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The Mechanics
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Chicagoland Tue Jan 13 2009

The Governor's Next Appointment

While the Roland Burris docudrama was playing out, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Patricia Young quietly announced her resignation. Young will be stepping aside to take a full-time public affairs job with the MWRD that pays nearly twice as much. The kicker: under the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Act, the vacancy is filled by...appointment of the governor "until the next regular election."

No accusations have been made that Blagojevich tried to sell this seat, a $50K job that most treat as part-time, but no doubt there are many who would oppose his filling the vacancy. Will he? Should he, now that he's been formally impeached? Unlike the U.S. Senate, where a political argument could be made that Barack Obama may well need that Illinois vote, no compelling urgency to fill the vacancy jumps out. But unlike the U.S. Senate scenario, there doesn't seem to be any requirement that Jesse White put his thumbprint on an appointment -- so it would seem to be at his complete discretion.

The District's storied history as a place rife with murky dealings that the public rarely even hears of would seem to set this up as perhaps one last big opportunity for some pay-to-play type chicanery. Hard to imagine that any of the more nefarious influences on county politics want Pat Quinn having the choice.

The MWRD is an agency desperately in need of some new blood. Out of the sunshine, it doles out enormous sums on contracts and bond issues incomprehensible to the average voter, all the while pouring tax dollars into a Deep Tunnel project destined to go on seemingly forever but with no apparent progress in stemming city and suburban flooding, or releases of sewage into Lake Michigan.

Regardless of who makes the pick, some supporters of Mariyana Spyropoulos are urging she get the nod. This last March, she just missed nomination for the MWRD, coming in fourth in a field that gives the Democratic advantage to three. Spyropoulos had the endorsement of both the Trib and the Sun-Times, as well as environmental groups such as the Sierra Club.

I doubt we'll see any clamor for a special election for this spot, so we could do worse than slotting in someone who already demonstrated some voter support as well as the approval of third-party reviewers.

 
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