City’s 10-year planning proposal aims to right old wrongs

City officials on Thursday released a draft of a planning document intended to guide policy decisions in Chicago for the next 10 years.

The document, “We Will Chicago,” is drawn from feedback gathered at nearly 200 meetings across the city over the past two years and offers a vision for Chicago’s future with overarching themes like fairness and community engagement.

The city hasn’t had such a bright future since the 1960s, and “We Will Chicago” is the first to acknowledge past injustices that primarily harm black and brown neighborhoods.

The title of the report refers to Chicago’s “I will” motto.

The release of the 148-page draft will launch a public hearing process for comment that will last through the fall. A revised version will then be submitted to the Chicago Plan Commission for adoption in early 2023.

The document and a schedule of community meetings are available on WeWillChicago.com.

“We are thrilled that this process has been so people-driven, resident-driven,” said Skyler Larrimore, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s first deputy director of policy. “We hope that when the people of Chicago read this project, they can imagine a more equitable and resilient Chicago.”

In a video statement, Lightfoot said the document will represent a “collective vision” of the city’s priorities and serve as a guide for future budgets and capital spending.

“My team and I knew it was important to look back as we look to the future and recognize the history of our city’s policies, programs and investments that have both caused and exacerbated challenges such as racial and social inequality,” Lightfoot said.

Accordingly, the plan presents data showing the impact of redlining on mortgages, differences in wealth and health between neighborhoods, the preponderance of pollution in poor areas and other measures that distinguish the haves from the poor in the city. Officials said its preparation, which involved the Metropolitan Planning Council and meeting documenters from the municipal office organization, cost $4 million.

The community process is designed to build trust so Chicagoans know each other’s commitment to a better city, officials said.

It avoids specific recommendations, which could frustrate critics. But they should instead look at how the plan’s broad goals fit with the mayor’s current priorities, such as the Invest South/West program to direct investments to neglected communities, Larrimore said.

Kathy Dickhut, assistant commissioner for planning, said the document reflects residents’ views on the issues they have faced for decades and “reflects the future for people we don’t usually have at the table to propose. these ideas”.

The “We Will Chicago” recommendations are organized around eight categories: Arts and Culture; civic and community engagement; economic development; environment, climate and energy; housing and quarters; lifelong learning; public health and safety; and transport and infrastructure.

The categories lead to more than 40 recommendations of varying complexity, such as providing greater public input into the city’s budgeting process, expanding access to arts programs, and preventing the displacement of longtime residents when neighborhoods change.

The document’s planned adoption in 2023 and accompanying community meetings mean a timeline that coincides with the mayoral re-election campaign. Planning officials said there was no policy objective in the document.

They also said he was destined to survive any single administration to influence the next.

“That’s what cities do. This is how cities manage their future,” said Dickhut. “I can’t say why we haven’t done it before, but it’s something that’s overdue.”

Although “We Will Chicago” does not require City Council ratification, specific spending programs drawn from its recommendations will require legislative approval.

Over the next few months, planners hope to engage with 1,000 people in each neighborhood to gather feedback, said Department of Planning and Development Deputy Commissioner Gabriela Jirasek.

Recordings of previous meetings on the effort are included on the city’s website.

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