New Chicago Plan? Response to Chicago Tribune Challenge: Include food system, women’s leadership, power-sharing

October 8, 2013

Advocates for Urban Agriculture (Greater Chicago)
Illinois Local Food and Farms Coalition (Illinois)
Good Greens (USDA FNS Midwest Office – serving 6 states: OH, MI, IN, IL, WI, MN)
Illinois Farmers Market Assn. (serving all 300+ Illinois markets)
Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (national organization based in Ames, Iowa)
cc: Lake Clermont Press
Louise Knight (Jane Addams biographer)
Jane Addams Hull House Museum

Hi, all —

In case you did not see the Chicago Tribune's editorial (Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013), check out their challenge to Tribune readers to create a "new Plan for Chicago" to address "urban problems" — the issues that make headlines in newspapers like the Tribune. The Tribune will be running 6 more editorials to frame the conversation. In a 7th editorial (Nov. 24), they will present the most promising ideas. 

New plan or just include forgotten elements?  In my opinion, we don't need a new plan. We just need to remember the things that got left out of the first plan — and almost every other plan since: Food, farm, women's leadership, real democracy (not representative democracy), other species, the wild. One has only to read the first editorial and the titles of the next six to realize that they are still framing the issues in a set of old frameworks — i.e., silos.

But, to give the Tribune full credit, they are asking for "an examination of the whole patient, the still-sturdy skeleton of Chicago on which holistic remedies might be built." Any invitation to a public conversation is welcome and I would certainly encourage my food-and-farm colleagues to put some critical mass behind awareness of "local food system" and "regional food system" issues as they play out within the City of Chicago and between the City of Chicago and the surrounding region (including rural areas, from where most of our food should be coming from).

BETTER STARTING POINT: What would Jane Say?  If, like me, you think that the Burnham ("make no little plans") plan is the wrong place to start from, you may be interested in reading a 2009 book written by the late Janice Metzger. The book is called What Would Jane Say? City-Building Women and a Tale of Two Chicagos. It is a direct examination of the Burnham plan vis-a-vis the work of women like Jane Addams who were not PLANNING so much as making daily improvements in the life of the city's fast-growing population (at the same time that Daniel Burnham and his business colleagues were promoting the Burnham plan). The Tribune's challenge would save a lot of time if they started with this 2009 book.

Some detailed and highly laudatory blurbs are included by well known Chicagoans, including Ben Helphand (NeighborSpace) and former alderman Manny Flores. This would be a great book for small discussion groups. (Unfortunately, there is not much direct reference to "food-and-farm" system issues. That in itself would be an interesting investigation.)

The book was published by Lake Claremont Press, a well known local publisher. Hopefully they still have some copies in stock.

ANOTHER RESOURCE:  Louise Knight, biographer, historian. I am also copying Louise Knight, a well-known biographer of Jane Addams (who lives in the Chicago area). Louise would probably be a great resource — a keynote speaker, a workshop leader, an analyst — of how the Tribune's challenge is framed and how strategic plans are written. (Louise has done some strategic planning facilitation for Fresh Taste and could speak directly to this set of interlocking issues.) Check out Louise's website:

How Women Become Political (Oct. 7, Boston). On Louise's website, there is a link to an event that is taking place tonight — and that will be simulcast through the internet. Louise helped to organize this event. Speakers include Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gloria Steinem. It will also be archived for future viewing.

JANE ADDAMS HULL HOUSE MUSEUM. Of course, I cannot forget the Hull House Museum, which is well known to the food-and-farm networks in the Chicago area. It would be great if they hosted a workshop or two on the Tribune's challenge — or possibly a Re-thinking Soup event. I'm copying the interim director (Lisa Junkin) and education coordinator (Irina Zadov) in case they're interested.

Regional input on "Chicago" plan? I am copying the regional food-and-farm list-servs because the City of Chicago doesn't exist without the surrounding region. It's time for Chicagoans and institutions like the Chicago Tribune to understand that — and to act on that understanding. It's time for people in rural Illinois and the Midwest to educate Chicago-based institutions (such as the Tribune) about right relationship. I for one would enjoy reading what farmers and other rural people might suggest for a "Chicago" plan or a regional plan with another name.

If anyone responds to the Tribune's challenge, I hope you'll share your ideas with your "food-and-farm" colleagues.

A new Plan for Chicago: A challenge to Tribune readers
October 6, 2013:  Editorial #1

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Election results for FOOD Candidates — Good News

Food Vote 2012: National U.S. Survey
Survey of "community food and farm" leaders and other U.S. residents
Aug. 14 – Nov. 6, 2012

Congratulations to both FOOD candidates identified and vetted through this survey. Both incumbent Congressman Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) and first-time Congressional candidate Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) won their elections by wide margins. See below for additional information about the results and links to their FOOD platforms.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this survey since August. Next week, I will provide a summary of survey results, with an eye towards making the information useful during the 113th Congress. And it's not too early to make FOOD a 2014 campaign issue — especially if you're thinking of being a candidate.


Total # of responses: 217
# of States Responding: 41 + Washington, DC (No responses from: Delaware, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming)
# of Congressional Food candidates identified and vetted: 2
Earl Blumenauer – Oregon (3rd district)
Tulsi Gabbard – Hawaii (2nd district)
# of FOOD Candidates who won: BOTH

B. Election results for FOOD Candidates: Details

Both Tulsi Gabbard and Earl Blumenauer were identified as FOOD candidates based on the following criteria:

1. Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives
2. Campaign website's list of issues has a Heading or Subheading that includes the word "FOOD"
3. Promotes Food and Farm Policy to address the set of Interlocking Issues that is the Food and Farm System
4. Promotes Community Civic Engagement (Food Citizenship) as an essential part of a food and farm economy that works for everyone

Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii). First-time Congressional candidate Tulsi Gabbard won 80.6% of the vote in Hawaii's 2nd district. Of interest to "local food and farm" advocates is the fact that Hawaii has only two Congressional districts. The 1st district is very small in area (less than half of Oahu island), but densely populated. It is 99% urban and includes most of the City and County of Honolulu. The 2nd district (which will be represented by Ms. Gabbard) is 83% urban, 17% rural and covers the vast majority of Hawaii's land, including more than half of Oahu plus all the other islands.

For more information about Ms. Gabbard and her FOOD platform, see her campaign website: Hawai`i's New Agriculture—Achieving Food Self-Sufficiency

Earl Blumenauer (Oregon). Incumbent Congressman Earl Blumenauer won 74% of the vote. Oregon's 3rd district is a primarily urban district, including much of the City of Portland and most of Multnomah County. Cong. Blumenauer has represented the 3rd district since 1996 and has clearly had time to develop a detailed food and farm platform. Cong. Blumenauer's "Food & Farm Bill of Rights" seems to be one of the most detailed FOOD platforms of any candidate in any jurisdiction.

For more information on Cong. Blumenauer and his FOOD platform, see his campaign website: Food & Farm Bill of Rights

Thanks to a friend of mine who now lives in Oregon's 3rd district, on Monday I received an email from Cong. Blumenauer suggesting that we talk in the future about this survey and about food policy and food system work. I would assume that Cong. Blumenauer sees the value in developing FOOD candidates. Any legislator naturally wants allies for their legislative proposals — especially an agenda as comprehensive as a Food and Farm Bill of Rights.

I look forward to talking with Cong. Blumenauer and exploring how I might help him find allies for his FOOD platform. I would think that, being a seasoned legislator, he is very open to tweaking his platform to accommodate a national non-partisan, urban-suburban-rural, community food and farm coalition. Luckily, with COMFOOD and other national networks, the coalition is moving towards critical mass.

Thanks to Hawaii and Oregon voters, we now have two FOOD candidates in the 113th U.S. House of Representatives.