Mayor to Participate on Urban Sustainability Panel

Mayor John Ostenburg and Trustee Georgia O'Neill
Park Forest Mayor John Ostenburg and Trustee Georgia O’Neill at a budget meeting. (Source: Village of Park Forest)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Mayor John A. Ostenburg of Park Forest will be among the participants for a conference in Champaign August 20-21 that is part of the University of Illinois Initiative on Urban Sustainability. The mayor has participated in a number of more nuanced forums and presentations and relishes opportunities to explore cutting-edge issues in depth, and seems to enjoy thinking “outside the box.”

The conference is described as a “planning workshop” for the proposed Illinois Center for Urban Resilience & Environmental Sustainability (Illinois CURES). Mayor Ostenburg will be a panelist discussing “How Can the New IL CURES Center Help Cities? What Are the Needs of Cities?”

A concept paper developed by the University of Illinois states that a key objective of Illinois CURES will be “a comprehensive center that becomes the ‘go-to’ place for cities to improve their resilience and sustainability,” according to information provided by Mayor Ostenburg.

Mayor Ostenburg is the chairperson for the Environment Committee of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, an organization that represents approximately 270 municipalities in the greater Chicago region. Among the many accomplishments of the MMC Environment Committee has been the creation of the Greenest Region Compact, to which more than 100 MMC member communities now are signatories.

Currently serving his 20th year as mayor of Park Forest, Mayor Ostenburg counts among the town’s major accomplishments during his tenure the adoption in 2014 of its award-winning sustainability plan, “Growing Green,” the recognition of Park Forest for its sustainability efforts by gaining a three-star rating from the STAR Communities rating system, and its recent designation by the Solar Foundation as a Gold SolSmart Community.

“I’m looking forward to this conference because I believe the Illinois CURES concept offers great potential for assisting metropolitan regions in dealing with issues of resilience and sustainability,” he said.

eNews Park Forest asked Mayor Ostenburg to respond to the two questions highlighting this forum, “How Can the New IL CURES Center Help Cities? What Are the Needs of Cities?” We also asked, “How does Park Forest benefit from this endeavor?”

The mayor responded:

“I believe there are several ways in which the Illinois CURES initiative can benefit our Chicago-region cities. First of all, the initiative is designed primarily to address issues of sustainability and resilience among communities of the Midwest (albeit matters that arise in other regions are not to be ignored).

“That means that some of the unique types of sustainability issues that are common in our region will be the ones receiving the greatest attention, with the hope of providing to local municipal leaders the research and development that can lead to solutions. Issues relating to water, for example, are different for communities that are dependent on Lake Michigan water, or on the aquafer common to our region than they might be elsewhere.

“Under Illinois law, what is becoming available to communities in terms of energy alternatives are different from what might be available elsewhere. State standards for solar power, or wind power, vary from state to state. And so on.

“Likewise, as regards resilience, which is heavily dependent on weather conditions, what might be experienced in the Midwest could be very different from experiences of persons on the east or west coasts, or in areas where drought is more common. Midwest communities, for example, often must deal with the aftermath of tornadoes, flooding, etc., and assistance in how to bounce back from those is crucial to the local economy and quality of life for local residents.”

How will Park Forest benefit? “Park Forest, as a midwestern community, will benefit from all of the research, etc., that will be forthcoming from Illinois CURES.”