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Environmental Justice

A Safer, Cleaner Chicago

Toni’s immediate environmental priority is to remove lead pipes that poison drinking water

It is intolerable that there are still 385,000 lead water service lines to homes. The Tribune found nearly 70% of the homes tested showed evidence of lead in drinking water. Lead service lines were actually required by Chicago, up until the federal government outlawed them in 1986 due to their negative health impacts. Toni will immediately put in place a program to begin full replacement of lead service lines. Even after the Flint, Michigan lead poisoning crisis, Chicago officials failed to aggressively test for lead in homes’ drinking water, did little to notify homeowners or educate them about the problem and what they could do, or to make information on the location of lead service lines transparent.  And the Administration continued a water main replacement program in a manner that removed only part of the lead service lines, aggravating the problem. Emanuel said it’s up to homeowners to do a full replacement -- at their own expense.
 
Toni believes clean water is a human right and will immediately put in place a program to inventory all lead service lines, disclose their location to residents, create a replacement schedule, and bundle replacements geographically for cost efficiencies and to minimize further displacement of lead into drinking water. According to the Natural Resources Defense Fund, 51 cities (including Detroit, Cincinnati, Denver, Newark and New York) have set a goal to eliminate all lead service lines, 28 have taken steps without a goal, and five have completed lead service line replacement. Chicago must join these cities with a goal of replacing all Chicago lead service lines.
 
Toni will prioritize areas with children, whose growing brains are more susceptible to lead poisoning, and with renters and lower income people who are unable to replace lead service lines themselves. The City’s capital plan must prioritize full replacement of lead service lines, and in a multipronged approach, Toni will go after federal and state funding such as the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, the state Capital Bill, and establish public private partnerships to leverage additional funding. And Toni will make it a priority that African American and Latinx firms benefit from the work to solve this public health crisis.

Toni believes clean water is a human right and will immediately put in place a program to inventory all lead service lines, disclose their location to residents, create a replacement schedule, and bundle replacements geographically for cost efficiencies and to minimize further displacement of lead into drinking water.

Toni will fight for clean water, land and air for ALL Chicagoans, to address the legacy of toxic sites

Low income communities, especially African American and Latinx, are often lured into accepting dirty industry with the promise of jobs, but the economic pluses often do not outweigh the health and safety problems, such as air pollution that worsens asthma and other diseases. Residents of our communities have fought to get rid of dirty petcoke piles and coal-fired power plants, only to find their communities asked to take additional polluting industries without appropriate community involvement. These neighborhoods now fear more cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases. This is unacceptable. Toni’s values of social justice, equity and opportunity demand that communities’ concerns be considered in environmental and planning decision-making. Resident input must be sought before any City subsidies or incentives are considered.[1]  She further believes that government has played a historic role in creating environmental injustices and government has a unique responsibility to reduce inequity by assuring that policies meet the needs of all residents especially those often marginalized and excluded. That’s why, as County Board President, she is mandating implicit bias and diversity and inclusion training for all employees under her, and moving to formally adopt a racial equity framework for County programs. And with a bright outlook for new green jobs and new clean environmental businesses to address pressing issues such as lead water pipe replacement, energy efficiency and clean renewable energy, Toni will make it a priority to assure that the benefits of the new green economy are targeted to African American and Latinx communities and communities that have suffered the past indignities of environmental injustices.[2] [3]  In Chicago, which is the birthplace of the national environmental justice movement, Toni will make our city a leader.

...government has played a historic role in creating environmental injustices and government has a unique responsibility to reduce inequity by assuring that policies meet the needs of all residents especially those often marginalized and excluded.

100% Clean Renewable Energy and Green Jobs for All Our Communities

Chicago faces severe consequences of climate change from flooding, heat waves that increase deaths, and toxic algae in Lake Michigan poisoning our water supply. That’s why Toni reduced harmful greenhouse gas emissions from Cook County facilities by 32 percent, while saving taxpayer dollars with energy efficiency. As County Board President she joined #WeAreStillIn, to support President Obama’s commitments to the Paris Climate Accord. And she also committed Cook County facilities to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and to get all their electricity from clean renewable sources such as solar and wind.

Toni also pledges to move Chicago to 100% clean energy by 2035, and to become carbon neutral by 2050.

As Mayor, Toni will make Chicago a leader by implementing the current clean energy commitment to run City facilities and fleet on 100% clean energy and helping buildings across Chicago reduce their carbon footprint. She also supports moving to a fully electric fleet for the City and CTA buses by 2035, and pursuing a convenient network of electric vehicle charging stations across the City.
 
City government must walk the walk if it expects to ask for major changes in private buildings. As mayor, Toni would pursue deep energy retrofits in city owned buildings, and make new city buildings net-zero ready where possible. Toni will convene a Task Force of building owners, tenants, contractors, labor, environmental groups, utilities, community groups and others to address ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both existing and new buildings through revamped building codes and other measures.  Best practices from elsewhere will be considered, and differing perspectives on the impacts as well as the financial implications, from landlords to tenants, large businesses to small, industrial, commercial and residential, as well as low income residents, must be given voice.
 
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, there are over 4 million clean energy jobs in the United States. With the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act now in place, solar installations are poised to take off. Toni will work with labor, community-based organizations, green energy companies, property owners and others to get more solar energy installed by planning for solar installations on City property, education programs including group solar purchasing to allow individual residents to get group discounts,  and supporting a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program to make financing more advantageous for private properties to install solar; build more green companies, and help more of our residents, especially African Americans and Latinx, benefit from good-paying, quality green jobs. Toni’s priority is that young people and the un- and underemployed, especially from disadvantaged communities, can take advantage of the green economy. And community solar subscriptions (in which residents buy a share in the savings of a solar installation located elsewhere) can help all residents regardless of income take advantage of renewable energy that helps them save money on monthly utility bills. As County Board President, Toni pushed for community solar, so renters and people with less income can benefit from solar energy and its utility bill savings.[4]

Make Sure our Recyclables Really Get Recycled

Chicago’s recycling rate is only an abysmal 9 percent. Illinois law requires a 25 percent goal, and the national average is closer to 35 percent, with many cities such as Los Angeles far exceeding that. Chicago’s recycling program lacks transparency. Residents want more information about what happens to their waste and recycling.  Chicago’s poor recycling rate is also in part due to lack of information for residents about exactly what and how to recycle, which is more critical than ever as markets for recyclables get tighter, and contamination with non-recyclables becomes a bigger issue for making sure materials really make it back into the economy instead of the landfill.
Toni will reform Chicago’s waste hauling contracts – to make sure our recyclables really get recycled. She will start with an audit of the current “managed competition” contracts to find out why the contents blue bins are recycled more in some parts of the city than others, verify where the recycling actually goes – and what those recycling centers really do with the materials. She will look at the cost of the several contracts serving different parts of the city, as well as their performance at recycling and at giving helpful information to residents on how to recycle, and make information available on public websites. The results of the audits will be used to design new contracts, and new approaches to recycling, with residents, environmental organizations and others involved in discussions on a new recycling plan. Toni will put in place a comprehensive communication program to boost recycling and minimize contamination. And we should aim for a materials management approach which seeks to preserve the economic value in all types of now-discarded materials that could be recycled or composted.  That’s why Toni increased recycling and reuse of building materials from demolitions receiving Cook County permits.

Toni Believes Strong Public Transit, Walkable Neighborhoods, Trails, Bikes, Parks and Nature in the City Are for Everyone

Toni’s top transportation priority is a greatly strengthened public transit system that offers riders convenience, safety and reliability. She will fight for Chicago’s fair share of regional, state and federal transportation resources, and for a more integrated regional transit system that makes riding a more seamless convenient experience for riders. She will also replace old buses with new, quieter less polluting electric buses, used in many other cities that are modernizing their transit systems. She also supports biking, safer more convenient walking, and multimodal facilities, to better connect people to jobs, boost local businesses, make our neighborhoods stronger, and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from autos. She will also advocate for federal, state and local policies that promote equitable investment in Chicago and fight sprawl and further environmental damage.

Toni has been a champion of the Forest Preserves and the regional trail system – and as Mayor, will be a champion for parks and increased trail connections. She will push to expand the park system, with special attention to disinvested neighborhoods, while guarding against gentrification. She believes parks and trails should serve the needs of our diverse neighborhoods, and local residents should have a strong voice in parks plans. Toni understands the importance of nature play areas for children and protection and restoration of native habitat. Our urban forest has suffered greatly with the emerald ash borer, invasive species and now climate change. Neighborhoods with more trees tend to have higher property values, fewer harmful summer “urban heat islands”, and lower crime rates, and trees even help kids learn better and people stay healthier. As Mayor, Toni will make sure that Chicago works closely with the Chicago Region Trees Initiative to increase the number and diversity of trees and our ability to manage them so they stay healthy.

As Chair of the Forest Preserves, Toni hired natural resources and recreation professionals and cleaned up waste and corruption. She opened new campgrounds, expanded trails like the North Branch Trail on Chicago’s Northwest Side and added amenities like the new visitors’ center at Dan Ryan Woods and nature play areas for children. Following her Next Century Conservation Plan and Sustainability Plan, the Forest Preserves acquired almost 1,000 acres of new open space and designated more Illinois Nature Preserves to protect native habitat. She will bring this same commitment to nature, open space and recreation as Mayor of Chicago.

Make our Waterways Clean and Accessible, and Grown Clean Water “Green Infrastructure” Jobs

Lake Michigan and Chicago’s rivers are our City’s greatest assets, but unfortunately they are not always treated that way. In line with the vision of the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Our Great Rivers, Toni wants all of Chicago’s waterways to be inviting, productive and living places for all Chicago residents.

Toni will work towards creation of a clean water jobs initiative to address the City’s water quality and flooding challenges.  Her plan proposes seeking green alternatives creating additional community benefits, such as open space and vegetation or “green infrastructure” which fights flooding naturally without the high costs of “grey” built stormwater infrastructure, heat island mitigation, trails and connections for recreation and access, and green jobs, all sustainable measures to address our Combined Sewer Overflow challenges during heavy rainfall when sewage is released into our waterways. That is why, at Cook County, Toni partnered with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to develop a comprehensive green infrastructure stormwater management and redevelopment plan for the Village of Robbins.

Toni will work with stakeholders such as the Active Transportation Alliance to implement the Chicago River Trail plan. Walking and biking opportunities along the River can improve environmental quality, boost resident health, provide new connections to existing businesses, benefiting people who already live in neighborhoods like Little Village and Albany Park. Toni will build in safeguards against gentrification, such as has occurred along the 606.  Toni’s administration will also participate actively in efforts to explore solutions to the invasive Asian Carp problem. Asian Carp are a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem and threaten the economy along with damaging quality of life.  There are also threats from species currently in Lake Michigan to local waterways and the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Toni supports improvements such as the proposed Brandon Road Lock and Dam upgrade project. Funding solutions must be not just regional but Midwest-wide, and national, as these expensive projects benefit many states.  And as Toni has done as President of the Board of the Cook County Forest Preserves, she will institute an aggressive strategy to reduce the use of single-use plastics, which are a chief cause of litter and pollution in Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Reinstate the Chicago Department of Environment

Toni believes Chicago needs a strong Department of Environment to accomplish her bold environmental agenda, Including to remove lead service lines, ensure environmental justice, move to 100% clean energy economy and create clean jobs along the way, improve city recycling, revitalize our waterways, and expand green spaces. The Trump administration has cut back on fighting polluting industries and is busy rolling back federal environmental regulations, so it is time for cities to take the lead. As Mayor, Toni will strengthen environmental enforcement and revitalize the Department of Environment that was dismantled by Rahm Emanuel. She will make sure Chicago gets its fair share of brownfield cleanup funds, like she did at Cook County, to redevelop old industrial sites, and put in place stronger coordination with partners like the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District so residents are notified about combined sewer overflows into Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Under Toni’s leadership, Chicago residents will know who to call with environmental problems and there will be clear accountability to get her green agenda done.

Toni believes Chicago needs a strong Department of Environment to accomplish her bold environmental agenda, Including to remove lead service lines, ensure environmental justice, move to 100% clean energy economy and create clean jobs along the way, improve city recycling, revitalize our waterways, and expand green spaces.