Stopping General Iron is just the start of fixing environmental problems on the Southeast Side

The city must set a high bar to prevent new pollution sources from moving in and for cleaning up existing sources.

SHARE Stopping General Iron is just the start of fixing environmental problems on the Southeast Side
General Iron’s car and metal shredding facility, which is under construction, near South Burley Avenue and East 116th Street in the Southeast Side is seen in the background from a baseball field on East 110th Street.

General Iron’s metal shredding facility is shown here under construction on the Southeast Side in October 2020.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

We agree with the Sun-Times’ recent editorial on General Iron that something must be changed so that future decisions regarding pollution and environmental justice are able to be made more quickly and in consideration of impacted residents. 

As the editorial noted, the proposed relocation of General Iron’s recycling facility from Lincoln Park, a majority white neighborhood, to the Calumet Industrial Corridor, which is majority Hispanic/Latinx and Black, caused a great public outcry and inspired a month-long hunger strike by several residents in protest.

While we are pleased that Mayor Lori Lightfoot and U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan finally listened to community members who fought to stop the General Iron project, the proposed facility is the most recent in a long line of environmental injustices along the Calumet River that need to be addressed.

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To that end, our organizations, in partnership with Calumet Connect, recently released six policy recommendations for Chicago as it overhauls zoning in order to improve public health and address environmental injustice for residents living near the Calumet Industrial Corridor. They include: 

  1. Using a process that encourages and uses community feedback, including feedback about health equity; 
  2. Making decisions based on the cumulative impact of development; 
  3. Closing the loophole that allows industries in the Calumet Industrial Corridor to handle and store hazardous materials without special review; 
  4. Creating and enforcing policies that reduce negative public health impacts of warehouse truck traffic; 
  5. Requiring industrial facilities to plant and maintain landscaping that separates facilities from residential neighborhoods; and 
  6. Improving the public’s access to information about public health and environmental impacts of industrial activities.

We urge Mayor Lightfoot to take these recommendations into account as the city reassesses the true impact that General Iron’s relocation would have on residents in the Calumet Industrial Corridor. This is an opportunity to set a high bar for future generations. After decades of fighting to prevent new pollution sources and clean up existing sources, the Southeast Side deserves no less.

Olga Bautista, Southeast Side resident, community planning manager, Alliance for the Great Lakes
Christina Harris, director of land use and planning, Metropolitan Planning Council

Police and violence

I agree with much of Bob Angone’s letter on Tuesday. Many policemen and policewomen are heroes. They throw themselves into danger to protect others. But if it’s true that “no one hates bad cops more than good cops. And the overwhelming majority of cops (are good cops)” then why did so many falsify accounts of what happened in the Laquan McDonald case and so many others like it?

Justice was served in that case only because there were video recordings. Same was true regarding George Floyd.

We need to mourn both police officers when they are the victims of violence AND the victims of police violence. And we all need to work to reduce violence from each side.

Why can’t we do both?

Kevin Coughlin, Evanston 

What’s in a good newspaper

If ever the relevance of healthy local newspapers could be so clearly demonstrated, it was in the contents of Monday’s Sun-Times and in the imminent takeover of the other major Chicago newspaper by a group known for caring mainly about its bottom line. 

In few publications like the Sun-Times’ Monday edition would you see such a well-reasoned call as David Roeder’s plea for deep-pocketed Chicagoans to rescue its rival from buyers with goals that threatened its integrity; Neil Steinberg’s tribute to cartoonist Bill Mauldin, urging readers to visit a local museum to see his realistic depictions of World War II soldiers in combat zones on display; and an editorial urging swift action by government and businesses to upgrade their cybersecurity defense systems. 

Other in-depth coverage included Laura Washington’s reminder of an era she was too young to have witnessed, in which a North Side nightclub owner provided a stage where highly talented Black entertainers could be seen by influential audiences; a lengthy article by Zac Clingenpeel about a courageous Lincoln Park-area boy who must rely on organ transplants to stay alive; Tom Schuba’s coverage of downtown protests in support of Palestinians; and a report by Schuba and Sophie Sherry on police being shot on the West Side, apparently by a gunman whose earlier shots drew them to the scene. 

Also in the Monday paper you found Fran Spielman reporting on the prospects Chicago’s mayor has for re-election, among an extraordinary range of issues she covers regularly at City Hall.

A hand-held device can never convey the depth of information citizens clearly need to stay honestly and fully informed.

J.L. Stern, Highland Park

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