Oct 222017
 

A strange thing happened in Naperville over the weekend of October 12 thru the 15th. 7.8 inches of rain fell during that time period, one-half ml. or one thunderbolt short of eight inches. What’s really strange is that no residents appeared in front of the city council during public forum on October 17 to complain about flooding in their basements. Typically that happens like clock-work.  You can count on a string of disgruntled residents voicing their frustrations to the council asking for a remedy.

The fact that no one appeared in front of the council can only mean a couple of possibilities:

  • Naperville city officials have finally solved the problem of flooding.
  • Residents have given up trying to get the council to listen and act on the problem.
  • Everybody was too busy still trying to bail water out of their basements.
  • Watching the Cub’s playoff game had priority.

The next council meeting isn’t until November 7, so it’s possible the council will dodge the issue and few if any residents will be there to complain about their tale of woe.

A number of streets in Naperville were closed due the flooding. One of the problems was the deluge of rained happened immediately before the first of three leaf pick-up cycles. Many streets were lined with neat piles of leaves at curbside. Add to that about 8 inches of rain and bingo sewer drains get clogged with no where for the water to go; hence flooded streets and basements.

It’s not the City’s fault that leaves, rain, and bad timing happened at the same time. It could happen at the beginning of the next leaf pick-up cycle, or the last leaf pick-up cycle. However it would appear that city officials might want to consider other remedies for disposing of leaves.

A friend from Tinley Park was driving through the maze of flooded or closed streets in Naperville that weekend and realized quickly that piles of leaves acting as dams in the streets didn’t make the situation any better. Apparently that problem doesn’t exist in Tinley Park. What do they know that we don’t know in Naperville.

Oct 182017
 

The Cubs are down three games to none to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best of seven League Championship Series. One more Dodger victory and the Cubs are toast.  You could say the Cubs have the Dodgers exactly where they want them if you’re an optimist.

The Naperville city council and the Watchdog have something in common. We all wanted last night’s council meeting to get over quickly. It turned out to be one of the shorter council meetings; 75 minutes to be exact. I watched the first hour of the meeting, and then recorded the final 15 minutes, so as to not miss the beginning of the game. I have my priorities in order.

Mayor Steve Chirico and councilman Kevin Coyne recused themselves during the meeting to avoid any conflict of interest on separate agenda items. Both left and returned very quickly. Chirico moved so quickly that if he would have been the last one to leave the chambers after the meeting, he could have turned out the lights and been in his car before the room got dark.

If the nine members of the Naperville city council and the city manager had a baseball team, the batting order might look something like this:

1 Rebecca Obarski     SS

The lead-off person has to set the table and get on base, with speed and a show of energy. She does this during meetings and isn’t afraid to take an opposing view.

2 Benny White    CF

The center fielder is the leader of the outfield, quick, agile, in great shape, and sure-handed. Benny has played error-less ball since getting elected to his first term.

3 Steve Chirico    C

The catcher is the leader of team. Everything goes to and from the catcher and is involved in every play, often times getting hit with a pitch, a bat, or getting run over by a guy trying to score. If a kerfuffle breaks out, the catcher has to get things back in order.

4 John Krummen    1B

First basemen are typically bigger, lumbering types of guys, hitting in the clean-up position. They swing a lot, hence striking out a lot, but when they connect, they nail it big time.

5 Becky Anderson   LF

To say that Anderson belongs in left field is stating the obvious; many of her positions on the council are lefty-leaning. Left fielders get rid of the ball quickly, and Anderson is an expert at throwing the ball elsewhere.

6 Kevin Coyne  P

It all starts with the pitcher, the most watched position on the field. The pitcher has to be in control and stay calm during pressure situations.

7 Patty Gustin   3B

The third baseman makes long throws to first, hence can throw it wildly. No doubt that Gustin is long-winded and following her thought process can lead to the ball being overthrown. Third basemen have to react quickly without thinking and handle bunts and weird bounces, which makes Gustin a natural for this position.

8 Paul Hinterlong  RF

Right fielders tend to be the last one picked on the playground, but don’t let that fool you. They need to have the strongest arm in the outfield with good accuracy. Hinterlong has developed into a strong right fielder on the council with outstanding accuracy.

9 Judith Brodhead    2B

Second basemen tend to have shorter range, and a weaker arm, with good reaction. Brodhead is perfect for second base.

Manager: Doug Krieger

Somebody has to make the decisions in the dugout, and that’s the manager, or in this case city manager Doug Krieger. Managers oftentimes find themselves out on a very tiny branch, with their decisions being second-guessed.

 

Oct 152017
 

The City of Naperville has a successful revenue stream called the SECA (Special Events And Cultural Amenities) program funded by a food and beverage tax. It was established in 2004 and the fund was capped at $1.9 million. From that, $1.1 million is funneled for city obligations including Fourth of July fireworks, Riverwalk maintenance, the municipal band, DuPage Children’s Museum debt, Carillon maintenance, with a portion towards NDP (Naperville Development Partnership) funding. The remaining $800,000 is allocated through grants to numerous projects requesting funding including the Last Fling and Rib Fest, among many others. In 2018, 62 projects are seeking SECA money.

Getting money into the program is easy through the food and beverage tax. Getting money out of the fund is not quite so easy, for those requesting the grants, and for those determining who gets what and how much. With more and more groups asking for grants, and more and more groups wanting more and more dollars, it can get tricky. That makes for more and more groups feeling either left out, or short changed. More and more and more is the common denominator.

Two options include giving more dollars to fewer groups, or giving fewer dollars to more groups. A third option is to request that groups asking for grants ante up more dollars on their part. In other words, putting more ‘skin into the game’. There are only so many dollars to go around, so sooner or later the guidelines and requirements need to change. It appears sooner has arrived.

Oct 112017
 

Naperville city officials want (not need) about $6 million. For once I can agree with city officials because I also want $6 million. It’s nice to want things, it’s not so good to need things. Some city officials thought they had the answer when they proposed to double the city sales tax, but it didn’t happen. So most likely they will go to the next lowest hanging fruit and ask for a property tax hike. The answer is always the same; squeeze it out of the residents and taxpayers. Naperville city officials can’t seem to come up with a creative answer.

But alas, maybe with a stroke of serendipity the council has stumbled on a possible solution other than painfully extracting it from the good folks of Naperville. The answer is right there in the numbers. Maybe, just maybe, Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson was just one dot short of connecting the dots.

A few months ago Anderson brought up the idea of making Naperville a ‘Welcoming city’. She didn’t quite have enough courage to use the words ‘sanctuary city’, so she went with ‘welcoming city’; it sounds so much more appealing and less threatening.

Get ready for the missing ‘dot’; it’s the word ‘census’. The City of Naperville is considering approving a special census count in 2018. More people in Naperville means more money for Naperville. How simple is that. That’s the answer.

Here is how it would work. If Naperville adds 4,650 people to its population count, it would bring in about 1.6 million in additional federal and state funding. If you extrapolate that to bringing in the $6 million the city wants, you would have to increase Naperville’s population by 17,437 for this special census, which equates to ‘welcoming’ one new person for every three homes in Naperville.

Naperville would have to make it happen fast before the census. If a bus holds 100 people, it would take only 175 bus loads of people. Drop one person off at every third house.

Bingo, problem solved. No increase in city sales tax,  and no property tax hike. The only downside to the solution is that Anderson would be assured of at least 17,437 votes in her next election.

Sometimes the answer is right there in the numbers. All it takes is one dot to make it happen. It probably wouldn’t hurt to get the word out to the world, that our new motto is “Naperville, The Welcoming City”

Oct 072017
 

One way or another, the tax ‘man’ is going to get you. That should be the new slogan for the City of Naperville. When it comes to balancing the budget, Naperville city officials see two options, either increase the city sales tax or increase property tax. Cost cutting measures are a distant choice, in fact it’s so distant, that it’s seldom considered, and if it is considered, it’s quickly dismissed as too difficult. It’s much easier and quicker to ‘stick it’ to residents and taxpayers, than to creatively figure out how to reduce expense, plus reducing expense isn’t much fun.

At a recent Naperville city council meeting, council members bantered back and forth about doubling the city sales tax from .5% to 1%. The end result by a vote of 5 to 4 was to keep the city sales at .5%. Normally that might be considered good news, except for the fact, that that raising property tax is now the quick fix for city officials.

Increasing property tax is worse for the good folks of Naperville because there is no way of getting around that tax, whereas if the sales tax was increased, the good folks would at least have an option, to buy it or not buy it, and if they are going to buy it, they have a choice as to where to buy it.

Naperville city council members voting against increasing the city sales tax, and hence most likely increasing the property tax are:

  • Kevin Coyne
  • Patty Gustin
  • Paul Hinterlong
  • John Krummen
  • Benny White

It’s possible those five might hold strong on reducing expense, but the smart money is saying they will fold like a bad tent, when push comes to shove in favor of increasing property tax.

Naperville city officials will always find a need (more like a want) to increase revenue, and as Naperville city manager Doug Krieger so often reminds us, the way to fill a financial hole is fill it with cash from rate and taxpayers.

Oct 052017
 

Just about everything that can be said, has been said over the years regarding mass shootings. News outlets mention that the Las Vegas shootings rank as the worst in ‘modern day’ history, implying there must have been some events even worse in terms of the number of deaths. There were, one in East St. Louis in 1917, and the other in Colfax, Louisiana in 1873.

The first in my memory was August 1, 1966 at the University of Texas in Austin  when 25-year old Charles Whitman, a former Marine sharp shooter, climbed the stairs to the top of the bell tower, and killed 15 people while injuring 31 over an hour and a half. I was 22 years old and in Europe, and people would ask me how an American can do this to other Americans, and I was at a loss to explain it. Here it is a half-century later and I still can’t explain why it continues to happen.

If there is a difference over that time, it’s that people have gravitated into one of two main camps; advocates favoring gun control, and supporters of the Second Amendment. The commonality of those in each group, is that it’s difficult if not impossible for them to change camps.

Tuesday October 3rd, folks gathered in Naperville to attend a vigil to remember the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. A number of people spoke including Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson. She said, “We have to do something. We won’t let this happen again.” That is a bold statement.  I don’t know what she has in mind, or what her solution is, but whatever it is, it would have been so helpful if the answer was known on July 31, 1966.

Oct 012017
 

A friend once told me, “if I told you to have more fun, you’d make a job out of it”. I thought it was strange, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. If my family went on vacation, I would research the area, and make a list of everything we wanted to see, and schedule each day to the fullest, with little time for the washroom, to get everything in. It was work scheduling fun.

One summer we decided to go to the St. Louis Zoo and the Milwaukee Zoo, along with sights each city offered including tours of Budweiser and Miller Breweries. The end result was that there were six elephants in St. Louis, and three in Milwaukee, and the Budweiser Brewery was bigger than Miller Brewery. Two elephants would have been adequate, and a smaller sampling of beer would have been sufficient. More doesn’t make it better, it simply makes it more.

Now the Naperville Library is knocking on city council’s door wanting more money to the tune of $599K. Couldn’t they have made it an even $600K; what’s one more “K”. Whomever is working out the numbers, must do a lot of retail shopping where every price ends in a ‘9’ to make it sound less. The thought must be that the council will balk at $600K, but they will gladly fork over $599K.

No doubt that Naperville has a highly regarded library, but it’s time to level off and reduce the expenditures. Unfortunately libraries are trending downward as are newspapers and the postal system. It’s possible someday Naperville’s library will become part of the historical society, so kids of the future can see what a library used to look like.

The library wants more money because they have had a ‘decrease in revenues’. It looks like the library did too good of a job of getting people to return books on time resulting less fines. Maybe the library could take a page out of the red light camera book (pun intended) and raise the fine for returning a book late to $1K per day. 600 days would solve the problem. Remember it’s for the kids.

The library also said they are getting less revenue from investment income. That sounds like an opportunity for a Naperville resident specializing in investment income.

The library board approved a tentative budget for $14.6 million in expenditures vs. last years budget of $13.8 million. My trustworthy little $2.00 (not $1.99) calculator shows an expenditure increase of $800K more this year than last year. Trim that by 75% and bingo, the $600K is covered. If the library has 10 English dictionaries, do they really need another one. Two should be sufficient, just like elephants in a zoo. If they really want to trim expense, keep the Webster’s Dictionary and sell the Funk & Wagnalls dictionary to the Naperville Historical Society; it will be there sooner or later.

Sep 282017
 

There was a survey a few years ago, and the question was, “What age is considered old?” The consensus was 15 years older than the age of the person responding. If the person was 20, then 35 was old. If the person was 55, then 70 was old. I asked my grandson how old is old? He asked me how old I was and I told him. He then added one year to my age and gave me that number as being old. Even at the tender age of 9 he was either being PC or sensitive. Politics might be in his future.

Maybe ‘distracted driving’ is a relative term. I remember when I was young and dirt was new, my mom would get upset with my dad when we were driving in the car and my dad had the radio on. She said he wouldn’t be able to hear an emergency vehicle. In the spirit of matrimonial harmony he would turn off the radio. That became my norm for distracted driving; even now when I turn the radio on, I do think of that, but the radio stays on.

I have a friend who gets upset with his 18 and 20-year old sons when they are texting or on the phone while driving. I remember years ago taking the boys with us to Friday night football games, and he was texting or on the phone. Now he wonders why they are doing it. That would go under the parenting chapters of double standards and role models.

My wife happened to be in the vicinity of Naperville Central High School when school was letting out, and she mentioned that just about everywhere she looked, kids were on their devices while driving. The next day I decided to position myself in my vehicle at corner of Porter and Webster as students where leaving the campus in their vehicles and do a visual survey of the first 50 vehicles that passed my location. Amazingly 37 drivers were busy looking down presumably on their devices. Most looked young enough to be students, but at my age, everyone looks young so there may have been some teachers and school officials in the slow moving conga line.

I decided to do advance my unscientific survey the following day by viewing 100 vehicles slowly flowing by at the corner of Hillside and Webster. This time 61 drivers were occupied with their all-important device. It’s possible that each of the 61 were as good of a driver as my dad was and I am while listening to the radio. A distraction is a distraction. What really surprised me that during the time it took 150 vehicles to pass by, not once did I see a police officer as a reminder that device distractions are unwise, unsafe, and illegal.

I know the police have their hands full; I get it. Maybe there was an officer there the days before and after I was there. I know check points are very effective against DUI’s, vehicle safety infractions, etc. I would think the same would apply for inappropriate device usage.

Maybe if my dad would have been pulled over for unwise radio usage while driving (URUWD), I might not be listening to the radio when I’m driving. No, I’d probably still be listening to the radio, especially when the Cubs are on.

Sep 232017
 

Two-thirds of the Naperville city council got exactly what it wanted; landmark status for the old Nichols Library building. It’s not what Naperville mayor Steve Chirico wanted, and it’s not what council members Kevin Coyne and
Benny White wanted. It’s also not what property owner/developer Dwight Avram wanted. They simply wanted the vote to landmark tabled until November 7 in order to work out a deal with a third party interested in using the building at a new location, (Jackson and Eagle streets); a stone’s throw from the current main library.

With so much riding on the landmark status, the request was more than reasonable. Avram made other accommodations to the obstructionists including withdrawing an application submitted to the city’s plan commission for development approval. His purpose was to buy a little time to solidify the extremely creative idea of moving Old Nichols Library to the new location. Old Nichols would remain whole, it would be given the maintenance it needs to come to life again, the current location could then be developed, as was Water Street, and as will be Fifth Avenue. Preservationists would be happy, the city would be happy with additional tax-generating revenue and two less vacant or problem properties, the property owner (developer) would be happy; who is there not to be happy? The answer is the six Naperville city council members voting against the win-win-win opportunity:

  • Becky Anderson
  • Judith Brodhead
  • Patty Gustin
  • Paul Hinterlong
  • John Krummen
  • Rebecca Obarski

Why the rush to judgment on their part? What was the harm in knowing all the options? Waiting until November 7 was a no-lose situation. By the ‘gang of six’ shooting from the hip, there is much to lose now, including an epic law suit against the city. Shame on the ‘gang of six’ for putting Naperville residents and taxpayers on the hook for huge financial jeopardy.

Unless the ‘gang of six’ has a plan for a happy ending to this mess, Watchdog suggests a large plaque be placed in front of Old Nichols Library building with the names of the six council members responsible for what could be one of the worst decisions made by two-thirds of the Naperville city council.

The names of the Naperville city council members responsible for the horrible decision to deny Fox Valley Shopping Center (now West Field Shopping Center) to be built on the southeast corner of Rt. 59 and Aurora Avenue in Naperville, and to then be built across the street in Aurora have no plaque commemorating one of the worst, if not the worst decision by Naperville city officials costing Naperville millions of retail tax dollars. And what was their reason for their decision? They thought it would create too much traffic, the same traffic that generates millions of dollars for Aurora. Naperville still had and has the traffic but without the revenue.

Naperville’s six city council obstructionists should not be forgotten. A well-lit plaque would be most appropriate.

Sep 212017
 

This is a story that won’t go away, and it shouldn’t; questions need to be answered, and policy needs to be clarified. It involves the tragic suicide death (January 11th) of Naperville North student Corey Walgren. No parent should ever have to read a sentence with the words ‘suicide death’ along with the name of their child in it.

The details of the event are heartbreaking for all those involved, either directly or indirectly. A student, in this case an honor student, gets called into an office to speak with a dean of students and a school resource (police) officer regarding an alleged sex video, which turned out to be an audio. After a brief discussion, the student is left “unattended” except for a school employee busy with work, leaves the office, walks less than a mile to a parking garage and jumps off a parking deck to his death. This all happened within less than three hours. One can only imagine what was running through this young boy’s mind during those few hours, and especially minutes before his final and needless fateful decision. He’s gone, nothing can bring him back, and for him this horrible period of time is over. His emotional and physical pain no longer exist. For others the emotional pain remains.

This is where the story becomes boilerplate. A lawsuit has been filed naming the resource police officer, the school dean, along with school district (203), and the Naperville police department. As expected the school district and police department are washing their hands of any responsibility by claiming policy was followed. No one is talking other than to deny, deny, followed by more denial. How ironic that school system officials and police department heads portray honesty, and forthright communication as pillars for their foundation of trust and integrity, yet when they are asked to display accountability they run for cover.

Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall’s answer is that an internal police review showed no wrongdoing on resource officer’s part. School district officials confirmed that the dean of students followed protocol. I guess with those determinations, everything worked, all is fine, and there’s nothing to see here, so just keep moving along.

Those non-answers are not good enough; parents want real answers and change. If policy was followed, then policy needs to be changed. Considering that Marshall and District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges are two of the highest paid government employees in Naperville, solid, truthful answers need to be forthcoming, and drastic changes to an obviously flawed policy need to be corrected, with both Marshall and Bridges leading the way.