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The Mechanics
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Environment/Sustainability Thu Sep 17 2009

What Will Make Chicago More Sustainable?

IMG_1083.JPGAs we mentioned yesterday, President Obama's "conversation/listening" tour rolled into Chicago Thursday, with members of his Cabinet stopping by the city to discuss ways of making this area more sustainable. Sustainable is a loaded term these days, but to members of Obama's Cabinet, it means sitting in less traffic, having easy access to places, such as daycares and grocery stores, via public transportation, "green" building and a more rapid train system throughout the country. Mechanics listened in on the discussion, organized by the Metropolitan Planning Council, Thursday afternoon and jotted down some notes. The tour is headed to Denver, LA, Seattle, Atlanta and then back to D.C. So, Mechanics readers, what do you think: What would make Chicago a more sustainable city? Here are some thoughts from Obama's Cabinet:

Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation: Our contribution from DOT is to work with the EPA and HUD to provide the kind of light rail in transit...walking paths, biking paths. I went to Portland, Oregon to inaugurate the streetcar system. Streetcars are coming back to America, not only in Portland but we're talking about streetcars in Washington, D.C. and in many other places in America....Our opportunities are created by the vision of your hometown fella, and that's President Obama. The vision we're talking about comes from his experience of living in Chicago, using mass transit, living in neighborhoods that provide people opportunities to be close to transportation and to not have to get into an automobile every time you want to go somewhere and be stuck in traffic for an hour. So my point is this: This is not your father's Department of Transportation. This is President Obama's Department of Transportation.

HUD rep (scheduled speaker Shaun Donovan, secretary of HUD, was unavailable): We will be looking at how we can incorporate these ideas of measuring both housing and transportation costs for individuals to try and find ways that we can ensure that people from all walks of life can benefit from this idea of livable communities. Inside of HUD, we have organized ourselves to look at how we will then take that idea of affordability at a broader scale, how it will then inform the work that we do, how it might direct funding for different kinds of housing and job opportunities to places where households can really lower their transportation expenditures.

Lisa Jackson, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Just two days ago, we announced automobile regulations that everyone who's ever worked in that field said couldn't be done. They are one set of standards that combine CAFE standards, fuel efficiency standards and greenhouse gas standards... We have seen the scars of what happens when we don't come together...This isn't just great rhetoric. This is a necessary next step.

Adolfo CarriĆ³n, director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs Policy: Some folks will say, in a very colorful way, 'Well the government is running a candy store. The money goes to the state and gets lost and it doesn't trickle down to the city.' So what do we need to do? We need to ensure that there is a more direct relationship to municipalities, to counties, to regions. And that federal investments require that there be partnerships between all levels of government, and that there be public-private partnerships as well...The three lenses that we're looking at this through are: Are we making places more economically competitive? Are we making places that are more environmentally sustainable? And are we creating places that are providing opportunity for more people? Those are the building blocks. The measurement of success should spring from those building blocks.

 
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Mandy Burrell Booth / September 18, 2009 1:25 PM

I'm glad you were able to make it to our event yesterday! We were very encouraged by the three agencies' plans to begin to coordinate planning and funding. It's common sense to align plans for housing, transportation and the environment, but for too long, that hasn't been the way. We're excited to offer more specific recommendations to the Obama administration from MPC and our partners in the coming weeks and months, and we hope Gapers readers will weigh in here and on our site with their ideas for more sustainable communities.

Harold lucas / September 19, 2009 8:32 PM

What happened to the bottom-up political mechinism in Chicago that the Obama campaign implemented in order to get him elected President?

The grassroots base of the Obama campaign has been ignored in the African American community of Chicago. If the Presidnet is not aware and careful, his African American community in Chicago will be re-gentrified by established leadership in Chicago, as we prepare to host the 2016 Olympics.

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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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Editor: Mike Ewing, mike@gapersblock.com
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