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Lightfoot should honor feds’ request to hold off on General Iron’s move to the Southeast Side

But that’s the bare minimum. Lightfoot should deny RMG the operating permit for the South Deering site.

A car and metal-shredding operation proposed for East 116th Street along the Calumet River is awaiting a city permit.
General Iron is looking to set up shop on this site at 116th and the Calumet River.

We’ve never liked Reserve Management Group’s plans to move its metal-shredding operation from Lincoln Park to the working-class and predominantly Latino South Deering neighborhood on the Southeast Side.

That’s why we’re glad to see the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development ask the Lightfoot administration this week to hold off on issuing a final operating permit for General Iron’s owner to operate at 116th and the Calumet River.

As the Sun-Times reported, HUD made the request because it wants to complete its investigation on whether the facility’s move violates the civil rights of the Southeast Siders whose communities are already so overburdened with toxic industries, the residents’ long-term health has been negatively affected.

HUD’s action came in the wake of a complaint filed with the agency by area community groups, alleging RMG’s move to South Deering from predominantly white and affluent Lincoln Park would be a violation of federal fair housing laws.

Are there merits to this complaint? Could be. In his letter to city officials dated last week, Lon Meltesen, director of HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity in Chicago, said the agency’s preliminary review “finds persuasive complainants’ evidence that this transfer would subject complainant organizations and the neighborhoods they represent to serious and irreparable injury.”

General Iron has been a historically bad actor in Lincoln Park, frequently sited for explosions, fires and other environmental violations.

RMG promises General Iron will do better in South Deering and boasts of what would be an environmentally safer facility, but why risk it? Particularly in an area where residents are plagued by documented cases of chronic heart and lung diseases brought about by decades of having industrial toxins as neighbors.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot could do some real good here. She should not issue the operating permit until the HUD probe is complete.

But that’s the bare minimum. Lightfoot should deny RMG the operating permit for the South Deering site.

That would be a fair and just step. And a seemingly natural one, if Lightfoot is really an advocate for South and West side neighborhoods, as she proclaims.

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