Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis injected herself into a long-running neighborhood zoning fight on Thursday, alleging students at a public high school would face danger from a newly approved metal shredder in Pilsen.
On Friday, a city panel endorsed the plan, which also was backed by Ald. Danny Solis (25th). Lewis said she was concerned because the shredder site is close to Benito Juarez High School.
“That ‘s an environmental hazard for the students and the people who work in that building and should not be tolerated,” she said. “It’s right across the street from Juarez.”
She also pointed out that the Internal Revenue Service last year raided the Bridgeport headquarters of Acme Refining. That’s at the same address given to city officials by Brett Baron, a 50 percent investor in the Pilsen plant. Baron has said he has no ownership stake in Acme, where he works in the family business.
Solis said the project will create jobs and have no environmental impact. Asked about the federal raid of Acme, Solis said, “It’s my understanding that the investigation is about taxes and how they’re paid. It has nothing to do with environmental stuff.”
Solis also said the investors have promised that their workers will belong to the Teamsters, whose leader John Coli has close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“These are 65, 75, up to 100 union jobs,” Solis said. “It’s ironic that the CTU is against it. I would suggest [Lewis] call John Coli at the Teamsters.”
Emanuel’s spokeswoman said Thursday she did not know whether the mayor had taken a position on the issue.
In a statement, the president of the project team said his company will use “the newest technology available in our industry to protect the environment.”
The lobbyist for the shredder plan, Brian Hynes, is a business partner of Solis’ sister, Patti Doyle Solis, in a state deal. City records show Hynes has was paid $30,000 in 2013 to lobby for the Pilsen project.
Lewis made her comments against the Pilsen plan after a giving the keynote speech at a fundraiser for Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd). She acknowledged she has had other differences with Solis that could prompt CTU to support a challenger in next year’s City Council election.
“If there’s a credible person running against him, I think his job is up for grabs — and should be,” Lewis said.
Contributing: Kim Janssen