Treating people like scrap is the American way

It seems as though the government favors anyone planning to spew pollution into the air, bury garbage or pour crap into waterways where poor and minority people live.It’s been going on for years, and now is happening on the Southeast Side.

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In this photo from August 2006, a traffic coordinator stands in front of a line of pick-up trucks loaded with scrap metal coming to the former General Iron site in Lincoln Park.

In this photo from 2006, a traffic coordinator stands in front of pick-up trucks loaded with scrap metal at the old General Iron recycling site in Lincoln Park. General Iron is now Reserve Management Group and wants to move to the Southeast Side.

John J. Kim/Sun-Times

This is garbage time for the 10th Ward. In football, garbage time is the point at which a game is considered over because the clock is running out and one side has a huge advantage over the other.

In this case, a large company with the state’s approval is planning to relocate a massive scrap iron/metal shredding facility from Lincoln Park to a heavily polluted neighborhood on the Southeast Side.

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a probe into what local citizens allege is the racial profiling of minority neighborhoods by the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois. It sometimes seems as though the government favors anyone planning to spew pollution into the air, bury garbage in the ground or pour filth into local waterways where poor and minority people live.

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This has been going on for decades, not only in the 10th Ward, but throughout the South Side and the south suburbs of Chicago. It is economic discrimination of the worst sort.

The company in question this time is Reserve Management Group, which received a permit to relocate from the Lincoln Park neighborhood along the Chicago River to a 175-acre site along the east side of the Calumet River near 116th Street, not far from Washington High School.

The company would shred flattened cars, buses, used appliances and other such stuff. Of course, Reserve Management Group says it has followed all the regulatory guidelines and its operation, necessary to recycle metal, will be clean enough to eat off the floors.

In the meantime, the old scrap metal site in Lincoln Park is part of a billion-dollar redevelopment more fitting for an upper-class community.

Scrap in your own back yard

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his staff have said that all the proper paperwork has been signed. The state Environmental Protection Agency has approved the plan. And I am sure the mayor, governor and corporate America would hail this as a success, not just for Lincoln Park (so long, scrap iron plant) but also the 10th Ward.

Nearby the new scrap metal processing site is one of the country’s newest Superfund sites, a place so designated because of the amount of powerful toxic chemicals that have been dumped into the soil over the years.

Local residents have been protesting all this garbage and pollution for decades, but these are groups with little clout representing communities such as Hegewisch that don’t often make anyone’s list of “places to visit in Chicago.”

People used to notice when Ald. Ed Vrdolyak stood up and spoke out for the 10th Ward, although the pollution increased, and jobs declined. No one seems to notice at all now that Susan Sadlowski Garza is the 10th Ward alderwoman.

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Some people claim she has failed the community when it comes to stopping the current project. She contends she has done plenty to oppose it. But she once issued a news release talking about how clean it would be.

Local people have gone on a hunger strike to raise awareness. I’m not sure how much good that will do. But good for them.

They ask why, if a scrap metal recycling plant is good for the 10th Ward, it wasn’t good enough for Lincoln Park?

The fact is that properties in upper-class areas are worth more than properties in lower- class communities. So, corporations find it lucrative to sell in one location and buy in the other.

At the same time, the influential people in Lincoln Park who didn’t like scrap metal are now happy. The people on the Southeast Side get what they deserve in the eyes of government leaders and corporate executives.

You know when you live on the wrong side of the tracks. All you have to do is look at all the scrap in your back yard.

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