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Implications for Evanston in 2040 regional plan

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) today unveiled at a Millenium Park event its widely heralded comprehensive long-range plan for the seven-county region for the next 30 years that has significance for Evanston.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) today unveiled at a Millenium Park event its widely heralded comprehensive long-range plan for the seven-county region for the next 30 years that has significance for Evanston.

Dubbed “Go to 2040,” the plan was lauded as every bit as important to the Chicago region as the famed Burnham Plan of a century earlier. The ultimate goal of the plan is to make Chicagoland a major player in the global community.

At the same time, it faces huge obstacles in that it requires buy-in from most of the 1,200 governmental units in 284 communities in the region, augmented by cooperation from state and local governments.

Such politically sensitive issues as increasing the efficiency of government is seen as a major task for a community such as Evanston that has not one, but two school districts, a community college district, a township government, three park districts, a mosquito control unit, a water reclamation district, and now a library board with its own taxing authority.

With more than 1,200 units of government, “increasing efficiency depends on better coordination, communication, and where appropriate, consolidation of services,” the plan states.

But on one issue, promoting sustainable local food, Evanston took a positive step recently in making it legal to grow chickens on residential property. But even that was a hard-fought issue that divided the City Council.

And the city moved forward on another issue in the plan—renewable energy generation—only this week when it advanced a proposal to create a committee to evaluate competing plans for an off-shore wind turbine operation designed to lower the community’s energy costs.

The regional plan’s four themes are livable communities, human capital, efficient governance, and regional mobility.

CMAP Executive Director Randy Blankenhorn noted that the issues are highly interrelated. “For example, promoting a good balance of jobs and housing will give residents the option to live nearer to where they work, which lets them spend less time commuting. Improved access to transit helps people and businesses save on travel expenses, keeping cars off the road, and reducing energy consumption, which also improves the environment.”

In a panel discussion at the event, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley contended that the major issue is education. He said people fled the city years ago because they were dissatisfied with the education their children were receiving.

When a company is scouting a location, he said, they look first at the area’s schools because most of their executives and employees have school-age children.

Another panelist, former Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Michael Moskow took issue with the automobile. “We have to increase the cost of driving cars,” he stated, including such measures as increasing the gasoline tax, adding more toll roads, and hiking parking rates in downtown areas.

Mayor Daley contended that, because of the economy and the bankrupt nature of state government finances, that the plan will require a huge infusion of private funding if it is to be achieved.

CMAP was created in 2005 as the comprehensive regional planning organization for the northeastern Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. “Go to 2040” seeks to align public policies and investments in the area to maximize the benefits of scarce resources as the region adds an estimated 2 million new residents by 2040.

The plan, which you can read in its entirety at www.cmap.illinois.gov/2040, groups its recommendations into the following 12 areas:

  1. Achieve greater livability through land use and housing.
  2. Manage and conserve water and energy resources.
  3. Expand and improve parks and open space.
  4. Promote sustainable local food.
  5. Improve education and workforce development.
  6. Support economic innovation.
  7. Reform state and local tax policy.
  8. Improve access to information.
  9. Pursue coordinated investments.
  10. Invest strategically in transportation.
  11. Increase commitment to public transit.
  12. Create a more efficient freight network. 

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio stations and business-oriented magazines.

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