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About the Candidate
Name: Rachel Wales
DOB: Feb. 19, 1984
Occupation: Environmental educator and freelance conservation writer.
Political Experience: I currently serve as the Worth Township Committeewoman representing the Green Party, and previous to that I worked for a few years as a campaign field organizer on the Southwest side of Chicago with Organizing For Action. I have also been an active volunteer over the years with a myriad of local environmental campaigns including the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter and the non-profit animal welfare organization Crate Free Illinois. Most recently I advocated for the reproductive rights group NARAL, and was selected to represent them on the cover of their Illinois pro-choice America primary voter guide.
What is your vision for this office?
While there are many pressing matters that the MWRD have to contend with, there are a few outstanding needs that haven’t been fully addressed. One of those continues to be the large amount of harmful phosphorus discharge entering and polluting our waterways. This is a problem that costs taxpayers upwards of millions of dollars and poses a serious risk to their health.
In addition, I believe that continuing to add green infrastructure is especially vital—especially in lower socioeconomic areas, as many of these communities tend to experience environmental issues such as flooding and water contamination.
These neighborhoods also tend to be overlooked as it pertains to proactive green construction approaches being put in place, which could help prevent these problems.
What do you think is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?
As it stands today, the majority of residents in Cook County are concerned about the ongoing issue of flooding resulting in property damage.
With climate change, the city of Chicago has been receiving more rainfall, and as a result the MWRD must make it a priority to approve green projects that will lessen the stress placed upon the current archaic gray infrastructure and sewer systems in the city.
This can be accomplished by placing an emphasis on a low impact environmentally friendly approach such as permeable pavements and neighborhood rain gardens, which would cause the water runoff to be absorbed into the soil, reducing the amount that reaches the sewers.
These projects are also less costly than continuing to repair aging infrastructure—or spending millions of dollars on the Deep Tunnel project, which may or may not be successful. Addressing this problem will also in turn help to reduce the serious environmental and public health issue of polluted water containing harmful bacteria that is expelled into Lake Michigan on a daily basis.
If I am elected to the MWRD board I would push for a green infrastructure policy plan that would make it a requirement for specific green infrastructure to be created within the Chicago area, which would serve to reduce home flooding and sewage overflows. This has been successfully accomplished in other major metropolitan cities that do not have the immense budget that the MWRD has and there is no reason as to why the city of Chicago cannot follow suit.