Mayor David Miller and his Chicago counterpart [made] a joint address [Wednesday] to the Great Lakes Congressional Breakfast in Washington, D.C. the first time a Canadian mayor has been invited to the annual event.
The speech gave about 150 representatives, including U.S. congressmen and senators, a chance to learn about Great Lakes initiatives, policies and programs.
As co-chairs of the Great Lakes Cities Initiative a bi-national coalition of municipal governments, Miller and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley spoke about how municipalities are helping to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
"I think this is a tremendously important initiative, not just for Toronto, but for Canada," said Miller. "This is a chance for cities to step forward and say the quality of water in the Great Lakes matters to our future as well."
Kick-started by Daley 1 1/2 years ago, the Great Lakes Cities Initiative works with federal, provincial and state governments to help clean up and protect the largest body of fresh water in the world. Serious environmental problems face the Great Lakes on both sides of the border, including poor water quality from raw sewage runoff, the spread of invasive species and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.
Wanting lakefront cities to be part of the solution, Daley formed the Great Lakes Cities Initiative to give municipal governments a strong voice and active role in Great Lakes planning. About one third of the 55 member cities are Canadian.
"Often cities are brought in at the end of the process, but cities ought to be involved from Day 1," said David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes Cities Initiative.
"There's a certain practicality that mayors bring to a problem," Ullrich said. "It (the solution) has got to be able to work and it has got to be affordable. There's also a real accountability at the mayoral level. If beaches are closed, the mayor will see people on the street that day who will complain of the problem."