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: Board of Education SD #103 1994-1995, 2000-2005 (President 2003-2005) 2010-2011, Candidate for Village of Brookfield Trustee (endorsed by RB Landmark) 2015.
Previous Community Experience:
- Volunteering for Brookfield Chamber of Commerce golf outings, Whispering Oaks Girl Scout Council Board of Directors, chaperoning Lincoln Elementary School field trips, Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors 2006-2010, serving as Treasurer from 2007-2008 and President in 2009.
- Vice Chairman of the Fairygodmother Foundation, a 501 c-3 not for profit that granted terminally ill adults a last wish.
- Volunteer Golf Shop Supervisor for the 2012 US Ryder Cup Tournament.
- Volunteer for the JM Foundation-2018
- Regional Manager for Scarborough Alliance Group, a division of PlanMember Financial Services-working with local union members as it relates to financial planning and retirement. Holder of FINRA Series 7-24-63 licenses along with a state of Illinois Insurance producer’s license. Earned the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) designations.
- Main Outdoor Golf Shop Supervisor at the Masters Golf Tournament, Augusta, GA, since 1996.
- Personal Financial Counselor-serving all branches of the military since 2012
Education: Bachelor of Arts, DePaul University, College for Financial Planning-CFP Designation
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’d recommend a complete restructuring of how we’re approaching economic development. I advocated for something similar to the Berwyn Development Corporation 4 years ago and our current village manager has experience (due to his prior position with Lincolnwood) with the Village of Lincolnwood’s Economic Development Commission. The village trustees should be involved with initiatives like this. Some of us have probably heard a cable television show’s mantra that it’s all about, “people, process and product.” We need the right people for the task at hand, the process needs a lot of work/rehab and our lack of progress is apparent. Our product is our village and how we brand ourselves and sell or position ourselves to the powers that be to invest in Brookfield. As a village trustee, our job is to sell and encourage others to invest in Brookfield whether that’s new/expanded business, real estate development or, “buying in Brookfield.” Status quo just won’t work anymore. We need to be bold and take calculated risks-our future is dependent upon it.
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?
Some of the employee turnover may be due to planned retirements, better opportunities elsewhere-but when you have that much turnover across many different departments, it creates dysfunction within the village. When the previous village manager was given a multi year extension in 2017 then unceremoniously let go 10 months later, you have to wonder what is really going on behind the scenes. A confidential termination agreement was signed and our new village manager doesn’t want his goals released to the public. The incumbent party spoke about, “not returning to the politics of the past.” What do you call confidential separation agreements and goals which are not made public? Who suffers? Village staff and our residents suffer from the dysfunction created by the leadership, starting with the village board.
I’m confident in Chief Duffek’s ability to lead the BFD. Our new Recreation Director, Stevie Ferrari seems to have injected some life into the Rec department. Village Manager Wiberg is still relatively new to the position and I’ve heard some positive comments about Elyse’s role as Village Planner. We need a good person and leader to head up Public works-that leadership position needs to be stabilized ASAP.
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?
This goes back to the first question-People in charge and the process we use. Are TIF’s the answer? Well, I learned about 25+ years ago that sometimes TIF’s are basically a necessary evil when it comes to incentivizing development. However, TIF’s shift the real estate tax burden on the residents and/or other properties not within the TIF. The people in charge of the development efforts need to be held accountable-why do we apparently get close and then the interested party/ies back away from a deal? We need more transparency.
Our Grand Boulevard, 8 Corners, 31st Street business districts have their challenges. With the higher real estate taxes in Proviso/Riverside Townships, perhaps dedicating additional efforts to the Ogden Avenue corridor would be beneficial. That’s not to say we’re giving up on the aforementioned business districts-never. Brookfield had a 2020 Plan which the previous village manager described as, “sitting on a shelf collecting dust.” We now have the 300 page Comprehensive Plan that is to guide our future-will that collect dust too? As stated before, we need to be bold and take calculated risks with our efforts. Our future is at stake. We need the RIGHT people in place-not caretakers but risk takers.
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?
As mentioned in prior discussions, the approximate cost is an amount north of $40-45MM to pave the remaining alleys. That’s based on paving the alley with concrete and hooking up a sewer. Have we considered alternatives/green methods to remedy this? We seem to be bound by the same engineering firm and their way of getting things done. If a referendum was successful to pave the alleys, it would most likely be double the amount of the increase that residents will end up paying for the recent street referendum. Again, people and process. We seem to go back to the same firm(s) and do the same thing over and over. We may look for grants but I’m sure that we wouldn’t be the only one-but we can try and be diligent.
I’d like to see multiple options presented to residents who petition for alley improvements-right now it’s one way or nothing.
Are there areas where the village could be providing better service to residents? How?
It seems at times that the village’s mantra is: Ready-Shoot-Aim. It took multiple years for the village vehicle sticker issuance to get ironed out. The transition to a bi monthly water bill went through some challenges. Code enforcement was rolled out with a total lack of respect to village residents-and the village board and manager just sat there and didn’t stick up for anyone.
The permitting process leaves a lot to be desired, not only with residents but also with contractors. How can we attract businesses and those who want to invest in Brookfield if word on the street is that it’s difficult to do business here? The culture change needs to be reversed immediately otherwise we lose out on many opportunities to improve economic development and resident quality of life.
It all starts at the top with leadership-if there’s a lack of leadership and/or a professional work environment, the employees feel neglected and it affects their attitude about their job which filters down to the quality of village services provided to the residents. All of the village employees need a professional and respectful work environment-when employees feel respected and valued, they’ll naturally do a better job. Engage the employees and the residents and you’ll have a more positive Brookfield.
What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
The almost $1MM budget deficit that surfaced at the village board meeting was staggering. We’ve been told that sales tax receipts were increasing and things looked great. The village has not put away any money in reserves for the last 3 years. The police and fire pensions will need $3MM in contributions in 2019-and that’s sure to increase. Our structural budget deficit was discussed with only essentially discussing the revenue (fee) side of the equation. Nothing about expenses: reducing legal fees, engineering fees, rebidding waste hauling, payroll freeze for elected officials and non labor positions. The lack of economic development is a perennial topic.
The stakeholders need to convene and work out some agreements to ensure the long term viability for all involved. We need more transparency and to change the culture within the village hall and how we’re perceived on the street. And it starts with the village board. If we don’t take proactive steps now, our real estate tax burden will be much too burdensome for many young families and seniors.