Michael G. Grace: Candidate profile
Office sought: Commissioner at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
Family: Wife Amy, Michael 23, Kelly Anne 17, Colin 15
Occupation: Financial Futures Trader/Broker, 26 year member at the Chicago Board of Trade, Owner-Water and Fire mitigation company
Education: Bachelor of Science in Economics from Marquette University
Civic involvement: Football coach at St. Cletus grade school 13 years, Little League manager 15 years, Basketball coach at St. Cletus grade school 6 years
Elected offices held: Currently President Trustee of the South Lyons Township sanitary District. First elected in 2010.
Incumbent? No. If yes, when were first elected:
Facebook: Michael G. Grace for MWRD
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?
I believe my past success and experience make me the number one candidate. I am currently serving my third term as President Trustee of the South Lyons Township Sanitary District (SLTSD). This position oversees the sewer infrastructure of both Countryside and Lagrange. Upon being elected in 2010, the district was running at a deficit and was experiencing flooding and sewer infiltration and inflow issues throughout. After going over our budget and meeting with our superintendent and engineering team, we developed a project that would replace nearly 80% of the district sewer infrastructure. After approval of plans, the SLTSD then applied and received a 1 million dollar grant from the EPA. The SLTSD is now has a state of the art computer driven flood control system, new sewers, new roads and new landscaping. Additionally, the project has been fully paid off at no increase to taxpayers. The SLTSD is currently running at a surplus and has a fully funded retirement fund.
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?
The District has been fighting what feels like a losing battle to climate change, as the storms grow more intense and the rainfall increases to historic levels. Just one inch of rain falling across Cook County equals 16 billion gallons of water. The District has taken some positive steps to reduce flooding, like passing the Watershed Management Ordinance, requiring builders to account for stormwater runoff. They have increased funding for Green Infrastructure projects to capture water before it enters the sewer system. But there is still more that can be done! We must invest in new sewer infrastructure. We must apply our data taken from smoke and dye testing, identify our most troubled areas and replace outdated sewers with new. Although it is not an easy task, it can be done within budget. Additionally, I would like to see is a cost share program with residents in which the District can help people protect their property directly. I would seek legislation to grant the District the authority to grant private side funding to homes and businesses that are continuing to feel the horrible effects of flooding, year after year.
3. What changes in technology, equipment or infrastructure are needed to improve management of the region's water supply.
While the District does not directly manage the region's water supply, everything the agency does is aimed at protecting Lake Michigan, the source of our drinking water supply. The District has been providing protection to Lake Michigan for over 130 years, and while they have done a good job, we still can do better. We need larger and more viable local sewers that can transport sewage to the treatment plants, instead of allowing it to overflow into the waterways. We need more projects like the Ostara Plant in Stickney that remove harmful nutrients from effluent. And we need to work with the stakeholders of the Great Lakes region to come up with a plan to combat invasive species from entering into our water supply.
4. What is the role of the district, and of district commissioners, in promoting conservation of resources?
Water conservation is vital to the operations of the District, as the less water that is wasted down a drain, the less water the District needs to treat. The District should take a leading role in promoting water conservation throughout Cook County, and Commissioners, as public servants, should be out in the community talking to residents about the importance of conservation. The District should consider bringing back their successful Rain Barrel program, which was a great hands on way for residents to practice water conservation in their homes.
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
I think all government agencies that are tasked with serving the public and operate on taxpayer dollars can use some improvement. MWRD took a big step forward in transparency when it brought in the first independent inspector general in agency history last year. I would also like to see the District pass real ethics reform, including lobbyist registration and contribution limits from people seeking to do business with the agency.