45 billion capital bill, with 22% dedicated toward transit.

3. Walking the walk: bringing equitable policies to life.

An event attendee reviewing Our Great Rivers projects

Equity is a core organizational value. Following our Cost of Segregation and Our Equitable Future Roadmap, we’re seeing equitable policies take root. There's a transit-oriented development ordinance that codifies an equity lens for the first time, and on her first day in office, Mayor Lightfoot signed an executive order curbing aldermanic prerogative.

Changing perceptions, changing conversations, changing the status quo

With your partnership, we made big strides in 2019. Thank you for your support. Your generosity and expertise helps MPC make positive change. We’re looking forward to continuing building a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone in 2020.

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Shaping a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone

For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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