Mayor Lori Lightfoot Smothers Probe Of Botched Smokestack Implosion

By James R. Scott, The Chicago Times

January 21, 2022

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday refused to release the full investigation completed by former Chicago Inspector General William Marbeck into the botched demolition of the Crawford coal power plant smokestack in Little Village.

For those that do not live in Little Village, the demolition of the Crawford plant smokestack occurred in April of 2020 and resulted in a toxic dust cloud to settle over six residential blocks.

The inspector general’s report recommended the termination of an employee of the Chicago Department of Public Health and punishing of two other employees of the Department of Buildings responsible for overseeing the demolition.

According to a report, City officials were forewarned 200 plus days before the demolition that “dust from an event like this is almost cataclysmic.”

Lightfoot touted during her 2019 mayoral campaign that she would eliminate corruption and promote transparency in city government.  Although the City Council approved an ordinance, in July 2021, that gave the mayor’s office the authority to release inspector general reports involving deaths or felonies, Lightfoot has yet to release any reports.

According to the inspector general’s investigation, Hilco Redevelopment Partners was found to be at fault for failing to ensure the demolition would not pose a threat to public health in the Little Village area.  Furthermore, three firms involved in the demolition of the Crawford site have paid $370,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

To cover her actions, Lightfoot has instituted new rules governing demolitions of this nature that require community meetings before issuance of permits and “increased” monitoring by various city departments.

Lightfoot’s office declined to comment if all of this could have been avoiding if the city officials had heeded the warnings given to them 200 days before the scheduled demolition.