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: D95 School Board
Previous community experience: Little League Baseball & Softball Coach, Project N.I.C.E.
Occupation: Independent Sales Agent
Education: B.A. in International Business w. a 2nd Major in Spanish
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?
I support the current administrations use of the various TIF districts to create a pool of funds for enhancing the various business districts and performing the necessary infrastructure improvements to make these areas attractive to potential investors. I also think the board needs to work together with the economic development manager to actively target potential candidates for the village-owned properties and approach them directly. While it is not ideal that the village be in the real estate business, now that we are, we need to market these lots aggressively and get them on the radar of the businesses we would like to attract. I think we have a lot to offer them, we just need to get that message across.
The village also needs to be responsive to the needs and wants of the existing business owners that are already here. I believe they already do this by working closely with the Chamber of Commerce and having a presence at events like the Farmers Market and Monsters on Mainstreet. This way they are constantly in touch with this critical group and can address issues when they first emerge rather than letting them reach a boiling point.
However, while it is critical that the village lay the groundwork, I would also say that it is not incumbent upon local government to create or stimulate demand for certain goods or services. That is not what our tax dollars should be used for. That responsibility is the job of the entrepreneur. The village needs to set the table, it is up to the business owners to determine what’s on the menu.
Since the last election in 2017, there has been quite a bit of change in terms of village hall staffing – a new manager, planner, fire chief, public works director (still to be named) and recreation director – what do you make of all that change and what do you think of the team that’s assembled at this time?
Change for the right reasons is a good thing and should be celebrated: The retirement of a twenty-plus year employee. A director leaving for a better paying job in a larger community who was selected due to how they performed their duties while here in Brookfield, compared to all the other candidates vying for the same position. While you hate to see them go, we can rest assured they left the village a better place than they found it and the tax payers’ investment in that individual was well placed. I know these were some of the reasons for the recent changes and I think those are great reasons for staff turnover.
While I am not intimately familiar with the reasons for the sudden departure of the previous Village Manager, I have met Tim and have seen how he conducts himself at village board meetings and interacts with both residents and the people that report to him and I think he is a big win for our village.
Much has been made over appropriate uses in Brookfield commercial districts, particularly Eight Corners, in the past year or so. What’s the best way to foster the development the village prefers?
I support the continued use of the various TIF districts to make resources available for infrastructure improvements to make these areas appealing to residents, or as I referenced above, to “set the table”. Elements such as overhead lighting, bike paths, less concrete and more flower boxes / greenery combine to create the ambiance necessary to make these districts appealing for residents to frequent, which in turn makes it appealing for entrepreneurs to want to set up shop.
I have mixed feelings about the use of the village code to restrict the types of businesses that are allowed within our business districts. While I am completely against any type of gaming establishments or vape shops, and I obviously prefer sales-tax generating businesses over service-oriented or tax-exempt organizations, I am equally opposed to vacant lots and dilapidated buildings. Brick and mortar retail is not an area that is expanding right now, as evidenced by the numerous store closings in North Riverside and Broadview. Therefore we cannot afford to turn away any proposal or potential proposal out of hand. I believe we must entertain any and all investors willing to invest in our community and weigh each opportunity on its individual merits. “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still” – anonymous.
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?
I don’t know of any other way to address alley improvements other than going to referendum for village-wide implementation, which I do not think would pass. I think the current method is fair and allows for alley improvements in smaller, manageable sections by attributing the majority of the total cost to the select individuals and properties that are impacted.
Are there areas where the village could be providing better service to residents? How?
My heart really goes out to the seniors who have had to endure near constant cost-of-living increases that far outpace the raises in their fixed income. We need to take care of our own and help those that helped make this community what it is today continue to live here. While we may not have the funds available to help them financially, we have a lot of high school kids that are looking for community service hours that would be willing to help shovel snow or cut grass. Volunteers might be able to help with rides to or from a doctors appointment or with picking up prescriptions, and check in on them during a polar vortex or heatwave. Perhaps this takes the shape of an “Adopt an Experienced Brookfielder” program. These types of things go a long way in making people feel valued and forge a strong sense of community that everyone benefits from.
What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
I believe that we need to return our focus to what I refer to as the “resident experience” and push for more special events that get people out of their houses and into the streets. I believe there is considerable appetite for more of these types of events that make this a great place to be for residents and non-residents alike. The recently established Fine Arts Festival is a perfect example of this and has been a resounding success. I know we have a Special Events committee that is tasked with this intitiative, but I think we can work to make it more of a focus. I would love to see a local BBQ fest as well as a craft beer fest. Kiwanis park is a beautiful venue for these types of events and its location next to the Metra stop make it easily accessible for out of towners to make a day of it. I believe we should have two 5K Run/Walks every year. What better way to showcase the village than to have hundreds of people running through your town? Finish the race with a free T-Shirt and a drink coupon or discount at one of our local dining establishments.
Further to this goal, we need to continue to expand our rec dept. offerings. I have always heard people lament that Brookfield lacks a rec center, yet there are multiple schools within our boundaries that have gymnasiums that sit largely unused on the weekends. District 95 is currently undergoing a $35,000,000 remodel and expansion at its two campuses, and those expansions each include a new gymnasium. So why not enter an Inter-Govermental agreement with the school district to use those spaces? And while those schools have the gym space that the village lacks, the village has assets the schools lack like snow plows and salt trucks. I know that D95 recently spent almost $9,000 for snow removal and salting. I don’t know what the village’s incremental cost would be to perform those duties, but I’m pretty sure it is less than $9,000. Even if the village charges the school district for that incremental cost, I am pretty sure it represents a savings to the tax payers.
I believe there is a great deal of potential for this type of collaboration between the various taxing bodies. Obviously each body has its own individual mandate for which they are responsible for executing. However within that mandate is the obligation to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers we answer to, which can be achieved, in part, by actively identifying and pursuing synergies between us. We need to work together for the benefit of all. We all want to move this raft that we are floating on upstream, but we are not going to get very far if all of the various bodies that represent us are paddling in their own direction. I don’t mean to imply that there isn’t any interaction currently, because I know that there is, but there is always room for improvement. Brookfield is an amazing village that is comprised of down to earth, hard-working people that I would be proud to serve and hope to have the opportunity to do so.