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Burning Issues

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Should the City of Chicago shut down the Northwest Garbage Incinerator, located near the intersection of Chicago and Cicero Avenues, thus protecting the health, safety and environment of westside residents, creating jobs through recycling and saving at least $150 million dollars in taxpayer money?

Voters in the far west 29th and 37th wards answered this question "yes" by almost three to one in an advisory referendum April 4. But did they mean it? In the 29th Ward they reelected incumbent alderman Sam Burrell over vigorous antiincinerator challenger Floyd Thomas. Aldermanic contenders Wallace Davis III (27th Ward) and Louis Lara (35th Ward) spoke against the incinerator at WASTE's March 14 rally. They lost their runoffs as well.

Chicago Department of Environment spokesperson Ken Davis told the Sun-Times that the referendum question would be more honest if it read, "We hate incineration and want it stopped. Do you agree?" If Davis thought he was reducing the referendum question to absurdity, he was wrong. WASTE members think his version sounds pretty good too.

"We had that discussion" about the one-sided wording, says WASTE executive director Fred Friedman. "People said they didn't know where the incinerator is, or what it's costing, or the bad health problems it's causing.

"We think it is and should be a foregone conclusion, once people know these facts. And if the city doesn't like our question, let them put their own question on the ballot and let us debate it."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mike Tappin.

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