ALTON - More than 20 area residents gathered in the parking lot of College Avenue Presbyterian Church in Alton to rally for clean jobs. According to a release from the Sierra Club, the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill will “strengthen policies to ramp up renewable energy like wind and solar to 35 percent by 2030, and cut energy use through efficiency by 20 percent by 2025.”

“With our local coal plant set to retire on June 1, we are fighting statewide for policies that will jump-start Illinois's energy economy,” Laura Asher, chair of the Piasa Palisades Group of the Sierra Club, said in a release. “We need new, family-sustaining jobs for workers impacted by the rapidly changing energy market. The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill provides funding for workers and communities in transition, which would help ensure the Riverbend is not left behind. This is why we're calling on Senator (Bill) Haine and Representative (David) Beiser to advocate for our community and become co-sponsors of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill.”

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Many spoke at the event in favor of the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (House Bill 2607/Senate Bill 1485), some even calling elected officials by name. Pastor Norma Patterson, the President of the United Congregation of the Metro East spoke passionately about the issues of clean jobs in her community of East St. Louis.

“Jobs can be clean,” Patterson shouted during her speech. “Who says that the water has to be dirty? No. This governor needs to change his attitude, otherwise we'll end up like the people in Flint,drinking dirty water.”

As the bus taking the area residents to Springfield was loading passengers, Patterson said she was inspired to take a stand for clean jobs partially due to her outreach ministry in East St. Louis. As the pastor of Good Shepard of Faith, Patterson said she watches many young people, especially minorities, suffer through not having jobs. She believes the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill will remedy that lack of jobs for people in her community.

“We have issues with minority workers in this state,” she said. “They're not getting hired on construction sites or highway projects. The Illinois Clean Jobs bill will open up a whole new world of work for people.”

Edwardsville High School senior Eden Vitoff, who began the Green Lyfe initiative to introduce man-made climate change into the hearts and minds of high school and college students, spoke of a book he read in middle school regarding climate change.

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“I was only really made aware of man-made climate change in middle school, when I read a book on the subject,” Vitoff said in front of the small crowd. “The book talked about the droughts, the floods, the famines, the fires that happen all over the world as a result of man-made climate change. It talked about the rising sea levels and the rising rates of extinction of our world's animals and plants. I read on and waited for the happy ending at the end of the book, that would say climate change wasn't that big of a deal, that it wouldn't affect me. I never found that ending.”

Eden Vittoff speaks about how the story of climate change has no happy ending with perpetual inaction

Vitoff continued to speak about the importance of recognizing man-made climate change for what it truly is, and denounced those debating the opposite. He said science and moral authority demand change in the method energy is extracted and utilized by the current systems of transportation and industry.

Before the crowd departed to lobby in Springfield, Asher directly addressed elected officials, saying, “Sen. Haine and Rep. Beiser, will you stand up for us?”

Asher said she and the group were going to Springfield for the rivers, land and air too long polluted, children who cannot breath without inhalers, loved ones with cancer and families who need jobs to put food on the table.

She concluded the event by leading a chant of “get on the bus!” and said, “Rep. (Dwight) Kay, Gov. (Bruce) Rauner, Sen. Haine and Rep. Beiser, we are coming. Wake up.”

Laura Asher concludes the rally by calling for elected officials to co-sponsor the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill


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