Rumors Swirl About Chicago Eliminating Its Department of Environment

Back when Rahm Emanuel first became mayor, we reported that his choice to lead the Department of Environment boded ill for the future of that wing of municipal government. Of the decision to make ex-CTA head Rich Rodriguez Commissioner, we wrote:

Time will tell if this audit involves spinning off responsibilities to other departments, eliminating some of the services mentioned above, or even shutting the Department of Environment down altogether in a cost-cutting measure. Such moves would hamper Chicago’s attempts to be an environmentally-friendly city.

Rumors are swirling that such a move is in the works. Earlier this month, Crain’s Chicago Business reporter Greg Hinz wrote that Mayor Emanuel may eliminate the department in his next budget.

Sources are buzzing that the new budget Mr. Emanuel will unveil next month will call for abolishing the city’s Department of the Environment as a free-standing unit.

Team Emanuel is not denying that a money-saving merger of the department with the mayor’s office quite possibly is in the works.

“The mayor has always said that he is committed to elevating sustainability so that it is integrated in every part of city government,” a spokeswoman said. “It should not just function in a silo but also be a component of every economic development, job creation and neighborhood enhancement we do.”

Added the spokeswoman, “We continue to study the best way to achieve this goal.

Students in Roosevelt University’s Sustainability Studies program (including in the courses SUST 210 The Sustainable Future and SUST 240 Waste) have benefited greatly from the department’s activities, be they visits to the household and hazardous waste dropoff facility on Goose Island or taking advantage of the many programs offered at the Chicago Center for Green Technology.  We hope that we are able to continue that relationship for many years to come as our students learn how to develop and live in sustainable cities, and we hope the recent developments in the department are not a troubling sign of things to come.

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