Alderman Danny Solis, in a runoff tomorrow for the 25th Ward seat, sent out a press release today announcing that he had drafted an anti-lead pollution ordinance requiring any “facility emitting lead at levels that are higher than… EPA standards… [to] cease operations immediately.”
The release states that “new information” about “high lead levels” impacting a Pilsen elementary school prompted him to act, and he promises to introduce the ordinance in the City Council “as soon as possible.” He is, of course, referring to last Friday’s front-page Chicago Tribune report about high lead pollution numbers gathered by a monitor placed on the school’s roof.
Given that the two biggest sources of lead pollution in the ward—a smelting plant and a coal fired power plant—have been generous contributors to Alderman Solis, the ordinance could be seen as a selfless, courageous act on Solis’s part—as in biting the hand that has fed him more than $65,000 in the last decade or so. But it could also be seen as a political gambit to neutralize the clean-air credentials of his opponent in tomorrow’s runoff election.
Cuahutémoc "Témoc" Morfin takes the latter view. Morfin, who likely owes his place in the runoff to his support, in the primary, of a proposed bill to limit coal plant pollution dubbed the Clean Power Ordinance—Solis signed on after finding himself in a runoff—told me today that the only reason Solis is introducing his new lead pollution bill is because “he’s feeling the heat; his political career is on the line.” Morfin charges that should Solis be re-elected tomorrow—and the 15-year incumbent has all the big guns on his side, including Rahm Emanuel, Ed Burke, and the big unions—the ordinance will be “put on a backburner—it won’t be a priority.”
The source of today’s press release was Solis’s City Hall spokesman, Stephen Stults—not the campaign spokesman, Stacy Raker. In a telephone conversation today, Raker explained that the ordinance is city business, not campaign business. And no, she said, I could not get a few minutes of Solis’s time today. He’s too busy—all day.
Should Solis win tomorrow, I, for one, will be watching closely the progress—or lack thereof—of the alderman’s lead pollution ordinance. Should Morfin win, he pledges to support “energetically” Solis’s ordinance—to see that it passes, and to toughen it by including a provision forbidding city officials from taking money from lead polluters.