Remembering Jan Metzger


CNT lost a cherished colleague and co-conspirator for the Common Good, Jan Metzger, who died after a two year battle with cancer on February 22, 2010. Jan joined CNT in 1995, bringing to CNT her smarts, community activism, and ability to make change from the local to the national levels.

Jan was a committed, feisty, and strong woman who was a dedicated resident of Wicker Park – she was a long-time member of Association House board and recently retired as the President of Special Service Area #33. Under Jan’s leadership, the neighborhood developed a community plan that met the needs of new and old-time residents. 

Jan was very strong advocate for community involvement. During the Washington Administration, she was a school organizer who was deeply involved in the School Reform movement. She was a participant in the historic Education Summit that led to the creation of local school councils with parent leadership and control.

Jan was determined to change the way we did transportation and land use planning in the region. She worked on creating an accountable regional transportation and land use agency, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). She then focused on the policies that it should embrace.

At CNT, Jan invented a new citizen participation tool called Transopoly® which gave the average person a voice in transportation and other infrastructure planning process. Various communities used the tool to help with budget decisions, including CMAP in updating the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan for Northeastern Illinois, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District in meeting future public demand for transit, South Bend, IN, to facilitate transportation planning and build public consensus among residents, and the City of Chicago in developing public priorities for the future of Chicago’s North Milwaukee Avenue Commercial Corridor.

One of Jan’s passions was social justice. Three years ago, she had an “ah-ha” moment when the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority honored Jane Addams by renaming the Northwest Tollway after a woman who “lived locally and didn’t drive!” and at a “visioning” session with regional planners who used a Burnham quote, “With things as they would be, every business man in Chicago would make more money than he does now.”  Jan felt that urban planning had to offer more than the vision of business success.

So began her research on the role of women in the Burnham Plan during which she found, that while there were great leaders like Jane Addams who were making a difference in Chicago during the 1900s, they were not invited into the planning process. It was an old boys club. Well, Jan went on to research and write about these city-building women in a book called “What Would Jane Say?” It was published in 2009 and CNT hosted the first reading. Nine staff members portrayed these leaders and told Jan’s story. Several of the Jane readers accompanied Jan as she read and presented her work around town.

Jan touched many lives in her 60 years of activism. She loved her family and enjoyed life. She had a great sense of fun! She had the shortest commute of all the staff to CNT – she lived across the street! She embodied the location efficiency ideals of CNT!

One of the places that she and her partner John Paige loved was New Orleans. They would leave on the City of New Orleans® train from Chicago’s Union Station at 8:00 PM and arrive the next day in New Orleans. Jan and John recently made that trip and were able to enjoy the good food and the marvelous New Orleans jazz scene.

Jan recently celebrated her 60th birthday with a Mardi Gras bash. Friends and family gathered to celebrate her remarkable life. In keeping with her love of New Orleans and Wicker Park, CNT staff gathered on Friday, March 5 to celebrate Jan’s life with a toast and a traditional New Orleans second line parading through the ‘hood.

She is survived by her partner, John Paige; her sons Timothy, Christopher, and Andrew Metzger. The family is hosting a memorial service at the Northwestern University Settlement House where she had her book release party (1012 N. Noble) on Saturday March 6, 2010 at 7:00 PM.

Here are a few other memories of Jan from long time friends and colleagues:

Pictures and video from CNT’s gathering and second line on March 5, 2010.