Candidates for MWRD Respond to Candidate Questionnaire

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidates running in the November General Election submitted the following responses to the Cook County Farm Bureau® questionnaire. 

The responses enumerated below do not represent the policies or positions of the organization. 

No endorsements have been made by the Cook County Farm Bureau® Political Action Committee.

Frank Avila, Commissioner (Democrat)

Email address: friendsforavila@sbcglobal.net

Website: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cwZt1SqSsZw

Facebook: Commissioner Frank Avila

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?  (1) Treat waste water in a cost effective way to minimize the expense to the Residents of Cook County.  (2)  Educate the public on toxic chemicals in our personal care products, cosmetics, food, and the effect of pesticides, herbicides at the front end before it comes into our system.  (3) Improve environmental responsibility including the regulation of waste disposal to protect our waterways.  (4) Eliminate toxic chemicals from the source to prevent endocrine disruption; to protect the health and safety of district residents.  (5) Protect the quality of Lake Michigan water; to improve the water quality area waterways and protect aquatic life.  (6) Control commercial and industrial waste discharged to the sewers and waterways.  (7) Maintain our facilities and infrastructure.  (8) Implement technology that positively impacts the environment.  (9) Continue to work with local municipalities and other government agencies to minimize and manage flood damage.  (10) Ensure financial stability.  (11) Keep energy costs to a minimum.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  Education and promote environmentally responsible projects.

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?  The MWRD has to follow the State of Illinois Purchasing Act and to accept the lowest responsible bidder.  The MWRD should use an eProcurement Business Process Solution.  The MWRD should offer numerous Workshops on how to do business at the district.  The MWRD web site’s Home Page should be more user friendly and easy to navigate the following:

• Where to go to find procurement opportunities.

• How to register as a vendor.

• Different contract opportunities.

• List of plan holders.

• The day MWRD is going to advertise.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  We recently passed the Cook County Watershed Management Ordinance, which includes green technologies. Green technologies will be utilized as much as possible because of the environmental and financial benefits; reducing run-off reduces the wastewater flow coming into WMRD system and reduces our costs.  The MWRD is in the process of removing phosphorus at the Stickney Wastewater plant by enhanced biological phosphorus removal. Once removed the MWRD will recover the phosphorus using OSTARA and will sell 10-14,000 tons of phosphorus a year.  The MWRD is working toward being energy neutral in maintenance and operations to save 60 million dollars of energy costs over the next ten years.

The MWRD is driving down energy costs by the following:

• Purchasing electricity at discounted rates through a competitive auction.

• Continuing the use of sewer thermal technology which utilizes the ambient temperature of wastewater as an energy source.

• Another significant effort underway that will help us achieve this energy neutral goal is the Anita Mox

Deammonification process at the Egan Water Reclamation Plant. This process will completely change the way nitrogen is removed from wastewater and will conservatively reduce energy usage by 40%, saving 120 million kWh annually, the equivalent energy provided by 15 utility-scale wind turbines or enough energy for 4,500 homes.

• Create energy from sewage solids, organic waste material, and water. There are new technologies that will increase the biogas production from the anaerobic digesters.

Within the current confines of the budget, what are the best avenues to deliver services and information to Cook County residents?

• Work with all the municipalities and agencies.

• Work with the schools to inform their teachers and students what we do at the MWRDGC.

• Use Social Media.

• Speak to various groups throughout the county.

• Tour the MWRDGC.

• Participate in various events throughout the county.

• Operate efficiently in a cost effective manner to keep our cost down.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  I am an incumbent with twelve years of experience. I was elected Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago in 2002 and re-elected in 2008.  I have a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois; and a Master of Science in Finance, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. I attended numerous conferences/classes on Protecting our Water Environment, Wellness, and Health and Welfare of the Residents of Cook County.

I received the “2012 CITIZEN ENGINEER OF THE YEAR AWARD” from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Illinois Section, and the “2013 PRESIDENTS AWARD” from the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Chicago Professional Chapter for my work to protect the health and safety of the public and protect the quality of water in the Chicago area waterways.

I am the only candidate who has a combination of education and experience as a civil engineer, land surveyor, and environmentalist. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is an operational-type of agency to protect the water environment, and my experience and education as a Professional Civil Engineer State of Illinois, Professional Land Surveyor State of Illinois, and Environmentalist relates to protecting the water environment and the health and safety of the residents of Cook County. I have over 40 years’ experience as a Civil Engineer. I chair the Maintenance and Operations Committee, the Engineering Committee, and the Health and Welfare Committee. My Committees oversee seven waste water plants. Three are considered some of the largest in the USA, and one is the largest in the world.

I give talks, and host and produce CAN-TV shows emphasizing prevention by eliminating toxic chemicals in our personal care products, cosmetics and proper disposal of pharmaceutical drugs.

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Cynthia Santos, Commissioner (Democrat)

Email address:  csantos730@yahoo.com

Website:  CynthiaSantos.com

What you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking, facing the MWRD?  Disinfection of Chicago Area Waterways(CAWS) is an issue the MWRD is facing with regards to long-term planning for combined sewer overflow compliance.  In line with the Consent Decree initiated by the USEPA there will be new regulations that will require the expansion of infrastructure and operations that the MWRD will need to finance and implement.

As a result of the Disinfection Task Force study, a combination of more efficient use of UV disinfection and selective chlorination/de-chlorination technology will provide more effective treatment of effluent.  While this process does not come cheap, the task force has suggested methods to internally deliver a process that was well under the expected operation and maintenance costs by elimination of a low lift pump station and initiating measures that consider flows at both their maximum and average basis.

The Cook County Community continues to raise its expectations of the CAWS as a recreational development opportunity.  With the completion of the Board initiated storm water watershed plans, the MWRD is moving into the design and construction phase of projects that will relieve future flooding throughout its service area.  The combination of these projects coupled with the completion of the TARP project and development of green infrastructure in the region will ensure that the MWRD remains the lead agency in protecting Cook County’s greatest asset, its water resources.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  My priorities if re-elected are as follows: 

 Develop a County-wide Green Infrastructure Program that works with other municipalities, community leaders, and civic minded folks that wish to take Cook County to a new level of environmental sustainability.

Second, I wish to establish leadership term limits so that no one person leads this agency for decades.  Each member of our board has something to offer this agency and new direction is healthy and often warranted.  .

Third, I would like to see greater public outreach and education.  While we have seen some improvements as of late, we need to ensure that the public is able to interact with our agency in order to gain information and relay information to the district as I am fully committed to environmental sustainability.  I have supported all green initiatives during my tenure and will continue to do so.  I work within my community on local projects that promote conservation and recycling.  As a leader in my community, I have promoted and assisted with community garden projects, neighborhood clean-ups and beautification projects for years.  My passion has always been community service and I am always looking for ways to improve my community. 

What avenues exist to increase revenue and to reduce waste at the MWRD?  When I was first elected to this agency in 1996, the MWRDGC employed over 3,000 men and women.  Today, we have around 2,000 employees as the board, with my support, has worked diligently to streamline our agency without jeopardizing our agency’s mission.   I would support the continuation of streamlining when possible while looking for other ways to make our treatment process more economical without jeopardizing the effectiveness of our mission.

The MWRD has a huge amount of land throughout Cook County and some outside of Cook County, ie., Fulton County.  We have been fortunate in finding lessors for our property that has increased revenue for our agency while keeping the ever-growing monetary demand of our agency away from taxpayer’s pockets.  This leasing program works well as long as the board keeps public use of our property as its #1 priority, and only leases land that proves not to conflict with this philosophy.  I would support the continuation of this process and as land values continue to increase, so will the revenue for our agency. 

The MWRD works under a self-imposed tax cap as to minimize the burden for Cook County     taxpayers.  Due to our fine Financial Condition, we are able to borrow money at the lower possible interest rate eliminating unwarranted dollars that would be ultimately passed on the Cook County taxpayers. 

Within the current confines of the budget, what are the best avenues to deliver services and information to Cook County Residents?  Electronic communication is the most economical venue.  Information can be delivered quickly, efficiently and effectively via the internet.  The MWRD already uses electronic communication whenever possible.  I would support the increased development of this communication process.

Other avenues which are worthy of further investigation would be the inclusion of information through the current process of sewer/water bills mailed by local municipalities.  I have asked our Executive Director to pursue this measure as an added information tool with little added cost for our taxpayers. 

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  I have served the MWRD since 1996 with integrity.  I have the experience and knowledge that will prove beneficial to the residents of Cook County now and in the future.  Since my election in 1996, I have strived to improve myself personally.  I completed my undergrad education with Honors and I am two classes away from my Master’s Degree in Political Science with a focus on Public Policy, graduation Spring of next year.  I continue to have the energy and commitment toward the MWRD and look forward to my next term.

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Tim Bradford (Democrat) did not respond.

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R. Cary Capparelli (Republican) candidate for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Website address: rcarycapparelli.com

Facebook: R. Capparelli for MWRDGC Commissioner

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?  The primary responsibility of the MWRDGC Commissioners is to provide safe water management. The Commissioners must manage a $1.6 billion budget as an accountable cost-effective agency and be environmentally conscientious simultaneously accommodating the public citizen, for personal and recreational use, and the agriculture and industries that provide jobs. This is a challenging endeavor for any dedicated professional. The Board of Commissioners has been controlled by a single party for over 40 years. This kind of ‘monopoly’ creates an atmosphere not conducive to good government. Comfort ability causes mismanagement of how tax monies are spent; particularly major bidding processes that favor the politically connected. The MWRDGC government needs balance to better address issues pertaining cost-effectively protecting its water supply.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  The Board of Commissioners must continue its efforts to implement proven ideas but explore new innovative technologies that will improve water challenges and demands yet environmentally conscientious. However, the Commissioners need to be more accountable for its spending. Sole party domination has allowed for overruns, delays, and waste in general.

What avenues exist to increase revenue and to reduce waste at the MWRD?  Per se, as a government agency, there are only two methods to increase revenue for the MWRD: to increase taxes and/or to sell off assets. At this time, I cannot endorse one or both.

To reduce waste, first the budgetary process must follow basic sound principles: it is imperative for a budget to be responsible, accountable, absolute and adhered to. Overruns should not be tolerated. This funnels from each department within the agency and are conceivably manageable. Proper management has the abilities to control a large portion of waste by each department before it reaches the board. The board provides the final approval or rejection of budget items that are mandatory, controversial, or simply not needed. It would seem to me these departments and the bidding process for major projects would make two good starting places to limit and stop waste.

 

The entire procurement process needs to be vetted to permit appraisal and correction as it is a potential source of waste. In my opinion this should be done by an actual independent committee or arbitrator with experience in this area. The present system favors the politically connected causing an unfair advantage, waste and not necessarily the correct solution.

 

Within the current confines of the budget, what are the best avenues to deliver services and information to Cook County Residents?  Marketing, promotion and public relations are necessary but costly items. In this modern age it is possible to reach some market segments in a cost-effective manner and others can be expensive. This department can probably reach its intended markets by employing four different techniques, 1) general information (including the best avenue to deliver services) can be posted on MWRD websites and email blasts (for those who sign up for this method of communication) with virtually little impact on the District budget, 2) by news releases for warranted events, 3) by display newspaper advertising in the four major daily newspapers (Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald and Southtown) for those seeking to do business with the District, and 4) the preparation and distribution of a prospectus for any given project for those already doing business with the District and subsequently for those identified in (3) above.   

 

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  As a past ten-year board member and Chairman of its homeland security, legislative, and marketing committees of the Illinois International Port, I have a unique experience and knowledge that would be beneficial to the MWRDGC. Also, several years ago for an extended period of time, my communications company was responsible for promotion and public relations for the MWRDGC’s household hazardous waste disposal programs when it enjoyed record-setting participation. In short, I could hit the ground running as a MWRDGC Commissioner.

And, my education is also unexcelled to this position:

·         PhD Candidate, Geography and Environmental Studies, University of London

·         M.A., Geography and Environmental Studies, Northeastern Illinois University

·         M.S.J., Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

·         B.A.J., School of Journalism, Drake University

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Herb Schumann (Republican) candidate for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Website address: sosmwrd.com

Facebook: Schumann on Sewers

What do you consider to be the major issue(s), as it pertains to the office you are seeking, facing the MWRD?  The Cook County sewer system is aged and decaying and multi-billion dollar infrastructure improvements are needed.  The MWRD has the responsibility for stormwater management, but the system design puts Lake Michigan protection in conflict with channeling stormwater away from homes.  All of Chicago and many suburbs combine wastewater and stormwater.  Some suburbs separate stormwater and wastewater and some do both.  This situation creates a conflicting set of priorities throughout the District.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  Demanding transparency in the stormwater management program is my top priority.  A list of projects has been developed, but priorities have not been set.  Suburban municipalities have developed flood control plans that need direction from the MWRD to execute.  Long term planning to separate combined systems is necessary.  Encouraging green infrastructure projects throughout the District is part of this process.

What avenues exist to increase revenue and to reduce waste at the MWRD?  The combined sewer system was built when water was considered an endless resource and water wasting was not a concern.  That is not the case today.  There is revenue potential in the value of water that can be safely returned to Lake Michigan.  Federal matching funds for clean water initiatives can be increased.

Within the current confines of the budget, what are the best avenues to deliver services and information to Cook County residents?  Public information should start with a website that provides information the people want.  The Milwaukee Sanitary District has such a website, the MWRD does not.  The MWRD is committed to placing 15,000 rain barrels within five years.  The last report I saw (from 2012) estimated that about 1,000 rain barrels per year are being placed.  A look at the Milwaukee SD website has a great section on installing and painting rain barrels and is an attractive and relatively inexpensive method of reaching the District residents.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  I served as Cook County Commissioner for 12 years and I represented Cook County on the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commissioner for 12 years.  I took part in the Upper Des Plaines River flooding study and worked with the Army Corps of Engineers on that project as a representative of my County District in Maine and Wheeling Townships.  I have a MBA in Finance and an undergraduate degree in Public Administration.

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James “Jim” Parrilli did not respond.

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Green Party candidates, Karen Roothaan, George Milkowski, and Michael Smith did not respond.