Six candidates are running for three six-year terms on the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board, which will play an important role in the future of region’s environment.
If you care about your water, you should pay particular attention to this often-overlooked MWRD election.
With a respectful nod to a number of thoughtful ideas put forward by Green Party candidate Troy Antonio Hernandez, a data scientist, we endorse the three Democratic candidates, M. Cameron ‘Cam’ Davis, Kimberly Neely DuBuclet and Eira L. Corral Sepúlveda, all of whom have a better understanding of how the district should move forward.
Climate change is bringing to the Chicago area storms that are more frequent and stronger. That’s a challenge for the MWRD, which is still completing an ambitious flood-control strategy adopted in 1972, the Deep Tunnel and Reservoir Plan. TARP is a network of reservoirs and 109 miles of tunnels, one of the largest civil engineering projects in the world. It is scheduled to be completed in 2029.
But now, because of climate change, the district faces new environmental perils. It must contend with chloride runoff from road salt, basements that still flood, untreated wastewater spilling into a rising Lake Michigan after heavy storms, farm nutrient pollution flowing downstream to a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and the risk of invasive Asian carp getting into the Great Lakes.
To cope with all of that, the MWRD board should follow Philadelphia’s lead in greatly expanding “nature-based infrastructure” — permeable pavements, green roofs, rain gardens, tree trenches and land set aside for water retention. The MWRD also should follow the lead of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and do a better job of cooperating with other governmental units upstream to reduce the amount of water flowing into Cook County after storms.
Since Davis joined the MWRD board in 2018, he has displayed a thorough knowledge of the challenges facing the district and a determination to address them with creative solutions. His background as President Barack Obama’s point person on the Great Lakes, former president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes and former co-chair of the federal Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee uniquely qualified him when he first came aboard at the MWRD, and he has delivered. We also admire his policy of refusing to accept campaign contributions from contractors who do business with the MWRD and encouraging other candidates in this and future elections to follow suit.
Incumbent DuBuclet, a former state representative, is a strong supporter of expanding green infrastructure and working to manage storm water. Among her priorities are reducing home flooding in low-income communities, reducing combined sewer overflows, providing tax credits for green infrastructure, creating green building codes throughout Cook County, and ensuring land the MWRD rents to tenants is not a source of pollution. She also argues that in an era of stronger storms, the MWRD should consider expanding its Deep Tunnel system beyond its original design.
Newcomer Sepúlveda, the third-term Hanover Park village clerk and a leader in the community’s Arbor Day program, has a commendable understanding of the district’s workings. Among her priorities are environmental justice, clean water infrastructure, storm water management, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and dealing with invasive aquatic species.
The old-fashioned MWRD priority of making deals over who gets which contracts in the district’s $1.1 billion budget doesn’t cut it any more. Davis, Du Buclet and Sepúlveda are candidates who will put your water first.
Two other Green Party candidates — Tammie Felicia Vinson, a Chicago Public Schools teacher, and Rachel Wales, a farming adviser and freelance writer — did not participate in our endorsement process. No Republicans are on the ballot.
For more information about this race and others, including candidate questionnaires, go to our Illinois primary voting guide. Our newspaper is owned by a group of civic-minded and, in some cases, politically active investors; for details, see our owner information page.
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