Candidates for the important but often overlooked office of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District commissioner were among those front and center at a recent forum hosted by the NAACP Westside Branch.

The Westside Branch on Feb 16, hosted its second of several primary election forums scheduled now through the March 20 Primary. Commissioner Debra Shore and a representative for Patrick Thompson, who are both running for one of three seats on the Water Reclamation board, attended the forum.

Wallace “Mickey” Johnson, who’s running for committeeman of the 24th Ward, which covers portions of Austin, Lawndale and Little Village, also made an appearance. Ald. Michael Chandler (24th) and current ward committeemen did not attend the forum at Reverend B.T. Little Community Center, 1300 S. Kedzie.

The NAACP, a nonpartisan organization that doesn’t endorse candidates, invited all contenders running for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Cook County Board of Review, 24th Ward Committeeman and delegates for the National Convention to the Feb. 16, forum.

One issue raised by multiple community members in the audience was the lack of registered voters on the West Side and across Chicago.

“Is there really a particular reason why it’s only 23 percent of this area voting – is there a good reason why?” Lawndale community member Lamont Bennett asked Johnson, the 24th Ward Committeeman candidate.

Johnson replied that too often candidates only come to the communities when it’s time to vote.

“We need to come out during non-election cycles, too. Once we show that we care, then your response will be to vote,” he said.

This primary election year, less than 1.3 million people registered to vote – a record low, WBEZ has reported.

Shore, who’s running for a seat on the water reclamation board, said if she’s re-elected, water conservation, green infrastructure and efforts to reduce flooding will be her top priorities.

The Water Reclamation District, which does not determine water rates in Chicago, treats water after it’s used, Shore explained.

“As someone once said, ‘you flush, we take it from there,'” Shore said.

The incumbent’s also trying to pass a storm water ordinance that would require new developments in Chicago to capture more rain on site to help reduce flooding.

Only three of the six candidates running for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District will win seats on the board. At the March 20 ballot, voters will be allowed to vote for up to three candidates. They cannot vote for a single candidate multiple times.

If you go

The Westside Branch NAACP's next forum is scheduled for 11 a.m., Saturday Feb. 26, at United for Better Living Community Center, 4540 W. Washington. Candidates running for 7th Congressional District, state senator and representative, and U.S. Congress are invited to attend. For more info: NAACP Westside Branch: 773-261-5890