BACKGROUND

Candidate’s name: Tom Greenhaw

Candidate for:  Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, 2-year term

Twitter: twitter.com/tgreenhaw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tomgreenhawmwrd

Website:  http://www.tomgreenhaw.com

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?

If elected my top priorities would be greatly expanding the use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater, implementing a robust pharmaceutical disposal program to reduce the amount of pharmaceutical compounds entering our waterways, and ensuring that more is done to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

I fully and emphatically support the increased use of green infrastructure, and would make this my top area of focus as an MWRD Commissioner. While the TARP program and other “grey infrastructure” projects undertaken by the district may help reduce flooding and CSO’s, at this point I believe the focus of the District when it comes to stormwater management should be green infrastructure that will catch or slow rainwater before it ever enters the sewer system.

I also strongly support efforts to establish a robust an effective pharmaceutical take-back program. The MWRD and DEA had been working in tandem for the Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, but late last year the DEA announced that they were discontinuing their annual take-back events. I think it is very important that the MWRD continues to hold take-back events, along with providing citizens with a drop-off location at the District’s office and treatment plants, as they have been highly successful. If these take-back events are not continued there will certainly be a net-loss of opportunities to properly dispose of medication.

To prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, I believe it is very important for the MWRD to work together with the Army Corps of Engineers and other local stakeholders in any plan impacting the Chicago Area Waterway System. Any plan implemented that will prevent the transfer of aquatic invasive species will be large in scope and will undoubtedly remain in place for the foreseeable future. It is important for the MWRD to be involved every step of the way while also ensuring that all other stakeholders are involved due to the scope and permanency of any solution.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?

Growing up in Chicago’s northern suburbs, flooding was a common occurrence in my family’s home. I know the stress and damage flooding causes firsthand, and I want to be involved in work that will help prevent or mitigate flooding. My top priority would be promoting green infrastructure, which I believe is the best way going forward to mitigate flooding.

In early 2015, I conceived of an idea for legislation that would incentivize green infrastructure by providing a property tax exemption if a form of green infrastructure was installed on the property. The idea was drafted into a bill and submitted by Rep. Robert Martwick as HB3516. While the bill gained the support of the Illinois Environmental Council, the bill was not called and thus was not passed. I will continue to promote innovative ideas such as this one, and hope that if elected as a Commissioner I will be a stronger advocate for these types of legislative initiatives that would incentivize green infrastructure.

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?

Having spoken with a number of businesses that do work with the District, I have found that many believe the current procurement system is meeting their needs. That being said, room for improvement can be found in nearly any process and I believe this is also true when it comes to the MWRD’s procurement process.

My background is in both environmental policy and technology. My technology background leads me to believe that implementing an e-procurement process would streamline many aspects of the procurement process at the District. Many other government agencies, such as IDOT, have adopted e-procurement systems and the District should consider whether such a system should be adopted.

One common-sense idea I believe the District can easily implement easily is making streaming video of bid openings available. After bids are submitted to the District, on a specific date and time these bids are publicly opened and recorded to ensure a fair process. In order to view bid openings today, bidders must travel to the MWRD’s downtown office building and observe the process from there. The MWRD currently makes video of their board meetings available online, so I believe this capability should be extended to bid openings as well.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?

The MWRD is in a very unique position to capitalize on the waste stream that enters its wastewater treatment facilities. By creatively using the materials that constantly flow into the District’s facilities, I believe that not only can costs be cut drastically but revenue can be generated as well.

One example is the MWRD’s goal of being energy neutral by 2023. This will be accomplished through powering treatment plants with biogas, cutting the enormous energy costs of the District’s operation. The District is also beginning to implement technology that will remove phosphorous from effluent and turn it into a fertilizer product that can then be sold. Initiatives like these will help the District stay on solid financial ground.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.

I am a candidate for Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District because I want to help prevent flooding and protect our environment, and I believe my background is uniquely qualified to serve as a Commissioner.

I have been developing software since I was a teenager, and in 2009 I founded a technology startup dedicated to providing affordable point-of-sale and credit card processing software to small retail business owners. As the company’s founder I have worked directly with hundreds of small business owners to help them improve their operations through the use of technology.

I am also a sustainability advocate with a background in environmental policy. While completing the University of Chicago’s Leadership in Sustainability Management program, I focused my research towards improving the rate at which medication is properly disposed – an emerging environmental, health, and safety issue. I have also worked to incentivize green infrastructure, working with State Representative Robert Martwick to introduce HB3516 in 2015 that would provide a property tax exemption for property owners who implemented some form of stormwater-retaining green infrastructure on their property.

I have also served on the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Young Innovator’s board, as well as the communications committee for the regional conservation organization Openlands.

BACKGROUND

Candidate’s name: Andrew Seo

Candidate for:  Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (2yr)

Twitter: http://twitter.com/themoderndem

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/andrewseoforwater

Website:  www.andrewseo.com


What do you consider to be the major issue(s) as it pertains to the office you are seeking facing Cook County?

Chicagoland’s water and wastewater infrastructure is not improving at a pace to keep up with the needs of its citizens and businesses. A strong infrastructure system is critical for the future prosperity of Chicago and Illinois.

Clean drinking water and public wastewater services are priorities which are necessary to sustain public health, support our economy, and protect the environment.

Since 1972, with enactment of the Clean Water Act, federal, state, and local governments have invested more than $250 billion in our national wastewater infrastructure. This investment has provided significant environmental, public health, and economic benefits to the Nation and specifically to the Chicagoland area. Farmers, fishermen, manufacturers, and tourism industries rely on clean water to support and carry out activities that contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to our national, state, and local economies each year.

In order for local businesses to remain competitive both at home and abroad, investments in infrastructure must improve at a pace to keep up with our needs; the Chicagoland region is falling behind in achieving this goal.

Chicagoland’s ability to provide clean and safe water is being challenged, as existing wastewater and water infrastructure is aging and deteriorating. Old and deteriorated infrastructure often leak, have blockages, and fail to adequately treat pollutants in wastewater, thereby creating water pollution problems. We need to quickly start repairing, replacing, and upgrading our infrastructure systems before it’s too late.

Much of our drinking water infrastructure, the more than one million miles of pipes beneath our streets, is nearing the end of its useful life and approaching the age at which it needs to be replaced. Moreover, our shifting population brings significant growth, requiring larger pipe networks to provide water and wastewater service.

Investing in our future not only makes perfect sense from a public policy standpoint, it would also create good-paying jobs overnight and boost our economy. Economic models show that each $1 billion invested in infrastructure translates into 30,000 jobs and $350 billion in economic activity.

Delaying the investment can result in degrading water service, increasing water service disruptions, and increasing expenditures for emergency repairs. Ultimately we will have to face the need to “catch up” with past deferred investments, and the more we delay the harder the job will be when the day of reckoning comes.

1.      Modernizing our infrastructure allows Illinois to compete with other countries around the world and accelerates innovation and economic development.

2.      Provides jobs and opportunities in the local economy to revitalize Chicagoland’s economic strength and growth.

3.      Prevents flooding all across the Chicagoland area, reduces sewer backups and flooded basements.

4.      Protects our drinking water supply from raw sewage and beaches from contamination.

Massive infrastructure construction projects didn’t single-handedly save the U.S. from the Great Depression. But the New Deal did create millions of jobs and pump billions of dollars into public works projects that became a crucial part of the country’s economic backbone decades later. Across the country, dams, roads, sewage systems and bridges were built with Works Progress Administration funds in the 1930s.

Deferring needed investments today will only result in greater expenses tomorrow and pass on a greater burden to our children and grandchildren. It’s time to confront Chicagoland’s water and wastewater infrastructure challenge now before it’s too late.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?

As Commissioner, my #1 priority would be to push for a multi-year construction program comprised of hundreds of sewer improvement and storm water control projects across the Chicagoland area. The program would use sustainable infrastructure which can be “gray” such as new sewers, “green” such as permeable pavement and stream separations, or a blend of the two. To keep the program affordable and beneficial to taxpayers, I would be committed to finding sustainable solutions that are cost-effective and meet the environmental, social, and economic needs of affected communities.

What avenues can be taken to streamline and improve the District’s procurement process?

The MWRD has to be in compliance with the Purchasing Act, as mandated by Illinois State Statute and to accept the lowest responsible bidder. 

The Illinois Purchasing Act was designed with the best of intentions. It includes rigid safeguards to prevent profiteering and fraud. To take advantage of bulk purchasing, it is highly centralized. However, when the Purchasing Act was written, retailing was highly stratified, with many markups by intermediaries. Today the procurement business has changed considerably. Retail giants like Wal-Mart, Staples and Costco are vertically integrated, eliminating the markups of intermediaries. Bulk purchasing still has its advantages, but it is not always necessary to get the best price.

The District’s centralized purchasing system takes decisions away from managers who know what they need, and allows uninformed buyers to make purchasing decisions. The frequent result: procurement agents, who make their own decisions about what to buy and how soon to buy it, purchase low-quality items, or even the wrong ones, that arrive too late.

This secondhand approach to purchasing creates another problem. When managers' needs and experiences are not understood by the procurement agent, the District is unable to make decisions that reward good vendors and punish bad ones. As a result, vendors often "game" contracts, exploiting loopholes to add expensive change orders.

In order to improve the District’s procurement process, simplifying the procedure by rewriting regulations is necessary, shifting from rigid rules to guiding principles that foster competitiveness and commercial practices and choosing "best value" products.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?

The MWRD works under a self-imposed tax cap as to minimize the burden for Cook County taxpayers. However, that does not mean that the District is immune to government waste and improper spending.

In 2000, the MWRD awarded a $217 million project to Metropolitan Biosolids Management, run by Bart Lynam, (a former District Executive Director, who left office in 1978 after a federal jury acquitted him of corruption charges in a high-profile district bribery scandal). In 2004, the District tried unsuccessfully to end the deal because of construction delays and permit disputes.

I am strongly in favor of an Inspector General for the District that can provide oversight for the hundreds of millions in contracts awarded every year.

On January 4th 2013, the Ritz-Carlton Residences on North Michigan Avenue won a $36.4 million judgment against the District in a dispute over the alley between the condominium tower and the agency's headquarters. The ruling was made that the District wrongly blocked access to the alley for about three years, delaying construction and increasing expenses for the developer.

As Commissioner, I would overhaul the District’s law and human resources departments to minimize the number of lawsuits and eliminate the reoccurring practice of needlessly wasting tax payer money.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.

Growing up in a small business family, I learned, lived, and understand the values of hard work, perseverance, difficulties, and risks that go along with building, operating, and growing a small business. 

I most recently served as an engineer for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) overseeing scheduling and appropriations for future capital improvements projects. I have worked for the past 5 years at the MWRD in Maintenance & Operations, Engineering Design and Construction. Previously, I began my engineering career at Teng & Associates (currently EXP Global) managing construction and engineering projects for the U.S. Air National Guard, U.S. Veterans Affairs Hospitals, Allstate Insurance and Liberty Property Trust.

As the first member of my family to graduate from college, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. I later attended the University of Chicago for my MBA and earned my Master of Finance in Investment Management from DePaul University.

I support the Union League Boys & Girls Club, Chinese American Service League, Shriners Hospitals for Children, National Latino Education Institute, Chicago Urban League, Chicago Zoological Society, Friends of the Chicago River and the Forest Preserve Foundation.

I am a member of the Executives Club of Chicago, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, City Club of Chicago, Traffic Club of Chicago, Sierra Club and Chicago’s Young & Powerful Group.

I am focused on improving the economic competitiveness of Illinois, by investing in our local infrastructure, creating more jobs and opportunities for our communities, advocating for our environment and rewarding American businesses that create jobs in Illinois.