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Balloon Over Coal-Fired Chicago: Mayor Daley, is This Your Green Legacy?

Only days before Chicago voters launch their city into a new era with a new mayor, Chicago activists greeted departing Mayor Richard Daley in the City Hall atrium this morning with a giant balloon question mark on his self-proclaim "greenest city in America" legacy. Featuring a picture of the decrepit and deadly Fisk and Crawford coal-burning power plants in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, the balloon loomed over the heads of city officials and visitors with the stark reality of Chicago's ailing neighborhoods. The balloon banner read: “Mayor Daley, is this your ‘green legacy’?” 2011-02-17-Picture28.png “For years our communities have been dealing with the health effects from the Fisk and Crawford plants and we have had enough” said Ian Viteri, a community organizer with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. “Our people are dying while politicians are stalling.” A breakthrough study by the Environmental Law & Policy Center last fall found that the city's dirty coal-fired plants had racked up health damage bills to the tune of $2 billion over the last decade. According to theChicago Clean Power Coalition, "more than 10% of Chicago’s population (310,173 residents) live within three miles of the plant, and they cause illness and death every day they remain open." A 2010 report released by the Clean Air Task Force found that the Fisk plant in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village are responsible for over 40 deaths and 720 asthma attacks annually. Despite the fact that Chicago has ranked as the asthma epicenter of the nation, a growing movement in Chicago claims that Daley has blocked a proposed Clean Power Ordinance to effectively retire and transition the old plants to clean energy sources. Early this month, the mayor and his allies in City Hall refused to grant the Ordinance a hearing in the Energy, Environmental Protection and Public Utilities that is necessary for it to advance to a full City Council vote. Such a denial by the Mayor did not stop hundreds of affected residents and experts from attending and testifying at their own ah hoc City Council hearinglast week. “Hundreds of people came here today to send a message: the people of Chicago support this ordinance,” said Alderman Joe Moore, a chief sponsor of the Ordinance. “I know the Administration would like us to just go away, but the health and well-being of Chicago residents and the future health of our children and grandchildren are at stake. We can’t ignore this problem any longer.” “We’re tired of Mayor Daley playing politics with people’s lives. An estimated 30 people have died from these plants since the Ordinance was introduced last year. The mayor’s green legacy depends on whether he sides with the people of Chicago and closes down these plants,” said Edyta Sitko, a field organizer with Greenpeace. For more information on the Chicago clean power ordinance, visit the Chicago Clean Power website.