Student Power!

Student Power

by Edward Warden

It was four months ago when Dingo, Grace and myself had gone to visit Alderman Cochrain of the 20th ward. Everyone was working their butts off to get the Clean Power Ordinance (CPO) over the finish line before the end of the legislative year at which point if it wasn’t passed it would die in committee. The ordinance, the first of its kind, would force two of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants to drastically curb their carbon and particulate matter emissions or shut down. This would also be the first time a major city passed a bill to regulate its large polluters, namely coal plants. The aldermanic and mayoral elections were in full swing with many of the races actually resting on the issue of whether incumbants supported the CPO.

Cochrain, one of three alderman whose ward includes parts of UChicago, was not supporting the ordinace so we paid him a visit. This was the first UCAN lobbying effort and we didn’t really know what to expect. The meeting left us feeling pretty rotten. Cochrain refused to give us a straight answer, instead preferring to talk circles around us and constantly get off point. When Rahm Emannuel was elected mayor, the CPO died in committee, and Cochrain won reelection by a slim margin.

Zoom back to now, July. School is out and most of us are scattered across the country. A couple of UCAN members though were still in Chicago interning with environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, Openlands, Sierra Club, and Chicago Wilderness. Alderman Joe Moore, the man behind the CPO, was about to reintroduce the ordinance to the new city council and Cochrain was still not a supporter. Caroline and I set out to meet with him yet again. Cochrain actually remembered me from our last meeting but that didn’t appear to help as this lobbying session seemed only to be worse than the first. Instead of trying to even debate the issue he simply denied knowing what we were talking about concerning the ordinance. He suggested that the reintroduced bill was completley new, and he hadn’t had time to review it, which was untrue, as the ordinance had not been changed since our last meeting months ago. When I kept pressuring him and basically pointed this out for the fourth time in a row, he slapped the table and expressed extreme frustration.

Well Caroline and I left more than disappointed and went to grumble over a plate of pancakes (very good ones by the way). A couple days later Caroline sent me a text saying that Joe Moore had talked with Cochrain and he had signed on as a co-sponsor of the CPO. WHAT?!?!

Obviously we can’t take much credit and say that our lobbying made him leave the dark side BUT I do believe we can say that our meetings were a very important part in garnering his ultimate support. We demonstrated not only that we are smart and care about the issue, but that we are willing to come back again and again to drive the point home. Really, in a nut shell, that’s what politics is, showing people that you are willing to do what it takes to get the right things done. The CPO now has 35 co-sponsors, enough to even over ride Rahm’s veto if necessary. It’s the home stretch everybody, pat ourselves on the back later, let’s get this done!