When Naperville council member Judith Brodhead begins talking about money, you’d be wise to hold your wallet very tightly. It happened again during the last Naperville city council meeting, when council member Brodhead said, “if this ($5,500) were a huge amount of money, I might have some problems with it”. The “it” is SECA funds, which the Naperville city council voted 5 to 3 to approve for temporary traffic controls for a Harry Potter Book Reveal Party event in Naperville on July 30 and 31st.
On the surface it seems like a worthwhile event, however a lot of things sound like good ideas, hence making it easy to approve all those ‘good’ ideas. The problem is that the Naperville city council is playing too loose, spending taxpayer dollars for purposes in which they were not intended.
SECA is an acronym for Special Event and Cultural Amenities Fund, a tax approved in 2004 “to establish a separate fund used solely for funding of social and artistic events and entities, providing cultural experiences for the Naperville community and its visitors”. OK, so far, so good.
The sponsoring organization “must be a non-profit organization”, and funds “will only be reimbursed for what was approved in the application”. Oops, there’s the problem. The application originally approved was not for purpose of this event, hence SECA funds should not have been approved.
Council members voting to approve included Mayor Steve Chirico, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher, Rebecca Obarski, and Judith Brodhead. Those voting not to approve the diversion of SECA funds included, John Krummen, Paul Hinterlong, and Patty Gustin.
Remaining council member Becky Anderson recused herself from the discussion and vote. She is the one council member who would directly benefit financially from a vote to approve, since she owns Anderson Book Store in Naperville.
The vote to approve this ordinance is wrong on two levels; first it did not follow SECA guidelines. Secondly, council member Judith Brodhead’s comment that $5,500 is not a ‘huge amount of money’, whereas Mayor Steve Chirico acknowledges that it is a $5,500 decision without downplaying it.
When it comes to taxpayer dollars, every dollar is important to the folks paying those tax dollars, and council members should acknowledge the importance of every dollar spent.