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The Mechanics
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Chicago After Daley Wed Oct 27 2010

Activists Look to Color Next Chicago Mayor Green

Potential mayoral candidates take note: in a city where politics are often viewed through a prism of black, white, or brown, a broad-based coalition will be demanding that a green hue merit equal consideration. The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center (EPLC), one of the midwest's foremost think-tanks and advocacy centers, is spearheading a drive to bring issues of sustainability and environmental quality to the forefront in the Chicago municipal elections, which will rear their head the moment the dust settles on the Nov. 2 general election. ELPC already has a survey in progress to show that voters care.

In a meeting this week, over three dozen representatives from nearly every significant environmental group active in the Chicago area, representing, collectively, thousands of members, met and agreed that whoever succeeds Richard M. Daley should be, as ELPC executive director Howard Learner put it, "someone who understands that environmental progress is key to the health and prosperity of Chicago as the 'Greenest City in America.'" In a press release issued October 25, EPLC acknowledged that Chicago has "made strides" in areas such as green roofs and the creation of a Climate Action Plan, but said that the city still has a lot of work to do.

Environmental organizations were once primarily devoted to research, lobbying, or non-electoral protest, but have become increasingly active in political races, trying to overcome the degree to which green issues are too often back-burnered by candidates and campaigns. Candidates have figured out that many of those who are passionate about the planet also knock on doors and write checks. The Sierra Club, to which I've long belonged, has sent out questionnaires and made endorsements in the upcoming general election in statewide, congressional, and state legislative contests, and is likely to make picks in at least some of the Chicago contests, including possibly the mayoral race. It's even possible that the candidate differences on these issues could make a critical difference in some close races, such as for Illinois governor. Some of us sure hope they do.

Other groups, like ELPC, have historically not gotten involved in campaigns per se, and are unlikely to do so, but might well host a forum or informational web page.

As a first step in raising the profile of an issue set that some claim is too-often "siloed," ELPC two weeks ago launched an online survey for the public to take. The unscientific but nonetheless useful survey offers twelve issues that respondents can vote to be the next mayor's top "green" priorities:

  • a better-functioning CTA
  • Midwest high-speed rail
  • cleanup or shutdown of Chicago's coal plants
  • Asian carp
  • Chicago River detox
  • more energy-efficient buildings
  • renewable energy promotion
  • green building
  • recycling
  • electric vehicle infrastructure
  • public green space
  • bike- and pedestrian-friendliness

EPLC has been reporting on the survey as it goes forward, and as of yesterday, the top three responses had been the CTA, the dirty Fisk and Crawford coal plants, and getting blue cart recycling citywide. Click here to take or view the easy-to-take survey, which is also
available at ELPC's website, http://elpc.org/.

 
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