On Monday, March 23, 2015, the Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network (CSLN) participated in the network’s first round table meeting at City Hall. The purpose of the round table was to establish an ongoing forum where community leaders and municipal officials can dialogue about mutual concerns related to sustainability. It was a first step in nurturing a creative ‘in-between space’ that connects city and regional program planning with initiatives driven by local people’s interests, concerns, and action.Meeting attendees included 25 CSLN members (representing a diversity of neighborhoods from the south, west, and north sides of Chicago), Karen Weigert, the Chief Sustainability Officer of the City of Chicago, Jamie Ponce of C40, and four ICA staff/CSLN organizers. Following introductions, the group began by exchanging ideas on how to make round table events creative and meaningful for all stakeholders.
The second part of the discussion focused on specific issues. Oboi Reed of Slow Roll Chicago spoke briefly about his organization, based in Pullman, and the importance of promoting bicycling in communities of color. He noted that many of the City’s current efforts with creative alternative transportation programs like Divvy bike rentals and the designation of bike lanes on city streets have primarily occurred in affluent areas where biking is already prevalent. From his perspective, areas that do not have the proper infrastructure for biking need the basics prioritized before areas that have heavy users get upgrades. Karen responded by acknowledging the concern and sharing plans through which the City is intending to address the issue. Such matters will not be resolved overnight, but the exchange highlighted the value of a forum dedicated to the ‘in-between space.’
The meeting ended with an agreement to continue round table forums on a quarterly basis, with the next one occurring in June 2015. A CSLN ‘policy’ group has formed to prioritize topics the network would like to discuss with the city in the future.