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Transportation, Housing, and Hockey Joins Two Members in BPC’s Latest American Congressional Exchange

Last month, two lawmakers who happen to also be hockey fanatics joined BPC’s American Congressional Exchange for a trip to Chicago to find common ground off the ice. Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois and Republican Rep. Pete Stauber hail from very different places—the nation’s third largest city and largely rural northern Minnesota—yet share similar histories.

Both lead the Congressional Hockey Caucus. Stauber played the game professionally, while Quigley is still an avid “beer league” player “with over 300 stitches to prove it.” After serving as a police officer and area commander for 22 years in his hometown of Duluth, Stauber was a county commissioner before being elected to Congress in 2018. Quigley, a lawyer, also served as a county commissioner prior to his 2009 election to his congressional seat.

With Stauber serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Quigley on the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, their trip focused on transportation and housing.

Stauber’s visit started with a ride on Metra, the commuter railroad for the Chicago area, and the fourth busiest in the U.S. Travelling with the engineer in the giant locomotive’s cab, which is high-tech enough to pass for an aircraft cockpit, they learned about a federally mandated computerized system to prevent collisions and derailments and discussed federal funding opportunities for rail improvements.

A short drive from where the train ride ended brought Stauber and Quigley to the Little Italy neighborhood to tour a unique real estate development combining a public library with 73 apartments, 40% of which are affordable units.

The urgency of affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization is a key focus in Chicago—and for BPC’s J. Ronald Terwilliger Center for Housing. The lawmakers heard firsthand from officials from a range of organizations that public housing projects are being demolished or rehabilitated with new designs that take a comprehensive approach. The effort stems, in part, from a series of court remedies to end the concentration of public housing units in predominately Black neighborhoods, which had limited public housing residents from accessing neighborhoods of opportunity.

Gathering with an array of public, private, and nonprofit affordable housing leaders, Stauber and Quigley learned how federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits have been essential in generating the equity to support these revitalization efforts and the construction of affordable apartments. Duluth has used some of the same federal programs to great success. Stauber exclaimed he learned things he hadn’t known, and the two members found a common interest in additional conversations about housing policy and affordability when they returned to Washington.

From there it was off to Chicago’s United Center arena, where Quigley and Stauber spent time with members of the Chicago Police and Fire Department hockey teams following their charity match—an especially meaningful visit for Stauber given his years on the force. In their capacity leading the Hockey Caucus, a forum for hockey’s cultural, social, and economic significance, the Republican and Democrat exchanged ideas with Chicago Blackhawks team owner Danny Wirtz about the team and the game’s impact on the city.

The next morning, BPC convened Chicago business and civic leaders at the Chicago History Museum. Co-hosted by retired Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin and former AmeriCorps CEO Barbara Stewart, the two members discussed opportunities for bipartisanship in Congress and the prospects for completing an ambitious agenda of critical legislation in the coming months.

Finally, it was on to Chicago O’Hare International Airport for two fascinating tours. The first was the United Airlines Station Operations Center, the nerve center of the airline’s presence at ORD. The two lawmakers joined up with CEO Scott Kirby to gain insights on advances in technology, equipment, and safety training for United’s vast network of aircraft crew and maintenance personnel.

At O’Hare’s central air traffic control tower, the members got an up-close, real-time look at the technical operations, security systems, emergency backup designs, and responsibilities of the controllers who guide every movement of aircraft at one of the world’s busiest airports. They discussed FAA reauthorization, advances in air safety systems, and the impact of changing weather patterns on airports.

After two days together, Quigley and Stauber learned there’s more that binds them than the love of the rink. From housing-related tax incentives to transportation modernization, this ACE trip sparked several policy conversations that will continue in DC.

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