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Environment/Sustainability Fri Feb 11 2011

The (Clean) Power of the People Don't Stop

This piece was submitted by Martin Macias, Jr.


In the wake of political inaction, Chicago environmental coalition will hold a People's Hearing

The Chicago Clean Power Coalition comprised of over 50 health, community, environmental and business groups, shared something in common recently with the "Anybody but Rahm" contingent of the Chicago electorate...briefly succumbing to the joy of witnessing the fruition of poetic justice, only to be struck down by the daisy cutters barring bad news. On January 27th it was discovered that an official Health Committee hearing, which was slated to take place on the 14th, was delayed indefinitely by Daley Administration allies in the City Council. However, the coalition announced that they will move forward with a "People's Hearing" in City Council chambers on February 14th.

Alderman James Balcer (11th) is the new chair of the Health Committee and would've presided over the first council hearing that examined the Clean Power Ordinance introduced by Aldermen Joe Moore (49th) and sponsored by 16 other Aldermen. A majority vote of the joint committee is needed for the legislation to advance to a vote by the full City Council.

"Though I intend to continue pushing for an official City Council hearing, we've waited almost a year to be heard" said Moore. "The time has long since passed for a hearing to allow the experts and the public at large to weigh in on this landmark piece of legislation," Moore added.

The Clean Power Ordinance was introduced by Moore, the talismanic aldermen from the north, in April 2010 and aims to clean up pollution from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants on Chicago's southwest side. It is a beacon of progress for environmentalists working to turn-back the clock on the old ways of shameless polluting and political barriers at City Hall. A 2010 report released by the Clean Air Task Force stated that the Fisk plant in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village are responsible for over 40 deaths and 720 asthma attacks annually. According to a 2010 report released by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the coal plants are also responsible for over $127 million in public health costs every year.

Crawford[1].jpgBut 11th Ward Alderman Balcer (who was appointed to the Council by Mayor Daley in 1997) postponed the hearing due to a request from Alderwoman Rugai (19th) that the hearing take place after the February election. But was this more of a signal of allegiance from a staunch Daley ally? In her defense, dealing with an order from the boss is like dealing with a stubborn toddler whose horrifying tantrum won't be quelled until it gets what it wants, blind submission to it demands. Historically speaking, the "green" Mayor hasn't exactly been helpful in moving the ordinance towards getting passed.

"I know the Administration would like us to just go away, but the health and well-being of Chicago residents and the future health of our children and grandchildren are at stake," Moore said.

Alderwomen "Ginger" Rugai chairs the Committee on Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities. She is retiring this year. Committeemen Matt O'Shea is campaigning to replace her, while he himself is under scrutiny for using the 19th ward office for his campaign. "Ginger" Rugai is part of the powerful old guard of Irish politicians in the City and has backed Mayor Daley on everything from the Olympic bid to voting "yes" on the ridiculous parking meter deal.

PilsenSmkStak_swanksalot[1].jpg"The delay orchestrated by the Administration allies in the City Council proves once again that politics as usual continues to permeate City Hall, except this time it's killing people." said Edyta Sitko from Greenpeace, a member of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. "The other 2.8 million Chicagoans and the 30 people killed since this ordinance was introduced 9 months ago deserve a hearing on this issue immediately."

"Emissions from coal plants are responsible for hundreds of asthma attacks and dozens of heart attacks every year," said Emilie Junge from Doctor's Council, SEIU, a member of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. "

In a recent Chicago Mayoral Candidate questionnaire Rahm Emanuel announced support for reducing pollution from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants, while Candidates Chico, Moseley Braun, and Del Valle announced their support for the passage of the Clean Power Ordinance.

The People's Hearing on the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, chaired by lead sponsor Alderman Joe Moore, will take place in the City Council Chambers at 10am, February 14th.

Disclosure: The writer is a producer for Radio Arte which is affiliated to the Clean Power Coalition as a media ally.

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