Spring Election 2019: Bristol village president Q&A

Photo by Kristen Price via stock.xchng

Voters in the village of Bristol will be able to vote in a contested election for village president in the April 2 election.

Incumbent Mike Farrell is being challenged by Colleen Fisch, who is a current village trustee and is also running for re-election to that position.

The same questionnaire was submitted by westofthei.com to each candidate by email.

Here is their biographical information, followed by their question responses:

Mike Farrell — Age: 57. Education: M.A., Public Policy, New England College; B.S., Business Management, UW Parkside. Occupation: Employee Benefits Consultant Since 1994. Previous elected offices: Incumbent Village President Since 2011, Previously Village Board Member and Plan Commission Member.

Colleen Fisch — Age: 50. Education: ETHS, Loyola University, Coe College (BA, History/Political Science, 1990). Occupation: Homemaker. Previous elected offices: Bristol Town Board Supervisor, Bristol Town Chairman, Village of Bristol Trustee.

1.) Why are you the best choice for village president?

Farrell — It has been my pleasure to serve as Village President for the last eight years.  I’m proud to say that we have achieved and continue to achieve many of the goals we set years ago including a balanced budget with almost zero increase in the property tax levy year over year. Bristol is an exceptional quality of life community and our residents are pleased to have a clean and safe place to live and raise a family.  I am seeking re-election to continue delivering on my promises and to advance the positive aspects of our community.  This is also an invitation for residents to share their ideas with me.  I want you to share your vision so we can build on this together.  When I ran successfully for this position eight years ago, I promised to provide decisive leadership, sound judgment and accountability for my decisions.  My voting record and my actions show that I have delivered on those promises.

Fisch — Leadership is important. If you are a resident who is interested in keeping Bristol the kind of quiet, high quality village that people want to reside in, I am the clear choice. I have extensive experience in Bristol government, and I understand the planning and policies necessary to protect our high quality of life. Bristol residents did not move here to see it become just another Chicago suburb, they came because of the quiet, rural environment. Current leadership is headed in the wrong direction. If we are to control property taxes, maintain a high quality of life, and have high property values, we cannot afford to make the same choices as other area communities. Bristol must plan for quality, not the “good enough” that my opponent has publicly endorsed. Most importantly, unlike my opponent, I would never choose outside financial interests over those of Bristol residents. My allegiance is to Bristol residents, their quality of life, and to protecting their property values. If you think “good enough” is good enough for your family, I am not your candidate.

2.) What do you see as the chief challenges that the village faces?

Farrell — Our primary challenge as a Village Board every year is to minimize the tax burden on our residents and to assure that Village operations are managed as efficiently and effectively as possible.  Although this is challenging, we have created responsible budgets even though we face rising employment and insurance costs, operational expenses and capital equipment needs.  We always need to balance trying to grow tax base while not creating a burden on existing services.  I’m concerned that a couple of our Village Board members do not recognize the substantial investments coming to our community.

Fisch — The largest current challenge is to manage the external pressure to develop in the same types of ways as surrounding communities. Bristol can welcome growth, but it must be growth that benefits and enhances our unique community. Village residents have made clear that they do not want many of the types of development that they see in surrounding communities, which means that we must be selective about the growth that we design and plan for. Controlling escalating taxes, and maintaining quality of life also remain a challenge. It is important to me that our residents not be burdened by excessive local taxes. We must pursue appropriate growth to generate new revenue, and continue to carefully control spending. I will
continue to work to carefully manage Village operations and budgets, so as to minimize the tax burden on our residents.

3.) What would be your top initiatives for the next term if you are elected village president?

Farrell — I view three initiatives as most important.  These include controlled economic development, pursuit of the “Village Center” concept and continuing to deliver on my desire to control property taxes. Regarding economic development; we must give thoughtful consideration to when and where the Village should concentrate our growth and development opportunities.  Bristol is a highly desirable location for economic development and I am supportive of these initiatives that lead to increasing the Village tax base. We have established a zoning designation for a Business Park that has been included in our Land Use Plan for decades.  We are finally in a position to work with a developer on a tax increment district that is fully funded by that developer.  This protects our taxpayers and allows us to control the types of development that benefit Bristol for the long term. We have been exploring a “Village Center” concept for a number of years.  Although we are in the very early stages of planning, the conceptual design includes expanded parks and recreation, walking trails, an entertainment amphitheater, a new village hall and may include residential, commercial and/or retail spaces.  Of course, the challenge is to find a way to pay for it.  Bristol has land available for sale that can help finance this initiative. On property tax control, my position has always been crystal clear.  We need to be accountable to taxpayers and budget responsibility for short term immediate needs and long term capital expenses.  As elected officials, we have a responsibility to provide budget balance for what we need vs. what we want.  Great recent example, paying cash for an $900,000 fire truck without taxpayers seeing an increase.

Fisch — To work with the Village Attorney to make changes to our Business Park ordinance. Unless we make immediate changes, Bristol has no say over what types of business could come into our Village business park. Residents want basic protection from any kinds of new business that could be damaging to property values or resident health. To work to minimize the tax burden on residents. Bristol must carefully manage Village operations, and plan for the cost effective delivery of services. We have been very successful in controlling the local tax burden, and I will continue to remain very conservative when it comes to budgetary spending. To seek revenue generating growth that will be enduring, and complimentary to our community. There is much that can be done to improve the business environment for the many Bristol residents that are self employed, or who own small businesses. Our local business owners need more creativity from local government, and there is work to do in that area.

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