Nov 282015
 

It’s that time of the year again, when Naperville city department heads present their requests for capital expenditures to the Naperville city council. The process is very similar to kids standing in line waiting to tell Santa Claus what they want; not what they need but what they want.

This was the year that Santa was going to tell the kids, that needs are more important than wants, and it was time to get real and stop borrowing more and more, creating more and more debt.

That’s the song and dance that city officials gave to residents as they imposed a first time ever city sales tax, increased the fee for garbage pick-up by 617%, and are ready to slap a huge increase on electric rates to the residents and businesses of Naperville.

City officials vowed to cut expenses, thereby focusing on debt reduction, and replenishing cash reserves. The only noticeable cost-cutting measure is the elimination of bottled drinking water for council members during council meetings. However it was noticed at the last city council meeting, that councilwoman Patty Gustin had what appeared to be a bottle of water directly in front of her. Even that cut in expense didn’t last long.

The Naperville city council is addicted to borrowing, and then borrowing more and more. Spend to borrow, then borrow more to spend. More than 20% of the capital requests don’t have a funding source. The council says, no problem; we’ll borrow money and let somebody else worry about the future.

Only one council member, John Krummen, stood up for fiscal restraint, but ultimately was out-voted 8 to 1 by the other council members. Watch and listen to councilman Krummen as he speaks as a minority of one on the council, but part of the likely majority of Naperville residents:

Immediately afterwards, Mayor Steve Chirico disagreed with Krummen:

Later, councilman Krummen again attempts to make his point relating to his personal situation of needs versus wants, which is undoubtedly something that voters can relate to:

The debate refreshed councilman Kevin Gallaher’s memory when he follows-up with where are the cuts in expenses:

The Naperville city council was presented with three options: 1) borrow a little, 2) borrow more, or 3) borrow a lot more. Why was there not a fourth option of borrowing nothing for this year, and focusing totally on debt reduction and replenishment of capital reserves.

Councilman Krummen gave it one last shot with the same thought in mind:

This coming Tuesday night, the Naperville city council will vote to increase the burden of additional debt on the shoulders of current residents and those yet to be born. When it comes to fiscal restraint, spending and borrowing, every day is Christmas for the Naperville city council.

Nov 222015
 

The City of Naperville began the third and final two-week cycle of picking up leaves last Monday November 16. Residents were diligently and hastily raking and blowing their leaves into the street at curbside, frantically trying to beat the leaf-eating truck that’s is supposed to make the leaves disappear.

They don’t really vanish, they more accurately get evenly re-distributed along the street. Naperville city officials spend a lot of money, well actually tax-payers do, to have this service. While the Naperville city council is trying to figure out where to cut services, part of the answer might just be blowing around in the streets. Most communities don’t spend money to provide this service, and when spring rolls around, their yards and streets seem to look just as good as ours.

The leaf-vanishing trucks are scheduled to be completed with this final cycle by next week; Thanksgiving week. That’s no easy task, considering a couple of days are lost to the Holiday, and especially this year as I look out my window and can’t see the leaves since they are covered with snow, and it’s still snowing. The good news is that the snow will stop this evening, and then a gradual thaw will occur exposing piles of wet leaves.

This year it looks like the City got caught with some unexpected bad weather about two weeks early. It typically seems to happen on the first Saturday of December. I know this because for the last 20 years on the last Saturday of November I’m in either in Champaign or DeKalb watching four state championship football games in the elements; wind, rain, cold, but no snow.

This year may be the same, however if those piles of wet leaves are unable to be picked-up, it’s going to make a mess, with sewers being blocked, and ultimately snow plows pushing everything around. No doubt it would be better to have no leaves in the street, than to have a mess with water back-up and spending tax dollars for that result.

There must be a better answer; maybe even one that would save the taxpayers of Naperville money, and have our community look just as good in spring, as other towns that don’t spend tax dollars to push leaves around.

Nov 182015
 

Sometimes it’s all about the timing. Just as a report, by online media 24/7 Wall Street LLC, was being released showing that Naperville, along with Elgin and Chicago have the highest consumption of alcohol in the State of Illinois, all hell was breaking loose in downtown Naperville last weekend with alcohol-fueled mayhem and bedlam.

Five separate dust-ups involving unruly individuals and the Naperville police broke out at four downtown Naperville locations including Jackson Avenue Pub 7, at 7 West Jackson just after midnight on Saturday morning, then a little over an hour later at Bar Louie, 22 E. Chicago, then only a minute later at the same location chaos erupted, and then just an hour later at 2:30am fisticuffs ignited near Features Bar at 14 W. Chicago. The following night, Sunday at about 2am, a fifth arrest occurred close to the municipal parking deck at 75 W. Chicago Avenue. In total, police rounded up five people on charges of battery and fighting. Other than that it was a peaceful night in kid and family-friendly downtown Naperville.

Naperville city officials came up with a solution to the alcohol-fueled problems over the last few years, and the solution, in part, was to not shine a light on the problem. If it’s not seen, heard, or written about, then it’s not occurring as much. Creative solution to avoid the problem.

Somewhat similar to the solution to the problem of homeless people in Naperville. Homeless folks don’t exist in Naperville; now they’re called street dwellers. Bingo, just like that, problem solved.

Out of 50 states in the country, only three states drink more alcohol, so that means that Naperville is one of the top three alcohol consuming cities in one of the top four alcohol consuming states. I don’t think you’ll find that bit of news on the City of Naperville’s website.

Half of the solution to a problem, is the awareness that the problem exists, and the previous, and current city council don’t seem to have that awareness. If an alcohol related agenda item, is a topic of discussion during a Naperville city council meeting, it’s a safe bet it will be approved.

Naperville city officials continue to refer to Naperville as a kid and family-friendly city, however their actions and decisions indicate otherwise. Naperville’s new focus for the future is to be a destination for entertainment. And the future is here now.

Nov 152015
 

 

 

It’s always more fun spending than trying to figure how to spend less. Governments tend to excel at spending, and fail miserably at cutting expense. Naperville city officials are in the midst of considering where to make spending cuts to help defray the $1.8 million budget deficit, and there are plenty of departments in the City of Naperville to choose from when looking at expenses. Those departments include:

  • Board Of Fire and Police
  • City Clerk
  • City Manager
  • Communication
  • Finance
  • Fire
  • Human Resource
  • IT (Information Technology)
  • Legal
  • Mayor and City Council
  • Police
  • Public Works
  • Riverwalk
  • Transportation, Engineering and Development

Each department is like its own little fiefdom, not really wanting to make cuts, and lobbying for either maintaining their current expenses, or hitting the trifecta with additional dollars.

Each department head pleaded their case to the city council at a recent workshop, almost as if they were presenting their personal annual review to their supervisor for a salary increase.

To the credit of the Naperville city council, one department (IT) was singled out as needing more dollars and support than they were requesting. As councilman Kevin Gallaher inferred, Naperville’s IT needs to modernize at least from ‘the ancient to the old’.

The city council looks prepared to make cuts to the other departments, however considering world events, and current situations within our country, they might want to think twice about cutting the budget for police and fire protection.

Additionally, Naperville’s legal department may need to be bolstered, not for the purpose of making residents lives more miserable, but the the probability of fending off more law suits including possible class action lawsuits. It’s been said that anybody can sue anybody for anything, which is true, and some of these cases look a little stronger than others.

The city council will also be looking at the ongoing issue of medical benefits, including dental, and vision for city council members. It’s interesting to note that aside from the mayor’s position, the only Naperville city council member taking medical, dental, and vision benefits is councilwoman Judy Brodhead. She is holding strong on keeping these benefits for herself.

Even if the council votes to forgo those benefits, it wouldn’t take effect until the year 2019, meaning Brodhead could be covered by taxpayers for another three-plus years, unless of course, voters decide to separate her from the council during the next election in 2017.

Nov 112015
 

Naperville city officials are still searching for possible cuts in expenditures in order to cover the $1.8 million budget deficit. So far the only cut mentioned was outlined by Naperville city council member Patty Gustin:

At Costco’s current price of $3.39 for a case of 40 pint-size bottles, that will reduce the $1.8 million deficit by $22.44 over the year. Naperville city officials have yet to announce any other savings.

This comes after city officials voted to increase revenue, which means increased taxes and fees to residents, by installing a first-time ever municipal sales tax, increasing garbage pick-up fees by 617%, and charging a fee to folks wanting to use municipal meeting rooms.

City officials jump at the chance to increase revenues rather than curtailing expenses. Increasing revenues means extracting or squeezing it out of Naperville residents and businesses.

So while city officials are trying to figure out what additional expenses they can cut, other than water at the dais, how about a couple of guaranteed revenue generators.

How about a ‘Police Proximity Fee’. Police provide a necessary service, and just as paying a fee to use a meeting room, why not charge people a fee when in the proximity of a police officer. You never know when you’ll need the services of a police officer, so ante up a fee for the possible service of that officer. If a citizen is within sight of a police officer, then it requires a fee to be paid. The Naperville city council can work out the details later on how this would work.

Or how about a toll when entering downtown Naperville. It would be too difficult to do when entering the city of Naperville, but extracting a toll from cars entering the downtown area would be easy. Once the Water Street Project is completed, traffic will be moving so slow, there would be no problem utilizing toll gates and booths to collect the fee. The marketing catch phrase could be, “Come to downtown Naperville. We get you coming and going”.

There is absolutely no end to the creative ideas city officials can use to separate citizens from their hard-earned money. It’s possible that if city officials can come up with enough creative ideas, they can have water again at the dais.

Nov 082015
 

It was just a little over three years ago that the City of Naperville’s online network was hacked. So what exactly have city officials learned from the embarrassing experience and how secure is the network now? The answers could be ‘not very much’ and ‘not very’.

We won’t know for sure until it happens again, and it will happen. Government officials have a tendency to invite problems with grandiose statements and reassurance that everything is under control.

When Naperville’s network was hacked in October 2012, it cost the residents of Naperville well over a half-million dollars after insurance, and the system was down for over a month. Ironically, on the day of the hacking, the Naperville city council had a meeting that night, and residents were expressing their concerns about the lack of security within the smart meter system. City officials assured residents that security was not a concern. They said this without ever mentioning during the meeting that the city website network had just been hacked. As if residents wouldn’t notice it while it was down.

That’s the problem with government; they do very little to build trust with their constituency. Is it any wonder why a large segment of Napervillians still have concern about the City’s smart meter system. Fewer and fewer people are buying into the rhetoric when government officials say ‘everything is OK’, so it must be OK. Unfortunately when city officials tell residents to ‘look to the right’, they’d better ‘look to the left’.

City officials tend to think that residents can’t handle the truth, when in fact, what residents can’t handle is deceit and mis-information. City officials need to have the courage to level with residents, and tell it like it is, not cover issues up or make no mention of things that concern residents. City officials have a bully pulpit to share information on the city website, during city council meetings, or through local media, but all too often unpleasant topics are unaddressed, as if they aren’t happening.

Which gets us back to the City’s online network. For city officials to reassure residents that the system can’t be hacked, is an invitation for low level hackers to take on the challenge. Sophisticated hackers can crack into any network. If they can get into the IRS and pentagon networks, they surely could get into Naperville’s. The so-called ‘major league’ hackers have much larger targets in mind than Naperville. The City of Naperville’s network is ‘little league training ground’ just waiting for some clever high school kid to say, “hey guys look what I just did”, and Naperville’s system is down again.

When the Target Corporation network was hacked a few years ago, CEO Gregg Steinhafel took the hit, and departed Target within a year. When it happened to the City of Naperville, the IT department was given a standing ovation during a city council meeting, and undoubtedly another monetary raise at the end of the year. Nobody was held accountable.

Now we have a ‘new’ city council and a new mayor with a strong business-style approach to getting things done. The question isn’t whether or not the city network will be hacked, the question is, does the city have a Plan-B to deal with it. Time will tell.

If Naperville’s IT department is not getting better faster than the hackers are getting better, then Naperville better have more than just a Plan-B.

Nov 042015
 

Shopping is not one of my favorite activities, but as the dutiful husband that I try to be, I will run to the grocery store and pick-up an item that my wife needs for cooking or baking purposes. I get myself psyched up to be surgical, by getting in the store, getting the item, and getting out of the store as fast as possible. Inevitably, I’ll get a phone call from my wife while standing in the check out lane, asking me to get another item. She has this innate ability to know when I’m getting ready to check out. Of course I do it, knowing that a happy wife makes for a happy life.

The same type of thing happened at a recent Naperville city council meeting when it came time to vote on a policy change, to charge a fee for folks wanting to use meeting room A and/or B at the municipal center. This had been discussed for a half-hour that night by council members, following a number of residents speaking before council deliberations.

Within a minute before the vote, the mayor of Naperville, Steve Chirico, made a late addition to the policy which included other meeting rooms not discussed. Watch and listen as mayor Chirico does the magician sleight of hand to widen the policy:

Supporters of the mayor would say that was a clever move on his part, others would say, it was tricky on his part, while others would say ‘what just happened’.

Whichever category you fall into, one thing is for sure, the mayor knows how to get things done.

Nov 012015
 

It’s official. If you would like to use a meeting room at the Naperville Municipal Center, you’d better bring cold hard cash, your checkbook, credit card or a bunch of piggy banks, to pay for the privilege of using a room for whatever good cause you may have, or the folks at city hall will tell you to take a hike, beat it, or get out of here.

The Naperville Municipal Center is the building city officials approved to build with tax payer’s dollars. In other words, your dollars built the building, that the mayor of Homer Glen referred to as a ‘Taj Mahal’ of city halls. This is the building that city officials use for their convenience for offices to conduct business and have meetings. It’s in these offices and meeting rooms that they create policy mandating that the tax payers who built the building and meeting rooms, can’t use the building and meeting rooms unless they pay a fee. Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t be a happy guy.

Watch and listen as Naperville resident Jim Haselhorst makes a very common sense presentation to the city council. Pay special attention to the last minute or so, when tax payer Haselhorst asks an excellent question, only to be ignored and sent on his way by the entire council:

Nine members on the council, along with the city manager, give Haselhorst what is commonly known as the “bum’s rush”, scoot him out the door without the common courtesy of an answer.

This council meeting occurred Tuesday October 20 at 7pm, the same night and start time for game three of the National League Championship Series involving the Cubs at Wrigley Field. That hasn’t happened in 7 years. It’s possible that Jim Haselhorst is a Cub’s fan and he gave up something special for his few minutes in front of the council, but even if Jim isn’t a fan, he still took the time and made the effort to address the council and deserves more than a rude brush off. Would it have been that difficult for one of the ten,including the city manager, to give him an answer. Even something as simple as, “Thank you Jim for your comment, we appreciate it,  and we’ll consider it with all options.”
Apparently, Mr. Haselhorst wasn’t worth a 4-second response.

To the credit of mayor Steve Chirico, he does keep the meeting moving in an efficient business-like manner, and council members John Krummen and Paul Hinterlong both have recently asked/allowed speakers to complete their comments beyond the time-allotted limit. Refreshing to say the least.

Now if the Naperville city council would only give 15 four-second courteous responses to presenters, it would only add one minute to the length of the meeting. That’s not too much to ask for the folks who ‘built’ the council chambers.