How I Helped Fight The Coal Plants — And Helped Us Win
Like a lot of people in Bridgeport and Pilsen, my family has struggled with respiratory problems tied to the nearby Crawford coal plant. In 2010 I read a report detailing the plant’s terrible health costs to residents, including premature deaths, asthma episodes and heart attacks every year. Beyond that, I learned the dollar costs were more than $120 million to the people in the community.
I knew this situation was wrong. I decided to get involved to change it.
That was the year I and a core group of community leaders co-founded a group called the Bridgeport Alliance and steered it to join the city-wide and Pilsen-centered efforts to end the coal plants’ costs to the community.
I had first gotten involved in the specific coal plant issue after attending Green party community meetings where I learned that Pilsen-based PERRO had been working on closing the plants for years. We first made contacts with Dorian Breuer from PERRO and then later Christine Nannicielli and her staff at Sierra Club in 2011.
I own a business, so I’m always mindful of what works for commerce. But I learned these plants were open for one reason: to sell power outside of Illinois and to contribute to an Enron-style national market for electricity. We know how Enron ended up. There was no way it was right to pay for that kind of business with the health and lives of our people.
That year, I became part of a big effort. My allies and I worked on volunteer organization, educating residents, raising awareness, collecting signatures on South Halsted, collecting photo petitions and enlisting the support of 11th Ward businesses. We were on the streets, engaging our neighbors. Our work, organized and presented as the Clean Power Coalition, culminated in a City Hall action Dec 2, 2011.
Along with the Coalition’s city-wide pressure, which included the Bridgeport Alliance, I personally asked 11th Ward Alderman Jim Balcer to sign on as a co-sponsor of the City Council Clean Power Ordinance, which was introduced in April 2010.
The Old-Boy Leadership: No-Go and No-Show
Alderman Balcer never signed on, and in fact sold out the people of the 11th Ward by delaying the vote on the Council floor twice, putting it off until after the end of the Daley administration.
Also, my election opponent Patrick Daley Thompson, at that time an executive of the South Loop Chamber of Commerce, was a no-show on the coal plants. Patrick made no appearance nor statement about the health hazards faced by the people of the 11th Ward during the entire fight. If he’s ever said anything about people in our community dropping dead thanks to coal plant pollution, I’ve never heard it.
No thanks to Thompson’s absence or Balcer’s interference, it was ultimately the threat of the City Council vote — that threat created by community pressure city-wide through our Clean Power Coalition — that eventually ended the pollution in 2012 and improved the air quality in our community tooday.
Today, as President of the Palmisano Park Advisory Council, it’s one of my greatest joys to climb the hill and look north to the now-smokeless smokestacks, take a deep breath, and remember what can happen when people get together to stop footing the bill for an operation that doesn’t even serve them.
What can happen?
We can win.
(Photo credit: ELPC.org)
Sullivan Puts Mayor Emanuel, Thompson On Notice: Quit Stealing Credit
Maureen Sullivan, independent progressive candidate for 11th Ward Alderman addressed the media at City Hall today along with Reclaim Chicago and Bridgeport Alliance to demand that Mayor Rahm Emanuel withdraw his campaign commercial claiming credit for closing the nearby Fisk and Crawford coal plants in 2012.
In a crowded press conference before television and print media, Sullivan, a candidate whose own community work has been claimed by her political opponents, fired at Mayor Emanuel over his own attempt to portray himself as the reason the coal plants were closed.
“What Mayor Emanuel’s commercial doesn’t mention is that during the first year of his term, he had activists who were protesting the coal plants arrested,” said Sullivan, referencing the May 2011 arrests of anti-coal plant protesters early in Emanuel’s term.
“There’s a reason his commercial doesn’t mention this. It’s because it’s much tougher for the Mayor to claim credit for the hard work of community activists when the truth is that he put the activists who were doing the work in jail.”
Sullivan, a ten-year community organizer and business owner, appeared with 25th Ward Aldermanic candidate Byron Sigcho and representatives from community groups including PERRO, Rising Tide Chicago, Bridgeport Alliance. She worked with Bridgeport Alliance on opposing the plants in 2011.
Afterward, Sullivan reflected on the problem of inactive politicians taking credit for the work of community activists.
“Community activists get out there, unpaid, and get things done, and it’s wrong for politicians who had nothing to do with it to get the credit. When I won the grant to fund the new playground equipment at McGuane Park in 2012, it was the result of months of solitary work. But when the cameras came out on the dedication day, suddenly there’s my opponent Patrick Daley Thompson standing next to me in the picture. It’s wrong, it’s transparent, and the voters aren’t going to stand for it.”
Sullivan’s next community event is “11th Ward Tax Tricks” on December 4th, a workshop explaining how the community’s tax money is being misspent using TIFs.
Photo credit: Reclaim Chicago
Giving Thanks On Thanksgiving Week
The first phase of our long campaign is over. Petitions will be filed today and we move on to the season where we stop worrying about getting on the ballot and focus exclusively on making it clear how I will improve the 11th Ward.
The conversation will continue: we’ve knocked on thousands of 11th Ward doors and been honored by all those people giving their time to talk about our community. We’ve earned thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. There are hundreds of our signs on the streets.
We have earned endorsements from National Nurses United, Reclaim Chicago, The People’s Lobby, Democracy For America — and more are on the way.
We’ve picked up a lot of steam, and it’s only going to get bigger from here. Over and over, we leave people’s homes in agreement about many things. The number one point of agreement is this: we can do better.
I want to give thanks to the team for all their hard work getting out that message thus far. You have inspired so many and I have been inspired by so many.
Just to name a few: Rob Warmowski, Veronica Castillo, Sandy Earley, Rene Paquin, Jennie Biggs, Peter Xantheas, Roseanne Mostacchio, Dan and Lynn Pugh-Bennett, Kevin Robinson, Alison Eichhorn, Kathleen McKenna, Ana Castillo, Angela Rojas-Gonzalez, Alicia Ibarra, John Freyer, Kevin Morgan, Mandy Pence, Tom Stoddard, Mary Welter, Virginia Gibbons, Val Kahan, Jackie Maher, Cori Stankowicz, Peter McMahan, Colleen Duffy, Tom Bailey, Sam Mattone, Jon Ozik, Nate Lefebvre, Mark Lennon, Mary Ann Reid, Ian Tuggle, and my team of advisors in other camps whose priceless advice is always taken to heart.
Salut, team! We are going to win this!
And now, let’s have the great Alex Chilton and Big Star say thanks better than I can.
Photo credit: Groomsadvice.com
Información Sobre Maureen En Español
Damas y caballeros, amigos y votantes:
Te invitamos a conocer el mejor candidato para concejal en las elección en Febrero 24: Maureen Sullivan.
Si tiene alguna pregunta, póngase en contacto con nosotros en email@example.com y hablaremos.
Happy Veterans Day
(Above, bottom left: US Army Sgt. John H. Sullivan, ca. 1943)
The men and women in uniform deserve more than a day devoted to them. We need to remember their sacrifices and we need to always think clearly about what it is they do.
We can never forget that our political leadership after WWII has too often used our country’s military callously and carelessly. We must remember that it is our veterans who pay the price for bad command.
We owe them better command, better to match the service the veteran contributes. We must not fail them, and if we do, we should not sweep it under the rug.
My father, John H. Sullivan served in the Army in WWII. A military policeman and cook stationed in the Pacific, he kept many of his stories to himself, preferring to have done his bit and not talk about it. That much I inherited from him — it’s probably why I haven’t stepped into politics sooner.
I know one thing: he would have loved to see me take on the 11th Ward Machine, because he wasn’t a fan. “Stay away from those people,” he’d growl. “They’ll have you doing things you don’t want to do.”
To be honest, he’d use somewhat saltier language than that.
This Veterans Day, let’s honor our vets and remember what service really means: doing the right thing.