As a fighter for Chicago’s environment keeps rising, Pritzker must make sure there is no relapse | editorial staff
We urge Governor JB Pritzker to appoint someone with strong environmental credentials to replace Debra Shore on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board of directors.
The governor’s election should also be someone ready to run for the remainder of Shore’s term in 2022, as next year’s board elections may be open and the board remains a progressive force on climate change.
On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced that President Biden Shore, who was a leading voice on water quality and management, has been appointed EPA’s regional administrator for Region 5, which includes six states, including Illinois, and 35 tribes . During Shore’s time at MWRD, she helped lead the agency into a new era in environmental governance. Shore has not yet submitted her resignation to the MWRD, but is expected to do so.
Candidates for three open six-year terms on the MWRD board will appear on Thursday and Friday for the Democratic Party’s preliminary planning. You will introduce yourself to the party’s slate makers, but there will be no vote at this point. Shore’s unfinished two-year term will also take place on the November 2022 vote. MWRD President Kari Steele will step down from the board if she wins her district judge race next year, and Commissioner Josina Morita is running for the Cook County board.
At the moment, it appears that four of the five MWRD seats that could stand for election or appointment next year do not contain an incumbent. With so many new members, the emerging identity of the nine-member board as a force for progressive environmental protection could be jeopardized. Proper appointment by Pritzker could stabilize the ship.
When Shore joined the board in 2006, she had strong references as a conservationist among the commissioners alone. Others who shared their priorities have since joined the board.
In the past, the MWRD, with its tunnel and reservoir plan launched in 1981, was a leader in coping with floods and securing freshwater basements, helping the district adapt to climate change, and using the landscape to collect water before it enters the sewer system , and other forward-looking programs.
As a commissioner, Shore traveled to Cook County to work to prevent unused medicines from being flushed into toilets, from which they spill into waterways and contaminate fish and other aquatic life. She was once the only advocate on the board for the disinfection of wastewater from sewage treatment plants, which is now common practice in the two largest plants of the MWRD. And she and board member Marcelino Garcia led the way in developing MWRD’s first strategic plan, which includes strong contributions from the board itself, rather than being carried over almost entirely to employees.
Shore also led the way in bringing the MWRD under the supervision of an independent inspector general, which is vital for an agency negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. And under the direction of Shore and other board members, the MWRD has received a triple-A bond rating.
Shore is described by other board members as a phenomenal colleague who asks thoughtful questions. To replace her on the board, Pritzker would be wise to appoint someone in the same forward-thinking, environmentally conscious form.
Storms get stronger. Summers are getting hotter. The lake level rises and falls in new ways. That is, the effects of climate change are already there and increasing, and the MWRD must be a bulwark against environmental degradation.
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