A four-year resident of the village, Lada admitted on more than one occasion during the forum that she was learning on the go, at one point apologizing in response to a question how the village should protect the environment.
After encouraging residents to recycle, Lada said, “Sorry, I was ill-prepared for something like this. I don’t have a correct answer and I’m not going to try to make something up.
In her closing statement, Lada acknowledged that the Common Sense Party was new to the scene, but argued that “just because we are new doesn’t mean we are not concerned.”
But after saying that her slate had “great ideas,” Lada again addressed her own lack of familiarity with some of the issues facing the village.
“I just hope with all the questions that have come up and my lack of knowledge of some of, of giving you the right answers; as I said, it’s new to me and to all the people that are running on the Common Sense Party,” Lada said.
Lada’s uncertainty contrasted with PEP’s three candidates for trustee, Edward Cote, Michael Garvey and Nicole Gilhooley. It didn’t help Lada that she was on her own at the table; running mates Kathleen Hillmann and Edward “E.J.” Frantzen did not attend the forum.
Garvey, a former two-term village president and longtime trustee, stated that sitting on the village board wasn’t a lark.
“This is an important job and an important position,” Garvey said. “It takes a lot of time and it’s not something you learn on the fly.”
Garvey pointed to the Common Sense Party’s campaign materials, which call for “an open and transparent budget process that involves participation of residents,” and blasted the implication that it doesn’t already exist.
“We talked about and passed a budget over the course of six meetings where nobody showed up or nobody gave any input,” Garvey said. “None of the other candidates have ever approached myself and wanted to talk about an issue. Ask what their motivation is for asking to be elected right now.”
PEP’s candidates highlighted their history of local involvement, from Garvey’s involvement in local sports organizations and village government to Cote’s role as co-chairman of the Brookfield Playgrounds and Recreation Commission, as a youth sports coach, Project NICE volunteer and food pantry volunteer to Gilhooley’s role as an incumbent village trustee, her former work with the Brookfield Beautification Commission and her work as a school, Project NICE and Little League volunteer.
“How do you get people involved? I wish I knew the secret to that, because I see the same volunteers at everything,” Cote said. “You see the same people doing the same things. You see them at the school boards, you see them at the baseball games you see them 10 o’clock at night cleaning the field after the baseball games.”
While the trustees’ forum was less revealing than the presidential forum in terms of issues, a question on the pace of economic development summed up the two approaches.
Garvey admitted economic development moved at a slow pace, but that there was progress, that new businesses were opening and sales tax receipts hit a record level in 2016.
“It might not fit people’s convenient political message that things aren’t going well, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Garvey said.
Lada acknowledged that “downtown Brookfield has grown,” but suggested the village help with storefront beautification “to make it look more appealing to visitors.”
Cote and Gilhooley responded by saying that the village recently created a no-interest loan program for business signs in the village’s TIF districts and Gilhooley said that the village was reaching out to attract people.
“Economic development is not just about attracting a new business,” Gilhooley said. “It’s about attracting people to Brookfield, having resident be comfortable about shopping local and having options. It’s about attracting visitors.”