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The Mayor’s Transition Report: MPC Reacts

The mayoral election of 2023 will be remembered for its firsts. Brandon Johnson is the first mayor in a generation to come from the west side, the first mayor to have grown up grappling with systemic disinvestment in his own life. Now the new administration has released its much-anticipated transition report, Blueprint for a More Just and Vibrant City for All. Judging by the report’s ambitions, this election may also be remembered for ushering in a host of reforms and programs that begin to address the inequities and harms inflicted on so many of our communities. 

The report was prepared in collaboration with over 400 citizens and 11 advisory subcommittees. Among them were some of our own. President & CEO Darlene Hightower served on the Transportation Subcommittee, Director of Programs and Strategic Vision Kendra Freeman advised the Housing Subcommittee and Chandra Christmas-Rouse served as Facilitator and Report writer on the Subcommittee for Economic Vitality. 

From climate change to housing, from the widening gap between haves and have-nots to the city’s transportation future, the mayor’s transition report intersects many issues that are core to our work at MPC. Here are a few of highlights from the report the staff are excited about: 

AUDREY WENNINK, Transportation 
“It’s great to see that the new administration understands the integrated nature of transportation. We are thrilled to see plans for a Deputy Mayor of Transportation position to coordinate across departments and agencies, to achieve intersectional city goals between transportation and housing, land use, community facilities, parks, and open space. This is the way to get the most out of every dollar we invest.  

The report rightly recognizes the urgency of addressing a projected $730 million regional transit operating budget gap once COVID relief funds run out.  We agree that new revenues must be accompanied by reforms that will deliver “improvements to service, increased efficiency, and greater transparency.”  We appreciate the understanding that we must make CTA, Metra, and Pace trips “competitive with private cars and ride-hailing” in terms of speed and convenience. It’s also great to see a commitment to prioritize the development of a “citywide network of bus rapid transit (BRT) and dedicated bus lanes that gives buses priority over car and truck traffic.”  MPC has been championing BRT since 2012.  Let’s do this!  

Walking and biking are the most basic forms of transportation, not to mention affordable and climate friendly. We’re heartened to see the transition plan commit to making universally accessible, safe, multimodal street design the default. The report recognizes that these are not just long-term goals. Enabling quick-build solutions, such as using paint, barriers and art to calm traffic can make communities more walkable now. We can’t wait to get started.”   

“Equity, inclusivity and racial justice” are identified as core values of this transition report. That they are applied across the full spectrum of our housing ecosystem – from housing the unhoused, supporting renters and creating/preserving affordable rental units, to affordable homeownership – is heartening. This broad scope reflects the engagement with thoughtful community leaders from different sectors who participated in the Housing subcommittee. It is exciting to see the housing needs of those most vulnerable and most heavily impacted centered in the recommendations. 

 Long-term rental assistance pilots to prevent homelessness. Supporting and preserving 2-4 flats. Social housing pilots. Combatting housing speculation. Affordable homeownership support. Creating dedicated local funding streams for affordable housing. The zoning changes needed to make it all possible. All of these initiatives are important to the future of our city. Taken together they could help us transform the city, creating a home that’s truly for all of us. But they will require us to dig in and work together, to deliver “a Chicago on a path towards being a thriving and equitable city where housing is a human right.” 

RYAN WILSON, Environmental Justice
The recommendations coming out of the Environmental Justice subcommittee are a testament to the tireless efforts of community leaders, residents, policymakers, and civil servants, the result of insights gained over decades of committed work. As we face a convergence of global environmental crises, this transition report pinpoints actionable, local measures that build on the work of previous administrations, enhancing and accelerating ongoing initiatives, while also prioritizing critical first steps towards realizing the mayor’s vision of a more equitable and vibrant city. 

Three specific calls to action in this committee report deserve to be highlighted, celebrated, and pursued: 

  1. Institutionalizing Cumulative Impact Assessment through policy and practice: One of the most transformative actions this administration could take to address the inequitable distribution of environmental burden across the city. 
  1. Enabling robust environmental policymaking, planning, and enforcement: Essential to match the scale of the environmental injustices spread across the city and the magnitude of the climate emergency we face. 
  1. Committing to radical data sharing, setting targets, and reporting progress: A crucial step toward rebuilding trust between institutions and communities across the city. 

These actions, if implemented effectively, can significantly contribute to a more just and sustainable Chicago.”  

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have facilitated Economic Equity and Vitality transition subcommittee and supported with the report writing. I was encouraged by the passion and commitment of the transition committee members to center equity in this work. I am particularly excited to see that we defined our vision for an equitable and prosperous economy as explicitly prioritizing neighborhoods that are in most need in each of the economic equity and vitality recommendations.  

I worked most closely with the Government and Procurement working group in the transition committee, where we discussed the need for systems change in government service delivery. So, one of the final recommendations outlined how the City must ensure that policies and practices are intentionally coordinated, streamlined, and transparent to remove structural barriers to the City’s public and private resources. Systems change requires creative disruption from many angles, including rethinking the policies, culture, and processes that underpin our public institutions.”

At MPC, we work to equip leaders inside and outside of City Hall with a new set of tools that empower them to address structural inequities and restore relationships with the communities that they serve. We encourage the mayor to continue thinking systemically, restoring relationships with residents in the neighborhoods that are in most need and, finally, better coordinating between policy, culture,and process change. We are confident that the new administration can move in this direction and build a more equitable city together with MPC and other changemakers.   

Now the hard work begins.