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.
Office sought: Metro. Water Reclamation District
Family: Single, never been married, no children. Mother is Marian, brother is Michael and sister is Darlene White. Dad has passed on.
Occupation: Political staffer and Chicago (Cook/Illinois) Republican Party Committeeman.
Education: B.A. University of Illinois at Chicago 1985
Civic involvement: Knights of Columbus, Chicago GOP
Elected offices held: Chicago 11th Ward Committeeman, elected 2008, re-elected 2012
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: n/a
Key Issue 1
I will encourage my fellow Commissioners, engineers and scientists to work with me to develop initiatives to address water contamination by pharmacological agents.
Key Issue 2
In this culture of corruption I demand we create an "EVERY DIME, ONLINE, IN REAL TIME" program where EVERY FINANCIAL TRANSACTION is put online where feasible. There has to be complete transparency. EVERY CHEQUE that is written is put online with a cheque number and amount and to whom (unless it is HIPPA protected or for a minor or certain number of other exceptions).
Key Issue 3
I will demand that we as responsible government officers, enact Pension reform: a) New employees will have a 401K system with a guaranteed input but not a guaranteed output beyond a certain level. The MWRD pensions are out of control including pensions of $180,000 and $200,000+ for the rest of their lives This is unsustainable. We need not only a defined benefit, but a commensurate defined contribution. b) Depoliticize the pension investments c) Create a fiduciary obligation for the pension board with punishments intact d) Put the pension investments and numbers online and have total transparency e) Make better investments f) Increase both employee and MWRD contributions g) Increase the age of retirement by just 2 years *I want to add a 4th initiative I would like to accomplish: When the real estate market recovers: I WANT TO SELL OR LEASE THE MWRD DOWNTOWN OFFICE BUILDING AND USE THE BUILDING IN STICKNEY OR ANOTHER LOCATION FOR MEETINGS. There is no reason to have a Rush/Erie (1 block from Michigan Avenue) building for meetings and administration. We could recover significant funds for the taxpayers by selling the MWRD HQ building and the building across the street.
What special knowledge or experience do you have that particularly qualifies you for this office?
I am a lifetime resident of Chicago, and have a keen sense of how vital water quality is to the residents of the district. I have devoted my life to public service and care deeply for the citizens of Chicago and Cook County. I have also assembled a team of engineers, scientists, and experts in government finance to advise me on important issues. They are on my campaign. They will likely give valuable input to me as I serve as a Commissioner. Again, I have a keen sense of how vital water quality is to the human body. I support a move for green roofs, permeable surface pavement, and wetlands management. I practice recycling. I walk, run, and bike regularly. I have researched the teachings of Father Thomas Loya of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church about Religion (and specifically Catholicism) and the Environment and how we are stewards of God's creation and the philosophy, mission and plan of the Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church under the leadership of Ruthenian Catholic priest Father Thomas Loya (in Homer Glen, IL) I have organizational and management skills and experiences from running campaigns, my own campaigns, others campaigns as well as a versatile work record and personal experiences, including travel overseas several times.
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?
Our Deep Tunnel Project must be completed with integrity with due diligence, and also in a timely manner. It is a disgrace that the Deep Tunnel project is behind schedule. Furtherrmore it is a disgrace that it is apparently over budget. There needs to be a management review on this. I will examine why there are delays and cost over-runs, and I will implore my fellow commissioners and staffs to likewise examine. The amount of flooding and sewage overflows is disgraceful but also the fault of the city of Chicago and individual municipalities. We need to complete the Deep Tunnel project and reservoirs to address the flooding problem in a comprehensive manner. Also, I am concerned about the politically connected (and same companies over and over again and same companies as the city) getting contracts. These contracts need to be reviewed. The MWRD has TOO MANY LOBBYISTS yet Congressman Dan Rostenkowski said he got the money for the Deep Tunnel project and NOT the lobbyists--FIRE THE LOBBYISTS! I think that too many people may be milking this project. To prevent flooding requires cooperation between local municipalities and individual property owners. We will always have flooding to some extent but to prevent it as much as possible we should do a number of points I propose. The Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (abbreviated TARP and more commonly known as the aforementioned Deep Tunnel Project or the Chicago Deep Tunnel) is a large civil engineering project that aims to reduce flooding in the metropolitan Chicago area, and to reduce the harmful effects of flushing raw sewage into Lake Michigan by diverting storm water and sewage into temporary holding reservoirs. The megaproject is one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in terms of scope, cost and timeframe. Commissioned in the mid-1970s, the project is managed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Completion of the system is not anticipated until 2029, but substantial portions of the system have already opened and are currently operational. Across 30 years of construction, over $3 billion has been spent on the project. As of October 2005, substantial drilling and blasting for the underground tunnels was complete. Reservoirs are scheduled to become operational and hold and process sewage, notably in McCook (2013 and 2019) and Thornton (2014). Currently, water travels to the Thornton Transitional Reservoir, which will be abandoned in 2014. Water is also stored and held in the tunnels themselves while sewage treatment plants release treated water into the Calumet and Des Plaines Rivers. Mining work was completed on the Little Calumet leg of the Deep Tunnel System, and final connections were scheduled for completion on March 1, 2006. The Little Calumet leg is 7.9 miles (12.7 km) in length. Operation of the Little Calumet leg will mark the total completion of all 109.4 miles (176.1 km) of tunnel included under Phase I of the TARP project, and the culmination of 30 years of tunnel construction. Severe weather events as recent as the early 1990s have forced water management agencies to pump excess wastewater into the lake and river in order to prevent flooding. These incidents have been reduced as more of the Deep Tunnel system has become operational. Long considered an open sewer, the Chicago River now hosts more than 50 species of fish and increased wildlife along its shores. Riverfront property has begun to be classified more as an asset than a liability, and substantial development is occurring along many portions. Canoeing is once again allowed on the waterway, but swimming is still prohibited due to high pollution levels. Some Key Proposals: 1. Audit the Deep Tunnel project 2. Speed up the Reservoirs while maintaining quality control 3. Municipalities have to update their water and sewer systems. 4. Homeowners should invest in pumps and other anti-flooding devices (I wish they didn't have to do it but it is the smart thing to do. So, the MWRD, to prevent flood disasters must have competent access to widespread improvements in engineering and sewage.
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?
The severance policies of the district were absurd--terrible policies. It was a waste of money. I would have handled it differently because we had a brain drain and a bunch of retirements all at the same time with big pay outs. I am not sure if it could have been legally challenged.
What should the district's policies be with regard to severance, sick time and pensions? Please explain in detail.
The District's sick time, and pension after retirement are too generous and cannot be justified. There must be increase employee contributions and a move for new employees to go to a 401K or similar type system. In our private sector, an employee's severance is typically 2 weeks plus 1 week for every past year of employment. Sick days are typically 1 day per 2 months.
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.
As long as it is not raw sewage, not solids, and is only clarified liquids, our current steps may be sufficient. I support disinfection of our waters BUT am concerned about: a) Cost of it b) who will pay for it--the Federal government should pay. I do not believe in unfunded mandates. c) the science behind it and d) that it deals with (or we continue to study)pharmaceutical drugs in the waste water--a serious issue brought out by Commissioner Frank Avila an incumbent Commissioner in 2003.