The following statement was delivered on February 1st during a meeting of Chicago City Council convened to consider Mayor Lightfoot’s proposed contract with electrical utility company ComEd. Learn more about the fight to #DemocratizeComEd.
Good morning. My name is Sean Estelle, I use they/them pronouns, and I’m currently serving as a volunteer elected leader of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, as the Campaigns Coordinator. Five years ago, I was made aware of the upcoming renegotiation of the franchise agreement between ComEd and the city by Alderman Rosa. Along with a team of other volunteers, we quickly learned as much as we could could about the previous franchise agreement process (when then Mayor Daley was able to successfully leverage enough funding from ComEd in order to create and staff the original Department of Environment based on monetary concessions extracted through threat of municipalization) and devise a campaign strategy to Democratize ComEd – calling for municipalization, a shorter franchise agreement, a progressive rate structure for businesses and individuals, and other elements that could push forward short and long term benchmarks towards a future of serious mitigation of and adaptation to the climate crisis – a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Chicago to be a true climate leader.
All of this occurred in the context of the 2019 electoral cycle, when huge upheavals and realignments occurred thanks to the electoral victories of DSA endorsed candidates Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, Jeanette Taylor, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, and Andre Vasquez, and many other first time challengers like Daniel La Spata, Matt Martin, Maria Hadden, and others. The movement for public power in other major cities like New York was also starting to snowball rapidly, and in July of 2019 there was a 24 hour period when a resolution was introduced by city council members in Chicago demanding that a feasibility study on municipalization of ComEd occur as well as a press conference from Bill DeBlasio and other NYC electeds saying that municipalization and public power might be an effective response/ in order to mitigate the ongoing harm being done by ConEd in New York.
Fast forward to today, when we have a mayoral candidate flagging in the polls, flailing for solid political ground to stand on, who has not only ceded the red lines that she put forward in back rooms with corrupt ComEd leadership (which is no surprise, given her absolute inability to understand the basic dynamics of political leverage in this issue since she first went on a press tour saying that public ownership would never happen), but has also put forward a draft franchise agreement that spits in the face of the demands put forward by the #DemocratizeComed campaign and our aldermanic champions. A ban on municipalization is worse than the current language and precludes all ability for democratic control, true community engagement, and accountability to ongoing and evolving decarbonization goals set by those most impacted by the harmful effects of the climate crisis. A 15 year franchise agreement rather than a 5 or 10 year agreement is something that is out of step with the basic reality of climate science and the ways in which we will need to constantly adapt and re-adapt to the material conditions of what influence basic goods and services to keep the lights on and the heat running do to add to the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
I am speaking directly on behalf of the thousands of members of the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the country, to inform you that these are red lines, that we will out-organize Lori Lightfoot and anyone who takes her side, and that we will see a bright, prosperous, just future with democratic public ownership of not only our electric utility, but every part of our society. If you see or read this, I hope you will join us in the fight to elect and re-elect our 11 endorsed socialist candidates and build the movement for democratic socialism for decades to come.
After delivering this public comment, Sean was removed from the chamber by police officers. Read Chicago DSA’s full statement.