Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day, Mayor Daley and Fake Grass

April 22, 2010 - Chicago laughingly calls itself a "City in a Garden." Mayor Richard M. Daley prides himself on being a green guy, very environmentally sensitive. Don't make me laugh. The next time you pass a public school in Chicago or walk through a park, take a closer look at the "grass" - particularly on athletic fields. It just might be fake.

While Mayor Daley is vocal about planting weeds on the "green" rooftop of City Hall, he's rather quiet about the fact that a lot of natural grass is being ripped up and replaced by artificial turf. That's right, fake grass. It contributes nothing to the environment. It doesn't produce oxygen. It provides no habitat for insects, no feeding ground for birds or other small animals. The Chicago Park District says it will save money because it's cheaper than maintaining real sod.

Today, Mayor Daley played host to Ray LaHood, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transporation. They addressed a crowd in Daley Plaza downtown, surrounded by concrete, steel, glass and asphalt.

LaHood told the crowd, "You are in the greenest city in America with the greenest mayor in America! And we all oughta be happy about that!"  I don't know whether LaHood was serious, just naively mistaken, or really that ignorant of the thousands of cities, towns and villages across America that are far greener than Chicago. 

As Bill Cameron reported on WLS News this afternoon, LaHood's words "sounded good, but Chicago still lags far behind many other big cities on the basic environmental discipline of getting normal household garbage recycled."  

Cameron did not mention the fact that Mayor Daley seems intent on getting ahead of other urban communities in the replacement of natural grass with artificial turf. 

The cost-savings argument made to justify the fake grass is insulting. The city is doing a very anti-green thing by destroying natural grass in the name of cost savings. If a private company tries to save a few dollars by not "going green," however, they chance being ridiculed or even fined. Let the city rip up the environment, however, and it's called "another park improvement."

Furthermore, to carry the Park District's cost-saving argument to its logical end, real trees should be replaced with artificial ones. After all, it costs a lot of money for tree trimming crews to maintain the tens of thousands of trees in parks and along the public way. A single new tree planted by the city can cost well upwards of $200, not including labor costs for sticking it in the ground.

The next time you hear Mayor Daley talk about being green, ask yourself this: How green is it to replace hundreds of acres of natural grass throughout Chicago with what amounts to outdoor carpeting?

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