Tagvote

Tucson’s neighborhood friendly ordinances

I’m moving to Tucson so I can bike on Dutch-style separated bike paths.*

My Grid Chicago writing partner John Greenfield visited Tucson, Arizona, earlier this month. His post about their bicycle facilities is on our site today. I published two posts about my visit in 2010, first Tucson has every kind of bikeway and Rialto theater in downtown Tucson.

In John’s post, he describes that the proliferation of bikeways (of all kinds!) are in part due to a city ordinance that requires they be installed in all road projects. Think Complete Streets but where you actually have to make one instead of just “considering” making one, which is what happens here.

I started digging into the city code to find the ordinance and its exact language. I haven’t found it yet, but I did find this:

Chapter 15, Section 13 is about going to the voters to approve or reject the city’s involvement in any project to construct “freeway, parkway or other controlled-access highway” or “grade-separated interchange”. So, in a regular or special election, the city must ask voters whether or not the city should be involved in building big roads, on a project by project basis.

Imagine that. What if the voters of Chicago could reject the destruction of their neighborhoods because of expressway construction for the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower, and Kennedy? Well, first of all, would people approve or reject those projects?

“(e) If the voters reject the proposed project, the mayor and council shall request that the state department of transportation not include the proposed project in the state highway system.”

An approval for a project is valid for five years. If no construction happens in that time, then the project approval has lapsed and the voters must be asked again. I’m sure many people (especially the people proposing the project) would find this law an enormous barrier to “progress”, but it ensures some level of public participation.

* Just kidding.

Del Valle on Walmart stores and good governing in Chicago

This is juicy. I went to a friend’s house tonight (along with 40 other people) to hear and talk to Miguel Del Valle, candidate for Chicago mayor (the election’s on February 22). After he talked about his issues, we asked him questions on different issues or to expand on what he said earlier.

Someone in the audience asked about Walmart in Pullman. I’m not sure of the exact question, but Miguel answered: “I support a living wage. If I was mayor, I would not have vetoed the ‘big box ordinance’.” (Mayor Daley initially supported the big box ordinance that would have set a minimum wage for workers in stores of a certain square footage but vetoed the bill after it was approved by the city council.)

Not wanting to lose an opportunity to talk about such a contentious issue (now quickly becoming one for New York City), I spoke up and mentioned to Miguel that Walmart plans 30 more stores in Chicago (a few people gasped at the thought of this) and asked, “How do you feel about that?” He replied:

How do I feel about that? It won’t be my job to feel something about new Walmarts in the city. That’s the city council’s job. I want to liberate them [he said this on Wednesday night]. I want there to be an open, deliberative process, with debate and transparency. I want there to be public hearings in and outside the council chambers. Let the proponents speak, and let the opponents speak. Whether or not there should be more Walmarts in Chicago is up to the aldermen and their constituents to decide. There are areas in Chicago where stores that sell fresh groceries don’t want to move in, but Walmart is – people are willing to take what they can get.* What is appropriate in one neighborhood might not be appropriate for another, but that is not for the mayor to decide. The citizens must choose.

(I can’t believe I paraphrased his response so well. I mean, I rode home in 2°F cold so my body is really tired.)

One audience member wasn’t sure what it meant to “liberate aldermen” and asked, “Can you describe what that looks like?” She was curious about Del Valle’s “proposal” to have a democratic process in the city council chambers. He explained that the citizens elect aldermen to represent them when making and passing bills. It’s the mayor’s job to control the flow of bill introductions and voting.

He gave the example of the parking meter deal: The ordinance was introduced one day and voted on the next day. This wouldn’t happen if Del Valle was mayor because he would require debate, transparency, hearings, and such. As mayor, he would immediately engage Morgan Stanley to try to renegotiate the terms of the lease. Unlike The Urbanophile, Miguel does not believe the city can buy back the meters – they’re far too valuable at this point.

He wants to make a structural change – the way governing should be but hasn’t been during the Daley administration. I support him in this effort.

*I would prefer that our TIF dollars be used for what they were designed for: improving the economic conditions in blighted areas. TIF money is supposed to be used to pay for capital projects that would not occur in that area if not for the TIF funding. Maybe Pete’s Fresh Market or Roundy’s needs a bit more incentive. The Walmart contribution to the tax rolls is not all it’s cracked up to be! Also consider how big companies like Walmart, and now Costco in the Illinois Medical District, consistently receive tax brakes. These are the very companies that can most afford paying taxes.

I voted – I hope you did, too

Photo by Eric Pancer.

I’m locking my bike at the elementary school to a bench. A guy on the other side of “the line” (marked by blue cones) asks me if he can give me a sample ballot.

“No, thanks, got my own!”

I used the Chicago Tribune’s “ballot maker” website to print a list of the people I wanted to vote for. That included these three Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates. I also voted for other candidates who have shown their support for things I want, like high-speed rail (a currently occurring reality in Illinois) and public transit. I voted for people like Pat Quinn and Dan Lipinski to further support these efforts to make Illinois more economically competitive as well as develop more sustainably and most important of all, get people where they’re going on environmentally-friendly transportation modes.

Why did you vote? What message did you send?

My endorsements for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) is in charge of treating sewage, managing storm water runoff, controlling for floods, and keeping pollution out of our waterways (the District only covers Cook County). It operates seven water treatment plants. It has a board of elected commissioners. Three commissioners are elected every two years for six–year terms. Tuesday, November 2, 2010, is the day on which you can help control the future of the District.

Why should you care about the MWRD and its Board of Commissioners?

  1. If you own property, then you pay taxes to the MWRD. Look at your property tax bill and you will see a line item on there for “Metro Water Reclamation Dist of Gr Chgo” – you’ll pay more to have everyone’s sewage cleaned and storm water collected than you will to pay for the Cook County Forest Preserve District and City of Chicago libraries.
  2. If you rent property, your rents will be somewhat based on the property taxes the property owner pays for your unit.
  3. If your basement has flooded, you have probably been affected by unsustainable and incomplete storm water management. This is MWRD’s responsibility but the organization seems too hellbent on building more voluminous tunnels to store water before it can be cleaned and discharged into Lake Michigan.

Read on for my endorsements if any of the preceding situations or events apply to you, or if you believe there are more sustainable ways of doing the District’s job.

Nadine Bopp

Nadine is my favorite candidate. What are her credentials you ask?

  • Bachelor’s degree in Ecology
  • Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Teaches environmental science, botany and sustainable architecture
  • Works at the Cook County Forest Preserve District as an environmental planner in writing a conservation management plan
  • Works as a board member in the Chicago chapter of the the U.S. Green Building Council (posts about U.S. GBC)

Her credentials and her answers to the Chicago Tribune questionnaire are directly in line with my values, my experience, and my vision for storm water management in Chicago and Cook County. If you’re not sure how this is, then you haven’t been reading enough on Steven can plan!

Jack Ailey

In Jack’s answer to the Chicago Tribune about specific initiatives he would seek to accomplish in his term, he said he would stress,

“a vigorous campaign to keep storm water out of our sewer system, promoting all the various methods to do this. We need incentives for homeowners to install rain barrels. We need incentives for green roofs. We need incentives for installing permeable paving. Property owners need to get some tangible benefit from doing the things needed to reduce the amount of storm water entering the sewer system.”

Chicago has a combined sewer system, so it also collects storm water. The additional water cannot be cleaned fast enough and there’s not enough Deep Tunnel to store it so much of the dirty water is discharged into Lake Michigan. By reducing the demand on our systems with sustainable management practices, we will also reduce our costs AND the risk and prevalence of flooding.

Also, I’m a bit partial to the topic of using rain barrels as part of water conservation and storm water management: I was ecstatic watching my rain barrel work so well during its first storm.

The organization in charge of managing storm water should better promote the use of rain barrels and other water conservation techniques that reduce the workload on our already over-taxed sewer system.

Michael Alvarez

In Michael’s comments to the Chicago Tribune about a proposed watershed management ordinance, he said,

“New development on or adjacent to the existing flood plain should be required to increase the storage rate, rather than simply meeting the pre-construction run off rate. Additionally, the ordinance should provide incentive for property owners, with existing structures, to implement water conservation techniques. In all instances we should encourage the use of permeable pavers and other technologies that will alleviate the strain on our environment.”

By mandating an increase in water storage rate, this would ensure that properties are built to better handle storm water. What I don’t see, and would like to see from Michael, is more about his ideas on which techniques would be allowed. Dedicating a large portion of a housing development to water retention – a popular technique in low-density areas – is not a productive use of land, nor does it promote sustainable storm water management. But Michael’s comments on water conservation and permeable pavers sell me on his candidacy.


© 2014 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑