Posted on March 19, 2010 4:04 AM
Weekly Update, 3-19-10
Extension of SAFETEA-LU. A new stimulus bill, the HIRE Act, was passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by the President this week. The bill includes a payroll tax break for businesses that hire unemployed workers, with a tax credit of $1,000 if they keep such workers on the job for at least one year. While the bill doesn't contain the funds for transportation infrastructure like the ARRA stimulus did last year, it does contain some important provisions for transportation. An extension of the surface transportation spending and Highway Trust Fund (HTF) authorizations through December 31, 2010 were part of the bill. There was also a $19.5 billion transfer from the General Fund to help keep the HTF solvent into 2011, restoration of $8.7 billion (contract authority only) that was rescinded from the HTF on September 30, 2009, and an increased funding level for the federal highway program in FY 2010 at $42 billion (up from $30 billion). An additional $4.6 billion was provided to the Build America Bonds program. An unresolved issue from the extension that Congress is currently debating now is how to handle the funding provided in two discretionary programs, the Projects of National and Regional Significance and National Corridor Infrastructure Improvement Programs. Under the current extension, Illinois would receive approximately $151 million for its core federal program during FY 2010, but members of the U.S. House of Representatives would like to change the distribution of these funds. This could mean that Illinois would only receive $32 million. A letter has been sent on behalf of the CMAP Board and the MPO Policy Committee to northeastern Illinois' Congressional members urging them to oppose the redistribution of the funds. Staff will continue to monitor and provide updates on this situation.
Benefits of energy efficiency. A new editorial by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu describes energy efficiency as "one of the lowest cost options for reducing U.S. carbon emissions." DOE research indicates that energy and cost savings are significant when retrofit programs are targeted at the least efficient houses and concentrate on fundamental work, such as ducts, windows, doors, insulation, and caulking. Secretary Chu argues that money is often "left on the table" because homeowners and contractors aren't aware of the significant potential savings. He writes that DOE's new Retrofit Ramp-up effort will streamline home retrofits by targeting entire neighborhoods at one time and by working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on new financing tools, which is the type of federal program coordination that we hope will become commonplace. Last December, CMAP submitted a $75 million Retrofit Ramp-up proposal in partnership with the cities of Chicago and Rockford and on behalf of the seven-county region (read more about the proposal on the Recovery blog). Grant announcements for this program are anticipated soon. The Chu essay originated as part of the World Economic Forum "Energy Vision 2010: Towards a More Energy Efficient World."
Reminder: FOIA and Open Meetings Act webinar. From 10:00 a.m. to noon on Thursday, March 25, 2010, CMAP is partnering with the Office of the Attorney General of Illinois to present a free webinar that will help government officials and the public understand new provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA). The program will be presented by Amalia Rioja, chief deputy public access counselor in the Attorney General's office. Register here. Contact Jamie Krell for details (312-386-8658 or firstname.lastname@example.org). For additional information, please visit http://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/.
Save the date: FLIP event. On Tuesday, April 20, 2010, the Future Leaders in Planning (FLIP) final presentation will be hosted at the National Museum of Mexican Art from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The FLIP students will present their final projects, which are designed to help youth across northeastern Illinois implement various aspects of GO TO 2040. FLIP is a youth leadership development program sponsored by CMAP. Not only have these students learned about planning issues in our region, they have also met and interacted with regional leaders who make key decisions that affect our communities. To RSVP, contact Diana Torres (312-386-8774 or email@example.com) by Monday, April 19.
Where the living's easy. Congratulations to the Village of Mokena in Will County, which has been named one of the best affordable suburbs in America by Business Week. Mokena is one of the fastest-growing areas in the region, reports the magazine.
The Grants Academy: Learn to access federal funds. To build regional capacity and take advantage of emerging funding opportunities, on April 15, CMAP and Illinois ResourceNet are offering a new program on grant writing specifically for non-profits, local government, and economic development and planning organizations. This program will equip communities with the basic tools necessary for building partnerships and continuously producing quality proposals. The morning session with identify key federal grant programs and demonstrate how to focus on strong goals and objectives and realistic budgets. The afternoon session will include an interactive workshop for preparing proposals under four different categories: economic development, housing, community development, and human services. The event costs $35 and will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the ComEd Commercial Center in Oak Brook. Register online at http://www.cmap.illinois.gov/Assistance/grantsacademy.aspx. For more information, contact Jamie Krell (312-386-8658 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
Meter fairy app. A new iPhone application, created by a Plainfield resident, can help you find affordable parking in Chicago, reports the Daily Herald. The app's author says it can even alert drivers when their parking meters are close to expiration.
Earth Day. April 22 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to celebrate across our region. If your community has developed any projects to fight climate change or made plans for the special day, contact Erin Newman (email@example.com) so the projects/events can be announced throughout the month of April. Can't wait for April to celebrate? On March 27 at 8:30 p.m. participate in Earth Hour, when hundreds of millions of people around the world will unite to call for action on climate change through a simple act, such as turning their lights off for an hour. To learn how to participate, organize an event, or advertise in your municipality, visit www.myearthhour.org/welcome.
Recovery blog. This Wednesday marked the release of the latest Economic Recovery Update, which featured an interesting profile of the DuPage County's Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). This local effort has been used by HUD as a national model for successful implementation of the program. Check out this slide show to see images of how DuPage is addressing the problem of foreclosures.
Burnham Award call for nominations. The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is now accepting nominations for its annual Burnham Award for Excellence in Planning. Past winners include Metropolis 2020, the Village of Arlington Heights Downtown Plan, and the Will County Land Resource Management Plan. Details including submission guidelines are available online. Nominations are due by 4:00 p.m., April 8, 2010.
Scholarship opportunity. The Illinois treasurer is offering ten Excellence in Agriculture Scholarships of $2,000 each for high school seniors who plan to major in agriculture-related studies. Applications must be postmarked by May 14, 2010.
Census time. Keep an eye on your home mailbox for the household Census questionnaire. This year's survey is just ten questions long and should only take ten minutes of your time to complete. Our Census page features a handy schedule to keep you informed of all of the major milestones in the 2010 Census, including April 1, which is "National Census Day." We will be posting a "National Census Day" feature on the special day.
Reminder: farmers markets funding. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still accepting applications for $5 million in grants via the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). Applications are due by April 15, 2010.
In the GO TO 2040 blog. We featured a photo of hopefully the last big snowfall in the region this year and the maple syrup tapping at the Coral Woods Conservation Area in McHenry County.
Soles and Spokes. This week, CMAP's bike-ped planning blog featured a video of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, speaking to advocates at the National Bike Summit. Secretary LaHood promised a "sea change," in which walking and bicycling are treated as equals with other transportation modes. In another post, we notified readers of new Spanish language pedestrian and bicycle safety materials available for download from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We also blogged about the upcoming lecture and discussion to be held at the Chicago Cultural Center on "Walkable Urbanism and the Green Future of Cities."