Eira L. Corral Sepulveda: Candidate profile
City: Hanover Park
Office sought: Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD)
Family: Husband Roberto "Bobby" Sepúlveda, 3-year-old daughter, son who is a high school freshman.
Occupation: Village Clerk of Hanover Park, elected since 2009
Education: University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, 2010 Leadership Academy Certification from the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. DePaul University Bachelor of Arts, 2007 Double Major: Political Science and
Latino & Latin American Studies; Double Minor: Community Service Studies and Commercial Spanish.
Civic involvement: Elected Village Clerk at age 23. In Hanover Park I, led efforts to elect the first African-American
male & female trustee, the first Muslim trustee, and the first Latina and formerly undocumented youth trustee. Greater Elgin Family Care Center board member, Latino Policy Forum, Habitat for Humanity, Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Northwest Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Rainbow PUSH, Hanover Park Cultural Inclusion & Diversity Committee, Hanover Park Sister Cities Committee
Elected offices held: Village Clerk of Hanover Park, elected since 2009
Incumbent? No. If yes, when were first elected:
Questions and Answers
1. What special knowledge or experience do you have that particularly qualifies you for this office? If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
In my ten years of elected experience in municipal government as the Clerk for the Village of Hanover Park, I have practiced good governance, transparency, and active community engagement of diverse residents and businesses. My leadership has strengthened Hanover Park's legacy in environmentalism with an emphasis on diversity, inclusion and global impact. I have spearheaded Hanover Park's Arbor Day program through educational campaigns with local and global impact and the Tree City USA certification and advocated for sustaining a biodiverse urban forest.
Experience throughout Cook County in regional government organizations:
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Human Relations Committee
Metropolitan Mayors' Conference (MMC) Diversity Taskforce
Northwest Municipal Conference
Appointed to the Illinois Census Commission
As a millennial mom and a Latina, I am a candidate that represents a future that is inclusive of Cook County's diverse communities. I am a mother of two young kids and securing a better future for our planet drives my passion. As a bilingual and bicultural daughter of working class, Mexican immigrants I value government that prioritizes inclusion and culturally relevant outreach. Like many residents throughout the region, I know the financial and emotional hardship of dealing with my house being flooded after a storm as a new homeowner and single mom. I will carry these perspectives into my role as MWRD Commissioner.
Focus on green infrastructure & environmental justice to build resilience against climate change.
Incorporate community-led visioning in land use planning and decision making and prioritize projects that have green job training to create community buy in.
Reduce contaminants in our waterways such as plastics and pharmaceuticals.
Advocate for state & federal government for funding to support a comprehensive water asset management agenda, infrastructure improvements and artificial intelligence investments.
2. How do you view the role the district has played in controlling flooding and what, if any, actions need to be taken to improve things?
Since the big floods of the late 60s the Deep Tunnel has been an ongoing construction project to build a system of tunnels and reservoirs to increase the MWRD's capacity to manage stormwater and sewage of a growing metropolis. But it has proved to not be enough, especially after extreme weather events that have only gotten worse due to climate change. The final phase of the project will triple the MWRD's sewer system capacity and is scheduled to be completed in 2029. Although I support the continued trajectory of this project, I will also advocate for additional green infrastructure and grey infrastructure at the local level. Green infrastructure presents opportunities for nature based solutions: rain barrels, bioswales, pervious pavement, etc. Furthermore, the District should publish an urban flood vulnerability map that includes flood prone areas, socio-demographic data, and health factors of the community. Our Public is very interested in equity in distributing resources to underserved and divested communities and data sharing is a tool to engage community proactively.
The Watershed Management Ordinance (WMO), adopted in 2014, has a size threshold and it does not apply to small residential development. I will use my 10 years of municipal experience to encourage municipalities to adopt local ordinances to address these gaps and promote resilience against the region's heavy rainstorms. While MWRD does not have the jurisdiction to require this of municipalities, it must continue to educate and provide technical assistance to municipalities looking to update their municipal codes by expanding its pilot program and working the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning- CMAP in local technical assistance grants.
3. What changes in technology, equipment or infrastructure are needed to improve management of the region's water supply.
MWRD has the opportunity to serve as a regional and national leader in modeling the role wastewater treatment agencies can play to protect our water and our future.
The district is limited in available technology and would be greatly improved by AI (artificial intelligence) to share data within the district and other jurisdictions throughout Cook County. This would also support the future development of an interagency approach in collaborating to comprehensively improve infrastructure and manage our most valuable natural resource: water.
MWRD must strategically invest in Green infrastructure: rain barrels, bioswales, pervious pavement, cisterns, etc. and review opportunities to push beyond the current plan to hold 10 million gallons of rain via green infrastructure (required by the EPA consent decree). We could look to our neighbor in the north, Milwaukee, as an example. Their green infrastructure goals by 2035 are to hold 740 million gallons of rainwater. The MWRD could also take an aggressive role to engage suburban and Chicago communities, diverse demographics, and multilingual residents in dealing with urban flooding exacerbated by climate change and its disproportionate impact on communities of color and low income by prioritizing green infrastructure projects that center equity.
The district is limited in its marketing/public relations capacities and it could better engage the families, millennials and Gen Z generation to maximize their interest in consumer consciousness to promote the MWRD's goal to remove microplastics and pharmaceuticals contaminating our water. As we plan our town halls, block talks, listening sessions etc. it is important to design the content within the context of our diverse Chicago neighborhoods and suburban communities.
4. What is the role of the district, and of district commissioners, in promoting conservation of resources?
I will work with fellow Commissioners to support conservation initiatives as part of the strategic planning process. Our comprehensive land use policy must also support the highest and best uses to become resilient to extreme weather. There are opportunities for us to further support water conservation and a comprehensive water management plan. MWRD must strategically invest in Green infrastructure: rain barrels, bioswales, pervious pavement, cisterns, etc. and review opportunities to push beyond the current plan to hold 10 million gallons of rain via green infrastructure (required by the EPA consent decree). We could look to our neighbor in the north, Milwaukee, as an example. Their green infrastructure goals by 2035 are to hold 740 million gallons of rainwater.
5. How do you rate the MWRD on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important
In the Spring of May 2019 the MWRD took a historic and positive step forward toward improving oversight and ethics monitoring by approving the role of the Inspector General (IG) to "detect, deter and prevent corruption, fraud, waste, mismanagement, unlawful political discrimination or misconduct" at the MWRD. This is an independent office and a shared resource with the Cook County Board of Commissioners. This is also a smart cost effective measure modeling interagency collaboration.
The IG's Office has about 20 complaints under the inquiry review process, the MWRD must carefully review recommendations, if any, provided by the IG's Office at the conclusion of these reviews. In the fall of 2019 the IG's Office provided recommendations to amend the MWRD Code of Ethics, which were initially adopted in 2004. The MWRD voted to follow several of these recommendations in the meeting of January 23, 2020. As commissioner, I will look to introduce legislation that will continue to strengthen oversight and ethics to ensure all contracting is
free of political and outside influence.