The Chicago City Council voted 38-12 Wednesday to approve a measure designed to tighten regulations on recycling centers and industrial operations in an effort to reduce air pollution on the South and West sides.
However, it passed without the support of any prominent Chicago environmental groups or one of the measure’s original co-sponsors who said it had been watered down to please the businesses responsible for polluting Chicago’s air.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said after the City Council meeting that the revised ordinance was “better” than her administration originally proposed and will “put our city on the right track to fully ensuring that our residents have clean air, no matter what ZIP code in which they reside.”
The changes to the ordinance came at the expense of environmental protections, including a provision that would have required shipping and logistics warehouses to obtain a special-use permit in an attempt to ensure the facilities popping up all over the South and West sides do not choke residential neighborhoods with truck traffic and diesel fumes, said Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd Ward), who helped craft the original measure.
“I wish we could have done better,” Rodriguez said.
However, Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward) said the measure would have a real impact on the air quality in Chicago, and urged his colleagues to not let their desire for a perfect piece of legislation defeat a good law.
The measure’s passage is a victory for Lightfoot, who introduced the proposal in July and saw it stall after aldermen balked amid criticism from all sides. While some aldermen said they were concerned that onerous environmental regulations would discourage companies from creating jobs in Chicago, others said the rules would not do enough to improve the quality of air on the South and West sides, which is significantly worse than in other areas of the city.
Although Lightfoot’s original proposal would have required industrial developments to win the approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the revised measure would require the city’s transportation and public health departments to sign off on the plans after a review that would include a traffic study designed to gauge emissions and other sources of pollution.
The City Council also voted 37-12 to approve a measure that would require property owners and developers who want to demolish existing buildings in Pilsen and near the 606 Bloomingdale Trail to pay a fee of up to $15,000 that would be used to fund affordable housing projects across the city.
Aldermen also approved a measure to allow the city to expand the number of banks authorized to hold its cash — even as city officials vowed to keep pressuring financial institutions to do a better job lending to Black and Latino Chicagoans.
However, the City Council rejected a nonbinding resolution on a vote of 18-26 that was introduced by Ald. Maria Hadden (49th Ward) to mark India's independence that has become a flashpoint as it also condemns “violence against certain castes and faith groups.”