Aug 282012
 

Q.  Why do you think the Naperville city council wants a ‘do over’ vote for districts, and why wouldn’t they want a ‘do over’ vote for term limits?

          Ted G. (Chicago, IL)

A. With district voting, it makes each sitting council member more vulnerable for defeat. With at-large voting, a council member can get lost in the crowd and slip through for re-election. It would be like a herd of cattle; if a steer can work his way towards the front, his wayward ways have a better chance of going unnoticed. If it’s a two, three or four candidate race, then the incumbent has to be more accountable. Current Naperville city council members don’t care about term limits, since by the time any current council member is eligible to be bumped off the council it could be the year 2030 and by that time they won’t remember that they are on the council.

Q.  Naperville seems to be a very affluent city. Why would they have budget problems?

           Mariana B. (Ludwigshafen, Germany)

A. No community is immune to the effects of the economy, however many cities and towns throughout the country are doing what they can to curtail expense and operate more like an efficient corporation. Unfortunately, Naperville is not one of those communities. The Naperville city council seldom if ever sees an expense they don’t like. A few council members occasionally vote no on waste, but they will get voted down 8-1 or 7-2, and the waste continues.

 Q.  If the Naperville city council is so inept, why is it that we live in a well-respected, and highly regarded city?

          Dale J. (Naperville, IL)

A. The success that Naperville has realized has come from preceding years of competent leadership, and previous city council members who were visionaries. Our current city council leaves much to be desired in terms of accountability, trust, critical thinking, driving change, and communication. There is an overall absence of enthusiasm and energy, and a severe lack of execution and oversight from the city manager. Basically Naperville is moving forward on the momentum and direction derived from former city officials. I think even the current city council would agree that if current city council is the best we can do out of a city of more than 140,000 residents, that would be a shocker.

Q.  Of all the Naperville city council members, you focus the least on Kenn Miller. Why is that?

          Ashley B. (Naperville, IL)

A. Of all nine city council members, Kenn Miller might be the truest politician by definition. If he has nothing constructive to say, he remains quiet. He seldom if ever joins the minority end of a vote. He is the most difficult council member to read. If he plays poker, my guess is that he could beat any of his peers.

Q.  I have lived in a number of cities that have a council / city manager style of government, and the city manager takes his or her ‘marching orders’ from the local council. Yet in Naperville it appears the city manager is impervious to council direction or criticism according to the Watchdog?” Is that true and why?

          Claudia P. (Barrington, IL)

A. This gets back to weak leadership. The council appears weak in demonstrating courage and managing performance. Hence the city manager seems to have free reign with few if any paradigms and limitations.

Q.  Why doesn’t the local media (newspaper and TV) pick-up on some of these unpleasant issues in Naperville? If these issues exist, wouldn’t they also be all over it?

          Lois G. (Lockport, IL)

A. Our issues are too ‘vanilla’ for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune. Our local television station is more commercial in content with focus on social events and local business. The Daily Herald is more regional with less focus on Naperville. And the Naperville Sun is basically an extension of Naperville city government.

Q.  Your city council can’t be too inept, if they still hold the upper hand with regard to residents efforts to thwart installation of Smart Meters. In my state, local governments are back-tracking and reversing their decision to force Smart Meter installs. The state of Maine has some crafty and ambitious politicians, yet residents are winning in court, the ballot box, and reasoning with local officials.

          Davis J. (Auburn, ME)

Comment: Davis, if you had asked a question, I probably would have answered it with the second half of your above comment. The fact that you have ‘crafty and ambitious politicians’ in your local area and state means that they see the political benefit of working with residents. The fact that members of the Naperville city council are willing to ‘walk off the plank’ and sacrifice their reputation, integrity, and political careers for an unpopular and unwise cause, reflects clueless “leadership” that is simply out of touch with their constituency.

Q.  I lived in Naperville for almost 20 years prior to moving to Fort Collins, and I still have family living in the downtown area. What is the reasoning behind so many ‘bar and liquor’ types of business in the downtown area? It seems like on the weekends, there are more squad cars and cabs, then there are families. When I lived there the focus was on the River Walk, small shops, and a family type of atmosphere. It’s looking more and more like Rush Street in Chicago.

          Adam D. (Fort Collins, Co)

A. My family and I recently traveled for a weekend to Door County in Wisconsin. During a 96 hour period from Thursday through Sunday we did not see one police car. I asked two local government officials why that would be. Each answer was the same; they are more than careful in issuing liquor licenses, and it’s not the image they want to convey. That’s part of what makes Door County so appealing; family and good fun. Naperville has ‘sold out’ thinking that liquor equates to fun. In fact, the liquor commission, as recently as a few years ago, had the mistaken idea that “Naperville doesn’t over serve”. If they truly believe that, then there are a lot of police squad cars lined up on weekend nights giving lost motorists directions to their destinations.

Q.  You continue to hammer away and pound the Naperville city council. Did you lose an election or something? I served a term on my local council in Indiana and never got a negative comment. If I had a guy like you scrutinizing my decisions, I probably would have never spoken at meetings.

          Vince E. (Norridge, IL)

A. Vince, I am sure there is a reason why you served only one term. Is it possible that the voters made their only negative ‘comment’ at the ballot box during your re-election bid.

Now that you are on the other side of the dais like the rest of us, you know the importance of spending tax dollars wisely. When you’re on the council, you are spending other peoples’ money, so there are no restraints other than the ballot box. When elected city officials are dong the right thing, they like it when citizens are watching and listening. When elected city officials are clueless, they would rather have no one listening or watching.

Q.  Now that you have posted more than 100 articles, have you changed your position on any council members?

          Clinton M. (Northbrook, IL)

A.  Yes. The ‘stock value’ of a few has increased, while a few others have decreased stock value. Council member Joe McElroy has been a pleasant addition to the council. He’s a good listener with a quiet yet confident demeanor. He is a person of few words, but meaningful words similar to the E.F. Hutton commercial ‘when Joe speaks everyone listens. He asks questions, is open to learning, relaxed and very approachable. He doesn’t need the spotlight, yet takes control when necessary as he did at the last council meeting. Council member (Grant Wehrli)  has the courage to express non-popular points of view, and has the courage to respectfully challenge his peers on issues. His willingness to disagree with me on issues without being disagreeable is refreshing.  Another council member (Steve Chirico), who has taken a lot of criticism in postings, was open to getting together and chatting and sharing his personal side. Most impressive was his willingness to humbly admit a couple of ‘misspeaks’ during council meetings that he would like to have back as a do-over. This simple yet all-important awareness that he made mistakes is about as refreshing as it gets when chatting with a council member. We’ve all made comments we wish we could have back, myself definitely included. We can only wish that some other council members could do that.

Aug 192012
 

Suppose you are fortunate enough to have a job, and let’s say that you’re earning $142,051 per year and it’s annual review time. The boss calls you into his or her office and says “we’re doing great, so your raise this year is 0.5% which is $722 or about a fill-up of gas each month for your vehicle. Well that’s exactly the increase in this years Naperville population (0.5%) over last year’s population (from 142,051 to 142,773). Not good for a city that calls itself vibrant.

In fact, Naperville’s percentage growth is less than that of Dupage County, meaning that Naperville is actually a drag on Dupage county’s rate of population growth. If you compare the percentage rate of growth, Naperville is growing at half the rate of Kane County, and almost one-third the rate of growth for Kendall County.

If you compare Naperville’s rate of population growth (0.5%) to that of similar sized cities (Pasadena, Dayton, Fort Collins, and Hollywood, Florida, our growth rate is slower. If you compare it to other affluent towns such as Geneva or Lake Forest, again Naperville loses in rate of growth.

So what’s the reason? For those who say it’s the economy, then why aren’t cities with similar demographics showing the same lack of growth. For those who say folks are moving to Cook County, well Cook County’s rate of population growth is less than that of Naperville. One could say neither Cook County or Naperville are as appealing as they once were for preferred business opportunity, or family life.

The bottom-line answer to the question of why Naperville isn’t  growing as fast as other similar sized and demographic towns as they have in the past, could be in part, that local government is not as business-supportive and resident-friendly as it has been in previous administrations. Maybe with an overhaul in city council representation and a more user-friendly, business-supportive city hall leadership, Naperville can once again be a destination of choice for business and residents.

Aug 152012
 

One would think by the actions of the Naperville city council, that the city was overflowing with extra dollars to simply give away for pet projects of the council. As the city of Naperville continues to pile on needless debt, city officials have decided to raffle off five (5) electric vehicle charging stations (EVCS) desperately trying to stimulate interest in something the vast majority of citizens have absolutely no interest in; the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative (NSGI).

The raffle is open to DPU-E (Department of Public Utility – Electric) customers who currently own an electric vehicle which probably means that four of the five EVCS’s will remain unclaimed.

Winners (or losers depending upon how you look at it) will be required to:

  • pay “miscellaneous income” tax to the IRS
  • allow DPU-E to install the EVCS at the recipient’s address
  • allow DPU-E to install a second (sub) meter at the recipient’s address
  • sign up for the sub-metering rate for either the flat or time-of-use rate
  • allow DPU-E to collect and record all usage data
  • assume responsibility for a service upgrade, if necessary, for additional service line, which means the recipient will need to review their service and load panel with an electrician and then consult with DPU-E in order to be aware of potential additional cost.

Is it any wonder the city is trying to find residents to participate in all this work. Here is a thought, rather than inflicting residents with EVCS’s, how about each council member be required by ordinance to obtain and drive an electric car, and be required to install EVCS’s in their front yard. And by the way, for all of you who live near a council member, take note if they are driving ‘electric’, or if they, like the rest of of us, are choosing safety and reliability in our current vehicles.

Aug 122012
 

 

How many times does the city of Naperville have to get hauled into court by Naperville residents and told by the court to ‘shape up and get their act together’. This time it happened in a U.S. District Court in Chicago with regard to settling a federal class-action lawsuit over the jail intake booking fees assessed of people arrested and charged with crimes.

It all started to go wrong in June of 2009 when the Naperville city council enacted an ordinance mandating payment of a $50 administrative fee for ‘the processing of bail or bond of an individual in any legal process, civil or criminal, or on any bookable arrest”. The Naperville city council celebrated and dollars started rolling into the city coffers to the tune of $27,000 for 3 months in 2009, and another $72,000 during 2010. It was another ‘cash cow’ for the city until one Naperville resident was booked, paid his $50 to Naperville, went to court, was found not guilty, asked for a refund of the $50 and was told there was no reimbursement policy. Hence, the birth of another federal class-action lawsuit against the city of Naperville, and again a U.S. District Court had to ‘grab Naperville city officials by the ear and take them behind the tool shed’ and set them straight.

The Naperville city council had no procedural safeguards in place to guarantee that a citizen’s property would be returned if he or she was not charged, not prosecuted, or was acquitted. No one on the city council gave this any thought, and apparently nor did the city attorney or the city manager. It’s as if they all jumped into one electric-powered vehicle, and floored the accelerator to 15mph before realizing there are no brakes and no seat belts.

If a lawyer is looking for job security, he or she might want to apply to the City of Naperville because the Naperville city council is still out of control by passing ordinances without thinking of consequences. The legal department is apparently not properly advising the council, and when you think about it, why should they. The more often the city of Naperville is a defendant in court, the more job security the legal department has.

Aug 082012
 

The Naperville Electoral Board consisting of Mayor Pradel, councilman Doug Krause, and city clerk Pam LeFeber said they didn’t do it. The city attorney, Margo Ely adviser to the board, said they didn’t do it. The city manager, Doug Krieger, said they didn’t do it. However the Illinois Attorney General’s office, after an investigation, said they did it, and they should not have done it.

What they did was violate the Illinois Open Meetings Act in conducting its hearings regarding objections to a non-binding (advisory) referendum on the Smart Grid Initiative.

The residents of Naperville said the Naperville Electoral Board violated the open meetings act. The Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group said the Naperville Electoral Board was in violation, as did the groups attorney, Doug Ibendahl.

The group, along with more than 4,000 citizens who signed a petition,  simply wanted to get a non-binding referendum on the ballot last spring, asking the voters if they wanted the unpopular $22 million Smart Grid Initiative stopped. By violating the Open Meetings Act, it resulted in Naperville residents being denied the opportunity to vote on the smart meter program which is now the subject of a lawsuit in federal court which has a status hearing set for August 16 in Chicago.

In essence the Naperville Electoral Board is an extension of Naperville city council, since two of three board members are part of the nine-person city council, and the city attorney sits with the council during meetings, while the city clerk is also part of the meeting. So who’s watching who? You would think that someone on the Naperville city council, or the city attorney, or city manager or clerk would have an epiphany and say, “Hey, wait a second, what we are doing is wrong, and it’s wrong in so many ways”, but not one person stood tall and did the right thing.

It took the Illinois Attorney General’s office to set the council straight. Naperville city manager, Doug Krieger said, “we appreciate the Attorney General’s guidance to help improve our process”. Isn’t this the purpose of the city attorney, to provide guidance. And isn’t this the purpose of the city manager, to provide an accurate process. Why have a city attorney or city manager if they are not providing guidance and process. Could it be that an upgrade in talent is in order for both positions? Either that, or just run everything by the Illinois Attorney General’s office before the Naperville city council takes any action on anything.

Aug 032012
 

When you find yourself digging a hole and you’re in it, the first thing most people would do is stop digging, but that’s not Naperville councilman Bob Fieseler did at the most recent Naperville city council meeting. In fact, he kept digging until he was so deep that when he looked up, he was still looking down.

Let me set the stage and then you can listen and watch councilman Fieseler in his own words as he does the unthinkable; he makes public what most politicians keep quiet or distance themselves from…he implies that for a little extra ‘gold’ from the McDonald Golden Arches he might reconsider his position.

McDonald’s is seeking council approval to build a restaurant in Naperville just south of the downtown area on the southeast corner of Washington and Hillside. The initial vote by the council was unanimous (9-0) in rejecting the request. McDonald’s attorney Henry Stillwell came to the next meeting and asked the council for a chance to revise the plans and present it at the next council meeting (August 21). He was simply asking the council for the opportunity to examine potential solutions to the issue by addressing their concerns.

The council voted in favor of granting the request to revisit the issue, however councilman Bob Fieseler was not open-minded to listening to a solution that would benefit the city of Naperville. He based his close-mindedness on three concerns: 1) 24-hour drive thru, 2) limited parking, and 3) traffic flow. He considers those issues to be non-negotiable, however listen as councilman Fieseler is willing to throw those concerns ‘under the bus’ if McDonald’s is willing to ‘sweeten the pot’ by throwing some dollars towards the River walk. In other words, resident’s concerns about an all-night drive thru restaurant, limited parking, and traffic flow are for sale if McDonald’s satisfies Fieseler’s request. If enough dollars flow towards councilman Bob Fieseler and the River walk, then all of sudden lack of parking and congested traffic flow are O.K. Watch and listen to councilman Fieseler as he grabs the shovel in front of the entire world and starts digging.

Who knows what councilman Fieseler was thinking when he started digging another hole for all to see and hear. Maybe he had no idea what he was saying or doing. But is this what we want from a council member?

One comment from a reader that was posted stated:

“As a businessman doing business in the city of Chicago, I’m all too familiar with the sound of a shakedown. Councilman Fieseler’s comments, in my opinion, have the same ring as the inspector who offers to ‘help you out’ in return for ‘some consideration’. At least the shakedowns in Chicago happen in secluded locations, not boldly in the council chamber!”

It’s very possible that Naperville councilman Bob Fieseler feels that by improving the River walk with some ‘gold’ it might alleviate parking and traffic flow concerns, and make the residents in the area of Hillside and Washington support McDonald’s request. However, it’s also possible that at the next city council meeting when this issue is revisited, councilman Fieseler might offer an apology to Naperville residents, McDonald’s Corporation, and his fellow council members, for his ill-advised comments; or he might at least clarify his comments and let us all know ‘What was he thinking!”

Aug 012012
 

How many jobs do you know that have no ‘job description’? It seems that every job has some type of description; something defining what the goal or purpose is, or what is expected and what are the priorities. Yet if you’re a Naperville city council member there isn’t any. Yes there is a short ‘official oath’ that in part states “I will support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of city council member according to the best of my ability.” Does anybody, including the council members, know what the ‘duties’ are? And what about ‘to the best of my ability’. What if the council member has little if any ‘ability’. With no obvious ability, he or she may be doing the ‘best’ they can, but it’s certainly not good enough.

All good citizens ‘support the Constitution of the United States’ and ‘the Constitution of the State of Illinois’ so the ‘official oath’ sounds good, but basically it’s all bread with no meat. If we had to come up with a job description list of 20 things council members like to do it might look like this:

  • ribbon cutting with a four-foot scissors
  • pounding the gavel during meetings
  • talking endlessly about anything
  • campaigning for election
  • campaigning for re-election
  • raising funds for re-election
  • preparing victory speeches
  • smiling for pictures
  • embarrassing residents during Public Forum
  • seeing ‘Joe the hot dog guy’ as a human pinata
  • starting city council meetings late
  • determining how many chickens someone can have
  • appearing at fun events
  • trying to pronounce big words
  • dancing to the City Manager’s music
  • selling out to the Federal Department of Energy
  • spending tax dollars
  • spending more tax dollars
  • creating more taxes and fines
  • finding ways to spend those dollars

If you created a basic list of what residents would like council members to do, it might include the following:

  • stay awake during meetings
  • pay attention and be respectful to speakers
  • use common sense
  • work with residents rather than against them
  • support citizens’ right to vote (specifically Smart Meters)
  • encourage win/win situations
  • spend less and spend wisely
  • have the courage and integrity to admit your wrong
  • keep an open mind
  • base decisions on all available information

Sounds simple and reasonable, doesn’t it. But apparently simple and reasonable are not part of the job description.