May 312015
 

Numbers are fun, aren’t they. They come from all directions; we hear them and then forget them, and then different numbers are reported contradicting the first set of numbers that we forgot. It’s almost like the weather report. Who can remember what the weather person said last night about the weather tomorrow.

One report from Niche.com ranks Naperville as “America’s safest city”, while another report from Movoto.com ranks Naperville #11 in crime….and that’s just in the state of Illinois. The City of Naperville chose to shine a light on the Niche.com and bury the ranking by Movoto.com.

It was also reported by Northern Illinois University that Naperville’s population rose 2.7% between 2010 and 2014 to 146,128, that’s about 2 people per day during that four year period. Not exactly a stampede of folks to Naperville.

Mayor Steve Chirico estimated that Naperville will max out at about 150,000 people. Based on the current population, if Chirico’s number is accurate, we should hit our limit by the year 2020, or only five years from now. The mayor was quoted as saying, “Soon we won’t be a growing community; we will be a maintenance community.” Maybe so, but Chicago is still packing them in after all these years.

Considering the high density Water Street Project, there may be no limit to other high density ‘projects’ being approved in Naperville resulting in no limit to Naperville’s population. Naperville’s population has never been this high, and it can also be said that Naperville’s population may never be this low again.

Movoto’s Top Ten ranking of the 50 largest cities or townships in Illinois when it comes to places to live include:

  1. Village of Northbrook
  2. City of Highland Park
  3. Village of Glenview
  4. City of Park Ridge
  5. City of Elmhurst
  6. City of Wheaton
  7. Village of Arlington Heights
  8. Village of Downers Grove
  9. Village of Palatine
  10. Village of Mount Prospect

You have to work your way down the list past #11 Normal, and #12 Oak Park to get to Naperville at #13.

Movoto (a real estate website) used the following six criteria for the rankings along with where Naperville ranked for each:

  • Amenities (shopping, dining, entertainment, etc.)  #44
  • Cost of Living (percent above or below state average)   #40
  • Crime (percent above or below state average) #11
  • Education (high school graduation rate compared to state average) #1
  • Employment (income and unemployment compared to state average) #4
  • Home value (percent above or below state average) #5

There is no doubt that Naperville is a great place to live as long as you don’t mind being #13.

May 282015
 

Things weren’t looking so good during the second meeting of Naperville’s new city council on May 19 when the majority of council members wanted to find something to regulate as fast as they could. The ‘something’ this time turned out to be e-cigs. It’s never good when the ‘perfect storm’ surfaces at council meetings. The perfect storm being, 1) over-regulation, 2) about an issue that the some of the decision makers admit to “knowing nothing about”, and 3) wanting to rush the decision through without having more information or giving it more thought.

But things are looking better at the Municipal Center (City Hall); there is some light in the inky shadows. That’s the beauty of a new administration, and specifically the leadership of new Mayor Steve Chirico. The city needed a mayor with a strong business background; someone who could see changes that needed to be made, and then making those changes.

Just a few of those changes include:

  •  re-configuring the layout of offices and departments for more streamlined communication including all council member offices.
  •  uncluttering cluttered rooms and using them as offices as intended.
  •  having a team of trusted ‘eyes’ look at candidate resumes for open commission positions, and passing recommendations to the mayor for review to send the the council for final approval.
  •  moving liquor commission meetings from a small room to council chambers.

Previously they would cram 10 to 15 people into a room that would comfortably accommodate six to eight, and residents were left with standing room only if any room even remained. The next liquor commission meeting will be Thursday June 4 at 3:00pm in council chambers located at 400 S. Eagle Street in Naperville.

The leader of any group sets the pace and the tone for what is to be expected, which might be why both city council meetings started on time and fewer inky shadows exist in city hall. There is hope that things will continue to improve.

It’s also encouraging that some city council members admit that they don’t have all the answers. Now if they would only take the time needed to gather more information, listen more to residents, and not have the need to rush decisions. Just because they have a new hammer, doesn’t mean everything is a nail. Over-regulation is a huge hammer; use it wisely.

May 242015
 

It didn’t take long for Naperville’s new city council members to give us a glimpse of their character by revealing their thought process. It happened at the last city council meeting (their second meeting). The agenda item was whether or not to pass an ordinance regulating the sale, possession, and use of alternative nicotine products, specifically e-cigarettes (e-cigs).

Two council members (Gallaher and Hinterlong) were eager to jump on the regulation even though both admitted to not knowing anything about “these things”. Two council members (Anderson and Gustin) wanted the regulation passed “now” without waiting for more information. And one council member (Boyd-Obarski) used skewed logic to come to an illogical conclusion.

There is a saying in medicine and politics, that when you have a new hammer, everything looks like a nail, and this surely was the case when the new council couldn’t wait to pass their first regulation. Apparently it wasn’t important to get it right; they just wanted to regulate something.

Watch as listen as councilman Paul Hinterlong says “I don’t know anything about these things, but I’m all for regulating them”.

Hinterlong has a tendency to speak before thinking things through which makes for some interesting video clips.

Now watch and listen to councilman Kevin Gallaher when he states, “I have no idea what these things are for”, but is all too willing to regulate them.

It’s been 13 years since Gallaher has had a chance to regulate something, so it looks like he is trying to catch up for lost time.

Now comes councilwoman Rebecca Boyd-Obarski who considers e-cigs as a “gateway” to cigarette smoking because a high percentage of e-cig users also smoke. Apparently she has never considered that the reason e-cig users use the item is because they want to get off cigarettes and this device can help accomplish that goal.

Fortunately one council member, Mayor Steve Chirico, took the opposing and rational view that he “would rather under-regulate than to over-regulate”.

Here comes councilman Hinterlong again giving it another go-around, this time asking if the police department had some type of magical “machine” that could analyze e-cig vapor.

A machine? Really. A machine.

And while we are at it, could someone please remind councilwoman Patty Gustin that she is no longer on a ‘board’, she is now on the council.

Next we have councilwoman Becky Anderson saying “we need to pass it tonight” regarding the regulation.

What’s the rush?

Finally, having one council person in a rush to regulate is concerning, but to have two in a rush to regulate is disturbing. Watch and listen as councilwoman Patty Gustin also wants to rush to judgement by saying there is a “need for expediency…modify quickly”.

As for the remaining three council members, Kevin Coyne was another voice of reason along with Chirico, Judith Brodhead continued fumfering, and John Krummen apparently would apply capital punishment to anyone evening thinking about e-cigs.

This Naperville city council has a new hammer (over-regulation) and unfortunately for Naperville residents, everything looks like a nail.

May 202015
 

On the surface, the idea of Crime-Free Housing seems like a spectacular idea, I mean who could possibly be against such a wholesome concept. It was designed as a partnership between property owners and managers, residents, and law enforcement to reduce crime and nuisance activity. What could possibly go wrong? For those of you who read Watchdog’s last posting, a lot can go wrong, for landlords, residents, and municipalities.

Let me share with you my personal tale of woe. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to purchase a condominium (rental property) in a suburb of Chicago. It was one of the so-called ‘Parks’, and it wasn’t Park Ridge, Park Forest, or Oak Park. I won’t mention the name of the town, at the risk of irritating town officials, because I am still trying to get off their bureaucratic bicycle, and they have me peddling as fast as I can go.

We remodeled the condo, so it’s as good a new. The tenants are a young family of four, and take care of it was though they owned it. Because I was a new owner in town,  I received a letter from the city stating I was in violation of the town’s Crime-Free Ordinance, which was news to me.  I called to see what I needed to do, and the person said, that technically I was an unlicensed landlord and that my tenant would need to vacate the property, unless I became licensed immediately.

To get licensed I needed to do three things: 1) participate in a mandatory 8 hour class, 2) pay $100 for the license, and 3) pass a property inspection. OK, so the town works under the ‘Golden Rule’ (he who has the gold makes the rules).

I signed up for the Saturday 8-hour class, paid my $100 for the license, and scheduled the property inspection. So far so good. I did some research ahead of time about Crime-Free Housing Ordinances and that’s when I learned they can cause as many problems as solutions.

I attended the training, which was very well done, and they addressed all questions including those regarding the downside of Crime-Free housing. Again, so far so good.

Then it was time for the property inspection and this is when the bureaucratic bicycle appeared. The inspection form had a list of 100 possible infractions. The good news is that I was OK on 99, but they nailed me on one; a bedroom had a small patch of ceiling paint that had pealed, about 1/8 inch by 2 inches, which prevented me from getting licensed until it was repaired. OK, fair enough, I’ll have it repaired, which it was. Another inspection was scheduled.

At the next inspection, the inspector wasn’t satisfied because the paint didn’t blend in perfectly, and suggested that the entire ceiling (drywall) be replaced. Additionally, I was charged $150 for the two additional inspections, the second and third ($75 each). The ceiling is now perfect, and the third inspection should be a charm.

The good news is that I will finally get licensed and the tenant can stay. The not-so-good news is that the Crime-Free Housing Ordinance requires an inspection every two years, and to re-apply for the license every four years.

Now whether or not rental housing in the ‘Park’ town is truly crime-free, one can only guess, but two things are for sure, 1) the ordinance is a money maker for the city, and 2) every rental unit has perfectly painted ceilings.

May 172015
 

Naperville’s Housing Advisory Commission listened to the concerns of residents regarding possible regulations on rental properties, including everything from mandating that landlords be licensed, to establishing a required Crime Free Multi-Housing program.

The real purpose of listening to residents was to see how much push-back city officials could expect to get. The more push-back, the less stringent the regulations, and the less push-back, the more stringent the regulations. The bottom line is that rental regulation is coming to Naperville.

On the surface it seems like a good idea, but the more your learn about it, the more oppressive the idea becomes. Government officials have a gift for making bad ideas sound good, simply by how they name or market them to the public. More seasoned readers can remember how tolls would be eliminated once the expressways were built. Or how every dollar gathered from the state lottery would go towards the education budget. Neither happened.

More recently and locally, Smart Meters were supposed to save residents a bundle of money off their electric bills; whatever happened to that promise. Or how about the ridiculous effort to push the electric vehicle concept and charging stations throughout the city. Nothing but crickets on that idea.

So now comes Crime Free Multi-Housing. Who could be against crime-free. Most every other city is doing it, so city officials are feeling pressured to jump on the idea because it’s a revenue generator, similar to red light cameras.

The State of Illinois is in trouble financially, which means there is less money for municipalities, which means they are in trouble. Landlords are property owners are easy targets for municipalities to increase cash flow, and a Crime Free Multi-Housing Program creates a revenue pipeline from landlords and property owners to the city coffers.

Once a renter, landlord, or property owner gets on a municipal Crime Free Multi-Housing  bureaucratic bicycle, it’s next to impossible to get off it. Watchdog’s next mid-week posting (Wednesday) will give you an example of what can happen, because it happened to me recently in a Chicago area town.

To fully understand the downside of a Crime-Free ordinance, I encourage you to visit (PovertyLaw.org) and read “The Cost of Being ‘Crime-Free’: Legal and Practical Consequences of Crime Free Rental Housing and Nuisance Property Ordinances” by Emily Werth (August 2013)

When the proposed side effects of the medicine are worse than the actual ailment, it’s wise to keep the lid on the medicine.

May 142015
 

Taxi/cab drivers are looking for city officials to put a choke-hold on Uber, while city officials have a choke-hold on cab drivers with regulations, fees, penalties, taxes, and red tape.

It doesn’t appear that city officials embrace the concept of a free-market enterprise system, allowing for business to flourish when the first thing they think of doing is adding more and more regulations.

Watch and listen as taxi/cab driver George Brunk states his case to the Naperville city council:

I get it. It’s not easy for taxi/cab drivers to compete against Uber, but that doesn’t mean the city council should create more obstacles for Uber. On the contrary, if city officials want to help cab drivers, why not lessen the over-reach of regulations, fees, taxes, and red tape the city loads onto the shoulders of cab companies. In other words, don’t make it more difficult for a business to flourish, make it easier.

Naperville city officials need to get out of the business of playing favoritism with free-market enterprise. If Jewel wants to stop Mariano’s from encroaching on their business, will they lobby the city council for favoritism. Will Starbucks Coffee want city officials to put the squeeze on Naperville’s downtown retail tea store by taxing the tea sold. How good that work in 1773.

When I was young, and dirt was new, I had a supervisor tell me that the job of the employee was to make the boss look good by exceeding expectations and getting the job done right, and it was the job of the boss to remove obstacles that the employee might encounter while getting the job done right. It made sense then, and it makes sense now.

City officials don’t need to make things more difficult for residents and business, they need to make it easier and more efficient. By removing those obstacles, it makes the city and city officials look better and more inviting.

Additionally, taxi/cab drivers need to adapt and innovate, or ‘perish’ as the stage coach did when the railroad (Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy) came through Naperville in 1864. Uber won’t be stopped. As former councilman Bob Fieseler said, “Uber is very well-staffed and lawyered-up to pursue this free-market enterprise.” Naperville was able to divert the Galena and Chicago Union railroad in 1851 to Wheaton, but ultimately in 1864 the railroad was accepted in Naperville, and the rest is history.

As for the stagecoach industry, it perished in 1915.

May 102015
 

There is a new ‘Sheriff’ in town, and he means business;  just follow the procedure. The new ‘sheriff’ is Naperville mayor Steve Chirico, and he drew some definite lines in the sand during last Tuesday’s city council meeting; the first meeting for the new Naperville city council.

It didn’t take long for the first change to be noticed.It happened at exactly 7:00pm when the meeting started on time. The was no meandering in at 7:05 or 7:10 for council members. They were there and ready to do the peoples’ business at 7pm sharp.

The leader sets the pace, creates a benchmark, and leads by example. Chirico campaigned on his platform of a strong business background. He owns Great Western Flooring. The business opens at 9:00am, not 9:05 or 9:10. Opening and starting on time (punctuality) is respect for other peoples’ time.

Things were going great for the new city council, until about 45 minutes into the meeting when Michael Carpanzano addressed the city council during Public Forum:

It got worse for the city council about a half-hour later, when Basim Esmail respectfully addressed the council with his claim (supported by video and audio) that the City of Naperville has engaged in ‘silent discrimination’ against him for the last 30+ years:

Two things are interesting about this clip. First it appears Naperville city officials have kept this resident on the ‘bureaucracy bicycle’ since the last century, and secondly they don’t want to hear (or let residents hear) the final 20 seconds of his public forum presentation.

Anyone can Google ‘Napergate’ and learn why he spent over $100,000 fighting the city in court and winning, and purchasing 129 full page ads in the Naperville Sun and Daily Herald to explain his position. If he would have spent those dollars on campaigning for city council, he may have been our outgoing or current mayor.

One can understand why Mayor Chirico slapped the 3-minute rule on Mr. Esmail;  he is the new ‘sheriff’ in town and wants to follow or enforce procedure, I get it, however there were two speakers during public forum that spoke for more than three minutes without hearing the dreaded words, “Mr. Mayor, the speaker’s time is up.” The mayor spent 45 seconds telling the speaker he couldn’t have 20 seconds to finish.

What is disappointing is that not one of the other eight city council members spoke up by saying, “Mr. Mayor, if you don’t mind, I would like to hear Mr. Esmail’s final 20 seconds.” Chances are the mayor would have said ‘no’, and that’s O.K, but at least that council member would have distinguished himself or herself by showing enough interest to at least listen to the resident.

Every single member of the city council at one time or another during the campaign or inauguration mentioned the importance of listening to residents’ concerns. Apparently they are only interested in listening for three minutes.

May 052015
 

Just like that, they were there, then they were gone. The departing members of the Naperville city council had a few words of advice for the new council members on inauguration day, followed by the oath of office. Within minutes, the new city council members were seated at the dais and the departing council members were seated in the audience. It was a very smooth transition.

Councilman Joe McElroy was the first to share his final thoughts as a council member, and he did it with a bit of good humor:

Councilman Bob Fieseler had words of advice for new council members, when he said, “Keep the human touch in mind”

One wonders if Fieseler’s words of wisdom were actually heard, or if like a father speaking to his children, the words were filed away, to be remembered at a later date, if at all.

When the new council members took their assigned seats at the dais, each had the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about the road they took to get to this moment.

Rebecca Boyd-Obarski clearly communicated her take on the process:

Just as Steve Chirico became a councilman only four years ago, and now he is the mayor, one wonders if any one of the new council members will hold the office of mayor in the future. Placing a bet on Boyd-Obarski would not be a long shot.

Becky Anderson made a solid connection with voters, which was underlined by her comments:

Perhaps the most heartfelt, humble, and grateful, thoughts came from former councilman Kevin Gallaher, who after a 13 year absence from the Naperville city council has been given (earned) the opportunity to do it better, and more clearly focused this time around:

Each and every new council member wants to earn the faith and trust of voters and residents. Let’s hope they can make it happen.

May 032015
 

Today marks the beginning of a new Naperville city council. Every council member starts with a new flawless record which is sure to last until this Tuesday’s city council meeting.

A couple of incumbents (Judith Brodhead and Paul Hinterlong) have some special spectacular moments (video clips) that we will try to forget (chickens don’t bark, and let’s screw Uber), until they remind us, by doing or saying something foolish.

Another ‘new’ council member is former councilman Kevin Gallaher who sat at the dais from 1995 – 2002, and was probably as surprised as anyone, that he was elected this time around. His election gives hope to any previous council member not named Dick, that he too can be resurrected for another term.

Gone are Doug Krause who was a fixture at the dais from 1989 – 2015, and Mayor George Pradel (1995 – 2015).

With new council members, new questions surface including:

  • Which council member will rise to the occasion, and become the new voice for Naperville residents as Doug Krause was from 1989 through 2015?
  • Which council member will have the courage to speak-up as Bob Fieseler did when he expressed his frustration with policy and procedure?
  • Which council member will bring common sense to each meeting as Joe McElroy did?
  • Which council member will be the first to make a fool of himself or herself and have the moment embedded in a Watchdog posting?
  • Which other council members will soon follow the first with more video embeds in Watchdog postings?
  • Which council members will deliver on their campaign ‘promises’ built on  oak platforms, and which council members will be exposed for having campaign platforms built out of balsa wood?

Fun-facts, about campaign materials (mailers) and answers to interview questions, are on public record for everybody to see and hear forever. So the very advantage campaign mailers provide in getting a council member elected, now begin to work against council members who don’t live up to their pre-elected statements and positions.

Council members will take their oath of office today at 1pm. Shortly after that we will begin to learn which council members are the real deal, and which are pretenders. Let the fun begin.