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Why not put electrical utilities under public control?

Publicly owned electrical utilities serve one in seven Americans and the benefits are clear.

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan,  seen at the University Club of Chicago in 2015, was often seen as an impediment to reform during his record tenure in Springfield. But, in the first session without him, legislators still backed away from significantly toughening governmental ethics laws. Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The controversy involving House Speaker Mike Madigan and ComEd lobbyists has brought energy reform in Illinois to a standstill.

Activists in the state have been ready to build off of the historic passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act with an even more ambitious plan to address climate change without leading to exorbitant rates.

With Democrats in control of all branches of state government, it seemed like another bill was all but inevitable. But, alas, and per usual, Illinois’s history of shady politics has gummed up the process.

Unfortunately, the planet cannot wait for state politicians to get their acts together, and neither should Chicagoans. Right now, Chicago has a historic opportunity to change how it procures its electricity. Its contract with ComEd is set to expire on December 31, 2020. Instead of simply renewing the contract, the city should municipalize the utility and bring its electricity under public control.

Municipalized electrical utilities are quite common in the United States.

According to the American Public Power Association, publicly owned electrical utilities serve one in seven Americans. The benefits are clear. Publicly owned electrical utilities offer less expensive rates, have high reliability and guarantee local control.

Through municipalization, Chicagoans could ensure that the revenue from rates was reinvested to clean our grid and support low-income residents. Illinois already has a strong foundation of non-carbon energy sources.

In the past decade, the state has gotten closer to fulfilling its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards and is unmatched in its support for nuclear power. But to meet the climate demands of the next century, utilities are going to have to become more accountable to the populations they serve.

There is no better way to do this than for the public to take control of those utilities.

In the end, both a sustainable planet and equitable city depend on it.

Marco Rosaire Rossi, Logan Square

Correction: An earlier version of this letter incorrectly stated that lawyer Kelly Smith-Haley is a lobbyist for ComEd. She is not.

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Republican politicians stunt gun control progress

Your August 20 editorial (Americans want new laws to curb gun violence. Why won’t Congress and Trump listen?) gets it two-thirds right.

Yes, a solid and growing majority of Americans want meaningful and effective regulation of firearms. Yes, in the face of public opinion and an ongoing bloodbath of gun violence, the president does nothing.

But please stop saying “Congress” is the other part of the problem.

Congress is not some homogeneous monolith. There are, as we know, two parties in Congress (plus some independents), and one of those parties has been trying to get something done.

As your editorial notes, a “red flag” bill is ready to move out of the House Judiciary Committee; the House has already passed a bill calling for universal background checks; a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines is gaining support in the House; and the House has appropriated funds to study gun violence and how it might be reduced.

That’s the Democratic-controlled House, in case anyone has forgotten. Who stands prepared to block all these measures, besides the president? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority in the Senate.

It is Republican politicians who have been ensuring for years that nothing gets done about gun control (just as it is Republicans who have denied climate change, ballooned our deficit with a reckless tax cut for the rich, blocked all measures to protect the integrity of our elections, and tried to reverse the modest protections of the Affordable Care Act).

To refuse to call them out, vaguely blaming “Congress” for the acts of one party, fosters fuzzy thinking and the cynical conviction that “they’re all alike” and therefore there is no point in voting or working for change.

It is irresponsible, and in these times it is dangerous.

Richard A Stewart, West Ridge