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:
Current Brookfield Village Trustee (elected 2013) Brookfield Village President (2005-13) Former Brookfield Trustee (1998-2001) and 2003-05) Former Chairman Brookfield Plan Commission, former Member of State Comptroller’s Local Government Advisory Board, Current President West Cook County Solid Waste Agency.
Previous community experience:
Volunteer for Brookfield Project NICE, Kiwanis Club and Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, Brookfield Little League Manager and volunteer, Boy Scouts of America Merit Badge Counselor and Chairman of St. Louise de Marillac School Board
Partner at law firm of Stringini & Garvey, P. C. Addison, Illinois
Juris Doctor (law degree) from Univeristy of Illinois College of Law, Champaign Illinois, BA in Political Science from DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
What should the village board’s role be in promoting economic development?
The Village Board can and does play a key role in Economic Development. The most important role we have is to put the proper professionals in key staff positions and support them by making economic development a budgetary priority. Desirable and sustainable economic development is so much more than making cold calls to try and fill a vacant storefront. We have implemented a long term plan which includes making improvements in infrastructure to make Brookfield more attractive to new development as well as adopting a groundbreaking Zoning Modernization Ordinance to facilitate transit oriented development in our downtown districts.
Also, now that the current Board as created our 3rd Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) in the Eight Corners District, the Board must ensure that all the TIFs are managed properly to achieve the maximum intended benefit. Additionally, the Board can help existing business thrive and expand by making sure they have access to Village services to assist them.
Finally, the Board can help promote Brookfield and its business community by working closely with the Chamber of Commerce and being positive spokespeople for the fine businesses we have.
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 best tools we have are the Board’s ability, through Village staff, to create the atmosphere and structure to give new business the confidence to invest in Brookfield. Infrastructure improvements, new modern zoning codes, developer and real estate agent collaborative breakfasts and so many other tools help send the message that Brookfield is a modern community ripe for economic development.
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?
Most of our zoning and uses along 47th involve light industrial but there is some retail and food and beverage uses. We need to promote Brookfield in general so that when families visit the Max and other facilities in that area that they realize the close proximity to our Village. If they have positive opinion of our town, they are more likely to venture into Brookfield and patronize our businesses.
Is there any way Brookfield can leverage that traffic on its side of the border?
Yes, through better promotion of the businesses, services and positive image of Brookfield that does exist.
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?
Our Storm Water Management Plan and Ordinance I believe has already shown very positive results. By taking a comprehensive look a the way we deal with existing conditions and new development we have taken steps that will help lessen the impact of catastrophic weather events. We realize there is no engineering structure that can totally eliminate flooding during intense record rain events but through proper planning and engineering we can take large incremental steps to lessen the impact. The downspout disconnection requirement, the free rain barrell program, the green space ordinance we passed which limits how much impervious surface residents can have on their property and the use of bioswales and other modern design techniques will all help reduce damage and inconvenience from future storms. By subsiding overhead sewer and backflow presenters for many residents we have also provided confidence to individual homeowners. When the new pump station is operational this spring it will help that entire area around Salt Creek prevent the damage that was caused by past heavy rains.
Going forward we must continue to manage and enforce the ordinances and infrastructure we have put in place and be constantly looking for the latest technological and engineering advances that will be available in the future.
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?
Knowing the price tag to pave all the remaining unpaved alleys is likely in excess of $45 million and knowing that the Village does not have that funding available, we need to assess how homeowners express their ability and desire to pay additional funds for alleys in light of current tax bills and new increases based on future referendums in their area as well as the reassessment of their home values this year by the Cook County Assessor. Alley maintenance can and will be improved with new grading equipment, materials and training. As we move forward with new streets less time will be needed to patch and maintain old streets and more time, effort and money can be used to maintain the alleys.
The potential to realize a cost savings on alley projects may be possible by bidding a larger geographic section of alleys together so the contractor may be able to lower their bid on the work may allow us to get more done for the less money than in the past.
Are there areas where the village could be providing better service to residents? How?
I think Village services can always be improved. Better communication of Villages services, ordinances and processes can help avoid conflicts or confusion for the residents. While there is a move to increase our social media presence we must also realize we have a large senior demographic and other groups who might not use social media as much as others. We need to make sure we reach all segments of our population. Also, we can always improve by listening to our residents and hearing there needs and concerns and trying to address them.
What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
Having served on the Village Board for over 15 years now, I have come to realize that the future is impossible to predict. One of the key attributes elected officials must possess is the ability to react to situations and events that impact the Village that are beyond our control. Events in the national and local economy as well as actions by our federal, state and county government can all impact the Village. The Village Board needs to be made of people with the education, training and experience to guide the Village through difficult times. However, we also need leaders who do not just wait and react to problems. We need leaders who support professional planning efforts and forward thinking projects to put us in a position to not just survive but to thrive.