As a member of the Great Lakes Alliance, I had the privilege of attending a mayoral forum on community and environmental issues.
This forum took place on Wednesday, January 19 in downtown Chicago with 17 other conservation and environmental groups in attendance. I was interested in hearing specific answers affecting the Southside of Chicago. I wanted to know what positive steps the next mayor would take to support Chicago’s Climate Action Plan. In laymen’s terms - my air, my water, my land.
The mayoral candidates were Carol Mosley Braun, Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle, Rahm Emanuel (didn’t show but still submitted answers), William “Dock” Walls and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins.
A question about the Southside – Will you support the clean power ordinance to clean up coal plants like the Fisk and Crawford plants in Pilsen and Little Village? All said yes.
(The Fisk coal plant in Pilsen was built around 1960 and has not been provided with the necessary modern equipment and parts needed to control pollution - hundreds of people have contracted various illlnesses from lung to skin cancers.)
A question about the Southside – Do you commit to completing the south lakefront park system from 71st Street to the Indiana border by 2015?
All but Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, said yes. She said “No, I support the preservation of Burnham’s Plan and the idea, but would need to explore the fiscal costs as well as planning implications”.
A question about the Southside – Will you support coordinated and flexible city policies and zoning ordinances that will remove barriers and provide incentives for growing, producing and selling locally grown foods in Chicago neighborhoods? All said yes.
(As I have written in numerous articles, there exists many opportunities to produce locally grown foods in order to rid food desert neighborhoods of “the corner store” which in turn would reduce or eradicate Type II diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and major tooth decay.)
A question about the Southside – Are you committed to transferring the approximately 1,500 acres of city–owned land in the Calumet Region to the Chicago Park District as identified in the City’s Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan?
All but Patricia Van Pelt Watkins said yes. She said “No, I believe citizens and commercial residents are doing an impressive job at redeveloping the Lake Calumet Region and I would support the continuing successes of the local community’s efforts.”
(Chicago’s Calumet area on the southeast side has long been a dumping ground for waste, toxic materials and industrial pollution.)
All the candidates said yes to adding more parks in neighborhoods that need them, requiring modern pollution controls for CTA buses, supporting cyclists and pedestrians, advocating for high speed rail development, and reducing congestion, promoting car sharing and electric vehicles.
Now it‘s up to you..environmentally speaking, to choose the right candidate for mayor. Hopefully it’s someone who knows at least something about the issues affecting our earth.