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 firstname.lastname@example.org y hablaremos.
Sullivan Fundraiser At Benton House’s Ramova Room, November 12
(Above: The Ramova Room at Benton House)
Join us Wednesday, November 12th for the latest fundraiser for Maureen Sullivan for 11th Ward Alderman. This time the festivities kick off at the Ramova Room in Benton House’s north building at 3034 S. Gratten (aka Ma Benton Lane). As with all our campaign fundraisers, expect refreshments, fine beverages and great company.
This time, we gather in the Ramova Room, one of Maureen’s favorite personal projects from her past ten years of service to the community. Here’s some background on Maureen’s involvement in building the room.
About The Ramova Room And How Maureen Preserved It
In October 2012, when the famous, Dinos-family-owned 83-year-old neighborhood diner Ramova Grill closed, Executive Director Ward Miller of Preservation Chicago called Maureen Sullivan. He had tried to save the furniture from the diner by placing it with a Greek history museum downtown, but the plan had fallen through.
“Even though I was pretty busy with [releasing] our Bridgeport history book, I dropped everything when Ward called me for help,” said Sullivan. “I knew how fond the people were of the Ramova Grill, so I wanted to make sure the seats and interior would be kept in the neighborhood. The grill opened in 1929, the same time as the theater, and our community has loved it for generations.”
Added to the furnishings were tables from another shuttered South Halsted dining classic: Healthy Foods.
Sullivan had an idea. She contacted Benton House and spearheaded the preservation project by supervising, photographing and publicizing the removal and restoration of the Grill’s interior to its new home: the Pearse Hall gymnasium and activities building of Benton House on Gratten St. Today it’s used as a community center and for Benton House’s many seniors meetings, as well as playing host to its food pantry.
Come on down November 12 for a close look at the preserved history and have a chat with the lady who made it happen: the next Alderman of the 11th Ward, Maureen Sullivan.
Photo Credit: We Farm America
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.
Who Cleans Up The 11th Ward? Not The 11th Ward Office
While usually a quality source of fair-minded coverage about the 11th Ward, writer Casey Cora at DNAChicago made a small mistake with his photo yesterday.
It happens: doing local news well is a tough job, and sometimes a detail will slip.
But when a small mistake points to a big leadership problem in our community, it’s worth talking about the problem.
In Casey’s story “You Can Help Clean Up The 11th Ward,” as published Wednesday morning, he unwittingly spread confusion about who cleans up the 11th Ward’s streets — and who doesn’t.
It’s about the picture he used. Here’s how the story and original picture appeared at publication time:
(Above: Wednesday’s DNAChicago story mistakenly using photo of Maureen Sullivan and volunteer crew, 2012)
The problem is that the story talks about a cleanup event “co-hosted by the 11th Ward and the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department”. But the photo doesn’t show that event. It shows instead an entirely independent and effective, home-grown neighborhood operation. It shows the 2012 “Bridgeport Clean And Green” created, hosted and managed by Aldermanic candidate Maureen Sullivan and Rene Paquin of the Bridgeport Alliance. It shows the hundreds of pounds of garbage their team took off the streets and the crew of awesome volunteers they organized to do it.
This matters, because who you don’t see in this photo is anybody from the 11th Ward office. They were all no-shows. No Patrick Daley Thompson, no Alderman Balcer, no John Daley. Not even anybody from the South Loop Chamber of Commerce could be bothered to show up and lend a hand.
Which is par for the course, because they had nothing to do with it.
This photo reminds us that under Patrick Daley Thompson and Alderman Balcer, the 11th Ward office doesn’t actually get the streets cleaned up. It reminds us that real cleanup takes organization, community activism and hands-on work to accomplish, and that’s not what they do.
That’s what Maureen Sullivan does. And the picture Casey ran shows her just getting started, launching the first of a multi-year effort.
Again, this isn’t to bash Casey Cora. But it is time we all got clear about who actually works for the people of the 11th Ward, and who pretends to.
There’s A Right Way And A Wrong Way To Do It
On one hand, there’s activism — organizing, leading, following through. That’s what Maureen Sullivan does.
And on the other hand there’s what Patrick Daley Thompson and Alderman Jim Balcer prefer: inactivism.
At the 11th Ward office, “cleaning up” the neighborhood streets is a strictly hands-off process, and it shows. The 11th Ward office merely publishes a flyer, tells you to call 311 and then never follows up, never organizes volunteers, and most importantly, does not remove any trash.
This approach doesn’t clean garbage off the streets, and here’s the proof.
The last time they promoted a local cleanup was on August 23. We were paying attention, so we took pictures at the end of that day.
See the difference for yourself.
The choice is clear. Community organization and leading volunteers is what works.
Pretending to clean up the streets doesn’t.
Sullivan: I Never, Ever Supported The CHE Heliport
At no time did I support the Chicago Helicopter Express heliport project.
How could I?
When the company arrived, it treated us all like simpletons. And their champion, Alderman Jim Balcer, who had long before caused me to decide to run against him exactly because of his many bad decisions, was making another mistake here. He was unduly impressed by the company’s vague promises of economic benefit and was entirely willing to sell out the neighborhood and get nothing in writing for it.
In February of this year, 11th Ward voters and I were surprised to learn that a suburban company called Chicago Helicopter Express (CHE) had purchased land on the Chicago River at Halsted with the intent to open a heliport. I learned, at that time CHE was in an accelerated zoning approval process, aided by Alderman Balcer and the politically connected downtown law firm they had retained.
The company’s CEO Trevor Heffernan’s outreach to our community was a failure from the start. He attended a meeting of the Bridgeport Alliance but left before his turn to speak, appearing surprised that the group’s own agenda needed to be addressed before his own.
Later, on March 3, Heffernan, along with the company COO Tom Carto, attended a meeting of the Palmisano Park Advisory Council, where I serve as President after my most recent election to the post. This time, Trevor waited for the park business to complete before presenting promises about CHE’s business plan.
At the end of a short presentation, the CHE team asked our council members to sign pre-printed letters of support for their business plan.
Suspicious, I politely declined to sign, citing a lack of information. None of the elected officers of the Palmisano Park PAC signed letters of support.
I recall discussing with the Palmisano council after the meeting the presumptuousness of CHE. Here was a company facing a zoning vote in the City Council for a special and high-impact use of 11th Ward land near our park, and they believed they would obtain support from us minutes after making vague promises about noise (it wouldn’t be bad, they said) and jobs (there would be at least 50 jobs, they said).
I felt like I was being hustled.
At later community meetings I and my Park Council Vice President attended and spoke at, including meetings at St. Barbara’s and Trinity Lutheran, I saw Heffernan and his cast of consultants and his lawyer continuing to get off on the wrong foot with the community. They repeatedly assured the community of the great benefit and low noise of their project.
The problem was, their story kept changing. Fifty jobs became 35. Their business plan, presented early on as being mainly tourist flights, changed several times during these presentations to include a great number of charter flights.
Promises to bring tourists to South Halsted were never accompanied with anything resembling a plan.
Also unattractive was the fact that Heffernan’s and Balcer’s tempers were cut to the quick several times. Obviously disgusted at having to go hat in hand to ordinary people, and unused to having their ideas challenged, both Heffernan and Balcer took to chiding the residents. Heffernan at one point during the Trinity meeting showed his true colors and snarled at a citizen opposing his company’s plan: “I don’t have to be here.”
On March 20th, along with Palmisano Park Council Vice President Rob Warmowski, I attended the first City Council voting session on the CHE project. At my direction, Rob spoke against the vote on the heliport. We called for the vote to be delayed, we called the company’s approach insufficient, and we characterized the entire process as giving the 11th Ward “the bum’s rush”. Rob also appeared on TV saying the same thing.
Statements that criticized the CHE project and the City Council approval of same were published at my direction and approval here and here earlier this year. Our statement on the floor of the City Council criticizing the CHE project and asking to put off the vote is entered into the City Council record.
While my opponent Patrick Daley Thompson was, as usual, nowhere to be found at any of the important community meetings on this heliport, everybody who attended the meetings I or Rob spoke at should know my position, because it is crystal clear:
I never, ever supported the CHE heliport project.
(Photo: Google Streetview)
NDFA Endorses Maureen Sullivan For Alderman
On Thursday night before a packed house at Chief O’Neil’s, Maureen Sullivan received her first major endorsement in her campaign for 11th Ward Alderman. Progressive political action committee Democracy For America‘s North Side chapter cast 35 votes to endorse Maureen amid wild cheers and applause.
Sullivan, who had addressed NDFA the month before, missed a unanimous vote by only one delegate who abstained for not having seen her address to the group.
At the endorsement, supporters spoke in favor of her campaign and even had some choice words for a competitor whose late-entry platform had been noticed to have striking similarities to her own. Maureen has received campaign training from DFA’s national team in the past and has worked on NDFA-endorsed candidacies including that of Rob Martwick (IL-19th) and Jay Travis.
Democracy For America is a progressive political action committee headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont and was founded by former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
Said Sullivan: “I’m thrilled to accept this endorsement and I’d also like to mention another candidate who was also endorsed that night. My congratulations go out to CM Winters, who is running for 21st Ward Alderman. She’s a friend, a fellow South Sider and a big part of the progressive wave coming to retake the City Council in February.”
Congratulations To Bob Fioretti On His Announcement Today
Today, I want to extend congratulations to my friend and fellow progressive traveler Bob Fioretti on the occasion of his throwing his hat into the ring for Mayor. It was a long time coming, and I’m glad to see it happen.
I don’t know for sure, but it’s my guess that CTU President Karen Lewis will make a similar announcement soon.
If she announces, it would mean that the Rahm Emanuel administration’s terrible treatment of public schools and working families will have created two credible opponents. Two serious challengers who have both put in years of hard work standing up against school closings and for hard-hit families. Two true friends to parents and students. Two hard-fighting South Siders who see the city as one.
That’s a lot to like.