The theme of economic development that carried the discussion during the presidential portion of the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce candidates forum carried over into the gathering of six trustee candidates that immediately followed.
Those running for trustee include independents Yvonne Prause, who is aligned with presidential candidate Michael Towner; Mitch Mierop, who is aligned with Bill Russ; and Daniel Gribben. Running as part of the PEP Party slate are incumbent Brian Oberhauser; Michael Garvey, who is currently village president; and Nicole Gilhooley.
Unfortunately, not all of the candidates were able to answer every question thrown their way since only three of the six candidates answered each of the seven topics brought up during the session.
But attracting sales-tax-producing businesses repeatedly was raised as the answer to many questions — from keeping taxes down to improving the look of the business districts.
Mierop blamed the current administration for the lack of business development, saying the board was “dragging their feet with the TIF area” and called for a closer relationship with Brookfield Zoo and the creation of an economic development commission.
He also suggested that the Cook County Forest Preserve District might raise the taxes of Riverside-Brookfield High School because of a past attempt by the Brookfield board to place an amusement tax on the zoo. The county has no power to do such a thing.
Oberhauser called economic development his “top priority” and said he wanted to see the village start being proactive in attracting new businesses to town.
Prause on two occasions called for the village to look at 47th Street as a focus for economic development, calling it a “viable corridor for a lot of commuters.”
Gribben maintained that the village “had plateaued” in recent years and “what’s needed for improvement is revenue” in the form of sales taxes from new commercial development. He also called for the village to take advantage of the millions of people drawn by Brookfield Zoo.
“We need to actively market our village to the public and prospective businesses,” Gribben said.
Gilhooley also called for the creation of an economic development committee and cited the Brookfield Beautification Commission’s partnership on a project to improve the Hollywood train station as an example of the village working closely with the zoo.
“There are more partnerships to build,” Gilhooley said.
Garvey touted his experience, connection to regional leaders and accomplishments during the past eight years, including the creation of the Ogden Avenue TIF districts and obtaining millions in grants to fund park and infrastructure improvements.
He criticized, not by name, the independent candidates, saying, “They are speaking of things they don’t know about” and called on voters to vote for “people you trust, not just people who talk.”
There were also broad areas of agreement about what needs to be done about certain issues, such as improving communication by upgrading the village’s website, creating a plan for street and other infrastructure improvements, beautifying the Congress Park train station and holding the line on property taxes.