With more candidates for Chicago mayor in the February 26 primary than players on a football team, we’re all being bombarded with “issues,” with “priorities,” with “policies” and “plans.” But you have to comb through a lot of rhetoric, platitudes and, well, similarities to find even a few of the big bold revolutionary ideas that the city sorely needs right now.
So we thought we’d help the next mayor out. We asked a select handful of Chicago visionaries to share one big bold idea for a future city.
Laura Calvert on a Flourishing Local Food System
Director, Advocates for Urban Agriculture
Our vision for 2019, for the future of Chicago, and for all cities, is a truly equitable, local food system—a flourishing food system where urban agriculture is an integral part of community economic development, food security, environmental sustainability and overall quality of life for all. One where leaders and residents alike understand and reap the benefits from our local food system, where our air, water and soil are safe and nourished. Where we again cultivate forty percent of our own fresh produce in home gardens, public spaces and formerly vacant lots, as Chicagoans did during the peak of the Victory Garden movement in the twentieth century. Where education, job training, and opportunity in supporting our local food system make space for all Chicagoans to thrive. We hope to see support of innovation and integrity in our food system, where there is equitable water and land access with community ownership of food production. We envision urban food sovereignty as a basic right and part of the solution to climate change interruptions in our food supply, and a Chicago where we can trust each other enough to feed each other well—where we can feel the full impact of restorative justice of land, home and community.
Anna Cerniglia on Boosting Small Business Growth
Founder and director, Johalla Projects
I envision a Chicago where smaller business owners led by women, people of color, minorities and LGBTQ are given the ability for their full potential to shine through. To achieve this, we need budget allocation changed and smaller businesses given chances to bid and participate so that great talent and ideas are not overshadowed by larger, more accomplished businesses. I am an advocate for change, working toward a more creative future for Chicago, and I know that we have the platforms. We just need to shine younger curators and creatives more.
Aymar Jean Christian on a South and West Side Renaissance
Founder, Open Television and assistant professor, Communication Studies, Northwestern University
Chicago’s South and West Sides have a long history of incubating some of the city’s most well-known artists, across all forms, but the city spends more money policing these neighborhoods than investing in schools, infrastructure and organizations promoting community health. Imagine if we invested in the South and West Sides, and used the arts to help spread the wealth. Chicago’s renaissance in film, television, art, theater and music would be incomplete, and not as powerful, if it doesn’t involve the full city. As foundations take more land in the south, my dream is they also bring resources to the folks who already live here. I imagine TV shows representing revitalized black and brown neighborhoods, with writers and creators paid to tell those stories, showing the world how to build an equitable, vibrant, progressive city.
Shayna Connelly on Community Resources for Art Making
Filmmaker and associate professor, Cinema Production, DePaul University
All-access community maker spaces: A future that includes a strong, integrated community is essential to conveying what Chicago can be and become. One of the most effective ways to bring people from different demographics together is through art. Creating public events, physical maker-spaces and tools and resources for art-making designed to bring together people of radically different backgrounds to meet and collaborate would expand how we think about people who are different from us, by age, race, gender, religion. In these spaces people could swap knowledge, gain experience and form relationships through mentorship by engaging in activities that are, at heart, fun. They would be safe spaces for people to connect over shared activities. When we focus on collaboration and process, we are in the moment and see people fully. What a world that would be!
Jim Duignan on Honoring The Instinct of Children
Founder, Stockyard Institute and associate professor, College of Education, DePaul University
My singular hope for our city’s future is that we attend to our children, and to covet the idea that somewhere between their mortality and their play spaces, there is a function of policy. I hope the city can come together to provide them security, freed from the consequences of being young. Another hope is to keep the steady release of their imaginations at the forefront—to let them dream of a future inside our city—and to ensure aspects of being young, like walking to school, or staying in their homes, being with their families, or remaining in our country are protected. The city would pivot with enormous support if policy and our collective, community conversations revolved around our children. We would feel better about the city, as our concerns are mostly personal. The answers to a better world lie with our children, if we stop interfering with their honest instincts of what soars. There is another hope: that we stop educating their creativity away from them and seek their counsel in ways that tell us more about our difficulties to maintain a vision for the city without them.
Ken Dunn on Preserving Chicago as an Open-Air Market
Founder and president of Resource Center, a sustainability non-profit
Let’s build a new city starting with the potential strength of our species: that of caring for each other and recognizing that a good life for all can be achieved by embracing diversity, listening to people who have seen things we have not. The open-air market of our cities has this diversity, producing the best in food, music, ideas and practices. We each can bring to the commons what we produce and take away what we need. Instead, our cities have become examples of how not to use asphalt, concrete, glass, steel and power. We all accept, for instance, that we can periodically fill potholes in the street, even though the asphalt trade knows techniques that repair permanently. We accept and seek to expand the police force and its power, but we need mediators and makers of the peace in how we select and train them. Every decision our mayor makes will affect our quality of life in the future. Even more determinant of our future is whether we as citizens employ best practices in our every choice.
Michelle Grabner on Building Collaborative Democracy
Artist, writer and curator
I dare to think that Chicago can embrace the values and structures that comprise a truly collaborative democracy where its politics can become “visible, equal, contestable and legitimate.” For this to happen, policymakers and institutional officials need to re-symbolize the places of power so that they broadcast and compel the obligations of citizenship well beyond a network of elected political actors and economic stakeholders.
Kavi Gupta on Art Making the World a Better Place
Owner and director, Kavi Gupta Gallery
I would love to see the Chicago art world work together to help the city have a recurring, citywide moment that is all about arts and culture. It could be something like the Triennial that debuted in Cleveland last year, or something like expanding EXPO into more of an overall Art Week. Individual artists and small arts organizations are the lifeblood of Chicago arts and culture. A focused, collaborative, recurring event that is citywide in its scope, with all parties working together and in collaboration, would help highlight the diverse energy and enthusiasm of Chicago arts. It would attract art tourism from all over the world, just as events like Miami Art Week and the Venice Biennale do. Can Chicago museums and galleries and schools and artists and politicians actually work together and coordinate shows, talks and collateral activities to create this kind of a citywide arts experience? If so, it would provide a focus for all of us throughout the year to plan for, to dream about, to work together on, and to share with the rest of the world.
Nathan Kipnis on a Sustainable Chicago
Founder and principal, Kipnis Architecture + Planning
Chicago needs to go all-in on sustainable and resilient design for all aspects of the city and at all scales—for buildings, transportation, industry and food services. In particular, we need to decarbonize our building stock as soon as possible, absolutely no later than by 2030. New buildings need to be carbon-neutral or better, and at every opportunity for renovation work to existing buildings they, too, need to hit that goal. Chicago is fortunate that we don’t have as many climate-change challenges as other regions of the country. However, we do need to incorporate resilient solutions into the design of buildings to be able to handle the future challenges of a changing global environment. This is what will make Chicago viable into the future.
Nance Klehm on Consciousness
Founder and director of operations, Social Ecologies
I’m interested in consciousness and barriers to it. We have it in us and in our communities but we’re not unlocking it. Sustainability is underselling human potential. I think it’s a low bar. I’m deeply in love with this world. I’m in grief and in fury and it can teach me a lot.
Barbara Koenen on Reuse As A Core Principle
Artist and founder, Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange
Chicago must become a leader in creativity and environmental stewardship—beyond green roofs and bike lanes. Eighty percent of our public school students live below the poverty level and teachers pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for basic classroom supplies. Meanwhile, businesses dispose of millions of dollars of surplus materials, supplies and equipment because there isn’t an easy alternative system in place. Chicago must make reuse a core principle and integral part of our civic infrastructure, and creative reuse of people, places and things must be our passion! If good artists copy and great artists steal, here are some best practices to rip off: New York City’s award-winning Materials for the Arts, which has redistributed surplus to teachers and nonprofits for thirty-plus years; the U.K.’s Warp It, which facilitates sharing and reuse within and between municipalities and other institutions; Glen Ellyn’s SCARCE, which redistributes textbooks for free, including to 1,300 CPS teachers last year; and The Neighborhood Foundation (TNF), which uses artistic board-up to save buildings and preserve neighborhoods across the country. Though based in Chicago, TNF rarely works here because the city prefers to tear vacant buildings down, just like we prefer to throw stuff out—it’s much easier! But we are better than that. “Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings,” visionary urbanist Jane Jacobs said, but “New ideas must use old buildings.” Trash is just a failure of imagination, so this can be Chicago’s prescription for creativity.
Nick Kokonas on Crossing the Divides
Co-founder and co-owner, The Alinea Group, and founder and CEO of Tock, Inc., a reservations/CRM system for restaurants
Chicago is a divided city—by neighborhood and, yes, by race. The greatest opportunity we have as a city is to promote the ease of movement and interaction across the divides. Within fifteen years, the Loop should be entirely self-driving, with individual-level public vehicles and a pedestrian-energy zone. From the city center, improved public transportation to every neighborhood will speed transport times to less-engaged neighborhoods. Development incentive programs should focus on terminus points, with extra incentives for citizens who live and work within the ward. Every neighborhood should have enterprise goals to directly benefit its citizens.
Chicago was a city of firsts. Building back from a monumental fire, our predecessors were forced to take risks. The first skyscrapers, the railroads, the Columbian Exposition, and the futures exchanges were a cry to the country that Chicago was the city where positive risk-takers were welcomed. That spirit feels gone, mired in bureaucracy and ennui. It’s time to think big and radical again.
Bill Kurtis and Donna La Pietra on Sustainable Sanctuaries
TV journalists and environmentalists
Chicago needs to think back as it looks to insuring its future. In this case, back to its deepest roots. As prairie land—part of the great grasslands that swept from the Oklahoma border to the northern edge of Illinois. The tall grass prairie.
The seeds of our possible solution to the coming ravages of climate change are, paradoxically, in those deep roots, that take in carbon dioxide and sequester it there as far as ten feet below the surface. When prairies are left undisturbed, as they are meant to be, carbon is stored in the soil. Their store of carbon is second only to the oceans. If Chicago takes the lead in creating sustainable sanctuaries and encourages its future generations to see the many possible productive uses of prairie plants, deep roots can indeed save the planet.
Bing Liu On Ways Young People Can Move Across Lines of Segregation
Director, “Minding the Gap,” segment director “America To Me,” cinematographer and editor
I’ve been thinking about ways in which young people can move across lines of segregation in this city in ways that are regenerative and low-cost. I discovered this unintentionally when the city I grew up in, Rockford, which is also deeply segregated, got a public skatepark when I was in high school and I saw young people from all over the city gather and interact and mingle for the price of a bus card or giving a friend gas money. I’ve seen the grassroots efforts that got skateparks in Logan Square, Little Village, and Grant Park built, but don’t know of any skateparks in predominantly African-American neighborhoods like Englewood or Austin. I would love to see a public skatepark built in Austin or Englewood.
Vincent Manglardi on Collaboration as Respect
Operations manager, Congruent Space
Fizzing with enthusiasm about the intersection of youth design, fashion, art and music showcased at concept store Congruent Space, operations manager Vincent Manglardi envisages an equivalent of New York fashion week for Chicago. “We have so much talent here.” He imagines a future city where we have more respect for each other. “You see a lot of hate and unequal opportunity—it’s a dog-eat-dog world,” but he feels that the alternative—collaboration, peace and justice—bring out the best. Galvanizing fashion and music talent offers endless possibility for young Chicago, he says. (As told to Toni Nealie)
Dario Maestripieri on a City of Cultural Destiny
Professor, comparative human development, University of Chicago
New York and Los Angeles, step aside. Enter the new capital of culture of the US. When I look into the crystal ball, I see art galleries popping up everywhere in the Chicago Loop. I see the Art Institute giving birth to beautiful progeny, at least three of them, opulent and dazzling like their parent, scattered north, south and west of Millennium Park. I see music and theater in the Windy City claiming the primacy in the country they have always deserved. I see coffee shops swarming with novelists and poets to rival Vienna and Berlin in the pre-World War II era. I see the Hollywood sign being moved to North Avenue Beach, and movie stars leaving their half-burned villas in Malibu to move into the shiny mansions of Winnetka. And I see palm trees everywhere, the winter snow only a fading memory of the distant past.
Faisal Mohyuddin on A City of Empathetic Connection
Writer, artist, educator and the author of “The Displaced Children of Displaced Children”
My vision for Chicago is that we become a city whose people are more deeply and more empathetically connected to one another, a city where we are genuinely invested in the comfort, safety, well-being, education, opportunity and dignity of others. As a teacher and writer, I believe we can move closer to this vision by finding ways of exchanging our stories, of listening more generously to one another, and to then find more common ground by imagining ourselves in others’ lives. If we can see ourselves in others and also see them in us, then I believe we can work together toward a shared sense of peace, partnership and possibility.
Dipika Mukherjee on Providing for People in Need
Writer and sociolinguist
Writer Dipika Mukherjee envisages an end to homelessness. “What hits me walking around the city is seeing people sleeping in doorways, cold and miserable, especially older women, huddled in crevices between buildings.“ She compares it to the Ursula K. Le Guin story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” about a bright city where the townsfolk appear happy, but their Utopian state is built on a miserable secret: an unhappy child. Mukherjee, author of “Shambala Junction,” “Ode to Broken Things” and “Rules of Desire,” resides in the South Loop and has lived life as a global nomad, so she has a wide view of how communities take care of their populations. “This city and country are so rich, yet we can’t seem to provide for people in need.” Other cities where she has lived, such as Amsterdam, Singapore, Wellington and Shanghai, manage to do a better job. She hopes Chicago will do the same. (As told to Toni Nealie)
Cheryl Munoz on Nourishing the Rebirth of the Commons
Executive director, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse
While Chicago is no longer Carl Sandburg’s “City of Big Shoulders,” our great city is poised to become a city of cooperators, social entrepreneurs and community builders. Chicago is home to food co-ops that range from the well-established like The Dill Pickle Food Co-op in Logan Square to Chicago Market which will make its home in the Uptown neighborhood, all in response to a growing desire for localized power over food systems. Is there a leader among us that is willing to kick the doors wide open for the movers and shakers in Chicago so that they can usher in a new era of thriving independent businesses and facilitate the rebirth of the commons?
Eugene Sun Park on The Four-Day Workweek
Executive director, Full Spectrum Features
As the child of immigrants, I grew up in a family that embraced a masochistic work ethic. My parents are in their seventies and still work from 6am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday, in a hot dry cleaners. My parents still use “struggle” and “sacrifice” and “suffering” as terms to describe their day-to-day work. Elon Musk, another sort of successful immigrant story, recently said that it takes an eighty-to-hundred-hour workweek for employees to make a real impact. “Nobody ever changed the world on forty hours a week,” he joked. Widespread adoption of a four-day workweek would lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive Chicago. This would not be a matter of sacrificing productivity in favor of recreation. This is a vision of actually increasing productivity by giving people enough time to enjoy their lives outside of work. With all the advances in communication and workplace productivity technology, we have the tools to “work smarter, not harder.” Why is modern work structured as if we are all factory workers on an assembly line? The four-day, or even three-day workweek is not an entirely new idea, and individual companies have already experimented with it. But no city or state has been bold enough to adopt it at the policy level. Chicago could be a leader in driving this change.
Spencer Parsons on Art that Thinks Locally Before Going Globally
Filmmaker and associate professor, Radio/Television/Film, Northwestern University
In four words? STAY SMALL. GO LOCAL. My big idea is we need to build our backyard for storytellers and filmmakers and connect with audiences here and now. The striving for national prominence won’t be achieved if we don’t really buckle down to support each other in a scene that can support art and locally-based industry. The money has disappeared for the old, national models that supported regional filmmaking. We have to build with what we have, to give the local money people something real to spend it on, which will then be worth risking at the national level. We need more locally nurtured Jennifer Reeders, basically. Chasing the odds of making a killing at Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, then hoping for national and international distribution, is a mug’s game. And the relentless obsession with it contributes to the shoddy work and perverse incentives that hold back the abundant scene we already have and are capable of expanding and maybe even sustaining.
Angelique Power on a Racially Equitable Heart
President, Field Foundation of Illinois
Can we reboot Chicago with an upgraded, now racially equitable heart?
In the wake of the flimsy sentences handed down to Van Dyke and the other officers involved in the Laquan McDonald killing and cover-up, there is no denying that the systems in this city are not designed for people of color. And I’m not suggesting all white people are racists or that poor white people aren’t incredibly marginalized and abandoned as well. I’m saying concepts of “race” and realities of racism have done a number on everyone—people of color too. Each and every one of us has gotten the message about America’s caste system. We have all internalized racism. And while I believe we all need to do active work to erase what’s been coded into our veins, my main concern is about the racism that powers our institutions and is wired firmly into our systems. At this point no one of any race can deny that our housing policies and education/health/financial/criminal justice systems across the board impact people of color negatively.
Let’s start with collectively acknowledging our city’s default operating system is racism. And now instead of freezing into stasis—let’s use this fact as a muse and enthusiastically begin again.
Thinking of shutting down schools? Let’s examine the choice with a historic lens on racial inequity, then decide. Bringing a new headquarters to town? Let’s ask how they will employ and pay thriving wages to African Latinx Asian Arab and Native American (ALAANA) individuals in our city first. Losing many of our black and brown communities to the suburbs and other states? How do we ensure our housing and economic policies prioritize stemming gentrifying-powered displacement while upping quality of life for black and brown residents?
We can rethink with abandon a new Chicago. Collectively hack, intervene, redesign these faulty systems. Bring our best system engineers and design thinkers, our community organizers and artists, our journalists and storytellers.
We can then voraciously architect a city that runs on the electricity of shared benefit; the crackle of genuine symbiosis. Once we redesign the systems? It’s all soothing blue stripes and dazzling red stars.
Gordon Quinn on A Fresh Fight For Equity in Education
Artistic director and founding member, Kartemquin Films
The thing that’s been on my mind the most since we completed “’63 Boycott” [about the 250,000-strong 1963 student strike against Chicago Public Schools] is the whole question of the racial divisions in Chicago and the issues around schools and police. When I think about the future, on the one hand, Chicago has enormous problems, and what you see in the film is that so much has not changed in over fifty years. On the other hand, Chicago is uniquely poised to confront these deep-seated problems as we go forward. There’s so much community organizing and activity as hopeful signs. Many people in Chicago are finally committed to facing up to the issues. The huge teachers’ strike was significant. On a more micro level, what happened around the NTA school [National Teachers Academy in the South Loop]: it was a school the CPS was going to close, but parents rose up and fought back and they won. When you look at what the student and teachers are doing in our series, “America to Me,” you can also see the kind of nuanced and complicated approach that people are taking to fight for equity in education.
Anne K. Ream on an Exploitation-Free City
Activist and founder, The Voices and Faces Project
Let’s make Chicago a sexual violence and exploitation-free city by 2025.
We all know, thanks to Time’s Up and #MeToo, that sexual violence, harassment and exploitation are global public health and human rights issues. But what is global is invariably local, and nowhere is that truer than in Chicago. This is, after all, the city where reports of sexual assault in the Chicago Public School system are so commonplace, and so poorly handled, that in late 2018 CPS was compelled to open a special office to address the crisis. Where singer R. Kelly has for over two decades evaded criminal and, until recently, social accountability for allegedly sexually violating dozens of women and girls (most of them black). And where the Archdiocese of Chicago, alongside the broader Illinois Catholic Church, withheld the names of over 500 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.
It’s sad and shameful that the Second City is so spectacularly failing to protect its citizens from gender-based violence. To change this, Chicago needs to create stronger systems of accountability for not only individuals who rape and abuse, but the institutions that allow perpetrators to violate with impunity. It needs to invest in educating teachers, police officers, first responders and community leaders on how to recognize—and respond to—sexual violence. It needs to increase support for the city’s shelters and rape crisis centers, where demand for services is at an all-time high. And Chicago, with its focus on social entrepreneurial solutions, should pledge to be the first U.S. city to call on its private sector allies—here’s looking at you, Chicago advertising community—to develop a city-wide public education campaign that makes clear that “not raping” is not enough. If you see something and do nothing—or choose not to see—you, too, are complicit.
Ines Sommer on a Dose of Direct Democracy
Documentary director-producer-cinematographer and associate director, Documentary Media, Northwestern University
Chicago has been governed by elected officials in the mold of Alderman Burke for so long that it’s hard to imagine what the city might look like if we gave community members true power over planning decisions in their neighborhoods. Not just “input,” or the kind of community meeting that happens after backroom deals have been struck, but true, participatory democracy that would spell the end of cushy zoning deals where aldermen get campaign donations from developers, which goes hand-in-hand with gentrification. This could end the misuse of TIFs and could have prevented the closing of fifty public schools. About ten Chicago wards already have relatively small participatory budgeting processes that are used with aldermanic menu money or, in one case, with portions of a TIF budget. Residents generate proposals for neighborhood projects, which get vetted, and then the ward gets to vote. Let’s scale this up and apply similar participatory methods to other budgets as well as neighborhood-specific planning and development. Instead of delegating all decision-making power to elected officials every four years, why not develop an ongoing and more collaborative process that brings residents, public officials and city agencies together? Chicagoans often shrug off complaints about corruption and the Mayor’s extraordinary power because that’s been the “Chicago way.” It’s time to shed our cynical, passive attitude and update local government for the twenty-first century.
Edra Soto on Professional Distance in the Educational System
Interdisciplinary artist and co-director of the outdoor project space THE FRANKLIN
The three-day-weekend law becomes mandatory for the education system. Self-care is understood as a necessity and not a luxury. Establishing “professional distance” between the workplace and the personal space becomes necessary to reform the educational system. Decreasing stress, positive work environment and the reduction of social misconduct as some of the expected outcomes. Teacher’s instruction time per day will not exceed seven hours.
Elissa Tenny on the importance of the Citizen Artist
President, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Artists have a critical role to play in our shared society and are eager to bring their talent to bear. At SAIC, we call that being a citizen artist, which isn’t a designation of nationality but a recognition that art and design have the power to make our shared society better. I would love to see the city embrace citizen artists and designers more fully in governmental agencies during decision-making moments when their uncanny talent for creative problem-solving, nonverbal communication, ability to interrogate and reimagine systems, and conceptual rigor throughout all facets of making can have the most impact. This isn’t necessarily a new idea. Pioneering performance artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles has been in residence with the New York City Department of Sanitation since 1977. Locally, SAIC faculty member Frances Whitehead was the lead artist on the 606 trail and park, and Andres Hernandez has worked with civic organizations like CPS and the Park District. A more ambitious embedded-artists program that actively seeks and compensates art and design talent—particularly from those already rooted to the neighborhoods benefitting from each initiative—would bring unprecedented innovation to Chicago.
Howard Tullman on the Future of Mobility
Executive director, Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship at IIT and former CEO, 1871
Chicago becomes the first city to bar all cars from an eight-square-block area in the Loop and all last-mile travel would be via a continuing 24/7 stream of autonomous electronic shuttles and other enclosed people-movers. Truck deliveries would be before 6am and after 1pm.
Tim Tuten on “Black Girl Magic / Green New Deal”
Owner, The Hideout Chicago
I was asked to provide “one big bold idea” in a hundred words. Those who know me will find this impossible. I believe in small business and big government. As the co-owner of an independent music club, I believe that art, music and culture should be everywhere. As a Chicago Public School teacher and proud CTU member, I believe that our priority must be to create a healthy and safe physical and inspiring environment for our children. Luckily, Chicago is experiencing a golden era of phenomenal women artists, activists and administrators who can make my vision of Chicago a beautiful reality.
I’ll call my big, bold, idea for the city “Black Girl Magic / Green New Deal”! Thank you Jamila Woods!
• First read everything by Eve Ewing;
• Then support Lori Lightfoot’s education agenda;
• Add Amara Enyia and Toni Preckwinkle to it;
• Then support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, and make every inch of land in Chicago a garden, truly urbs in horto;
• And support Janice Jackson who is doing great things at CPS, including the “Eat What You Grow” program.
Rebecca Unger, MD on Kindness Chicago
Associate professor of pediatrics, Northwestern Children’s Practice and Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Caring for each other in the city of Chicago should be a priority. Promoting kindness is an old and bold idea. There is a reason why the Golden Rule, which dates back to Confucius’ era (550 BC), has been around a long time. Infants and young children have an innate tendency toward being kind. As children get older, their instincts to be kind are influenced by learned behaviors and their experiences. Family role modeling and community experiences can promote this instinct to be kind. A citywide Kindness Chicago Project could make the world a safer and better place. Children need kindness role models. Teens need to mentor and be mentored. Parents need guidance and support. Elderly need to feel relevant and can offer decades of knowledge and experience.
Putting this all together in a project to bridge multigenerational connections and promote programming about kindness is a win-win situation. The components of this Kindness Project would include developing multigenerational projects about being kind to yourself, your neighbor, your community, your city and your earth. Kindness is contagious so let’s help each other spread it around.
Erick Williams on Redefining Infrastructure
Chef and owner at Virtue
TIF (Tax-Incentive Financing) is all about redevelopment of, for instance, infrastructure. We need to redefine what infrastructure is; it’s not just buildings and roads, it’s people, it’s communities. We should use subsidies to develop communities, as well as the people in those communities. Many chefs embrace the idea of teaching young people to be chefs. We do that at Virtue. Most chefs, however, train the young on their own dollar. It would have more impact if there resources were provided, and if chefs had a way to access those resources, to develop people and the community. It could be something like TIF. Our current mayor worked in restaurants (that’s how he lost part of his finger, cleaning a slicer), and celebrates development of the city’s food and beverage industry. I believe the next mayor will do that, too, because restaurants are the fastest-growing business sector in Chicago, but we have yet to explore how that sector can speak to underserved and under-skilled communities. My vision is that we have more resources to facilitate and train young men and women to live up to their potential.
Tanner Woodford on Providing Shelter for All
Founder, Design Museum of Chicago
Let’s solve homelessness.
Last year, the cIty of Chicago identified 5,657 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people. This number is staggering, unfair, cruel and immoral. A home is more than a place to sleep. It is where you take a hot shower after a long day in the blistering cold wind. It is a place to fall in love with your family, over and over and over again. It is a place to prepare for a job interview, to iron your clothes and practice your answers. And yes, it is also a place to rest your head and dream big dreams.
Solving homelessness is easier than you might think. All you have to do is give people homes, no strings attached. In fact, it is far cheaper and more efficient to provide housing than it is to treat homeless people within existing health and law enforcement systems.
Here’s the kicker: In 2016, we tried to do this in Chicago, with the city providing permanent housing for a sample of seventy-five of our chronically homeless. One year later, seventy-three of those people were still off the streets.
We can design the future we want to live in. It is up to us.
Richard Wright on the Power of the Arts
Founder, Wright Auction House
Chicago has to grow on its strength and truly be the city that works for all of our residents. Diversity is Chicago’s greatness. Arts and culture can bridge the isolation of our communities and express the hopes, dreams and aspirations of everyone. From Little Black Pearl to the Art Institute, investments in the arts can inspire and improve our most important resource—us.