What new strategies would you develop to reduce the impact of stormwater on our area’s sewage, flood control and water systems?
I would like to initiate a massive public relations campaign to educate the public on the impact of stormwater on our area’s sewage, flood control and water systems.
The two areas I would like to focus on in this public relations campaign are understanding the impacts of stormwater and education in schools. I want to help the public understand what is actually happening and what it means when someone says we are experiencing “100 year storms” on a yearly basis.
In schools, I want to partner with the EPA and the Department of Education to implement programs that focus on green technologies. I believe it is imperative that we education our children at a young age (2nd and 3rd grade) on how our system works. I hope to not only educate for better understanding but also hope to spark interest in the rapidly growing field of green jobs. I truly believe the more the public understands the problems we are facing the more invested they will be in solutions.
In addition to getting the right message out, I think it is necessary for the District to look for new and prompt ways to help communities with flooding.
One way this can be achieved is for the District to work with the Cook County Land Bank to determine if there are vacant parcels of land within the communities residing within the district that can be used as local reservoir sites. I think the district does a good job of carrying out regional solutions but I believe we can make a significant impact on the local level.
What role should the MWRD play in addressing climate change?
I believe the MWRD can be a leader in the fight against Climate Change by working with national organizations like The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) to make it a priority as well as take steps to implement best practices in day to day operations.
The MWRD is the second largest landowner in Cook County. What is the ideal disposition of property owned by the district that is not needed for direct corporate purposes?
I believe the MWRD should continue to lease land to public and private entities for it is a major source of revenue for the agency that brings in millions of dollars of rent a year. The funds that are collected can be used to supplement the tax dollars that pay for the Districts’ operations and or set aside to make large contributions to the pension fund.
As for the land that cannot be leased, it should be used for sustainable purposes such as greenspace, urban farming, reservoirs, and outdoor recreation.
What is your stance on the Canal Shore golf course vote in November 2018? A developer wants to develop the 10th hole of one of our public golf courses.
The issue is much more complex that it appears but I am against the outcome of the November vote. I believe that the public has a right to feel cheated and that the process was handled poorly.
If elected, I will work to make the MWRD revisit this issue and find another solution that doesn't include developing the 10th hole. My vision for this office is to turn an invisible agency visible and work with people on a community level.
What should the MWRD’s role be in reducing combined sewer overflows?
The agency was created to keep sewage out of Lake Michigan. At its core, the district’s mission is to protect the water environment. Therefore, the district must take the lead in reducing combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The reality is that the district cannot do this alone. The infrastructure that needs to be updated to reduce CSOs is owned and operated by various municipalities throughout Cook County.
The role of the District should be to work with these municipalities to create a plan. The District should also be looking for new and innovative technologies such as “end of pipe” treatment to reduce the negative effects of CSOs when they do occur.
If elected, I would also push the District to complete the McCook Reservoir that will hold 10 billion gallons of combined sewage out of our waterways ahead of the 2029 scheduled deadline – When we are discussing the health of our water environment, I believe everyday counts.
How do you see the role of wastewater treatment agencies changing over the next 10 years?
Raising awareness through education and public outreach, it is my belief that we will stop thinking of wastewater agencies as “waste” agencies and focus on all the ways we can reclaim/reuse the by-products of our daily lives. The industry is already making progress in this direction with biosolids, water reuse, and methane gas to name a few.
The MWRD is part of a multi-agency group exploring ways to keep chlorides out of waterways. Is the MWRD doing enough to push this issue forward? Please explain. *
I think the MWRD has been moving in the right direction by hosting best practice workshops for other agencies and municipalities but could do more in regards to educating the public and raising awareness of this issue. My basic belief as an educator is the more the MWRD and other agencies work together to educate the public and ourselves as institutions, the better off everyone will be to understand the issue and work towards mainstreaming the use of substitutes to salt when applicable.
Do you support installing disinfection technology at Stickney, the world’s largest wastewater treatment plant? Please explain.
Yes, I do support installing disinfection technology at the Stickney plant but before committing to a plan that would cost tax payers millions of dollars, I would ask the District engineers to conduct a full feasibility study to assess how this task can be completed in the most cost efficient and effective way possible.
How would you improve the phosphorus-removal efforts now underway at the MWRD? Do you think this important? Why or why not?
I think the removal of phosphorus is important and I would explore new technologies like the District has already done with the Ostara project at the Stickney plant. The importance of phosphorous/nutrient removal is critical for marine life to flourish. I’d like to work with the Illinois Department of Agriculture to coordinate efforts with farmers in the southern part of the county and just outside the county to find ways to reduce runoff.
What is the appropriate role of the MWRD in addressing the problem of Asian carp and other invasive species in Chicago area waterways?
At its core, the mission of the MWRD is to protect our water environment and invasive species like Asian carp threaten the mission of the district. The MWRD and the Army Corp of engineers should work together to find ways to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes and Mississippi River Inter-basin Study (GLMIRS) Report suggested that the Brandon Road Lock and Dam would be an ideal placed to implement a barrier for invasive species. If elected, I would support such a project and would work to secure funds from the Federal government and the Great Lakes States to see it become a reality.
How do you view the role the district has played in controlling flooding and what, if any, actions need to be taken to improve things?
The District has been forward thinking when it comes to flooding. In the 1960's and 1970's the district began developing the Tunnel and Reservoir plan, a massive and innovative idea at a time when many cities did not have a plan for flooding.
Forty years later, the District has built the world's largest reservoir in Thornton, which will soon be the world’s second biggest reservoir when McCook Reservoir overtakes it in a few years. But massive reservoirs and the deep tunnel can't alone handle the large amounts of stormwater the region gets. We need to use green technologies to compliment the gray technologies as well as the necessity to use smaller, local projects to go along with large, regional ones.
What changes in technology, equipment or infrastructure are needed to improve management of the region’s water supply?
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District does not deal with the management of the region’s water supply. The agency was created to keep sewage out of Lake Michigan. At its core, the district’s mission is to protect the water environment. With that said, I do support such things as using disinfection technology at our plants but before committing to a plan that would cost millions of dollars, I would ask the District’s engineers to conduct a feasible study to assess how this task can be completed in the most coast efficient and effective way.
What is the role of the district, and of district commissioners, in promoting conservation of resources?
The District advocates for resources by implementing resource recovery initiatives in their operations, and I think the District should be setting the standard for how the waste water industry can become more sustainable. The Commissioners, as conduits to the public, should be highlighting the important work that the agency does to recover resources. It is my belief that the Commissioner’s role should be one of an educator and educate residents on sustainable practices that can be achieved at home.
As a teacher, I know first-hand the difference between handing someone information and empowering them with an education. I would like to start a two part community outreach program to educate our communities at large and, in the classroom, to introduce these concepts to children as early as 2nd and 3rd grade.
To achieve this, I want to partner with the EPA and the Department of Education. My hope is to not only educate for a better understanding but also spark an interest in the rapidly growing field of green jobs. I truly believe the more the public understands the problems we are facing the more invested they will be in solutions.
How do you rate the MWRD on transparency and the public's access to records?
If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important?
Transparency in government is simply put just good government. The creation of the Inspector General, broadcasting the commissioner meetings live on the web, and archiving those meetings on the MWRD website for future reference have all been steps in the right direction.
As a commissioner, I will work with the Better Government Association and the Inspector General to find the best practices that would enhance District transparency, especially when it comes to procurement and contract awards. I will also work to adopt an ethics reform to limit how much contractors can contribute to a commissioners’ campaign fund.