Are Cook suburbs shut out on water commission?
Although about half the population of Cook County lives in the suburbs, only one commissioner on the nine-member Metropolitan Water Reclamation District board resides outside Chicago.
So should the commission be divided up so members are elected by district instead of at-large?
Opinion was divided among the MWRD candidates running in the Nov. 6 election. The hopefuls seeking three spots comprise Green Party members Dave Ehrlich, Karen Roothaan, Nasrin Khalili; Republicans Harold "Noonie" Ward and Carl Segvich; and Democrats Debra Shore, Kari Steele and Patrick Thompson.
Shore of Evanston is the only suburbanite; the other candidates and the existing board are all Chicagoans. The population of Cook County is 5.2 million while the population of Chicago is 2.7 million, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
Asked if he supported single-member districts, Segvich, a 50-year-old Republican committeeman, said "yes and no."
"Where a person physically lives doesn't matter — we can elect nine commissioners who live on the same block and they can still do a good job as long as they're qualified," he said. But "definitely there is too much Chicago corruption and Chicago-style ways of doing business" at the district, Segvich added.
Roothaan, a 59-year-old teacher, liked "the idea of regional representation since the concerns of people in the district are very diverse. I did not realize the board representation was so weighted with Chicago residents," she noted.
Ehrlich, a 54-year-old Illinois Institute of Technology assistant professor, said "I don't know if the decisions would be any different if there were district elections. As far as I know, the at-large system is working well."
Thompson, a 43-year-old attorney, said the concept should be discussed but "at this point in time, I would say 'no.' We all know water runs wherever water's going to run. If there were districts, I think that would be a challenge."
Steele, a 37-year-old chemist, thinks "it would be beneficial to have at least a representative on the board from the various areas of Cook County. Although you'll still represent the whole of Cook County — it would guarantee someone would be in that area and know what that area is going through," Steele said.
Shore, a 60-year-old incumbent commissioner, favors the at-large system. "I think members of the board are better able to take the balcony view and allocate resources where they're needed rather than feel any pull to bring back the bacon to a specific district," she said.
Khalili, a 57-year-old IIT associate professor, could not be reached for comment on this issue.
Ward has not responded to numerous interview requests by the Daily Herald.
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