Patrick Thompson: Candidate Profile
Metro. Water Reclamation District (Democrat)
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: Married with three children
Education: St. Mary's University of Minnesota, B.A., 1991 The John Marshall Law School, J.D., 1999
Civic involvement: ? Illinois Attorney General Business Advisory Council ? Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Chairman of the Board of Directors ? The Louis L. Valentine Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, Immediate Past President and current Board Member ? Aquinas Literacy Center, Past Chairman and current Board Member ? South Loop Chamber of Commerce, Secretary ? Leadership Greater Chicago, Fellow ? Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, Board Member ? The John Marshall Law School Board of Visitors ? Nativity of Our Lord Parish Finance Council ? 11th Ward Democratic Organization ? Irish Fellowship Club President ? Christian Community Health Center, Board Member
Elected offices held: In 2000 I was elected Delegate to the Democratic National Convention and in 2004 I served on the Rules Committee to the Democratic National Convention.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
First is storm water management. We have experienced record flooding throughout Cook County and this must be addressed. We must first approve the Cook County Watershed Ordinance. Second, accelerate the construction and completion of the Thornton and McCook Reservoirs to mitigate the flooding caused by the severe storms we are experiencing in recent years. Finally, utilizing green technology such as rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavers will also alleviate the amount of storm water in our system.
Key Issue 2
Second is water quality. I commend the Board for its vote last year to disinfect the water the District releases back into the watercourse. However, this is just one piece of making sure the quality of water is safe for all of us. We must improve the quality of water so that we can utilize the rivers and canals for recreational purposes as well. In addition, we must look at the possibility of recycling the grey water instead of releasing it into the canals and sending it down the Mississippi River. We can utilize this water for manufacturing purposes which will reduce our fresh usage and ultimately save money for the District.
Key Issue 3
Lastly, we must be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the District. Government is being challenged to do more with less. Capital improvements, pension obligations and providing improved service will force the District to be more creative in how we fund these services.
What special knowledge or experience do you have that particularly qualifies you for this office?
As a lawyer, I am trained to think critically and solve complex problems. I believe having a lawyer on the Board of Commissioners will be beneficial during discussions on contracts, real estate, employment issues and other matters which involve legal evaluation. As a real estate attorney, I have been invloved in matters relating to storm water management, such as detention and retension issues. I am familiar with the concerns of local governments and property owners as it relates to storm water issues. Prior to becoming an attorney, I worked for 8 years in commercial real estate. The MWRD owns over 9,000 acres of land throughout Cook County and I believe the land is a valuable asset that should be evaluated and perhaps utilized to generate opportunities for recreation or for commercial uses. I have also been very active in my community and a leader in many civic organizations. I am currently chairman of the Illinois Council Agaisnt Handgun Violence, board member of the Louis L. Valentine Boys & Girls Club, Aquinas Literacy Center and a board member of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association (HCBA). The HCBA's main goal is to preserve Chicago's bungalows while updating to meet current building standards. We promote green technology as viable alternatives to renonvating your home. I believe the leadership I have demonstrated in these organizations will carry over to the Board of Commissioners of the District. I will be a very active member of the Board and am motivated to address the issues I have outlined above. In 2007 I was appointed to the Bubbly Creek Committee by the Mayor of Chicago to address environmental problems, guide redevelopment and increase public access along the Bubbly Creek Corridor. As a community leader, I, along with other residents, business owners and the city of Chicago worked together to develop a vision for the Bubbly Creek Corridor. This experience made me more interested in improving the quality of our watercourses throughout Cook County it is also part of the reason I am running for Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
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?
I believe storm water management is vital to all of our communities and must be addressed. This will be a top priority of mine. The District must work to approve the Cook County Watershed Management Ordinance. Second, accelerating the construction and completion of the Thornton and McCook Districts Reservoirs will help to mitigate the flooding caused by the severe storms we are experiencing in recent years. In addition, increasing utilization of green technology such as rain barrels, rain gardens and permeable pavers will also alleviate the amount of storm water flowing into our system. I also believe the MWRD must make a commitment to work more closely with municipalities to identify solutions and share resources necessary for individual communities to further mitigate flooding.
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 understand this was a controversial issue. The severance pay concept needed to be addressed because of the financial exposure to the District. However, there were legal opinions that raised concerns about how the changes should be enacted at whether it should be implemented prospectively or retroactively. It has resulted in litigation, which the state must now pay lawyer to litigate. Also, there was a drain on institutional knowledge with employees leaving. Perhaps it could have been implemented prospectively. As an attorney, I will bring a unique perspective to the Board and assist with making decisions like this one.
What should the district's policies be with regard to severance, sick time and pensions? Please explain in detail.
The District has set policy as to severance for new employees. Furthermore, the District reduced the amount of money it will pay employees for sick time when they retire. This was done to reduce the financial burden of the district and the taxpayers. The District also is requiring employees to contribute a higher percentage of their salary for their pensions. This is the District?s attempt to be financially responsible. I agree that we must look at working with employees to preserve the viability of their pensions. A modest increase in the employee's contribution as well as an increase in the contribution from the District is a good approach.
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.
Yes. There are a number of step the board can take for example, I believe that removing phosphorus from the District treatments plant would improve water quality standards, reduce the possibility of water contamination and help to reduce the District's impact in the Gulf of Mexico. Further, the MWRD can work to educate residents and identify the source of dangerous pollutants such as nonylphenol (NP), triclocarban (TCC) and triclosan (TCS) found in consumer and industrial products to further protect our waterways. I also believe we should look at the existing water quality of the River and Canals and to improve those bodies of water as we improve the new water that will be disinfected before it is released.