County Board member talks DuPage cleanup with Obama

By:  Susan Frick Carlman
Naperville Sun

The DuPage River came up during a conversation Jim Healy had with President Barack Obama earlier this month.

As an active member of the National Association of Counties, the DuPage County Board member from Naperville made a trip to the nation’s capital May 2 and 3, joining a group that met with the chief executive, Vice President Joe Biden and several members of the president’s cabinet.

“Opportunities to meet with the president of the United States don’t happen every day, so I knew I needed to take advantage of the situation,” Healy said in a press release issued Monday by the county. “I knew the president would be interested in knowing the restoration funding for the DuPage River had been cut, because he and Sen. Durbinhelped secure those funds several years ago.”

As he shook hands with Obama, Healy noted that $10 million in federal funds is still needed to complete removal of radioactive thorium from the West Branch of the DuPage north of Naperville. The funding, cut from the compromise budget passed by Congress last month, would have augmented the $500 million already spent addressing the contamination, which traces back to U.S. military activities during the 1940s.

“The ability to have those few minutes with the president was a great opportunity,” Healy said in the release. “I think it will help the county, and our congressional delegation’s efforts, to get the funding reinstated so we can finish this important project.”

Healy and the other NACo officials found a distinct connection with the vice president.

“Biden was very comfortable talking about county government because he is a former county commissioner. The vice president has not forgotten his roots in county government; he was very sympathetic to county issues and our ideas,” he said.

The county officials also met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, among others.

“The meetings were very productive, and I think the cabinet members took away several ideas that will become policy and help DuPage County and our cities,” Healy said.