Dec 292016
 

In 22 days we will have a new President and a 100% new administration. In 96 days we could have up to a 50% new Naperville city council with the possibility of four new members on the council.

President-Elect Donald Trump has been making a nine-state ‘thank you’ tour thanking those who voted for him and helped him secure the Presidency of the United States. He doesn’t have to do that but he’s doing it. I can’t remember a President doing that in my life time, and I’ve been interested in politics since 1952 when at the age of eight, I was enamored with the process watching the Republican and Democrat conventions on television with Eisenhower and Stevenson prevailing. 11 Presidents later, and Trump is the first one touring States to thank the voters.

Since Watchdog’s inception in December 2010, there have been three municipal elections, and I can’t remember any winning city council candidate going on a tour and thanking voters for their vote. Typically they retreat to an after election get together at a local restaurant, or watering-hole for a few brews. They thank their campaign workers, their family, and their donors, but what about going out and thanking the voters who made it happen.

There’s no reason it couldn’t be done. Home Owner Association meetings, local groups, for-profit and non-for-profit groups; there’s all sorts of possibilities. If not a thank-you tour, how about a thank-you-for-your vote mailer. Candidates are inundating residents with redundant mailers up to the day of the election. How about an after-election mailer simply to say ‘thank you’. Why not a little ‘thank you’ in the local newspaper, AKA, the 10th council member. How about the local TV station. Why not write a ‘thank you’ note submitted to the Watchdog for posting. Watchdog would gladly post any city council candidate’s ‘thank you’ to the residents.

City council candidates are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves from other candidates, why not do it with a ‘thank you’. It’s working for the President-Elect.

Dec 252016
 

There is always somebody or some group trying to regulate somebody, or some other group. Isn’t that partially why government exists; the perk of regulating. For most of us the only time we get to regulate is when we are dealing with our kids, which seems to work pretty good until our kids learn the power of the word ‘no’.

The Naperville city council’s most recent effort to regulate, came as a result of the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding temporary signs. After considerable discussion by city council members, during the last council meeting, and some very limited input by residents, the council has all but decided that the maximum size for temporary residential signs will be 4 square feet, and temporary commercial signs will be 12 square feet, typically 3 X 4 or if you want an almost perfect square sign, it would need to be 3.464 feet by 3.464 feet. We can only hope that Naperville code officers have a very accurate measuring device along with a top-of-the line light meter for measuring lumens for electronic signs.

Just when it looked like the issue was ready for staff to create the ordinance, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico slipped in the following tidbit:

So the mayor wants to give council members a ‘pass’ or exemption for the size of campaign signs until the April 4 municipal election is history. Does anybody see anything glaringly wrong about that? Frankly, I don’t. Why shouldn’t common sense enter into the equation? The mayor doesn’t have any skin in the game by extending the effective ordinance date; he’s not running for re-election until 2019. Unless he can find someone in the U.S. with the last name of ‘Chirico’ running for mayor, willing to buy his signs, he will take a loss on replacing somewhere less than a million campaign signs he has in storage.

However, what is wrong, is that other individuals and groups don’t get the same courtesy of time allowed before an ordinance is enacted.

Most recently, the Naperville city council approved an ordinance December 5 increasing the age from 18 to 21 for selling and purchasing cigarettes, and the ordinance is set to begin January 1. That’s a paltry 26 day window to get the word out for all to know, and for businesses to post the age change, train employees, and do what’s necessary to comply. Where is common sense added to that equation?

When it came time for the City to forcefully slap smart meters on the homes of residents, it had to happen immediately or be arrested. Yet when it came time to honor council member term limits which was approved by a landslide binding referendum by residents, the Naperville city council said it didn’t have sufficient time to make it happen, so it was delayed for a few years. Not days, or weeks, or months, but years.

Again, I applaud what the mayor did by allowing council members running for re-election the opportunity to use their existing campaign signs; it’s the right thing to do. Why have anybody scrambling for time or unnecessarily spending money, when a little common sense can be extended. Residents and groups should be allowed the same courtesy.

Dec 222016
 

There was reason for celebration among Naperville city council members this week, when they found something else they can regulate. This time is was signage, both residential and business/commercial.

The Naperville city council meeting this Tuesday December 20 lasted for for 113 minutes, with 53 minutes devoted to discussing an ordinance to regulate signage; that’s  47% of the meeting. It must be very important, because I can’t remember a city council meeting discussing heroin usage for more than five minutes. Councilwoman Judy Brodhead recently said during a council meeting that the council talks about it all the time. It must be during closed session, because they don’t acknowledge the topic in any depth during open council meetings.

The City of Naperville conducted a survey on how large temporary signs should be. Naperville’s population is over 140,000 residents and less than 400 responses were received. With less than 0.3% of the population showing interest in the survey, the council used the results to determine residential temporary signs should be 2 X 2 (4 square feet), and business temporary signs should be 3 X 4 (12 square feet). There was no discussion about whether or not the Russians hacked into survey swaying the results.

The size of the signs wasn’t enough for the city council, they also want to regulate the light being emitted from changing (electronic) graphic signs. Watch and listen to the exchange between Naperville councilman Paul Hinterlong and Tim Felstrup from the Development Review Team as they discuss lumens and code enforcement with light meters:

So when the ordinance is passed the City of Naperville will have code enforcement officers running around with light meters measuring lumens. The Naperville city council will be regulating ‘lumens’ with undoubtedly not one of the nine being able to define what a lumen is. Much like when the city council was discussing regulating bee hives, but not one of the nine could correctly answer the question ‘What color is a honey bee?’

John Doyle from Chicago Sign and Light Company addressed the council regarding electronic boards (changing graphic signs) and questioned if the City had received any complaints about the signs emitting too much light. Crickets, apparently not. Watch and listen as he mentions ‘Dillon’s Rule’.

John Forrest Dillon was a Federal judge in Iowa in 1868 and regarding local municipalities he basically said they should only make ordinances or changes to ordinances if they are:

  1. Empowered to do it.
  2. If there is an overwhelming need to change something
  3. If there is no other way to solve the problem

Looks like the City didn’t give much thought, consideration, or importance to #2. What is the overwhelming problem? Looks like another solution in search of a problem. The Naperville city council specializes in that category.

Naperville residents and businesses need a ‘champion’ or better yet, five champions on the city council who deregulate rather than regulate. Champions who consider the above three factors regarding ordinances. If there is no other way to solve a problem other than an ordinance, then take two ordinances off the books. In time the book should be manageable.

Dec 172016
 

This simple question has been getting bounced around for quite some time, and it may finally be getting to the point of being resolved.

The idea of consolidating maintenance of 16 to 20 miles of Naperville Township roads with the City of Naperville was presented to Stan Wojtasiak, Naperville Township Highway Commissioner. The goal, according to Naperville city councilman Kevin Coyne was to save residents up to $800,000, by creating less government while lowering taxes. Seems like a great idea, except that Wojtasiak didn’t believe that much could be saved. If the savings was only $10, it’s still a great idea.

The problem is that Wojtasiak is the person making the final decision to do it, or not to do it. He found every way possible to delay making the decision. His job security trumped saving residents money and consolidating government.

The City of Naperville placed a non-binding referendum on the recent November ballot, with approximately 90% of township and city voters approving of the City of Naperville taking over the road maintenance for the Naperville Township. This still wasn’t good enough for Wojtasiak. Control, power, and personal gains are very difficult for government folks to give up.

Wojtasiak could see the writing on the wall, and decided to play an offensive maneuver by cutting a deal with Lisle Township bypassing the City of Naperville’s offer. This was not about common sense, this was all about a power struggle between Wojtasiak and Naperville city officials. Unfortunately Naperville city and township residents were caught in the middle.

That takes us to the most recent action by Coyne and Naperville Township Supervisor Rachel Ossyra to submit a request to the DuPage County Circuit Court for a binding-referendum to be placed on April 4th ballot asking:

“Shall the Naperville Township Road District and the Lisle Township Road District be consolidated into one consolidated township road district?”

The date for the court hearing on the referendum is January 9th, with January 26 being the last day to finalize the April 4th ballot. Maybe everybody will finally be able put the issue to rest and move forward.

Dec 142016
 

Let’s set the record straight, nobody in their right mind thinks tobacco smoking is a good idea. So when the Naperville city council approved legislation to increase the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21, it was another one of those feel-good ordinances resulting in more socially acceptable non-productive actions.

The vote in favor of the ordinance was six to three, with council members Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher, and Paul Hinterlong, voting against it. None of the three are in favor of smoking at any age, but all three have reservations about government stepping in again to regulate our lives. Additionally councilman John Krummen said that raising the age to purchase would only cause 18 to 21 year-olds to go on a short field trip to a neighboring town to make the purchase.

One 19-year old resident said, “looks like another opportunity for the black market”. Though you may not agree with his sentiment, you have to give him some credit for thinking like a capitalistic entrepreneur. Now before you go ballistic with my comment, there is another capitalistic company, Altria Group Inc. just waiting for the Fed to legalize marijuana. When that happens the plan and machinery are all in place for the business to boom. Even now the anticipation is causing the stock (MO) to increase in value.

Councilman Kevin Coyne said, “It’s naive for us to think we are making a dent in the people under the age of 21 who are smoking”. If raising the age to 21 would make it that easy for people to stop smoking or stop considering smoking, then the ‘problem’ would no longer exist; problem solved. But as Coyne implied, that’s not the case.

The Naperville city councilman who came closest to nailing it was Paul Hinterlong when he said it was a “rights issue” for him. Watch and listen to Hinterlong’s exchange with physician James Ostrenga when he says, “Why stop at 21…Why not a smoke-free Naperville?” :

Great question. Why stop at 21?  Katy Leclair the CEO of 360 Youth Services, during the council meeting said, “the adolescent brain continues to develop up to age 25…the pre-frontal cortex, impulse control center, is not fully formed.” Why not make the ordinance for age 25 rather than 21 if the council really wants to make a difference. Apparently the other six council members are not that concerned to make that much of a difference.

Or how about this, if the Naperville city council really wants to make a declarative statement about smoking, simply have the courage to increase the age for purchasing tobacco to 75 with the requirement that the purchaser has to bring both parents in at the time of purchase. That should solve it.

Dec 112016
 

Naperville is a city of approximately 144,000 residents, with eight candidates running for four Naperville city council seats in the April 4 Municipal election; one candidate out of every 18,000 residents. With the election 114 days from now, each candidate has a 50/50 chance of getting elected, four out of eight.

Incumbents typically have an advantage, but ‘typical’ is anything but typical in today’s elections. President-elect Donald Trump is the classic example that the unexpected can be the new norm. Of the eight city council candidates, four are incumbents including Judy Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher, and John Krummen. The other four city council members (Becky Anderson, Patty Gustin, Paul Hinterlong, and Becky Obarski),  gained a bye in this municipal election due to being among the top four vote getters in the last election. Of those four, only Hinterlong was an incumbent. The only other incumbent running for re-election in the last election was Judy Brodhead. Of the four candidates garnering more votes than Brodhead included three first-time-running candidates, Anderson Gustin and Obarski. What does all that mean? It appears Brodhead is slip-sliding off the dais. In two words, Brodhead is on ‘thin ice’ and it’s getting thinner. Eight years on the council might be her expiration date.

There are a few things a candidate can do to increase their 50/50 odds of getting elected, including come with a strong resume of leadership or accomplishment, and possess that ‘it factor’ or charisma. An incumbent has the advantage or disadvantage of track record on the council. The other thing a candidate can do is be among the first to file on the first day of filing which was November 21. Five of the eight did exactly that allowing them to participate in name-drawing to determine ballot order. Hence the first five candidates on the ballot are:

  • Judy Brodhead*
  • Michael Isaac
  • John Krummen*
  • Kevin Coyne*
  • Julie Berkowicz

The remaining three candidates then participated in a name-drawing for the bottom three on the ballot including:

  • Kevin Gallaher*
  • Benny White
  • Mike Strick

(* incumbent)

If each of the eight candidates were among a different group 18,000 residents, would they be the most qualified, probably not. But the eight are what we have. It’s too late to increase the number of candidates, and too late to include more qualified candidates, but it’s definitely not too late to choose the best four of the eight candidates for the next Naperville city council. We only get this chance every two years. We have 114 days to do due diligence on our part.

Dec 072016
 

It wasn’t that long ago when council members could get elected over and over again with no concern about being unseated. That changed in 2010 when Naperville residents voted in a landslide for term limits. Naperville city officials cleverly played with the calendar and procrastinated to the point that no council member has yet to be benched by a term limit.

More and more dissatisfied Naperville residents are forming groups committed to making changes in Naperville, and the common focus of those groups is to change the make-up of the Naperville city council by electing new and improved council members. In essence, residents can enforce term limits by voting the rascals out of office. One such growing and vocal group is NaperChange.org

Watchdog encourages you to take a look at their website including their Mission and Plan, and take note of their postings, especially the most recent posting on December 2 about Ogden Avenue; a gateway to Naperville. While the city council grapples with socially acceptable non-productive issues, store fronts and buildings remain vacant. The Naperville Development Partnership has been a bust, with little if anything to show for it’s inflated budget. And what have the four incumbents up for re-election (Brodhead, Coyne, Gallaher, and Krummen) accomplished regarding development….absolutely nothing.

It has been 582 days since the current city council took the oath of office, and what once considered full of potential has been a dismal failure. Of the nine current council members including the mayor, only three are considered as keepers by Watchdog. Surely the Naperville city council can be improved with an influx of new ideas, energy, and independent thinking.

Dec 032016
 

Does it seem we are getting more and more surveys from everywhere, with less and less customer service satisfaction. Maybe it’s me, but it’s almost impossible not to be asked to complete a survey for every transaction. Recently at a grocery chain, while slowly working my way up to the checkout after price checks and coupon transactions with previous customers, it was my turn to pay and get out, after getting a fist full of register coupons and then being asked to complete a short survey while customers were lined-up behind me. I like surveys, but they never seem to occur at a convenient time.

Then on the day I was going to complete the 2016 City of Naperville Community Survey on line, I received a survey in the mail. My wife did the online survey and I sat down with a fine cup of coffee to complete the mail-in version. It turned out to be a two-cup survey; lots of questions and lots of answer choices. Surveys can be very beneficial depending on how the answers are interpreted and to what end is the purpose of the survey.

The City survey was very comprehensive with one glaring omission that we’ll get into in a moment. Major categories included:

  • Quality of police services
  • Quality of fire and emergency medical services
  • Efforts of the City for Emergency Preparedness
  • Infrastructure, maintenance of streets, sidewalks, and street lights
  • Effectiveness of City communication with the public
  • Customer service from City employees
  • Traffic flow and congestion
  • Storm-water management
  • Garbage, recycling and yard waste services
  • Perception of safety
  • Public works
  • Information
  • Environmental / Waste Disposal Services
  • Transportation
  • Community planning and development
  • Electric Utility Services
  • Water / Wastewater Utility Services
  • Perceptions of the City

So what is the glaring omission? How about:

The effectiveness of local leadership?

  • Mayor Steve Chirico
  • City Manager Doug Krieger

The quality of Naperville city council members?

  • Becky Anderson
  • Rebecca Boyd-Obarski
  • Judith Brodhead
  • Kevin Coyne
  • Kevin Gallaher
  • Patty Gustin
  • Paul Hinterlong
  • John Krummen

I suppose there are those who would say, that the ultimate survey would be the municipal election every four years. Why not just include the question in the 2016 City of Naperville Community Survey? Other than elected officials and the City manager, what job doesn’t get reviewed every year. If for no other reason, just to make sure they are heading in the right direction. If an official is only reviewed every four years, they can get way off course causing a lot of damage and waste.

If an elected official and city manager are getting the job done, it seems they would welcome the opinions of residents in a survey. If they are not getting the job done, they should still welcome residents’ opinions with the opportunity to correct course towards re-election and job retention.

If you’re going to have a community survey, make it inclusive; otherwise what’s the purpose. Just another socially acceptable non-productive activity.

Dec 012016
 

On paper and in theory, the City of Naperville’s Leaf Pick-up program sounds fantastic, but in reality, it’s not working and nobody really seems to care. For the most part, it’s another socially acceptable non-productive bureaucratic program; one of those ‘check-the-box’, it’s completed city services.

Here is how it is supposed to work. Residents are offered the opportunity to move their leaves to the curbside, and then every two weeks, over a six-week period, the city dispatches trucks to remove the leaves. During that time, three pick-ups are to occur. Then when that’s complete, a street sweeper makes a final run through to clear out any remaining debris. Sounds great except for the following snafus:

  • The leaf-removal trucks miss a lot of leaves and simply re-distribute the piles at curbside throughout the neighborhood.
  • The first pick-up begins before the leaves are ready for pick-up, the second pick-up has the most leaves for pick-up, hence leaving the biggest mess, and the third-pick up, if it does happen, is a rush job just trying to get done.
  • When the program ends, some piles of leaves remain at curbside, because residents don’t know the schedule for pick-up.

Most of my neighbors have learned that the best way to make sure the street is cleaned, is to do it themselves. All it takes is a broom, a handy-dandy dustpan, some time, and if you’re really lucky, a little hand-held leaf -blower.

I called the City for the fun of it, to see if there was any plan for the street-sweeper to roll by, and I was connected to the Department of Public Works. I spoke to a very pleasant young lady named Ginger (everybody is young compared to me) and she couldn’t provide any information about if or when a street-sweeper was in the leaf-pick-up equation. It’s not her fault, she is probably very good at what she does, but apparently her supervisor didn’t provide her with any talking points. I find it hard to believe that I am the only one wondering about the final step of the process.

It won’t be long and snow will cover any remnants of leaf piles at curbside. The City snow plow will make sure those leaves are redistributed, ultimately finding there way to covering sewers, leading to some flooding. Like clockwork, spring will arrive and the whole process will repeat itself next year. It’s just one more box the City can checkoff as completed as it does year after year after year.

Nov 272016
 

The World Series just ended, followed by the Presidential election, then Thanksgiving, now we are racing towards Christmas, New Year’s, the Superbowl, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and then appropriately April Fools Day coming just three days before the Naperville Municipal election in just 128 days.

Four current city council members are running for re-election. They include Judith Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher, and John Krummen. They also happen to be the four lowest vote-getters during the last municipal election two years ago.

New candidates throwing their names into the hat include Julie Berkowicz, VP of Knoch Knoll’s Home Owners Association, and Michael Isaac, a member of the Naperville Financial Advisory Board. An additional seven people with petition packets may also be joining the race.

Of the four current council members, Kevin Gallaher would be the last to submit the petition for filing. No one has ever accused Gallaher of showing high energy. Gallaher would be the equivalent on a local level, of being ‘Low Energy Jeb’. Even on election night two years ago, a local TV station had to track him down at home for his response to the election, and he appeared more concerned about the pizza in his oven. It was never determined if it was pepperoni, or sausage.

The Presidential election gave us a lot of new nicknames including, Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Crazy Bernie, Goofy Elizabeth Warren, and 1 for 38 Kasich, referring to winning one primary out of 38 for Kasich, and of course Low Energy Jeb. Typically things never get that colorful in a local election, though it would be interesting to wonder what other colorful and appropriate nicknames the four current council members would generate.

Two of the four lowest vote-getters running for re-election are first term council members; Coyne and Krummen. Gallaher was a council member previously and decided to step away, and then re-surfaced two years ago. Judith Brodhead has been on the council since 2009 and apparently has no intention of leaving on her own. Brodhead, along with councilman Paul Hinterlong would be the poster-people for why the term-limit referendum was approved by a 72% to 28% landslide in 2010.

Here is where it gets tricky.  Term limits are for three consecutive full terms beginning at the April 2011 election. A full term consists of four (4) years in office. Brodhead, as a low-vote getter was elected to a two-year term, not four, hence her term-limit clock could reset, which means she could get three more four-year terms (another 12 years) keeping her in office until the year 2029; that’s 20 years in office. Brodhead is a classic example why term limits are necessary. She has become like bubble gum on your shoe on a hot August day. She simply won’t go away.

The good news is that voters will have the opportunity to exercise the beauty of term limits by voting the rascals out of office. Why wait for 12 years, just do it in 128 days.