Is Sustainability at the City Dead?

The Tale of Two Mayors

The differences are notable. If the Daley administration was about touting new, high-profile sustainability projects to the public, Mayor Emmanuel is about operationalizing these principles, largely behind closed doors. Several recent projects have provided the opportunity to talk with staff members in a few different City departments about their work. The progress made on the projects they described pleasantly surprised me. After the Department of Environment was disbanded, I had doubts about the City’s capacity to pursue these issues with the same vigor. And while Chicago has stepped back from the front edge of sustainable innovation, department leaders are embracing the imperative to change business-as-usual. Whether it’s water, transportation, energy, land use, or how streets are designed and built, sustainability principles are being more deeply incorporated into the fabric of the City, which is no easy task, nor often very glamorous. It’s a fundamentally necessary step, however, to setting the stage for future transformation, whether we notice it happening or not.

Peter Nicholson, Innovationist

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