Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thinking Big, Green and Pro-Growth In Chicago

Mayor Richard Daley and the city's business leadership are collaborating on a multi-billion program to further green the city, save energy and transform the city's appearance and transportation system, according to the lead story in Tuesday's Chicago Tribune.

A few key paragraphs:

"The idea is to coordinate large government outlays with private investment and reduce total annual emissions of carbon dioxide -- the key greenhouse gas -- 25 percent from 1990 levels, according to interviews and planning documents for the "Chicago Climate Action Plan," obtained by the Tribune.

"To achieve those goals, though, the plan would require an investment of $2.7 billion in transportation improvements at a time when the CTA has repeatedly floated "doomsday" budget-cut scenarios.
The planning also takes place against the backdrop of city and county tax increases, and Daley's own record of falling short on prior efforts to help Chicago go "green.
"The plan also includes a proposal to coax owners of existing homes to spend a total of $1.65 billion through 2010 in a push to reduce their energy consumption 30 percent. To do that, the city would provide programs aimed at reducing homeowners' out-of-pocket expenses, said Sadhu Johnston, Daley's deputy chief of staff and co-chairman of the mayoral task force."

Compare that to what is happening here: some modest environmental planning, with progress in both Milwaukee and Waukesha's downtowns, but when it comes to a big picture, including transit, even for discussion purposes: virtually nothing.

Here there is political gridlock on transit expansion and a suburban-led love affair with sprawl that is fed by talk radio and suburban fear.
And is further reinforced by a highway-expansion mentality at the regional planning commission that is fomenting a $6.5 billion freeway plan, even as existing transit withers.

All based on saving commuters a few minutes with their daily commutes, relying on driving predictions pegged to gasoline at an outdated price $2.30 a gallon, without an iota of concern for what our addiction to driving is doing to the planet and our economy.

Worse, the political and business leadership in the region continues to press for more suburban growth at the expense of urban areas, further distancing themselves from contemporary planning and design, such as the Chicago model, which recognizes that a city is the center of the northern Illinois economy.

Even reduced to scale, what the movers and shakers are discussing and planning for Chicago isn't happening in this region and state on any significant level.

Could happen, should happen, but won't, without a commitment to big ideas, real change, risk-taking, and genuine private sector leadership that is aimed at growing the city and not just water-and-auto-dependent suburbs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also decided to feature this Tribune article on our Great Lakes blog. We are hoping for "big, green and pro-growth" changes in Chicago, too! It would be great to talk with you after the initial plans are announced today.

Also, thanks for your editorial perspective on the Great Lakes Compact. The process you allude to is simple: When an issue threatening the Great Lakes flairs up it should prompt officials to protect the Lakes. Awareness should prompt action but maybe that is not enough. We need to get creative in order to find an advocate in the remaining states who have not approved the compact for one reason or another.