Chicago scion pledges to make city carbon neutral by 2050

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Climate change is on the ballot in this month’s Chicago mayoral election.

William Daley, the former White House chief of staff who once observed that making global warming a frontline campaign issue was political suicide, has championed climate action as a candidate to run the nation’s third-largest city.

On Friday, the 70-year-old Democrat and son of legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (and brother of former Mayor Richard M. Daley) rolled out a five-point climate plan that includes making Chicago carbon neutral by 2050.

“Chicago was the first big city to make environmental protection a priority, and as mayor I promise to build on that legacy,” Daley said during a campaign appearance with former Vice President Al Gore.

The two men are well-acquainted, as Daley was Commerce secretary during the final years of the Clinton administration and was the chairman of Gore’s unsuccessful 2000 campaign for president.

“Bill has a proven track record of achieving results for the people he is serving,” Gore said in a statement. “The climate crisis is an urgent threat, and cities are on the front lines of the impacts and the solutions.”

If elected, Daley would be the second former chief of staff to President Obama to lead Chicago after Rahm Emanuel, who left the White House in 2010 and won the mayor’s office in 2011. Emanuel was re-elected in 2015 but decided not to stand for a third term.

Daley’s climate platform includes initiatives that gained traction under Emanuel, including replacing coal-fired power generation with renewables like wind and solar power, and cutting transportation-sector emissions by offering more alternatives to driving.

Daley pledged to continue working with Chicago building owners to cut emissions and improve energy efficiency. He also endorsed efforts to extend the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line in South Chicago, with hopes of easing congested city streets and highways.

Asked if Gore’s endorsement would improve his standing with Chicago voters, Daley told the Chicago Tribune: “Hopefully it will sink in to people to say, ‘We are getting a clear picture of who Bill Daley is, not only as a candidate, but what he will do if he is allowed to be mayor of Chicago.'”

According to a 2014 Washington Post report, Daley, reflecting on Obama’s second presidential campaign, said advisers were sharply divided about whether the former president should make climate a top priority.

“There was a sense then it just wasn’t the sort of thing you could tee up in [2011], with an election coming up,” Daley told the Post. “With respect to my friends in the environment community, to put this at the front of the list, you might as well have taken a gun to your head and shot yourself.”

Daley is one of 14 candidates in the Feb. 26 election. Others include Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza; former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; and Paul Vallas, former Chicago Public Schools CEO and city budget director.

If no candidate wins a majority of the vote this month, a runoff election will be held April 2.