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ELECTIONS 2024 Precious Brady-Davis says climate change is top issue as she runs to finish appointed MWRD term
by Jake Wittich
2024-03-08

This article shared 12005 times since Fri Mar 8, 2024
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Precious Brady-Davis, commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), is one of several candidates running to fill four seats on the board in the March 19 election. Brady-Davis was appointed to the role last summer to fill a vacancy left by Commissioner Kim du Buclet, when the former commissioner was appointed to the Illinois General Assembly. Brady-Davis made history as the first Black transgender woman appointed to public office in Cook County; now she is running to be the one to finish du Buclet's term.

Brady-Davis, an environmental advocate who also works at the Sierra Club, said climate change is top of mind as she campaigns. She shared with Windy City Times how she plans to continue addressing it if elected.

Windy City Times: How have your first several months gone as commissioner?

Precious Brady-Davis: I think my first several months as Commissioner have been successful. I have been efficient, and I think that I'm doing a good job in my role. We have a big county that serves 126 municipalities, and I've tried to reach as many of them as possible. I've spent this time talking to stakeholders and community-based organizations. I also feel like one of my roles here is to serve as an environmental advocate, given my background at the Sierra Club, and I feel I've done just that.

WCT: What are your proudest accomplishments so far?

PBD: We passed a $1.3 billion budget last December for our 2024 fiscal year. This is critical to ensuring that the MWRD continues to move forward with fiduciary responsibility. I'm also proud to have supported some wonderful stormwater projects across the county, particularly serving marginalized communities.

WCT: What do you see as the most pressing issues facing MWRD?

PBD: Climate change is an extremely pressing issue that we are currently facing. This past summer, we had a once-in-100-year storm. I saw first-hand on the West Side of Chicago and in places like Cicero what the impact was of that flooding.

Prior to my tenure here at the district, there was no one place where flooding resources existed. So one of the first things I did as commissioner was to create a resource card where folks can find information, who to call when they're seeking assistance from FEMA, how to reach the local water department and what its services are. I think being efficient and getting resources out to the community is extremely important.

WCT: What role do you think the MWRD should play in addressing climate change?

PBD: I think we have a robust role in addressing climate change. Part of that is increasing our energy neutrality by bringing on wind and solar at our plants. We have to decrease our carbon footprint and expand green infrastructure projects across the county. It's about taking part in environmental justice projects. How do we support the communities who are most marginalized, who are receiving the brunt of climate change? It's also collaborating with Chicago Public Schools to give young people the opportunity to become environmental stewards and learn about green infrastructure.

WCT: How do you see the role of wastewater treatment agencies like the MWRD evolving in the coming years?

PBD: First and foremost, we saw a Supreme Court lurch to the right and strike down key provisions of the Clean Water Act. So I think it's going to be on local agencies like the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to really step up and protect our waterways. Another issue is, how are we working to support resource recovery? In terms of our water, how are we doing work to remove phosphorus? We do a service as we clean the water, and I feel a responsibility to leave places and spaces better than how we found them. It's really about us being good stewards of the environment, which is why it's important that we're expanding green infrastructure.

WCT: How can the MWRD better use its land?

PBD: I am passionate about our land use policy. I think, first and foremost, that we should be centering environmental justice. In the past, there have been leases that have been extended to corporate polluters. Since I've been here at the district, I have looked extremely closely at land that we are leasing in particular, when it comes to oil, gas and fossil fuels. I want to make sure that it's not polluting our water. I'm protecting Lake Michigan at all costs, too. For me, it's really about expanding the footprint of environmental justice. How can we expand green infrastructure projects? And for me, it's really about the creative ways we can use our land to expand environmental justice.

Another thing people don't talk about is the connection between the environment and violence prevention, so is there an opportunity to connect with young people? Or can we connect with the largest landowner in the county, which is the forest preserves? For me, it's really about centering our land use policy in environmental justice and making sure that corporate polluters aren't taking advantage.

WCT: What role should the MWRD play in monitoring wastewater for disease outbreaks?

PBD: It's something that happened during the pandemic. I know that we're not currently doing that anymore, but I do think the MWRD plays a vital role in protecting public health. I think it would be beneficial to continue reporting amounts of COVID-19 in wastewater in order to educate the public properly on future pandemics. I think doing that was a great benefit to the public.

WCT: Why is LGBTQ+ representation important on MWRD?

PBD: Representation is extremely important when it comes to the LGBTQ community in particular. I believe that when people see themselves reflected in the arc of history, they say, "I can be that too." Across the country, we've seen an onslaught of attacks, whether it's on trans youth, whether it's against black trans people or whether it's on diversity, equity and inclusion. That's why representation is important.

One of the things that I love about the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is that we are one of the most diverse boards in the state. It's important that the great diversity of our county is reflected right because it really is water that connects us all. You know, what is Cook County without Lake Michigan? What is Chicago without Lake Michigan? For me, representation is about setting an example for young people and showing them how high they can soar.


This article shared 12005 times since Fri Mar 8, 2024
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