Dec 312013
 

Here I am sitting at my desk, looking out the window at the snow falling, with a college bowl game on mute, and listening to a Beethoven CD with a freshly brewed cup of hot coffee and reflecting on 216 Watchdog postings since January 3, 2011 consisting of more than 96,000 words thinking that this sentence is too long.

So what’s new since that first posting, “Who Works For Whom“. Well, the Naperville city council has three new council members (Chirico, McElroy, and Wentz), replacing three who departed for various reasons (Boyajian, Furstenau, and Miller). I for one believe this has been a definite ‘upgrade’ to the council, though there is at least three people who would disagree. There are possibly two more who may be signing off from the Naperville city council; Mayor George Pradel who has said he won’t be running for re-election, and councilman Grant Wehrli who is running for a state position unopposed at this time. Grant likes anything where there is no opposition.

That means it’s possible, that only four of the nine council members from 2010 (less than a majority) will remain (Brodhead, Fieseler, Hinterlong, and Krause).  With two of those four being ‘resident-friendly’ regarding their voting patterns (their names rhyme with Krause and Hinterlong), the Naperville city council appears to be heading in the right direction. This is a good, however if better is possible, then ‘good’ is not enough.

Watchdog’s Mission “is to provide the electorate with additional eyes and ears to see and hear the nuances of actions and decisions of their local government, and a watchful eye on those who spend our hard earned tax dollars, while promoting awareness among citizen-voters about incompetence, waste, mismanagement, and taxpayer abuse by elected officials at a local level.”

Watchdog’s Vision “is a term-limited, representative local government based on ethics, transparency, and accountability whereby elected officials respect their constituency and act on behalf of the residents they represent”.

Watchdog’s Statement, “we are seeing watchful eyes at both the national and state levels of government; however at the local levels of government, the misuse or abuse of government is running unbridled”. The U.S. population is over 315 million with nearly the same number of estimated computers (311 million). No newspaper has ever attained that kind of circulation. Watchdog types of websites allow that type of watchful eye.

This Watchdog website has readers in all 50 states, and currently in 73 of the world’s 195 countries. What has been most gratifying is that local Watchdog groups are surfacing throughout the country and even the world, including the following email received by Watchdog last July 28.

“To Whom It May Concern, I am interested in setting up a watchdog committee to keep our local council honest and to work in the best interest for our small community on Pitcairn Islands (famous for Mutiny on the Bounty) located in the South Pacific. I would like to know as much as possible … As new elections due at the end of the year, I would like to create and implement such a committee ready for next year.” This email was sent by Michele Christian.

The election was held last month (November), and Michele Christian is now one of five elected councilors (council member), along with a mayor and deputy mayor for Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific.

The bowl game is over, the CD is finished, the snow is still falling, and the coffee has disappeared, and Watchdog has written the last words for this year, with these final 12 words:  Watchdog wishes you and your family a happy and healthy new year.

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 292013
 

How many times have you answered a survey without learning the results? Or heard a brain teaser without hearing the answer? Well Watchdog didn’t want that to happen with the three end-of-the-year Watchdog surveys.

So let’s review the questions, the choices, and the results of your responses.

Our first survey had to due with traffic congestion in downtown Naperville during autumn’s construction.

Q1 Chart

Watchdog understands that in order to make situations better (traffic), it can get worse before it gets better. However the real concern is that considering recent Naperville city council decisions, traffic will only get worse as high density projects are approved, making it likely that our worst traffic congestion this autumn will be better than our best downtown traffic in the near future and beyond.

Watchdog’s second survey involved outrageous actions and decisions by the Naperville city council.

Q2 Chart

It was challenging to limit the survey to just four choices, since there were so many other egregious actions to choose from.

Watchdog’s last survey of the year had to due with city officials’ accountability.

Q3 Chart

Watchdog has long maintained that Naperville is lacking true leadership, and that the success of Naperville is due to its residents, and not  city officials. However the city council is improving with the addition and subtraction of council members, and Mayor George Pradel has done the best he can do, and that’s all we can ask of anyone.

Thank you for responding to Watchdog surveys.

Dec 222013
 

‘Scrooge’ is a 1951 film adaption of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. He wasn’t necessarily a likeable fellow. In order to describe Ebenezer Scrooge you would have to use words like ‘prominent arrogant local businessman, cold-hearted, greedy, selfish, and unwillingness to give, a bit mean-spirited’, and he didn’t necessarily like things that made people happy. In general, an all around curmudgeon.  Fortunately we have no one on the Naperville city council that comes close to that description.

But if we had to find someone on the Naperville city council who could best represent Scrooge, who would that be? There’s no doubt that each city council member, at some time or another during council meetings this year has elevated his ‘Scrooge-quotient’ with ill-advised words and actions towards residents. Some of the better Scrooges are no longer on the council, however we’re not at a loss for candidates. Even if the ‘Scrooge-council-candidates’ were tied going into the last city council meeting, a clear winner did emerge at the last council meeting to ‘accept’ the Scrooge Trophy and that was councilman Grant Wehrli.

So what qualifies Grant as the council’s Scrooge? It’s not that he is a prominent local businessman. However, anybody with his name on a road (Wehrli Road), or his name on a stadium (Wehrli Stadium) probably finds it more challenging to relate to “common folk” as did Scrooge. At times Grant has been a bit mean-spirited, but then again I have been accused of that also. The difference is that we are trying to find the ‘Scrooge of the Council’, hence I don’t qualify.

And yes, Grant was the flag-carrier for the forced installation of so-called Smart Meters resulting in the hand-cuffing and arrest of two Naperville women attempting to protect their homes and families. And yes, Grant Wehrli also put his stamp of approval for a do-over vote against the landslide vote favoring district representation, and we could go on and on.

One only needs to look at the last Naperville city council meeting when councilman Grant Wehrli was the only ‘no’ vote for both disallowing a drive-through for medical marijuana, and disallowing more than 10% of floor space for other related products. So Grant loudly said ‘no’ to those in need, making it physically more difficult to purchase legal products.

Let’s take a look at how councilman Grant Wehrli would want an elderly person with a dog to get near a retail establishment in order to obtain an item to alleviate their pain.

At the same meeting, councilman Grant Wehrli was also the only council member to vote a resounding “No” against extending permits for food vendors to sell something as simple as a hot dog. 84% of residents surveyed, consider food carts an enhancement to Naperville’s downtown ambiance, so that means 8 out of 10 like the idea. And two would say ‘no’ to letting a hot dog guy sell a hot dog to a guy who whats to buy a hot dog. And who are those two? Scrooge and councilman Grant Wehrli. Scrooge himself would be proud of Grant Wehrli.

 

 

Dec 192013
 

 It finally happened during Tuesday night’s Naperville city council meeting. No, it wasn’t what residents were hoping for. It wasn’t Naperville city manager Doug Krieger submitting his resignation, and it wasn’t the city council apologizing in unison for ill-conceived ideas, and it wasn’t for poor decisions on the part of city officials costing residents millions of dollars. It wasn’t any of that.

 It was that I actually fell asleep while watching the Naperville city council meeting in the ‘friendly confines’ of my own home. Yes, the Watchdog who has been critical of council members dozing off at the dais over the last few years, finally had it happen to himself. I now understand why city staff heads tilt during meetings. I also owe an apology to the ‘dozing-off’ council member who is no longer on the council. It’s likely he has taken his ‘dozing’ elsewhere to some other government meeting.

I could blame it on lack of sleep. I went to bed at 2am, then got up at 4am to go to the airport, but I won’t do that. If I did, I’d be just another victim with no accountability. In other words, a candidate for public office.

I do remember a couple of things about the meeting before dozing off. First, the council started the meeting late again. You would think that with 11 people sitting at the dais, one of them would have enough respect for other peoples’ time by corralling their peers and getting the ‘show’ started on time.

Grant Wehrli Itching His BrainThen I remember seeing councilman Grant Wehrli looking more and more like a candidate for state office. He must have read the pamphlet ‘How to look like you know what you’re doing’, when in fact you’re clueless’. It helps to be clean shaven, slicked-down hair, fresh dark suit, whiter-than-white white shirt, and a lapel pin. He is running un-oppossed for office, so might not need the lapel pin.

Fieseler In Namaste PoseThen I remember seeing councilman Bob Fieseler (affectionately aka the ‘human coat hanger’) appearing to be in somber reflection, or trying to calculate his pension.

In Bob’s defense, it’s very possible that in his haste to get to the meeting on time, he forgot to take his sport-coat off the hanger before putting it on.

The final thing I remember is what turned out to be the most exciting and energizing portion of meeting.

I was only ‘gone’ for about 20 minutes, and awoke to watch the remainder of the meeting. Afterwards, I watched the portion that I missed.

Now I’m not saying that Naperville city council meetings are slow and dry, but later that night I caught a portion of the Toronto city council meeting and well, you can make the comparison.

Dec 162013
 

Tomorrow night, Tuesday December 17, the Naperville city council will vote on medical marijuana rules. Marijuana becomes a legally prescribed drug in the State of Illinois on January 1, 2014. The act is known as the “Illinois Public Act 098-122; the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Act” The law allows for municipalities to adopt more stringent regulations than those set by the state.

One of the “more stringent regulations” up for discussion by the Naperville city council is whether or not to allow “drive-through windows”, similar to what most drug stores have throughout the country. It appears the majority of Naperville city council members are not sympathetic to the idea of a drive-up window.

Pharmacies including Walgreen, CVS, and Rite-Aid among others embrace the concept of the drive-through window as a convenience for those who have a need for whatever reason, including the elderly, those physically in pain, a parent with a small child, and others. If any of you know someone who has or had cancer, or MS among other ailments, you know the difficulty involved, and how any aid, convenience, or help is a godsend to those folks.

Councilman Paul Hinterlong indicated he leans on the side of “why have a drive-through window”, so are we to believe that Paul is one of the fortunate ones who has not been involved with a person in pain, or is it simply an absence of compassion on his part. The name of the Act itself, has the word ‘compassionate’ in it.

It looks like we will find out which council members might be lacking compassion on Tuesday night when they vote up or down on a drive-through window.

Two things are certain; any council member voting ‘no’ to a drive-through window, could never work as an executive within the pharmacy division of a major corporation, and secondly if you are ever looking for any type of compassion, you won’t be getting it from those council members.

Dec 052013
 

Recently in Portland, Oregon, an 11-year old girl (Madison Root) wanted to help her father pay for her braces by gathering mistletoe from her uncle’s property and selling it at Portland’s Saturday Street Market. She chose an area away from the street vendors, but a Portland security guard swooped down and told her to stop selling the mistletoe because it was against city code. He  said she could ‘beg’ for money, but couldn’t sell mistletoe to those who wanted to buy it from her. It appears since the city officials of Portland couldn’t get a ‘piece of the action’, they wanted to extinguish her entrepreneurial spirit.

It made me wonder what city officials in Naperville would do if the same situation presented itself and I didn’t have to wonder very long after remembering that just a few years ago a little girl, along with her older sister, had their lemonade stand shut-down for the same reason. And it wasn’t even in the downtown area; it was on a residential street.

Jump forward to this year when two women were handcuffed and arrested for protecting their families and homes from the actions of Naperville city officials (forced installation of so-called smart meters). It comes as no surprise that Naperville city officials oftentimes don’t take too kindly towards Naperville families and residents trying to do the right thing, whether or not it’s protecting health and property, or selling lemonade.

It’s ironic that this Tuesday’s Naperville city council meeting addressed the topics of drive-through windows for marijuana dispensing centers, and the merits of “cage-fighting” in conjunction with selling alcohol at those events, while the concept of shutting down kids selling lemonade hasn’t been addressed. However the Naperville city council did find time to overwhelmingly approve increasing city council member compensation.

As for mistletoe-selling’ Madison Root, once word got out to residents that the city thwarted her effort to earn money for her braces, her business began booming with orders for mistletoe. No word yet if Portland city officials have placed any mistletoe orders, but if they are anything like Naperville city officials, chances are good that most are not mistletoe-type people.

Nov 212013
 

At the Federal level of government, we’ve seen outrageous behavior and heard inappropriate comments from Senators and House Representatives. Likewise with State of Illinois officials. We’ve also seen and heard the same from our city council members and city manager. But now, what’s the deal with mayors doing the same thing.

Watch and listen as Conan O’Brien makes a comparison between San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, and New York City defeated mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner.

It even occurred just beyond our border in Canada, where Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has become a daily entertainment story.

At least you have to give Mayor Rob Ford credit for answering questions even if in the style of a game show.

So who started this trend of mayors acting goofy. Is it possible, even slightly, that our very own Naperville mayor George Pradel began the ball rolling when he picked up a hammer during a Naperville city council meeting and began to do his version of a ‘beat-down’ on a cardboard facsimile of an unwanted building here in Naperville.

Chances are pretty good that none of the four will be in office after elections, but that only means there will be others in their place, entertaining us. It makes me wonder if Naperville’s next mayor has a favorite tool in his garage.

Nov 102013
 

Imagine if you managed your household expenses in the same manner that Naperville city council members control spending of taxpayer dollars. The first thing you would notice is that you would be in huge debt.  You would also be saying ‘yes’ to  just about every expense you could have. When telephone solicitors called, you would be buying whatever they sell. Your family slogan would be, “Say yes to expense”, just as most Naperville city officials do.

Is there anybody on the Naperville city council who can say ‘no’ to expense? Since June through the first half of November, there have been only two council members who have voted ‘no’ to expense; they are councilman Doug Krause who has voted ‘no’ four times, and councilman Steve Chirico who voted ‘no’ once. That’s it, just those two. Every other council member has voted ‘yes’ to every single expense item brought up for a vote. That’s seven council members in total who can’t seem to say ‘no’ to expense.

What is even more troubling, is that during that five month plus period of time, there have been a total of only 25 questions asked by council members concerning expense items on the agendas. More than half of those questions (15) have been asked by Chirico (6), Krause (5), and councilman Paul Hinterlong (4).

Council members Joe McElroy and Dave Wentz have asked three questions each, Wehrli has asked one question, while council members Judith Brodhead and Bob Fieseler have asked only one question each.

And the council member who since the first of June has not seen an expense that he didn’t like, nor did he even question an expense is Naperville Mayor George Pradel. For anybody out there anywhere, who wants to sell anything, George Pradel is your ticket to prosperity.

Other than Krause and Chirico, the others are willing to buy anything, though they may have a question or two.

 

Nov 072013
 

How many times have we heard it. Residents address the Naperville city council with their concerns, and the council responds by doing absolutely nothing. They may appear to show interest, or ask a question to a staff member, but when all is said and done, the resident still has the problem.

It happened again at Tuesday’s council meeting when two residents addressed the council during Public Forum regarding sewer over-flow, flooding basements in their neighborhood. Watch and listen as Naperville resident Dale Bryson makes a compelling presentation to the Naperville city council, and he does it in a respectful manner. Not only does he clearly layout the issue, he also presents win-win solutions to the council.

This was immediately followed by Naperville city manager Doug Krieger’s feeble attempt to respond to resident Bryson. Watch and listen as Krieger fumbles and stumbles.

This problem has been going on and on, with no resolution from the city council, city staff, or city manager Krieger. Here is the problem, it’s the residents’ problem; it’s not the city council’s problem, and definitely not Krieger’s problem. It’s not until it becomes the problem of city officials that anything will be done for the residents of this neighborhood. If magically, the sewage water overflow in the residents basements could be transferred to the basements of city officials, the problem could be solved by this weekend.

The fact that residents in this neighborhood get nervous each time it rains, is of little concern to city officials. When the meeting ended, probably a third of the city council went to their favorite ‘watering-hole’, while another third probably went to the closest casino, and the remaining third went home to their dry basements.

Two hours after the council meeting ended, it began to rain, and it rained for eight straight hours. Chances are that Naperville city officials slept well that night.

Nov 052013
 

 

There was a time, not that long ago, when any type of disturbance in downtown Naperville was a major event. Not anymore. Now it’s becoming commonplace. Naperville residents, for the most part, are no longer surprised.

It happened again, when four men were arrested and charged with a variety of offenses including, fighting, battery, resisting a police officer, and disorderly conduct. The mayhem occurred just before 2:00am Sunday October 27 near the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Washington Street, when allegedly one of the street brawlers shoved a woman whose daughter then came to help her mother, and the same person allegedly pushed the younger woman into the southbound lanes of Washington street and she fell and landed on her back. One Naperville police officer was apparently elbowed in the face during the fracas, and a Taser had to be used to gain control of the situation.

Unfortunately worse things have happened recently in downtown Naperville, and at an alarming higher frequency. The result of this, is that residents are becoming desensitized to this type of news. It’s no longer unusual. More and more residents are choosing to go elsewhere than downtown Naperville at night, and especially on weekends. Non-residents are filling the void, so tax dollars are rolling in, and the city benefits.

Naperville city officials have yet to get a handle on this problem, and it’s because they don’t see it as a problem. Liquor licenses continue to increase and high-density projects continue to be a priority.

Half the solution to a problem is the awareness that a problem exists. Naperville city officials are not there yet. Until then, it might be a wise council decision to order more Tasers and distribute them to Naperville families when they venture downtown on weekend nights.