Observer: Kelly Kleiman
Meeting Date: 1/7/16 Length: 2 hour
Significant Decisions Made:
The whole meeting proceeded by consent calendar, which in turn was dominated by procurement/contract approval requests, and all but half a dozen of the 41 items were approved. Only a few were discussed individually.
Significant Topics Discussed and/or Referred to Committee
Lobbying Contract (Item 24): A contract for lobbying services, attracted significant discussion: its $417,000 cost was 42% higher than the next competing bid. St. Pierre explained that this was the same price paid the same contractor previously; that it was within the RFP (in fact, it was the exact amount specified in the RFP); and that the contractor “gets results,” having secured $48 million from the Federal Government on a $32 million District request. But he agreed to consult with District lawyers about whether, now that the contract had been awarded, he could ask the contractor for a price break (though it would be illegal to do so as a condition for the contract’s award).
Other Comments or Observations:
Given the frequency with which anti-union opinions are expressed at meetings of the County’s Health and Hospitals System Board, the pro-union tenor of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District meeting was quite striking. Commissioners and staff spoke repeatedly and with pride about the middle-class jobs the District provides and supports. Even more remarkable was the collaboration displayed by the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Sierra Club in producing the “Flowing Economy” report, when environmental and labor concerns are so often considered to be at odds. The District has apparently decided that “green infrastructure” is where the twain can meet.
Observers: Priscilla Mims and Laura Davis
Meeting Date: December 17, 2015
Significant Decisions Made:
The 2016 Budget. The MWRD Board at a Special Meeting on December 10 voted to approve a budget of $1,251,955,410 for the 2016 fiscal year that begins January 1. Per law, the MWRD may revise the budget at the first regular Board meeting following that vote. At this meeting, the Board approved a $20,000 increase to the Corporate Fund, bringing the total budget to $1,251,955,430. The total budget for 2016 is $38 million higher, or 3.2% greater, than that for 2015. The total number of positions is 1,976 (6 more positions than in 2015). Motions to reconsider the budget failed, which means that the 2016 budget is now final.
The full budget is available on the MWRD web site: www.mwrd.org.
The 2016 Property Tax Levy. The MWRD also finalized the total 2016 property tax levy of $577,833,062. The MWRD votes separately for the tax levies for each of the different funds: Corporate, Construction, Reserve Claim, Stormwater Management, Retirement, and Bond Redemption and Interest funds. Motions to reconsider these tax levies also failed, meaning that the tax levy is finalized. This is $18 million greater than 2015, which is a 3.3% increase.
Items to Watch for the Future:
New rules for public speakers. Under existing procedures, speakers may speak separately up to 3 minutes each on any individual item. They may also ask questions within that time period. At this meeting, George Blakemore spoke separately on several different items. A member of the Green Party also spoke and raised questions on different items that were responded to by Executive Director David St. Pierre following the 3 minute speaker limitation. Commissioner Michael Alvarez suggested that the MWRD Board look at other government bodies’ rules for public speakers and change to conform to them. Presumably, this will mean allowing a speaker to only speak once, rather than separately on different items. It may also mean eliminating the ability of speakers to raise questions that will be responded to.
Broadcasts of meetings. Commissioner Frank Avila asked that the Board look at televising the meetings on a public access channel. Currently, one can watch the meeting live via the web site, and videos of the meeting are made available on the web site after a short delay.
Next Meeting: January 7, 2016 at 10 am.
Individual authors are credited at the end of each report.