Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=125255
Story Retrieval Date: 5/21/2013 9:24:39 AM CST
Big, blown-up pictures of potholes.
John Bradley stood before a crowd of more than 100 South Siders, labor and transportation organization leaders, and elected officials with a PowerPoint presentation of some particularly nasty ones.
“Everyone’s familiar with these,” the Illinois state representative said. “You know where these are.”
Bradley and 10 other state representatives hosted a forum Wednesday morning at the Simeon Career Academy, hoping to identify problems with the Chicago-area transportation systems and build support for the passage of a statewide capital plan.
According to legislators, these transportation needs are dire. Three-fourths of state highways are nearing the end of their original design life and nearly 20 percent of Illinois bridges are classified as “functionally obsolete and/or structurally deficient,” Bradley said in his presentation.
While many came out to voice their opinions on problems, some said they felt the forum didn't make enough effort to include them.
Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a “mini-capital” plan that will fund $3 billion in state transit projects, state representatives said. But state and city elected officials say that is simply not enough.
“The state is falling down around our heads,” said 34th Ward Alderman Carrie Austin. “My question is: Are you really going to do something about it?”
State funding for infrastructure has dropped by more than two-thirds from its 2003 level, Bradley said, and Illinois hasn’t passed a capital plan in ten years. Dozens of labor, business and transportation officials spoke at the forum, testifying that the capital plan is necessary to repair Chicago’s ailing transportation system and boost employment.
However, some community members said the hearing was inefficient, if not ineffective. As the state legislators continued to call officials to speak, Rev. Derrick Mosley spoke up several times from the third row.
“Excuse me, can members of the community be able to address this panel?” he asked, eventually prompting state Rep. Mary Flowers to allow him to speak sooner than the allotted time for public comment, which was originally scheduled for nearly four hours after the meeting’s start.
“I’m outraged,” Mosley said in an interview. “There’s a blatant effort to just shun us out.”
Mosley, founder and president of the Bringing About Reform Organization, said he also would have liked to have seen a larger effort to publicize the forum. He said if there had been enough word about the hearing, “you’d probably have people that can’t even fit inside the building.”