ENDORSEMENT: Davis, DuBuclet and Sepúlveda for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in the Democratic primary

These candidates would guard against flooding in an era of stronger storms and work to improve the environment.

SHARE ENDORSEMENT: Davis, DuBuclet and Sepúlveda for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in the Democratic primary

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates in the Democratic primary (from left) M. Cameron “Cam” Davis, Kimberly Neely DuBuclet and Eira L. Corral Sepúlveda.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Three candidates for the three open seats on this board have displayed notably strong leadership on the important issues facing the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District: incumbent Commissioner M. Cameron “Cam” Davis of Evanston, incumbent Commissioner Kimberly Neely DuBuclet of Chicago and three-term Hanover Park Village Clerk Eira L. Corral Sepúlveda.

They are endorsed in this crowded Democratic primary field of 10 candidates.

The MWRD, once a haven for insider dealing, is facing ever-growing challenges in guarding against flooding in an era of bigger storms — and in improving the environment at a time when the federal government has walked off the job. The district must become a leader in combating climate change, led by people who can get the job done.

Davis has been a valuable member of the MWRD board since he was elected in 2018 after an unusual write-in primary race. He has been a leader in setting the district’s environmental agenda, having come to the board well prepared by his previous experience 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. 

What is the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District?

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which is governed by a nine-member board, guards the safety of Lake Michigan water, protects businesses and homeowners from flooding and operates seven plants to treat industrial and residential wastewater. Its boundary is 883.5 square miles, roughly Cook County, and it serves 5.25 million people.

The MWRD is the second-largest landowner in Cook County, and Davis would like to see some of its unused property put to use for community farms and stormwater management, especially on the South Side. He wants to devote MWRD land to solar and other renewable energy projects, as well, and increase the production of energy from biogas. This is a kind of fuel naturally produced from the decomposition of organic waste — including municipal sewage waste.

DuBuclet, a state representative from 2011 to 2013 and former director of legislative and community affairs for the Chicago Park District, has supported important pro-environment MWRD initiatives during her two years on the commission’s board. She has worked with local governments and communities to promote environmentally friendly building codes, and she has advocated for financial incentives to encourage the use of permeable pavement and rain barrels to catch rainwater. These are simple, practical measures that can reduce the amount of stormwater flooding the system — and homeowners’ basements. 

Sepulveda is an energetic and thoughtful newcomer who has demonstrated a keen interest in  environmental issues. She says she first became interested in the work of the district as she walked her children to school across MWRD property, and she became more involved when her home flooded. As a Hanover Park official, she says, she learned how the village manages its own sanitary sewer treatment plant, which serves the DuPage County portion of the village outside of the MWRD’s jurisdiction. 

Among Sepulveda’s priorities would be expanding Cook County’s 2014 Watershed Management Ordinance to cover small residential developments, further preventing new construction from contributing to flooding. She also would revise the district’s new ethics ordinance so that it still cracks down on lobbyists and contractors but does not lump in nonprofit environmental organizations that worry they will be mired in new red tape for any paperwork errors they might make as they provide input to the MWRD. And she would push for a sensor system similar to one in Kansas City that would provide real-time data on when it is most efficient to open flood gates. That could reduce combined sewer overflows, which pollute Chicago area waterways and Lake Michigan. 

Also running are longtime incumbent Commissioner Frank Avila of Chicago, high school teacher/coach Mike Cashman of Chicago and Michael G. Grace of La Grange, a vice president trustee of the South Lyons Township Sanitary District. Other candidates — Heather Boyle of Norridge, Deyon Dean of Riverdale, Patricia Theresa Flynn of Crestwood and Shundar Lin of Chicago — did not participate in our endorsement process.

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.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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