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‘We Will Chicago’ plan adopted to guide city’s next decade

Chicago’s first comprehensive planning document since the 1960s became official policy Thursday amid warnings that it sets a framework for civic improvements but leaves policy recommendations for future administrations.

The Chicago Plan Commission unanimously approved the document, called “We Will Chicago,” which was drafted by community leaders, city officials and volunteers after input from residents across the city. Its goal is to guide policy decisions for the next 10 years, and it asks city agencies to report annually on progress.

The 152-page planning document, available at WeWillChicago.com, follows broad themes of equity and resiliency and seeks to address past discriminatory practices that primarily hurt minority neighborhoods and drove out some middle-class Chicago residents.

The plan highlights data showing the impact of redlining on home loans, differences in wealth and health among neighborhoods, and the prevalence of pollution in poor areas, among other measures that distinguish the haves from the haves. that they don’t have

Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended the effort to produce the city’s first general plan since 1966, but supporters said its precepts are meant to outlast any administration. Her adoption comes with Lightfoot in an uphill battle for re-election.

“This was one of Mayor Lightfoot’s first priorities when she took office,” said Maurice Cox, the city’s planning and development commissioner. “And I remember very clearly that he was very nervous about what the mayor would say about a multi-year timeline for a planning effort. And to her credit, the mayor said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I think this is going to be transformational for Chicago.’”

The “We Will Chicago” recommendations are organized around eight categories it calls pillars: arts and culture; civic and community engagement; economic development; environment, climate and energy; housing and neighborhoods; lifelong learning; public health and safety; and transportation and infrastructure.

The pillars lead to more than 40 recommendations. These include providing more public input to the city’s budget process, expanding access to arts programs, and preventing the displacement of long-time residents when neighborhoods change.

Some participants expressed frustration that around 600 policy ideas that came up at the community meetings were not part of the main report, but were instead included in an appendix. Some said the document lacks force or application.

Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara, responding to that criticism, called the document a “framework,” not an action plan, that can be adapted over time. “This is a living document,” said Andre Brumfield, vice chair of the plan commission and principal of the architecture firm Gensler.

During public testimony, Jonathan Snyder, chief executive of the North Branch Works group, said the plan does not pay enough attention to how industrial jobs can be promoted as a source of good-paying jobs.

Ald. tom tuney (44he), a member of the plan commission, agreed with that point, calling Chicago employer input a “missing link” in the document.