EDITORIAL: Don’t let Rauner blow off democracy in MWRD race

SHARE EDITORIAL: Don’t let Rauner blow off democracy in MWRD race

From left, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates Geoffrey Cubbage and M. Cameron “Cam” Davis, who are running for a two-year term. File Photo. Kimberly Neely Dubuclet (right) is running for a separate two-year term. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

When did somebody decide voters should butt out of local elections?

An item on Thursday’s agenda for a meeting of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board, at least as of Wednesday evening, calls for ignoring the results of the March primary election and the upcoming November general election.


Instead of allowing the voters to choose a replacement on the MWRD board for Commissioner Timothy Bradford, who died in December, the seat would be handed to someone appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Even if this undemocratic agenda item magically disappears at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting, as we’re told it will, there’s still a major problem with how to fill Bradford’s vacancy — a problem of Rauner’s making.

In the March primary election for Bradford’s seat, two write-in candidates — Democrat M. Cameron “Cam” Davis and Green Party candidate Geoffrey Cubbage — won their respective party’s nomination.

Rauner could have fielded a write-in candidate for the Republican nomination, too, but he did not. Had he done so, his candidate now would be on the November ballot — alongside Davis and Cubbage — giving the voters the final say.

Here’s the backstory:

Bradford died last year just days before the Dec. 4 filing deadline for the March 20 primary. At that point, it was too late for anyone to circulate petitions to run for the final two years remaining on Bradford’s term, so the Cook County clerk’s office, relying on a legal opinion from the Cook County state’s attorney, announced that primary candidates could run as write-ins.

Davis and Cubbage did just that, and won their respective primaries.

But then on March 23, Rauner decided to rely on an alternate legal interpretation of state election law. The governor appointed David J. Walsh — who already is serving on the MWRD board through a previous appointment — to the Bradford seat through the 2020 general election.

All this now sets up a possible legal battle after the election. Under Rauner’s interpretation of the law, Walsh is the rightful holder of the Bradford seat. In the judgment of election officials, the seat should belong to the winner of the Davis-Cubbage race.

The MWRD has important work to get to. It must find ways to keep untreated wastewater from flowing into our rivers and lakes during storms that are expected to be ever heavier as the climate warms. It must complete the long-running Deep Tunnel and Reservoir Project. It must find more ways to recover contaminants from wastewater, such as phosphorus, which has contributed to a biological dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It must decontaminate water at all of its plants, not just two.

This is work of enormous importance to the daily lives of all Chicago-area residents. The people in charge of that work should be chosen by the people whenever possible, not appointed by a governor.

Let’s hope Rauner backs down and lets the winner of the November election take the Bradford seat. And let’s hope the item on today’s meeting agenda does disappear . . . and never resurfaces.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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