The Billion-Dollar Rubber Stamp

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.

approved-stamp.jpgFive 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.

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Illinois Greens Fundraising for Takeover Attempt in Cook County

The Green Party doesn't often get a chance to run for majority control of an elected body in a single electoral cycle—but that's exactly how the Illinois Green Party is positioned for the November 2018 election in Cook County.

With five of the nine seats on Cook County's Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board of Commissioners on the ballot in November, majority control of the billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded agency is suddenly in play. And as the only opposition party with five candidates filed for those five seats, the Green Party has a compelling case that voters tired of decades-long one-party rule by the Democrats should rally behind the Green flag in November. 

The catch? Thanks to a decision by the Democrat-controlled Cook County Clerk's office, one of those five seats will only be available to candidates who participate in a special, write-in-only ballot line on their party's March 20th primary ballots. And in Illinois, a legal minimum for write-ins means that candidate Geoffrey Cubbage will need at least 1,720 Cook County voters to pull a Green Party ballot and correctly write in his name.

The party has promised a nation-wide fundraising outreach for the write-in primary, encouraging Greens and third-party supporters from all across the country to chip in at the campaign's donation page. Small-dollar donations don't just fund critical voter outreach, according to Illinois Green Party officers—they also demonstrate a robust supporter base to endorsing institutions like media outlets and issue-based advocacy groups.

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Greens Announce Fifth Candidate for Water Reclamation District - Majority Now in Play

Write-in-only primary gives Greens a takeover opportunity: "We're now running for majority control."

CHICAGO -- The Illinois Green Party has announced a fifth candidate for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board of Commissioners, which oversees Cook County's billion-dollar, 2000-employee, taxpayer-funded wastewater treatment and flood prevention agency.

The death of MWRD Commissioner Timothy Bradford in December 2017, just days before the close of the filing period for the 2018 primaries, resulted in a snap decision from the Cook County Clerk's office to put Bradford's unfinished two-year term on the March 20th primary ballots -- with no candidates listed, making it a write-in-only election. The decision was issued on January 11th, and filing for write-in candidates closed one week later, on January 18th. 

Illinois Green Party Secretary Geoffrey Cubbage, a former data analyst on international aid projects in Afghanistan, including agricultural and water-supply development initiatives, has filed as a Green Party write-in candidate, joining four other Greens in the race. With nine seats total, that puts a majority in play in 2018 -- and the Green Party promises a hard campaign to win it all.

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Greens on the Ballot!

Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 - The final day to file objections to candidate ballot access petitions has passed, and the Illinois Green Party slate for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board of Commissioners went unchallenged. Your Illinois Greens will be on the ballot in the March 20, 2018 primary election!

The slate of candidates representing the Illinois Green Party will be:

  • Chris Anthony, 6-year full term
  • Karen Roothaan, 6-year full term
  • Tammie Vinson, 6-year full term
  • Rachel Wales, 2-year unfinished term
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Petition Push - November 18 and 19

MWRD candidates will be hitting the street the weekend of Nov. 18th and 19th -- State Street, specifically, along Chicago's busiest blocks for weekend pedestrian traffic!

With two weeks left in the filing period, the Green Party candidates for the MWRD Board of Commissioners are asking volunteers and supporters to join them between 10am and 4pm, Saturday Nov. 18th and Sunday Nov. 19th. 

ILGP staff will have extra clipboards and pens, and will be available to train first-time petitioners. All supporters have to do is show up at the intersection of State & Randolph and check in with one of the Green Party petitioners already out on the sidewalk!

See the Saturday and Sunday Facebook events for more details, or contact volunteer@ilgp.org to get involved before the weekend!

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Sewage Dumps All Too Routine in Cook County

At 4:29pm on Saturday, October 14th, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago announced via Twitter that “The gates at Chicago River and Wilmette Harbor are open to allow flow to Lake Michigan.”

The “flow” referred to is a “combined sewer outflow” -- in other words, untreated stormwater, wastewater, and raw sewage, all mixed together and dumped into the same Lake Michigan that provides our drinking water, as well as other parts of the Chicago Area Waterway System.

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Candidates for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Come Out Swinging

Green Party slate challenges lack of climate change readiness; points finger at "culture of cronyism and nepotism."

CHICAGO -- Candidates for the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago came out swinging at a meeting in Pilsen this Saturday. Chris Anthony, Karen Roothaan, and Tammie Vinson, announcing their candidacies for the Green Party ticket, blasted the current Board of Commissioners for its political climate and lack of vision.

"The nominally-partisan Board of Commissioners has been an all-Democrat body for decades," said Ms. Roothaan. "You don't get good governance with one-party rule. Putting Greens on the Board will open the MWRD up to true citizen oversight."

The candidates' presentation highlighted the absence of any reference to climate change in the MWRD's five-year Strategic Business Plan or mission and value statements, as well as leveling harsh criticism at a political culture where "everyone's here on a phone call," as a former MWRD police officer described the District in leaked audio from 2014. All three candidates called for an independent Inspector General for the MWRD.

Presenting their own vision for a MWRD with Green Party representatives on the board, the candidates emphasized a need for green infrastructure to help with flood abatement. "Deep Tunnel was an amazing piece of forward thinking for its time," said Mr. Anthony, referring to the Tunnel And Reservoir Plan begun in the 1970s to combat combined sewer outflows. "But we now know that 'grey infrastructure' of tunnels and canals alone can't prevent catastrophic flooding. The MWRD needs to get serious about land use and permitting that will put an end to serious flooding in Cook County."

The candidates called for an immediate shift towards using MWRD-owned land for green infrastructure projects, rather than the District's current practice of leasing land to private industry. "Some of the tenants on MWRD land are waterway polluters," said Ms. Vinson. "This is the agency that's supposed to be keeping our water clean, so why are they renting their land -- taxpayer land -- to industrial polluters?"

Mr. Anthony, Ms. Roothaan, and Ms. Vinson will be running together on a unified platform. All three candidates for the MWRD are currently involved in the ballot access petition drive, which will run through late November.

More information on the candidates and their platform is available at mwrd-ilgp.org. For questions or media requests, contact Illinois Green Party Secretary Geoffrey Cubbage at secretary@ilgp.org, 224-999-2423.

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ILGP Announces Candidate Slate for MWRD

The Illinois Green Party has announced a slate of three candidates to run for the three Sanitary District Commissioner seats up for election in the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago in 2018.

Running on the Green Party ballot line will be:

  • Chris Anthony
  • Karen Roothaan
  • Tammie Vinson

The candidates will be petitioning for ballot access from Sept. 5th - Nov. 27th, 2017. For more information, or to volunteer for the Green Party MWRD campaign, contact the Illinois Green Party at secretary@ilgp.org

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