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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Democratic Primary

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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    Black
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    Shore
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    Steele
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    Thompson
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    Young
Black
Birthdate: 9/2/1941
Occupation: Property Tax Consultant
Marital status: widowed
Spouse: N/A

Education:

Masters Degree in Public Administration
Labor Law Certificate
Real Estate Brokers License
S.R.A. Designation with the Appraisal Institute
Master's Thesis on Environmental Clean Up Recovery Act

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
Shedd Aquarium B.O.S.S. Advisory Board
Chicago Association of Realtors
Appraisal Institute
State Treasurers Community Affairs Council – Co-chair
Chair of NAWBO- PAC
Wetlands Research Board Member
Neumann Family Service Board Member
NAWBO Liaison to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

1981 - Centralia Township Assessor
1985 – Re-elected as Centralia Township Assessor

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None

Shore
Birthdate: 8/3/1952
Occupation: Commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
Marital status: Domestic partner
Spouse: Kathleen Gillespie

Education:

I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Goucher College in Baltimore, MD with a degree in Philosophy & Visual Arts. I earned a Master's degree from Johns Hopkins University in Liberal Arts and a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia College (Chicago). In 2008 I earned a certificate in Executive Education from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

I serve on the board of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, the Illinois Women's Institute for Leadership, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute (Chair), and Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette. I was the founding editor of Chicago Wilderness Magazine and am an active volunteer with the North Branch Restoration Project restoring prairies and oak woods in the forest preserves. In 1996 I became a founding board member of Friends of the Forest Preserves. I am also a member of the Women's Board at the University of Chicago.

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Elected as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago in 2006.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None

Steele
Birthdate: 6/17/1975
Occupation: Senior Formulating Chemist/L'Oreal
Marital status: Single
Spouse: n/a

Education:

Chemistry Pre-Med degree, with a minor in Biology, from Xavier University of Louisiana.

Currently I'm a Formulating Chemist for a major cosmetic company. I also have experience working at The Jardine Water Purification Plant as a Water Chemist, and working for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District as a lab tech and water sampler.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Illinois Women's Institute of Leadership (IWIL), Sierra Club, Society of Cosmetic Chemists, Chatham Avalon Park Community Council, The 6th Ward New Democrats, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and 8th Ward Women's Auxiliary Council

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

No

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None

Thompson
Birthdate: 7/8/1969
Occupation: Attorney - Burke Warren McKay & Serritella
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Kathleen G. Thompson

Education:

I received my B.A. from St. Mary's University of Minnesota in 1991 and then in
1999 received my J.D. from The John Marshall Law School.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Illinois Attorney General Business Advisory Council
Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Chairman of the Board of Directors
The Louis L. Valentine Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, Immediate Past President and current Board Member
Aquinas Literacy Center, Past Chairman and current Board Member
South Loop Chamber of Commerce, Secretary
Leadership Greater Chicago, Fellow
Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, Board Member
The John Marshall Law School Board of Visitors
Nativity of Our Lord Parish Finance Council
11th Ward Democratic Organization
Irish Fellowship Club President

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Yes. In 2000, I was elected Delegate to the Democratic National Convention and in 2004. I served on the Rules Committee to the Democratic National Convention.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

In May of 2011, I joined Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C.. The Firm historically has represented various governments in a variety of engagements. Such engagements include the Village of Barrington Hills, the Chicago Park Disrtrict, the City of Chicago and the Village of Bridgeview. While at a prior law firm, myfirm served as special counsel to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Young
Birthdate: 11/5/1955
Occupation: Retired
Marital status: Not married
Spouse:

Education:

I hold an undergraduate degree in communications from Columbia College
and a master's degree in public administration from the Illinois
Institute of Technology.
In addition, the hands-on experience working for the Metropolitan Water
Reclamation District and serving on the Board of Commissioners has been
a tremendous education. The practical experience I have gained has
served me well and has been invaluable to me in making critical
decisions which affect the tax payers of Cook County. Commissioners are
elected to represent the people of the county, and my work experience
provides with the knowledge and and expertise needed to make informed,
and oftentimes, tough decisions relating to MWRD policy and operations.
Of all the candidates seeking this office, I have the most experience.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

Emerald Society, Friends of the Chicago River, IVI/IPO
until recently: the Water Environment Federation
and National Association of Clean Water Agencies, Greater North
Michigan Avenue Association and various neighborhood organizations
(South Loop, North Dearborn.)

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

Yes. I served as a Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater
Chicago from December 1992 through January 2009.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None.

Campaign information
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    Black
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Black

Campaign headquarters: 100 N. LaSalle Street, Suite 810, Chicago, IL 60602
Website: www.voteforstella.com
Campaign manager: Liz Caldwell
Campaign budget: Estimated Budget $100,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Our campaign contributions, to date, have all been under $250 and have all been made by individuals.

Shore

Campaign headquarters: P.O. Box 4674, Skokie, IL 60077
Website: www.debrashore.org
Campaign manager: Eric Nelson
Campaign budget: $325,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Fred Eychaner- $5,000
Kathleen Gillespie- $5,000
Laura Ricketts- $5,000
Rose Worldwide, Inc.- $5,000
Jennifer Rule- $2,500

Steele

Campaign headquarters: P.O. Box 198837 CHicago, Il 60619
Website: www.electkaristeele.com
Campaign manager: Shari Newman
Campaign budget: $50,000.00
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
1. John O. Steele - $10,045
2. Larry Rogers, Sr. - $2,556.82
3. Deborah Steele - $1,575.00
4. Robert J. Douglass - $1,500.00
5. Cherrie Steele and Kisha Steele - $1,000 each

Thompson

Campaign headquarters: 20 S. Clark Ste 400 Chicago IL 60603
Website: www.PatrickDThompson.com
Campaign manager: Claudia E Chavez
Campaign budget: $200,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
Matt Basil - $5,000
Ronald Kaminski - $2,500
John George - $1,500
Frank MaMahon - $1,500
Eric Sedler - $1,500
Stephen Beard - $1,500
Michael Daley, $1,500
Donald Allman - $1,500
Rosemary & Edward Cox - $1,500

Young

Campaign headquarters:
Website: Will send youthe website when it is activated.
Campaign manager: Self
Campaign budget: $30,000.00 to $50,000.00.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
I do not have a campaign fund opened as yet.

Progress has been made, but there still is no stormwater-management ordinance for Cook County. We still experience flooding that pollutes waterways and damages property. What will you do to get an ordinance passed?
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Black

In 2005 the District was given authority to act as Cook County's stormwater management agency and developed a draft ordinance in 2009. I support passage of an ordinance as soon as possible because it is essential to protect our wetlands as habitats for wildlife and our homes from recurring flood damage. It is important to provide uniform standards for requiring development and re-development projects to employ better stormwater mangement practices. Passage of the ordinance would better allow for coordination with the City of Chicago, suburbs and adjacent counties to ensure maximum benefit from all regional projects. The ordinance, effectively applied, will help manage floodwater damage, soil erosion and improve our overall water quality.

To expedite passage of the ordinance, I would work to form a Coalition of other Commissioners, concerned community organizations and homeowners plus Environmental groups, to set up a series of Neighborood and Township hearings. I have faith in an informed public. These hearings, and the attendant publicity, would both educate and put the ordinance on the public's agenda. I would work cooperatively with any and all other Commissioners to put passage of the ordinance at the forefront of what is needed to ensure standards in development and re-development projects and to more effectively manage floodwaters.

Shore

I intend to shepherd the proposed Watershed Management Ordinance to passage in 2012 following completion of an economic impact analysis requested by numerous municipalities. I anticipate that the MWRD Board will hold a public study session to discuss any changes to the draft ordinance and then will adopt it, perhaps by mid-2012. I will be reaching out to numerous community and conservation groups to make sure their voices are heard in support of a strong ordinance. The fact that so many Cook County residents have experienced severe flooding in recent years should help secure public support for these reasonable measures to reduce flooding and protect water quality in our rivers and streams.

Steele

It is my understanding that it is very likely the stormwater-management ordinance for Cook County will be passed in 2012 before I join the Board of Commissioners. If the ordinance has not passed before my hopeful election, I will fully support the ordinance by lobbying and educating other Commissioners about its importance for our community.

Thompson

I believe it is extremely important to mitigate storm water flooding events we have
experienced in recent years. The record rainfall and changes in our climate many
continue to create serious challenges for managing our storm waters. I also understand the concerns of local municipalities and their concerns with the affects
the ordiance may have on development. I believe there must be direction and leadership from the Board. If communities have concerns, we must address those concerns and make decisions as to how to proceed. As a lawyer I believe I bring specific skills to negotiate these complex legal documents. I also have the experience as a real estate attorney who has negotiated with government and know how to get things done.

An ordinance must be approved and I will make it a priority.

Young

The MWRD was designated by the Illinois general assembly as the Cook
County Storm Water Management Agency in November 2004. As chairman of
the storm water committee when I served as a commissioner, I lobbied
the general assembly to grant the MWRD authority .
The MWRD's Ordinance is has been an extensive work in progress for
several years. Coordinating and establishing the councils of
governments in each watershed to ensure public participation has been a
tremendous and successful effort.
Two years ago we were near the final stages of the draft Ordinance, and
it was distributed at numerous public meetings that were held by the
MWRD, where members of the public were invited attend and public
comment on the WMO sought and strongly encouraged.
Following these meetings, municipal leaders throughout the county
requested that an Economic Impact Study be completed before the final
Watershed Management Ordinance was approved.
The MWRD is now in the final stages of completing this EIS, and the WMO
should be finalized later this year . Numerous storm water management
and stream bank stabilization projects are in
progress, as well as the $30 million Heritage Park Flood Control
Facility in Wheeling.
I will continue to advocate and work to expedite further construction
projects now that we know what projects will provide the most immediate
cost benefits to the region, and move them to the top of the priority
list of projects to begin first.

Cook County is a significant contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans, due to nutrients in effluent. What would you do to remove nutrients from the effluent?
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Black

The MWRD voted 8-1 recently to install the disinfection technology at two of the three main water treatment plants. This is a good first step towards the goal of having our major waterways clean and safe enough for recreational activities.

I support disinfection at all MWRD plants, therefore I support adding disinfection equipment and procedures at all treatment plants not now disinfecting to improve water quality in Cook County, as long as we have scientific data proving the need for disinfection. I support measures that result in clean water. I would seek to bring together Commissioners and relevant Environmental groups around implementing disinfection at plants that do not currently disinfect. The goal is for disinfection to reduce the risk for human illness and improve the integrity and sustainability of our waterways. One potential method would be the increased use of wetlands which would not only would assist in the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus but also help grow the wetland ecosystem in the Cook County area. We must be certain that whatever disinfection methods are used do not result in airborne contaminants being released.

It is important to monitor and regulate the amount of pharmaceuticals - especially endocrine disrupting pollutants - in our waterways. Physiological and chemical changes due to exposure and ingestion of endocrine disrupting pollutants have been widely documented in wildlife. Over time I believe these changes will be catastrophic to the ecosystem. There is now strong evidence that there is a negative human impact to longterm ingestion of these pollutants as well. I am calling for a Pharmaceutical Water Decontamination Plan that will:
a. Provide regular detection and monitoring of pharmaceuticals in MWRD waterways
b. Create convenient drop-off locations in every MWRD ward and township to make recycling pharmaceuticals easy
c. Provide free mail-in packages for MWRD residents to mail pharmaceuticals for recycling.

I believe that the implementation of a pharmeceutical recycling program combined with measures to reduce discharge of pharmaceuticals into our waterways is a priority.

I would absolutely support educating the public on the dangers of fertilizers containing phosphorus and the fact that adding phosphorus is unnecessary to lawn health and contaminates our watersheds. If the state cannot adequately enforce the current law banning commercial lawn care companies from using fertilizers containing phosphorus, the public can support and use the services of companies who obey this important ban and respect our water supply.

Shore

I believe the US EPA and IL EPA will propose a new standard requiring removal of phosphorus in the NPDES permits for the three largest wastewater treatment plants. These permits are likely to be issued in 2012. The District is already exploring a biological removal process that may produce a slow-release fertilizer product affording retail sales opportunities. I also support the concept of treatment wetlands where plants take up nutrients and will encourage the District to explore opportunities for wetland treatments as well.

Steele

To remove nutrients from the effluent, I would support upgrading the treatment process to make sure there are no detectable amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen in the discharge. Pollutants contributing to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico are decreased during the current treatment process, but the addition of another step to ensure there are no detectable amounts of nutrients in the effluent would help protect the natural aquatic system. Therefore, I would research options for advanced waste water treatment processes used by other dischargers in the Great Lakes watershed. I would also explore the idea of MWRD assisting in the efforts to remove nitrogen and phosphorous through constructed wetlands.

Thompson

If elected, I would support and work to remove nutrients such as phosphorus from the
District treatments plant to improve water quality standards, reduce the possibility of water contamination and help to reduce the District's impact in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, the MWRD is one of the state's largest landowners with over 9,000+ acres of land. I would work to utilize some of the land available to the District to construct wetlands, which are an effective tool to removing nutrients. Lastly, I think we must explore using UV to reduce nutrients in effluent.

Young

This is a national problem. Fertilizers that contain significant amounts of
nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are applied on farmlands across
the Mississippi River Valley, and are also considered to be a major
contributor, and these chemicals runoff into the waterways,
contributing to the problem as well. A national effort needs to be made
to reduce/ban the use of these chemicals in fertilizers in order to
realize a significant reduction of nutrients in our waterways.
Locally, we could install wetlands ( where there is land available,)
and incorporate nutrient removal systems in the treatment plant
process, although MWRD engineers estimate that this would add
significant costs to Cook County tax payers since this technology is
very costly.
There needs to be further studies to determine the source before any
one agency is targeted as the sole/major contributor and required to
place additional financial burdens on their tax payers to rectify this
problem.

What will you do to finish TARP and the McCook reservoir?
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Black

The Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP) was instituted to protect Lake Michigan from raw sewage contamination, protect rivers and streams and provide a place for floodwaters to go instead of onto our streets and into our basements. The Tunnels have been completed.

The Majewski Reservoir has been completed, as part of Phase II of TARP, and holds 350 million gallons of water and has provided over $206 million in flood damage cost reductions to the communities it serves. At an initial cost of $45 million it has certainly served the county well.

The McCook reservoir is under construction and due to be completed in 2017. It is estimated to provide over $90 million in flood damage cost reductions to the over 3 million people it will serve.

Obviously, it needs to be a priority to finish TARP and complete the McCook reservoir. I would work with other Commissioners to ensure completion and stay on schedule towards that completion.

The District's public outreach can continue to educate the public about the role of TARP and reasonable expectations regarding continued overbank flooding and storm water back-ups. The District should continue coordination with the City of Chicago, suburbs and adjacent counties to ensure maximum benefit from all regional projects. The District should pursue state and federal funding for qualifying projects to make the best use of local monies.

Shore

I voted along with my colleagues on the MWRD Board in favor of a consent decree with the federal government that sets a firm timetable for completion of the Thornton and McCook reservoirs. I am exploring whether the state and other government bodies may be able to mandate or provide incentives for preferential purchasing of the excavated material from the reservoirs for use in road-building by public agencies. The mining operators will only remove as much material from the excavation sites as they have a market to sell and this has slowed down work on the reservoirs -- we need to figure out ways to enhance that market.

Steele

There is great demand for completion of TARP and the McCook Reservoir, and I support efforts to make their completion a top priority. It has been projected that completion of the projects will increase MWRD's storage capacity of storm water and waste water, resulting in a decrease of occurrences when untreated sewage overflows into the waterways of the Chicagoland area. I'm unfamiliar with every detail about TARP and the McCook Reservoir schedule, but as Commissioner, I would immerse myself in the details and work closely with my fellow Commissioners to gain their insight and expertise. Also, there should be an increased educational focus on what citizens and municipalities must do to assist in preventing flooding.

Thompson

One of the first actions I would take as Commissioner would be to accelerate the
completion of the TARP. The McCook Reservoir is not expected to be completed
until 2027. We must look at alternative solutions both temporary and perhaps
permanently to complete TARP. With the recent record flooding we have experienced over the last 2 years, the completion of the TARP would help to mitigate the flooding damage.

Young

The tunnel portion of the Phase I of the Tunnel and Reservoir Project
(TARP) is completed. The Thornton Reservoir is expected to go on-line
in 2015, and the McCook Reservoir is scheduled to begin operating in
2017.
In an effort to keep costs to local tax payers to a minimum, I will
work with members of Congress to ensure that Federal dollars continue to
fund 75 percent of the cost.

What proposals do you have for reducing the amount of rainwater running into sanitary sewers?
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Black

It would be a priority for me to prevent flooding and storm water run-off through establishing regional real estate standards for new developments honoring the unique needs of all municipalities. It would also be a priority for me, as a member of the Wetlands Research Board, to create and maintain wetlands as an effective means for managing stormwater.

I would support lowering the threshold for volume control measures to 5,000 square feet for all types of development as it will better control local flooding and help alleviate overburdening of the existing sewer system.

I would support setting the threshold for stormwater storage and detention requirements to 1 acre of development as that would ensure that runoff release requirements are applied to more properties and therefore the benefits of such requirements will be increased.

In order to reduce flooding due to the loss of natural flood water storage, I would support a higher floodplain compensatory storage ratio as it would would provide a higher factor of safety for the loss of existing floodplain storage.

I strongly support the use of green technologies in the management for storm water. Research about implementation of such technologies is still needed and the District could certainly be a leader in providing data and expertise. The District's storm water program provides an excellent opportunity for researching and supporting the use of green technologies. The District should work collaboratively with all relevant agencies to perfect the use of green storm water management technologies.

Shore

The issue of infiltration and inflow (I/I) is one of the biggest challenges facing the MWRD -- and some estimates suggest that 80 percent of the problem is with private laterals leading from personal residences and businesses to the municipal sewers. I would like to see the MWRD establish a revolving loan fund to assist local municipalities and homeowners in remedying this problem by providing matching funds or low- or no-interest loans for repair of broken laterals and pipes. Years ago the MWRD had an aggressive program to work with municipalities to reduce infiltration and inflow but did not follow through (many downspouts that had been disconnected, for example, were subsequently re-connected by later homeowners). MWRD needs to partner with municipalities in enforcing caps on i/I. The District's new executive director has pledged to host a "sewer summit" with municipalities and to work in a collaborative way to reduce I/I.

Steele

One proposal I have to reduce the amount of rainwater running into sanitary sewers is to increase community outreach in educating homeowners about the issue. I also propose encouraging all residents and homeowners of Cook County to practice “volume control measures” to promote the options available to capture, retain, and infiltrate rainwater on-site. A few examples of these measures include constructing rain gardens, porous pavements, and rain barrels. Another proposal involves businesses obtaining technical assistance from MWRD and potential grants from the state & federal government as incentives for construction of these control measures.

Thompson

The MWRD must demonstrate its commitment to green infrastructure programs by
utilizing such programs at its own facilities. I propose that the District use rain gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavers at all MWRD facilities. Furthermore, I would propose that MWRD work with communities to offer grants to local governments to encourage the government to utilize green
infrastructure programs as well. We must lead by example.

Young

For many years both, both as a staff member and an elected official, I have
advocated the disconnection of downspouts from, the sewer system, the
installation of rain gardens and permeable pavements, and the use of
rain barrels to collect rain water and reduce
the amount rain water infiltrating the sewer systems. I would like to
see the MWRD reinstate the low interest loan program it
previously had that was created to assist local communities with
rehabilitating their broken sewer systems by offering them low-interest
loans to expedite their sewer rehabilitation projects
We should be utilizing open land and wetlands to assist in storm water
management. I will work with and encourage local communities to set
aside land and consider installing tunnels to move water to open lands
and designated wetlands that can naturally absorb rain fall.

What would you do to promote transparency at the District to make it easier for taxpayers to know how their money is being spent and how the District's policies affect the environment?
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Black

My key priority would be to make sure that all contracts and leases are bid. I would strive to reduce MWRD's property tax burden and save money by improved management of the District's wide real estate holdings. I would establish a financial oversight committee to provide an independent examination of the way the District spends our tax dollars.

Although the District has dependable sources of revenue, the budgets for all programs should be closely and regularly examined by the Board of Commissioners to ensure that any and all proposed expenditures are in line with appropriate policies and District responsibilities.

My experience as a real estate broker will enable me to review leases and make determinations as to the merits of the District's leased properties and gives me the ability to help manage the MWRD's extensive landholdings and projects. I am also able to analyze the MWRD's property tax situation both from their perspective and that of the taxpayers. I have a Master's Certificate in Labor Law and an understanding of the skilled labor required by the District's many projects.

I would propose that, in a timely fashion, all District transactions are easily and readily available online to taxpayers, as well as to vendors. Our goal should be an open process, one that expands the pool of qualified bidders. Taxpayers should be able to directly access any bids granted in this open process, and review the standards for ensuring that all expenditures meet District environmental policies and responsibilities.

Shore

The District already puts its budget and board documents on its web site for public access and has received high marks from the Civic Federation for doing so. I intend to push for much more graphic material on the District's web site showing how rain moves across the landscape, how decisions are made to open the gates or locks to release stormwater to Lake Michigan, and how the wastewater treatment process works. In the past year, the District has begun podcasting Board meetings and offering a live video stream as well. These are positive steps that I supported.

Steele

I will promote transparent and accountable governance by developing a standard communication plan to inform the public about the agency's operations and annual operation budget. I plan to attend community meetings throughout Cook County to increase awareness about the District and how the District can assist citizens of the county. I plan to be accessible to inform constituents about MWRD affairs and the impact they have on the environment.

Thompson

I believe that water will be to the next century what oil was to the last. Many people are not familiar with the critical role the District plays every day. I will work to increase partnerships between MWRD and municipalities across the District to hear directly from the residents it serves and what issues concern them the most. In addition, I believe the Board meetings should be televised and the website should be made more user friendly. I will be an active Commissioner who will go out and meet with residents, community groups and other interested parties to discuss ways the District can improve the quality of life in our communities. There must be more outreach and engagement.

Young

I will request that written transcripts be posted on the MWRD's web site
following each Board meeting, study session and open public
meeting/hearing. Currently, only the agendas/post agendas are
published. Audio is available (and is of very poor quality which does
not encourage people to listen.) No written verbatim transcripts are
published. There seems to be a reluctance to video tape the meetings
and post those on the internet as well. As a commissioner I will
request that video of all Board meetings, study sessions and public
hearings be available through public access television or at the very
least, through the MWRD's web site, and that written verbatim
transcripts of all public meetings are available on our web site as
well. The public should not have to request and pay for transcripts
through the Freedom of Information Act to find out details of MWRD
contracts and expenditures.( When I was the Manager of Public Affairs I
was the designated Freedom of Information officer for the MWRD.) The
public financially supports the operations of the MWRD and should not
have to make special requests to gain information that was part of a
public meeting.

Some neighboring states want Chicago area locks closed to stop Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. What is your opinion on closing the locks? What should the District do to guard against invasive species? Do you support hydrological or ecological separation of the watersheds?
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Black

Closing the locks is to stop the spread of Asian carp is a controversial move for a number of reasons. I am opposed to lock closure because of its serious economic impact on commercial and recreation boat traffic and the need to open locks to prevent flooding.

The electrical barrier has its own set of problems, including the need to shut it down for maintenance, during which time poison was applied as a protective measure, killing an enormous number of fish and only one identified Asian carp. There are also several possible points of entry for carp above the electrical barrier.

I would support ecological separation of the watersheds. By preventing the interbasin transfer of organisms through our waterways we can best protect both these waterways from damaging invasive species such as the Asian carp. The separation would mean we do not have to continue reliance on less effective measures that have all, this far, ultimately failed. We must, however, thoroughly investigate all possible repercussions of permanent separation.

.The District should coordinate efforts with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other agencies to try and find the safest and most effective means of dealing with the Asian carp problem until, if it is determined to be safe and feasible, ecological separation can occur.

Shore

Closing the locks will not guarantee that Asian carp won't reach Lake Michigan (there are numerous other pathways for them to reach the Great Lakes) and will certainly cause massive flooding under certain storm conditions. I am intrigued by the idea of a hydrological or ecological separation of the watersheds -- and that doing so might be a way to re-engineer freight transport in this region -- but I need to know much more about the costs and benefits of such a separation in the various locations where it might occur. Some people have put forth a number of misguided proposals, in my view, such as killing all fish in the waterways by allowing raw sewage to suck up all the oxygen, so one of the key things I can do is to insist that wiser heads prevail.

Steele

I feel the closing of the locks might solve one issue, but will create several other issues. The District should initiate more innovative research and development to guard against invasive species. It would benefit the District to collaborate with other environmental agencies to stay abreast of changes that may affect our primary water source - Lake Michigan. This proactive approach can initiate trial testing, to give quicker solutions to pressing issues when they occur.
For the purpose of stopping Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan, I support hydrological separation of the watersheds and support evaluating scenarios for separation points. Scientific testing has shown that this will be the most effective long-term solution. With ecological separation, there will still be occasions when invasive species can invade Lake Michigan.

Thompson

The debate over whether to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi basins is a very complex discussion. I understand one of the motivations for separating the basins is to prevent the transfer of aquatic invasive species and I support the prevention of those species. However, the motivation for reversing the flow of the Chicago River was to divert sewage away from Lake Michigan. While we continue to do this, I also believe we have a responsibility to continue to clean the water in the CAWS, starting with disinfection. I also believe that we must review the Army Corps of Engineers' Great Lakes and Mississippi River Inter-basin Study before we make any decisions pertaining to separating the two basins.

Young

This is a serious national problem. The MWRD has been working with state and
federal agencies to seek a solution and protect the lake. Asian carp
have been in Lake Michigan for many years and have been listed in the
Michigan fishing guide of fish that are found in the Great Lakes
published in the 1990s. Re-reversal of the river and removal/relocation
of the locks are drastic steps that need further study (which is
ongoing.)
Closing the locks might be the quickest way to prevent more Asian carp
from entering Lake Michigan, but closing the locks and re-reversal of
the river could potentially cause flooding in the Chicagoland area.
If the locks at Lake Michigan are closed, there may also be a negative
impact on the local economy due to restricting barge traffic that bring
goods and supplies to the area. Industries along the have been
established to provide a location for barges to load and unload their
cargo. The economic impact could be significant . Truck traffic would
probably increase as well if the barges needed to unload downstream.
Perhaps a compromise would be to allow the Chicago River to flow back
in its natural direction into Lake Michigan, starting at its original
location. A barrier/dam in the river near the South Branch could be
installed. This would enable barge traffic to continue into Chicago.
Obviously any scenario needs to be thoroughly studied by local, state
and federal agencies before any final determination is made as to the
best solution to combat Asian carp.

What is your environmental resume?
  • [ + ]
    ALL
  • [ + ]
    Black
  • [ + ]
    Shore
  • [ + ]
    Steele
  • [ + ]
    Thompson
  • [ + ]
    Young
Black

Master's Thesis on the Environmental Cleanup Recovery Act
Wetlands Research Board Member
Shedd Aquarium B.O.S.S. Advisory Board Member
Participation in numerous beach sweeps

Shore

Since the early 1990s I have been an active volunteer engaged in habitat restoration in the Cook County forest preserves. Through that work, I learned firsthand about the globally-significant biodiversity surviving in remnants of our native landscape in the Chicago metropolitan region. In 1997 I helped to launch Chicago WILDERNESS Magazine, a quarterly publication devoted to the rare nature of the Chicago region and to the inspiring stories of people working to protect and restore it. Subsequently I became a leader in the Chicago Wilderness consortium of more than 250 public and private organizations working together to preserve the biological diversity here. In 1996, I helped to found Friends of the Forest Preserves and served on the board of that group for a while. In 1997 I was appointed by Cook County Board President John Stroger to serve on his Community Advisory Council on Land Management, which I did until 2007. In 2005, I was one of three representatives of Chicago Wilderness to attend the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation.

In addition, I've written about natural resource and national parks issues for Outside Magazine, Southwest Airlines Spirit, Travel Holiday, the University of Chicago Magazine and won a Peter Lisagor award for my editorials in Chicago WILDERNESS Magazine (in 2003).

I ran for commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in 2006 because I believe water is going to be "the" issue in years to come and this agency has a key role to play in managing our precious freshwater resources. At that time, I was the first person in 20 years to run for the Board with any kind of conservation credentials.

I am pleased to report that my efforts – joined by my colleagues – have resulted in some significant achievements in the last five years, including:
• Voting to support disinfection of the wastewater discharged into the Chicago waterways at two large treatment plants to improve water quality and recreational use
• Appointing in June 2011 the first executive director in 50 years to come from outside the ranks of District employees
• Conducting rigorous tests of three different permeable surfaces in the parking lot at the Stickney treatment plant to monitor performance, providing essential data on this green infrastructure approach in our climate
• Promoting a green procurement policy at the District, including purchase of electric vehicles

Oh, and I've climbed 42 of the 54 mountains in Colorado more than 14,000 ft high.

Steele

As a scientist and environmentalist I fully understand the importance of conserving our natural resources. I practice conservation in my everyday activities, both professionally and personally. From my utilization of energy efficient appliances to my personal recycling habits, I try to live a responsible eco-friendly existence. As a community activist, I embraced the City of Chicago's recycling program and encouraged others in my community to participate. I'm also a member of the Sierra Club.

Thompson

I am a very proud to be a Board member of the Historic Chicago Bungalow
Association (HCBA). The HCBA's main goal is to preserve Chicago's bungalows
while updating to meet current building standards. We promote green technology as viable alternatives to renovating your home. In addition to my work with HCBA, I am an attorney handling real estate related matters. From working on detention and retention issues to landmark projects, I have been involved with and am sensitive to environmental issues.

Young

I have worked promoting/advocating the protection of our drinking water
supply, Lake Michigan, since I began working for the MWRD years ago. I
am very proud of the work our staff has done to protect the health of
Cook County residents by preventing pollution of the lake and inland
waterways. I have volunteered to clean up litter along the banks of the
waterways, and have attended various green fairs promoting the use of
rain barrels by residents.
I have addressed hundreds of civic, community, educational and
fraternal organizations promoting water conservation and residential
utilization of green infrastructure such rain barrels and rain gardens
to capture/reuse rain water and prevent flooding. I am proud of my
career at the MWRD and the accomplishments we have made protecting our
waterways to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy
this priceless resource.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
The candidates
Stella B. Black
Patricia Horton
Debra Shore
Kari K. Steele
Patrick Daley Thompson
Patricia Young
The office

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District operates seven water reclamation plants and 23 pumping stations, largley in Cook County. The district also controls 554 miles of sewers and 76.1 miles of navigable waterways.

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