MPC’s Skosey Wants to Help Spur Economic Growth as a CMAP Board Member

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Peter Skosey

I’m glad to share the news that Peter Skosey, executive vice president of the Metropolitan Planning Council and a key player in the local transportation advocacy scene, has joined the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Earlier this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed him earlier this week to replace outgoing CMAP board member Raul Raymondo. Skosey has served the planning council’s transportation committee since its inception, but as he wrote in a recent blog post, sitting on the board will be a whole new ball of wax.

Skosey told me he’s jazzed to take on this important role in helping to guide the future of regional development. “I am a planner, with a planning degree,” he said. “CMAP is the largest regional planning body in Illinois. Where else can I go and be a part of discussions that affect the entire region? CMAP is it. I’m really excited to take my work at MPC, bring it to CMAP, and do my best to improve planning in the region.”

The most notorious failure of the regional planning process was when CMAP’s Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee, under pressure from then-governor Pat Quinn, voted to classify the Illiana Tollway boondoggle as a high-priority project. This was despite the fact that the CMAP board had voted against the sprawl-inducing exurban highway, because the project was at odds CMAP’s GO TO 2040 Plan, which calls for focusing new development in the existing metro area.

“I do think one of the issues that the board and the policy committee need to work out is how to avoid such a schism in the future,” Skosey said. “It’s not good for the organization, and it’s not good for the region.”

Fortunately, the Illiana is largely dead in the water because current governor Bruce Rauner’s recently froze the project, citing budget constraints, and because of a recent lawsuit ruling that nullified federal approval of the Environmental Impact Statement for the project. Perhaps one of Skosey’s first orders of business as a board member should be to make a motion to demote the tollway from CMAP’s primary projects list, so that the Illinois Department of Transportation no longer has the authority to build it. This would also need to be approved by the policy committee.

Skosey told me this is a particularly exciting time to join the board because CMAP will be working on creating the next regional plan as a follow-up to GO TO 2040, which was published in 2010. “This is an opportunity to address some of the issues with the plan and determine what we can do better,” he said.

In his blog post, Skosey noted that Minneapolis and San Diego grew five times faster than Chicago between 2010 and 2013. He attributes some of that success to those cities’ regional planning organizations, which he says have more flexibility than CMAP, such as the ability to directly invest in public transportation initiatives. He suggests that we learn from their best practices.

Skosey also wonders aloud whether it might be helpful for CMAP to coordinate how $75 million a year in federal Community Development Block Grant money is spent around the region to maximize its impact. He floats the idea of a regionally controlled infrastructure fund that would let CMAP focus resources where they’re needed most.

“I believe in the potential of regional coordination to lead to economic growth for everyone,” he said. “I’m looking forward to exploring all of these opportunities.” It’s certainly good news for Chicagoland that a progressive like Skosey will be helping to call the shots at CMAP.

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