Dec 292012
 

In the spirit of the new year and giving, it’s only right that we should acknowledge our Naperville city council. They have given the residents of Naperville much during this last year including:

  • Smart Meters that we don’t want,
  • another two years to wait for districts to be implemented in addition to the three years we have already waited for a total of five (5) years,
  • Naperville Electoral Board misconduct,
  • more city liquor licenses,
  • denials of multimillion dollar building projects,
  • hundreds of ‘your time is up’ comments during Public Forums,
  • occasional citizen ‘toss outs’ during council meetings,
  • citizen-intimidation by armed police during council meetings,
  • 30-seconds of time for citizens to make comments during Public Forum
  • penalty fees for saying ‘no’ to Smart Meters
  • an in-hackable city website that was hacked and down for nearly a month.
  • and numerous late starts for Tuesday night city council meetings

 

However on a more positive note, the Naperville city council has provided us with many memorable moments including:

  • many entertaining and outrageous video-imbeds for Watchdog postings.
  • Plentiful posting topics
  • increased resident awareness for council activity and inactivity
  • many ‘how not to do it’ videos for political science class rooms
  • city councils elsewhere learning from Naperville city council mistakes
  • inability to make decisions, results in fewer bad decisions.

 

So with that being said, what can we give to each of the nine Naperville city council members, along with the city manager, city attorney, and entire council as a group; twelve in total. Let’s take them one by one.

 

  • Council woman Judith Brodhead – one proclamation to read at each council meeting, thereby fulfilling her role on the council.
  • Councilman Steve Chirico – a book deal on “How to go from the worst dressed to the best dressed council member within one term”.
  • Councilman Bob Fieseler – a book on “The art of faking sincerity”.
  • Councilman Paul Hinterlong – Speaking ‘gigs’ on ‘How to make everything you say sound like a question’.
  • Councilman Doug Krause – A book on ‘How to cope with a majority of peers who are clueless’
  • Councilman Joe McElroy – A plaque stating, “Am I the only one up here with common sense”.
  • Councilman Kenn Miller – A plaque commemorating the “Most 3rd place finishes in Mayoral elections”.
  • Councilman Grant Wehrli – a cap with embroidered words saying “What was I thinking when I said that”
  • Mayor George Pradel – a cap with words stating, “I can’t believe I was the longest serving mayor in Naperville”
  • City Manager Doug Krieger – a framed certificate stating, “Can you believe that I’m still here after all the major screw-ups I’ve made”
  • City Attorney Margo Ely – a huge salary increase for dealing with all the city official’s mistakes, errors and overall screw-ups.
  • And finally, a Christmas gift to the entire city council – a huge council chambers clock with a fire alarm to get meetings to start on time.
Dec 262012
 

If you want the right answer don’t ask Naperville councilman Bob Fieseler, however if you are looking for an entertaining, inaccurate answer then councilman Fieseler is the person you want. If you can’t find him somewhere in the inky shadows of city hall, you might find him stranded on the roadside, sitting in a stalled-out electric vehicle, waiting for a delivery of electric.

Apparently Naperville city councilman Fieseler has no idea where electric comes from, and he surely doesn’t know where Naperville gets its electric from. Just for fun, the next time you see Bob, ask him where electric for Naperville comes from, and make it easy for him by giving him a multiple choice answer:

  • A = Costco
  • B = Fed-Ex
  • C = Coal
  • D = Magic

Watch and listen as resident and Naperville city council candidate Jo Malik asks a question and councilman Fieseler makes the fatal mistake of trying to answer it without knowing what he’s talking about.

Bob might be surprised to find out that according to Naperville Public Works-Electric Director Mark Curran, over 60% of Naperville’s electric comes from coal.

“Curran said that Naperville had several advantages in containing energy costs in the immediate future. Currently 61 percent of Naperville’s energy, obtained through the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency, comes from coal.That coal comes from two sources, the downstate Prairie State Energy Campus and Trimble County Coal Plant in Kentucky.

One advantage is that with Prairie State, the city secured a 30-year supply of coal whose costs will never increase. The cost of delivery and wages for personnel may rise with the cost of living, but the actual energy source will remain constant.

Also, the majority of the facilities at both locations are already compliant with EPA regulations set to go into effect 2018 for coal plants, city officials said.”

— Hank Beckman, Naperville Sun

It’s also quite possible that councilman Fieseler might be surprised to know that city council meetings are recorded, streaming on line, and available for the entire world to view.

My guess is that his answer above would be ‘D’ as in Magic.

Dec 232012
 

While most mayors are more than happy for a photo op at a ribbon cutting or at a ground breaking event, Naperville’s Mayor George Pradel says welcome to Naperville by destroying a model of a historic Naperville building by smashing it with a hammer.  The gem below was from the Naperville City Council meeting on December 18, 2012.

Thanks Mayor Pradel…I’m glad you represent all of the fine citizens of this beautiful city.

Dec 202012
 

If you’re trying to get a straight answer from one of Naperville’s city officials, it’s not an easy task. And the master of double-talk at city hall is city manager Doug Krieger. Odds are that somewhere in his office is a 3 X 5 poster with the following words emblazoned on it, “If you can’t convince them with facts, then dazzle them with B.S.” In a recent informal survey, about half of those questioned felt that he had no idea what he was talking about, while the other half felt he was clueless. It’s no wonder that he is a good dancer, since he tap dances around a lot of issues.

If a resident calls with a question or concern, they are asked to ‘send an email’, which typically doesn’t get answered. If you call again, you may be requested to submit a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) form. When the city of Naperville’s website was hacked, and email was down for what seemed like a year, it was actually a blessing for city officials and especially the city manager’s office because they had a built in excuse why they couldn’t respond to resident’s emails. When email is up and running, city officials excel at going through email. It’s amazing how many emails the city manager’s office can delete within a few minutes. My guess is that the most often replaced key on the keyboard is the ‘delete’ key.

If calls don’t work (and they don’t), and emails don’t work (and they don’t), then a Naperville resident always has the option to step up to the podium during the Public Forum portion of the first and third Tuesdays of each month and address the council for three minutes (once the council tried to limit it to 30 seconds, but some council members found that to be pushing it a bit). The Public Forum of the meeting is typically the most entertaining portion of the evening for the folks watching, because council members look forward to it as they would a root canal.

Watch and listen as resident Jo Malik attempts to get a simple question answered. It turns into a four-on-one tag team wrestling match, when first, she gets the fuzzy math and double-talk from city manager Doug Krieger, then councilman McElroy gives her the shut-down/beat-down maneuver, followed by the city attorney’s ‘maintain decorum and control conversation’ edict, followed by the TKO from Mayor Pradel.

Residents might find it easier to be erased with the ‘delete’ key, than to be verbally pummeled by the council. That seems to be the message the council is trying to convey.

Dec 162012
 

More and more cities throughout the country are moving towards reducing the number of council members on their city council. Most recently, another city in Illinois has joined the movement. Residents of Country Club Hills, located near I-57 and I-80, between Tinley Park and Flossmoor, won court approval to move forward when their efforts were confirmed and validated by Cook County Judge Maureen Ward Kirby, when she decided to not overturn results of a ballot measure that would cut in half the size of the Country Club Hills city council.

Some of the less resident-friendly aldermen had hoped the referendum results would be overturned, but Judge Kirby ‘nixed’ the ploy and sided with the residents of Country Club Hills. There is little doubt that the same maneuver would be attempted by certain Naperville city council members if and when a similar referendum were to be approved by Naperville residents.

It happened when the Naperville city council disallowed a non-binding referendum to stop the installation of Smart Meters, even though a petition was signed by thousands of Naperville residents. And now it appears that the Naperville city council will have a hand in trying to stop the formation of districts (wards), though it was approved in a 2010 referendum to create districts. It was a landslide vote in favor of creating districts (28,238 to 14,593). That was a huge and loud two-to-one message to the officials of Naperville to ‘make it happen’, and yet the Naperville city council has delayed implementation for five (5) years until 2015 against the wishes and vote of Naperville residents.

In a previous Watchdog posting, “The Naperville city council has too many members” (4/26/11) the idea gained attention and support. If New York City can downsize it’s Super-sized soft drinks, surely the residents of Naperville can down-size it’s super-sized council.

http://citycouncilwatchdog.com/2011/04/the-naperville-city-council-has-too-many-members/

 

Dec 122012
 

Imagine if our Founding Fathers Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin had their meetings video recorded so that colonists throughout the 13 colonies could view them as we do today with our local city council meetings. I would imagine they would have been delighted and it would have made their job of ‘getting the word out’ so much easier. Rather than having just 20% of the colonists supporting the concept of independence from England, they could easily have had the majority supporting their effort. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a couple of hundred words coming from a Naperville city council member is worth a good video clip.

This is exactly what happened at the December 4 Naperville city council meeting when councilman Grant Wehrli attempted to hijack resident involvement regarding federal energy standards for the City’s electric utility rates.

Watch and listen as Wehrli along with city manager Doug Krieger try to circumvent resident involvement by selecting a time to discuss the issue which is inconvenient for resident participation.

So, let’s see if I have this straight. The King in the form of Wehrli is afraid that the issue of electric rates will prompt comments from residents, and he’d rather just push it quickly through the process. And city manager Krieger is all too willing to be an accomplice. Jefferson would not be a happy camper.

Fortunately, Naperville council members Doug Krause and Steve Chirico, in the style of Franklin and Adams, came to the rescue of residents, Watch and listen as Doug Krause objects to Wehrli’s hijacking, and Steve Chirico supports the value of resident participation.

This was followed by Wehrli’s back-peddling, which was followed by Wehrli’s tap dancing, followed by more back-peddling and more tap dancing. Both Krause and Chirico called Wehrli out on his maneuver and the video clip confirms the call.

So what would George Washington say to Wehrli if he had the chance. It might go something like this: “Grant, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.”

Dec 092012
 

The main event at the the Naperville city council meeting on December 4 focused on whether or not to approve the Water Street Development Project. Simply stated this is a huge project in a small 2.4-acre parcel of property in the downtown area of Naperville that could encompass a hotel, apartments, businesses, and vastly insufficient parking. One thing this high density project would accomplish is to turn Naperville’s future more towards a big city skyline, and away from the quaint-like, small town, village atmosphere which currently is Naperville’s charm. In time we could begin to rival Chicago, New York City, Tokyo, and Shanghai, China for high density.

In 2007 the Naperville city council approved a development proposal with specific guidelines. This current project considerably exceeds those parameters, so you would think that a decision or at least some specific direction to the developer would be the course of action. However the course of action by the Naperville city council has been indecision and procrastination, (which they specialize in) encompassed in a sea of bureaucracy. For those opposed to this project, this is great; no city leadership means no action, which means nothing happens.

The lack of leadership (statesmanship) on the council’s part is flagrant. The Naperville city council along with the city manager have basically dealt with the developer, and even city staff, as though they were pinatas by beating them up, twisting them around, pounding them again, and then asking them to come back for more of the same at the next meeting. When the developer makes changes, they get lambasted by the council for creating a ‘moving target’, yet this is what the council requested.

There is no doubt that this is an immensely important council decision, because it truly impacts Naperville’s future. But someone from the council needs to step up and show leadership. It’s not that difficult. It simply takes courage and clear communication.

So which one of our council members could rise to the task? Let’s look at it by process of elimination. Council members Brodhead and Hinterlong like to follow the flag carrier so that eliminates them. Fieseler and Wehrli have not been resident-favorites lately and their stock value has declined, so scratch them from the list. McElroy and Chirico are rising stars and bring a lot of ‘good’ to the council proceedings so they definitely could provide much needed leadership to the council. Krause is always advocating for residents and as a result he has taken so many shots from his council peers that his suit coat resembles Swiss cheese. That leaves Mayor Pradel and councilman Kenn Miller, both of whom are not running for re-election, as the likely candidates to fill this leadership role. Considering that Mayor Pradel sends council members to the podium to read his proclamations during council meetings, that would eliminate him. That leaves councilman Kenn Miller as the ‘stand-up guy’ to be the needed leader. In essence, he would be a lame duck leader, but as the saying goes, he can do anything he wants during his last term in office. Why not be an outspoken leader.

Simply tell the developer, “ This is what you have proposed. However, this is what we will accept. Can you do it?” If the developer can do it, then it’s a done deal. It’s not that difficult if you eliminate the bureaucracy and procrastination. Naperville doesn’t need to become Shanghai, but if it does, then has anyone seen the Green Street Pedicab guys? That’s the father and son team who tried to start a rickshaw type of business hauling people around downtown Naperville. They might need to get back in business and order a fleet of rickshaws.

Dec 032012
 

Twice during the last couple of weeks I have ventured to downtown Naperville; once during the late morning, and another time in the early afternoon. I’ve lived long enough to know better than to drive during the morning or afternoon rush. I had an insatiable desire for an Einstein’s bagel and asked my wife if she would like to come along for the ride. She was all for it as long as I didn’t drive my 1990 240DL Volvo. I like seeing how many miles I can get on it (currently at 338,000 and counting); two more years and I can get an antique plate on it. That gives me another reason to keep living. I didn’t want to drive her new vehicle, so we decided to hop into our yellow 2000 VW bug. It’s fun to drive and can squeeze into small parking spots. It’s less than 4 miles to downtown Naperville and takes about 10 minutes to get there.

Things were looking good until we reached Washington and Aurora, and then pedestrians were moving faster than we were. We finally worked our way up to Chicago Ave, made a left and no parking. Then proceeded to do the Main Street, Jefferson, Washington, Jackson, Main Street, Chicago Street circle a few times with no success. Sensing my wife was eager to bring this to an end, I decided to forgo a bagel for some carmel corn at Kernel’s Popcorn at Washington and Chicago. Same situation. Slow moving traffic, and no parking. I gave it one more try for Einstein’s and as I’m sitting at the stop light looking west, I tried to imagine the Water Street Development becoming reality, and what it would look like. It was then that I confirmed what I have been thinking…..the city council might take us from the Smart Grid fiasco to the mother of all traffic gridlocks in downtown Naperville. The light turned green  I noticed an open parking spot and did a quick U-turn and realized that parking in downtown Naperville is like playing musical chairs.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday December 4) the Naperville city council will do another go-around on the Water Street Project. The development is slightly smaller than the last time, but still huge. Many people will talk. Council members will reiterate what they have said twice previously, a vote will be taken, and if it looks like a no-go again, councilman Chirico can pull the plug on the proceedings and have a do-over at the December 18 meeting. Do-overs are big in Naperville, like the do-over vote for districts but that’s a topic for another posting.

If the Naperville city council votes to approve the Water Street Development Project, you might have to ask yourself two questions:

  1. were they intimidated or swayed by emails which inundated their in boxes when a project supporter requested the tactic to “bombard the expletive” out of the city council members’ email boxes.
  2. Can council members generate any personal business from the approval?

Work experience of the nine council members includes plumbing, floor covering, real estate, sales, city planning, patent attorney, English teacher, pilot, and law enforcement.

I’m not saying it could happen, however somebody (business) has to do the plumbing, or lay the flooring, or do some real estate deals nearby, or generate sales for the area, or do some fine tuning for city planning, or maybe get some business for a patent attorney, or give a luncheon talk to a group about dangling participles and split infinitives, or pilot a plane dragging a sign overhead about where to park. And in honor of Mayor Pradel, an honorary bridge or driveway could be named after him. Connecting the dots on the ‘yes’ votes and business opportunities might be very interesting.

Would I do business with all of the council members if I had a need for their individual services? The answer is ‘absolutely yes’. They are all outstanding at what they do for a full-time living, though I’m not sure they would want to do business with the Watchdog. I just hope that if they do approve this project, it’s for the right reasons, and traffic gridlock is not one of them. I wonder if Einstein’s delivers.

Nov 252012
 

At the most recent Naperville city council meeting (November 20), the main topic of the evening was centered on the Water Street Development project, and whether or not to approve it. Nearly 30 people addressed the council during the Public Forum portion of the meeting. Then the city council began deliberations prior to voting yea or nay on the subject. They never did get to a final vote because council member Chirico sensing defeat of the project by a 5 to 4 vote (it was 4 to 1 against when Chirico began to talk) invoked a parliamentary procedure ‘council rules’ which allows a council member to table a topic/vote to a later date in order to reconsider the plan of action. Councilman Wehrli objected, but Chirico prevailed and the process will be repeated again at the next council meeting December 4.

Something very interesting was said during the council members discussion of the project. Council member Joe McElroy, as is often the case, brings a lot of common sense and perspective to issues with his pragmatic and simple approach to issues. Watch and listen as he summarizes the obvious when he states in essence, how can the council force something on people that they don’t want and then ask them to pay for it.

He’s right. He absolutely gets it when he said,, “This is a situation where most people are against it, and so it would be really tough to say, in addition of forcing you to accept something you don’t like, we’re going to make you pay for it”

But then the question becomes isn’t this the same when it comes to forcing Smart Meters on resident’s homes, something they are against, and then in addition, making residents pay for it in the form of fees and penalties. McElroy gets it. Krause gets it. But the other seven council members don’t get it.

Keep it simple. Don’t force things on residents that they don’t want and don’t make them pay for it. How simple, refreshing, and citizen-friendly would that be.

Nov 182012
 

Naperville has always been considered a kid friendly and family friendly city, however each year they lose some of that luster, and continue to drop in nationwide rankings of cities. But just as every action has a reaction, they would be moving up the list (if one existed) for liquor-friendly cities.

A number of cities across the country have eased their policy on drug enforcement, and some encourage and rely on casinos to enhance their revenues. In Naperville’s case, it’s the proliferation of liquor establishments, and increasing the hours that liquor can be served, which has added tax dollars to the city’s bottom line. What is particularly glaring is the fact that for quite some time the city of Naperville has denied and ignored the existence of liquor related incidents and issues. The term ‘profit hides sin’ couldn’t be more true than in the city of Naperville with regard to liquor related incidents.

Other than DUI’s, public intoxication, public indecency situations, scuffles, fist fights, aggravated battery incidents, robberies, stabbings and an occasional murder, everything is just fine in down-town Naperville on a typical evening or weekend night.

As is always the case, whenever there is an issue, local officials are quick to point blame at everyone except themselves. Never mind that city officials have laid the groundwork for liquor related problems including incrementally increasing the issuance of liquor licenses and increasing drinking hours.

What is most egregious by Naperville city officials, including the liquor commission, is the fact that they have denied that problems have existed. A comment once heard at a liquor commission meeting was, “We don’t over serve in Naperville.” This occurred at the same time a young Naperville resident attempted to get the blessing of the liquor commission and Naperville officials to start a designated driving service based in Naperville. The city of Naperville basically over regulated him out of business.

Click here to read our interview with Booze Crews Designated Driving Service’s founder Kevin Oliver

Surprisingly you would think that the Naperville Liquor Commission would be aware of issues and want to rectify them. But apparently that’s not the case. Even more amazing is fact that the city’s liquor commissioner is Mayor Pradel; prior to becoming the mayor, he was an outstanding police officer. If anybody would want to rid the city of liquor problems, it would be a police officer who becomes the mayor. Not so, issues continue, blame is misplaced, and the beat continues.

Most recently, city officials pointed the ‘finger of blame’ towards the Black Finn Saloon. In a show of power, Naperville officials nailed Black Finn for four minor code violations. Two involved managers failing to go through the city’s training for servers of alcohol, one was a clerical error on their application, and the other involved an alcohol-related offense by an employee which was not disclosed on the application and Black Finn handled it appropriately at the time. These code violations would be equivalent to a police officer issuing a ticket to a driver for not having enough tread on a tire.

If you happen to see a council member’s vehicle, you may want to measure it for tread depth.