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Environment/Sustainability Wed Sep 16 2009

Obama's "Conversation" Tour Kicks Off Tomorrow

In July, speaking at an Urban and Metropolitan Policy Roundtable, President Obama announced an initiative to take a long, hard look at metropolitan development -- ways cities have failed and how planning officials can look beyond the concrete and streetlights to improve the quality of life. "For too long," Obama said, "federal policy has actually encouraged sprawl and congestion and pollution, rather than quality public transportation and smart, sustainable development. And we've been keeping communities isolated when we should have been bringing them together."

At the roundtable, Obama recalled his time spent living in LA, New York, Boston, and Chicago, adding, "I received my greatest education on Chicago's South Side, working at the local level to bring about change in those communities and opportunities to people's lives...And that experience also gave me an understanding of some of the challenges facing city halls all across the country."

This Chicago-centric experience has lead to a "conversation" tour, kicking off tomorrow in Chicago, where members from Obama's Cabinet will visit cities and regions across the country to discuss sustainable and responsible development.

The Metropolitan Planning Council, a non-profit dedicated to creating "sustainable and prosperous" growth in the Chicago area, is hosting the luncheon, "Connecting the Dots: Metropolitan Chicago's Path to Prosperity," tomorrow from noon to 1:45 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, Regency Ballroom (West Tower), 151 E. Wacker Dr.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Deptartment of Housing and Urban Development, Lisa Jackson, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, will be among the speakers. They will be discussing their agencies' joint Sustainable Communities Partnership, which outlines six "livability principles":

  • Provide more transportation choices

  • Promote equitable, affordable housing

  • Enhance economic competitiveness

  • Support existing communities

  • Coordinate policies and leverage investment

  • Value communities and neighborhoods

This discussion is "part of a ongoing national conversation to lift up best practices from around the country, to look at innovations for the metropolitan areas of tomorrow," Obama said at the roundtable. "Forward-looking cities shouldn't be succeeding despite Washington; they should be succeeding with a hand from Washington. We want to hear directly from them, and we want to hear directly from all of you, on fresh ideas and successful solutions that you've devised, and then figure out what the federal government should do or shouldn't do to help reinvent cities and metropolitan areas for the 21st century."

To give your input on ways the Obama administration can better support Chicago's growth and future metropolitan development, you can comment on MPC's Web site here.

Tickets for the event, which also acts as MPC's sole annual fundraiser, cost $150. Online registration is closed but interested last-minute ticket buyers should call Pam Lee at 312-863-6011. Check back with Mechanics tomorrow for some coverage of the event.

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