Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Previous political experience:
- Brookfield Village President 2005-present
- President West Cook County Solid Waste Agency (current)
- Member Illinois Comptroller’s Local Government
- Advisory Board (current)
- Acting Brookfield Village President February 2001 – April 2001
- Brookfield Village Trustee 1988-February 2001 and 2003-2005
Previous community experience:
- Current Chairman St. Louise de Marillac Board of Specified Jurisdiction (School Board)
- Brookfield Little League Manager, Coach and sponsor
- Brookfield Chamber of Commerce Member and volunteer
- Volunteer for Kiwanis Club, Project NICE
- Brookfield Beautification Committee
- Juris Doctor (law degree) University of Illinois at Champaign College of Law
- B.A. in Political Science DePaul University
- St. Joseph’s High School, Westchester, Illinois
What can the village realistically do to promote and encourage economic development, and where should those efforts be focused?
The Village must effectively manage the TIF Districts created in the last 5 years to achieve the results obtained in neighboring towns with thriving business districts. We must work to provide guidance and assistance to existing businesses so they can continue to expand and improve. We must market ourselves to potential new businesses and developers who can provide the type of long term stability in our business districts we desire. To make our Village more marketable and attractive to new development we must continue to update and enforce our property maintenance codes, improve our basic infrastructure and ensure that we have professional staff who can communicate well and manage the processes in a consistent, developer friendly way.
What are your thoughts on recent park improvements and how should additional improvements be approached and funded in coming years?
I believe that the Village must continue to plan for, and seek grant opportunities for, park and infrastructure improvements. We have found that with more families facing economic challenges, our parks, special events and recreation programs are more popular than ever. Parks and recreation is one of the core services that local government should focus on. By seeking and successfully obtaining park grants we are bringing the tax dollars that our residents and business owners pay out, back to our Village to make necessary improvements. There truly are necessary improvements. Park equipment and facilities have a finite useful life. The failure to plan for the systematic replacement and improvement of this infrastructure will only lead to higher costs when they must be replaced.
How should Brookfield fund and schedule necessary repairs to streets and other infrastructure?
We currently are in the process of preparing a long-term Capital Improvement Plan. This process will provide the Board with a needs assessment of all village infrastructure, not just streets and alleys, but will include major equipment, vehicles and facilities. The challenge will then be to prioritize these items and dedicate funding to these needs. We must continue the past successful strategy of seeking and obtaining outside grants whenever possible and then we must dedicate any discretionary funding to these needs.
With the planned improvements to Maple from the tracks to 47th street scheduled for this spring, we will have repaired and/or replaced almost all the major collector routes over the past decade. We have funded our share of these grants matches with our Motor Fuel Tax receipts from the state. Now that those main routes are complete, we can now allocate our MFT funds to fund local street improvements. We also have other debt service obligations being retired which will free up other money to fund these needed repairs. Finally we must look to increase our sales tax revenue through economic development to allow us more revenue to accelerate the pace of the repairs and improvements without relying on increased property taxes.
What changes, if any, would you recommend in the makeup of the village’s administrative organization? Why?
I believe the Board has done an excellent job of continually evaluating the organizational needs and structure in the Village. Three employees in the Manager’s office currently more than fulfill the duties that required six or more employees or consultants under the previous administration. We made the difficult but necessary decision to eliminate the Deputy Police Chief’s position so that we could have more officers on the street. Department by department we have, and will continue to, evaluate on a regular basis what level of staffing is appropriate.
What is the most important issue facing the village in the next four years? What should be done about it?
We must continue to manage the finances of the Village so that we continue to make the necessary improvements without irresponsible taxing or borrowing. We are all aware of communities that are in serious financial jeopardy because of the lack of leadership. Borrowing without dedicating a revenue stream to pay the debt, not funding pension obligations and trying to tax your way out of problems are mistakes we cannot make. We need educated, experienced leaders to make the tough choices and guide us into the future.
Are there any spending cuts or increases you would recommend? Are any areas off limits?
At the present time we have a balanced budget. This means that we are continuing to fund our core services and infrastructure improvements while still funding the Reserve Fund established by the current administration. Each year we must reexamine how to allocate the funds we receive. We must continue to pay our debt service and pension obligations each year. After we figure out what our employee costs are based on the results of labor negotiations and health insurance costs we can determine what level of staffing we need and can afford. Any necessary maintenance or capital improvement projects are then funded with any available funds. I do not think you can ever say any area is off limits. However, core government services of police, fire, public works and code enforcement must be the first priorities for public health and safety reasons.
Should Brookfield seek a property tax referendum to increase operational revenues? No.
Why or why not?
Local government must live within its means. Our taxpayers are facing increasing pressure from all the taxing bodies as well as increased costs from the private sector, while often experiencing unemployment or under employment in their family. The solution cannot be for us to ask for more from them. We must try to be focused and efficient. It is our job to provide core government services: police and fire protection, public works services and infrastructure, code enforcement and planning services and parks and recreation services. It is the Village Board’s job to provide the best and most cost effective services and infrastructure in these key areas.
Through the use of technology, the implementation of the best management practices and the acquisition of outside grants, we must do more with less. I firmly believe that if and when the time comes that the majority of the residents want a significantly higher level of services or facilities, it will be clear to the Board. We are not at that point in my view. I think the residents want us to continue to provide the best services and infrastructure that we can with the existing tax and fee structure.
What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
The next Village Board will continue to face the challenges of the economy. We live in a state that is in a very precarious financial situation. Too often our elected officials in Springfield attempt to solve the crisis they have created by raiding the local share of state revenues or passing unfunded mandates on to local governments. Our local officials must be very vigilant and vocal in their efforts to protect the local share of state revenues. We, in Brookfield have already made the tough decisions and cuts necessary to balance our budgets. We have to make sure that are voice is heard in Springfield and in Washington through the active participation of our elected officials in the process and though strong involvement in our local government cogs such as the West Central Municipal Conference.
We must also continue the progress and improvements in technology and processes used in the Village in order to get more done with less. Professional management has been instilled in the Village. We must not go back to the days where politics was the deciding factor in key decisions. We need ethical, educated, responsible and actively engaged leaders to take us forward.