As we’ve speculated since last spring, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is eliminating Chicago’s Department of Environment. A press release today announced that the city is “consolidating the Department of Environment into existing departments.” Commissioner Rich Rodriguez is taking a job as senior vice-president at Guy Chipparoni’s Res Publica Group, a media strategy firm.
While this move closes the book on one of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s signature environmental moves, it takes place amid some possible progress. The same press release notes other changes include “elevating the position of Chief Sustainability Officer to the Mayor’s Office,” “creating a Sustainability Council,” “a congestion premium on parking for central business district garages,” and “a new vehicle sticker fee tier for heavier vehicles,” the latter two moves being consistent with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s long-term plans to de-emphasize automobile traffic in the region. Time will tell if these changes improve the city’s environment in the years to come.
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 these facilities continue to service the public for many years to come, and we will report on any changes to the services once provided by the Department of Environment for good or ill.