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 2013-2017, Brookfield Village Trustee 2001-2009, 2011-2013
Previous community experience:
Little league coach/manager sponsor, member of Chamber of Commerce, Director of Brookfield Historical Society
President/General Manager of 30-year-old landscape contracting firm
Lincoln School Brookfield, Lyons Township High School, University of Illinois Chicago Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, majoring in Finance and Human Resource Management
What should the village board’s role be in promoting economic development? What are the best tools for doing so and what else can the village board to help recruit new businesses and maintain the ones already here?
The village board sets policy. That overall policy in terms of economic development needs to be how we can reduce risk for someone wanting to have their business here, how we can help them to succeed, and to make sure we have the staff and polices in place that will lead to that. We need to look for sustainable development, not short term fixes. We will soon start seeing TIF funds become available, which will allow for the village to offer more incentives to new businesses, and we will need to manage that going forward. The recent zoning update is a key part in moving forward, as it lays out more clearly what can and cannot be done. We will continue to market a positive image of Brookfield and what it has to offer.
Development along 47th Street in McCook has produced a recreation complex, including The Max and a new aquatics center that draws thousands of families each year? Is there any way Brookfield can leverage that traffic on its side of the border?
Most of the south border of 47th is the quarry, and the north side is zoned industrial. There are tax incentives available to these businesses. There is some commercial near the east-most end, and we can look at ways to help them, but we do not need more commercial space. This corridor is currently being studied as part of the Comprehensive Master Plan. The overall approach is the marketing of Brookfield and what we have to offer, so that when visitors come to the Max or the zoo or drive down Ogden, we are able to attract them. and convince them to spend time and money in our village. The various articles we have had in several magazines, the radio advertising we had done, the upcoming Cranes Business feature, our realtor and developer breakfasts, and our participation in the Oak Park tourism bureau are all examples of this.
For the past several years, the village has focused on addressing flooding through a new storm water management ordinance, a village program reimbursing residents for costs of home flood-control systems and the construction of a pump station at Washington and Forest. How have those efforts succeeded and should anything else be done?
Storm water management has never gotten more attention in our community than given by this village board, even leading to Brookfield and its initiatives getting regional attention as part of a Green Mapping project done by Chicago Wilderness. All of the polices, projects, and initiatives are meant to manage the impact of storm water in terms of not overtaxing our sewer system, helping to control basement flooding, and mitigating the impact of new development. The Prairie Avenue pump station will serve not only those residents adjacent to the creek by controlling basement flooding, but also offer additional sewer system capacity for properties heading westwards. The Flood Mitigation Program has a direct impact on reducing basement flooding by keeping storm water from backing up into the homes. The village hall parking lot run off project will help to control polluted rain water from autos from running into the creek. The Monroe bio swale has a similar affect, but will also help to divert some of that rainwater from going into the sewer system. The downspout disconnect and rain barrel programs will also reduce rain water from overtaxing the sewer system. The green alley program initiative may lead to a new way of alley paving that doesn’t simply pave over the gravel. The lot coverage ordinances help to control the impact of new development. Work done at both Ehlert and Kiwanis Parks has included rainwater storage with above ground rain gardens and bio swales, as well as below ground storage.
It would be extremely difficult to design and plan for every type of storm, but we can continue to be aware of the effects of new development. As more and more of our community becomes paved over, thereby reducing the green space that might otherwise absorb rain water, we have to continue to find ways to balance out the negative impact.
The village in 2016 was successful in passing a referendum to address road improvements during the next decade. The village’s alleys, meanwhile continue to be a constant source of complaints from residents. What can be done to address alley improvements? Is there a better way to do it aside from the present petition system?
The recently passed street referendum will allow for $23 million of improvements over the next 8 years, dealing with our worse streets, and put us in a good position going forward after that. It has been estimated that to pave the remaining gravel alleys would be close to $45 million…the village is simply not in a financial position to undertake such a massive program. Residents can still submit a petition agreed to by 51% or more of their neighbors to undertake the paving of their particular alley, with the residents paying about 80-85% of the cost. This is how almost all of the current concrete alleys have been paved. Staff has been in contact with other municipalities across the country, looking at different types of gravel mixes that may be more durable, and will be trying some alternatives out this year. Last year, village crews started to alter the maintenance process, with the intent to do a more intense grading with site grading, and not simply add stone. The new alley grader will also be of help beginning this spring.
Are there areas where the village could be providing better service to residents? How?
The village can look for additional and improved means of communication. We have offered more town hall type meetings on various topics as they arose, and we will continue that. We have reinstated the village newsletter, and could possible look at offering that quarterly. We need to make sure we reach out to all parts of our community. We have to continue to streamline services to the residents, making processes easy to understand and quicker. We have to stay technologically current on all levels…for example, residents now have even more ways to pays water bills, vehicle sticker fees, etc. We have to continue moving forward on this.
As village president, what other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
Village finances are the key to everything that gets done in our community. Monitoring our village budget is essential, but state budgetary issues have a direct impact on how our village operates as well, and we must monitor that carefully and make the necessary adjustments. We have to continue to be vigilant in pursing grant opportunities…the millions of dollars we have gotten thus far has enabled our community to get even more done. The major infrastructure projects being undertaken will require good management to see them through…these are big investments in our community. Maintaining what has been done, in terms of infrastructure improvements, will require the dedicated funding. As a Board, and as community, we need to be aware of how things change around us, and be ready to adapt in a timely manner.