CHICAGO | Activists representing the industrial neighborhoods that comprise the city's Southeast Side are trying to persuade Mayor Rahm Emanuel to back their interests in opposition to a pair of plants that wish to locate within the 10th Ward.
Those activists don't like the idea of a coal-to-natural gas plant that Leucadia National Corp. wants to build at 116th Street and Avenue O. They also are opposed to a cement plant to be built by Ozinga and Universal Cement Co. at 117th Street and Torrence Avenue.
To that end, the activists on Thursday put together what they were calling "video petitions," giving people a chance to have their pictures taken holding up signs with slogans such as, "Mayor Emanuel, I have the right to clean, healthy jobs" and "I want to breathe clean air."
Ari Rubinstein, an activist with the Sierra Club who has been working with Southeast Side neighborhood activists, said the group hopes to get about 150 people to participate in their project, with the results eventually sent to Emanuel, whose aides on Thursday declined to comment about the issue.
"These are the faces of the people in the community that we want him to see," Rubinstein said. "We want to ask the mayor to stand up with us."
Pictures of people were collected during the day Thursday at The Zone, 11731 S. Avenue O, and in the evening at the East Side United Methodist Church, 11000 Ewing Ave. The Zone is a community center affiliated with the Methodist church that was chosen for its location across the street from the proposed site of the Leucadia coal-to-gas plant.
Cheryl Johnson, of the People for Community Recovery group, said she hopes activists can persuade city officials to support their opposition view to the plants, which have the support of 10th Ward Alderman John Pope, who cites the thousands of jobs that would be created as a result.
Aides to Pope on Thursday reiterated that 1,100 jobs would be created to construct the coal gasification plant alone, with hundreds more for the cement plant. "It's jobs, and it's clean," said one aldermanic aide.
But for Johnson, that is not good enough.
"Pollution has no boundaries," she said, explaining that pollutants emitted in the 10th Ward could spread throughout the city. "It behooves him to come up with an ordinance that would restrict this."
Meanwhile, Rosa Perea, of the South Chicago neighborhood-based Juan Diego Community Center, said she wants to change the perception of city officials who think the 10th Ward is purely industrial.
"I'm so sick and tired of people who think South Chicago is like a dumping site for the city," she said.