Council calls on Lightfoot to release report on botched implosion that blanketed Little Village in dust

Ald. Rodriguez wants to know details of an investigation and the reasons for reducing fines for the developer.

SHARE Council calls on Lightfoot to release report on botched implosion that blanketed Little Village in dust
Dust cloud from a smokestack implosion blankets Little Village on April 11, 2020.

In this file photo, a dust cloud from the Crawford coal-power plant smokestack implosion on April 11, 2020 blankets the Little Village neighborhood.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

The Chicago City Council is urging Mayor Lori Lightfoot to release a watchdog’s report on actions leading up to the botched 2020 implosion of a coal plant smokestack that left Little Village covered in dust.

The council approved the non-binding resolution without debate Wednesday after the Committee on Health and Human Services voted in favor of it last week.

In January, the city’s inspector general’s office disclosed that despite a recommendation to fire a city public health official and reprimand two others for the debacle, no one lost their job.

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Only a short summary of the investigation into the demolition of the former Crawford coal plant has been made public. Lightfoot has refused to release the inspector general’s report, which has infuriated Little Village community members.

“Public officials involved in the green lighting of the implosion need to be held accountable,” Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, told the health committee last week. “There was a failure to protect the health and well-being of our community.”

The resolution to release the report is sponsored by Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), who said in an interview that his constituents deserve to know the full details.

Rodriguez said he wants to know more about the recommended discipline of city officials and an answer as to why the city law department settled with developer Hilco to pay substantially smaller fines than the $68,000 Lightfoot initially announced shortly after the demolition mishap. The fines actually paid in 2020 by Hilco were $19,500, the city confirmed last week.

Asked to comment, a city law department spokeswoman repeated a previous statement by the Lightfoot administration that it can’t legally release the report, a claim some critics dispute.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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