FRANK AVILA incumbent, Democratic candidate for METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT

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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 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.

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 and 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.

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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FRANK EDWARD GARDNER Democratic candidate for METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT


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What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?  Disinfection of treatment plants that discharge into the waterways.  More revenue from MWRD lands.  Stop flooding by natural wetlands/methods to contain stormwater.  Cut waste and lower taxes.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?
  Protecting our water environment and the health of our citizens.

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?
  Prohibiting lobbying by former officials and employees.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  Rely on natural methods for flood control.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  I possess actual experience as an environmental volunteer and activist, due to participation in environmental activities.

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BRENDAN HOULIHAN Democratic candidate for METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT      
 

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What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?
   There are several environmental issues that face Cook County and the Water Reclamation District and many of these problems are connected. For example, one of the most pressing issues is the flooding problem with the Des Plaines and Chicago River. This flooding has put the healthy and safety of people at risk while also costing tax dollars. It has also had a negative impact on local farming and agriculture- putting our crops at risk and people out of work. The Deep Tunnel Project (TARP) that was implemented to address this problem is running behind. If elected, I would work to ensure that projects are running efficiently so as to not waste time and resources.

Another important issue is the health of our fresh water and standardizing the disinfection of our wastewater. Water treatment facilities are discharging water contaminated with bacteria into the Chicago Area Waterways Systems. Currently, only two plants have to disinfect their water before it is released- while others still do not treat theirs. Standardizing the disinfection process would streamline and ensure accountability.

Finally, I have always been an advocate for honest and transparent policies. I believe that a transparent government is a good government and would be a champion for ensuring dependability from the MWRD.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?
  My number one priority would be to ensure the health and safety of the District’s water supply and address the flooding problems that have plagued the county. Keeping harmful bacteria and invasive species out of the District’s water supply is vitally important. A healthy environment is essential to a healthy population. Additionally, agriculture is the biggest user of American water resources; so clean, healthy water is essential for farming as well.

Guided by those principles, I will personally lobby Congress to restore funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to levels deemed essential for its success. The GLMRIS study provides a wide range of options to help prevent the transfer of invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. Work can begin immediately on many of the recommendations, providing jobs and economic stimulus to the region. I plan to spend an equal amount of energy ensuring projects supporting TARP are expedited to completion.

I would also ensure that our contracts and projects are managed proper and efficiently to make certain that we are not wasteful with our resources. Saving the District tax dollars are important, especially in these tough economic times.

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?
  The MWRD should ensure accountability with its business relationships. The American Bar Association has a published procurement model for the public sector.  Many other public interest groups have developed similar models.  Adopting current best practices in this regard needs to be a priority.  It should also make sure that contracts do not lapse as some have in the past- this costs the taxpayers dollars.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  Community outreach initiatives and education are key ways to reduce government spending and waste. For example, educating residents about ways they can personally reduce flooding and water waste. By educating the public on what they can do themselves to help prevent flooding, we are reducing the amount of tax dollars that are spent on flood damage. Active participation is a positive first step toward solving many problems.

Also the District needs to standardize its processes and systems. I am very pleased the District finally decided to proceed with adding disinfection at their Calumet and North Side Plants. I am not pleased that the infrastructure at both plants is so different that separate disinfection technologies were necessary. Standardization also brings leverage, which strengthens the District’s bargaining position with vendors.     

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  I served as Commissioner of the Board of Review from 2006 to 2010. During that time I advocated for transparency in the property tax appeals process and set in motion the course to bring online appeals to homeowners.  While in office, I initiated an extensive outreach program throughout communities to assist taxpayers and ensure that tax dollars were being put to good use. I implemented technological advancements that significantly reduced wasteful paper usage and increased paperless filings for appeals.

I believe I have the experience, passion, and drive to be Commissioner at MWRD and address what I consider to be some of the most critical issues of our time with respect to the environment and our ability to mitigate further damage to our region’s ecosystem. I will work hard to ensure a healthy environment that can sustain clean water and save tax dollars.

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JOSINA MORITA Democratic candidate for METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT

    
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What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?  MWRD is doing exciting work under the leadership of a new Executive Director. It is a $1.1 billion agency that has maintained a solid bond rating and financial footing, which is important for taxpayers, and their recently negotiated employee pension package provides greater long-term stability as well. The board just passed the Watershed Management Ordinance- a huge step forward in addressing the County's stormwater management issues and increasing green infrastructure. Disinfection is beginning- at far less cost than initially estimated. And the agency is moving forward with nutrient recovery including phosphorous removal which will improve our water quality and provide new revenue opportunities for the District.

In recent years, we have experienced more intense, more localized and more damaging rainstorms that may be a symptom of climate change. Managing stormwater to reduce flooding and basement backups and protect quality of life is a major challenge for the District.

In addition, the District must complete the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan as expeditiously as possible. It should also play a lead role in the final determination of separating the Mississippi River watershed from Lake Michigan. Asian carp continues to be a major focus and the District will play a significant role in decisions on how to address their spread and those of other aquatic nuisance species. Partnerships with municipalities, farmers and residents will be key to the District’s future success.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  My priorities are:  clean water: we must protect our lakes and rivers for this generation, and the next.  Green jobs: we must invest in green jobs and innovation that provides prevailing wages.  Flood prevention: we must develop local green infrastructure and other means to protect our homes and businesses from flooding.  Fairness: we must establish reforms, support women & minority owned businesses and protect project labor agreements

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?
  As a first time candidate for the position, I do not have detailed knowledge of the District’s procurement process. However, I believe MWRD should be doing all it can to reduce waste and inefficiency so Cook County taxpayers receive the best results for their money. Once elected, I would work closely with fellow Commissioners and staff to streamline procurement processes.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?
  In any agency as large as MWRD, there is bound to be waste and unneeded spending. I am in favor of an independent auditor or Inspector General for the agency that can help to identify inefficiencies, recommend savings, and provide oversight for the hundreds of millions in construction contracts awarded each year. I would also like to see ways that the District could reduce the number of lawsuits it becomes involved in, which have resulted in large penalties having to be paid out.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.
  I am running for MWRD because I am an urban planner who cares about water. I understand the importance of protecting our water on the supply side, as well as conserving our water on the demand side. I grew up under drought conditions in California and I have worked on environmental justice issues for over twenty years. I understand the impact this has on farmers and families. As an agency that has the role and responsibility of managing 90 percent of the Country’s water supply. The District has key responsibility for managing our freshwater resources in the form of stormwater and wastewater.   I understand how important it is to have qualified and caring people in this office. I will bring my training in regional planning, infrastructure development and land use issues to the Board. I also bring my passion for social, racial and environmental justice and my community relationships across Cook County’s diverse communities.

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KATHLEEN MARY O’REILLEY Democratic candidate for METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT


What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?  Stormwater management; disinfection of treatment plant discharge into the waterways; and producing more revenue from MWRD lands.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?
  Protecting the waterways and lands and using more natural methods for flood control.

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?
  Lower the dollar amount for bidding and lobbying should not be allowed by former officials/employees.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?
  Decreasing the tax burden by cutting costs and getting a better return on assets such as the valuable waterways and land.  Wind turbines and solar panels on MWRD lands that are not good for farming due to heavy metals left in some land areas.

Please, describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking
.  I already have 28 years of knowledge of the MWRD.  My husband worked at the MWRD on staff and also served on the MWRD board.  I feel the need to help the MWRD in continuing forward in preserving and protecting as if it were part of my family.

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CYNTHIA SANTOS incumbent, Democratic candidate for METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT

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What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?  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 re-elected?  Our carbon footprint, climate change, and providing a sustainable environment are at the forefront of the world stage and the mission of this great agency.  The MWRD has incorporated those values in its strategic planning and I have personally done so as well.  Green infrastructure begins in each community as we develop measures to sustain our environment.  I have made it my life’s mission to improve my community one block at a time through my extensive volunteerism and community involvement.  This will continue as I continue my career as a leader with the MWRD.  It is key to remember that success is achieved by ensuring that all interests are considered.  We must work with agencies like the Cook County Farm Bureau as dedicated partners to address issues that pertain to individual communities and Cook County as a whole.  Partnerships and working in concert with developing responsible sustainable practices will be my first priority if re-elected.

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?  This has been an issue that I have taken up with staff already.  It is paramount that we eliminate as much of the red tape as possible to ensure that all interested and qualified parties have the opportunity to work with our agency to deliver goods and services in a timely, equitable fashion.

The use of our website as a tool for moving through the procurement process easily must be established.  We are currently working on improving our website, as a whole, and one of the elements I will support is a simpler procurement process available for all as easy as reaching one’s computer.  Guidelines to complete applications must be clear and concise.  Procurement goals must be readily obtainable for all seeking business with our agency.

This can be obtained and I will ensure its implementation at the beginning of my next term.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  During my tenure, we have initiated a strategic business plan that developed strategies around four main goals:  financial, employee, public and natural environments.  

One of the most important strategies of this plan was to change legislation to ensure the health of our retirement fund.  The Board of Commissioners, in which I was a member of, brought this bill to Springfield and lobbied wholeheartedly to ensure that each and every legislator knew the importance of this bill.  I am happy to say that we were successful; and today, the MWRD has the only comprehensive pension legislation in the State. 

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.  

We have streamlined our operation by eliminating staffing where possible and hiring only the best in the appropriate field through civil service testing that is fair and equitable.

We have a good public relations department that communicates well with the public and is extremely information about our mission and the cooperative approach we maintain with the public to reach our service goals.  

Briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking?  As a 17 year member of this Board, I have extensive knowledge of this agency and the issues that concern Cook County at large.

I have been an extremely strong voice in my community, serving as Girl Scout leader, school board member of both public and private schools, Beat Facilitator for the Chicago Police Department, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Irving Park YMCA, member of several Chamber of Commerce and charitable organizations like Friends of the Chicago River, as well as, volunteering in my neighborhood organizations.  

Today, in addition to my work at the MWRD, I serve my community as Development Director and Assistant to the Pastor at St. Viator Elementary School in Chicago, Board Member of the Interfaith Council for Detained Immigrants, School Board Member and Girl Scout Leader.  

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and am completing my Master’s Degree in Political Science with a focus on Public Administration Fall of 2014.  

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Tim Bradford, Tom Courtney, Adam Miguest, and John Xydakis did not return surveys.