Valas, Johnson pledge to revive Environment Ministry in Southwestern forums


Mayoral candidates Paul Ballas and Brandon Johnson both want Chicago’s Department of the Environment to be elected to tackle pollution in the city of Chicago, especially in the hard-hit South and Southwest. I promised to rebuild it.

The two made that promise at a forum on environmental issues held at the Lincoln United Methodist Church at 2242 S. Damen Ave. in Pilsen. Hosted by the Southwest Environmental Alliance, hundreds packed into a small church for the event.

Each candidate took the stage separately, answered the same set of questions, stuck primarily to the issue, and did not launch attacks on others.

After rushing to get to the forum on time, Vallas, the former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, appeared on stage slightly out of breath to talk about what the department would look like.

“Not only does it need to open up the environmental sector and provide continued budget allocations to ensure adequate funding, but it also needs to create a supervisory board that can oversee the sector, and that supervisory board will have We need community representatives,” says Vallas. Said.

Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Ballas answers questions at the People's Dialogue on the Environment held at the Lincoln United Methodist Church in the Pilsen area on Monday, March 27, 2023.

Paul Vallas says the environmental department must be well funded and have board members made up of people from the community.

Tyler Paciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Cook County Commissioner Johnson agreed, saying he wants to make sure the department receives input from affected communities.


Brandon Johnson wants an environmental department staffed by organizers with community ties to make sure institutions are responding effectively.

Tyler Paciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“Yes, I promise it will be fully funded and staffed. We are talking about welcoming all those people, not just regulators and policy makers. To make sure you’re doing the right thing, make sure you have organizers who are ready, dig deep, and are willing to contribute time in their neighborhoods and communities.

Organizers of the event said it was important for candidates to address pollution in the city and not just focus on public safety, a dominant issue in this election cycle. Environmental maps and the city’s own surveys show that health and environmental impacts are concentrated in the south and southwest.

Last year, city health officials announced they would conduct an environmental impact study to determine the cumulative effects of pollution on Chicago residents.

Many in the crowd flashed green cards of approval in response to Valas and Johnson’s commitment to reopening the division.

But voters have heard other politicians make the same promise. Mayor Lori Lightfoot also promised to set up a department that was dissolved by former mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011 when she was running, but she was unable to make it happen.

Instead, Lightfoot created the Office of Climate and Environmental Equity with a budget of $1.04 million. Valas and Johnson say city hall alone is not enough to address the problem.

When asked on Monday whether the administration would enforce local ordinances to force polluters to comply and reject city contracts for repeat offenders, both Vallas and Johnson said they weren’t a company that circumvented the rules. said it would not accept

“We need to start seriously considering adjusting the regulations and laws that allow far more pollutants in our communities than they should,” Johnson said.

Mr. Vallas said there should be “zero tolerance to anyone who violates the city’s laws,” and when he was head of the CPS, businesses that violated the contract were put on a “no-employment list.” added that it was posted on

Both candidates also said they would not raise property taxes and would instead seek other sources of revenue to fill the city’s coffers and fund the department.

Early voting is underway for the April 4th election.


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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