Apr 302014
 

Have you ever noticed that whenever a new idea, concept, or business venture surfaces in Naperville, city officials are quick to try and figure out a way to regulate or tax it. Rather than rejoicing in the entrepreneurial spirit and being thankful that Naperville has been a destination of choice for creative business ventures and investors, city officials eye with suspicion, almost anyone trying to make an honest buck, unless the city can get a piece of that buck. Landlords are now in the cross-hairs of the Naperville city council. What’s interesting is that a number of council members, are landlords themselves.

The city council is floating the idea of an ordinance, requiring a ‘landlord license’, which of course would encompass some type of fee for the license, and would allow the city to become a not-so-silent partner in the landlord-tenant agreement.

Naperville council member Joe McElroy implied the ordinance, if voted upon and approved, would include “carrots and sticks”. City officials enjoy the idea of sticks over carrots any day, considering ‘carrots’ cost money, while ‘sticks’ bring in money; and really big sticks bring in really big money.

There’s no doubt that occasionally renters or landlords need some encouragement to ‘do the right thing’, however the city already has the friendly means to make that happen as does the free market system. Typically things seem to work better the less government interferes.

Whether it’s federal, state, or local government, they all work within the three pillars of intimidation; money, muscle, and neutralizing the opposition. Money through taxes and fines, muscle through laws or ordinances, and neutralizing the opposition by demonizing or portraying them as blights on society. It’s part of their ‘Mission Statement’.

I’m sure when Joe verbalized this idea, he had good intentions, and he really thought it was a great idea. That’s the really good part of Joe; he’s willing to say, what others won’t. It’s called courage. However it also entails more local government intrusion. Let the free market system do what it does best which is to determine the best course of action.

If it ever did come up for a council vote, there may not be enough non-landlord-council-members to form a quorum, and life would go on, uninterrupted by city officials.

 

 

Apr 272014
 

It seems like every time Naperville city officials get money from somewhere, it costs Naperville residents more money. It happened again last July, when the city received a $900,000 grant from the State of Illinois intended to help pay for a new recycling facility expected to cost about $1.2 million. The key word is ‘expected’ since these types of things always end up costing more.

The State of Illinois is basically broke, but keeps giving more money away, while the City of Naperville acts as an enabler by taking money the State doesn’t have, to build things that aren’t really needed. Again, it’s a classic example of Naperville focusing on unnecessary wants versus needs. Sooner or later city officials will be doing a money grab for the world’s largest puppet theatre; another first for Naperville.

If you’re going to have a recycling center, you’d better have all your residents recycling, since you surely don’t want to be second to Aurora, Bolingbrook, or Joliet. That means Naperville is on the hook for slightly less than $2 million worth of rolling recycle carts (about 41,000 carts). When Naperville is on the hook, that means residents are the bait. It appears the plan is to bill residents about $4 month for nine to twelve months to offset the cost of the carts. It will be buried somewhere on your monthly electric, water, and refuse bill, similar to all those fees on your telephone bills.

City officials say residents will not be forced to purchase the carts, however knowing how government works, one would imagine that in time, residents could be fined for tossing paper and plastic into their garbage cans, making the cost of the cart more appealing.

Residents will have a choice of 32, 65, or the Buick-size 95 gallon carts. For me personally, the question is, where do I put it if I get one. Last weekend I cleaned out and re-organized my garage to the point it looks like the Container Store; I have no where to put it, other than outside (Naper-tucky), or move a car out of the garage and into the driveway, which defeats the purpose of a garage.

The cool thing about the carts, other than having wheels, is that they have lids, so on those windy days, papers won’t be flying through the air. But there is no way I’d have enough recyclables to fill even the 32 gallon Fiat-size container.

Upon further thought, it might have been more fiscally prudent for Naperville to decline the grant, thereby letting the State keep the money it doesn’t have, not build the recycling center (let Bolingbrook do it), and not squeeze more dollars out of Naperville residents.

As for the 41,000 rolling carts, they could be used for a contest during the Last Fling, something similiar to the ‘Wife Carrying World Championships’ in Finland, except the rolling carts would be filled with kegs of beer and raced to the beer tents.

 

 

Apr 242014
 

It’s that time of the year again when Naperville officials take their annual field trip downstate in order to get out of town and have some fun. Remember back when your parents would haul the family to Brookfield or Lincoln Park Zoo for the day so you could see the lions and tigers devouring their meal by ripping apart huge chunks of meat and being very territorial while doing it. That’s pretty much like what members of the Naperville city council along with city manger Doug Krieger were doing with State officials, except that instead of chunks of meat, it was your hard-earned tax dollars. I suppose you could call it a feeding frenzy.

The State of Illinois is close to bankruptcy, but city officials are wanting more of what’s not available (money) in order to feed their pet projects. Naperville city officials seem to have this issue of not knowing the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Consider this thought, if city officials had everything they needed and wanted, they would still want more. And the ‘more’ always comes from tax dollars.

Lately city officials have been trying to out-do each other by erasing their perks; everything from internet and cell service to their pensions and health care. This is admirable, however a true test of character is what they do when no one is watching, or when votes are not at stake. So that begs the question, how did they get downstate, and what if anything did they accomplish.

I imagine city officials met at the municipal center at about 5am with brown bags in hand (lunch) and they all jumped into a fully charged electric vehicle. Two council members, Fieseler and Hinterlong, did not go allowing the other 8 city officials to fit into a 4-person vehicle. About half-way to Springfield they each begin frantically using their hand-held devices to locate an EV charging station. Fortunately they find the only charging station in central Illinois, however it’s being used by the only other EV south of I-80. With a few hours to kill, in the middle of nowhere, what better to do than to have some special ‘bonding’ time by playing an almost-friendly game of dodge-ball. Pradel and Brodhead being the slowest runners are eliminated quickly, then Krause, Chirico, and McElroy (trying to play the game by the rules) get nailed and eliminated. Wehrli and Krieger team up against Wentz, and he gets pummeled and out he goes, leaving Krieger and Wehrli still standing. Just then the EV is fully charged and it’s time to get back on the road.

When they arrive in Springfield, nothing beneficial to Naperville residents gets accomplished, however Wehrli demands that his seven peers refer to him as State Representative Wehrli while in the state capital.

To make matters even worse, they went to meet with staff members of the IMEA (Illinois Municipal Electric Agency), whom city officials blame for Naperville’s electric utility having a $25 million deficit, and again, nothing was accomplished. City officials didn’t want to ask questions (limitations imposed by the Open Meetings Act), and IMEA wouldn’t have wanted to answer questions (limitations imposed by their choice).

After a full day of fun and games, it was time to return. While at the same EV charging station, Wehrli and Krieger decided to arm wrestle for bragging rights. I don’t know who would have won, but I’m confident the loser would have wanted a do-over just like they did with the District/Ward representation do-over vote.

 

 

 

 

Apr 172014
 

It’s a good thing that the Naperville city council meets only twice monthly because any more than that, Naperville residents might be broke. During the last meeting on April Fool’s Day, the Naperville city council jacked up electric rates by a double-digit percentage over the next two years. This comes after city officials assured residents over and over again that the smart grid and so-called smart meters would save residents and businesses bundles of money. Oh how wrong city officials were on that one. It seems to be a trend.

During last night’s meeting, city officials dealt with  the issue of city council member compensation, including salary and health insurance. It’s the type of topic for public consumption, that most council members would rather have been meeting with their proctologists for an exam.

But something different happened last night, and it was spear-headed by councilman Steve Chirico. He suggested the city council basically double their salaries to $24,000 per year inclusive of all fringe benefits, and here’s the kicker, it would provide a savings to tax payers. Watch and listen as councilman Chirico presents a well-articulated plan to address the issue.

This is not the first time that Chirico has voted in favor of reducing council compensation; in fact he has done it five times, as have councilmen Joe McElroy and Dave Wentz (all in their first terms).

He concluded his presentation last night, by prognosticating two possible media ‘headlines’.

When the council was done pontificating, the vote was taken, whether or not to consider an ordinance to do-away with more expensive benefits in favor of a higher salary.

The vote was 6 in favor of supporting Chirico’s idea of higher salary without benefits (Brodhead, Chirico, Fieseler, McElroy, Pradel, and Wentz), and 3 preferring to keep a lower salary with benefits (Hinterlong, Krause, and Wehrli).

Cherico’s ability to think critically and communicate effectively, while driving change helped him create a plan that achieved his goals of: 1) making the position of council person affordable for anyone, 2) keeping city policies consistent with part-time employees, 3) promoting transparency so residents can easily understand council member compensation, 4) council compensation equity, and 5) tax payer savings. Looks like doubling the salary to reduce total compensation also makes Naperville councilman a mathematical wizard.

Here is the Guard Dog’s take on the situation

Apr 172014
 

So there has been some hullabaloo around the Naperville city council’s total compensation and health benefits etc. but if we remember back our forefathers lived in a time before there was a business of medicine culture.  This being the case, it was this council or the councils from past that granted themselves the privilege of healthcare coverage.  In the private sector, you must work more than 32 hours a week to be considered a full-time employee before you are offered healthcare coverage.  If the council is not willing to measure their time so it is at least 32 hours, then perhaps they can initiate a vote that healthcare coverage is not a part of the compensation package.  Granted, this would probably be something they would have come into effect after they are long gone (see the term limit referendum) but this would certainly save tax payer’s money.

Here are some other ways the council can save taxpayer money, all it takes is some simple logic.

  • Reduce the size of council by 50%…therefore reducing taxpayer burden by 50%
  • Being on the City Council is a pro bono opportunity.  Remember, the founding fathers would perform government work in their free-time.  It was a privilege to be the voice of their constituents not the constituents were privileged to have their representation.
  • A stopwatch.  This simple device could be used during public forum to show speakers at public forum that their allotted 3 minutes is complete.  Currently Naperville is paying an individual to measure the time of the speaker and they sometimes rudely interrupt the speaker as they are in mid sentence.  This simple stopwatch would allow the speaker to know their time and the microphone is simply muted when appropriate.  Additionally, limiting the “usual suspects” (thank you councilman McElroy) and those speakers whom the council “approves” to the same 3 minutes allows for balance of opinion and insight.  Here are some highlights of when the “Speaker’s time is up”
Apr 132014
 

According to many Naperville residents, some city officials can’t get out of town fast enough, while others wonder why some city officials were selected in the first place. One of those city officials is Naperville’s lead attorney Margo Ely, who also happens to be the HR (Human Resources) director.

Margo has been a big-time friend to other city officials. She is very adept at getting them out of the quick-sand that most find themselves in often, due to bad judgment and less than wise decisions. However, she has not been a friend to residents. In fact, she has been a part of making many residents flat-out miserable with her actions. So her announcement, via Mayor Pradel, during the last city council meeting came as a relief to many.

Three things are very interesting about that clip. First, she’s getting out of town fast; in less than two weeks, she’s just a memory. Secondly, she gets a standing ovation from nine of the other ten at the dais. It’s possible that councilman Bob Fieseler has a bad back and can’t get up, or maybe he had a rough day at the office and doesn’t have the energy, or possibly he’s not a hypocrite; I like to think it’s the last one. Finally, is that the other members at the dais including councilman Grant Wehrli, erupt in applause, which is something that the same Grant Wehrli chastised residents for doing in previous meetings.

He initiated another outburst at the end of the meeting.

Apparently when Wehrli does it, it’s O.K. If residents do the same thing, he considers it a ‘method of intimidation’. That’s classic ‘Wehrli’

I for one, am disappointed to see Margo Ely go so quickly. I wish she could have stayed long enough to answer one simple, yet very important question; “How could you have allowed a 28-year contract with IMEA to be signed, with absolutely no performance provisions?”

It’s a shame she didn’t leave a day before the contract was signed. Somebody paying attention, could have caught that titanic-blunder, and Naperville residents wouldn’t have to endure 28 years worth of electric-rate misery.

 

Apr 062014
 

Have you ever noticed that when Naperville city officials want to extract money from Naperville residents and businesses, they want it now, not later, yet when residents want something, well they can just wait for it.

Take for example the electric rate increase approved during last Tuesday’s Naperville city council meeting; city officials want it to begin in May, less than a month from now. Yet when residents voted by a landslide for term limits in 2010, city officials said they needed time to execute the mandate, and decided that 2015 might work. That’s five (5) years folks. Funny how that works, isn’t it.

In fact, prior to city councilman Grant Wehrli’s decision to run for state office, there were some rumblings within the inky shadows of city hall, that maybe another vote was needed to see if residents really want term limits. City officials prevailed when they approved a re-do vote for district/ward representation, so why not try to undo the ‘term limits’ referendum. They have had almost five years to come up with a plan to make it happen. If they could round-up a bunch of  ‘ambassadors’ to make so-called Smart Meters happen, how difficult would it be to round up another batch of ‘hired hands’ to push through the reversal of term limits.

Those rumblings turned into mumbles, which have turned into crickets for now, but there is always that chance ambassadors can surface like a bad paint job on a beater car.

There were also some rumblings, that the four council members (Fieseler, Hinterlong, Krause, and Wentz) who voted against the double-digit huge increase in Naperville electric rates, did so for political reasons. Maybe so, but what isn’t done in local politics for political reasons. Even those voting in favor of increasing electric rates (Brodhead, Chirico, McElroy Pradel, and Wehrli) made somebody or some group happy.

In fairness to councilmen Chirico and McElroy, neither was on the council when terrible decisions regarding Naperville’s public utility of electric were hatched. They realize something needs to be done, otherwise the $25 million deficit will escalate quickly. Mayor Pradel was there when things began to unravel with the utility, and councilman Grant Wehrli was front and center during each ill-advised decision.

Whether for political reasons or not, the four voting ‘no’ for the increase, were making an effort to help Naperville residents and businesses, so hooray for them. Councilman Doug Krause’s idea to raise the rate by 4% or less and monitor the situation quarterly, and then make an informed decision, was a great idea. Councilman Bob Fieseler’s idea to re-visit the 28-year contract with IMEA (Illinois Municipalities Energy Association) contract with regard to performance was also a great idea. But the majority (by one vote) of the council, along with city manager Doug Krieger wanted ‘their’ money now.

Apparently their mindset was, why take some time to look for solutions and options to help residents and business, when all they have to do is approve another increase and squeeze it out of all residents and businesses in Naperville.

When Naperville city officials want what they want, they want it now.

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 042014
 

It seems like every time Naperville residents go up against the Naperville city council and other city officials, they lose. It makes no difference if it’s a signed petition by over 4000 residents for a non-binding referendum which was denied by city officials, or if it’s a vote for district/ward representation which was overturned (city officials wanted a do-over vote), or if it’s residents wanting to protect their families and homes from the forced installation of so-called smart meters which lead to the hand-cuffing and arrest of residents including two moms, Naperville city officials keep pummeling residents.

This time it was the Naperville city council hammering residents with a double-digit electric rate increase over the next two years. It happened during last night’s Naperville city council meeting, and it comes after city officials, as recently as a few months ago, told residents rate increases should be around 2%.

City officials lead by city manager Doug Krieger and Director of Public Utilities Mark Curran reassured residents and businesses that all was well with the Naperville-owned electric utility, and that the forced installation of so-called Smart Meters would save millions of dollars. All was not ‘well’ and Naperville’s electric utility is $25 million in the red due to terrible decisions by city officials.

Either city officials were less than honest with residents, or they have no idea what they are doing or how to do it. Take your pick. Whichever you choose, it’s an obvious void in competent leadership.

City officials are quick to try and solve problems they create by squeezing more money out of Naperville families and businesses. The vote to drastically raise the rates was close; five in favor and four against.

Two of those against raising the rates last night, included councilmen Doug Krause and Bob Fieseler.

Watch and listen as Doug Krause, in an effort to help residents, wants a more timely and scrutinized look at rates.

His suggestion was quickly dismissed. He often gets ignored when he stands up for residents.

Now watch and listen as councilman Bob Fieseler takes on a leadership role, left vacant by city manager Doug Krieger, when Fieseler suggests city officials can actually do something, without hammering residents with a rate increase, which is typically the quick and easy first choice that most city officials always prefer.

Councilman Fieseler was also brushed aside, as was Krause, and the following vote was called:

Council members voting to increase your electric rates include:

* Mayor George Pradel

* Grant Wehrli

* Joe McElroy

* Judith Brodhead

* Steve Chirico

Council members voting against the electric rate increase included:

* Bob Fieseler

* Dave Wentz

* Doug Krause

* Paul Hinterlong

It’s not too soon to start thinking about the next city council election, and which council members are trying to pile weight on your shoulders, and which council members are trying to reduce the load.