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: None
Previous community experience: Tom has participated in Christmas in April in the past doing volunteer repairs to homes of families in need, completing repairs for code violation, and building wheelchair ramps to assist people in need. Tom has volunteered for Brookfield Little League baseball and softball spring/ fall leagues as a coach, manager for 7 years. Tom was a Little League board member for 4 years as field maintenance coordinator. Tom also volunteered as a coach for AYSO Soccer and for Westchester Raiders Football. He has participated in field clean up days and Project Nice in Brookfield. Tom has volunteered for District 96 and 208 as a chaperone for numerous field trip and school events. Tom currently volunteers as a coach and manager for BRW Blast travel softball and is in his 5th year with the organization..
Occupation: Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser and consultant/self employed for 20 years. Tom also manages residential real estate and development.
Education: Graduated from Fenwick HS in 1988 and completed appraisal classes at Triton College and Appraisal Institute with ongoing yearly continuing education.
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 do to help recruit new businesses and maintain the ones already here?
I feel the village boards role in promoting econonomic development should be through communication. We have an economic development department in place which should be fullfilling that role. Currently we are missing prime opportunities on the development of the village. We advertise properties open for development on the village website, however I feel we need to draw more attention to these properties and opportunities with open conversation and through advertisment, conventions and/or trade shows. If developers are not made aware that Brookfield is open for business and development, I feel that properties listed on a website are not sufficient means. We need to be out in the open selling the village as a great location for developers. The village owned properties, in my opinion, should be marketed with a strong commercial realtor that knows the area and has developer and investor contacts. Doing this will open up the market to more people seeing the available property and bring attention on a grander scale. With landlocked or smaller lot properties, we need flexibility with potential development to suit the needs of more projects via assemblage or vacating allies, etc
To maintain the businesses we already have, I feel we need to address parking issues in town and pay more attention to the needs of the business districts cleanliness and snow removal in a timely manner. Creating a food fest in town or reviving Brookfest or village sponsored street fests, may draw more notice to existing businesses as well. We should also utilize our train stops for advertisements for the local businesses.
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?
With the large turnover of employees, it gives me great concern. I am wondering why we have the revolving door of employees through the village hall. The previous manager leaving in secrecy with a large severance when we have a budget running in the red, is an issue. The planner and public works director leaving gives the appearance of complete lack of control or mismanagement. Transparency would have helped in this instance. Explaining why this turnover is happening could have prevented the appearance of chaos, mismanagement and assumptions being made.
As for the new “team”, I’ll start with the new fire chief. I think Mark was a great choice for the position as he has been dedicated to Brookfield and the fire department for many years and will do a great job. My first impression of our manager leaves me optimistic, however for he and the others that have been hired, I will have to reserve judgement until they have not been in the positions longer.
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?
The Brookfield commercial districts should be that, commercial districts with mixed use possibilities. The village has had some residential growth with additions to homes and a few new construction projects however, not much on the commercial side. The best way to foster the development the village prefers, is to get the word out that Brookfield is willing to work with developers. As stated in earlier question, we need to expand our audience beyond what we have seen from the economic development department. Residential developement typically brings commercial development which then brings more residential boost. We have to explore more options and work with an open mind.
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?
Currently I feel grading of alleys is a waste of money and resources. Pushing the gravel around into people yards isnt working. Alleys in some areas have been improperly built up and others are more dirt than gravel at this time. If we are not grading to correct the issues, the money for the grader machine and the hours spent making it appear that something is being done, is wasteful to me and it is not a solution. That time could be spent on other projects that are attainable. Unfortunately, there is no money in the budget for new alleys currently and money to be used for infrastructure projects via fuel taxes, is being used to pay our regular bills. Until our budget is controlled and money for infrastructure goes to infrastructure, the alleys will remain an issue. Even with the fuel tax money, there isn’t enough to replace the alleys. I think we need to spend some time researching options for grant money, green initiative money or available options. I am NOT for referendums to be passed for alleys. We need to find a way to save through fixing the budget holes, Until then, our options are very limited unfortunately.
Are there areas where the village could be providing better service to residents? How?
The biggest complaint I have heard is that too often phones are not answered and calls not returned. If a message is left during the day or after hours, a simple response goes a long way. We need to respond to inquiries as quickly as possible and be open and honest. We feel that more input from residents and business owners is also great to get clear ideas of what tax payers feel we are lacking and where they feel we are doing a good job.
What other issues do you feel will be important for the next village board to address? How should they be addressed?
The budget for last year was in the red and the current budget is projected to be even moreso for 2019. The board and the manager are currently looking at options to fill budget gaps by raising fees and adding a tax or two. Some of these increases are small and within range of other villages and towns in our area. Raises to fees and adding extra taxes however, is not the long term solution to progress. Continued increases will hurt businesses and residents that are taxed enough already. Business owners which I have talked to were unaware of the pending increases nor the 1% restaurant tax potentially coming. The business owners I have talked to stated that is a cost they feel they will have to “eat”. Instead we need to take a hard look at what we as a village, is spending to vendors and contractors and start looking for other options. We should open the bidding process to comparable reputable companies, which will allow us to save and/or cut back. We need to also look at our own departments to make sure they are all running as efficient as possible. We are currently paying legal fees far higher than surrounding towns and maybe we should look at hiring a staff attorney rather as that may be a good savings to the tax payers. We can not continue doing the same thing expecting different results when other options for us may available.