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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