If you enjoy unusual forms of entertainment, you might want to consider attending Naperville city council meetings. They occur the first and third Tuesdays of each month, beginning at 7:00pm (or thereabouts) and end whenever. The council’s attention to punctuality has improved immensely since the last city council election. Prior to McElroy and Chirico joining the council, meetings would never start on time; some starting as late as 7:10 or later. It was chic for the council to saunter in as if they were attending their own coronation.
The council follows Robert’s Rules of Order and most of the council members do an outstanding job of walking a straight line on this. Fortunately, whenever they begin to wander off the reservation, the city attorney is there to set them straight.
There are also rules for citizens including no fighting, yelling, screaming, or throwing things. This seems to work. Other rules for citizens that do not always work include no clapping when citizens are happy, and no booing when the council makes citizens’ lives more miserable. Rules are enforced by one of two methods; one is by use of the all-powerful gavel. Mayor Pradel has had years of experience to know exactly when to use it. It is amazing how he can make the gavel-pounding sound citizen-friendly. When the mayor is gone, a council member gets to pound the gavel. Most recently, the gavel-pounder was councilman Chirico. He gavel-pounded against citizens as though he was a member of the Third-Reich.
Occasionally a council member decides to impose a rule for whatever reason. Watch and listen as council member Joe McElroy inflicts a ‘beat down’ (rule) on citizen Tom Glass.
Two other rules come into play during the Public Forum portion of the meeting. One limits the citizen-speaker to a maximum three-minute presentation. What is interesting here is that if the council likes what the speaker has to say, the three-minute rule expands.
If the council does not like what the speaker is saying, then you hear the voice-of-authority say, “The speaker’s time is up”. This happens quite often.
The other Public Forum rule requires the speaker to say his or her name, along with their address. The council is a stickler on this rule; they want the speaker’s address and I don’t think it’s for a Christmas card list. At the April 3 meeting, there were 46 speakers and 45 were required to give their address. The lone exception to the hard rule was Dr. Randy Morris who spoke in favor of approving the Naperville Fertility Center at Washington and Benton streets. Notice how he was not asked to state his address.
You might think this was a council oversight; however, the same thing happened at the previous city council meeting on March 20
Could it be that the doctor and the Naperville city council agreed not to make his address public? The council did vote 7-2 to approve the location of the fertility clinic in downtown Naperville. A rule is only a rule if the city council wants to enforce it. A good example of this is the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group. With regard to the thousands of Naperville citizens who oppose the installation of Smart Meters, rules are rules. For the few who are in favor of Smart Meters, then rules are only suggestions.
Another thing you will notice at Naperville city council meetings is the presence of some of Naperville’s finest police officers stationed at the exits of the city council meeting room. The question then becomes, are the police officers protecting the council from the citizens, or protecting the citizens from the Naperville city council?