Green Growth Platform for Chicago’s Next Mayor: Candidates’ Responses

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Below are the candidates’ responses to the Green Growth Platform for Chicago’s next mayor. Click here for a printable version.

If elected Mayor, will you:

Carol
Moseley Braun

Gery Chico

Miguel
Del Valle

Rahm
Emanuel

William
Walls III

Patricia
Van Pelt Watkins

1. Support the Clean Power Ordinance to Clean Up Coal Plants in Chicago? Yes Yes Yes * Yes Yes
2. Support Chicago Climate Action Plan? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
3. Improve Energy Efficiency for City Buildings? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
4. Require New Buildings to be Wired for Renewable Energy? Yes Yes * Yes Yes Yes
5  Commit the City to Purchasing More Renewable Energy? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
6. Require Clean Diesel Equipment be Used on City Construction Jobs? Yes Yes * Yes Yes Yes
7. Make Recycling Available to All Homes and Businesses? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
8. Conserve Water by Making Metersave Program Mandatory? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
9. Improve Stormwater Management to Reduce Flooding? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
10. Disinfect the Sewage Effluent Pumped into the Chicago River? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
11. Accelerate Study to Keep Invasive Species Out of Lake Michigan? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
12. Increase Funding for the CTA? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
13. Require Modern Pollution Controls for CTA Buses? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
14. Advocate for Midwest High-Speed Rail Development? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
15. Support Bicyclists and Pedestrians? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
16. Reduce Congestion, Promote Car Sharing and Electric Vehicles? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
17. Add More Parks in Neighborhoods that Need Them? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
18. Preserve the Lake Calumet Region? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
19. Complete the Lakefront Park System? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
20. Support Locally Grown Food? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
             
             

An asterisk (*) indicates that the candidate did not answer either Yes or No, but instead provided a text response below. All additional comments provided by candidates are below.

To download the complete questions, please click here.

Click below to download the original responses from:

Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico, Miguel Del Valle, Rahm Emanuel, William Walls and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins.

Additional Comments From Candidates:

1. Will you strongly advocate for the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance and take other actions to require the clean up of all pollutants or the shut down of the highly-polluting Fisk and Crawford coal plants by 2015?

Miguel Del Valle: (yes)

“I am proud to have stood with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and Greenpeace at a press conference on Thursday, January 6, 2010, to call for these plants to be cleaned up or closed. An even larger coalition met earlier that morning to express the same.

I support the efforts of Alderman Joe Moore and the Chicago Clean Power Coalition to pass the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which sets limits on the emissions of soot (particulate matter or PM) and global warming pollution (CO2) into our air. This is an essential first step in moving Chicago towards a clean energy future. Converting to natural gas use (which is not a high-carbon fuel) is a timely action we can take, as both our coal plants are capable of switching to natural gas. A four-year phase-in process gives the owners of the plants adequate time to comply.

Coal is an outdated, inefficient, dirty energy resource which cannot be our future. At every step of the process — mining, burning, and disposing — it contaminates our air and water supply and poses a great risk to our public health.

According to a 2010 report by Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center, the health- and environmental-related damages from these coal plants cost the public in excess of $127 million (in 2010 dollars) per year. These costs primarily result from harms to human health in and around Chicago, up to 200 miles from the plants.

Cleaning up these plants is not just an environmental priority, but a health priority as well, as it would help reduce asthma rates in Chicago, which are some of the highest in the nation. Our asthma hospitalization rate is nearly double the national average.”

The public needs to be further educated on this current threat to our health and contribution to global warming in our city and its immediate solution.”

Rahm Emanuel:(did not answer Yes or No)

“Midwest Generation must clean up these two plants, either by installing the necessary infrastructure to dramatically reduce the pollution they emit, or by converting to natural gas or another clean fuel. I will work closely with State and Federal regulators and the City Council to make sure it happens.”

2. Do you support the Chicago Climate Action Plan goal to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 25% by 2020 and commit to take the necessary actions to achieve these results?

Gery Chico:(Yes)

“The Chicago Climate Action Plan provides a terrific blueprint to help guide the city in reducing its carbon footprint to science-based targets by 2050.  However, the Plan’s strength lies in identifying the source of emissions in Chicago and strategies for reducing them.  As Mayor, one of the most important tasks will be converting those strategies into real tactics and effective policies to cause meaningful declines in carbon emissions in Chicago.  A blueprint without action will only leave us with the status quo — and the status quo is unacceptable.”

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“I fully support the Chicago Climate Action Plan (CAP) in its entirety, including its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. I commit to taking the necessary actions to achieve these results. The report provides a framework for moving forward by creating a vision of a clean, sustainable city. It also provides a roadmap for overcoming the financial and regulatory barriers to making that vision a reality. What we need is ongoing mayoral leadership to make implementation of the CAP a priority across departments, and to educate Chicago households and businesses on the opportunities we have to reduce our harmful environmental impact and save money while doing so. We need a mayor who will catalyze the development of financing mechanisms in the private sector that will make it possible for households and businesses to invest in efficiency that pays dividends.

Some may say that when we have a large budget deficit and the environment is one issue among many, we can’t make it a priority. But I say the good news is that many of the things we need to do to make our city more environmentally sustainable and meet climate goals are things that can reduce the costs of living for our households and businesses. As a city, this is the time that we need to pay even greater attention to these issues, for our short-term and long-term environmental and economic well-being.

In addition, I have started to look at adding the local food system and food issues in general to the Action Plan. This is one area that was not included in the Climate Plan, and there are many things that we can do to strengthen our local food economy and reduce the greenhouse gases emitted during production and distribution.”

3. Do you support investment in auditing and retrofitting all City-owned and City-leased buildings in the next five years with energy efficiency measures that have paybacks of about ten years or less?

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“The City of Chicago is facing a budget crisis, and cutting energy use in City buildings is an important way to both save money and improve the environment. Chicago city government has to be a leader in demonstrating that environmentally smart choices make economic sense, and I will dramatically improve energy efficiency in City facilities and assist sister agencies in doing the same thing.

But we can’t just stop at City operations, I have outlined a proposal to triple the number of homes and businesses – from the current 7000 to 21,000 annually – that are retrofitted each year in Chicago by creating a $10 million fund that allows current programs to be significantly scaled and expanded. The city’s investment is projected to leverage an additional $100 million in outside resources from ComEd, People’s Gas, and various governmental and lending institutions. The plan is estimated to create more than 400 good-paying jobs and reduce harmful carbon emissions by more than 5,000 tons – the equivalent of cutting our gas consumption by 618,000 gallons annually.

My plan begins by designating a dozen Energy Efficiency Target Zones in areas that are shown to be least energy efficient, and select an anchor organization in each area to act as a one-stop-shop to significantly increase efficiency projects. I would then create a $10 million fund to support efforts in each zone so that local building owners can leverage an additional $100 million in private and public funds. Finally, my plan sets a firm deadline to complete an online one-stop-shop so that every Chicagoan can easily navigate the funding options to make efficiency improvements in their own homes and businesses.

My proposal, which is attached, is fully paid for through savings in other programs.”

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“I commit to auditing and retrofitting City-owned and leased buildings over the next five years with energy efficiency measures that have paybacks of ten years or less. This is a good opportunity for the city to both educate and lead as this practice has clear benefits and would lead to significant future cost savings. While partnering with environmental organizations, the City can promote retrofitting efforts throughout Chicago by showing a firm commitment to doing so in our own buildings. Funding for the retrofits needs to be found but, since the economic benefits are real and quantifiable, financing should be obtainable.

In addition to retrofitting City-owned buildings, we need to increase energy efficiency and cost savings by supporting the goals of the City’s Climate Action Plan to retrofit half of all the buildings in the city by 2020, so they use less energy and cost less to heat, cool, and power.

According to the Center for Wisconsin Strategy, energy efficiency creates about 10 jobs for every $1 million invested, and those are local jobs—that can be a huge job creator for Chicagoans if we ramp up to the scale we’ve already endorsed.

Across the city, we have not widely instituted energy efficiency efforts, so there is a tremendous opportunity to do better. According to data from the Federal Department of Energy, Chicago’s buildings use twice as much energy as those in other Midwestern cities. The Climate Action Plan is ambitious, but it’s appropriate because about 70% of our greenhouses gas emissions come from our buildings—and because energy efficiency has the greatest direct economic payback. For every dollar invested, we get a return of $2.5 to $6 that you can be used to plow back into our economy.

However, we will never get there if we don’t dramatically ramp up the city’s efforts in this area, including city buildings.

To tackle the problem in private sector buildings, we need to educate building owners across the city. We already know from successful existing programs in Chicago that it’s possible to dramatically reduce energy costs in our buildings and to do it in a way that reduces operating costs for building owners. One of those exemplary programs is Energy Savers, operated by CNT Energy and the Community Investment Corporation. Energy Savers is a one-stop shop for retrofitting existing apartment buildings—it has completed retrofits of more than 4,500 units, achieving typical energy savings of 30%. Plus it offers low-cost loans to help building owners pay for new heating and cooling equipment, new windows, new insulation, and other energy-conserving improvements. The City of Chicago and nonprofit foundations have initially funded Energy Savers, but we can and will find ways to get the private sector to understand the long-term investment value that energy retrofits provide in order to expand the capital available for projects like these.

Of course, when resources are tight, it can be tempting to ignore the long-term costs of wasting energy. Therefore, we need more creative means of financing retrofits on a large scale. This is a challenge many social issue sectors face, all the way up to the federal level. But the pervasiveness of this struggle means we do not have to fight as an isolated city. The Chicago area is the recipient of one of 25 major federal grants for accelerating energy efficiency. As Mayor, I will ensure that City leadership in the Department of Zoning and Land Use Planning and the Department of the Environment work closely with the other entities in the region that are pursuing effective financing mechanisms. I will provide personal leadership to help craft solutions that engage the private sector with government, and I will look for examples and lessons from other regions and other issue sectors for insight that can apply to our environmental sustainability efforts.

I’m very interested in talking to the business community about establishing a requirement that the owners of our biggest buildings disclose their energy use and costs when a building is up for sale or lease in order to identify long-term, cost-saving energy efficiency upgrades. I think we can convince the business community that this is not a burdensome requirement, especially if the business community knows the City is doing all it can to help identify financing to make the upgrades.

New York City passed a similar ordinance in 2009, requiring that starting in 2010 nearly all buildings over 50,000 square feet must submit an energy efficiency performance report once every ten years. As part of the process, building owners are also required to get an energy efficiency audit and address performance deficiencies. The ordinance focuses only on the biggest energy users and encourages them to take a long-term perspective on minimizing their energy consumption. In extension of this model, I would like to explore the building energy disclosure ordinance instituted in Austin, Texas, which specifically requires energy consumption disclosure for buildings when they are put up for sale or lease. Such an ordinance helps residents and businesses plan for long-term energy costs, especially by allowing them to identify prudent options for retrofitting and other upgrades. These are the types of building policies we need in Chicago.”

4. Do you support requiring all newly constructed and substantially-rehabilitated buildings in Chicago to include wiring to accommodate an on-site renewable energy generation system, starting in 2014?

Miguel Del Valle:(did not answer Yes or No)

“The Clean and Renewable Policy and Program Recommendations Report states that “the cost of a clean or renewable energy system is substantially higher when installed as a retrofit, rather than as part of an initial construction plan. Just wiring and plumbing a building to be ready to accept solar PV or solar thermal can save thousands of dollars in installation costs, whether the solar system is installed immediately or not.”

Part of the fight to make our city more energy efficient is anticipating solutions that will be more cost effective in the future. We want to do everything that we can to encourage new projects to look to future energy and cost savings. While regulations requiring converter boxes and other necessary wiring requirements in newly constructed or substantial-rehabilitation buildings would raise the cost of these projects, it would remove future barriers and could be included in the cost of construction. As mayor, I would investigate the trends in home renewable electricity generation by partnering with environmental groups with a goal to requiring these buildings to accommodate renewable energy generation.

Another area for harnessing on-site renewable energy that is cost effective right now is solar heating systems for water, which deliver long-term cost savings.

Home electricity has the potential to be an area where we can educate the public about how they can reduce their own electrical bills and reduce the demand on our power plants at the same time. Once this area gets more attention I am sure that our talented city will have innovative solutions to teach the public at large.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“I will work with the City Council to establish these requirements for new buildings of a certain size. Further, I will conduct a detailed review of City code and permit requirements to identify and eliminate barriers to the expansion of renewable energy installations throughout the City and make sure that the City Energy code is fully and effectively implemented.”

5. Will you commit the City of Chicago and its affiliated agencies to purchasing at least 20% of their electricity supply from locally or in-state generated renewable energy resources by 2014?

Miguel Del Valle: (Yes)

“I would commit the City of Chicago and its affiliated agencies to purchasing at least 20% of our electricity supply from local or in-state generated renewable energy sources. Chicago must continue to strengthen our trend in this arena and this commitment is a way to make a higher impact. We must lead the way in requiring renewable energy. With wide use of our City planning resources, we need to target existing economic development funds to industries that will contribute to making Chicago a city that is ready to thrive in the 21st Century. By purchasing locally produced renewable power we support the development of generation here in Illinois. As mayor I would look for economic policies that encourage regional renewable energy projects to supply the city with true clean energy.

On our way to increasing the proportion of energy from local and in-state generated renewable energy we must use a two-fold approach:

1)    Reduce the amount of energy we currently consume in Chicago.

2)    Support training and manufacturing of renewable energy solutions in Chicago, coupled with support for an economic climate that promotes the consumption of local clean energy in Chicago generated from within the region. The 10MW solar plant in the West Pullman neighborhood is a great example of projects that we need to encourage in the city.

Through setting the goals of the Mayor’s Office we can encourage the development and implementation of wind, solar, and geothermal projects in Chicago. To accomplish these goals we need to partner with organizations that are already leading in this area.

As I stated above, we also need to support the use of solar panels on individual buildings, especially those being newly constructed; the construction of new green buildings and retrofit projects; and the use of wind turbines and geothermal facilities, where appropriate. We also must create economic benefits that attract wind-generated electricity flows into the city. In addition, Chicago should serve as a hub for wind training and manufacture, especially as we currently house the U.S. headquarters of 10 different wind companies.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Renewable energy has to be a critical part of the City’s energy mix and integrated into an overall strategy that dramatically expands efficiency and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. Given the dire financial situation of the City, we need to get the most out of every dollar spent, and I will emphasize local renewable energy sources that support jobs and renewable energy development in Chicago. Further, the State’s renewable energy portfolio standard should be enhanced to support affordable, distributed renewable energy sources in urban areas.”

Patricia Van Pelt Watkins:(Yes)

“I support this goal, but will have to make decision based on budget constraints.”

6. Will you support an ordinance that would require cleaner diesel fuel and equipment to be used on City-funded construction projects?

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“As part of my comprehensive strategy to reform the procurement process and green Chicago’s supply chain, I have made a commitment to review all City contracts, including construction contracts, to identify environmental impacts and modify specifications to ensure environmentally safe and affordable choices.”

Miguel Del Valle:(did not answer Yes or No)

“I support working towards the goal of passing an ordinance that would require cleaner diesel fuel and equipment to be used on City-funded construction projects.  This is an area where steps are already being taken as ultra low sulfur diesel is being required in stages over the past few years and next year. Chicago has also been going beyond these requirements and has started exploring infrastructure for compressed natural gas and has built a “green” refueling station on the Southside.

Together we have to explore areas where we can find the most cost efficient short- and medium-term solutions to reduce the particulates released during the lifetime of City-funded projects. While accomplishing this, our aim must always be to implement a truly sustainable long-term solution.

 

We also must enforce the existing City ordinance restricting the time that vehicles with diesel engines can be left idling, starting with City-owned vehicles.”

7. Will you ensure that Chicago’s current solid waste recycling ordinance is enforced and that source-separated recycling is available to all homes and businesses by 2014?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“Yes, However, I cannot commit to a 2014 timeframe at this point. As mayor I will commit to ensuring that Chicago’s current solid waste recycling ordinance is enforced and that source-separated recycling is available to all homes and businesses as soon as we can work out an affordable plan.

Obviously, money to pay for the blue bin program needs to be identified and secured. A business or residential fee on recycling is an option, but only after all other ideas have been explored. Privatization should be considered, but, as the Chicago Recycling Coalition suggests, any deal needs to be transparent, and Chicago should collect a fair percentage of revenue any private company would make from recyclable materials, because the value of these materials is likely to increase over time. This would be the opposite of how the parking meter deal was handled.

However, as Mayor, before considering privatization or a fee, I would start out by reviewing and prioritizing the recommendations in the Chicago Waste Diversion Study completed for the City of Chicago in February 2010, including the recommendations regarding current requirements for commercial properties.

For buildings over four units we need to stop taking the attitude that they can escape paying fines that are already set in our own ordinance. Whether the blue bin program is privatized or not we need to, as a city, encourage local pickups and short-term contracts so that competition leads to better service and fluctuations in the value of the materials can be passed to customers.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“I will enforce the City’s solid waste recycling ordinance.

Improving and expanding curbside recycling is a top priority of mine. Picking up garbage in Chicago is too expensive and inefficient and must be reformed. Recycling has to be part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul the City’s garbage collection system, particularly in light of the massive deficits in the City’s budget.  I am committed to making this a long-term project so that all Chicago residents have access to curbside recycling, but the time frame for implementing the expansion will have to be determined based upon the availability of revenue and in the context of the City’s budget crisis.”

8. Will you change Chicago’s MeterSave program from a voluntary installation system to a mandatory one with a goal of reaching 50% of single-family homes and two-flats during your first term?

Gery Chico:(Yes)

“Chicago has a tremendous opportunity to be a national — if not global — leader on clean water issues.  Chicago is easily the largest city situated on the Great Lakes, and sits at the base of a lake that constitutes a significant percentage of the world’s fresh water supply.  But Lake Michigan, and our local rivers faces constant threats from pollution and invasive species caused in part by man-made interconnection to other waterways and in part due to our reliance on dirty sources of energy and fuel.  The Mayor’s office must demonstrate strong leadership on clean water issues not only for our local health and well-being, but also to set a standard for the Midwest, the nation, and potentially the world to follow.”

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“I support making the MeterSave program mandatory. It is a great way for Chicago residents to gauge how much water they are using and for them to be incentivized to use less. Just because we have Lake Michigan as a resource does not mean that we can waste clean water without consequences. This program actually saves residents money, while giving households the economic incentive to use water more efficiently and wisely. It’s good for our residents in these economic times and it will help us be more efficient for decades into the future.  It’s a win-win for Chicago.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Yes. Too often, water is squandered as though it is limitless. As Mayor, I will direct the Department of Water Management to increase efforts to educate the public about the importance of water conservation, ensure proper water metering, and accelerate its water main replacement program to reduce leaks in the system. He will also task the Department of Water Management to study water rates in the city to determine the best way to adjust rates to encourage conservation and keep water rates affordable for all Chicagoans.

9. Will you commit to requiring all City building, street, alley, sidewalk and parking lot projects to adhere to the City’s own stormwater ordinance in order to significantly reduce stormwater runoff, localized flooding and basement backups?

Miguel Del Valle(Yes)

“As a property owner myself who experienced significant flooding this past summer I have a personal commitment to making sure that our own ordinance is followed across the city, including on city property and projects. As a city we should look for funding for improving existing infrastructure, but going forward all projects should be following our stormwater ordinance, even if it sometimes increases the short-term cost of these projects. The amount of money saved in the long run, as my refurbished basement attests, makes this worthwhile.

As an example, the work done on the pilot for the Green Alleys Program shows how we can improve residents’ lives and save them money through more effective building practices and materials.

Chicago is likely to experience more heavy rainstorms as our climate changes.  We need to make managing stormwater a priority, and supporting green infrastructure and increased infiltration just makes sense.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“I will direct the Departments of Water Management, Environment, Housing and Economic Development, Transportation and the Office of Budget and Management, to develop a multi-year plan to reduce overflows and basement flooding. The plan will set measurable targets for reductions in sewer overflows and basement flooding, identify the priority locations for sewer improvements and green infrastructure, like permeable alleys and planted parkways, coordinate projects to minimize costs and leverage state and federal dollars to make it happen.”

10. Will you publicly support disinfecting the sewage effluent that is pumped into the Chicago-area waterways?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“Overall, I support the position of Friends of the Chicago River that we need updated water quality standards for the Chicago River and Calumet River systems and that the MWRD should protect the health of river system users by disinfecting the wastewater they dump in our rivers. Disinfecting would be a critical improvement over what we have now, and this recommendation would eliminate bacteria that pour into these waterways as a by-product of sewage treatment.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Disinfection is a standard practice around the country and it is long overdue in Chicago.”

William Walls:(Yes)

“We will develop a better plan for Chicago to not only catch up with other major cities, but ensure that Chicago moves into the 21st century in maintaining cleaner waterways using state-of-the-art, but greener solutions to diminish chances of airborne infection from sewage waste and protect public health and wildlife.”

Patricia Van Pelt Watkins:(Yes)

“I support the highest attainable balance between environment and fiscal responsibility.”

11. Will you advocate for an accelerated timeline for the U.S. Army Corps’ Great Lakes-Mississippi River Interbasin Study that is examining watershed separation to permanently solve our invasive species problem?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“I support the efforts made by various organizations to try to increase the speed of the Army Corps of Engineers’ study of reversing the Chicago River. We literally have months and not years until breeding populations of Asian carp take hold in Lake Michigan. It is most important that we protect the integrity of our ecosystem and stop the invasive species into the Lake. The Corps needs to research solutions that permanently prevent invasive species, not just reduce their risk. Ultimately, we need to be best informed to find a solution and if we do separate the two watersheds we must do it in a fashion that is fair to all systems, neighborhoods and commerce that is affected.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Invasive species are a significant and immediate threat, and separation of the watersheds is an important opportunity to invest in and improve the environment, our infrastructure and our economy. We cannot go slow or take a wait and see approach. The study must be expedited.”

Williams Walls:(Yes)

“We will choose what is best for public health and economic development that does not leave the people behind  in the process. We would not approve of the use of toxic chemicals to eradicate the carp. As for the economic growth of the business community, it must be a win-win situation for all.  Meanwhile, we will monitor the study of the U.S. Army Corps Interbasin study and determine what timeline is also not only feasible, but within the acceleration, what role natural predators of the carp might also help in the solution if feasible and cost-efficient.”

Patricia Van Pelt Watkins:(No)

“I believe the Great Lakes Basin Study will be indicative.”

12.Will you be a vocal advocate for increased capital and operating funds for the Chicago Transit Authority from all levels of government in order to maintain transit operations and provide for necessary service expansions?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“The public transportation system in Chicago is critical to our economy and quality of life and it’s been given short shrift. I support bus rapid transit initiatives in the City of Chicago. I also support our “New Start” Federal Transit Administration projects, such as the Red Line expanding transit options for residents on the South Side of Chicago. There are many other projects that I believe can expand ridership in our great city. I commend the CTA for its leadership in acquiring federal dollars to reduce greenhouse gases released from transit buses.

We must aggressively advocate for local, regional, state, and federal plans and funding to increase public transportation and make Chicago friendlier to bicycles and pedestrians. Transportation is Chicago’s second largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. In parallel, transportation is the second largest expense for most households, right after housing.

Although 1.6 million people use the city’s bus and rail system each weekday, millions more continue to drive because we fail to enact policies that would make transit the cheapest and most convenient option for most trips.

A first step is to ensure we are not leaving any federal transportation money on the table through negligence or lack of foresight. An estimated $385 billion in federal, state, and local funds will be available for regional transportation investments over the next 30 years. Chicago should also seek a larger share of existing transportation funding by effectively advocating for a fair distribution of state money. The Chicago area currently gets 45% and downstate gets 55% of state transportation funds even though the Chicago region represents 70% of the state’s population and 78% of the state’s economy.

In contradiction to our goals of sustainability, our state allocations of transportation funds focus too much on roads over other more sustainable forms of transportation. In addition, a study on federal stimulus spending by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and others showed that nationwide spending on transit created twice as many jobs as spending on roads.

Another area of imbalance is that the CTA does not get a fair share of funding from the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). 82% of Chicago-area transit riders use the CTA, but it only receives 59% of operating subsidies from the RTA. On the other hand, METRA gets only 12% of the area’s riders, but receives 27% of the funding. My administration will advocate for changes in these allocations.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Reliable and affordable public transit is critical to Chicago’s environmental and economic well being. I will push to expand state and federal funding, advocate for reform of the State funding formula to ensure adequate resources for critical services and demand better planning and coordination by CTA, Metra and Pace to enhance customer convenience and increase ridership.”

13. Will you support ensuring that 100% of CTA’s diesel bus fleet is equipped with modern pollution controls within three years?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“Yes. However timeframe would depend on the availability of funding. The city’s goal has to be equipping the CTA’s diesel bus fleet with modern pollution controls. This will be a priority of mine as capital dollars become available. 40% of our fleet currently has pollution control measures that eliminate 90% of the particulate matter from their emissions. There is a need for all of our busses to meet the highest clean technology standards. Currently we lag behind many other large cities throughout America. I would like to congratulate the CTA on receiving a $2.2 million grant from the federal department of transportation for the purchase of two new all electric battery powered buses.

However, there are more federal dollars available that we can use to both expand our current bus fleet and equip the rest of our existing fleet with pollution controls.

As I stated above, we also must enforce the existing City ordinance restricting the time that vehicles with diesel engines can be left idling, starting with City vehicles.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Public agencies need to be leaders in converting their fleets, and diesel improvements are a reasonable and affordable step.”

14. Will you be a strong advocate for the federal government’s increased investment in the Chicago-hubbed Midwest high-speed rail network and work to ensure that Chicago’s high-speed train station is designed to catalyze economic development and connect well with CTA, Metra and other transportation modes?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“As mayor I would strongly advocate for increased federal investment in the Chicago-hubbed Midwest high-speed rail network. In order to optimize this system for our residents and ensure that the largest number of people can easily take advantage of this mode of transportation we must connect the station well with CTA, Metra, and other transportation modes. Hopefully, Congress will soon take up the federal reauthorization of the transportation bill. I believe high speed rail is key to the future of regional transportation in the Midwest and Chicago needs to be fully prepared to advocate for federal dollars to implement existing high speed rail plans. The City also needs to do a better job of partnering with advocacy groups, such as the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, and getting the business sector to advocate for high-speed rail.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“High-Speed rail will create jobs and investment in Chicago and throughout the  Midwest. To ensure that Chicago gets the maximum benefit, I will make sure that high-speed rail investments are closely coordinated with local transit and other transportation improvements. A high speed rail terminal, with easy access to other transit options, will be a tremendous anchor that will drive investment and economic development both around the terminal and for the communities linked to it.”

Patricia Van Pelt Watkins:(Yes)

This will be a top priority.

15. Will you commit to implementing strategies outlined in the 2015 Bike Plan, Chicago’s Pedestrian Plan and Chicago’s Complete Streets Policy to increase bicycle use and promote safe walkways?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“Short of specifically responding to every suggestion in the Chicago’s Sustainable Transportation Platform developed by the Active Transportation Alliance, I support aggressively advocating for local, regional, state, and federal plans and funding to increase public transportation and make Chicago friendlier to bicycles and pedestrians.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Full implementation of the Bike Plan makes the City more livable, affordable and improves air quality. Chicago needs to continue to be a leader in expanding opportunities for biking, improving walkability and linking these options to transit. We need to make sure that all communities receive the benefits of the Bike Plan and have access to safe and affordable transportation alternatives.  I will direct my administration to review the Bike Plan goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation of innovative strategies like Compete Streets.”

16. Will you support the adoption of policies to promote car sharing and electric vehicles, which can relieve congestion and reduce air pollution?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“The States of Oregon and California are ahead of the curve on the issue of electric cars. They are fully aware that for clean, electric cars to become the future of transportation in America, policies need to be developed to create the proper infrastructure base to support this growing reality of electric cars by renewable energy. I fully support advocating for policies like theirs at the state and federal level.

Car sharing is an area where we can start making meaningful changes right away. I-Go car sharing is a nonprofit started in 2002 that is already working to alleviate congestion on our roads, improving our air and getting residents onto public transportation. According to a report cited on their website in 2007, congestion caused urban Americans to travel 4.2 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 2.8 billion gallons of fuel for a “congestion cost” of $87.2 billion—an increase of more than 50% over the previous decade. Reducing the number of cars on the road not only improves our daily lives and helps the environment. It also saves money — thousands of dollars a year for carsharing users over the cost of owning a car.  As mayor I would support organizations like I-GO through both favorable policies at the city level and my bully pulpit.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Car sharing and electric vehicles are important alternatives that need to be fully integrated into transportation planning. But we need to do more than plan; we need to invest in the infrastructure that will make those plans reality. As part of my green fleets strategy I have set specific targets for reducing trips and switching to transportation alternatives reducing City employee vehicle miles travelled by 10% and switching 10% of their work related trips to alternative transportation. Transportation alternatives will include car sharing, bicycling and transit. Chicago has received over $15 million dollars in Federal Stimulus grants to increase the conversion to alternative fuel vehicles and development of alternative fueling infrastructure. Chicago needs to make the most of the federal dollars that it has received by expediting the implementation of the fueling infrastructure and developing a concrete plan for continued expansion of that infrastructure network after the federal stimulus program has ended. Chicago, and other state and local governments have fallen behind in spending their energy related stimulus dollars. I will conduct a detailed review of the performance of stimulus energy dollars, set hard deadlines for meeting grant targets and reprogram money that isn’t effectively spent to important priorities like expanding the alternative fuelling infrastructure and tripling the rate of energy retrofits for Chicago homes and businesses.”

17. Do you commit to adding neighborhood public park space in communities that have less than 2 acres of parks per 1,000 residents?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“In our push to implement real sustainability in Chicago I don’t want to ignore city beautification and greening efforts that support Chicago’s economy and neighborhood vitality. Open spaces are important for the city and despite the current limits on public resources, this moment presents the opportunity to identify additional, creative ways to spur such projects. Neighborhoods that have less than 2 acres of parks per 1,000 residents need to be addressed first and I commit to adding park space in these communities.

Parks have been proven to draw tourism, offer employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in related sectors, create a space that helps spin-off businesses grow and thrive, and attract a professional workforce that values an attractive aesthetic environment. Meanwhile, while Mayor Daley’s downtown beautification projects are crucial—and sometimes the more obvious component of landscaping improvements—neighborhood parks, boulevards, urban gardens, and other green spaces and projects also contribute greatly to the vibrancy and health of the city. I would concentrate on the neighborhoods, since downtown is already home to many beautiful parks and landscaping, and I would start with my efforts to build parks in these areas that need them the most.

As a mayor facing a severe budget crisis, I will make it a top priority to access federal, state, philanthropic, and corporate dollars to continue to maintain the amenities we have in place and to ensure Chicago’s position as a world class, beautiful, and green city. In fact, I am especially concerned that there are federal dollars for greening projects that we are currently leaving on the table.

I will also make it a priority to harness the creativity and energy of both professionals and community volunteers to develop and implement exciting models to maximize both beauty and opportunity for as many Chicagoans as possible through this sector. I envision the convening of a brain trust of landscape engineers and designers, urban agriculturalists and other growers, vendors, workforce development program providers, community developers and organizers, artists, environmental activists, potential corporate sponsors, and the like. Together, such a group might examine the potential intersections between landscaping beautification goals, social enterprises such as The Cara Program’s Cleanslate transitional employment project, the reclaiming of vacant, even dangerous, parcels, and the production of fresh food to help needy Chicagoans, especially those living in food deserts. I look forward to tackling this challenge and opportunity.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“I will work to expand parks and make sure that those parks are properly programmed to provide recreational opportunities, improve quality of life and support environmental education and stewardship.”

18. Are you committed to transferring the approximately 1,500 acres of City- or Port District-owned land in the Calumet region to the Chicago Park District and/or Forest Preserve District as identified in the City’s Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“Lake Calumet is a historic area that symbolizes Chicago’s past. As the city grew quickly around the turn of the century, its progress was choking the region with its waste. Now, as we face a new century and have the opportunity to lead on environmental issues, we also have a chance to make the Calumet region a world-class open space for residents and wildlife, including the endangered Black-Crowned Night Heron. As mayor, I would ensure the implementation of existing plans that have not be fully completed, such as Mayor Daley’s vision for the area and Southeast Environmental Task Force’s newer plan for the region. Again, budget restrictions will make full implementation of these plans difficult in the short-term. Transferring City-owned property to Chicago Park District or Cook County Forest Preserve District, however, is something that should be accomplished in the short-term. In addition, I do not support taking land that was set aside for parks and turning it into a shooting range for the city.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Despite a legacy of contamination and neglect, the Calumet region is home to nationally significant environmental assets that demonstrate the resilience of nature. Protecting the region’s natural resources is fully compatible with plans to create jobs and economic development, and celebrating and enhancing environmental assets must be a critical component of the sustainable development of the southeast side. I support the Open Space Reserve Plan including the transfer of property to the Park District and Forest Preserve.”

William Walls:(Yes)

“Yes, with the support of the people in the affected communities.”

Patricia Van Pelt Watkins:(No)

“I believe citizens and commercial residents are doing an impressive job at redeveloping the Lake Calumet region and I would support the continuing successes of the local community’s efforts.”

19. Do you commit to completing the south lakefront park system from 71st Street to the Indiana border by 2015?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“I am strongly in support of completing the south lakefront park system from 71st Street to the Indiana border. This plan provides additional parks for Chicago residents that don’t have access to them and increases land available for wildlife along the lakefront. The completion of this project also adds access points for cyclists to the South Lakefront and will help make our city one of the most bike friendly cities in the nation, which will be a priority in my administration. However, I understand there are important legal issues that must be addressed fairly with these South Side property owners. We must search for money to complete our beautiful south lakefront park system.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Chicago’s lakefront is an incredible natural resource that helps define our City and drive our economy. Completing the park system to the Indiana border during my first term will be a priority of my administration. I will make sure that that connection, brings the wonders of the lakefront to Chicago neighborhoods that have been cut off from Lake Michigan, and I will implement park development strategies that improve water quality and enhance and celebrate natural resources.”

Patricia Van Pelt Watkins:(No)

“I support the preservation of Burnham’s Plan and the idea, but would need to explore the fiscal costs as well as planning implications.”

20. Will you support coordinated and flexible city policies and zoning ordinances that will remove barriers and provide incentives for growing, producing and selling locally grown foods in Chicago neighborhoods?

Miguel Del Valle:(Yes)

“Urban agriculture is a productive way to address food issues in the city and greatly reduce the amount of energy used in transporting food great distances to reach our plate. In addition, organic food produced locally can increase the health of our population and provide green jobs. Composting used in the production of organic food can help reduce as much as 30% of our landfill waste and the practice also reduces the amount of fertilizer and pesticide runoff that pollutes our water.

In January 2011, the City Council will start reviewing a proposed Urban Agriculture Ordinance. I will work closely with the nonprofit organizations that make up the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council to pass an ordinance that meets the needs of those organizations.

I’ll do it because in this period of economic and environmental uncertainty, Chicago can be a leader in the field of urban agriculture. We can create jobs and grow local, healthy, and environmentally sound food sources.”

Rahm Emanuel:(Yes)

“Local food and urban agriculture create jobs, improve healthy food opportunities, and provide access to fresh and affordable produce. The City shouldn’t create barriers to expansion through excessive setbacks and overly restrictive zoning requirements, and we need better models to promote urban agriculture as a transitional use in communities that want it – particularly those that are currently in a food desert. I will do a top to bottom review of all existing programs and requirements and will develop and implement common sense approaches that promote the growth, production and sale of locally grown food in Chicago neighborhoods.”