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:
Village Trustee, Brookfield, IL 2013 – present
Board member, The PEP Party, local political party in Brookfield, IL 2012 – present Member of the National Foundation for Women Legislators
Previous community experience:
- Served as Village of Brookfield Beautification Commissioner and Chairperson 2007 – 2013 (for one year as chair). Notably led several Project N.I.C.E. community service events and wrote the application and gave the presentation to the judges that resulted in a Governor’s Home Town Award for our 2008 service day. Also managed the Adopt-a-Spot clean-up program. Helped originate community art program.
- Helped establish the fundraising non-profit called Beautify Brookfield to help fund community art projects originated by the Brookfield Beautification Commission.
- School District 95 active volunteer since 2010. Volunteer activities have included: Junior Great Books small group instruction, room parent/grade level room parent, cultural night, book fair, middle school dance chairperson, field trip and dance chaperone. Notably, I have managed the supplemental Picture Person art program with a volunteer base of about 30 parent volunteers for past several years.
- Brookfield Little League volunteer since 2010
- Former Brookfield Garden Club member
- AYSO coach for Region 300 since fall 2014
- Youth basketball coach for North Riverside Parks and Recreation since winter 2015
In addition to my role as Village of Brookfield Trustee, I am currently a stay-at-home parent. Previous occupations include: independent school admissions and marketing, information technology sales management, website management and design, e-business and process improvement consulting and project management, environmental research.
B.A. Classical Civilizations, Loyola University Chicago, 1995
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 should approve and support the enforcement of progressive policies and procedures that support the growth of existing businesses and help attract new businesses to Brookfield. More viable businesses lead to more tax revenue which leads to more/better services for residents, improved infrastructure and landscape and a rise in real estate prices.
One of the best ways to move economic development forward in Brookfield is to staff a professional Community and Economic Development Department. This department plays a critical role in the development and implementation of a comprehensive integrated economic development strategy. Some of the best tools from this strategy include:
The creation of TIF Districts (Ogden Avenue, Congress Park area, 8 Corners); Tax incremental financing districts are business development tools designed to help promote a stable economic base allowing the Village to invest in redevelopment. TIF districts are positive long-range planning tools for our local business districts. Tax revenue goes back to the specific business area, leads to redevelopment of underused properties and an increased tax base can lead to retaining jobs and creation of new jobs.
Developer outreach is also key to promoting new business in Brookfield. Our developer breakfast event hosted by the Village which focuses on commercial and multi-family development projects is one way we reach out to developers. The Village also recently hosted an event with local realtors and school districts to create awareness and interest in the community. The Village provided background information about increased permit activity, commercial and residential investment, and the new zoning modernization ordinance that allows for greater density while supporting future development. The Village also maintains a strong relationship with the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce who is very active in the community.
Branding is also key to our marketing campaign. Consistent branding and messaging through Brookfield Connected helps reinforce a Brookfield identity for developers, realtors and partners. The Village board should continue to push this marketing strategy to get the word out about Brookfield including data about rising home sales, consistent award winning financial reporting, record sales tax revenue and our streamlined processes for getting a business started in Brookfield.
The Board should work with staff to complete and approve the Comprehensive Plan and work closely with the community to develop a village-wide active transportation plan. With trends for areas of the community near our train stations to increase in density, we will need to evaluate improvements needed for walking and bicycling. We’ve laid the groundwork and have professional and competent staff in place to maintain a strong position to continue to win grants through the county, state and federal sources to offset the cost of new initiatives.
The Village board knows that economic development is not just about attracting and retaining business, it’s about attracting and engaging residents and visitors. That’s why Brookfield invests in our open spaces, community events and transit-oriented development. With matching grants for open space planning, street lighting, active transportation planning, the new canoe launch, Metra station improvements and multiple park improvements including a new band shell, Brookfield is moving in the right direction.
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?
Yes. The addition of wayfinder signs along 47th street facing both east and west directing residents and visitors to the business districts to the north (and to Village Hall, the Library, area parks, train stations and the Zoo) could be added to drive traffic north into Brookfield.
We should pursue promotional advertising to attract visitors. The Community and Economic Development Department is already working on a small promotional booklet for Brookfield. With permission from the Max this could potentially be made available to their patrons.
There is also a possibility for the Village to partner with the Max to promote resident involvement in sports leagues through our Recreation Department. If the Max is open to a cooperative agreement, we could provide better service to our residents by providing resident rates and more exposure to the Max programs through our published Recreation Guide. The Village of Brookfield Parks and Recreation Commission also recently met with a representative of the Max Aquatics center to discuss the option of special rates for residents.
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?
The storm water management ordinance has provided relief from flooding for hundreds of residents. The flood mitigation program through the Village provided cost-sharing for backflow prevention systems and overhead sewers designed to restrict the flow of water from flooded streets into resident homes. This program is a model for neighboring communities. The pump station project on Washington was paid for with a cost-sharing agreement with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and is almost complete. Downspout disconnection and green space requirements are other aspects of the ordinance that have helped manage storm water issues.
A comprehensive rain barrel implementation Village-wide would help to reduce run off from roofs. To date through the Brookfield rain barrel program, 2,838 barrels have been ordered which covers 15% of the Brookfield population. This is a great start! Residents can also take action to install bioswales that provide drainage during rain events and can help direct the flow of water. The Village has added several large bioswales in our public spaces with one more planned for the area west of Village hall this summer.
In addition to the ordinance (including disconnected downspouts, maintaining greenspace on property etc.), green infrastructure is the ideal approach. Green infrastructure projects include, permeable pavement (parking lots, alleys, patios), rain gardens, green roofs, vegetation swales and landscaped/tree boxes. Funding sources can be varied to apply to both residential and commercial areas. With funding the most likely hindrance to this solution however, the Village would need to look to a set of diverse funding sources to implement and maintain this type of infrastructure.
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 Village is committed to maintaining the alleys throughout Brookfield. In 2016, to aid in this maintenance, DPW purchased two electric pumps to assist with draining areas in alleys allowing our crews to grade sooner than waiting for the areas to dry. The Village also recently purchased a new, larger road grader to better grade and distribute stone.
Paving alleys, if done correctly, is ultimately the best permanent solution. Paving would help prevent pot holes, ice buildup and messy driving conditions in wet weather. It is important to consider the design of new concrete alleys since adding more hardscape to our Village could contribute to more flooding. Green infrastructure is the ideal approach and a comprehensive strategy to design, construct and maintain alleys that include permeable paving and underground water storage is key to improving the surfaces and reducing runoff during rain events. We do have a pilot program alley improvement that was implemented in conjunction with the construction of Advanced Auto on Ogden Avenue.
Initially I would like to see the alleys surveyed and ranked by condition just as the streets and sidewalks were evaluated (I believe this evaluation has already been started). Planning is critical. I would defer to the Village Engineer but I think it could be beneficial to differentiate between alleys that are strictly residential and those with commercial use. There may be funding opportunities that differ based on use.
However, with the financial burden of paving alleys at the center of the problem, and to take the overall burden off the residents, we need to look at a diverse group of funding sources from taxes/general fund to storm water utilities to bonds to grants and partnerships to make this work. Unfortunately, the sheer size of this project with miles of alleys to be paved makes this an expensive and long-term project. The current program is the best option available in the meantime.
Are there areas where the village could be providing better service to residents? How?
Village staff is always looking for ways to improve and add new services for our residents. In the past few years we have completely overhauled our customer service staff and processes at Village Hall, reconfigured the office space to better assist residents, we’ve added online bill payment for utilities and vehicle stickers, implemented online registration for recreation programs and special events, revised the Village Code and made it searchable online and redesigned the Village website. We’ve reintroduced the child safety seat installation program through the Police Department, made home inspection data available by equipping staff with handheld devices and implementing web-based services. Improving property maintenance with new and improved processes has resulted in 87% rate of compliance – higher than ever.
In the future the Village can improve service to residents by implementing a communication strategy that, in addition to traditional methods, includes social media engagement including Facebook and Twitter. From the police and fire departments to public works and general Village news and information, this would allow us to reach a broader audience and do so more quickly and effectively than with more traditional methods. Comprehensive coverage of issues and topics would continue to be delivered via the website, news email blasts and printed communications.
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 should continue to maintain a balanced budget and build the reserves. They should maintain fiscal responsibility to the community that the current Village Board has shown so far.
The next Village Board should continue to address infrastructure improvements. With the successful street referendum there is a solid plan for fixing and financing our streets. The Village needs to follow through with this plan. The next board should complete the steps for the preliminary planning for alley paving by completing the alley survey and assessment. This would put us in a better position to apply for any applicable grants.
The next Village Board should continue to focus on economic development, land use planning and zoning and regulatory building and property maintenance code enforcement. The Village should ensure the effective management of our TIF districts to revitalize business districts, continue to build partnerships with the developer community, continue to pursue technological solutions to support staff and serve our residents, continue to consider zoning changes to match trends towards transit-oriented development as needed. It’s also critical to continue to track metrics for the EAV, sales tax and permit trends.
Public safety should continue to be a primary goal of any municipal government. With improved street infrastructure, new street lighting, experienced and capable police and fire departments working in conjunction with our skilled public works professionals, and continued investment in staff, training programs and equipment, Brookfield will remain a safe place to live, work, play and visit.
Finally, there are many different ways to lead and make a difference locally and beyond. To keep the Village of Brookfield moving forward and prepare us for a future with strong leadership, we need to continue to promote an environment of positive civic engagement.
We have a good track record of recent engagement sessions for various planning projects, town hall meetings, surveys and resident input through volunteer commissions. In the near future, I recommend the Village also consider partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and/or other business or education-based organizations to host a leadership forum. The goal of this forum would be to host leaders of all types within our community and surrounding communities to discuss current issues and to share the history of their path and career to inspire others (especially local youth) to seek out leadership opportunities.