City Cast

Will Johnson Reinstate the Department of Environment?

Natalia Aldana
Natalia Aldana
Posted on July 13
People swimming at Calumet Beach, Chicago, Illinois.

Families swim at Calumet Beach. In the distance factories and plants line the coastline. (Jamie Kelter Davis / Washington Post / Getty)

The City of Chicago has an Office of Climate and Environmental Equity, but critics say the city needs an environment department, not just an office.

That demand may be fulfilled if Mayor Johnson follows his transition committee’s 223-page report detailing a four-year plan to “transform” Chicago. It includes the goal to “fully resource a new Department of Environment with a focus on environmental justice.”

🧐 Here’s what you need to know:

  • The new department would advance policies to reduce pollution and increase environmental equity.
  • The department would aim to significantly increase environmental inspection and enforcement, and provide more transparency in zoning and permitting.
  • The report says this department should be permanent and immune to budget deficits.
  • Though the report recommends dedicating “substantial funding” to creating the department in the 2025 budget, the full timeline is not clear.

How different would this department be from the current office?

While there’s no clear answer, Chicago departments typically have larger budgets and a greater level of accountability.

And that’s just the short of it.

Questions remain about how the city will pay for this new department and the rest of Johnson’s efforts outlined in the lofty report.

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