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updated: 2/10/2012 4:11 PM

Patricia Young: Candidate Profile

Metro. Water Reclamation District (Democrat)

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  • Patricia Young, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District

    Patricia Young, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District




Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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City: LaGrange Park


Office sought: Metro. Water Reclamation District

Age: 56

Family: Son, Alex, 9 years old 2 brothers,both married - they work for United and Delta Airlines, 5 nieces and nephews who attend Michigan, Michigan State, University of Miami and Nova U. Medical School; one niece is interning this semester at "O" magazine

Occupation: Retired

Education: Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Columbia College; Master's degree in Public Administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology Certificate in Financial Investments from the Wharton School of Business

Civic involvement: Member of the Emerald Society, Friends of the Chicago River and the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI); former member of Water Environment Federation, National Assn. of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA),Greater North Michigan Ave. Assn, South Loop Neighbors Assn.

Elected offices held: Commissioner, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago - December 1992 through January 6, 2009 Also represented the MWRD on the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC) and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) - Water Resources committees on each - from 1993 through 2009.

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Flood control and storm water management. I look forward to the passage of a clear and concise Watershed Management Ordinance that will greatly reduce/alleviate flooding in Cook County.

As the former chairman of storm water management, I know that a great effort has been put forth by MWRD staff and leaders of most municipalities within suburban Cook County who have been working together to formulate a comprehensive, concise Watershed Management Ordinance (WMO) - which will ultimately lead to the successful mitigation of flood waters throughout the region. I am commited to working toward to the successful implementation of the WMO and continuing my work with the elected officials and managers throughout the county to ensure that the WMO is fair - and that the goals/objectives are attainable. I will also actively promote the use of Green Technology such as the utilization of rain barrels and cisterns, rain gardens and bioswales, and installation of permeable pavers in driveways and parking areas by residents and business owners as a means of keeping rain water out of local sewer systems that is taking up valuable space in the local sewer lines. We could also utilize open spaces and open land to naturally absorb rainfall.

Key Issue 2

Water Quality Improvements-

There are a number of significant water quality improvement projects on the table:

disinfection, nutrient and phosphorous removal, reducing/eliminating combined sewer overflows (CSOs. CSOs are a very serious issue. We have been working toward finishing the Tunnel and Reseroir Project (TARP) since the early 1970s. The tunnels have been intercepting CSOs since 1985 and have prevented millions of pounds of suspended solids from entering the waterways.The Majewski (formerly called O'Hare)Reservoir has been operating since 1996, and when the Thornton and McCook Reservoirs begin operating in 2015 and 2017, respectively, there will be a tremendous improvement in the water quality of the Chicago Area Waterways System(CAWS).

Once this occurs the MWRD should work with local municipalities to tackle the problem of combined sewer overflows.

The effluent we release is of a high quality that it is being utilized to water golf courses.

This is a great program and I would like to see this expanded to include municipal properties located near the water reclamation facilities as well.

Key Issue 3

Support and promote the use of MWRD property not being used for any corporate to be available to the public recreational use, and promote the use of biosolids application on municipal golf courses and parks. This will save municipalities money in reducing the need to purchase expensive fertilizers, and will also reduce water consumption since biosolids retain water better than top soil. The MWRD owns approximately 24000 acres of land throughout Cook and Fulton counties. In Fulton County the MWRD

applied biosolids to revitalize land that had been strip-mined for coal and left barren and unproductive. Biosolids application on local municipal parks and golf courses could save local tax payer dollars on their local municipal water bills and maintenance costs.

Questions & Answers

What special knowledge or experience do you have that particularly qualifies you for this office?

I have more than 34 years of combined experience working for the MWRD and serving on the board of commissioners.

No other candidate has anywhere near the institutional/historical knowledge of the MWRD's operations and projects than I have. When I served on the board I was a full time commissioner, and did not hold any other job.

I was accountable and accessible to the people, and I have addressed hundreds of community, civic, educational and fraternal organizations explaining the mission and operations of the MWRD and how the MWRD utilizes public tax dollars to fulfill their mission of protecting the health of the citizens and the drinking water supply, Lake Michigan.

Currently there is only one commissioner who lives in suburban Cook County.

Although the MWRD is a regional agency and the nine commissioners are elected county-wide and do

represent the entire county, I believe there should be more than one suburbanite on the board. I have spoken to hundreds of civic, community, educational and fraternal organizations over the years about the work of the MWRD and what they have accomplished to protect the health of the citizens of Cook County and protect the area's most precious natural resource, Lake Michigan. I believe public education/community outreach plays a significant role in the duties and responsibilities of an elected official.

I have worked over the years to reach out to the public and not only talk about what the MWRD has done, but what members of the community can do as responsible citizens to conserve water and protect the environment through the use of Green Technology and Infrastructure.

When I was on the board I rarely missed attending a board meeting, study or public meeting relating to MWRD business.I have a reputation for being committed to representing the tax payers and executing the duties of a commissioner.

My knowledge and experience enables me to formulate decisions regarding items on the board meeting agendas or other issues that come before the board with confidence and conviction.

If I have questions I know where to research the answers and formulate my own conclusions without having to rely solely on the answers that upper management might provide to board members. I think commissioners should be able to independently consider and access the issues and reach their own conclusions.

What should the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District do to prevent disasters like the widespread flooding that affected the North and Northwest suburbs in July 2011?

The MWRD is in the process of constructing the 100-acre Heritage Park Flood Control facility in Wheeling.

This project has been a long time in the works and will provide

tremendous flood control relief to the

suburbs. The Watershed Management Ordinance's (WMO) economic impact study is near completion and the final draft WMO should be completed later this year and ready for public review.

Open land should be utilized wherever possible to permit rainfall to be naturally absorbed into the earth as it was before much of the county was paved over to build housing developments, shopping centers, parking lots and expressways.

The use of Green Infrastructure and Technology by municipalities and residents should be strongly encourages to capture and retain rainwater where it falls. Years ago the MWRD had a loan program where it had allocated funds for local communities to borrow for local sewer improvements. Perhaps a similar loan program could be established to assist residential and business owners with implementing and installing Green Infrastructure projects that are costly such as the installation of permeable pavements.

The district changed its severance policies last year, prompting 78 employees, including the executive director and a commissioner, to quit and resulting in a payout of $2.4 million. Do you support how that change was handled? Why or why not?

This was an antiquated policy that had long outlived its original purpose - especially given today's economic climate. However, it was a benefit that had been part of the employees' benefit package for many years.

Last week a Cook County judge ruled that the MWRD's Board action was illegal since the benefit was promised to the employees and they could not eliminate it. The ruling said that essentially what they did was a breach of contract. The better solution might have been to say that from "XYZ date" forward no additional time will be accrued.

You will receive what year have earned until this date, but nothing further.

And new hires after this date will not accrue/enjoy this benefit or be paid for unused leave when they leave the employment of the MWRD.

What should the district's policies be with regard to severance, sick time and pensions' Please explain in detail.

I believe severance pay will end - employees will get paid for unused vacation pay (although they should be monitoring their time and take off vacation time with in the year it is earned.) Most employees are realistic about employment costs and are willing to increase their pension contributions, but the

general assembly needs to amend the statute. Employees for the most part realize that they may have to also contribute more for their health care costs and related benefits.

There has not been a cost of living adjustment for MWRD staff for three years.

The Water Reclamation District voted in June to disinfect sewage before dumping it into waterways. Are there more steps the board should take to protect the environment? Please be specific.

The MWRD has been disinfecting the effluent from its three northwest suburban plants (Egan, Kirie and

Hanover Park)for years.

I am concerned that the Stickney plant was not included in the EPA mandate to disinfect the effluent (treated sewage) that it discharges - and this is a significant amount since Stickney processes about 800 million gallons of wastewater each day.

I always believed the MWRD would eventually disinfect effluent from all of its plants; that it was not a matter of never disinfecting, but when they would begin once the TARP reservoirs were all operational. The MWRD recently began a pilot program to remove nutrients and phosphorous from the effluent before it is discharged into the canal. If this program is successful there will be additional improvement in the quality of the waterways and aquatic life.