Sadhu Has Left The Country... will he have more impact in Cleveland and Chicago from Canada?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Tue, 09/08/2009 - 10:40.

Thanks to REALNEO's lmcshane for pointing out one of the most interesting developments in the American "sustainability movement" ever - what appears to be Chicago's real news source, The Chicago Reader, broke the news, September 4, 2009, that "The Green Mayor's Green Policy Maker Leaves for Vancouver". This is the story of former Cleveland and Chicago area sustainability guru Sadhu Johnston, now set to become the deputy city manager of Vancouver.

From the Reader:

Under Daley the city has embarked on aggressive tree planting, installed a green roof atop City Hall, and mapped out an ambitious plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions—but failed to ensure basic recycling services, force dirty power plants to clean up, or confront the city's traffic and transit problems.

This being Chicago, the news about Johnston hasn't officially been announced here, even though Johnston was just profiled in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as the guy tapped to carry out "Mayor Gregor Robertson's 'Greenest City' initiative aimed at turning Vancouver into North America's pacesetter on clean energy."

Sound familiar to Clevelanders. Chicago may be full of green-washing, and on St. Patrick's Day the streets flow with green beer, but Chicagoland ain't remotely green. Neither is Cleveland. More on Sadhu, and his performance in Chicago, from the Reader:

Johnston has been widely viewed as an innovative thinker and advocate for environmentally friendly issues such as developing green jobs and cutting energy waste by making buildings more efficient. I also give him props for riding the CTA when he wasn't driving his hybrid—I've even seen him on the bus.

Yet he also serves under Mayor Daley, which has meant that he's repeatedly had to try to explain why it's taken 20 years—and counting—for the administration to develop a comprehensive recycling and waste-reduction strategy, or why it did nothing to force the coal-fired power plants on the southwest side to cut emissions. In 2005, for example, I asked him about a proposed ordinance that would impose tougher standards on the plants. He said the administration was of course interested in improving the region's air quality but wasn't sure it had the legal standing to do anything about the coal-burning facilities. "We at this point don't have a position on the ordinance," he said. He didn't sound to me like he believed it himself.

This summer, four years later, environmental advocates were still wondering why the city hadn't done a thing about the plants—couldn't it at least have pressured the state and federal governments to act? Local clean-air groups got fed up and announced plans to sue the plants themselves—and a few weeks later the federal government responded with its own lawsuit.

Sadhu is moving to a place where the citizens truly care about their world being green - Canada - to become deputy city manager of the place that really wants to be the world's real green capital - Vancouver. From the Reader:

It sounds like Johnston may have a much different sort of boss in Vancouver. As the Post-Intelligencer described him: "Mayor Robertson is a biker, hiker and founder of a successful company called Happy Planet that produces organic juices, preaches nutrition and fitness, and supports family farms."

The thing really holding the Canadian economy back, and killing their people, is all that pollution blowing up there from dirty, un-green places like Cleveland and Chicago.... making Vancouver's choice of Sadhu especially curious.

Canadians well know the harm American pollution causes their economy and people, so why would they want the man who sent so much pollution to Canada, from Chicago, and who allowed Chicago to proceed on a path to pollute excessively for years and perhaps decades to come.

I hope Sadhu moving from Chicago to Vancouver is not a sign Canada is green-washing their economy but rather a sign that, while Sadhu did not have the impact needed while leading environmental planning for Chicago, it was not his fault, and he is positioned to do better.

In this case, whatever the circumstances, I expect Sadhu to now stand across our borders and even come to Cleveland with a big Canadian stick and demand we stop killing the people and economy of his new homeland with dirty American pollution.

Best wishes for that, Sadhu. Enjoy iving in a truly beautifl place, working for wht seems a cool boss, but think long and hard each day about what you leave behind. We are counting on you to have a real global impact, this step in your career.

Sadhu Johnston from the Chicago Reader

Fooling ourselves

  Americans have a seemingly endless ability to fool themselves, especially as it pertains to "green" living.

Gotta be careful when your talking about Chi-town. ;-)

Are you aware that ALL new construction and major renovation using city of chicago $$ must achieve LEED certification? The region's green program runs deep, especially when its compaired to its midwestern surrounding citys.  A city can not possibly force a coal fired utility to address its environmental aspects and impacts, that is the job of the USEPA...and a state EPA program if they have promolgated authority from the fed. Citywide recycling in that town aint no small effort either.  Ever watch the Sopranos, solid waste is just that mobbed up... scrap metal even more so.  Think a mayor can sort that takes a DOJ federal injunction in the midwest to get the maffia temporarily out of that racket.   The fact that Daley's adminstration has " mapped out an aggressive plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions" is decidely pointless as well.  The USEPA has already published draft rulemaking on the subject in the Federal Register a while back.  All states will have to follow suit, and of course can only make things tougher.  Sorry to all the mayors who signed a compact, etc etc.  Until its revised, the fed program makes most municipal, state, and voluntary coroporate GHG programms obsolete.

In addition to reletively progressive sustainability programming and environmental enforcment initiatives...the city of chicago provides its citizens with a significant array of oppertunities we sure as hell dont have via their  numerous workshops, and programs administered by the Chicago Center for Green Technology administered by... you guessed it... the City of Chicago's Department of the Environment....where Sadu works..err worked.

The center houses the cities library on related subject matter and is home to several of the cities related agencies. The actual physical building is a large LEED Platinum building on a nasty brownfield that was turned around.. and repurposed in support of the fight towards the next industrial revolution lmcshane.  The tables are turning on the polluter, because their enemies are getting more sophisticated, and the public is starting to not want pesticides on its food.  This is a link to the center's home page.  Check it.

As for Sadu's departure to BC... Vancouver is new amsterdam if you get my drift.  Its the quintessential cosmopolitan Canadian city.  Outside of San Francico, Portland, and a few east coast cities I cant keep up with anymore.. its one of the greenest cities that an enviornmental professional could work in.  Who would not want to be there....   ESPECIALLY on the cusp of Vancouver being in the international spotlight for the 2010 Winter Olympics.   In case anyone has not been watching, the Olympics have been trying to outdo themselves each year on the eco-warrior tip...its a venerable green arms race of greening from year to year..each one trying to outdue the next.    Stephen Strong AKA Solar Design Associates designing solar for the SLC winter games not to mention 2 installs at the White House, 's work with China, etc etc.  

I'll leave the population densisity of Long Point, Ontario vs. other cities listed in your graphic to discuss at a later date.  This data is

Anyhow the city and the resort municipality of Whistler have been trying to keep sustainability in mind since the inception of their olympic bid.   Its a massive build out mind you, entire new village carved out of forest to create the nordic village, a new NG pipeline to Vancouver along the Sea to Sky to replace the NG rail terminal serving the municipallity, and loads, i mean loads of hotels, motels, condos, and sprall all the way to Pemberton, and then some.  Whistler has been greening like most of the good ski towns that realize they are a natural resource based business.  Check out for an idea of how they are applying principles of The Natural Step towards municipal sustainability.    The funnel method baby.  Dig it.


Terra Prima | ZM


city can not possibly force a coal fired utility

Hey ZM and Bill McD - glad to see you two here in this discussion.

I'm interested in the pollution caused by coal electric and steam generating plants and what the public may do about that.

ZM, you write above "A city can not possibly force a coal fired utility to address its environmental aspects and impacts, that is the job of the USEPA...and a state EPA program if they have promolgated authority from the fed."

However, coverage in the Chicago Reader is critical of Chicago city government on powerplant pollution, in Chicago... see "Something in the Air: Pollution from two power plants on the near south side causes dozens of premature deaths and thousands of asthma attacks a year, say Harvard researchers. So why has a city ordinance that would require a cleanup been mired in committee for more than a year".

From that article:

Of course you'll hear the same story from health workers in almost any lower-income urban neighborhood--asthma, which has puzzled experts by turning epidemic even as the nation's general air quality has improved, takes a disproportionate toll in those areas. Researchers are looking at everything from cockroach droppings to psychosocial stress as possible causes. But Pilsen and Little Village, respectively, are home to the Fisk and Crawford coal-burning power plants. And in 2001, after conducting a study of nine older Illinois power plants, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that pollution from these two plants was responsible for approximately 2,800 asthma attacks, 550 emergency room visits, and 41 premature deaths every year. The study also found that "in general, per capita health risks were greater closer to the power plants."

Fisk, at 1111 W. Cermak, was built in 1903 and its current generating system was built in 1959; Crawford, at 3501 S. Pulaski, was built in 1929 and its two generating systems date back to 1958 and 1961, though both plants have been upgraded numerous times since then. As a result of utilities deregulation, in December 1999 both were purchased from Commonwealth Edison by Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International that now sells the electricity back to Com Ed's parent company, Exelon (the two Edisons are not related). Together the two plants supply a considerable portion of Chicago's electricity, generating enough to serve about a million homes at any given time. Residents can't picture Little Village and Pilsen without them; some of them are even employed at the plants. But they would like them to be better neighbors.

On election day last month, residents in two precincts in Pilsen and Little Village said as much in a vote on a nonbinding referendum on the proposed Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would impose mandatory emissions caps on sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, and mercury to be met by January 2006. The plants would be required to submit emissions reports every January 31 for the previous year. For every ton of sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides, every ten tons of carbon dioxide, and every pound of mercury over the limits, they would be fined $1,000.

Meeting the proposed limits would mean an emissions reduction of about 90 percent from 2001, according to Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

In the 22nd Ward's 13th precinct, which is in Little Village, more than 86 percent of those who voted on the ordinance were in favor of it. In the 25th Ward's second precinct, in Pilsen, the figure was almost 90 percent. But the City Council appears to be no closer to addressing their concerns today than when the ordinance was proposed--more than a year ago, in February 2002.

Are there good studies of the localized environmental impact of coal plants in any urban neighborhoods you know of, and good examples of where citizens and/or local governments have been effective in getting any coal plants closed or their emissions reduced? Since deregulation, have any investor owned plants like those in Cleveland been challenged on pollution issues?

I'm looking at this relative to Cleveland Thermal and the Medical Center Company plants in Cleveland, which appear by many standards to be the most polluting steam or power generation plants in the region.

Disrupt IT

Zebra, long time no see...

Welcome Back.

By refusing to deal honorably with others, you dishonor yourself.

Chiming in

  Thanks ZM, for chiming in to REALNEO.  Yes--Chicago has done great things and Cleveland lags behind.  To Sadhu Johnston--congratulations on getting that VISA that will allow him to live and work in Canada, especially Vancouver--the most civilized, clean, green city in North America.