League advocacy begins with members selecting, studying and seeking consensus on issues which are of public concern. When consensus is achieved, the League has a position. The League uses its positions to advocate for policies, legislation and ballot measures which it believes would best serve the public interest and against proposals which are in conflict with those goals.
The LWV Wilmette Stormwater Study grew out of the Board planning session in June, 2013. Then on June 18, Wilmette, in cooperation with other North Shore leagues, presented a community meeting on stormwater. Attendance was robust, an indication that this issue is a high priority with Village residents. The presenters included the MWRD (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District), the CNT (Center for Neighborhood Technology), the ILEPA (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency), and Illinois Coastal Management.
During the summer of 2013, several League members began to gather information by attending a field trip to the Deep Tunnel Project and by meeting with the CNT and the National Resource Defense Council. These agencies shared a wealth of information and helped to give direction to the upcoming study.
By September, 2013, the League study group was formed: Joanne Aggens, Nancy Canafax, Georgia Gebhardt, Trudy Gibbs, Joel Kurzman and Lali Watt. The study group researched the topic from September-December and developed a set of consensus questions. Group members attended the Lake Michigan LWV annual meeting in Kenosha, the Winnetka Deep Tunnel community meetings and the meeting of the NWMC Watershed Planning Council. Brigitte Berger, Wilmette Village engineer, met with the group numerous times to give background information and to answer questions. The product of this research and the consensus questions, including the results of the consensus meeting, may be accessed on the LWV Wilmette website (lwvwilmette.org).
Next steps: the 2014-2015 LWV Wilmette Board will be exploring how the League can take action on this position and advocate for improved stormwater policies/programs in the Village.
A presentation of the study questions and the research related to them, was presented to a sizable group which was able to come to consensus. That consensus will form the basis of a position that will allow the Wilmette League to advocate on matters related to Village stormwater policy.
There was participation of League members from neighboring Leagues. Their comments during the discussion session are often germane to problems and solutions they have encountered ahead of us. Voting during the consensus session is limited to Wilmette League members.
Members of the study group: Joanne Aggens, Nancy Canafax, Georgia Gebhardt, Trudy Gibbs, Joel Kurzman, Trish Nealon and Lali Watt.
Thanks to Dorothy Speidel recording the session. Below are the notes and CONSENSUS RESULTS.
25 people gathered for the Consensus meeting held at the Wilmette Public Library. There were a few guests but an overwhelming majority of attendees were Wilmette League members.
Georgia Gebhardt, as chairman of the Stormwater Study Committee, welcomed all and thanked the rest of the Committee members: Joanne Aggens, Nancy Canafax, Trudy Gibbs, Joel Kurzman, and Lali Watt. Questions were asked and answered during the presentations.
There were 100 pages of presentation materials. Presentation materials are available upon request.
Objectives of the Study included:
Georgia went on to discuss:
Lali Watt presented:
Nancy Canafax presented:
Intense rainfall: some neighborhoods experience backups in both systems.
Challenges in Addressing Stormwater Flooding in Wilmette:
Trudy Gibbs presented:
Gail Thomason, facilitator:
1. Should the Village create more incentives for property owners to execute plans to retain larger amounts of stormwater on their properties? YES
2. Should there be a sewer/stormwater fee assessed proportionate to the amount of the impervious surface of a property with a way to adjust the fee for mitigating factors (such as a rain garden or retention device)? (Now the sewer fee is based on water usage.) YES
It was suggested that property owners would have to appeal to the Village to get credit for good practices.
3. Should the Village of Wilmette set up a process (including a reporting mechanism) with neighboring villages and other governmental entities in the same watershed to seek common solutions? The purpose of this process is to seek common solutions that protect each entity's interests. YES
4. Should a Wilmette Comprehensive Stormwater Plan include target measures for success including, but not limited to, such things as a reduction in percentage of basements flooded, an increase in pervious surfaces and/or improvement in runoff water quality? YES
5. A representative cross section of property owners (including business and residential owners and flooded and non-flooded properties) should have an active involvement in every stage of the development of the Village of Wilmette Stormwater Master Plan. YES
6. Should LWV Wilmette create an Action Committee to advocate for the adopted consensus positions? YES
The League of Women Voters of Wilmette, Wilmette Public Library, and Go Green Wilmette presented an abridged viewing of the film Liquid Assets, followed by a discussion of community and regional water management issues. Almost 40 people including State Senator Daniel Biss attended LWV Wilmette's Liquid Assets program on September 24 at Wilmette Library. The program raised community awareness about management of national and local water systems infrastructure.
Our program's format was a combined presentation of selected film clips from the documentary Liquid Assets followed by presentations from Wilmette's Director of Engineering Brigitte Mayerhofer and Nabil Quafisheh, Superintendent of Wilmette's Water Plant.
Penn State Public Broadcasting produced Liquid Assets as a public media and outreach initiative. The film outlines the public water supply's crucial roles in maintaining public health, public safety, and the economy, using examples from communities of all sizes and locations throughout the country, each with its own challenges. The audience viewed specific segments highlighting the value of water, the evolution of provision of safe drinking water and removal of waste and stormwater; management and rehabilitation of aging systems, and a section highlighting 21st century solutions for maintaining our water infrastructure. A common theme emerged: we need to care for our water resources.
How is all this relevant to our own community? Following the film, Brigitte Mayerhofer provided the audience with important information about Wilmette's sewer system.
Mr. Quafisheh showed an interactive DVD as he explained how water is obtained from Lake Michigan, treated, filtered, stored, and delivered to our homes as safe drinking water. He emphasized that the plant and all systems operate according to standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The process begins with lake water intakes that reach out approximately one mile from the plant into the Lake Michigan. Water flows to the plant by gravity, where is undergoes a multistep process before it is ready to become our drinking water. Our plant produces drinking water for both Wilmette and Glenview (70% of the water that Wilmette produces is for Glenview; many of us did not know that!).
Finally the speakers welcomed audience questions and addressed a variety of broad and specific issues.
A reading list compiled by the Library is below..
To see streaming video from Village of Wilmette on Wilmette's Sewers and Stormwater, click the link to the Wilmette's Website. Timeline:
The following is an excerpt from an OBSERVER CORPS REPORTDate of tour: August 10th Organizing group: The Southeast Environmental Task Force Daunting and Unsustainable A group of sixty participants, speakers, and organizers toured the Calumet Water Reclamation Plant, three closed landfills, a major solid waste transfer station, and a public golf course built on top of a closed landfill. For years, the southeast side of Chicago has been the dumping grounds for residential, industrial, and commercial waste from the City of Chicago and the 125 adjacent communities (including Wilmette). Initially, all that wastewater and solid waste ended up in the bogs and marshes of the wetlands surrounding E. 130th street. In recent times, much progress has been made in waste management, but much of the brunt of what is flushed, run off, and tossed is still processed in southeast Chicago. The work it takes to manage the huge volumes of wastewater and mountains of trash is both daunting and, ultimately, unsustainable.
"Down in the Dumps"
Reporters: Trudy Gibbs (LWV Wilmette), Laurie Morse and Roberta Ury (LWV Glencoe), Judith Royal (LWV Arlington Heights)
Wastewater and Stormwater
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC) now has seven treatment plants to handle wastewater and stormwater spread throughout the greater Chicago area. The Calumet plant is the oldest in continuous operation. Upgrades and expansion have made it possible for this plant alone to handle up to 354 million gallons of combined wastewater and stormwater per day. The process of cleanup begins with a screening system to remove large debris -- objects that could damage pumps and other mechanical equipment. From there, the wastewater is pumped into a series of processing units to remove dissolved and finely dispersed pollutants. Grit is removed by centrifugation. Dissolved and finely dispersed pollutants are removed by introducing special mixes of microorganisms with and without the use of aeration features and digestion chambers. Much of the those steps involve letting the "sludge" settle and siphoning off the salvaged water. Although plans are in place to add disinfection features to "sterilize" the effluent before it is discharged into the Little Calumet River/Cal-Sag Channel, the new facilities will not be operational until December of 2015. Current tables buried within MWRD publications show that some ozone and chlorine are now use to treat the effluent. After leaving the channel, the treated water flows into the Illinois River, then the Mississippi, and finally into the Gulf of Mexico. MWRDGC claims to remove 90% of the pollutants entering the plant, but our guide from the plant did not discuss the extent to which the effluent is actually tested or how often testing occurs. We were left wondering whether the 10% residual pollution is actually harmless, and why improved forms of sterilization were not put in place long ago?
On Sunday December 7, 2014 over 50 people wound their way through the catacombs of Parkes Hall at Northwestern to attend a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Illinois, Evanston and Wilmette, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, The Democratic Party of Evanston, The Committee for Economic Development and the Northwestern University College Democrats.
Starting out, former LWVIL and ICPR Executive Director Cindi Canary gave a brief history of campaign finance legislation in the US and Illinois and then turned the floor over two people who had been, at one time, political rivals and who have always been on opposite sides of the aisle. What took place next left many in the room dumbfounded. Democratic Senator Biss and his political rival, Beth Coulson, a former Republican member of the Illinois House described together, their fundraising frustrations; and when they did so they often punctuated their remarks with compliments to the other for helping them to be better candidates. It was truly a bipartisan exchange of ideas; moreover many in the room commented about the astonishing and refreshing tone of humor, respect and candor that permeated the event. Together they painted a picture that we have all suspected. Money is ostensibly corroding our political system. Panelist David Melton, from ICPR noted that money is not necessarily the real problem. The problem is that when politicians have to depend a few very wealthy donors to win their elections, they become accountable to the people who paid their bills, not the people who cast the votes. 60% of total giving in 2010 congressional elections came from about .000032% (approx. 100 people). In the Illinois Governor's race over 85% of contributions came from donors giving more than $1000.
David presented a tool that has been successful in many other municipalities, the "Small Donor Match System"; a system that is being discussed for Evanston. These systems require candidates to raise money from ordinary citizens, rather than relying on a few wealthy donors and they allow the public, media, and policymakers to see just who is financing policy proposals and campaigns. Together, these reforms boost accountability, curb corruption, and increase the voice of ordinary citizens. According to David : "The problem is where the money increasingly comes from (a tiny slice of special interests and super-wealthy individuals) and what we make politicians do to raise the increasing amounts of money necessary to run successful campaigns in a complex society."
Two Illinois communities have been selected as possible Illinois pilot projects for these match systems, Evanston and Oak Park. And, if they are as successful here as they have been in other places, perhaps Evanston can be the model for a larger system. If you would like more information about the small donor match systems go to http://www.ilcampaign.org/issues-and-legislation/small-donor-matching-systems/
Michelle K. Jordan, League of Women Voters of Evanston
The LWVIL adopted a position on charter schools in 2001. It can be accessed at lwvil.org. Click on "Where We Stand." Because of the proliferation of charter schools and their apparent move away from the original mission, delegates attending the 2013 State convention voted to reopen this position and to direct a State committee to organize a study to either update or to replace the original position.
During the past year, members of the State committee have researched charter schools, interviewed officials from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools and the Illinois Charter School Commission, and visited numerous Chicago charter schools and where possible, their corresponding neighborhood public schools.
Consensus questions and related resources have been developed and are nearly ready for submission to the State Board. Those materials will be available over the summer for those who would like to get an early start on this work. This summer is also the time for local leagues to form their study committees. Actual work will begin in the fall with a deadline for the consensus completion in January.
Look for the call to participate in this study in an upcoming issue of the LWVWilmette League Bulletin. Questions about the Stormwater Study or the upcoming Charter School Study can be directed to Georgia Gebhardt (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (847)853-8225 or (847)989-8225 (cell). Submitted, May, 2014 by Georgia Gebhardt
The Agriculture Study is on hold, pending a decision from the League of Women Voters US. It's hoped that national will allow this study to move into the next two-year cycle, because there was insufficient time to do this study by the April deadline.
Suggested Reading before the study begins: Three documents and three websites are suggested and can be found on the LWVUS website.
The LWV IL is supportive of a constitutional amendment which is necessary to amend graduated rate income taxes and we therefore wrote to our legislators expressing our support.
The League of Women Voters of Illinois has prepared a succinct pamphlet explaining the League position on GRIT. Click here for pamphlet.
Letter sent to our elected officials, Senator Daniel Biss, Representative Laura Fine and Representative Robyn Gabel
Legislation (HJRCA 33/SJRCA 40) is pending in Springfield for a constitutional amendment on a fair tax allowing for higher rates on higher incomes and lower rates on lower incomes. The League of Women Voters of Illinois supports this plan, rather than the regressive flat tax now imposed in Illinois.
LWVIL believes this amendment will bring fairness to Illinois' tax code, helping Illinois' middle-class families. It will help Illinois protect key priorities, such as education, public safety, healthcare, and human services. These vital services have been woefully shortchanged in recent years because of Illinois' systemic budget problems; the result of an out-of-date tax code which overburdens middle class taxpayers.
The legislation embodies another important principle: citizen participation. If adopted by the General Assembly, this referendum would ask Illinois voters if they want to amend the 1970 Illinois Constitution, which currently states that personal income tax must be non-graduated (flat). Passing this amendment will provide Illinois voters the chance to play a role in this process.
The LWVIL knows it's time for long-term budget solutions to help rebuild Illinois' economy and provide sustained support to programs and services that people need. Adoption of a fair tax achieves these goals. We request that you support efforts to achieve a constitutional amendment on a fair tax in Illinois.
Thank you for your work on our behalf and your attention to this issue.
With best regards,
President, LWV Wilmette
For more information from the LWVIL, click here.
To read about a recent presentation on our Observer Corps Page, click here.