Many aren't aware of it, but there is a committed group of people working quietly behind the scenes to renew and restore Chicago’s south suburban region in more ways than you can imagine.
- A new I-294/I-57 interchange between Midlothian, Dixmoor, Harvey, Markham and Posen.
- New Metra stations in Robbins, Tinley Park and Oak Forest.
- The site of the former Dixie Square Mall now leveled, cleaned up and ready for redevelopment.
- Former brownfields in Markham, Riverdale, Lansing, Robbins, South Chicago Heights, Harvey, Dixmoor, Burnham and Posen are cleaned and ready for redevelopment.
- Crews are poised to install miles of fiber broadband throughout the southland region for lightning fast Internet service.
- More than $50 million for road projects in nearly two dozen communities.
These are just some results of the work done by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. They are mayors working with mayors, city managers and administrators working with each other, who work collectively with other intergovernmental organizations as well as county, state and federal officials to effect change for not just their own towns, but the whole region.
The association tackles tough issues that cross town borders. They pool resources to improve roads, shared facilities and open spaces, and they pinpoint legislative issues for elected officials to address in the Illinois Legislature and the U.S. Congress.
Created in 1978, SSMMA is an intergovernmental agency providing technical assistance and joint services to 42 municipalities, representing a population of more than 650,000 in Cook and Will counties. In addition to working cooperatively on land use, legislation, solid waste management, purchasing, stormwater planning and other regional issues, SSMMA members are active in the following:
- Economic growth: SSMMA's planning, transportation, housing and economic development efforts contribute to long-term vitality and regional growth.
- Housing: SSMMA is a partner and resource for local governments that want to improve housing in their communities.
- Transportation: SSMMA is committed to plans and projects that enhance the region’s transportation and mobility systems.
- Regionalism and quality of life: SSMMA creates, promotes and delivers consensus-backed, regional solutions that make our communities more livable and protect or enhance our natural environment.
- A proven resource: SSMMA provides south suburban communities with resources and technical expertise that reduces costs and solves tough problems in planning, housing, economic development and transportation.
- Input: SSMMA seeks consistent and in-depth input on what citizens want for the future of their region.
- Leveraging technology for the region’s benefit: SSMMA has helped bring broadband infrastructure and geographic information systems (GIS) to the region to support the demands of today’s business, education and local governments.
As you can clearly see, these locally elected and appointed leaders made a difference, not only for their own communities, but also for the benefit of the region and the state.
Ed Paesel is the executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. Opinions are the writer's.