In theory, Cook County's taxpayer-funded Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) is run by a miniature legislative body: an elected, nine-member Board of Commissioners, whose votes determine which plans go ahead and which do not, which contracts are approved and which are not, and so on.
It's a nice theory, which could allow for a modicum of democratic control over the MWRD's enormous spending and taxing powers—but in practice, the all-Democrat Board of Commissioners is little more than a rubber stamp.
Five Years of Unbroken "Yes" Votes on Taxpayer-Funded Contracts
Examination of the MWRD Board of Commissioners legislative proceedings from the last five years shows that, in the course of over 5,500 individual measures brought before the Board for a vote, only 21 were rejected, and of those, only one saw any dissent in the final vote-count. All the rest were unanimous decisions.
It must be nice to work in an environment of such harmony, but taxpayers can legitimately question whether a nine-member voting body that approves 99.6% of the proposals put before it serves any real deliberative purpose.
Of particular note: the Board of Commissioners has never once in the last five years turned down a proposal for an outside contract that reached the Board floor. Over the course of those years, the Board rejected zero dollars of proposed contract spending, and approved $1,223,732,635.54—that's $1.2 billion, with a B, as in "boy, that's a lot of taxpayer dollars being rubber-stamped by the Board."
In exchange for the Board's deliberative efforts over the past five years, taxpayers have paid somewhere upwards of $3.1 million in Board member salaries (which start at $70,000/year), and will continue to pay into the pensions on those salaries for years to come.
That's a steep price for half a decade of automatic "Aye" votes, particularly when the Commissioners are supported in their legislative workload by a staff of 21 administrative assistants (another $2-million-plus in salaries each year, plus pension costs down the road). With two of those posts filled by the children of current, sitting Commissioners, taxpayers may have cause to question whether they're getting value for money there, too.