Brookfield presidential candidate Kit Ketchmark says he doesn’t mind being termed “status quo” candidate in the race. That, he says, represents good government and sound planning.
Ketchmark on April 9 will face off against a fellow trustee, Michael Towner, and a former village president, Bill Russ., who are both running as independents. Towner claims that Ketchmark will simply continue the policies and style of government carved out by Village President Michel Garvey.
That characterization doesn’t particularly bother Ketchmark, he told the Landmark during his endorsement interview with the newspaper on March 15.
“Mike [Towner]’s called me the status quo,” said Ketchmark. “In some regards, I accept that completely.”
Since Ketchmark’s PEP Party (to which Towner belonged until September 2012) reclaimed a village board majority in 2005, village government has laid a foundation, he said. Decisions made by village boards since 2005 have overhauled village hall’s technological infrastructure, created two Ogden Avenue TIF districts, streamlined village operations and stabilized its finances, Ketchmark said.
“It’s not real exciting to people, but it’s part of professional government, so in that regard I’m the status quo,” said Ketchmark.
Now that the groundwork has been established, he said, the village board can concentrate on the next phase of improving Brookfield — focusing on economic development and continuing to improve the village’s aging infrastructure.
“Having built that stability up in those various areas … it’s economic development,” Ketchmark said. That’s what you’re hearing from everyone. That’s the next stage of things we need to work on.”
Ketchmark said what the village can do to assist economic development is to clear some of the hurdles that currently exist. That doesn’t mean diluting zoning codes to an anything-goes proposition, but rather making it easier for developers to navigate the process.
“We can’t guarantee the success of any business,” Ketchmark said. “I think people think that somehow we will determine what works or not. What we can do is find what obstacles we have in the way of business succeeding and give them that chance to succeed. We have to work to reduce their risk.”
One of the ways to do that is to update the zoning code, which is in places vague and even contradictory. Asked why the village hadn’t already attended to that task, Ketchmark said the village was focused on other areas, such as upgrading technology and straightening out its finances.
“It’s a matter of where your priorities are at that time,” Ketchmark said. “Unfortunately we got hit with the economy and it took a tremendous amount of time to deal with.”
Those efforts shouldn’t be discounted,
“We talked about financial software; we did that. We talked about the water meters. That’s done. We wanted to bring structure to village hall; we’ve done that,” said Ketchmark. “There’s a lot of those internal issues we deal with.”
And there is potential for economic development on Ogden Avenue percolating under the surface, he said. There are preliminary talks regarding several sites on Ogden.
“We have three areas that are being worked on right now along Ogden,” said Ketchmark. “I think one we’re extremely close on. It’s just that it takes a long time.”
While Ketchmark would not reveal the locations, at least one property ripe for development along Ogden Avenue is the vacant, village-owned land at the corner of Ogden and Eberly avenues. The village also owns the property that formerly housed the Brookfield Moose at 4000 DuBois Blvd., about a block away. Both are part of TIF districts established in recent years.
“If there’s going to be any development in Brookfield of any kind of size, it’s probably in that area,” he said.
With respect to street improvements, Ketchmark differed from Towner, who suggested it might be necessary to go to voters to seek a bond issue for the work. Ketchmark claimed that bonds could be issued without raising taxes, by using motor fuel tax revenues to pay off the debt.
Ketchmark acknowledged, at least in part, Towner’s complaint that village government doesn’t use its advisory commissions in the most effective way. While he believes the village board listens to the commissions, even if it doesn’t end up agreeing with their recommendations, Ketchmark said he was “not real excited” with a master plan for Kiwanis Park that staff developed last year with no external input.
“There wasn’t input not only from the rec commission but from the [village] board at that time,” said Ketchmark.
He added that he wants to involve not only the recreation commission but the conservation commission and beautification commission in exploring what he called one of his “pet projects”— involving the oak savanna in Kiwanis Park.
“It ties back to the parks and ties back to economic development,” Ketchmark said. “We have a meeting of conservation, beautification and recreation and talk about Kiwanis Park from the perspective of the oak savanna, the creek. I think that is one of our most untapped resources there in town.”
Ketchmark said he’d like to create a “creek walk” in a park-like atmosphere. Such a plan could also drive visitors to the area, which is near downtown Brookfield.
“Things like that are what we have to look at in terms of economic development,” he said. “How are we different from these other towns?”