CITY HALL — South Side neighborhood groups and a pair of aldermanic candidates accused the mayor Wednesday of taking unfair credit for closing two coal energy plants in a campaign ad.
One of the groups, Rising Tide Chicago, accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel's re-election campaign of using one of its photos without permission and delivered a "cease and desist" letter to the Mayor's Office in City Hall asking that the ad be halted or the picture be removed from it.
"Rahm is a thief," said Gloria Fallon of Rising Tide. "He stole our photograph and our hard work for political gain." She called the ad "misleading" and "a slap in the face" to the activists who battled to close the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired energy plants for more than a decade.
Steve Mayberry, Emanuel's campaign spokesman, countered that the mayor's support proved critical.
"Community groups spent a decade fighting against these coal plants, but faced a City Hall that refused to take action," he said. "Mayor Emanuel heard their concerns and quickly joined the fight, telling Midwest Generation that they needed to either clean up the plants or he would shut them down. This was a fight by hundreds of community activists that he was proud to play a small role in."
Yet Fallon and Maureen Sullivan of the grassroots groups Bridgeport Alliance and Reclaim Chicago, who is running for alderman in the 11th Ward, both pointed out that people protesting against the plants were arrested during Emanuel's first year in office.
"We call on Mayor Emanuel to withdraw his misleading TV commercial and level with the people of Chicago," Sullivan added.
Although Emanuel has boasted of working to close the plants for years, the groups took issue with his use of the issue in his re-election campaign. All declined to say if they were endorsing one of his nine challengers, with Jerry Mead-Lucero of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization saying that, as a nonprofit, his group can't take a political stance.
Yet that didn't stop him from taking issue with the ad.
"How dare Rahm Emanuel take this victory away from the thousands of residents of Little Village, Pilsen and Bridgeport who were the real ones who fought this struggle for over a decade?" Mead-Lucero said. He called the TV spot "a false ad," adding, "It needs to be removed right away."
"Please stop bragging about work you didn't do," said Byron Sigcho of the Pilsen Alliance, who is running for alderman in the 25th Ward.
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