Apr 282013
 

Hey kids, do you want to take a field trip to a Naperville city council meeting? Chances are not. In fact, most adults have never been to a meeting, and don’t seem to want to include that on their bucket list. So how about I give you an idea of what it’s like at a typical Tuesday Naperville city council meeting.

Council meetings are held twice monthly on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the Naperville Municipal Center at 400 S. Eagle Street. You can park in a mostly enclosed, attached, parking area, or park outside. I prefer to park outside since I feel a need to get some fresh air as soon as I leave a council meeting. You could watch the meeting live on NCTV, or streaming live on line at the Naperville city website (great when out of town), or you can watch replays of both of those sources within a few days of the meeting. The downside to replays is they can be edited, and the downside to watching on line or TV is that you can miss so much that takes place in council chambers, including:

  • a particular council member who would doze off during meetings, (good thing he can read the minutes)
  • meetings starting five to ten minutes late (punctuality is ‘respect for another persons time’, however in fairness to this council, this has improved)
  • another who nearly fell off his chair, (good thing he had quick hands to grab on to the dais)
  • classic comments made by council members when they don’t know their mic is on (oops)
  • council members chatting and laughing with each other while residents are speaking during public forum (total lack of respect to those residents)
  • armed police at entrance/exits when controversial issues are on the agenda
  • police patrol cars stationed at the entrance to city hall when topics of high-interest to residents are to be discussed, or when residents are demanding the firing of the city manager, and the resignation of city council members. (try explaining that to the little kiddies)

It’s for that reason I have preferred to attend meetings in person. However, lately I like to record and watch at home and make comments without the possibility of being tossed out. For those of you who remember Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), you will understand what I mean. It’s difficult to attend Naperville city council meetings without commenting on the lunacy of events that unfold.

Some meetings fly by in an hour, while others take up to four hours. It’s always interesting when they can discuss an issue for an hour that they all agree upon. Seems like a waste of time.

Public forum speakers are allowed three minutes each to make their point. If council members don’t like what they are hearing, the 3-minute rule holds tight. However if the speaker’s comments support the position of the council, then the 3-minute rule is relaxed.

Clapping or applause is not allowed. This spontaneous outburst only seems to happen when the residents ‘score’ a point. I’ve only seen a couple of residents (both highly respected in the community) get tossed out of a meeting. Both happended to be women. Come to think of it, Naperville city officials also had two people arrested for protecting their homes from forced installation of Smart Meters; they also happened to be women. Could this be a trend in Naperville.

Of the nine Naperville city council members, only one is female. Some call it token representation, others like myself would find it very refreshing if the “good ole boys club” of Naperville officials could be energized with a little more equal representation.

Public seating in the council chambers has three sections. The far right as you enter is typically for city staff, the far left is typically in camera view for those with a ’cause’, or those who enjoy seeing themselves on TV or video, and the center section is for the rest of us misfits including myself.

The speakers sign up before the meeting in city clerk’s office area. When their name is called, they approach the podium and typically forget to state their name and address. The mayor seems to enjoy interrupting the speaker after the speaker ‘gets on a roll’ and request they state their name and address. There is a visual aid available for showing something on a large overhead screen. Unfortunately when they want to show something on the screen it’s either too small, upside down, sideways, backwards, or illegible…..which seems to work just fine for the council since they often have little interest in seeing what the speaker wants to show. This point is confirmed since no one from city staff jumps in to help the speaker place it properly on the screen.

By the end of the meeting, few people if any remain other than city staff, council members, and some speakers. The written agenda allows me to know when the meeting is over, and I can typically be up, out the door, and in my vehicle as the gavel is being pounded to adjourn the meeting.

Getting out the door into the fresh air is a welcome relief. Almost as good as when spontaneous applause breaks out during a meeting showing support for Naperville residents.

Apr 252013
 

 

The city of Naperville has it’s own version of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. The Hatfields are a large number of informed and active residents in Naperville looking for a ‘fair shake’, and the McCoy’s, who are composed of Naperville city officials including the Naperville city council and city manager, who appear hell-bent on making the lives of the ‘Hatfields’ as unpleasant as possible.

The latest version of this ‘I’m-going-to-poke-a-stick-in-your-eye’ comes from ‘McCoy’ Naperville councilman Grant Wehrli, who wants to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) the city of Naperville to find out which ‘Hatfields’ are FOIA-ing the city, and for what FOIA topics. Is it just me, or does this sound nuts.

My first thought was that councilman Grant Wehrli probably wants the information so he can honor the fine residents of Naperville who are taking the time to learn more about Naperville government activities by getting involved. The honor could come in the form of a proclamation read by Wehrli during a Naperville city council meeting recognizing the efforts of local residents to learn more about city affairs. In fact, Wehrli could invite grade school, middle school, and high school students to the council meeting to hear the proclamation and encourage students to also learn more about how local government works. As part of show-and-tell, he could provide FOIA forms to each student to take home to discuss with their parents. What better way for the kids to learn. What better way for Wehrli to be a hero to the kids of our community. Finally a councilman taking a public stand to do the right thing. Is it just me, or am I beginning to sound nuts.

Let’s get real. A ‘McCoy’ (councilman Grant Wehrli) is not about ‘doing the right thing’ for the ‘Hatfields’ (involved and informed Naperville residents). Naperville city officials get very irritated and offended when residents want to learn more about local government activities. There is a reason that inky shadows exist in the corridors, corners, and offices of the Naperville city hall. A resident utilizing the FOIA has a flood light to shine into those inky shadows. A city councilman using a FOIA against residents, has a tool of intimidation to dim or eliminate that light.

What’s really ironic about councilman Wehrli’s FOIA request, is that it was just a few weeks ago that he along with a couple of other ‘McCoy’s’ on the city council were whining and complaining about Naperville residents who were ‘wasting the time of city staff’ who had to research information for the inquiring minds of Naperville residents, and now it’s the same councilman Wehrli who is doing what he was ‘crying’ about just a few weeks ago.

Maybe somebody should FOIA the city about Wehrli’s position on FOIA’s, “to FOIA or not to FOIA, that is the question”.

 

Apr 212013
 

 

Those rascally rascals on the Naperville city council along with the city manager (Doug Krieger) are at it again. And why not. The last time they tried the stunt, it worked. The stunt was to have a do-over vote to undo the vote of 28,236 voters who wanted fair and reasonable representation on the city council and a better opportunity to oust incompetent city officials. It worked when 9,772 voters nullified the vote of 28,236 Naperville residents.

This time word has it that city officials might want to have a do-over vote for term limitations. The stunt is to float the idea that the 32,089 voters (72% landslide) who voted for term limits had no idea what they were voting for, and that voters would really prefer that Naperville city council members have the opportunity to stay in office for life. Sounds plausible doesn’t it. I mean it worked with ‘at-large’ representation versus district representation. Remember, it’s very dangerous for the residents of Naperville to get between Naperville city council members and their seats at the dais. The more often a city council member can get elected, means the more campaign signs he or she will have for the following elections.

The other stunt that’s floating around, is that this last city council election should have been for four-year terms rather than two-year terms, now that district representation has been nullified by the do-over vote. Naperville council members would much rather prefer to have just four council members running for re-election in 2015, than to have eight running for re-election.

And here’s the reason why. Imagine in the next election there are four council members running for re-election and another seven candidates (as we just witnessed); that’s 11 candidates in total. It’s much easier for the four incumbents to be elected (top four vote getters), than if eight are running with seven non-incumbents which would require the incumbents to finish in the top 8 positions. It’s comparable to horse racing. Statistically it’s easier to pick the winning horse rather than the top two finishers. Which is easier than the top four finishers, which is easier than to pick the top 8 finishers in any order. This gives non-incumbents an outstanding opportunity to finish within the top eight positions resulting in two, three or more incumbents to be unseated.

To make it more worrisome for city council members is that as things stand now, the top four finishers will get elected for four-year terms, while the next four finishers (5 through 8) will be elected to two-year terms. So unless city officials can grease the way for one of the two stunts above to happen, city council members will be competing (a nice way to say fighting) with each other for the top four finishers in the election. Chances are that if there is one thing Naperville city officials distrust more than Naperville residents, it would be each other. This was proven when Naperville city council members preferred at-large representation rather than districts because they felt with district representation council members would do more wheeling and dealing with some districts (council members) getting more than other districts (council members).

As for now, those political stunts are simply floating in the air, to see if any will fly (just as the recent redo do-over vote). So keep an eye on those ‘stunt’ balloons. The only way they can fly is if residents are not watching and listening. Naperville city officials use that as the cornerstone of their strategy. The Naperville city council wants 100% transparency to the point that no one can see what’s happening.

 

Apr 172013
 

 Last Saturday, Naperville lost an outstanding resident when Frank Hnilo (Ni’-lo) passed away after a four year battle with lung cancer. Frank was 67. In 1974, Frank along with his partner (Carmen DiGiovine) founded what ultimately became the accounting firm of DiGiovine, Hnilo, Jordan, and Johnson Ltd., in Naperville, which has grown to over 50 employees and two offices.

I first met Frank in 1978 when I moved from Barrington to Naperville and he had a small office on 5th Avenue just south of Naperville North high school. He was referred to me by friend and local attorney John Roscich, and for that I am indebted to John and his wife Carolyn. Frank did my personal and business taxes from that day forward, and a friendship beyond accounting evolved over the years. Numerous times I asked Frank for advice, and each and every time Frank’s advice turned out to be correct. Even the one and only time I didn’t heed his advice (a small business venture) he was correct again.

Frank was everything you could want in a CPA and a friend; knowledgeable, helpful, wise, logical, loyal, rational, ethical with integrity, honest, and a dry sense of humor. Years ago I remember asking Frank if he ever thought of running for office in Naperville, and he thought about it for a moment and with a humble smile he responded, ‘No it’s not for me….it’s a different set of values’.

I always thought he would have been an excellent mayor, or at least a solid, no-nonsense councilman. He had the leadership dimensions needed for success in any business and very much needed in local politics. Those leadership dimensions included, demonstrating accountability, communicating effectively, maximizing relationships, managing performance and execution, thinking critically, driving change, demonstrating courage, and building trust. Frank truly would have been the “”people’s councilman” and a strong voice for the residents of Naperville. He would have listened to the residents, responded to their needs and questions, and at all times interacted with mutual respect. Frank was truly a gentleman.

I was reminded of this as I watched last Tuesday’s Naperville city council meeting when resident Mike Anderson made an interesting, thought provoking, and respectful three-minute presentation about Smart Meters to the city council during the Public Forum portion the meeting.

Watch and listen to Mike and then listen to the response of the city council.

No answer. No comment. Not even the common courtesy of a response from any member of the council.

Frank was right again…..it’s ‘a different set of values’.

 

Apr 142013
 

 

City officials in Naperville enjoy poking and prodding Naperville residents. For them, it appears to be a sport, where they can make the rules, officiate the game, delay the game, then change the rules, keep score, and then change the score. In order to do that, Naperville city officials (the city council and city manager) need a large group of cronies whom are indebted to city officials, and city officials whom are indebted to the cronies. In the banking world it would be like a banker loaning money to a friend, and the friend then gives half money to the banker, and the banker then forgives the loan. If Wichita State could control the NCAA, like Naperville city officials control Naperville residents, the Shockers would be the NCAA champions.

Naperville city officials enjoy playing the game when they can keep score, and if the score should somehow go terribly wrong for the city, they can then finagle a do over game where the score doesn’t count. Pretty cool, isn’t it, especially if you’re a Naperville city official.

It happened just a few years ago when the residents of Naperville wanted to have a non-binding referendum on the ballot, so residents could vote on whether or not they wanted intrusive Smart Meters installed on their homes and businesses. 4,199 residents signed a petition to get the referendum on the ballot which Naperville officials did not want. As luck would have it for Naperville officials, one person miraculously popped up and filed an objection to the petition to not allow the question on the ballot. Naperville officials sided with the one objector, over the wishes of 4,199 residents and would not allow it to be voted upon. One person trumped 4,199 people.

It happened again Tuesday when residents were asked once more to vote on the same issue they voted upon in 2010. The issue was whether residents wanted district representation, or wanted a free-for-all at-large type of representation. 42,829 residents voted in 2010 and the first result was a landslide victory for district representation by a vote of 28,236 to 14,593. It wasn’t even close. A huge resident ‘shout-out’ for politician accountability.

Members of the city council inwardly became hysterical; accountability meant they would be easily defeated in future elections. They managed to delay the implementation of the vote for five full years, that’s 1,825 days, or 43,800 hours, or almost 3 million seconds. As luck would have it again for Naperville officials, somewhere around day number 1,100 of the five-year delay another person miraculously pops up and wants to have a do-over vote in 2013 for the same issue that was voted upon in 2010. Naperville officials jump for joy and think this is an absolutely fantastic idea; in fact it’s such a great idea that they couldn’t have done better if they would have thought of it themselves, which most likely they did. Naperville politicians approve the do-over vote in 2013 to undo the original vote in 2010.

This time instead of almost 43,000 residents voting, only 14,613 vote, and only 9,772 vote in favor of ‘at-large’ representation. So with the help of Naperville city officials, and some tricky, ambiguous wording on the 2013 ballot 9,772 people overturned the wishes of 28,236 residents in the first vote.

In short, in Naperville, 1 person can undo what 4000+ people wanted, and 10,000 people can out-vote nearly 30,000 people in a do-over vote. Confusing isn’t it. Try to logically explain that to somebody other than Naperville politicians.

So I say the fair way to resolve this is add the results of both elections together, and it’s still a landslide of 33,077 to 24,365 in favor of district representation (making politicians accountable)

Knowing that Naperville officials hyper-ventilate at the thought of that idea, how about going to Plan B. Let’s have a Re-do, do-over vote, to undo the do-over vote of the original vote. Sort of like two out of three. Maybe miraculously somebody else could pop up and the residents of Naperville could win one with a last second full-court shot. There still are a lot of those original 3 million seconds remaining.

 

Apr 102013
 

Voters Tuesday ignored allegations of corruption, sexual harassment, and nepotism in city hall and overwhelmingly re-elected city official for another term in the western suburb. Despite months of candidates slinging accusations towards one another of gang ties, racial slurs, and old-fashioned government corruption, voters approved re-election, though the administration has been mired in scandal. Secretly recorded by the FBI, and criticized for giving millions worth of town business to pals, and appointing friends and family to town posts, the incumbent is back in office.

Despite a string of police-related controversies, the incumbent won re-election. Though the city has been rocked by allegations of police abuse and misconduct, and the 2012 arrest of the ex-police chief that he allegedly stole more than $140,000 seized in drug arrests, the voters have re-elected the incumbent.

In case you think I am referring to city officials in Naperville, I am not. The first paragraph refers to Cicero town president Larry Dominick’s re-election February 26, and the second paragraph refers to North Chicago mayor Leon Rockingham’s re-election yesterday. The point here is that incumbents are difficult to unseat once in office. I mean even Hitler was re-elected to office in Germany. It’s no surprise that in yesterday’s election, the top three vote-getters where incumbents Paul Hinterlong, Judy Brodhead, and Doug Krause who was endorsed by City Council Watchdog.

The other candidates we endorsed, Jo Malik, Tom Glass, and Bill Habel came in 6th, 9th, and 10th place respectively in a field of eleven candidates. Those three candidates came with the least amount of political baggage, and would have also spread much needed light in the inky shadows of city hall. We came close to endorsing candidate Kevin Coyne who lost to newly elected council member David Wentz by a mere 129 votes. Who knows, maybe with an endorsement, a ‘biscuit for breakfast’, and a good luck penny (coin), Coyne would have have been elected.

Though no city official would openly admit it, they were ‘running scared’. The reason this is obvious is that city officials made an all-out assault on ‘outsider’ candidates Tom Glass and Jo Malik, both of whom have been outspoken about local government business-as-usual, resident-unfriendly decisions. Everything as simple as haranguing Glass and Malik about the location of their campaign signs, to outrageous comments from a council member’s spouse about Tom Glass’s intentions, the strategy was to demonize both Glass and Malik.

The good-news about the city council election results is that residents will still have one friendly voice at the dais (Doug Krause), and that both Hinterlong and Brodhead will have to be present as the results of their council decisions unravel. They won’t be able to ‘ride off’ into the night and leave someone else to pick up the pieces, as did the two previous council members who left after the last election. Quickly….can anybody remember the names of those ex-council members?

The other good news is that more and more Naperville residents are becoming aware of local politics and who is, and isn’t getting the job done. The next city council election (2015) looks to be a stampede, with 9 sitting council members along with a gaggle of candidates literally running for office.

Check-out the video image of what the next city council election might look like as city council incumbents on their way to re-election interact with other candidates and Naperville residents.

By the way, the two ex-council members are Richard Furstenau and Jim Boyajian. How quickly we forget their names, but how long those decisions continue to negatively impact residents.

 

Apr 082013
 

This Tuesday, voters will again be asked, via referendum, whether or not they want council members elected with district representation, or at-large. This question was asked in the last election (2010) and it resulted in a landslide victory in favor of district representation. The vote was 28,236 for districts and 14,593 for at-large. That’s a huge margin of victory ( 66% to 34%). After 42,829 voters ‘voiced’ their choice, it was clear the residents of Naperville wanted to ‘Reclaim Naperville’ by setting the table for ineffective incumbents to be defeated in future elections. Naperville city officials were stunned by the results of the vote and the Naperville political machine began the process of voiding the will of the people. The first thing they did was delay the implementation of district representation for five full years. The city of Naperville through the city council and city manager (Doug Krieger) began to whine and cry that it would take them five years to accomplish what other cities could accomplish in a few months. Absolute proof of the absolute lack of leadership and incompetency of Naperville city officials.

The second thing the Naperville political machine did was to set the table for a do-over vote for the same thing. They basically said that the 28,236 people who voted to ‘Reclaim Naperville’ by voting for district representation were too “stupid” to know what they were voting for. Naperville city officials wanted to save the voters from themselves, when in fact it was the Naperville city officials who wanted to save their own jobs. With district representation, it would be much easier for voters to defeat councilmen such as Bob Fieseler and Grant Wehrli, or any of the other seven who are not providing Naperville with sound, effective, respectful leadership.

The third thing they did was to “muddy up” the issue and confuse the voters with referendum wording that can make a voter dizzy. There is an old saying, “If you can’t convince them with facts, the dazzle them with B.S”, and that’s exactly what Naperville officials have done to the voters with tomorrow’s referendum.

Let’s look at the 2010 referendum wording; “Shall the city of Naperville elect part of the council members at large and part of the councilmen from districts with staggered four-year terms and biennial elections?” The staggering landslide ‘yes’ vote meant the voters wanted change.

This time the 2012 referendum wording is, “Shall the city of Naperville elect the city council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?” So now a ‘yes’ vote means keep it the same……’the same’ before the 2010 referendum or after the 2010 referendum?

So you have the same issue, but with different meanings for the same ‘yes’ vote. In essence the referendum question this time will have an opposite outcome if the voters vote ‘yes’. It’s almost an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first” question. Naperville city officials couldn’t convince the voters with facts, so they are attempting to dazzle them ‘confusion’.

There is a simple answer for a clear choice, and that answer is a resounding “NO”. By voting ‘No’ on the referendum, Naperville residents can continue to ‘Reclaim Naperville’ by removing council members who are not getting the job done. That leads to the dismantling the Naperville political machine, and replacing the city manager with effective leadership.

Occam’s Razor (a scientific and philosophic rule) states, “The simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex”. When dealing with the current Naperville city council, and city officials, the simplest, safest, and wisest answer to the referendum is “NO”.

Apr 072013
 

The Naperville city council election is just two days from now on Tuesday, and  Naperville city officials along with their political cronies are scrambling in fear that they will lose the election. The last thing a politician wants to do is lose an election. The next-to-last thing they want is for someone who can’t be controlled, to win an election. City officials like the way things are now in Naperville. They like the control they have over the residents, they like the political crony network they have established, they like making those special deals within the inky shadows of city hall, and they like talking about transparency while keeping residents in the dark.

They like shifting cronies around from one city department into another, like taking a finance director and moving him into the city manager’s position, or taking the assistant city manager and moving him into the police chief position. Naperville city officials like having other city officials double dip into pension plans, and they like to give hefty bonuses to officials shifting out of a position so another city official can shift into that open position with more pension dollars and an increase in salary. As I said, Naperville city officials like the way things are, so they don’t like losing an election or having someone new elected to a city official’s position. Is it any wonder why the entire Naperville political machine is working so hard, and spending so much money to demonize anybody and anything that will change the status quo.

Eleven candidates are running for four city council seats. Other than Tom Glass, Jo Malik and maybe Bill Habel, most if not all of them, to some extent, are already connected to the Naperville political machine. Three are incumbents (Brodhead, Hinterlong, and Krause). Councilman Doug Krause is the only one of three, that time and again stands up for the residents of Naperville. Chances are that the other eight council members wouldn’t mind if he lost the election, but that hasn’t happened in 24 years. Incumbent candidates Judy Brodhead and Paul Hinterlong basically do nothing more than occupy two chairs at the dais. Every now and then the mayor has them read a proclamation, and they may have been issued their own scissors so they can cut a fake ribbon at a fake grand opening. Both Brodhead and Hinterlong tag along with the majority which is good for city officials, but not good for Naperville residents.

The two candidates that cause Naperville city officials the most fear are Tom Glass and Jo Malik, which means Glass and Malik can provide the residents of Naperville with much needed relief from over-bearing and intrusive city officials. Let’s be perfectly clear here, Naperville city officials do not want either of these resident-supportive candidates to be elected, hence the all-out assault on the part of Naperville city officials and its political machine to demonize both Glass and Malik.

Unseating an incumbent is difficult, due to voter apathy, name recognition, intentional misinformation, tax-payer dollars being spent against resident-supportive candidates, and demonizing candidates. When a sitting council person’s spouse is trotted out in ‘public’ to demonize resident-supportive candidates, it’s obvious city officials are running scared. To sacrifice your spouse’s integrity and good name for a few votes, is at best despicable, or at worst, to use a councilman’s word choice, evil.

City Council Watchdog fully supports the election of candidates Tom Glass and Jo Malik, supports the re-election of incumbent Doug Krause, and guardedly supports the election of Bill Habel.

In the words of a large number of Naperville residents, it’s time to ‘Reclaim Naperville’.

Apr 042013
 

It wasn’t a good night for the Naperville city council. Everything was good for the council until the meeting started. That’s usually when things start to go wrong for the city council. Councilman Grant Wehrli announced that the mayor was home sick. I guess even Mayor Pradel can take only so much council disdain for residents, that he needs to take the night off to recuperate. Wehrli must have drawn the short stick, because he was the Mayor Pro Tem for the meeting. He starts out like this:

It probably would be a good idea if Grant knew who was doing what. Looks like Wehrli missed the leadership skill of preparation.

Soon after that, the Public Forum portion of the meeting started. This is the part of the meeting that council members really don’t like. It’s basically root canal time for them. Typically they make it worse for themselves by ‘tossing  hand grenades’ of  disrespectful comments towards residents of Naperville. In this case, it’s councilman Joe McElroy referring to residents as ‘suspects’ who submit FOIA’s (Freedom of Information Act).

Apparently when residents like to know what’s happening with their tax dollars, Joe McElroy feels it’s better if residents are kept in the dark.

He then follows with another disrespectful comment towards a resident running as a candidate for city council (Tom Glass). McElroy gets the facts wrong twice; first by stating Tom Glass is part of a Federal law suit against the city (which he isn’t), and then stating the wrong day (Wednesday) rather than Tuesday of the upcoming election (April 9)

Evidently politician Joe thinks everything is a political stunt unless he’s the one doing it.

Then councilman Steve Chirico slides in another assault on resident information-seekers (FOIA) when he ill-advisedly chooses the dreaded four letter word.

So now residents with inquiring minds are ‘evil’. In defense of councilman Chirico he may have chosen a better word, and he might like to have that word back.  However, “it is what it is”.

Now watch and listen to Naperville resident Diane Ciambrone, as she responds to Steve Chirico during public forum.

Councilman Bob Fieseler then makes a weak  attempt to appear sincere.

Watch and listen again as Diane Ciambrone ‘calls out’ Fieseler for undignified comments.

Diane then ‘sets the council straight’ as she sums up her comments and feelings about most of those at the dais.

Is it any wonder why the mayor needed to stay home.