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updated: 10/10/2012 6:54 AM

Kari Steele: Candidate Profile

Metro. Water Reclamation District (Democrat)

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  • Kari Steele, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District

      Kari Steele, running for Metro. Water Reclamation District

 

 

 

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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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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Chicago

Website: http://www.electkaristeele.com

Office sought: Metro. Water Reclamation District

Age: 37

Family: Single

Occupation: Senior Formulating Chemist

Education: Bachelor of Sciences - Chemistry Pre-Med (Minor-Biology)

Civic involvement: Chairman of the Young Democrats of Cook County (June 2009 ? June 2010), Treasurer of the Young Democrats of Cook County (June 2008 - June 2009), Member of the Young Democrats of America(2005 ? 2011), Chairman of the 6th Ward Young Democrats (2004 ? 2011), Illinois Women?s Institute of Leadership (IWIL) (2007 ? Present), The 6th Ward New Democrats (Member), Society of Cosmetic Chemists (Member), Sierra Club (Member), Chatham Avalon Park Community Council (Member), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Member), 8th Ward Women?s Auxiliary Council (Member)

Elected offices held: None

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

To use my experience as a chemist and environmentalist to develop and implement policy decisions at the MWRD relating to waste water treatment, water conservation and storm water management.

Key Issue 2

To increase public awareness of and public participation in the issues and activities of the MWRD that impact quality of life matters.

Key Issue 3

To ensure that all businesses and citizens have access to the resources of the MWRD, including employment and contracting opportunities.

Questions & Answers

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

I have a chemistry pre-med degree, with a minor in biology, and over 13 years of experience working as a Chemist. I currently work as a formulating Chemist for L?Oreal USA, and have experience working at the Jardine Water Purification Plant (as a water chemist) and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (as a water sampler and lab tech). My scientific background would be an asset to the board, because laboratory testing plays a major part in monitoring and regulating waste discharge. As the ecological demands upon the agency increase, a scientific background would be of great value in informing and guiding policy decisions of the Board. Additionally, while working as a Water Chemist at Jardine Water Purification Plant and at the Water Reclamation District, I became familiar with the chemicals and testing used for water treatment. As a result, I can address and evaluate both the practical and professional implications of planned policy decisions.

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 widespread flooding that affected the North and Northwest suburbs in July 2011 was an unfortunate event resulting from heavy down pours. MWRD should saturate itself in best practices and emerging technologies to determine the future of storm water preservation and then put those principles into action. There is great demand for the completion of projects that will increase MWRD?s storage capacity of storm water and waste water, resulting in a decrease of occurrences when untreated sewage overflows into the waterways of the Cook County. The projects scheduled for completion should be a top priority for MWRD. Also, there should be an increased educational focus on what citizens and municipalities must do to assist in preventing flooding. One proposal I have to reduce the amount of rainwater running into sanitary sewers is to increase community outreach in educating homeowners about the issue. I also propose encouraging all residents and homeowners of Cook County to practice ?volume control measures? to promote the options available to capture, retain, and infiltrate rainwater on-site. A few examples of these measures include constructing rain gardens, porous pavements, and rain barrels. Another proposal involves businesses obtaining technical assistance from MWRD and potential grants from the state & federal government as incentives for construction of these control measures.

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?

I do not agree with the severance policy that was abolished. The policy seems like a policy that government can no longer afford and probably was instituted at a time when salaries were not comparable to the private sector as an incentive to attract employees. I cannot give an opinion on how the change was handled because I do not know details about the conversation or the type of notice that was given to affected employees. However, the policy should have been abolished moving forward to avoid lawsuits from present employees.

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

I believe the District?s policies to severance, sick time, and pensions should be comparable to the policies of the City of Chicago. Policies should be discussed with new employees and reviewed periodically. Severance pay should be granted to an employee whose job is eliminated due to downsizing, and not for employees who simply resign. The sick time policy should aim to encourage a positive approach to attendance by providing employees with the support needed to help them return to work as soon as they are well enough to do so, thereby balancing the welfare of employees with the operational requirements of the District. Pension polices should be mandatory, and not voluntary, and created with consideration to cost of living increase after retirement.

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.

Voting to disinfect the effluent was a major step to ensure MWRD makes the Chicago River safe for recreational activities, while helping to protect and preserve Lake Michigan. An additional step the Board should address to protect the environment would be to research options for advanced waste water treatment processes used by other dischargers in the Great Lakes watershed. The advanced treatment process would remove detectable amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen. Removing these elements from the effluent would help protect the natural aquatic system. I would also like to see the Board educate citizens on products with pollutants and how to properly dispose of such products to limit the discharge of pollutants entering MWRD plants

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