On Wednesday, July 12th, I took time out of my work day to make public comment at the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy meeting on behalf of Democratize ComEd, one of Chicago DSA’s two ecosocialist priority campaigns. Public comment is an incredibly powerful way to speak directly to our political leaders and allow the public to directly engage in civic affairs. By lending my voice, together with my other comrades, to the cause of Democratize ComEd, we can have a direct impact on the political process.
With a new administration, and a new Chair of the Environment Committee (49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden), the goal of municipalization of our power grid is closer than ever, and the meeting was a clear demonstration that ComEd is unprepared to answer basic questions about service unreliability — or why they should continue to provide electric service to Chicago at all.
My public comment is below:
Good morning. My name is Elena Gormley, and I am the Co-Chair of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, the founding organizational member of Democratize ComEd. Chicago DSA is dedicated to creating a city that enables all Chicagoans to live prosperous, healthy lives and an equitable, reliable energy system is critical to that vision. Democratize ComEd is a coalition dedicated to improving electrical service to all Chicagoans through municipalization of our power grid.
We are in the midst of a climate crisis that has impacted Chicagoans through dangerous flash flooding, poor air quality from wildfires that impacts the people who can’t work inside offices — like our hardworking UPS Teamsters, and the continued economic impacts from COVID-19 and inflation. Many of you represent wards where hundreds of thousands–and even millions of dollars are extracted for increasingly unaffordable ComEd bills.
We need a reliable power grid, and a transparent and publicly accountable municipal utility agency. ComEd does not deliver either of these.
Disconnections, blackouts, and general unreliability are an immense burden on the physical and mental health of Chicagoans. As a social worker, I have worked with countless clients who have been harmed by the electric system failing them. Lack of access to electricity, whether through lack of affordability or system unreliability, is a real, material problem for thousands of Chicagoans across this city–and it puts many working families with children at risk of unnecessary involvement in the child welfare system.
As you discuss summer preparation and ensuring service reliability, I urge you to reject ComEd’s corruption and unreliable service, reject the disastrous legacy of poor franchise agreements, and move to municipalize our power grid.
Everyone, except for two speakers during public comment, spoke on behalf of Democratize ComEd, highlighting everything from the ComEd Four corruption trial, to ComEd’s continued pattern of racially disproportionate shutoffs. You can watch the whole meeting, including public comment, here:
The only public commenters speaking in favor of ComEd were representatives of a local nonprofits and an iHeartMedia affiliated radio show, who spoke supportively of ComEd’s Community Ambassador program. This program, operated through nonprofit agencies, provides information on utility assistance and energy savings programs. ComEd’s philanthropic efforts are so limited and scattershot that I, a social worker who regularly promoted bill assistance programs through the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA) and the Federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the two largest energy assistance programs offered to low-income households, was not aware of this program or its connected funding opportunities.
The workers across Chicago who assist hundreds of thousands of families with extremely complex utility assistance applications do extremely important work — and would benefit immensely from a publicly funded and publicly accountable municipal power agency instead of ComEd’s fairweather approach to community assistance.
The rest of the hearing demonstrated something I’ve seen repeatedly as a DSA member: socialist policies and political demands are extremely popular — even among people who aren’t socialists. Critical questions towards ComEd officials weren’t just limited to members of the Democratic Socialist Caucus; alderpersons across the political spectrum had similar concerns because ComEd’s inability to provide a basic public service is apparent to everyone.
This is a political environment that we can capitalize upon to win public power in Chicago — if we organize. Join our fight to Democratize ComEd today!