Our Pledge To You

Letters to the Editor

Chicago’s first priority: Get rid of lead water pipes

Chicago water meter

A residential water meter installed by the city of Chicago. | Sun-Times file photo

If a terrorist were caught adding a poisonous heavy metal such as arsenic to a city’s water supply, he would be prosecuted to the full force of the law. Mercury and lead are likewise heavy metals that, ingested, cause permanent brain damage. No amount is safe. Already, Chicago prosecutes landlords  who fail to abate lead paint hazards.

So what are we to make of Chicago city officials who have kept quiet for four months that 17 percent of homes tested are known to have lead-contaminated water from lead pipes? With what cumulative effect? What might more widespread testing reveal?

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Yes, the lead pipes were installed long ago. Yes, replacing them with lead-free pipes is expensive. But doing nothing is unacceptable, and can trigger unaffordable lawsuits. Indicted government officials who made expedient but harmful decisions about tainted water put Flint, Michigan, on the map.

If such spending postpones or cancels other city projects, so be it. That includes all feel-good beautification projects, and optional projects such as a new police academy on the West Side. Human health comes first, and children’s developing brains are the most vulnerable.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

Charter schools and spending

No one knows better why charter educators are ready to strike than our democratically elected union President Jesse Sharkey — and certainly not Andrew Broy, the lawyer who heads the charter industry’s principal lobby in Illinois.

When private businesses capture public goods and then defund public services, educators have a right to respond in defense of the public interest. Our members at Acero Charter Schools (formerly scandal-plagued UNO) just voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike to defend the education of our youth against a charter industry that prioritizes management fees over special education, school psychologists and nurses.

CPS’s public data shows that charters are overfunded compared to district schools this year — yet that extra funding fails to reach our classrooms. We’re proud of the great teaching and learning that happens daily in our schools. But we shouldn’t have to do more with less because of management greed. We should honor taxpayers and our schoolchildren by investing those public funds into students and their classrooms and the staff who care for them.

According to a recent Stanford study, Chicago teachers work 58 hours a week. We want to do even more for Chicago’s youth, but we need full staffing and compensation that allows us to retain great educators. Our demands are in the public interest. They benefit our students — and we will fight for them.

Chris Baehrend
CTU ACTS Division Chair and high school teacher