Cleveland May Have New Air Quality Champion in Ward 2's Kevin Bishop, Who is Super Into Electric Cars

click to enlarge Kevin Bishop's eyes were closed for only a moment, and we managed to capture it! (6/27/2018). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
Kevin Bishop's eyes were closed for only a moment, and we managed to capture it! (6/27/2018).
Cleveland Ward 2 Councilman Kevin Bishop likened air pollution to cigarette smoke Wednesday morning, at a Willard Park press event announcing the release of a new report by the Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center.

"I don't know about anybody else," the councilman said, "but when I'm in the presence of a smoker, it's kind of offensive because my airspace is taken away." 

Air pollution is the same species of offense, Bishop suggested, but on a much broader scale. So what if society regarded pollution with the same distaste — and more importantly, regulated it — with the same intensity that it has regulated, and effectively marginalized, smoking?

"No right is as basic in our lives as the right to the air that we breathe," Bishop said. "And when that right is infringed upon by any group or any industry, I think that's an atrocity to society."

Bishop said that the communities he represents on the southeast side of Cleveland, including the Mount Pleasant and Union-Miles neighborhoods, have "a lot of stresses," and admitted that air quality was never high on his list of legislative priorities. But after communicating with Environment Ohio and seeing one too many smog clouds over downtown, he recognized air quality's importance, especially given air pollution's disproportionate impacts on communities of color.

Based on Environment Ohio's new report, which tabulated days of degraded air quality in 2016, Cleveland experienced elevated levels of ozone pollution on 38 days, and elevated levels of particle pollution on 105 days. The total days with either elevated levels of ozone or particle pollution — 114 days — trailed only the Cincinnati area and the Steubenville area statewide.

That research is in keeping with the American Lung Association's "State of the Air" report, which ranked the Cleveland area 10th — i.e. 10th worst -  out of 220 metros in year-round particle pollution, the sort of visible pollution that you see in vehicle exhaust smoke. 

Environment Ohio campaign organizer Nancy Goodes said that in Ohio, there tends to be more air pollution "in the warmer months," and that "reducing the amount of gasoline burned as much as possible" and "encouraging factories to use a certain amount of wind and solar energy as opposed to fossil fuels" would be helpful in improving local air quality. 

“Even one day with polluted air is too many,” said Goodes. “To make dirty air days a thing of the past, we need to strengthen existing air quality protections and reduce future air pollution threats from global warming.”

Councilman Bishop proposed solutions as well, though he didn't mention an obvious one: promoting public transit, cycling or carpooling to work. (On that note, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency's Gohio Commute tool launched last year to encourage commuting in anything other than a single-occupancy vehicle.)

Bishop said the most important thing Clevelanders can do is continue trying to influence the Federal government to prevent the rollback of environmental regulations and clean air standards. It was, perhaps, superfluous to mention that working to elect a President that was more "friendly to clean air" was part of the equation.

At the local level, Bishop said he was interested in increasing the level of education about solar and wind energy at Cleveland schools and community colleges. But his principal area of legislative interest, he said, was electric vehicles.

"We need to push for public and private funding of hundreds, or even thousands, of charging stations for electric cars," Bishop said. "We have to look at ways both locally and statewide to meet the demand and facilitate the growth of electric vehicles on our roads."

Bishop noted, as Nancy Goodes had, that surface ozone level is polluted primarily through vehicle exhaust, and that encouraging electric vehicle use would be a "great solution" to improve Cleveland's air quality. He said he supported incentives to encourage the purchase of electric cars — including prime parking spots at local businesses — and would be interested in supporting curricula for automotive repair technicians about the technology and mechanics of electric vehicles.   

Electric vehicle charging stations are currently sparse in Northeast Ohio. According to a Plain Dealer report last year, South Euclid had the most public charging stations in the region, with eight at the Oakwood Commons shopping center. Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers, who drives a plug-in hybrid, was interested in installing a charging station in downtown Lakewood last year. And a Shaker Heights-based electric vehicle car-share startup is "currently building a network of communities, partners, and sponsors."

Once again, here is a link to the Gohio Commute site

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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