New Mayor Means for Environmental Justice

How the New Mayor of Chicago Will Affect Environmental Justice?

On April 4, 2023, in Chicago, Illinois, union organizer, and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson gives a speech after being picked as the eventual mayor. Getty Images/Alex Wroblewski

This article, which was first published by Gristand, has been reprinted on Climate Desk as part of a cooperation.

The newly elected mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson, who prevailed in a close battle on Tuesday, campaigned on issues of crime and education, but he also raised the issue of environmental justice.

Cook County Commissioner Johnson, 47, is a former educator and union activist. Making Chicago a sustainability leader and tackling the city’s polluted neighborhoods were among his campaign promises.

Paul Vallas, 69, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, was his rival in the run-off election and ran on a platform of tough-on-crime.

While other observers and environmental activists applaud his election as mayor, they are also aware of the truth.

He essentially supports the environment, especially equity, but he wasn’t elected on the basis of the environment, according to Dick Simpson, a former alderman and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Thus, pressure may be the determining factor in advancement.

Climate activists need to exert pressure on the new administration, according to Simpson. It will remain a very minor issue without vocal, ongoing pressure from both residents and the alderman in the municipal council.

In recent years, Chicago neighborhoods have organized to combat environmental injustice. The most recent conflict attracted national attention when Southeast Side neighbors protested the proposed establishment of a scrapyard in their already polluted neighborhood.

New Mayor Means for Environmental Justice

Eventually, activists were able to stop the move, although it took years of effort, including hunger strikes.

Scar Sanchez, a Southeast Environmental Taskforce organizer, was one of those hunger strikers.

He suggested that we consider Brandon to be a friend. But we also expect our pals to be responsible.

Activists will therefore be keeping an eye on Johnson to see if he keeps his campaign promises, particularly his pledge to reinstate the Chicago Department of Environment, which was abolished in 2011 by a previous government. Also promising to reinstate the Department of Environment, the current mayor, Lori Lightfoot, fell short.

New Mayor Means for Environmental Justice

According to research by Neighbors for Environmental Justice, Chicago’s polluters have mostly escaped punishment without the existence of that department. The local organization examined data spanning 20 years and discovered that, following the Department of Environment’s closure, environmental violations and air quality citations both decreased by 50% and 90%, respectively.

Read More: House Republicans Approve Bill to Promote Fossil Fuels Ignoring Experts’ Warnings in The Face of Climate Disaster.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s air quality has gotten worse. According to a recent examination of air quality statistics by the Guardian, Chicago’s South and West sides have the third-worst air quality in the country.

According to Sanchez, there is a strong connection between these pollution and environmental justice issues and other problems in the city.

According to him, environmental justice includes housing, energy costs, our capacity to access clean water at home, and the opportunity to bring our kids to school without worrying about diesel trucks.

Adam Bertocci

Adam has spent over 15 years working in the tech industry, first as an IT technician and then as a writer. He lived with computers all his life and he works to help teach others how to get the most from their devices, systems, and apps. Ryan has been working with Enviro 360 now. He likes to swim and play video games as his hobby.

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