Illinois Green Party member Rob Sherman, 63, of Poplar Grove, died in a tragic plane crash on Friday, December 9th. A small aircraft enthusiast, Sherman was piloting his home-built single-engine aircraft en route to an event in Schaumburg when it went down. The Illinois Green Party extends its condolences and sympathy to his family.
Sherman was nationally known as a proponent of atheism and ardent defender of the First Amendment wall of separation between church and state. He first achieved prominence in 1986 by suing the city of Zion to remove a cross from its municipal seal. He was once arrested for demonstrating when the Calumet Expressway was rechristened the Bishop Ford Freeway. In the late 1980s, on behalf of his son, he challenged an Illinois law requiring the recitation of the pledge of allegiance, and its expression, "one nation under God," in public schools. In 2007, on behalf of his daughter Dawn, he challenged another Illinois law mandating a "moment of silence" in public schools. He filed a number of other legal actions that exposed and challenged state appropriations and laws that promoted religion. He appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and his efforts frequently received national attention.
Sherman joined the Illinois Green Party in 2007, and he ran for Congress in the 5th Congressional District as a Green in 2016, winning 4.6 percent of the vote. His staunch defense of civil liberties was compatible with the party’s views and were welcome within the party. To be candid, his views on other subjects were not always as well received and were the source of occasional controversy. However, it is fair to say that most party members recognized him as a resolute and relentless advocate of his point of view, and many appreciated his knowledgeable understanding of the sometimes arcane legislative process in Springfield. He also deserves credit for exposing, and calling some attention to, Governor Bruce Rauner’s flagrant violations of the Gender Balanced Appointments Act, which requires that appointments to boards, commissions, committees and councils of the State "shall be gender balanced to the extent possible."
At a time when some political forces in America continue to try to define the United States as a "Christian" nation, and seek to use government resources to promote or impose their religious beliefs on others, we would do well to remember Rob Sherman’s example as a fierce defender of the First Amendment’s protections against the state establishment of religion.
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A letter to Illinois public officials in support of sustainable, affordable community-based renewable energy and energy efficiency; and opposing a nuclear power bailout and rate hike.
November 27, 2016
To Our Elected Officials:
An energy transformation is currently taking place not just here in Illinois, or in the U.S., but worldwide. This transformation is coupling the best of modern technological innovation and entrepreneurial innovation with increased community control and democratization.
Since the Fall of 2013, dire utility predictions and several competing pieces of energy legislation have been put before you for consideration. The majority of these, coming from existing utilities, promote policies and advocate plans that ignore the worldwide energy transformation taking place, and would mire Illinois in methods, technologies and systems of the past. Worse still, a bailout of uncompetitive nuclear plants that rewards the anachronistic systems of the past would inhibit the vital and necessary growth of truly renewable sources of energy at a time when both the environment and the Illinois economy desperately require their expansion.
You cannot allow this to happen. Mortgaging our energy and economic future to preserve the past and a relatively small number of jobs with an uncertain future is inevitably self-defeating public policy, particularly when available alternatives result in benefits being allocated statewide.
We, the undersigned Illinois organizations and governmental entities strongly urge you to take the following actions:
- First and foremost, and independent of all other energy policy considerations, fix the Illinois Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, at least to the level prescribed in the Clean Jobs Bill: 35% renewable energy by 2030, and 20% increase in efficiency by 2020.
- Do not bailout or in any other way subsidize uncompetitive nuclear reactors. Other options which have not been fully explored exist for Exelon if they wish to preserve their corporate assets. Do not define nuclear as either “clean,” nor “renewable” energy.
- Ensure that there are no subsidies for coal-to-gas conversion or incineration.
- Preserve solar net-metering.
- Oppose a legislatively mandated demand charge. Rate design should only happen through an evidence-based, transparent process involving all stakeholders through the ICC.
- Ensure environmental and economic justice, particularly for low income communities, indigenous populations, rural communities and communities of color by:
- Investing in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency, prioritizing community-based where practicable.
- Prohibiting monopolistic utility control of community solar.
- Expanding resources, energy-related job creation and programs for low-income communities, communities of color and communities with the highest burden of pollution to make up for the higher pollution burden and historic disinvestment.
We pledge our resources and efforts to work with you to make these proposals reality. Thank you for your consideration and your efforts to create a forward-thinking energy future for Illinois.
Demand Charges Will Raise Rates and Make Bills Harder To Predict
- Demand charges allow utilities to set rate they charge consumers for energy on the 15-30 minute “peak use” period when each consumer uses the most power in a given month. This means that bills will be determined on the 15 minute interval you use the most energy, not how much energy you use overall.
- Because they are based on the highest rate, demand charges will raise rates and bills for almost everyone. At the same time, it will strip consumers of the ability to lower their bills by using less power. Individual home demand is exceedingly difficult for most consumers to track, given that it varies day to day and is only 15-30 minutes long. It will be almost impossible for most consumers to track their peak usage and change their behaviour to be more energy efficient or lower their rates.
Demand Charges Are Unfair and Unjust
- With demand charges, bills will, on average, be higher. Low-income people already pay an inordinate proportion of their income to the power company. Demand charges would reinforce and worsen this situation.
- At the same time, low-income folks and people on fixed income can least stomach the sudden month to month rate hikes that individualized, changing demand charges would introduce.
- Many low-income Illinois residents have to work two or three jobs and only have a couple hours each week to get all their chores done. Under demand charges, the working poor, who would have higher peak uses, and pay higher rates than those who use more, but have the luxury to spread their use out over time.
Demand Charges Would Kill Solar in Illinois
- Currently solar is economical because ratepayers who put up solar panels can recoup the costs of installation through reduced energy bills (since your overall usage is lower, you get charged less) over time.
- Under demand charges, the rate you pay will still be based on that 15-30 minute window of peak use, not your overall usage. So putting up solar panels, even selling back to the grid, will not reduce your bill as much. Furthermore, the fact that demand charges mean bills are different month to month means solar panel consumers can’t rely on consistent pay back from the grid.
- Illinois needs to be expanding both the amount of solar energy we generate and increasing the amount of people who can access it, not adopting rate structures that undermine a core part of the clean energy revolution.
Demand Charges are Un-Democratic
- Demand charges eliminate the General Assembly’s and Illinois voters’ ability to regulate rate changes in a democratically accountable way and replaces the rate structure with an arbitrary and opaque rate structure that would allow big utility interests to raise rates with impunity.
- Demand charges hurt poor people, sabotage the development of solar energy in Illinois and hands over control of yet another facet of everyday life to profit-driven corporations. They must be opposed.