Dosey Daley

People have been accusing Chicago’s Mayor Daley for being completely nuts since before he took office. Sometimes, he is rather batty, but one of the things people laughed about for ages was his determination to “green” Chicago. They’re not laughing anymore.

The greening project grew strong roots, giving Chicago a reputation as one of the nation's most committed environmental cities of any size. The company it keeps is not Newark and Detroit, but Portland and Seattle.

…Since Daley began investing tax dollars in greening the city, Chicago has planted as many as 400,000 trees, according to city spokesmen. It employs more arborists than any city in the country. There are 2.5 million square feet of green roofs completed or under construction, boosted by expedited permitting and density bonuses for developers who embrace the concept.

…On other fronts, the city provides 10,000 bike racks and announced a goal of quintupling bike lanes to 500 miles by 2015. The city spent $3.1 million on a bike station at Millennium Park that has 300 indoor bike spaces, along with lockers and showers.

…The City Hall roof, planted with more than 150 varieties of plants, is often 50 degrees cooler in summer than nearby asphalt roofs, whose temperatures can reach 170 degrees. It also houses beehives.

…Earlier this year, the city issued $1 million in grants for solar thermal panels that generate hot water. Staffers focused on high-volume water users, including laundromats and health clubs. For the past year, the city has waived a service fee -- typically $5,000 to $50,000 -- for developers willing to install a green roof.

…A new roof on Chicago's vast convention center will channel 55 million gallons of rainwater a year into Lake Michigan instead of overburdened storm drains.
There’s still a long way to go to make Chicago really green. The traffic alone is an ecological nightmare. But I’m impressed with what Daley has done, much of which was during the decade I lived in Chicago, and all of the improvements made didn’t hurt my pocketbook. Public transportation fares went up once in that entire decade, and my property taxes were not remotely outrageous.

Daley’s up for reelection soon, and I hope he wins again. He’s good for Chicago. In fact, he is Chicago—bombastic, funny, determined, interesting, and slightly mad.

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