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.