Houston | S1 E8
Residents of Chicago's north Lonsdale neighborhood had spent the better part of six years fighting John Christopher's pair of illegal dumps in talking with some of these residents. It was clear to them that this happened in their neighborhood because it was a black neighborhood. It was not a coincidence. It was by design. So that just goes to show me what you think black people and poor black communities. We can put this year this war. They didn't care twenty four was like nothing around it just when the happen in any of the neighborhood. I don't think anything can be done to black people anything. When a similar dump cropped up in a mostly white Chicago neighborhood, the one next to lane tech, high school city officials shut it down fast and operation, silver, shovel, the FBI's carefully orchestrated investigation into public corruption sprung from the Northland L dumps without factoring in a plan for cleanup. That's our ongoing story in Chicago, a city notorious for public corruption and racial divisions. But what we saw unfolding in north Lonsdale is just a symptom of a much bigger problem one that is not confined to Chicago black and Brown communities all over the country are disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards. We know this in part because of a man named Robert Bullard. My grandmother lived on a road where the landfill was located. I remember this vividly. We go there on Sunday. We've go up there in the landfill was a burning landfill. And we will go up there and play with thought nothing about it Olert and his family are black and even as a child growing up in Alabama in the nineteen fifties and sixties he noticed that the dumps like the one year. His grandmother's house seemed to be located mostly in black neighborhoods only later discovered that that was more than just a hunch. Blurred grew up to be a sociologist. And when he was teaching in Houston in the late nineteen seventies. He got involved with a group of black homeowners fighting a landfill proposed for their neighborhood. And these Houston residents started saying the same kinds of things you heard people in north Lonzo say in previous episodes. This is happening to us because we are black only they were saying it roughly twenty years before the dumps sprang up north Lonsdale Bullard wondered could he find a way to prove this and prove it beyond dispute. It was very clear, and it didn't take a rocket scientist or PHD to put the pieces together. But it did take a PHD in a lawsuit to put to connect the dots. Unfortunately, Robert bullard's efforts to tie dumping to racial discrimination. I in black neighborhoods in Houston and later in black and Brown neighborhoods all across the country. We started with magic markers. Push pens and paper maps from those humble beginnings. His work would help spark a movement, it gave this type of discrimination a name, and it would force officials at the highest levels of government to confront the kind of injustice that we've been telling you about in Northland L. I never knew that. We would you know, stumble on something that that nobody else had done. I'm Robin Aamer and from USA today. This is the city. For decades women have had two options outdated at home hair color or the time and expense of a salon. If you can relate to the struggle. And I know I can Madison Reed is the answer for you. Madison Reed is revolutionizing the way women color their hair, they believe women deserve better than the status quo. So they give you the quality of salon color, and the convenience and affordability of at home hair-color with Madison Reed, you'll look like you just came from salon, and you'll have more meat time to do what you love. So if you want beautiful multidimensional hair-color maiden Italy delivered to your door on your schedule for under twenty five dollars. Then it's time to join the hundreds of thousands of women who have tried and loved Madison Reed. Find your perfect shade at Madison dash Reed dot com. Listeners of the city. Get ten percent off plus free shipping on their first color kit with promo code the city. That's Madison dash Reed dot com. Promo code the city. In our last episode operation silver shovel became front page. News alderman and other city officials went to prison and the feds gave John Christopher new life. But the six mountain of rubble in Chicago's north Lauderdale neighborhood was still there. And there was no plan to get rid of it in this episode. We're going to hit pause on the Chicago story because we want to zoom out and look at the big picture whether the dumping in north Lauderdale is indicative of a larger national problem. So we're gonna take a side trip a thousand miles south of Chicago to Houston, and we're gonna go back to the nineteen seventies. Roughly twenty years before the first trucks dumped their first loads of debris in north Lauderdale. Earlier this year. I went to Houston with our reporter Wilson Sayer. She's gonna pick up the story from here. In nineteen seventy-one, Margaret and Charles bean were Representative of an emerging black middle class in America. Charles worked at the Goodyear Tire plant making artificial rubber and was active in the union, making sure black workers had the same opportunities as their white colleagues. Margaret worked at a factory where they made little fruit pies, she had grown up most of her life in Houston, and he had grown up in the country. But had always wanted more of a social life in the country had to offer. And now they had kids and had outgrown the apartment they got together after getting married. The couple wanted to buy a home the type of place, they could grow their family and raise children a police to have barbecues in the backyard and chat with their neighbors on walks. Charles being heard about a neighborhood. Northwood manor that was being marketed to young black families like theirs. Brother was living out there. So we've moved that for that reason alone with the advertisement on the radio stations. They advertise that area Houston is a huge sprawling metropolis. And northwood manor is out on the city's north eastern edge where the suburbs give way to more rural surroundings. The pine forests. There had been cleared to build neat. One story brick ranch homes with carports and perfectly manicured lawns. It. I would vary of press which of the one that you know, that divall home that us out and my daughter tangible with me that team, and I have to would as she thing. Who was she liked it? And so we went and looked at it. And we say, yes, we're gonna take this idea. The house the beans bought had pomegranate, peach and Plum trees in the front yard. It was their dream home. Here's Margaret well able to start my family there, raise my family. I was able to meet my neighbors, and we often will go outside and talk. And so this would make me look my neighborhood, then in nineteen seventy eight seven years after making northwood manor their home, one of Margaret's neighbors mentioned to her that company was clearing. Trees just down the street right next to their neighborhood in order to make room for a new landfill there. There a surprise. I didn't think they will put that type of lamb field next to our high school. I'll have school smile. A has school was on the side of the land field. The fruit trees, the manicured lawns. Everything that residents. Loved about living in northwood manor would now be next to dirty diapers rotten food and all of the garbage that other Houston residents wanted out of their homes who would be hauled away and left next to Charles and Margaret beans home. A disturbing thought nagged at Charles bean and his neighbors the same thought that would be shared twenty years later by north Lonsdale residents. This is happening because this is a black neighborhood. Feel like you get a deal that all undesirable things is geared toward us drags, the waste treatment plants and everything that's undesirable. You get that. That's what's concentrating. They would adding to the insult was that the company behind the landfill was marketing it to northwood manor residents as a sanitary landfill called whispering. Pines a term and a name that evoked something lovely sweet-smelling and hushed the residents knew it would be anything. But if you think about the name we'll spend fan. So that sounds pretty good. If United man full of was actually going on end, you would think that it was clean like sanitaire everything. But Senator just like the families in north Juan Dale who saw dump rise in their neighborhood across from Sumner elementary school. The residents in Houston's northwood manor worried about the smell and the trucks and the negative impact. The dump would have on their property values. That wasn't what the beans wanted for their neighborhood. So they started to rally their neighbors to fight the dump. We went from door to door knocking to give out leaflets to let our neighbors know what they're proposing to do. They organized meetings at the true light missionary Baptist church and the Barbara Jordan community centre logger was going around. And they had a Bullhorn. And they were telling residents and Pathan out flyers. This is Pat Rio one of Margaret and Charles beans neighbors their best friends now and they met during this fight. Listen to you know, we're having a meeting tonight. They're putting a landfill next door next fill where well that was unheard of. Because all you had then was awarded area you've been through a rock and landed in the Lancia from where we were. So that really got a lot of people Laura Elda because they're just buying homes and all this stuff the news that landfill was coming to her neighborhood was incredibly distressing from his row. She knew exactly how awful living next to a landfill could be when she was a kid. She grew up on a street that dead ended by another dump. This was in another predominantly black neighborhood in Houston. And we used to have so much trash and stuff and CDs big mounds, but the worst thing was a rodents in the straight aminals that it brought the stench was unbearable the dump attracted so many animals that would run through their yard her dad had to set out raccoon traps. She said neighbors would sometimes come by and watch cats battle the dumps racks some. What actually said that bit? If the Canada rent was on win the fight. And in some cases, maybe those red for bigger than the cats. Bigger was a horrible lie. Or teenager. But you know, we lived at deleted Nomo. Her family just walked away from that house, abandoned it. That was her childhood, and here, she was a new mother herself. And a new house confronting the idea that her own children would also grow up next to a dump. She was not going to let that happen. So we took over we didn't get involved. We took over Pat Roe joined the beans and several other neighbors to form a neighborhood alliance. The plan to file a lawsuit against the private company building the landfill and convince a judge to issue an injunction that would stop the dump before it could ever get started before that I pile of rotting garbage could be trucked into their neighborhood. We want to stop it in track and they were trying to build it as fast as they could. So the group hired an attorney named Linda Bullard, and she filed a lawsuit in county court in October of nineteen Seventy-nine the crux of their. Legal argument was that pudding the dump in a predominantly black community amounted to racial discrimination. But how do you prove this kind of discrimination in a court of law? Where's the concrete evidence that one dump in one black neighborhood is the sort of racial injustice that requires a judge to make things right? Linda, Bullard, it climbed our invitation to talk about this case. But we spoke to her ex husband, Dr Robert Bullard, and Dr Bullard was the one who wound up wrestling with these questions about proof the way, Dr Bullard tells it his wife walked in one day with an unexpected piece of news is she came home and said Bob filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas. You do what you sued Texas sued employer. Technically that was true. Dr Bullard was professor and Reese. Searcher at Houston's Texas Southern University. A public college. Linda Bullard had also filed a lawsuit against the city of Houston. Harris County southwestern waste management, the company trying to build beween Phil and Browning ferris industries or BFI the company that was supposed to operate. The landfill BFI was headquartered in Houston. And for a time. It was the second largest waste management company in the world. Northwood manor residents were up against an assembly of deep pocketed defendants. Meanwhile, they collected change door to door to help pay for legal fees. Linda Bullard told her husband they were going to need some help. She's sued them, and I need someone to assist in support governator for this lawsuit. Ms Bullard thought the residents of northwood manor onto something bigger. She thought they had a chance to prove that this dome in this black neighborhood was not an isolated incident. It was part of a pattern, but she needed help proving that say you need a sociologist. So that's what you are. Right, right. Dr Bullard would take on the challenge and try to figure out if there was a pattern. That's after the break. There's nobody on the planet like you. So why would you buy generic mattress built for everyone else? Helixsleep built a quiz that takes just two minutes to complete. I took it and they used the answers to match my body type and sleep references to the perfect mattress for me. I was matched to the helix dusk. And this last month has truly been the best sleep. I have ever gotten. I also tacked on a cooling cover to my order. And that last minute decision turned out to be a great one. I used to be such a sweater at night, but not anymore. Do what I did. And go to helixsleep dot com slash the city, take their two minutes sleep quiz, and they'll match you to a mattress that will give you the best sleep of your life. 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You can listen to season two of the impact or been season one right now check out the show via apple podcasts or ever, you're listening. Okay. Back to our story. In nineteen seventy nine the same year. Northwood manor residents filed a lawsuit to fight the dump proposed for their neighborhood. Dr Robert Bullard was still a relatively new sociology professor at Houston. Historically, black Texas Southern University. Let's go back to Wilson. Robert Bullard split his time between research and teaching one of his idols was w e b boys who like Dr Bullard was a black sociologist. Dubose was the first black person to earn a doctorate from Harvard and one of the founders of the N W C P, Dr Bullard admired what he called the boys brand of kick ass. Sociology combining hard research with social activism, and now Dr Bullard suddenly found himself confronted with the same kind of issue that devote himself might have tackled was racial discrimination to blame for northwood manners. Landfill problem. Getting testimony from black residents who believed this was true wasn't going to sway a judge. He needed to come up with solid evidence. And he needed to produce it fast enough to help stop the landfill before it could open the clock was ticking. What I think about that period of time. It was frantic. It was emotionally draining because you're embarking on something in terms of trying to collect data. You're trying to put together a puzzle that you'll have a lot of time to think about is full. Steam ahead. Dr Bullard wanted to know whether there was a link between the locations of waste facilities and the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods. He enlisted the students from his research methods class to gather data the first step was to find all of the garbage facilities that had been built in Houston. Dating back to the nineteen thirties. Keep in mind, this is happening in the late nineteen seventies. You couldn't just Google a list of all of the dumps and incinerators even phone book was of little use because going back to the nineteen thirties meant that some of the waste facilities have been closed for years. So Dr Bullard and his students started digging into dusty old filing cabinets in city hall, pulling up newspaper clippings on microfiche and interviewing old timers in the community to ask if they remember where various dumps had been located in giving my students lists. You do have five. On a list, and they'd go out and verify and we'd come back and put it on the map and when the other methods failed. Dr Bullard told them to trust there is and I would tell my students if you see a mountain in Houston. Houston is flat below sea level you see a mountain using these species. Landfill wants his students had cobbled together. The list of dumps they looked at the demographics of the surrounding neighborhoods. Again. This is the nineteen seventies today. A sociologist would tackle this problem with all sorts of modern tools, GPS digital maps and powerful computer programs. Dr Bullard had none of those tools. They weren't widely available at the time when he needed to run a computer analysis, he did it using one of those massive computers. You might see in a movie it took up more space than a row of refrigerators and had significantly less. Computing power than an iphone Iran a data on mainframe, computer on punch cards. So this is how ancient is like having a chisel and hammer in Iraq. He laid out big paper maps of Houston on the floor and used magic markers to color in the neighborhoods to reflect the demographics of the people who lived there is less than ten percent minority orange was tend to thirty nine in the other ones like forty to forty nine red was fifty percent of minority. Dr Bullard used push pins to Mark locations of the dumps and incinerators in as as those pins. Come in. We start to see a parent. Most of the pins would come in in red pin after pin went into sections of the map colored red the majority black neighborhoods. It wasn't just the proposed whispering pines landfill. When the pin? Started to come into the rid is. When I knew that. This was not something that was a fluke or with by accident. This was willful. It was on purpose systematic that city council members over that period of time head the sided that the pens were going in the red even though he had a hunch about what they might find. Dr Bullard was astonished at how stark the discrepancies actually were as illustrated by this map from the nineteen thirties through nineteen seventy eight five out of five city owned landfills were in predominantly black neighborhoods. Six out of the eight city owned incinerators were in predominantly black neighborhoods and four of the four privately owned landfills were in predominantly black neighborhoods for me that was on the Hamam a ha- oh label moment. Oh, this is an issue of. Discrimination. Eighty two percent of all the garbage the waste. So I've always dumped in Houston over that period of time was dumped in predominantly black neighborhoods. Even though blacks only made up twenty five percent of relation. Remember? We heard the allegation from the residents in north Lonsdale and northwood manor, but they were the ones most often stuck dealing with their cities waste, but it wasn't until Dr Bullard finished this map that there was for the first time ever actual impure ical evidence. And so these decisions intentional decisions may by white men with the garbage over there. But it over the over there. And and they're invariably was in black Muniz lag neighborhoods in Houston. This is what blurred and others would ultimately call environmental discrimination or environmental racism, a practice of disproportionately burdening black and Brown communities. With environmental hazards that wouldn't be allowed in white communities. Armed with this evidence. Attorney Linda Bullard fella she had which he needed. She could argue that this type of environmental discrimination was no different than housing discrimination, or employment discrimination or voting discrimination. It violated the Civil Rights Act. This is the first environment racism lawsuit to use civil rights law. We didn't know what we were setting out to do other than this was a form of discrimination. It was a form of racism in the way that environment policies are being implemented. This map seemed to be the smoking gun the type of thing that anybody with a pair of eyes look at and realize, hey, there's a clear connection here. But the two judges in the case disagreed, the judge presiding over the initial hearings with swayed by a different set of maps provided by the waste companies their maps purported to show that there was not a connection between landfills and black communities in Houston. The judge found these maps more credible and sided with the landfill companies. So how could the judge have rejected Dr Bullard work? I'm going to get a bit in the weeds about how a data analysis like this is done but bear with me. When Dr Bullard did his analysis. He was looking at the demographics of the neighborhood immediately surrounding the landfill the communities. Most impacted by the sight smell knows vermin of a dump the companies, however us the entire census tract where the landfill was located. That's a much bigger area potentially involving thousands of residents instead of just a few hundred that make up a neighbor. Both methods are valid, but at the time using census tracts, what the companies used was the more common and established method. There wasn't a single agreed upon way to define or measure neighborhood. That said it's hard to argue that Dr bullard's method was not at least more relevant think about your own home. You're probably more likely to get upset about a dump opening at the edge of your neighborhood than one opening up at the edge of your census tract, which could be several miles away. So we asked Mark Nichols one of our data journalists here at USA today to us twenty eighteen technology to tackle the same question. Dr Bullard faced here's Mark will what we were really trying to figure out. I think was whether the neighborhoods in which these way sites were contained basically had a greater proportion of non white. Residents. I'm not going to bore you with all the details behind this analysis. But essentially we pulled a list of all of the landfills operating in Houston from the state of Texas website, then using a computer program called arc s Mark drew circles around the dumpsites one circle had a one mile radius another three mile radius. Then the program pulled in all of the demographic data about the people living within those circles, and we could see who's living close to these landfills. Bottom line marks analysis squared with Dr bullard's in Houston garbage is far more likely to wind up in the city's black and Brown neighborhoods. But because Dr Bullard was not able to convince the judges that his methods were sound the residents of northwood manor did not get an injunction to stop the dump the whispering pines landfill opened in nineteen eighty a few years later, they lost the whole legal battle to shut down the dump. In a pretty scathing opinion, second judge rejected Dr bullard's map and analysis. Calling it inaccurate and subjective by then the landfill was estimated to be taking in between fifteen hundred and two thousand tons of garbage per day. And according to Margaret bean who later remarried and now goes by Margaret layer, the landfill was as bad as the residents feared it would be that is when we started to see the heavy trucks speeding up and down little York road and night town. We we smell this horrible odor. If you've ever been to Texas in the summertime, you know that the heat can be intense temperatures in the nineties baked the mounds of garbage piling up at whispering pines garbage would fly off the trucks and collect. Along the sides of the roads. Margaret layer said that you could smell the dumps overpowering odor throughout the neighborhood, which may be why the developer stopped building new homes there. She told us about the small white birds what she called dump birds that land on the garbage. I whispering pines then fly over to the high school. She worried about what germs they might be spreading to her daughter and the other kids at the school last year after living in northwood manor for more than forty five years. Margaret layer moved away on hip out on live over here in more. But I feel sorry for the people that still have to stay and cannot move. I was able to afford to move. You got a lot of people here can't afford to move. She feels the neighborhood started to go downhill when the landfill arrived. She showed me and Robin around during our visit. She brought us to what used to be smiley high school where you could see the landfill from the bleachers at the schools stadium. You actually see the dump from here you you can. You you can. It was so close. The landfill was so close you can actually sit in the bleaches and see the don't the trees was in here. Oh, really close very close, very clean. You could just see them walk to it is so close. Would you come to football games here? Yes. And would you be able to see and smell the Dumbo? You're sitting in the stadium. Yes. If smell like a rotten odor. Leader, MS layer, drove us across the street right up to the landfill and its massive at one hundred eighty acres. It's nearly a quarter of the size of central park and ten times the size of the bigger dump in north Lonsdale at the entrance of the facility Robin spotted some old signs. They looked like they'd been there since the dump opened in the eighties. One of them says no dead animals, please. And one of them says all tires must be split quartered or shredded prior to disposal. Absolutely, no whole tires can be accepted. And then there's another sign says, no appliances small plants is so I mean, this to me is just an indication like all of the different kinds of things that people would try to dump their cluding dead animals. They did down. They did animals are tires a refrigerator 's according to state records, the dump is still taking garbage forty years after it first opened. Although northwood manor residents would ultimately lose their court battle. They didn't go down quietly. They protested at the dumps and at city hall, Houston, didn't and still doesn't have zoning laws the kind of rules that prohibit industrial facilities from being built in a residential neighborhood. But the lawsuit and the publicity from the protests resulted in new laws that restricted where future dumps could go. Houston officials also decided that they would not allow any city trucks to dump at whispering pines. And in what could be viewed as an acknowledgement that Dr bullard's research touched on a very real problem. The state of Texas changed its criteria for deciding where to place landfills for the first time officials had to take demographics into account before approving new dumpsite. This did not help neighborhoods with existing dumps like northwood manor, but these changes energize, Dr Bullard now he wanted to use the same methodology he'd use the whispering pines case to see if placing waste in black and Brown neighborhoods wasn't just a northwood manor problem or Houston problem were even Texas problem. He thought it could be something even bigger and he was right? We lost the case. But we want a whole movement. That's after the break. Let's go back to Wilson. Robert Bullard knew that it wasn't just piles of construction debris or landfills teaming with garbage that people didn't want in a residential neighborhoods factories chemical plants contaminated land, they were all potentially harmful to people living nearby. He wanted to understand the full extent of this problem. I decided to go on a chair. And that was the boys is to start writing start documenting. He started to look outside if Houston that wanna know is this happening in other places. So I wrote the grant to fund and I wanna look at the south see this southern thing. And when he looked he found examples of other communities that had been subject to terrible pollution neighborhoods near lead smelting facilities in Dallas. Hazardous waste dumps in Sumter county Alabama a stretch of chemical plants and refineries between warlords. Baton Rouge, so notorious for making people sick. It was known as cancer alley in each case. Dr Bullard noted it was the black and Brown communities most impacted the pattern in Houston. Basically was replicated across the south in that African American beauty's would being singled out for locally unwanted land. Use landfills incinerators garbage onto chemical plants those dangerous facilities. Houston was no flu. Houston was not alone, environmental hazards, were disproportionately in black and Brown communities all over the country. These were the things that no one would want to live near well. You know, the idea that Nimby not in my backyard had really taken hold instead of Nimby what we found was pity plays in blacks backyard. Dr Bullard wrote up his findings. I in academic journals, then in a book titled dumping in Dixie, but he had trouble finding a receptive audience. He was pitching ideas that no one had previously defined recognized in. I got nasty nose back saying, well, you can't use race in environment in the same sentence. As those nice thing is in Ryan, mental Justice. You know, the environment is neutral, there's no disparity in terms of environment. Even had trouble convincing mainstream environmental groups and civil rights groups that racial injustice in the environment or topics they needed to rally around together. And it took almost two decades before our civil rights organizations groups understood how these two things connected. But through his research, Dr Bullard started to hear about other black and Brown communities all over the country. That were also banding together to fight toxic dumps landfills and other industrial facilities in their neighborhoods. A group in rural North Carolina had fought the dumping of toxic oil along the roads in their community. A group in Dickson county. Tennessee was trying to fight a landfill. Researchers were looking at the locations of hazardous waste facilities in Los Angeles. And there are more these were relatively small grassroots groups, but a name for what they were seeing started to take hold it pointed to a broader understanding that this growing national movement was about more than just stopping individual landfills from popping up in certain areas. This was environmental racism and the people involved in the movement against it. We're fighting for environmental. Justice. This group started to meet and hold conferences throughout the early. Nineteen ninety s they were trying to change the system that had allowed a mountain of construction debris to pile up in Chicago's north Lonsdale neighborhood with no repercussions a situation that was unfolding at this very same time. It had taken the Voting Rights Act to address voting discrimination and title, seven of the Civil Rights Act to address workplace discrimination. So this group of environmental Justice advocates begin to push for the same kind of landmark legal protections to reckon with environmental discrimination. They started to write letters to government officials. We wrote letters to the EPA we wrote letters to the president's council environment quality, we don't let us to health and human services, and we requested a meeting a sit down meeting, and they got one in nineteen Ninety-one. They. I met with the head of president George H W Bush's EPA out of that meeting. The EPA created the office of environmental equity, a division of the federal government tasked with studying the problem of environmental discrimination a year later, the EP released a report called environmental equity, reducing risk for all communities. It echoed what Bullard has colleagues in the movement and certain communities had been saying all along black and Brown neighborhoods were disproportionately burdened with environmental hazards. But the big moment for this movement came in February nineteen ninety four Dr Bullard and his colleagues at a conference just outside of Washington. DC fuel got a call from the White House to come over to witness something they've been invited into the Oval Office to witness President Bill Clinton signed a new executive order, and we went in and vice versa. Al goal was first degree to when we came to the door. And then President Clinton was in the background standing just in front of his desk. The environmental Justice executive order of nineteen ninety four instructed every federal agency to ensure that no one group of people was unfairly burdened with the country's waste while the president signed the executive order, Dr Bullard and the other activists gathered behind the president's desk for a commemorative photo, we showed the. Photo to Dr Bullard, doctor, right? Beverly right there, and this Wellstone, and I was done in next to the EPA minister, kale Browner and John Lewis zero in cinema. Carol Moseley Braun Senator from Illinois, and the Turner General Janet Reno was ear inn John Lewis, and we all smiling these activists, the parents of the environmental Justice movement were here to watch their movement legitimized by the highest official in the country. The measure acknowledged that environmental racism was real. It was also a pledge that the federal government would do something about it. We were all just really. We never thought is this something that would happen. So environmental Justice had reached the White House later the same day Carol Browner than head of the EPA walked into the White House press room and declared that it was time for the federal government to ensure environmental Justice for every community in America. The president joined by representatives from community groups across this country, just signed an executive order. Nobody can question that for far too long communities across this country, low income minority communities. Have been asked to bear disproportionate share of our modern industrial life. Today's executive order is designed and we'll seek to bring Justice to these communities. Standing next to Browner during the speech was US Attorney General Janet Reno she committed her agencies prosecutors to holding people and companies accountable for environmental discrimination. But at the very moment that President Clinton was signing, the environmental Justice executive order at the White House. In Chicago operation, silver, shovel was underway. A mob associate turned undercover informant by the name of John Christopher was illegally dumping debris in Chicago's black neighborhoods. And he was doing it while working for the FBI. If you drew a big enough org. Chart of the Justice department at the time, John Christopher's boss's, boss's, boss's, boss, or whatever was Attorney General Janet Reno. Recognizing problem and doing something about it are two very different things. After the signing ceremony in Washington. It would still be another two years before operation, silver, shovel thrust. John Christopher's illegal dumps into the limelight. And even then it wasn't angry residents writing letters were kids getting sick or injured that shamed. Government officials into fixing the problem. It wasn't even a newfound commitment to environmental Justice. What ultimately got the debris out of north Lonsdale was the publicity that followed a major public corruption scandal, featuring a mob connected mole, the kind of publicity that other communities across United States will never get. The outrage and embarrassment that followed in silver shovels, wake sparked glimmer of hope as political leaders rushed in to try to fix the problem in north London. The civil show was story broke. And then the thing I saw was just Jackson standing on top of the pal in. Yeah. We did this and we send. No, you didn't. That's next time on the city. The city is a production of USA today. And it's just tributed in partnership with wondering you can spice to the show on apple podcasts or Spotify forever. You're listening right now. If you liked the show, please rate and review us and be sure to tell your friends about us our show this week was reported and produced by Wilson Sayer, Johnny Koss, same Greenspan and me Robin Aamer additional reporting for the Sepah sewed by Mark Nichols episode was edited by Matt dig additional editing from John Kelly and Amy pile. Then Austin is our story consultant for jewel music and mixing is by Hannah's Brown. We will review by Tom Curley additional production by Taylor making Phil Corbett Isabel cockerel and Bianca media's our executive producer is Liz Nelson. Chris Davis is our VP for investigations, Scott Stein is our VP of. Product the USA today networks president and publisher is mayor bell Wadsworth. Thank you to our sponsors for supporting the show and special. Thanks to scout bloom Michel Yussef and Daniel's cove additional support comes from the fund for investigative journalism and the social Justice news nexus at Northwestern University. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at the city pod or visit our website. You can see the Oval Office photo of Bill Clinton, and Robert Bullard and the other environmental Justice activists, then if you're in Chicago, please join me and the rest of the city team on Wednesday, December fifth for alive community conversation. Cosponsored by WBZ. We'll be at the skyline conference center in north Lauderdale. We'll take you behind the scenes of the podcast and introduce you to some of the north Lonzo residents who fought to get rid of the mountain to reserve tickets, go to our website. That's the city podcast dot com.