Green Town Hall: IVI-IPO’s Focus on Economic and Environmental Health

The growing focus on the connection between manufacturing and urgent environmental issues was a key topic at The Green Town Hall, a virtual event held on May 10 by IVI-IPO (the Independent Voters of Illinois and Independent Precinct Organization).

David Robinson,  Director of External Affairs for Manufacturing Renaissance, was one of three panelists at the event. The other panelists were Kim du Buclet, a former Democratic state representative and current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and Josh Boggioni, a partner in the law firm Hinkhouse Wiliams Walsh LLP who has extensive legal and volunteer experience on environmental issues.

Panelists agreed that there is currently a great opportunity to address environmental issues in an equitable way and build partnerships to make that happen.

“Our belief is there must be a complete and inclusive all-hands-on-deck approach to environmental stewarding,” said Robinson, whose background includes pioneering efforts on recycling and waste management issues with the Harold Washington administration in Chicago. “We believe that legislation and activism alone will not solve the environmental crisis. Innovation and manufacturing will also begin to drive sensible, smart environmental policy.”

The goal, he said will be “support a healthy environment and healthy economy.”

Manufacturing Renaissance is playing a key role in the Manufacturing Renaissance Agenda, a national coalition effort that is engaging with the White House about ongoing initiatives to build infrastructure, address climate change and other issues that impact manufacturing.

Boggioni suggested that perspectives about climate change are shifting. “Environmental and climate change policy has been discussed as being adverse to economic development, and that’s simply not true or borne out of data,” he said. He noted that overall energy consumption decreased in 2020 –  but renewable energy consumption increased by 7 percent.

Amidst overwhelming evidence about the impact of climate change, panelists reinforced the importance of educating the public and continuing to build support on this issue.

“Climate change is real,” said du Buclet. “We need to be aware of it, and mitigate climate change issues.” She emphasized the effectiveness of reaching out to elected officials. “Legislators listen to voice mails, read emails, text messages – and if the majority of constituents are telling them to take a certain action, more than likely they will.”

During the Town Hall, panelists also discussed a wide range of issues facing people in Illinois and around the country. One prominent topic was the prevalence of lead service pipes in the country – and especially in Illinois. The state may have as much as 25% of all lead service pipes in the U.S., according to Boggioni. In Illinois, Black and brown residents are far more likely to live in communities with lead service pipes than others. Lead in drinking water has been linked to health problems for decades.

Robinson suggested how Manufacturing Renaissance can play an important role in addressing this issue. “We’d want to get stakeholders together, determine what could replace these pipes, and figure out what kind of training would be needed for workers who replace them. It’s going to be about getting industry, environmentalists, and communities together.”