When new government programs get hatched, they have a way of sounding exciting. City officials are there with their shovels to break ground, podiums are in place for speeches, and cameras are in place with politicians crowding in so as not to be left out of the picture, which later turns up in their campaign material. Then somewhere down the road in a few months, or years the ballyhooed program begins to fall apart.
Such is the case with Naperville’s electronic recycling program. In 2013, Naperville city officials rolled out the red carpet for former Governor Pat Quinn and other Illinois officials announcing the groundbreaking for Naperville’s new Environmental Collection Center. A State grant for $900,000 was handed to the City to help build the recycling center. The facility was supposed to be the answer for all recycling needs including electronics.
Now we find out very quietly that Naperville’s collection of unwanted electronics was eliminated last Saturday September 19. Not only that, but now the city is “looking at potentially paying tens of thousands of dollars to remove electronics that are currently on-site”, according to Dick Dublinski, Director of Public Works.
City officials have staff working frantically trying to find a vendor to dispose of the electronics. Therein lies the problem; city officials never had a back-up plan. The recycling program was not thought through. Government officials have a tendency to ‘cut the ribbon’ and then move on without thinking about ‘what ifs’. There was no ‘Plan-B’, no contingency plan. Critical thinking, managing performance, and managing execution have typically not been part of the equation for some city officials.
Naperville now has a mayor (Steve Chirico) with strong leadership dimensions and a solid understanding of what it takes to lead a successful business, including the importance of having back-up plans in place, if plan-A doesn’t work. If he can instill that mindset from the top down to other city officials and department heads, Naperville can minimize being short-circuited in the future.