Why did the mayor not fulfill the promise of creating an environment department?

As mayoral candidate, Lori Lightfoot, promised us that her administration would restore the Department of the Environment, which was destroyed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. we are still waiting!

In May, the city released its proposed 2022 Climate Action PlanWhich states: “Chicago’s new climate goals set a course for reducing the city’s carbon emissions by 62% by 2040. Economic inclusion and savings, pollution burden reduction, and critical infrastructure and community health and Anchored in the values ​​of equitable access to resilience, the 2022 CAP prioritizes delivering meaningful community benefits and system improvements as the city moves forward on climate.”

Those are lofty goals. How is it even possible without a dedicated environment department to begin to meet the city’s objectives and ensure that Chicago can even dream of being a leader on climate?

Other major global cities, such as New York and San Francisco, have a Department of the Environment or equivalent. We are the third largest city in the United States. Why hasn’t Chicago still reestablished ours?

Introducing the new Climate Action Plan, Lightfoot said, “The 2022 CAP is a strategic document that outlines updated goals and actions, which will help community partners, institutions, civic leaders and community partners, institutions, civic leaders, and Residents can lead in coordination with the devastating effects of climate change and collectively realizing a prosperous green economy for all of our 77 communities.

How is it possible to lead all those urban departments and partner agencies without a single, dedicated environment department?

Currently the US Department of Housing and Urban Development said Chicago is violating the civil rights of its residents by moving polluting businesses from white communities to black and Latino areas that are already overwhelmed by environmental and health issues. The findings were the result of what federal officials found after nearly two years of investigation, it said. July 19 Chicago Sun-Times article by Brett Chase,

According to a letter sent to the city of HUD, HUD is demanding that Chicago change its illegal planning, zoning and land-use policies so that they do not discriminate against communities of color.

This screams a need for the Department of the Environment.

Without a dedicated department, we have seen a decline in environmental enforcement and inspections, hazardous materials inspections and annual inspections as well as general enforcement of environmental policies.

The Climate Action Plan and the We Will Initiative’s budget of $188 million make it clear that Lightfoot wants to invest in climate mitigation, but without the Department of the Environment, the city would be unprepared to meet the demands of today’s climate crisis. . ,

We want a department that is dedicated to environmental justice, a circular economy, climate resilience, protecting Chicago’s parks and natural spaces, and improving the quality of life for all Chicagoans.

The FY2023 budget for the City of Chicago will be instrumental in re-establishing the Department of the Environment. Funding of a full, permanent department should be considered as part of budgetary discussions and included in the budget for fiscal year 2023.

Now is the time.

Jane Ruby is the president of the League of Women Voters Chicago.

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