Aug 262011
 

Recently, I sat down with Kevin Oliver who is the owner of a designated driving service called Booze Crews.  Below are the highlights of our conversation.

Q:  Why a designated driving service?

A:  When I looked around at my hometown I was seeking to start a service that Naperville needed.  I recently moved near the downtown Naperville area and I saw that there was a strong police presence during the nighttime hours.  I approached a few officers who explained that due to the large concentration of bars, there sometimes are “problems” and their presence reduces “incidents”.  After going home and doing some research, I found that Naperville ranked #2 for D.U.I. arrests in the state of Illinois.  I had lost a friend from high school when an intoxicated driver crashed into his car when he was on his way back from college.  I decided that I would start a designated driving service for the city of Naperville.

Q:  Why start the business in Naperville?

A:  Naperville is my hometown.  I graduated from Naperville Central high school and I have been involved with non-profit organizations based in Naperville since 2005.  I felt that I could provide a worthwhile and needed service to my community.   I created the motto “Saving Lives One Car At A Time” and I know this is exactly what Booze Crews offers.

Q:  How does the service work?

A:  I have a collapsible scooter that is no larger than a set of golf clubs when folded.  I meet the client at their vehicle, place the folded scooter in the trunk of their car, drive them and their car home and then I use the scooter as my transportation back.  Essentially the service works like a chauffeur for hire since it is the customer’s car being used as the transportation vehicle.  It is a bit difficult to explain, but the concept was featured on CBS 2 Chicago.  There is video available on you tube showing the concept.

Q:  What has the response been to the company and the concept?

A:  The response from citizens and police has been phenomenal.  When I park the scooter in Naperville, I am typically approached about the strange looking vehicle and I take the opportunity to inform people about the service.  I was told by a couple that they appreciate that this service is something offered in Naperville.  I have also been told by motorcyclists that the service bridges the gap between drivers and riders.  Even a Naperville police officer approached me and said he was waiting for they day that they can tell Police Chief Dial that the reason they didn’t have a D.U.I. arrest or a car accident involving alcohol or even a death was because of the designated driving service Booze Crews.  I have been interviewed about Booze Crews on tv on CBS 2 Chicago.  On the radio, I was interviewed on WLS 890 AM Chicago, WGN 720 AM Chicago and on the Dwyer and Michaels show out of Davenport, Iowa on 97X FM.  The business has also been featured in the Naperville Sun and the Chicago Sun Times.  I did present the concept to Mayor A. George Pradel in his office and he invited me to a liquor commission meeting.  It was at that meeting that I realized that my designated driver concept was not wanted.

Q:  What happened at the liquor commission meeting?

A:  The meeting took place on August 6th 2009 and I walked into a room of police, council members, local bar owners and the mayor.  I presented the concept to the group and even brought the scooter into the meeting room.  After my presentation concluded, I was recognized by my former wrestling coach at Naperville Central Bill Young who gave me a thumbs up and said I was doing a good thing.  Riff Menza, of the Restaurant Association of Naperville, told me “No one is over-served in Naperville”.  It was after Mr. Menza’s statement that I began to receive what seemed like strange questions from the rest of the committee.  Some of the questions I received were, “How much does the scooter cost”, “How many rides have you given before bringing this to our attention”, “How do you get someone to sign your waiver when they are intoxicated” and even “What if a young lady says that you raped her”.  I answered as honestly and professionally as I could.  I was in shock that people who represent Naperville and have control over its liquor licenses would be treating a voting citizen in such a way.  It was at the end of the meeting when Mayor Pradel’s said “I’m not sure if council would allow something like this to happen in Naperville”.

Q:  Is there a transcript of the liquor commission meeting and all that you were put through?

A:  Yes there is a copy of the meeting minutes.  Not everything was caught in the meeting minutes, but is clear by reading the meeting minutes now that Booze Crews is not welcome in Naperville.

Q: After the liquor commission meeting what happened then?

A: I attempted to move the concept forward and try to satisfy the city of Naperville’s requirements, but I quickly realized I was caught in an endless sea of bureaucracy. The city did not know how to categorize Booze Crews for regulation so they said I was a solicitor, which clearly the service is not. I got a permit for solicitation to satisfy their demand. Then they began to inflict other limits and regulations including obtaining insurance far and above what is necessary. It was apparent that I was getting regulated and ‘taxed’ out of business.

Q: Why do you think the city of Naperville did not feel your service was good for the city?

A: Since a comment was made that Naperville establishments do not over serve, it is possible that by approving my business it is an admission that a need exists. Additionally a unique and successful designated driving service cuts into the profits of many other businesses including the city itself. That may seem strange but in the world of D.U.I. many entities rely on a stream of revenue generated from folks who are over served. As sad as that is, it’s true.

Q:  Is your business still in operation?

A:  We do still have the same phone number and I do receive phone calls as late as 3AM on weekends asking for the service.  If I am available, I will assist the customer in any way possible.  I will offer to call them a taxi and to call the non-emergency police phone number to report that their car will be parked overnight.  Booze Crews has been requested in some instances to operate special events?

Q:  What type of events?

A:  We have been asked to assist with the Midwest Brewers Fest in Plainfield, IL in the instance that one of their patron’s does not feel comfortable driving home.  Booze Crews will be providing exclusive services to the Midwest Brewers Fest on August 27th 2011.

Q:  How can people contact Booze Crews?

A:  We can be reached by visiting www.BoozeCrews.com or via email Kevin.Oliver@AdsOnUs.biz

Aug 242011
 

The Naperville city council meetings occur the first and third Tuesdays of each month, unless council members are dismissive of agenda topics that are not that important such as citizen concerns about Smart Meters, district representation, or term limits, and they want to take the night off as happened on July 5 and August 2. I imagine they feel no sense of urgency on topics that citizens see as important.

Meetings can be viewed on TV or live on-line, however when you attend meetings your peripheral vision absorbs so much more that can’t be seen on TV or on-line. Additionally you hear or can be involved in some very interesting discussions in the lobby of city hall, which I will get to later in this posting.

It’s also very interesting when you watch the Public Forum portion of the meeting, and you see things in person that you just do not see electronically. The Naperville city council has a rule that speakers are given 3 minutes to make their presentation. If a citizen presents a topic that the council doesn’t really want to hear, they watch that 3-minute clock very closely as they did when two members of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group (Joanne St Ives and Jennifer Stahl) made excellent presentations during the August 16 meeting. You could almost see the council waiting for the timekeeper to interrupt the speaker at exactly at 3-minutes. However, both speakers did not give the council that pleasure, since each spoke for slightly less than 3 minutes. However when Chuck Schlabach (a so-called supporter of the meters) spoke he was given almost 4 minutes to state his or the city’s case. Later in the evening, on a different topic, former council member Dick Furstenau was given a total of four and one-half minutes to speak with only one cursory polite interruption from the timekeeper. It appeared the city council applied the ‘good ole boy’ rule for Furstenau since he was one of them for far too long. A classic double standard. Additionally if speakers present points of view that council members embrace, they are given the full attention by the council including clear eye contact and leaning forward towards the speaker. If the speakers are presenting topics in opposition to the council’s wishes, the council members are fumbling through papers, leaning back, looking around the room, looking at the time keeper, looking at the clock, and sometimes either talking among themselves or on two occasions actually dozing off.

Chuck Schlabach presented himself as an “Ambassador” for the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative. The word ‘ambassador’ by definition is “an accredited diplomatic agent of the highest rank, appointed as the representative of one government or state to another”. Therefore, the city of Naperville is taking some poetic license when it labels these folks as ‘ambassadors’.  There is another word that more accurately is defined as “a person who accosts or solicits in order to influence action in the interest of a special group” and that word is ‘lobbyist’. In this case, the ‘special group’ is the city. They need somebody, anybody to speak up for the Smart Meters. There are signs throughout Naperville in opposition to the Smart Meters, however it’s next to impossible to find signs supporting the NSGI. You might be hard pressed to find a sign supporting Smart Meters at a council member or ambassador’s residence. We haven’t seen any. You would think that since the city handed over $1.35 million to PR firms to help quell opposition, the least the PR firms could do is recommend some signs for the front yards of council members and those specially city-trained ambassadors.

Since it was very difficult to find anyone (outside of the city council) who supported the (not-so) Smart Meters, what better way to do it than to train a group of well-intentioned folks to become ambassadors or czars, or lobbyists for the Smart Meters. It appears the thought was, if you can’t find them, just create them.

Listen and watch as Mayor Pradel states the 3-minute rule and then Chuck Schlabach as he presents the Naperville city council’s point of view as the view of the ‘ambassadors’. Please note:

  1. He speaks for almost 4 minutes without a timekeeper
  2. He wants to ‘educate the community’ as if the ‘ambassadors have a monopoly on the true facts
  3. He refers to Energy.gov and the Naperville city website as sources for facts.
  4. He states that ambassadors were “qualified and trained by the city.”
  5. That the ambassadors want to “get you to accept the work that has been done” by the city.
  6. He is wearing a nifty ambassador name tag.

After Ambassador Schlabach’s presentation, I asked him if he would mind if I asked him a few questions in the lobby and he graciously accepted. I asked if he was aware of the fact that the city of Naperville stopped some members of Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group from circulating petitions in opposition to the wireless Smart Meters during the weekend of the Ribfest, and he said he was not but he would find out and contact me. I asked him if he was aware of the letter from a member of the same group dated June 13 to city manager, Doug Krieger outlining well thought-out questions concerning the Smart Meters including one specific question, which Doug Krieger did not answer and if he knew why it was not answered.  The question was “Is there anyone on the city staff or city council who is personally, professionally, or politically benefiting from the NSGI project?”  He said he didn’t know why it wasn’t answered but that he would find out and get back to me. It has been more than a week and I am still waiting for answers. Now I do not find fault with an ‘ambassador’ not having answers though he did say during his presentation that he wanted to ‘educate the community’ and ‘get the facts out’. However I do find fault with the city of Naperville for sending ‘ambassadors’ out on the street without preparing them to answer questions.

I then ventured over to a group of folks from the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group in the lobby (none of whom were wearing name badges) and began to chat and listen to them. Within a few minutes, ambassador Schlabach, to his credit, came over to join the conversation, though he did spend more time talking and ‘educating’ than listening. He again said he wanted to help educate the citizens of Naperville to the benefits of the Smart Meters. I asked him if he was willing to arrange a ‘Town Hall’ meeting along with the Smart Meter Awareness group to ‘educate’ the citizens. He did not respond. I asked again, and he said he would get back to someone; I have not heard from the ‘ambassador’.

I said I had one final question that I want to respectfully ask the ambassador, which was “Who paid for your name tag?” He responded by saying, “My taxes paid for this name tag”. I said, “So the city paid for your name tag right?” And he finally had an answer, which was “yes”.

Aug 202011
 

It’s not often that you can get a panel of 11 people consisting of politicians, lawyers, and government bureaucrats including the Naperville city council to ‘freeze’ and become speechless for what seemed like an hour, but that’s exactly what Naperville citizen and Smart Meter Awareness Group member Joanne St Ives did at last Tuesday’s city council meeting when she asked a simple straight forward question. In fact, the only audible sound you could hear was the hyperventilating of council member Bob Fieseler while the others sat in frozen silence. It was not until citizen St Ives asked again for an answer that the deafening silence was broken. Watch and listen as Joanne makes her less than three-minute right-on-target presentation to the Naperville city council with her question coming at the end that freezes the entire council.

The city council’s consternation comes from the fact that it is very difficult to argue against the truth and common sense. Now typically politicians, lawyers and government bureaucrats are very adept at speaking without making sense and chances are that most of them own many pairs of tap-dancing shoes. The more they dance around issues, the more shoes they need. And when it comes to the topic of the Naperville not-so Smart Grid Initiative, there is a whole lot of tap-dancing going on.

Now to be fair, there is one council member (Doug Krause) who represents the voice of reason on the Naperville city council by truly considering the best interests of Naperville citizens. Watch and listen as he addresses his peers.

Balancing out council member Krause’s concerns for his constituency is the power play of council member Bob Fieseler who basically states that ‘come hell or high water’ the citizens of Naperville are going to get these (not-so) Smart Meters whether they want them or not.

Then council member Fieseler follows up with this brilliant observation about the unimportance of paying attention to detail.

Apparently, Fieseler takes the same stance that the person in charge of making sure the Titanic had binoculars for the crows nest did; why pay attention to detail, what could possibly go wrong; forget the details, let’s just get this ship moving.  Keep in mind that council member Fieseler who downplays the importance of detail is the same person who appears to be the ‘front person’ for this not-so Smart Grid Initiative debacle.

On a separate but related note, Kim Bendis, another member of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group, wrote a detailed letter dated June 13 to city manager Doug Krieger listing and asking for answers to a series of thoughtful and important questions regarding the NSGI to which the city manager responded one month later. One question was “Is there anyone on the city staff or city council who personally, professionally or politically is benefiting from the NSGI project?” In other words is there any conflict of interest. That sounds like a respectful, fair, and reasonable question that any citizen has a right, if not an obligation to ask. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “the first responsibility of any citizen is to question authority”.  For the most part the Naperville city council does an outstanding job of avoiding any semblance of conflict of interest. To this, each of the nine council members should be commended and applauded. Interestingly, it was the only question that was not answered either directly, or with the aid of tap-dancing shoes.

Aug 122011
 

Between June 22 and August 15, the Naperville city council will have conducted one city council meeting (July 19). That is one meeting during a span of 55 days or nearly two months. Based on that, you would think that the city of Naperville has no issues. There apparently is no sense of urgency on the part of the Naperville city council members to get anything done. If the city of Dayton, Ohio with slightly more population as Naperville can get more work done by four council members than Naperville can do with nine, maybe we need fewer council members.

Are they aware of the fact or do they care that the city of Naperville is swimming in debt. Obviously not, in fact prior to their almost two-month sabbatical they passed an ordinance authorizing a delegated sale of general obligation bonds for an amount up to $19 million. A substantial portion of that additional debt is earmarked for the Naperville ‘not so’ Smart Grid Initiative; which is a colossal waste of money by the Naperville city council. If a committee of executives for a major corporation made this atrocious decision, the board of directors would fire the entire bunch. If members of the Naperville city council managed their businesses as they manage city affairs, they would bankrupt their business.

If two city council meetings per month are too taxing for the council members, maybe they should consider taxing the citizens of Naperville less.  In addition to Naperville’s financial woes and the ongoing NSGI debacle, the Naperville city council has done absolutely nothing with the formation of districts or wards and implementation of term limits. What are they waiting for? Do they think the voters will forget the landslide vote favoring term limits and the creation of wards? Though most council members might be clueless about what to do, most Naperville voters are cognizant of what needs to be done. It is time for the Naperville city council to do what they were elected to do, and that is to do the ‘peoples’ business in a responsible and honorable manner. It is time for the Naperville city council to pick up the pace. Just as there is ‘no crying in baseball’, there should be no time off from council meetings for Naperville city council members until the work is finished.

Aug 052011
 

Naperville is a city of entitlement. The very thing that has caused so much misery to so many is the very thing that the Naperville city council seeks…..an unhealthy dependence upon the Federal government. In a sense, the Naperville city council is a panel of puppets with strings controlled by Federal agencies such has the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) among others.

Watch and listen to this fascinating exchange between members of the Naperville city council and City Manager Doug Krieger as they discuss the hiring of a CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) administrator. If you look closely, you can almost see the Federal government entitlement-puppet-strings attached to City Manager Doug Krieger as if they were a badge of honor as he explains why the city needs to dance to the Fed’s music. Council member Doug Krause asks a great question to the city manager which he can’t answer (How much is this consultant going to cost us?). Council member Grant Wehrli follows with an excellent observation in the form of a question implying the absurdity of the situation. Council member Joe McElroy adds his gift of saying so much in so few words, by ‘telling it like it is’. Finally, city manager Doug Krieger admits Naperville is a city of entitlement.

Nowhere is it more evident that the Naperville city council is a city of entitlement than in the ongoing failure of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative. The Naperville city council has made a colossal error in judgment by buying into the ill-conceived entitlement grab from the Department of Energy. In the council’s rush to grab money from the Federal government they lost all better judgment and common sense. Here is what we know for sure:

  • Other cities have said ‘no’ to the Smart Grid Initiative.
  • Cities that said ‘yes’ have changed to ‘no’ to a Smart Grid Initiative. They realized the folly of their thinking and wisely changed their mind.
  • The city of Naperville is swimming in debt; why take on more debt.
  • We do not have the money to waste on this needless unproven technology.
  • The first light bulb cost more than today’s light bulb. The same holds true for the smart grid technology. Why pay more now, than less later.
  • Naperville citizens are now burdened for millions of dollars of additional debt for this NSGI fiasco.
  • What we have now is working with more than 99% efficiency; why fix what isn’t broken?
  • The World Health Organization does not endorse the safety of the Smart Grid.
  • The Smart Grid has not yet proven to be safe
  • We can already monitor our own use of energy; we do not need the Naperville city council doing that for us. It’s known as the on/off switch.
  • The Naperville city council says our privacy is protected. Hackers have proven otherwise elsewhere including the hacking of CIA and FBI. The edge goes to the hackers on this one. The citizens of Naperville lose.
  • City government leaders have said ‘the system is secure’. That’s reassuring.  What could possibly go wrong?
  • The city said it would have contractual problems if it pulled out of the project. That is like a surgeon saying to a healthy patient “I’m already here, so let’s proceed with dangerous and needless surgery.

The apparent point-person for this huge Naperville Smart Grid Initiative mess is council member Bob Fieseler. If there ever was a Naperville city council member ‘appendix’, Bob Fieseler is that person. Just like an appendix, we are not sure what it’s good for, and why it’s there, but when it goes bad, it really goes bad.

There is a form of entitlement that the citizens of Naperville need. They are entitled to have representation in the form of strong leadership from each and every member of the Naperville city council. Naperville citizens are entitled to a city council that spends tax dollars wisely, bases decisions on what is best for its constituency, and demonstrates wisdom and accountability. When there is a weak link on the city council, it needs to be removed just as a bad appendix. The citizens of Naperville can perform surgery at election time.