Life in “The Middle”

About a month has passed since I began working at the Center for Neighborhood Technology  (CNT) in Chicago. Beginning in 1978, CNT has been promoting urban sustainability, “the more effective use of existing resources and community assets to improve the health of natural systems and the wealth of people, today and in the future.” It does this by focusing its attention on several areas including water, energy, climate, and transportation and community development. Additionally, CNT has started two non-for-profits: CNT Energy (CNTe) and I-GO, a car sharing program.

I am interning for the Vice-President of Policy, who is also very involved in transportation at CNT. As a result, I do a lot of policy and transportation work.  On my first day I attended a meeting (by myself) in the Willis Tower (formerly and will always be in my heart, Sear Tower). I passed through security and made it to the meeting on time, but it was a good thing my OCD and paranoia about getting lost kicked in forcing me to leave early because I, of course and just reaffirming my fears, got lost. Now you may be thinking, isn’t the Sears Tower the largest building in the United States, how could you miss that? Yes, sass-a-frass. Yes it is. Thanks for reminding me. However, in my defense, there are a lot of other tall buildings nearby and I am only 5’2” I can barely see over people in a movie theater much less over buildings in Chicago. So, don’t be a hater.

Every month, I will attend meetings (and try not to get lost) in the Sears Tower to listen and participate in discussions on GOTO40, a sustainability plan for Chicago through 2040. The meetings are very interesting because the presentations are given by people from various organizations in the Chicago-land area detailing what they will be doing in the immediate or distant future regarding sustainability for their local communities.  I have also written two blogs posts about the Transportation Bill (you know you want to read them) and I am currently researching various water legislation happenings in Congress. Apart from the fact that researching legislation is depressing because so many of the bills seem to have an underlying goal of destroying the environment, I think I will learn a great deal by constantly keeping up with Congress.

All in all I really like CNT, everyone is very friendly and laidback. It holds meetings once a month so that we can all learn what each area of interest is currently working on. In fact, today I learned that Chicago is currently working on converting an old railway line into pedestrian and bike friendly path that runs 3 miles through Logan Square and ends a block from the river. I know what you New Yorkers are thinking, “hey, that was our idea, you Chicagoans always copy us!” Well, yes that is true, but then we make it better. We did it first with the pizza (Chicago style, thin or deep dish because let’s face it both are better) and we are doing it again with the Bloomingdale line by allowing biking on the path and connecting it to local parks.

Now I am going to go off and eat some Garrett’s Popcorn and Frango mints while drinking out of a Chicago mug, because if you saw the Glee Nationals episode, you would know that is what defines Chicago. I hope you picked up on my sarcasm there… because we also clearly have the bean! Gosh!

 

Photo credit: www.CNT.org, http://entractejac.blogspot.com/2012/05/tall-and-short-of-it.html, and http://www.chiboysblog.com/the-cloud-gate-a-k-a-the-bean

About Stephanie Chennell