Chicago’s Next Mayor: As Green as the Last?

Richard M. Daley, Chicago’s outgoing mayor, has cultivated a reputation over the years for forward-thinking environmentalism. Bike sharing programs, the City Hall green roof and the Chicago Energy Conservation Code for new and remodeled buildings are just parts of the green legacy he leaves behind.

Any fears that Daley’s successor wouldn’t take up that banner as readily may be somewhat assuaged by the Green Growth Platform, a questionnaire seeking the environmental policy stances of all of Chicago’s mayoral candidates. The Green Growth Platform, compiled by several of the city’s environmental leaders and conservation groups, was released on Tuesday.

Chicago City HallThe Green Growth Platform asked candidates to answer twenty questions focused on clean energy, recycling, water conservation, clean transportation and parkland and open space. All of the mayoral candidates answered in the positive to every question, except for Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, who answered “no” to three questions related to Lake Calumet and Lake Michigan. City Clerk Miguel Del Valle twice abstained from answering “yes” or “no,” as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel did one time.

All of the candidates responded favorably to the Chicago Climate Action Plan, the city’s aggressive agenda to reduce its carbon footprint. “One of the most important tasks will be converting those strategies into real tactics and effective policies to cause meaningful declines in carbon emissions in Chicago,” said Gery Chico, former Chicago Public Schools board president. ” A blueprint without action will only leave us with the status quo–and the status quo is unacceptable.”

Emmanuel laid out his plan for “Energy Efficiency Target Zones” that would identify the least energy-efficient areas of the city. Del Valle stressed building owner education and pointed to the success of organizations like the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), whose Energy Savers program has helped retrofit over 4,500 units with energy savings of around 30%.

Water conservation featured heavily in the questionnaire, with all candidates agreeing to mandate the city’s MeterSave program, currently a voluntary homeowner incentive. “As a city, we should look for funding for improving existing infrastructure, but going forward all projects should be following our stormwater ordinance, even if it sometimes increases the short-term cost of these projects,” said Del Valle in reference to the city’s stormwater management ordinance.

All six candidates also advocate increased capital and operating funds for public transportation. “In contradiction to our goals of sustainability, our state allocations of transportation funds focus too much on roads over other more sustainable forms of transportation,” said Del Valle. He also pointed out the green jobs benefits inherent in increased public transportation spending, point to a CNT study on federal stimulus spending which showed that nationwide spending on transit created twice as many jobs as spending on roads.

The questionnaire was created by a consortium of seventeen environmental, conservation and civic organizations, including Active Transportation Alliance, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Blacks in Green, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago Recycling Coalition, Citizen Action-Illinois, Environment Illinois, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Friends of the Chicago River, Friends of the Forest Preserves, Friends of the Parks, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Metropolitan Planning Council, Nuclear Energy Information Services, Openlands, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and Sierra Club-Illinois Chapter.

“Actions to make Chicago a leading ‘Green City’ attract jobs, people and businesses, and make our great city an even better and healthier place to live,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “All of the mayoral candidates clearly recognize that making Chicago a greener city is important to Chicagoans and voters.”

You can view the full report here.

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