We Will Chicago Kickoff Conversation

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Q&A: We Will Kickoff Conversation

The following is a select list of questions and answers received by We Will staff at the kickoff conversation hosted virtually on Thursday, April 29.

Some have been combined or edited for the sake of brevity or clarity, and others have been slated for later discussion by We Will research teams. Additional questions and comments not addressed below can always be directed to WeWill@cityofchicago.org.


I missed some or part of the meeting, where can I review the materials?

The video is available for review on DPD’s YouTube page and WeWillChicago.com. Separate presentations were given by the panelists, listed here:


How many people took part in the kickoff conversation?

A total of 829 people attended the webinar. The event has so far received more than 750 additional views on YouTube.


What are the Seven Pillars of We Will Chicago?

The Seven Pillars were defined in the pre-planning phase, and include:

The next step in the We Will process will include establishing research teams to examine each of these pillars, including past plans related to each topic.


How many people will the advisory council and research teams be looking to recruit?

While the exact number will be tailored based on the quality of the applications and the opportunities and challenges of each pillar, the We Will team currently estimates that each research team will include between 15 and 20 participants.


What is We Will Chicago's equity theory of change and theory of action?

The City of Chicago’s Office of Equity and Racial Justice is developing a definition of equity as both an outcome and a process.

As an outcome, equity results in fair and just access to opportunity and resources that provide everyone the ability to thrive. Acknowledging the present and historical inequality that persist in society, equity is a future state we strive to create where identity and social status no longer predestine life outcomes.

As a process, equity requires a new way of doing business, one that:

  • Prioritizes access and opportunities for groups who have the greatest need
  • Methodically evaluates benefits and burdens produced by seemingly neutral systems and practices
  • Engages those most impacted by the problems we seek to address as experts in their own experiences, strategists in co-creating solutions, and evaluators of success.

Residents will be asked for their opinions about this definition in a new survey.


How can We Will ensure participation and inclusion from all races, ethnicities and ZIP codes?

The We Will team recognizes that no citywide vision can truly be accepted by all of Chicago without robust participation and input from residents of all backgrounds.

Groups representing neighborhoods and causes as diverse as Chicago are encouraged to apply to participate in the Research Teams so that the We Will team has every ward and every group of people represented in this important work.

Later this year, the We Will team will be hosting virtual and in-person community engagement activities in neighborhoods throughout the city to shape the citywide plan.


How will persons with disabilities be addressed in We Will Chicago?

We Will seeks to make Chicago a more equitable and resilient city, and that includes providing equal access and opportunity for persons with disabilities, in all aspects of the plan, from Housing to Transportation to Public Health and Safety.

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities will be a key partner in ensuring that outcome, and the We Will staff encourages organizations that work with and represent people with disabilities to apply to participate in the Research Teams.


How does this relate to previous planning efforts, such as the regional CMAP 2050 effort, or the local “Austin Forward. Together” plan?

There are hundreds of plans drafted and adopted over the past three decades related to Chicago and its neighborhoods that need to be reviewed before any documents for We Will can be created. Many of these planning documents have been created by government agencies, but many more have been created by local planning organizations and community groups.

One of the first goals of the upcoming research groups will be to thoroughly review and assess these documents, and to make a public inventory of them available.


Can you explain how meaningful community engagement is being achieved in the We Will effort? How do you make sure people who are not usually included are included?

Engagement began virtually prior to the April kickoff conversation through community conversations with more than 250 people across the city, and through workshops with other cities to identify the themes and pillars now included in the plan.

Currently, the We Will team is seeking both volunteers and community partners to contribute to the We Will process in 2021. Applications are open now.

Community partners will be compensated $15,000 for their contributions. Eligible organizations should represent a particular neighborhood or group of neighborhoods, or represent a particular constituency historically excluded from past planning efforts.

Small- to mid-size organizations are preferred. Groups with annual operating budgets of $1 million or less will be prioritized first, followed by groups with budgets of between $1 million and $2 million, followed by groups with budgets in excess of $2 million.

The We Will team will also include seven artist-led teams developing activities and engaging with the public throughout the process, and will provide toolkits and information to ward offices to ensure their extensive constituent networks are kept informed of the latest happenings.

Additional engagement ideas will be solicited through a working group of the Advisory Committee on engagement.


Is there a plan to actively engage youth in envisioning the city they want to build? It seems like they have the most to gain.

The We Will team encourages organizations that work with youth to apply to be a community partner, and individual young people to apply to the Advisory Committee or Research Teams. The We Will team will also engage standing groups such as the Mayor’s Youth Commission throughout the development of the plan.


Why didn’t many more residents know about these past activities? Is the dissemination of information still too traditional?

To be successful, the We Will team must engage and inform as many people as possible, which has been made more difficult in the early stages by the COVID-19 pandemic. All forms of physical and digital media will be utilized, and as the city moves toward a full reopening, residents will begin to see more of an in-person We Will presence at upcoming summer events.


How are the artist-led community engagement groups being created, and what do they bring to the table?

Artists were identified through an open solicitation process that was led by the lead artist team, Honey Pot Performance. Artists will bring their creativity and experience working with communities to engage residents in conversations that will inform and catalyze the plan’s development.


It sounds like this planning process will de-emphasize the parts of the city that are relatively safe and thriving?

No. While We Will does seek to correct the ills that have created this inequity, the goal of this plan is to create a unified vision that the North Side, the South Side and the West Side of the city can all be proud of. Together, We Will plan for the future of Chicago.


This is an excellent effort, but how do we know that it won't simply put another layer of bureaucracy in place and make it harder to get things done?

The goal here is not more bureaucracy, but to create a unified vision supported by Chicago’s residents that policymakers can use to guide investment and policy decisions for decades to come.


How can we ensure this plan isn't just visionary, but actually implementable?

The final document will include a viable implementation plan with recommendations for city departments, agencies and external partners. It will also include recommendations for financial tools, policy-making frameworks, and other mechanisms to make the recommendations a reality. These details will need to be developed through the planning process.


Will this be a plan that is only created by the Executive Branch? Or will City Council be involved through ordinances that codify decisions made in the planning process?

Local aldermen will be involved throughout the process, and at its conclusion, the City Council will be asked to review and adopt the plan, and any implementation ordinances necessary to make it a reality.


What are your metrics for evaluating success?

The metrics will be defined throughout the upcoming planning process, but it’s expected that the plan will require reports on its successes, shortcomings and opportunities on a regular basis in the years after the plan’s adoption. The We Will team also anticipates identifying metrics to evaluate the planning process itself to ensure meaningful and inclusive engagement.


The following questions and comments were submitted by event attendees, but they are too policy-focused to be properly answered by We Will staff at this early juncture in the process. They will be referred to a designated research team for their consideration this summer.


Questions and Comments for the Arts and Culture Research Team

  • Arts organizations are frequently priced out of the very neighborhoods that they have helped make economically desirable. Most funders only give grants for programs and operations, not capital. Has there been any discussion about how to help cultural non-profits buy and develop their own buildings so that they can have location stability and build wealth? Or donate City-owned buildings?
  • Can you add more insight on the Arts & Culture planning? And how residents can guide what those developments will be?


Questions and Comments for the Economic Development Research Team

  • Why is making tax increment financing (TIF) into a driver of equitable investment –– instead of the inequitable redistribution of wealth that the majority of TIF funding has driven thus far in Chicago –– not on the table and being discussed here?
  • With respect to equity, how can small business owners be incorporated into public works projects?
  • Given the historical data on wealth and income, and given federal and state statutes on the minimum wage, how can we, as citizens of Chicago, work to increase the wages of all workers, especially for those at the bottom of the wage scale, so that the city can be livable for all?


Questions and Comments for the Housing and Neighborhoods Research Team

  • Several municipalities including Minneapolis have done away with single-family zoning to allow for more housing choices in neighborhoods. Will Chicago consider doing this?
  • Milwaukee Avenue and West Loop area have gotten the majority of good transit-oriented development projects. How can the city expand that success to the vacant land along the Cottage Grove and Ashland branches of the Green Line? Are there plans to look at the underutilized land adjacent to the Dan Ryan Expressway and its Red Line stations?
  • How to address the inequities in home values? I live it now seeing the same house as mine valued four times higher on the North Side and not being able to access the long-term value for my own retirement and my family’s generational wealth building.
  • When downtown alderman dumb down projects because of height and density, the results are less property tax revenue for the city, less affordable housing when density is reduced and less money for INVEST South/West…how can their decisions be overridden/rectified?
  • Land use should be used to restore an urban fabric that creates intergenerational wealth, economic development, strong, inclusive, sustainable, and thriving communities. What is the city plan to reverse the patterns of segregation?
  • What can be the role of historic preservation of neighborhood culture, institutions, diversity, architecture and structures?
  • How will you guard against gentrification so that the city does not push our families struggling with poverty?
  • How can a land use plan like We Will work in the context of Chicago, given the local control of zoning at the ward level? Will this plan have any teeth?
  • Is there is a plan that indicates when work will happen for each community area?


Questions and Comments for the Public Health and Safety Research Team

  • How does significant and immediate police reform fit into this conversation?
  • What will the roll of the Chicago Police Department be in the new plans?
  • Will the We Will Chicago plan address the fact that there are so many resources poured into policing and incarceration for neighborhoods on the South and West sides, as opposed to community development? There’s not disinvestment, there is misinvestment: money going to continuing cycles of harm instead of growth. It is impossible to move forward with equity principles and talk about healing without addressing this major issue.


Q&A: We Will Kickoff Conversation

The following is a select list of questions and answers received by We Will staff at the kickoff conversation hosted virtually on Thursday, April 29.

Some have been combined or edited for the sake of brevity or clarity, and others have been slated for later discussion by We Will research teams. Additional questions and comments not addressed below can always be directed to WeWill@cityofchicago.org.


I missed some or part of the meeting, where can I review the materials?

The video is available for review on DPD’s YouTube page and WeWillChicago.com. Separate presentations were given by the panelists, listed here:


How many people took part in the kickoff conversation?

A total of 829 people attended the webinar. The event has so far received more than 750 additional views on YouTube.


What are the Seven Pillars of We Will Chicago?

The Seven Pillars were defined in the pre-planning phase, and include:

The next step in the We Will process will include establishing research teams to examine each of these pillars, including past plans related to each topic.


How many people will the advisory council and research teams be looking to recruit?

While the exact number will be tailored based on the quality of the applications and the opportunities and challenges of each pillar, the We Will team currently estimates that each research team will include between 15 and 20 participants.


What is We Will Chicago's equity theory of change and theory of action?

The City of Chicago’s Office of Equity and Racial Justice is developing a definition of equity as both an outcome and a process.

As an outcome, equity results in fair and just access to opportunity and resources that provide everyone the ability to thrive. Acknowledging the present and historical inequality that persist in society, equity is a future state we strive to create where identity and social status no longer predestine life outcomes.

As a process, equity requires a new way of doing business, one that:

  • Prioritizes access and opportunities for groups who have the greatest need
  • Methodically evaluates benefits and burdens produced by seemingly neutral systems and practices
  • Engages those most impacted by the problems we seek to address as experts in their own experiences, strategists in co-creating solutions, and evaluators of success.

Residents will be asked for their opinions about this definition in a new survey.


How can We Will ensure participation and inclusion from all races, ethnicities and ZIP codes?

The We Will team recognizes that no citywide vision can truly be accepted by all of Chicago without robust participation and input from residents of all backgrounds.

Groups representing neighborhoods and causes as diverse as Chicago are encouraged to apply to participate in the Research Teams so that the We Will team has every ward and every group of people represented in this important work.

Later this year, the We Will team will be hosting virtual and in-person community engagement activities in neighborhoods throughout the city to shape the citywide plan.


How will persons with disabilities be addressed in We Will Chicago?

We Will seeks to make Chicago a more equitable and resilient city, and that includes providing equal access and opportunity for persons with disabilities, in all aspects of the plan, from Housing to Transportation to Public Health and Safety.

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities will be a key partner in ensuring that outcome, and the We Will staff encourages organizations that work with and represent people with disabilities to apply to participate in the Research Teams.


How does this relate to previous planning efforts, such as the regional CMAP 2050 effort, or the local “Austin Forward. Together” plan?

There are hundreds of plans drafted and adopted over the past three decades related to Chicago and its neighborhoods that need to be reviewed before any documents for We Will can be created. Many of these planning documents have been created by government agencies, but many more have been created by local planning organizations and community groups.

One of the first goals of the upcoming research groups will be to thoroughly review and assess these documents, and to make a public inventory of them available.


Can you explain how meaningful community engagement is being achieved in the We Will effort? How do you make sure people who are not usually included are included?

Engagement began virtually prior to the April kickoff conversation through community conversations with more than 250 people across the city, and through workshops with other cities to identify the themes and pillars now included in the plan.

Currently, the We Will team is seeking both volunteers and community partners to contribute to the We Will process in 2021. Applications are open now.

Community partners will be compensated $15,000 for their contributions. Eligible organizations should represent a particular neighborhood or group of neighborhoods, or represent a particular constituency historically excluded from past planning efforts.

Small- to mid-size organizations are preferred. Groups with annual operating budgets of $1 million or less will be prioritized first, followed by groups with budgets of between $1 million and $2 million, followed by groups with budgets in excess of $2 million.

The We Will team will also include seven artist-led teams developing activities and engaging with the public throughout the process, and will provide toolkits and information to ward offices to ensure their extensive constituent networks are kept informed of the latest happenings.

Additional engagement ideas will be solicited through a working group of the Advisory Committee on engagement.


Is there a plan to actively engage youth in envisioning the city they want to build? It seems like they have the most to gain.

The We Will team encourages organizations that work with youth to apply to be a community partner, and individual young people to apply to the Advisory Committee or Research Teams. The We Will team will also engage standing groups such as the Mayor’s Youth Commission throughout the development of the plan.


Why didn’t many more residents know about these past activities? Is the dissemination of information still too traditional?

To be successful, the We Will team must engage and inform as many people as possible, which has been made more difficult in the early stages by the COVID-19 pandemic. All forms of physical and digital media will be utilized, and as the city moves toward a full reopening, residents will begin to see more of an in-person We Will presence at upcoming summer events.


How are the artist-led community engagement groups being created, and what do they bring to the table?

Artists were identified through an open solicitation process that was led by the lead artist team, Honey Pot Performance. Artists will bring their creativity and experience working with communities to engage residents in conversations that will inform and catalyze the plan’s development.


It sounds like this planning process will de-emphasize the parts of the city that are relatively safe and thriving?

No. While We Will does seek to correct the ills that have created this inequity, the goal of this plan is to create a unified vision that the North Side, the South Side and the West Side of the city can all be proud of. Together, We Will plan for the future of Chicago.


This is an excellent effort, but how do we know that it won't simply put another layer of bureaucracy in place and make it harder to get things done?

The goal here is not more bureaucracy, but to create a unified vision supported by Chicago’s residents that policymakers can use to guide investment and policy decisions for decades to come.


How can we ensure this plan isn't just visionary, but actually implementable?

The final document will include a viable implementation plan with recommendations for city departments, agencies and external partners. It will also include recommendations for financial tools, policy-making frameworks, and other mechanisms to make the recommendations a reality. These details will need to be developed through the planning process.


Will this be a plan that is only created by the Executive Branch? Or will City Council be involved through ordinances that codify decisions made in the planning process?

Local aldermen will be involved throughout the process, and at its conclusion, the City Council will be asked to review and adopt the plan, and any implementation ordinances necessary to make it a reality.


What are your metrics for evaluating success?

The metrics will be defined throughout the upcoming planning process, but it’s expected that the plan will require reports on its successes, shortcomings and opportunities on a regular basis in the years after the plan’s adoption. The We Will team also anticipates identifying metrics to evaluate the planning process itself to ensure meaningful and inclusive engagement.


The following questions and comments were submitted by event attendees, but they are too policy-focused to be properly answered by We Will staff at this early juncture in the process. They will be referred to a designated research team for their consideration this summer.


Questions and Comments for the Arts and Culture Research Team

  • Arts organizations are frequently priced out of the very neighborhoods that they have helped make economically desirable. Most funders only give grants for programs and operations, not capital. Has there been any discussion about how to help cultural non-profits buy and develop their own buildings so that they can have location stability and build wealth? Or donate City-owned buildings?
  • Can you add more insight on the Arts & Culture planning? And how residents can guide what those developments will be?


Questions and Comments for the Economic Development Research Team

  • Why is making tax increment financing (TIF) into a driver of equitable investment –– instead of the inequitable redistribution of wealth that the majority of TIF funding has driven thus far in Chicago –– not on the table and being discussed here?
  • With respect to equity, how can small business owners be incorporated into public works projects?
  • Given the historical data on wealth and income, and given federal and state statutes on the minimum wage, how can we, as citizens of Chicago, work to increase the wages of all workers, especially for those at the bottom of the wage scale, so that the city can be livable for all?


Questions and Comments for the Housing and Neighborhoods Research Team

  • Several municipalities including Minneapolis have done away with single-family zoning to allow for more housing choices in neighborhoods. Will Chicago consider doing this?
  • Milwaukee Avenue and West Loop area have gotten the majority of good transit-oriented development projects. How can the city expand that success to the vacant land along the Cottage Grove and Ashland branches of the Green Line? Are there plans to look at the underutilized land adjacent to the Dan Ryan Expressway and its Red Line stations?
  • How to address the inequities in home values? I live it now seeing the same house as mine valued four times higher on the North Side and not being able to access the long-term value for my own retirement and my family’s generational wealth building.
  • When downtown alderman dumb down projects because of height and density, the results are less property tax revenue for the city, less affordable housing when density is reduced and less money for INVEST South/West…how can their decisions be overridden/rectified?
  • Land use should be used to restore an urban fabric that creates intergenerational wealth, economic development, strong, inclusive, sustainable, and thriving communities. What is the city plan to reverse the patterns of segregation?
  • What can be the role of historic preservation of neighborhood culture, institutions, diversity, architecture and structures?
  • How will you guard against gentrification so that the city does not push our families struggling with poverty?
  • How can a land use plan like We Will work in the context of Chicago, given the local control of zoning at the ward level? Will this plan have any teeth?
  • Is there is a plan that indicates when work will happen for each community area?


Questions and Comments for the Public Health and Safety Research Team

  • How does significant and immediate police reform fit into this conversation?
  • What will the roll of the Chicago Police Department be in the new plans?
  • Will the We Will Chicago plan address the fact that there are so many resources poured into policing and incarceration for neighborhoods on the South and West sides, as opposed to community development? There’s not disinvestment, there is misinvestment: money going to continuing cycles of harm instead of growth. It is impossible to move forward with equity principles and talk about healing without addressing this major issue.


Page last updated: 10 May 2021, 02:52 PM