Aug 282013
 

 A couple of weeks ago, an out-of-state friend called me and wanted to get together for lunch. I suggested a couple of places in downtown Naperville, and he didn’t want any part of that. Traffic congestion doesn’t appeal to him, and he had read on-line that there was another ‘dust up’ outside of one of the more respectable restaurants in the downtown area. Since Rt. 59 is also congested, I suggested he find something on Ogden, and I’d meet him there.

The ‘dust-up’ he referred to involved apparently another alcohol-fueled assault in the downtown area on Jefferson . After the dust settled, an individual was apprehended and charged with aggravated battery, resisting and obstructing a police officer causing injury, fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer in a motor vehicle, reckless driving, disorderly conduct, a couple of counts domestic battery, and another half-dozen or so traffic violations. Other than that the individual was well-behaved. Naperville city officials still insist that alcohol related beat-downs in Naperville are grossly exaggerated. Hence it’s possible this ruckus was caused by a sugar-high from being over-served ice cream.

As things turned out, my friend had a change in schedule and couldn’t stay for lunch, but he said, ‘you’ve got to come here and see this’. The “this” turned out to be a shrine for Mayor Pradel. It’s located in Braconi’s Restaurant and Pizzeria on Ogden near Royal St. George. The mayor doesn’t need a statue like Joe Naper because he has a shrine. It’s a separate huge room within the restaurant with all sorts of memorabilia and accolades for the mayor.

When I first saw it, I didn’t know if I needed to pay admission to see everything, or take my shoes off, or say an oath of loyalty, or genuflect before entering. Whether you agree with the mayor on policy or not, he has provided years of service to Naperville both as a police officer and as mayor. As for the shrine, it might be a bit ‘over the top’, however it beats another statue.

Mayor Pradel Mt Rushmore

If you’re looking for something to do with the kids and family rather than starring at another statue, I encourage you to head to Braconi’s and gaze at the shrine. Additionally they offer a full menu, excellent service, and the owner is very active in the community. They do serve alcohol, and considering the mayor is the commissioner of the liquor commission, it’s probably wise that the shrine and license are on opposite ends of the establishment Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. It’s probably also wise that the mayor’s shrine is not located in an establishment in the downtown area. Just imagine a dust-up within that shrine.

Aug 252013
 

 I don’t think I’m getting my $1.67 worth from members of the Naperville city council. That’s how much I, along with each resident of Naperville pays annually towards the compensation of all nine members of the city council. The total annual salary and benefits on the Naperville city council rounded to the nearest $1000, is $238,000. If you divide that by the number of residents in Naperville (142,773) that is $1.67 per resident.

I suggest it’s time to restructure the council’s compensation, in order to make each council member more accountable, and provide council members the opportunity to be rewarded for a job well-done, or in some cases, dinged for a less than stellar performance.

The following chart shows the current total compensation package for each council member:

Council member Compensation package Payment per resident
Mayor Pradel $48,000.00 $0.34
Steve Chirico $33,000.00 $0.23
Joe McElroy $32,000.00 $0.22
Doug Krause $28,000.00 $0.20
Dave Wentz $27,000.00 $0.19
Judy Brodhead $26,000.00 $0.18
Bob Fieseler $16,000.00 $0.11
Grant Wehrli $15,000.00 $0.10
Paul Hinterlong $14,000.00 $0.10
Total $239,000.00 $1.67

Restructuring compensation would be simple:

  • Send each resident a postcard listing each council member’s name and a box to indicate how much of their $1.67 should be paid to that council member.

  • Require that the total sum should be $1.67

  • Send the card back

  • One person could then add the total for each council member, and bingo, council members could be paid by merit based on performance.

I would think that council members would jump at this opportunity. It’s a win/win for them and the residents of Naperville. Any money of the $238,000 left over could be refunded to the residents or used as ‘year-end’ bonuses to council members who exceeded resident expectations, which means it would be refunded back to residents. Parents could fill out the post cards for their children, or let the kids take a shot at it.

This would be the result of what my ‘Council Member Compensation Card’ would be and my reasoning:

Council member Current payment per resident Change Watchdog would pay
Mayor Pradel $0.34 +$0.00 $0.34
Steve Chirico $0.23 +$0.03 $0.26
Joe McElroy $0.22 +$0.03 $0.25
Doug Krause $0.20 +$0.20 $0.40
Dave Wentz $0.19 +$0.03 $0.20
Judy Brodhead $0.18 -$0.13 $0.05
Bob Fieseler $0.11 -$0.09 $0.02
Grant Wehrli $0.10 -$0.06 $0.04
Paul Hinterlong $0.10 +$0.01 $0.11
Total $1.67 $1.67

Mayor Pradel:

Keep him at 34 cents. Why ding him now as he completes his last term in office.

Councilman Steve Chirico:

Bump him up 3 cents to 26 cents. After a rocky start, he has come around quite nicely and still is the only person with enough courage to announce his candidacy for mayor. Additionally, he is now the best-dressed council member at the dais. From last to first is an accomplishment.

Councilman Joe McElroy:

Joe also gets a 3 cent increase to 25 cents. He keeps it simple and real. So what if he tells residents, “we’re not here to answer questions”. He’s only verbalizing what the rest are already doing. There’s no veneer on Joe.

Councilman Doug Krause:

He deserves a hefty increase of 20 cents to 40 cents. He’s been on the council for almost a quarter of a century, and is the only council member that typically questions expense, and appears to have the best- interests of residents in mind when he votes, which often makes him the lone dissenter on issues. I would have thrown in an extra penny, but he took a ‘wrong turn’ on recent Naperville Electoral Board decisions.

Councilman Dave Wentz:

Add a penny to his 19 cents and make it 20 cents. He has the lone distinction of never making a ‘bad vote’ and never ‘screwing up’ during a council meeting. OK, he’s only been there a short time, but he is still flawless, and his addition to the council has been a definite upgrade for residents.

Council member Judy Brodhead:

Definitely over-paid for her minimal contribution of being the “official proclamation reader” during council meetings. Drop her from 18 cents down to 5 cents. Always votes with the majority, seldom if ever questions expense. Her one strength is being the absolute best non-male member of the council .

Council member Bob Fieseler:

Drop him down 9 cents from 11 cents to 2 cents. Too many negatives to be balanced out by no perceived positives, other than he has a great first name.

Councilman Grant Wehrli:

Grant needs to take a 60% hit from 10 cents down to 4 cents. He has been the point person on too many non-friendly resident issues, including dodging communication with residents and not addressing questions. Would have dropped him down to 3 cents, but since he is running for state office, if he should win, that would benefit Naperville residents by being replaced on the council.

Councilman Paul Hinterlong:

Bump Paul up from 10 cents to 11 cents. He’s contributing more verbally, and has an uncanny ability to make everything he says sound like a question.

$1.67 is not much to pay for effective leadership, as long as the cents being paid make good sense.

Now how about a ‘thumbs-up / thumbs-down’ postcard for the city manager.

Aug 182013
 

It isn’t often that you hear city officials suggest eliminating half of the city council in order to save money and become more of a deliberative body by demanding more accountability, but that’s exactly what happened earlier this month. In fact, the mayor floated the idea two and a half years ago. He said, “do you know what everybody said to me? Cut the City Council in half”. He went on to say, “you think the city council is to the city’s budget what people think foreign aid is to the the federal budget”. One city official said, “when it comes to how we deliver services, the city council should be on the table as well. I don’t think anything should be a sacred cow.”

I’m guessing you thought you would never hear those words from Naperville officials, and if so, you are exactly right, because those words were spoken by Chicago aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd), and Ameya Pawar (47th) along with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Amazing isn’t it, that Chicago politicians would consider what no Naperville official would have the courage to discuss. If you ever want to clear out a room full of Naperville officials faster than the speed of light,  just voice the idea of reducing the size of city council.

One Naperville city council member (who’s name rhymes with Grant Wehrli) said, ‘we can’t reduce the size of the city council, only the Illinois General Assembly can do that”. What he failed to mention is that voters can do it in the form of a binding referendum. Unfortunately, we’ve seen how the Naperville Electoral Board squashes referendums, that they don’t like.

Naperville is obese with city council members; nine in total. Take a look at the following chart comparing the successful cities of Seattle, Phoenix, and San Diego to that of Naperville.

Residents Per Council Member

Seattle has more than four times the population of Naperville, yet has the same number of council members (9).  Phoenix has ten times the population of Naperville with the same number of council members (9).  And San Diego has nine times the population of Naperville with eight council members.

Naperville doesn’t need nine council members; five would be more than enough. Is it any wonder why the Naperville city council  has had only one council meeting during a 60 day period of time. Could it be that they are under-worked and overpaid. Could it be that their accountability towards residents is diverted to city staff employees.

Who would have guessed, that Naperville residents could only wish to have city officials like Chicago.

Aug 142013
 

The city of Naperville conducted a survey of residents to find out what the city needs to do, to make Naperville more efficient and friendly. Sounds good doesn’t it. The only problem with that is the questions were ‘loaded’, meaning the results of the answers could be interpreted any way the city wants, to make city officials look better. Then city officials sat down among themselves and ‘cherry-picked’ three goals as priorities in the upcoming update of Naperville’s strategic plan.

They chose:

  • Better use of available government technology (sounds like that will benefit the city more than the residents.
  • Alleviating congestion by improving traffic flow (they probably should have thought of that before approving the high-density Water Street Project in downtown Naperville)
  • Having the city get more involved with residents (hmmm…. that doesn’t sound good)

If the past is any indicator of the future, then chances are good that the residents of Naperville don’t need more involvement with the city of Naperville. You’ve all heard the old line, “Hello, I’m here from the government, and I’m here to help you.” Based on recent government/resident interactions in Naperville, dealing with city government is no day at the beach.

Some of the more recent interactions have included:

  • The city of Naperville using physical force and intimidation of residents during unwanted installations of smart meters on homes and businesses in Naperville.
  • The arrest of residents who wanted to protect their families, and homes from those forced installations
  • A Naperville councilman wanting a list of FOIA’s (Freedom Of Information Act)requested by a select group of Naperville residents who have the courage to question the actions of the Naperville city council.
  • The Naperville city council reversing the landslide vote of residents to change council member representation to a district form of government. Basically the city council did not like the results of the 2010 vote, and had a do-over vote for the same issue in 2012, resulting in the voices/votes of 28, 236 voters going unheard.
  • The three-member Naperville Electoral Board consisting of council members George Pradel, Doug Krause, and city clerk (council appointed) Pam LaFeber denied residents the opportunity to vote on a non-binding referendum regarding smart meters, though thousands of residents had signed petitions asking for the opportunity to vote on the issue.

Considering the above examples, Naperville city officials want ‘more resident involvement’ based on their terms, rather than those of the residents. The following video is a classic example of how city officials view involvement with residents. Watch and listen as councilman Joe McElroy interrupts Naperville resident Tom Glass during a city council meeting earlier this year.

If that’s what the city of Naperville calls ‘more involvement’, then the residents of Naperville could all do with much less involvement.

Aug 112013
 

 Naperville councilman Grant Wehrli is running for his political life. It wasn’t that long ago that Wehrli was an up and coming shining star in Naperville politics. It was thought by many that whenever Naperville Mayor George Pradel decided to ‘pack it in’ and retire, Wehrli would be in position to seek the office and be elected. Considering that councilman Doug Krause, a consistent runner-up in mayoral elections, and former councilman Kenn Miller would finally ‘give up the good fight’ of being elected mayor, this would grease the path for Wehrli to be elected for mayor. In essence, Wehrli could slide in the back door of the mayor’s office without much effort.

Wehrli’s path to the Naperville city council was also greased when he joined the council in 2006 without receiving one vote. He was appointed to replace former councilman David Fiore. While most council members have to earn the opportunity to serve by being elected, Wehrli simply walked through the door and took his seat at the dais.

On the council, his political potential began to surface, but just as quickly as it rose, it began to take a dive and his ‘political stock-value’ plummeted. This was hastened by his support of unpopular decisions including being seen as the ‘point person’ and political puppet of the Department of Energy, for the forced installation of smart meters on homes and businesses in Naperville. Wehrli was seen as ‘standing in front of the line’ for Federal handouts by trading due diligence of resident safety, health, privacy and security in exchange for Federal funds from the Department of Energy. The manner in which he handled the situation alienated a huge segment of informed Naperville residents. Because of this forced installation of Smart Meters, a number of cases are working their way through the court system, including two separate cases in which two mothers were arrested for protecting their homes and families against the misuse of power by Naperville officials.

Additional concerns about councilman Grant Wehrli included, abruptly stopping communication with a number of Naperville residents who wanted answers to questions. He went so far as to create what appeared to be his own ‘political enemies’ list comprised of residents who requested FOIA’s (Freedom Of Information Act) requests. Time and again he did not challenge city manager Doug Krieger regarding issues of city expense, and too often just rubber-stamped expenditures. Wehrli’s chance of being elected mayor took a major hit, and the chances of him being re-elected to the council were about as good as the Cubs making it to the World Series before the next election.

Hence, what would any shrewd politician do? Well that’s easy….leave the ‘scene of the crime’ and toss his hat in the ring to be elected elsewhere. Somewhere, where name recognition may garner enough votes to compensate for a less than lack luster voting record, and somewhere, where the body-politic is in disarray, and a politician could blend into the ineptness of its members. And that place is in the Illinois House, specifically representing District 41, and replacing Darlene Senger who’s current term expires next year.

The unfortunate part of Wehrli’s saga is that, for the most part, he really is a nice guy with a good sense of humor and appears to care for the city but somewhere he took a wrong left turn and lost focus in the inky shadows of city hall.

The question isn’t where can Wehrli do the most good, but rather where can he do the least amount of damage. Based on that,  the voters of Naperville need to  send him running for cover in Springfield.

Aug 072013
 

 I’m a news junkie. I’m also O.C. (obsessive-compulsive). So on Sunday mornings I not only want, but need to read the Chicago Sun-Times and our local paper, the Naperville Sun. I like the Sun-Times for the sports section, and it keeps me current on crime. The local paper gives me an overview of what’s happening in the community.

As I’m scanning through the Naperville Sun, I came across an article “Call the city before you call a Council member” written by Bob Fischer. I like writers with the first name of ‘Bob’; it seems to add credibility. Now Bob is the president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. I don’t know Bob, but I have seen him address the city council on a few occasions, and he appears to be a jolly, likeable, fellow.

As I read the article, the following paragraph caught my attention:

“An anonymous blogger, who generally looks for and reports on negatives associated with our local government, recently asked his readers to provide examples of things that had been done for them by the mayor and council. When he last reported, no one had cited any specifics. While from his perspective that is a bad thing – I think it is great. After all, we have a community where the trash is picked up, the street lights work, water comes out of the taps, police and fire departments are excellent…”

I’m just as excited as the next guy when the lights go on, my trash is picked up, and water comes out of my tap, however I think those things are also happening in Detroit and they just declared bankruptcy. The issue isn’t about comparing Naperville to the lowest common denominator (Detroit), the issue is about ‘if better is possible, then good is not enough’. Naperville is ‘good’, but better is definitely possible, hence ‘good’ is not enough.

Naperville needs better leadership. It’s not coming from the city council, though the council is better with the addition of council members Chirico, McElroy, and Wentz. And ‘better’ leadership is definitely not coming from city manager Doug Krieger, though Deputy City Manager, Marcie Schatz gives the city a ray of hope.

As I finished the morning papers, I fed my news junkie habit along with my O.C by joining my wife to watch the highly rated, nationwide ‘CBS Sunday Morning Show’ which has been airing for 34 years, and the first segment focused on a Naperville problem, as well as elsewhere.

One-half of the solution to a problem, is knowing that a problem exists, and for the most part, city officials either don’t have this awareness, or don’t want to address it, hence when water comes out of the tap, that’s good enough for city officials, but that’s not good enough for the residents of Naperville because better is absolutely possible.

Aug 042013
 

 

Now we’re not talking about the computing term GUI, pronounced gooey ( graphical user interface) which allows users to interact with electronic devices. We are talking about something more nefarious and troublesome for residents of Naperville, the state of Illinois, and our country in general. We are talking about government gone wild, or ‘Governing Under the Influence’ (GUI).

The Naperville city council appears incapable of saying ‘no’ to spending, and thereby ‘yes’ to just about every expense they encounter. The Department of Energy (DOE) ‘bought’ the Naperville city council with the offer of millions of dollars towards the forced installation of Smart Meters on homes and businesses in Naperville, if the city spent millions of tax dollars on the same, and having it done within a short, reckless period of time. In essence the Naperville city council became a gaggle of puppets for the DOE.

This is the same Department of Energy that was created in 1977 to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. It has ballooned to 20,000 employees with a budget of $34 billion a year and we import more oil than ever before. They had 36 years to get it right and it is an abysmal failure. And the Naperville city council allows themselves to be played like puppets in exchange for a ‘handout’. This is why 99% of politicians give the other 1% a bad name.

Now the Naperville city council is doing the same thing, this time with the State of Illinois throwing millions of tax payer dollars (that they don’t have) towards a recycling center in Naperville. The state of Illinois is broke, and the council is falling all over themselves grabbing this monopoly money.

During the last two Naperville city council meetings, the council has had to vote on 16 expense items totaling over $32 million. Every expenditure was approved. In fact, out of a possible 144 council member votes (16 items X 9 council members), there was only one (1) ‘no’ vote on spending, and that was by councilman Doug Krause. The other 143 votes approved spending. Of the 144 individual council member votes, only 11 times did a council member even question an expenditure; four by Krause, three by Chirico, two by Hinterlong, and one each by Wehrli and Wentz. Not once did council members Brodhead, Fieseler, McElroy, or Pradel even question an expenditure.

That is appalling. If those Naperville council members managed their personal businesses, and households like they manage tax payer expenses, they themselves would be equal to the State of Illinois finances, and the Department of Energy. If they don’t question expenditures, or vote against spending, then the residents of Naperville can vote against those council members during the next city council election. Until that time, we need an ordinance against GUI.

 

Aug 012013
 

 

The Naperville city council didn’t have a meeting this week. They won’t have one during the next two weeks, and they didn’t have one during the last two weeks. In fact, between June 19 and August 19, a period of 61 days, the Naperville city council will have had a total of one meeting. That’s one as in the number of times the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series in the last 105 years.

Most folks would say that’s another example of how politicians work as little as possible while charging taxpayers an obscenely high hourly rate for their lack of work. Well I say “hooray” for the members of the Naperville city council for keeping that stereotype intact. The city of Naperville seems to be functioning quite well without council member interference, and it most likely is operating even better than if they were having meetings. Based on that, I make a motion that the taxpayers of Naperville allow and encourage Naperville city council members to take a full year of vacation, and follow that up with another full year, on the condition that they haul city manager Doug Krieger with them.

Just as each member of the the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team takes the Stanley Cup some where to do whatever they want with the Cup, each council member could do the same with Doug Krieger. Everybody would be happy. The council members could travel more and work less, which is probably what most do anyway, city manager Krieger wouldn’t have to listen to residents who demand his resignation, and the residents and businesses of Naperville would have less if any government interference and fewer tax dollars would be wasted. It’s a win-win-win situation.

If decisions have to be made, or problems have to be solved, or issues need constructive action, that can all be accomplished by the Deputy City Manager, Marcie Schatz. She is more than capable of dealing with whatever is thrown at her. If Marcie Schatz is the Lou Gehrig of Naperville city government, then city manager Doug Krieger is the Wally Pipp of Naperville government. New York Yankee first baseman Wally wasn’t feeling good one day and wanted to take the day off. Lou Gehrig replaced him and the rest is history.

So let’s encourage city officials to take that long vacation by hopping in their electric powered vehicles, filling their EV’s with extension cords, and see how far they can get before they have to call an electric tow truck. Come to think of it, whatever happened to the council’s bang-up idea of spending tax dollars on electric vehicles.