Midwest Mayors Vow Cooperation — Minus Rahm

The mayors of Milwaukee and Gary came to Chicago Wednesday for their first public appearance with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and to vow collaboration on a regional alliance for technology and transportation—but Rahm didn't show.
Organizer MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, told 950 people gathered in a ballroom at Chicago's Hyatt-Regency Hotel that Rahm was held up at a City Council meeting.
And Chicago's City Council did grapple Wednesday with some of the city's most watched issues, including settling with victims in a police torture case and affecting Chicago's popular food truck movement.
The Milwaukee and Gary mayors had their eye on regional issues—and hope for a new economy based on a Chicago-centered megalopolis, linked by state of the art transportation, that can compete with the Silicon Valley on tech development and the East and West Coasts on tourism.
"I think it's time that we as a region promote America's 'Fresh Coast,' said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "We have allowed outsiders to define us as the Rust Belt."
Milwaukee officials have been touting "Fresh Coast" as a fresh alternative to "Rust Belt" or the more common watery moniker "Third Coast," and while neither Chicago nor Gary have embraced that term, officials from both cities have expressed interest in collaboration.
"The need is so great in our respective communities because we've been devastated by the recession and many aspects of our local economy," said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
The Metropolitan Planning Council organized today's mayoral gathering, titled "The Cities That Work," on the heels of a review of regional cooperation that MPC President Barrett described as "blistering."
The review, conducted by the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, found that governments in "the Chicago Tri-State Metropolitan Area" could do much more to coordinate transportation, innovation, workforce training and sustainable development.
And the smaller cities are eager to respond.
"We want partners," said Milwaukee Mayor Barrett. "We'd love to have Gary as a partner, we'd love to have Chicago as a partner."
But 29 minutes into the 30-minute meeting final word came that Emanuel, who had been expected to join the meeting in progress, would not be able to make it.
"I know that Mayor Emanuel really regrets not being able to join this panel," MPC's Barrett said. "He would have jumped right in. But I know that from talking and preparing with him and his staff that he wanted to talk about the Lake Michigan potential, the transit opportunities, some workforce issues that we touched on, so the partnership certainly is there."
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