Posted on February 24, 2010 11:03 PM
Excerpts from Patrick T. Reardon’s Remarks for the January 21, 2010 CMAP Open House
By Patrick T. Reardon
If you look at a satellite view of this part of the globe, you can see the deep blue of Lake Michigan and the unbroken sweep of the landscape. It shows our region as a single fabric, closely woven, each thread linked to every other. It doesn’t show government boundaries. They are invisible because, in the natural world, they don’t exist.
You probably live in one neighborhood or town and work in another and shop at a mall in a third and visit friends in a fourth. You don’t pay a lot of attention to invisible governmental boundaries as you go about your life. For you, it’s all one landscape, all one region. At this beginning of the 21st century, we need to recognize this fact…We are the people of a region. We share this section of the earth together. And we are at a turning point in our history.
We have the opportunity today to begin to refashion our region. We can start to make it greener, healthier, economically stronger and more beautiful, and give ourselves and future generations richer lives. Now is the moment.
In 2009, our region celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Plan of Chicago, called the Burnham Plan for its primary author Daniel Burnham. In more than 1,000 events over the course of the year, the people of the region gathered together to look at the amazing impact of that 164-page document -- and to think boldly about the future. The Burnham Plan reshaped Chicago and the suburbs and created the modern field of urban planning. Even more, it taught this region and the rest of the world a lesson: If you plan for the future, you can make it better. It's still true today: If we plan for the future, we can make it better.
The Burnham Plan Centennial set the stage for the effort this year to create the first-ever comprehensive plan for the seven counties of northeastern Illinois. It’s called the GO TO 2040 plan and it’s being put together by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. This document will be the first to integrate planning and policies covering the use of land, the treatment of the environment, the movement of people and goods, the education of children, the fairness of decisions and the quality of life of the region’s eight million residents -- and the more than ten million expected to be living here three decades from now.
But Illinois is a place where politics is a slash-throat, take-no-prisoners blood sport. And narrow-gauge, small-minded politics could doom this unprecedented effort to make our future better. We need to commit as a region -- as the people of a region -- to thinking broadly. We need to work together to improve the quality of our lives in the coming years. We need to support CMAP’s effort to create and implement the GO TO 2040 plan.
For more than 30 years, Patrick T. Reardon was the urban affairs writer and a feature writer at the Chicago Tribune. He wrote articles exploring the interconnectedness of the region including topics like the urban underclass, public housing, the Chicago public schools, middle-class migration out of the city and the cultural and social aspects of urban sprawl. He has lectured on Chicago history for the Chicago History Museum and on journalism for Northwestern University, DePaul University and Roosevelt University. During 2009, He was the writer of the Burnham Blog at the Burnham Plan Centennial website. He is a scholar in residence at the Newberry Library and the author of three books.