Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot released a new policy proposal to address environmental issues. The full policy is available here. Lightfoot has previously released comprehensive policies relating to good government, public safety, LGBTQ+ rights, and housing.
“Chicago City government has an absolute responsibility to protect Chicagoans from environmental harms,” said Lightfoot. “This starts with bringing back the Department of Environment to combat climate change and ensure that residents have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink no matter their race, economic status, or zip code.”
1. Bring back the City’s Department of Environment: Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 decision to disband the Department of Environment has had serious consequences, from lead in water to a failure to adequately monitor polluters. The new Department of Environment’s key priorities will be protecting residents from polluting businesses, engaging regional partners on issues of common concern, and protecting residents from latent harms arising from lead in water, brownfields, and poor air quality.
2. Become a local and regional leader on environmental issues: City government must lead on local and regional environmental issues. This includes actively participating in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, working with all levels of government to address invasive species, leading on stormwater and flooding issues, promoting green infrastructure, and more.
3. Promote environmental justice through inclusive decision making: For far too long, low-income communities and communities of color have shouldered the bulk of hazardous industrial development. Chicago must inform residents of potential health impacts of industrial developments, require developments to complete environmental justice analyses, and create a process for Chicagoans to call upon City agencies to hold developments accountable.
4. Expand lead water testing in homes, schools, and public facilities to ensure testing is truly representative: Clean, safe water should be one of the highest priorities of City government. Chicago must expand water testing all across the city including in high risk locations, give homeowners viable options to replace lead service lines, and provide filtration systems as a stop-gap for homes that need immediate relief.
5. Implement and utilize information-gathering processes for air and soil quality: Chicago must create a comprehensive program for evaluating air and soil quality and make that data available to the public. The Department of Environment will be responsible for collecting and analyzing air quality data and improving Chicago’s air quality.
6. Create a brownfield initiative to identify, remediate, and redevelop lands that are underutilized because of potential contamination: Chicago’s industrial past has left many properties underutilized due to the potential for residual soil pollution. Chicago must identify potentially contaminated land, classify these properties based on the level of potential hazards, and initiate appropriate plans for remediation to return properties to productive use and to the tax rolls.
7. Reaffirm Chicago’s commitment to reaching 100% renewable energy usage by 2025: Chicago must combat climate change by aggressively utilizing renewable energy sources, installing energy efficient fixtures in public buildings, and taking advantage the best emerging technologies. We must simultaneously engage with homeowners and businesses to achieve 100% renewable energy city-wide by 2035.
8. Improve Chicago’s abysmal recycling rates by holding City waste contractors accountable: Chicago has the lowest recycling rate among major metropolitan areas. City government must transparently and proactively evaluate waste contractors and hold them accountable, conduct targeted educational efforts, and incentivize residents and businesses to recycle.
9. Require Chicago’s building code to be revisited every five years to ensure Chicago is utilizing the best available practices while not burdening development with obsolete requirements: City building code must mandate best practices and minimize barriers to emerging technologies. Chicago must revisit and revise its building code at regular intervals to remain on the forefront of building standards.