This week, the world watched in horror as a mob of protestors breached the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in a bid to overturn the U.S. presidential election. Meanwhile, the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus was hard at work crafting a sweeping agenda with dozens of provisions intent on improving racial, economic, and social equity in Illinois.
The Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC) core values put us squarely in the midst of this duality: We are committed to confronting the ongoing structural racism and white supremacy that hold our nation and region back, even as we work with fair-minded people and organizations to advance policies and initiatives that hold the promise of progress.
The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ omnibus package is a major opportunity to make strides toward greater justice and equity in metropolitan Chicago and Illinois. The agenda is being introduced during the lame duck session of the Illinois General Assembly, scheduled for Friday, Jan. 8, through Tuesday, Jan. 12. MPC supports—and encourages your support—of the entire Black Caucus agenda. In particular, MPC’s work clearly aligns with the following provisions:
Housing policy reforms. One out of every four renters in Illinois are at risk of eviction due to the economic catastrophe brought on by the pandemic. The Black Caucus omnibus package includes legislation that will stem the approaching wave of mass evictions that will render millions of Illinois families homeless, and millions of housing providers underwater, absent significant state and federal intervention.
In addition, 42 percent of working-age Illinoisans have an arrest or conviction record and could experience housing discrimination as mentioned in MPC’s and the Illinois Justice Project’s report, “Reentry Housing Issues in Illinois.” The Black Caucus legislation would protect those who already paid their debt to society from housing discrimination in public housing, a critical component of reducing homelessness and housing instability for people with records.
Lead service line replacement. Illinois has more water service lines made of lead than any other state, and a disproportionate number of these lines are found in Black and Brown communities. The Black Caucus would create a plan, funding, and timeline to replace all lead service lines in Illinois—a critical effort that will protect public health and clean drinking water, reduce healthcare costs, and generate jobs and small business growth in communities that have been in harm’s way for far too long.
Criminal justice reform. The Black Caucus package also includes a number of criminal justice reforms that will improve public safety by addressing police accountability, sentencing credit and other sentencing reforms, and pretrial justice by ending the use of cash bail—which has proven to be a counterproductive tool to reduce crime and was a key recommendation in MPC’s 2018 “Our Equitable Future Roadmap.”
While the final details of the agenda will take shape over the weekend, we’re excited to see these priorities included from the outset. Right now, we can improve equity in our region on numerous fronts by giving the Black Caucus our full support to advance its agenda. Let’s do it.
MarySue Barrett, President, Metropolitan Planning Council
Josh Ellis, Vice President, Metropolitan Planning Council