Feb 232011
 

We had a great response regarding our request for reader’s questions. Some we responded to individually via email. Other questions were similar in content, so we took the liberty to pinpoint and shorten the query. We will post additional questions and answers in the coming weeks. Again thank you to our viewers for submitting your questions and concerns.

Q: You seem very critical of the City Council. Do they do anything right? (Bert T. Naperville)

A: Of course they do, and that’s to be expected. We focus on areas of improvement.

Q: Why do you hammer away with the Council’s late start time? (Ken Y. Naperville)

A: Punctuality is respect for another person’s time. If they can’t start meetings on time, it’s a microcosm of disrespect for their constituency in general, and an example of their inability for self-discipline which carries over to their financial accountability.

Q: Why don’t you talk more about the new candidates, rather than the incumbents? (Leah G. Downers Grove)

A: Incumbents are making important decisions now, hence spotlighting them is vital. New candidates are off to a very slow start and no one seems to be serious about taking a lead. One candidate has no email address, while another one has an incorrect email address listed with the City Clerk. Attention to detail and assertive game plans are lacking. We anticipate, or at least hope this will change because the City Council needs fresh ideas and strong leadership. Currently ideas are stagnant, and leadership is lacking.

Q: Will you be endorsing any new candidates or incumbents? (Fred P. Naperville)

A: Yes. We will conduct a survey and post the results shortly before the election. We will also make our recommendations soon after the survey.

Q: Still no name on your website. Why hide from your opinion? (Grant W. Naperville)

A: It’s not about any one of the ‘Watchdogs’. It’s about the content of the postings and the actions of City Council and local government.

Q: What possible difference can one person make in an election, or one small group of people, or one website? Some of the councilmen have been there since time began. (Florence B. Naperville)

A: It’s this type of attitude that allows elected officials to stay in office. Every journey starts with the first step, one person becomes one group which gets larger, and a website or social network expedites communication. This is a powerful tool. There are 230 million personal computers in our country of over 300 million people. If you think a first step doesn’t make a difference, then look at the Tea Party, and the recent change in Egypt.

Q: How did your group get started?( Michon M. Toronto, Canada)

A: The idea was conceived late in 2008 during a social event; nothing more than friends chatting about local events, and agreeing that actions need to replace chatter. Then by the middle of 2009 it began to move forward at a quickened pace with citizen involvement. On August 5th of 2009 our first support came from local business, with others soon following. By the first part of 2010 we had a solid grassroots foundation. We have never aspired to build a high rise on that foundation based on our Statement, Mission, and Vision, however our focus is to create the most widespread, quality-base as possible, and we are doing exactly that.

Q: Are you affiliated with any other groups? (Joe Z. Naperville)

A: No, not directly. However ‘Watchdog’ groups are beginning surface and organize in other cities and states nationwide. The City of Chicago has incorporated a City Council Watchdog group within its proceedings. It appears they realize it’s better to work with the group than to deny its existence or to reject its impact on public awareness.

Q: How has your Watchdog effort been received by local business?
(Ryan W. Wheaton)

A: Better than anticipated. At first they were inquisitive as to our motives. They were and still are cautious and on-guard about eager endorsement of our actions and comments because the city can affect their business with permits and licenses. However they also realize overregulation does negatively impact their profits and ability to freely conduct business

Q: Are you concerned about ‘retaliation’ from the Council or local government? (Warren P. Oswego)

A: No.

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Feb 182011
 

The Tuesday February 15th City Council meeting had some interesting moments including Councilman Boyajian thinking it was Roll Call, when in fact his name was called for a vote. Another Boyajian moment came when he did a quick beat down on a city staff member by saying, “You really screwed up”. Even better than that was when Councilman Furstenau said he drove by Scott Huber’s tent on Ogden and mentioned “It looks like a pretty big house to me.” However the best one-liner of the night was from Grant Wehrli when he stated, “I’ve heard nothing but silence from the Cemetery people”.

One topic on the agenda was whether or not to authorize the City Manager to recruit externally and fill a vacancy for an equipment operator. Councilman Furstenau voted ‘no’ and stated, “What we can do with 45 people we can do with 44”. Wouldn’t that same logic work with Council members? What we can do with 8 we can do with 7.

The main event of the evening focused on the Smart Grid bill of rights, which deals with the rights of Naperville citizens regarding information and options concerning the new system. A number of speakers each presented their 3 minutes worth of concerns to the Council. Watching the Council during this time you couldn’t help but to think they have already made up their minds and this combined 30 to 45 minutes of presentation was an exercise in futility. Some on the Council looked bored, others had little if any eye contact with the speakers, and a few looked restless. To the credit of the citizen-presenters, they made some outstanding points including middle school principal Dave Bendis and citizen Lisa Rooney.
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So why exactly, with all this controversy about Smart Grid, does the City Council want to move this project forward. Here is what the City has on their website regarding the Smart Grid:

“The city had planned on fully implementing smart grid technology over the next ten to fifteen years with a projected cost of more than $22 million. The first installment of this project had originally been budgeted through the five-year Capital Improvement Plan at $8.4 million for the initial phase of the project.

Naperville was the only municipality in the State of Illinois selected for a Smart Grid Investment Grant by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and was selected from more than 500 applicants. Since the DOE awarded the city an $11 million matching grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which requires the entire smart grid to be installed and completed within three years…”

So originally the City had planned to fully implement this grid in “10 to 15 years”, but now they are required by Federal guidelines to complete this within THREE years. What’s the rush? Well as you can see the Federal government is funding half the project ($11 million) with Naperville matching that amount; that’s the rush. So the City is willing to rush the job in order to spend less for a service that they don’t even know if it will work, for a total dollar amount that they don’t know for sure, and with results that they hope will happen. Fellow citizens, if this is the legacy that this City Council is willing to ‘hang their reputation on’ then they are living on thin ice and bringing the rest of us along for an adventure we don’t want or need. We don’t need to be the ‘first kid on the block with a new untested pogo stick’ just because our parents can buy it at half-price.

Take a look at this excerpt from an August 16, 2010 article by Peter Asmus titled “How to Avoid Consumer Revolt on Smart Grid Technology”,

“In the San Francisco Bay Area, several communities – the most recent being Fairfax in Marin County – have successfully stopped Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) from installing smart meters pending further evaluations about accuracy, security and public health.

Some market participants estimated that roll-outs of “virtual power plants” based on demand response (DR) programs could likely be delayed by one year until these consumer resistance issues are worked out.”

When we have City Manager Doug Krieger making a bold statement by saying he ‘guarantees it is not a health concern” and that health concerns for Naperville Citizens are trumped by ‘cost prohibitive’ options, then we do have reason for more than concern. And  when we have a Councilman (Wehrli) stating “Well they must be safe because the Federal Government says they are.”,  then we have a major concern.  When we have a City Council that votes in essence for the ‘Board or Directors for the Naperville Electric Utility’  because they are one-in-the-same, then we have a classic conflict of interest, with the interest of our citizens health concerns being low priority by our City Council.

I am reminded of the Universal Epitaph, which can be used on any headstone, “At the time, I thought it was a good idea.”.  Well the City Council thinks this is a good idea, and it might be, but not at this time.

Part of the City Mission Statement for the Smart Grid Initiative states, “empowers customers to control energy use”, isn’t this something we already have; it’s called an “on and off” switch’.

Feb 092011
 

It’s been 100 days since the November 2, 2010 elections when two referendums were overwhelming approved by Naperville citizens; one for term limits for city council members and the Mayor, and the other for ward representation. Has anybody heard anything or seen anything come out of the City Council, local government, or local newspaper regarding this powerful statement from the voters. If anything is happening, it’s moving along at the speed of almost standing still. And if anything is being said, it’s with the sound of deafening silence.

Now consider the fact that the ward or geographic representation referendum passed with an astounding 66% mandate. We are not talking about a slim margin; we are talking about two out of every three voters want local representation and they want it now, not when we are closer to the year 2020 than 2010 when it was voted for by the citizens.

This 66% mandate was surpassed by the 72% landslide vote in favor of the referendum for term limits; nearly three out of every four voters want term limits, and again they want it now rather than years down the road. Isn’t it interesting how the City Council can invest so much time and show the appearance of effort in listening to one local business person regarding a turf war with a homeless guy. The City Council will jump on that topic like ‘white on rice’, but when it comes to a 66% mandate and a 72% landslide, that lingers on and on.

This is an absolute classic example of local leadership not listening to their constituency. It’s almost a misnomer by referring to the City Council, Mayor, and City Manager as local leadership. Let’s call them what they are………politicians; it’s as simple as that.

Leaders lead, they make things happen, the respond to what is needed for those they lead in a timely manner. Politicians are self serving; get in office, and stay in office.

So how did this delay in term limits and local representation happen? Well, to do this let’s start with the Naperville Voter Education League. Bill Eagan was one for the driving forces behind the effort to have Naperville voters decide on term limits and a district or ward type of format. The City Council had to approve including the referendums on the ballot, which of course they did. They probably didn’t like the idea, however how bad would it look for them if they didn’t allow it. The last thing a politician needs is to ‘look bad’. So there they were on the ballot. Did the City Council members believe the referendums would pass? It’s more than doubtful and here’s the proof in Council Furstenau’s words soon after referendum results had started coming in on voting night, , “There is no question that this has caused all kind of concern in the last two hours with the councilmen, and the city (staff), and the City Manager. There’s going to be a lot of chaos.”. So apparently there was no plan in effect if the voters voted in favor of the referendums. This lack of a plan comes as no surprise.  Leaders would have had a plan; however politicians look for excuses to delay the wishes of the voters.

The politicians found their excuse in the court system. Without boring you with the details, the excuse is they don’t have enough time to prepare for term limits and local representation for the 2011 election, but they may have time to prepare a plan by the 2015 election; if not that one, then maybe the one after that one in 2019.

Now here is where it really goes sideways; the staff is waiting for the City Council to give them direction, and the City Council is waiting for the staff to prepare information for considering a direction. In other words, nothing is getting done in a timely fashion.

And if it is getting done, you don’t see it on Tuesday night Council Meeting agendas, and you don’t see in the local newspaper. But if you want to get a blow by blow account of the ongoing battle for turf between a homeless guy and a business person, then it’s available.

If term limits for council members would have started with the 2011 election, the soonest a sitting council member could be subject to a limit would have been 2023. By waiting till 2015 or 2019 that pushes those limit dates to 2027 or 2031. Now we’re beginning to get to numbers similar to the Cubs winning the World Series.

Feb 032011
 

From 41 minutes to 48 hours

Let’s give credit where credit is due; the City Council did not cancel the Tuesday Feb 1st meeting. They could have because it was the night of the third heaviest snowfall event in recorded Chicago area history. If there ever was a reason for the City Council to take the night off, it would have been that night. But to their credit, there they were, ready to do the Peoples’ business at 7:06pm. Now keep in mind the meetings start at 7:00 sharp as the website and agenda show, but they can’t seem to get their act together to start on time. Not only do they keep those attending waiting, they also keep one of their own council members waiting; and that lone councilman who’s ready to get started at 7:00 sharp is Councilman Grant Wehrli. Maybe he’s better organized than the others, or maybe he doesn’t need to be stylishly late. Maybe he wants to get the People’s work done, and then get out at a reasonable time. Whatever the reason, let the record show that he is the only Council member ready to do business at the 7:00 start time. So if he is late in the future, we’ll cut him some slack, because he is the only council member who has proven he can actually get to work on time.

Let’s also give credit to the Council for two other points. First they concluded the meeting at 7:47; that just may be a record, 41 minutes from start to finish. Now it’s possible they were able to do this because Councilman Boyajian was a no-show. He may be the reason most meetings last about two hours and as long as five hours, but that would be giving him too much “credit”. If Councilman Furstenau would have been a no-show, the 41 minute meeting probably could have been completed in 20 minutes.  We think it’s more likely that snow blizzards have a way of keeping Council members focused.

Secondly to the Council’s credit, they tabled three agenda topics until upcoming Council meetings in order to allow interested citizens the chance to let their voices be heard. So the Council could have pushed their own decisions forward, but they didn’t, and for this reason they should be applauded.

There might be another reason the City Council concluded their meeting in a record-setting 41 minutes, and it might have to do with an Ordinance they approved in 2009 which requires the ‘removal of snow and ice on any public sidewalk or sidewalks abutting on or adjacent sidewalk or sidewalks to such lot or parcel of land when snow exceeds two inches in height…snow and/or ice removal must be done within 48 hours of the weather event.” In essence that means you, the homeowner has 48 hours to clear the sidewalk of snow and ice, or the snow and ice Gestapo will be sliding towards your door with a ticket for you in hand. It just might be that the Council members wanted to get a quick start to adhering to their own Ordinance.

So here’s a suggestion, if you live near a council member, the Mayor, the City Manager, or one of the other nine candidates running for City Council, check out their sidewalk at or after 3pm Friday February 4th to see if they have shoveled, or is this another example of an Ordinance which is not enforced, or worse yet, selectively enforced.