Cook County Policy Roadmap Supports Sustainable Communities

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle released her Policy Roadmap on November 15. The Roadmap is a strategic plan that sets the vision of the Offices under the President and outlines direction and key policy priorities for the next five years. It focuses on six broad policy areas (including criminal justice, economic development, health, sustainable communities, smart infrastructure and open government) that are part of the mandate of the County as well as those that are important to improving the quality of life for all residents.

The theme of racial equity is woven throughout the Roadmap. Chicago is one of the most segregated of the largest metropolitan areas, and a focus on racial equity in local government is critically important to getting to better outcomes in our communities.

The Sustainable Communities goal is to “Support healthy, resilient communities that thrive economically, socially, and environmentally.” In keeping with the Roadmaps’ focus on equity, the sustainable communities section highlights the need to ensure environmental justice for all communities and how to capture the economic potential of sustainability. Key strategies include incorporating environmental impact as a key criterion when making economic development decisions and attracting quality green sector jobs to the region.

Its objectives build on the accomplishments of President Preckwinkle’s administration to date, including:

  • Reduced harmful greenhouse gas emissions from County facilities 32% since 2010.
  • Created the Green Leadership Team, chaired by staff in the County Board President’s Office, as well as appointed the County’s first Chief Sustainability Officer and first Energy Manager.
  • Designed Community Solar projects and policies.
  • Received the highest total federal brownfield grants amount in the nation in 2018.
  • Saw over 1 million tons of construction and demolition debris recycled or reused after passage of Cook County’s Demolition Debris Diversion Ordinance.
  • Received awards for environmental leadership, including:
    • Environmental Leadership Award from the Illinois Environmental Council, 2017,
    • Governor’s Sustainability Award from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, 2015, and
    • Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award, 2014.

The Roadmap was created through a public process involving community input meetings and surveys, gatherings of policy experts, and public comment on drafts. The Sustainable Communities chapter was crafted by a large group of experts from both inside and outside County government, co-chaired by Sarah Cardona of the Metropolitan Planning Council and Laura Oakleaf of the Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability.

Next steps for the Roadmap include action plans to implement the roadmap, metrics to measure and publicly report progress, and building the County’s capacity to advance racial equity.