City declares climate crisis, seeks federal help after storms cause millions in damage on Chicago lakefront

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new wave of concern at City Hall about the punishing storms that pounded the Chicago lakefront last month causing millions of dollars in damage.

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Last summer Lake Michigan came inches short of setting a new high level water mark. In January 2020 the first monthly water level record has already fallen.

"Well first we've got to repair our shorelines and we have to sort of prepared for those incidents that happened when weather patterns hit us whether it's by rain or more snow," said Alderman George Cardenas, 12th Ward.

The mayor declared portions of the lakefront a disaster and Monday the city council environmental committee passed a resolution declaring a climate crisis.

"Now we need to make sure that the resources to make changes, to make transformative meaningful change in a way in which we conduct life and business are going to be there," said Alderman Rosanna Rodriguez Sanchez, 33rd Ward.

That includes calls for Mayor Lightfoot to reestablish a Department of the Environment, eliminated by Mayor Emanuel after he took office.

"I think that we need a dedicated aspect of our city bureaucracy that's focused exclusively on that," said Ald. Matt Martin, 47th Ward.

The mayor's office released a statement that read:

"Mayor Lightfoot is committed to a proactive environmental agenda that puts equity at its center and prepares Chicago to protect all of its communities, especially those most vulnerable, from pollution and other threats to our shared environment. In order to meet an ambitious climate agenda, the administration is currently in the process of hiring a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) who will ensure a dedicated focus on current climate and environmental issues from the Mayor's Office. The CSO will work alongside the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy as well as community stakeholders to develop forward-looking policy solutions that focus on equity and which will focus on protecting the environmental health all of our communities for the future."

In Washington Monday at a governor's meeting with President Trump, Governor Pritzker raised concerns about needing federal help to prevent flooding. His office said the President committed to working on that, however, back home there were concerns about how any federal dollars would be spent.

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"When the funds start to come down on the city of Chicago that they are applied equitably and that the communities on the south side of the city, or the south lakefront part of the city, are not getting the crumbs," said Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward.

Alderman also talked about steps the city can take to be more environmentally friendly, including a renewed push for recycling, and a move for more electric buses and garbage trucks.
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