Letters to the Editor 6/9/16
THE MAGIC OF CITY PLANNING
Paul O’Shea makes a convincing case for a city planner for the City of Springfield (“Springfield needs a city planner,” June 2). I attended the Citizens Club Breakfast May 27 – a forum on urban planning with O’Shea; Rob Kowalski, city planner in Champaign; and Norm Sims, director of the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission (SSCRPC).
Kowalski said Champaign, which previously had a system similar to ours but now has nine city planners on staff, has benefitted greatly from its city planning process. Benefits include compact and contiguous city growth by making infill more lucrative than sprawl, the skills to successfully complete complex or controversial projects, advocating for urban development, selling a strong vision of redevelopment to private investors and developers, providing political cover for city leaders who can then make informed decisions, and providing certainty to developers with known requirements, costs and a single point of contact. These benefits have saved the city money, provided a higher quality of life for residents, resulted in 4.2 percent city population growth since 2009, and median income growth of 32.2 percent between 2009 and 2012.
Although the SSCRPC provides planning services to Springfield under contract, some of the benefits cited by Kowalski simply can’t be provided by outsourcing, such as accountability for implementation and dedicated resources focused on city needs. The problems we’ve had finding a suitable location for the Salvation Army are just the latest example.
Inner City Older Neighborhoods (ICON) believes investment in a city planner would pay for itself in decreased costs and increased growth for Springfield in both business and population.
We very much appreciate working with Norm Sims, who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, both before and during his work with SSCRPC. It may not have been his intent, but some of Norm’s remarks at the forum support a city planner: the need for continuity from administration to administration, for example.
But we heard Norm’s admonition – a city planner wouldn’t be a “magic wand” we can wave to make Springfield a great city. It still takes six votes on the city council to enact real change. Our forward-thinking public works director is frequently called before the city council to provide advice and accountability. Imagine a city planner called before the city council to provide expert advice and ongoing accountability in implementing strategic city plans. Now that’s magic.
Chair, Springfield Inner City Older Neighborhoods Coalition
CLINTON POWER STATION
In the late ’70s, Illinois Power was sold on the idea of building a nuclear power plant to save a bundle of money.
The Clinton Power Station was supposed to cost less than $1 billion to build. Unfortunately, Three Mile Island happened, which made everyone look at the safety regulations for the nuclear power industry. The final cost to construct and commission the Clinton Power Station was almost $5 billion.
The CEO of Illinois Power admitted publicly that the decision to build the Clinton plant was a huge mistake, and was partially responsible for the demise of Illinois Power. Dynegy bought out Illinois Power, but then took bankruptcy. In the process of going bankrupt, Dynegy sold its power plants for pennies on the dollar. Exelon bought the Clinton Power Station for less than $200 million, a fraction of the original $4.6 billion cost.
We were told in the mid-1980s that our electric rates needed to go up for 10 years to help offset the cost of the plant; 30 years later, we’re still waiting for our rates to go back down. In addition, ADM and Tate & Lyle decided to build their own power plants because they didn’t go along with Illinois Power’s increased rates.
Exelon now says they can’t make any money with the plant, which they bought at a rummage sale price, and we should pick up the cost. They are asking our legislators to make us pay more for their plant. (If we don’t play by their rules, they’re going to take their ball and go home.)
What Exelon isn’t telling you is that it will probably cost more to de-commission the plant than to keep it running. Instead of income/expenses, they shift to expenses only.
Ask the people in Clinton and the surrounding area how much they lost when Dynegy dumped the power station. If Exelon can’t make money, they need to add their name to the list after Illinois Power and Dynegy.