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George Ranney

Offering us five decades of civic service to emulate, George Ranney’s career suggests two principles that will make a big difference as we seek to resolve today’s challenges using a more comprehensive sustainability.


First… as Chicagoland’s most devoted advocate for adequate transportation governance, George Ranney knew we must bring transit planning as close to the authority of law as is possible in a region rife with urban-suburban tensions. As a young lawyer in the 1970s seeking a solution to Illinois’ failure to reorganize transit assets economically, George Ranney fashioned the best possible compromise to form a Regional Transportation Authority. The RTA arrested transit’s post-war deterioration and started the very long process of bringing adequate authority to this vital public service. 


Governing transportation got its next sustained prod starting in the late 20th Century and culminated in 2010 with the region’s first plan merging transportation with land use. Most will agree that relative to the 1970s, Chicago and its suburbs are collaborating in ways few thought possible in the 1990s. For this, we thank George Ranney’s leadership of Metropolis 2020, a civic group whose impact far exceeded its size because it wielded the strategic principle of merging transportation and land use planning. The resulting Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning has been recognized with several national awards. 


Also a small organization with great pound-for-pound impact, CNU Illinois recognizes Mr. Ranney’s strategic impact in fashioning a common good by offering this Urban Citizens Award. Applying that principle today poses some tough questions. How do governments collaborate when confronting ‘de facto’ insolvencies? Will past antagonisms resurface?


Given his skills to counsel the-powers-that-be, it would be convenient to say that these insolvencies, also, are George Ranney’s problem to solve. But of course, this is our problem.  We must figure and fashion the next phase of Chicagoland’s evolution so Illinois law allows a regional governance to better address our economic and fiscal challenges.



The second principle is perseverance in creating sustainable communities. Quite distinct from the regions’ macro-components, assembling communities with well-designed blocks and buildings are the micro-components described in The Charter of The New Urbanism. Many of us pleasure in thinking great thoughts and designing better communities and regions. But, rare are the people that can master both as George Ranney has. His perseverance converted a lawsuit in Lake County into Prairie Crossing, one the nation’s pioneering conservation developments.  Of course, George’s wife, Victoria, deserves the lioness’ share of credit for Prairie Crossing’s successes. She also played the less visible, yet effective, role in George’s accomplishments in improving the tenor of Chicagoland’s governance.


Representative of his many civic commitments, George Ranney has served as a long-time Trustee to Chicagoland’s most strategic institutions: the Metropolitan Planning Council, the Macarthur Foundation, the University of Chicago and The Field Foundation. These institutions anchor — and innovate — the life in our communities.  


CNU Illinois congratulates George Ranney as the 2015 Urban Citizen Award winner!  



Excepts above written by Robert Munson with The Urbanophile


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