Below are candidate-submitted answers to a survey Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.
Office sought: Brookfield Village Trustee
Previous political experience: Brookfield Village Trustee
Previous community experience:
Brookfield Village Trustee: 4 years
Brookfield Beautification Commissioner: 3 years
Saint Louise de Marillac School Board: 1 year
Occupation: Middle School Principal
Masters Degree: Educational Leadership – Concordia University Chicago
Bachelors Degree: Liberal Arts, Major: History Minor: Classics – Monmouth College
What can the village realistically do to promote and encourage economic development, and where should those efforts be focused? How can village government help promote what essentially is private investment?
Economic development relies heavily on private investment. However, government can and should be a partner in the development process. Our village can continue to make sure that it is an environment that businesses want to establish. By streamlining processes in the building department, having highly qualified staff, who are responsive to developers, and providing targeted incentives in our TIF district the village can continue to attract development. Further, investment in infrastructure support such as; maintaining roads, sidewalks and other streetscape items is essential in all of our business districts. These items allow for patrons to enjoy what Brookfield has to offer. Incentivizing business doesn’t always mean giving them tax breaks or handing out taxpayer’s money to get them to locate within our boundaries. Business is coming to Brookfield without these things. When possible, we should look to assist in converting unused or underused land into viable business, as we have with Sherwin-Williams, which breaks ground this spring at the corner of Ogden and Eberly. We must monitor and work with developers to see what it is that gets them excited to locate in our community. Increasing awareness of the different business districts in Brookfield through enhanced signage could assist in drawing zoo patrons into our fantastic downtown areas. Also, partnering with the Chamber of Commerce to continue promotions and advertising that make people aware of the great offerings Brookfield has will assist our already established local businesses.
It will also be essential to allow the new Community and Economic Development director to take time to assess the landscape of Brookfield and bring new ideas into the organization. Trusting the professional knowledge of this individual and planning for the long term is more important than any short-term solutions.
The village has reacted to local flooding in recent years by instituting a flood-mitigation program and has taken steps to build a pump station at Forest and Washington. Has the village’s response to local flooding been adequate? What else can or should be done to help prevent floods from harming residents and their properties?
The village’s response to local flooding has been dictated by the dollars available to respond. Assisting residents in a cost-sharing program to improve their home’s infrastructure was a great step in protecting residential properties affected by sewer backups on an overtaxed water management system.
One of the areas of major concern has been the area located around Prairie and Washington Aves. Through professional management, the village was able to take advantage of a grant opportunity, which will assist greatly in taking strain off of the local sewer system in a large portion of the village. Leveraging village funds to acquire outside dollars to make this occur was vital. Because of prudent fiscal management of the water fund this money was available for these vital improvements.
We must continue to be forward thinking in storm water management. Every sewer project that is completed must meet requirements set by the village’s engineers. We need to review and offer recommendations on the proposed storm water management plan that has been put forward by staff on future storm water requirements for residential and commercial development. It will be my responsibility to balance water management with the fiscal realities of our residents as some of the proposals have significant impact on residential and commercial improvements.
The continuation of sewer monitoring and maintenance is vital to planning for the village. This process has been accelerated and must be maintained into the future to assure that water can flow as quickly as possible away from the neighborhoods after significant storms. This is an incredibly expensive program, but we must continue to fund this process and keep the information current to make the best decisions on sewer construction and maintenance.
Finally, when flooding events occur communication is vital. All departments must coordinate their efforts and be able to give accurate information quickly to residents in the affected area. This comes at no cost, but goes a long way in assisting residents.
The village had adopted an Open Space Plan and has made significant improvements to Kiwanis and Ehlert parks in recent years. What are your thoughts on those improvements and how should additional improvements be approached and funded?
These improvements speak to every age group in Brookfield. They were significant and wonderful upgrades to our largest parks, and most importantly were completed with mostly outside dollars! We need to start replacing children’s equipment at the smaller neighborhood parks, which is funded in the capital plan with budgeted dollars. All grant dollars must be pursued for improvements as well as this is often an item that gets overlooked with general fund revenue. Items like the canoe launch, which are discussed in the plan, that increase the connectivity of different portions of town and increase access to nature are important to the residents. Items like this can be funded with minimal village dollars when grant opportunities are pursued.
Parks aside, I am excited to start seeing the recreation department expand services. For the first time in over 10 years recreation stands alone as a department. They report directly to the village manager, instead of public works. This new structure will streamline processes and ideas. Recreation will work to expand programs for residents under this new model.
How should Brookfield fund and schedule necessary repairs to streets and other infrastructure?
By following the plan that has been laid out in the streets improvement survey and the capital replacement plan. To fund these we need to continue to use the budgeted dollars that have been set-aside in the long-term budget. New road construction equates to nearly 15% of the village’s yearly budget each year. We must continue to set aside this money and work through town with that money and grant dollars, like the recently received $1.5 million dollar grant, which will help reconstruct Shields Ave. By paying down our debt year over year, and building reserves, Brookfield will be in a better position to start leveraging financed dollars to complete these projects.
Are there areas where the village could be providing better service to residents? How? Should the village increase or decrease funding for certain services, programs and capital improvements? Why or why not?
There are many needs that the village has and all of them cost money. Every voice you hear wants something different, but core services must remain intact. Government’s most important role is to provide protection and infrastructure for its residents. Without these things, municipalities collapse and residents leave. I will continue to support funding that keeps sufficient police and fire protection in our village. If residents don’t believe this to be important look no further than our neighbors of North Riverside and Lyons who have each drastically altered their services to these departments due to funding concerns. I will continue to support the infrastructure improvements outlined in the streets survey and capital plan. As funds come available in future years I will stand as a voice to accelerate these programs with that additional funding.
A project that I feel is important for residents is expanded recreational opportunities. As a parent of three I know that I am constantly looking for activities to get my children involved in. Every village program I have enrolled them in has been good, but I have found that offerings are limited. I believe with the new structure of the recreation department creative ideas to expand offerings can be brought to our residents. Also, the fallacy that all programs must be delivered in Brookfield is contrary to what us parents do with our children. We travel for opportunities as well, and I would like to see Brookfield expand it’s reach into other communities recreation departments to offer and fund more recreation programming. We currently work with a limited amount of municipalities. This must be expanded and can be done with limited tax dollars and instead rely more on user fees.
What is the most important issue facing the village in the next four years? What should be done about it?
Creation of the new Comprehensive Plan, which takes into account the work that has already been accomplished in the Brookfield 2020 plan. The process must be guided by the professional staff of the village and be dominated by resident’s input. This plan will tie together all of the important pieces that have been put in place over the past 10 years. Since the 2020 plan was created, the country has gone through massive shifts in how consumers purchase items and a global recession. This new plan must take into account the changing world and not be closed minded to the fact that society has changed and so too must the long term plans for the village.
What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
As more businesses choose to establish themselves on Ogden Ave. the TIF district will begin to see additional revenue generated. It will be vital that through the Community and Economic Development director those funds are used in a responsible and strategic manner to continue the growth that Ogden Ave. is experiencing. This 20-year process must be managed as a long-term plan and not a flash in the pan, best right now approach. Businesses that have started on Ogden recently have been sustainable in many communities and they generate meaningful tax revenues for the community. We must continue to attract and retain these sustainable businesses, not have a revolving door of businesses.
A new governor, who is vastly different than our previous governors, will dominate the next four years in Springfield. Funding programs that municipalities saw in the past are in jeopardy. Municipalities already saw a freeze in spending with Open Space Land Acquisition and Development grants being held by the governor. Brookfield must be prepared to fund more projects internally, which can be done due to the prudent financial planning over the past 10 years. Also, staff should have plans developed for infrastructure improvements, getting them as close to “shovel ready,” as possible, as these are much more likely to jump ahead in the queue lines for grants. This is evidenced with Shields Ave. grant dollars being awarded to Brookfield instead of surrounding municipalities. Finally, the continued relationships the current trustees have with local legislators will be important to assist in securing dollars for Brookfield.
The village is a month away from launching a new website which will assist residents in finding the information they need and better allow the village to communicate what is happening in Brookfield. This is an exciting change, which I have advocated during my term. Revamping the way we communicate via the village website and the information that we provide is essential to Brookfield’s resident. In today’s society of instant results and response, the website must be the one stop shop for residents to research, engage, and understand our village.