Aug 172017
 

Naperville is going to be busy dealing with some big issues, some controversial, and some not so, but nearly all will end with a heaping dose of criticism from taxpayers towards city council members. If Tuesday night’s city council meeting is any indication of how united or respectful council members will be to each other dealing with these issues, then city officials may want to add a sergeant-of-arms to the festivities. This weekend’s posting will look at exactly what got a couple council members bent out of shape. Who would have guessed that it would have involved the 5th Avenue Development Project.

A couple of other ongoing issues haven’t erupted into verbal kerfuffles yet, but they may when all is said and done. Same questions but different structures; do we ‘save’ old Nichols Library, or let it go, and do we save Moser Tower which houses Naperville’s Carillon, or turn it into a steel and concrete pinata.

Each structure has groups of folks looking at the feasibility and cost of preserving the building and tower; ideas and dollar amount estimates are beginning to roll in. That information is wonderful, but what’s missing is how is this going to be funded?

It’s no different than a family wanting to build an addition on their house, take a fantastic vacation, and replacing the old car with a new one, as their kids are heading to college with tuition due. It’s nice to want things, it’s even nicer if there is a plan to achieve how it’s going to happen.

What’s that noise that I hear? Could it be a kerfuffle in council chambers?  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, so just call me names. Council members need to get ready for a heap of criticism from the fine folks of Naperville.

Aug 122017
 

There was a time not that long ago when being a civil servant was a true sacrifice. Giving up a career in the public sector meant taking a pay cut; not any more. Now being a civil servant is the next best thing to winning the lotto.

A website, Open The Books, mission is ‘Every dime. On line. In real time’. It shows the salary of every government employee nationwide. Dr. Tom Coburn, the Honorary chairman, retired U.S. Senator from Oklahoma is quoted as saying the website “is putting sunlight through a magnifying glass”.

Illinois is broke and continues to flirt with junk bond status. But the State’s financial woes aren’t stopping 63,000 government employees from bringing home six-figure salaries and higher”. This is partly why Illinois is in trouble. Over 600 government employees in Naperville are part of that huge number. The list at the end of this posting has 640 line entries of individuals over that $100,000 benchmark. I say ‘line entries’ because some government employees are shown twice on the list. In other words, they are getting money from two different Naperville government sources.

An example of that is Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall. He’s getting $173,000 yearly from his time on the police department, and he’s hauling in another $172,000 from the City of Naperville. That equates to nearly $40 per hour around the clock; not bad for a civil servant.

Naperville city manager Doug Krieger is pocketing $187,000 per year, while assistant city manager Marcie Schatz is getting about $170,000 per year. I say ‘about’ because the numbers on the list below are from 2016, and I have rounded off the numbers to keep myself from getting dizzy looking at all these 6-digit salaries.

A Top-Ten winner on the list, is Naperville Park District Director Ray McGury coming in at #4 with $203,000. Ray must be really talented at what he does, because the only other Park District employee on the list is Kevin Finnegan coming in at #442, at about half of what McGury is taking in. This begs the question, is McGury, along with others on the list, really that talented, or is he, along with others overpaid?

The list represents the 2016 Illinois Employee Salaries exceeding $100,000. The categories are employees from:

  • Community School District 203
  • Naperville Police Department
  • City of Naperville
  • School Association For Special Education DuPage (only two employees at #627 and #635)
  • Naperville Township

The range of salaries goes from $267,049 down to $100,018. I’m guessing the person last on the list would have preferred earning $19 less per year.

Nine people you will not find on the list are Mayor Steve Chirico and the other eight city council members. Let’s see if council member compensation becomes an agenda item during an upcoming meeting.

Aug 092017
 

‘If you build it, they will come’, and if you pay for it, you can keep it. There is hope for the old, original Nichols Library building, if the current hurdles can be overcome as outlined in Watchdog’s last posting.

Things are on course for an outdoor, landscaped, office park adjacent to the Naperville Municipal Center; its name will be Naperville Jaycees Smart Park. The area, with seating and shade, will support the use of electronic equipment, including laptops, cell phones, with solar-powered USB  ports, electrical outlets, with free Wi-Fi.

The initial idea was proposed by Naperville Chamber of Commerce President Nicki Anderson, and supported by Naperville mayor Steve Chirico. Part of the goal was to entice new companies with young employees to come to Naperville. Another goal was to have it funded via donations, instead of tax dollars.

The expected cost to cover the ‘smart park’ is a little over $400,000 with the Naperville Jaycees supporting nearly half of the project with a $200,000 donation. Naperville councilman Kevin Coyne is a member of the Jaycees. Mayor Chirico made the pitch to the group, and the idea was met with enthusiasm from the Jaycees, hence the naming of the smart park. The Naperville Jaycees have been active in supporting projects in Naperville through money raised by Naperville’s Labor Day Weekend’s Last Fling. The goal is to begin the project early in 2018, and have it completed in the summer or fall.

Chirico has also figured out a way to have the maintenance of the park funded without Naperville taxpayer money. He is working on a grant for a solar plant to power the park, and the plant will produce enough electricity to create a revenue stream to pay for ongoing maintenance in the future. Additionally, the mayor is working to secure enough private funding to establish an annuity to take care of all future enhancements and repairs.

The Mayor announced the idea in his State of the City address last spring, and emphasized the caveat of using public funding, not taxpayer dollars. Now with the help of the Naperville Jaycees, along with an anonymous major donor, and various sponsors, the idea will come to fruition.

The same thing can happen with the old Nichols Library building. Preservationists want to keep the building and have it ‘brought back to life’. It all starts with an idea, and people willing to creatively make it happen.

Aug 062017
 

Occasionally the heart says one thing, and the head says something diametrically opposite. Watchdog’s last posting was written from the heart, whereas this one is coming from the head. Only time will tell which one is more correct than the other. Such was the case with the Water Street District project. Watchdog was strongly opposed to the concept, and I must admit that thus far the project has turned out awesome. That could still change as the area builds up and out, but as for now, the Water Street Project is looking pretty good.

Just as it would have been really nice to save Joe Naper’s home, it would really be wonderful to save the original Nichols Library building, but at what cost are we willing to fight to save it. Maybe it’s possible to save it without a legal fight, but only if it’s not deemed a landmark by the City of Naperville. That may sound counter-intuitive, but so does letting Obamacare collapse in order to ‘save’ the healthcare system.

One of the two individuals leading the charge to designate the original Nichols Library (ONL) as a historic landmark is Charles Wilkins; councilwoman Becky Anderson-Wilkin’s son. She is the city council liaison to the library board. Anderson is also the council liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), which will be advising the city council on the landmark status of the ONL. There is another player on the other side, Kevin Peterson. He has been on the historic preservation commission for several years. He lives in the HPC district and was recently appointed to the chair of the commission by Mayor Chirico. Peterson is also the architect of the proposed new development. As a result, he will have to recuse himself from the deliberations, but Anderson does not have to. As the liaison to the HPC, Anderson is not a voting member, however she will have a huge influence on the commission.

The first hurdle is the designation on the historical landmark status. Here comes the kicker. If the HPC advises that the city council designate ONL as a landmark without the property owner’s consent, it is a guaranteed lawsuit. Take a moment to read that last sentence again. Case law supports the City, but even if the City wins the lawsuit, it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend, and if the City loses, it will cost millions. Take a moment to re-read that last sentence also. The City of Naperville and taxpaying residents can ill-afford another lawsuit with other lawsuits currently on the runway.

Some lawsuits are simply bad luck, some are bad judgement, and some are bad policy, but none of the lawsuits were the result of the city council knowingly making a decision that would place the taxpayers at risk. If the City wants to derail the project, why put the taxpayers at risk of another lawsuit? All the city council has to do is vote ‘no’ on the variance requests and it’s over with no risk. The historic landmark status designation without the owner’s support is a train wreck waiting to happen; a total disaster.

If the preservationists of Naperville want to preserve this building they could raise the money. Our community is very resourceful, so if the community wants to save the building, it can be done. If folks are not willing to write a check or do what’s necessary to save the building, then maybe it is not that important to our residents.

If this project makes it past the landmark status issue, the next hurdle is planning and zoning, followed finally by the city council. Let’s hope that all those involved will make a wise decision.

Aug 032017
 

Ah, what to do with the old, original Nichols Library building in Naperville. My heart says one thing, and my head says something totally different. Most folks seem firmly set in one camp or the other, while I have vacillated back and forth (or is it forth and back?). Not knowing which way to go for sure on ‘posting night’ I decided to go with ‘landmarking it’ from the heart point-of-view in this posting, and following it up this weekend with the opposing point- of-view from the head.

The building is almost 120 years old, and it’s still a beautiful building from the outside. The old saying that ‘they don’t build them like this anymore’ qualifies for this building. If the building is taken down, or altered in such a way to lose it’s character, then a piece of Naperville history is gone, only to exist in pictures.

It’s story is compelling, with funding for the original library building given to the city by James Nichols, a local businessman and professor. He wanted children to have what he didn’t have, which was access to books. The library moved to its new location on Jefferson in 1986 and the building was used as a church thereafter. Now a new owner wants to convert it to a four-story building with stores, restaurants, offices and housing.

As with most people-driven actions, it only took a couple of people circulating a petition to seek landmark status for the building and now it churns its way through committees and ultimately the city council to determine its fate. I’m sure at one time or another the city of Chicago had the same situation when discussing the fate of the water tower on Michigan Avenue after the Chicago fire.

If landmark status is approved, and if the current owner decides to withdraw his plan (doubtful), then what becomes of this landmark building? Maybe a bookstore in the spirit of James Nichol’s original goal. Amazon is entering the world of ‘brick and mortar’. This would be ideal and they have the funding to make it work by restoring it on the inside.

Naperville has two downtown bookstores, and the timing of councilwoman Becky Anderson (co-owner of Anderson’s Book Store) running for congress, along with Anderson’s bookstore looking a little exhausted, couldn’t be better. Downtown Naperville could still have two bookstores. If she loses the election, she could be the manager of Amazon’s James Nichol’s Book Store.

If ‘ifs and buts’ were candy and nuts, everyday would be Christmas.

Jul 302017
 

Come on in, the beach is open and the water is fine.

If U.S. Representative Peter Roskam of the 6th District is the prey, then Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson is the latest shark to join in the feeding frenzy. Anderson announced last Thursday that she is in the race to unseat Roskam. She said she is in it to win it; well, sort of.

Anderson joins six other Democratic candidates with undoubtedly more to follow. The 6th District stretches from Crystal Lake down through West Chicago to Hinsdale. Districts are not like counties which have some semblance of recognizable shapes. Districts require a higher-degree mathematician to determine the number of square miles within a district, along with a Doctorate of Art to draw the exact district map. Part of the philosophy for politicians drawing up districts is to keep the populace guessing.

Anderson can’t lose. She either wins the election (doubtful) or she wins by staying in the Naperville city council; the district election is in 2018, and her council term ends 2019. To say she is playing it safe would be accurate. The last Naperville city council member to play it safe in an election was Grant Wehrli when he ran unopposed as a state representative.

When Anderson ran for election to the Naperville city council in 2015, she came in 4th place out of eight elected candidates. Paul Hinterlong, Patty Gustin, and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski received more votes than Anderson. Coming in 4th place in the Democratic primary won’t work for her this time. For those of you satisfied with her performance on the Naperville city council, rest assured she will be on the council at least until 2019. For the rest of us, her defeat in the primary is a mixed blessing; good news that she is not moving on to a position with more impact, but not-so-good news that she will continue her ineffective presence on the council.

Prior to being elected to the city council, Anderson was on the city’s Special Events and Cultural Amenities (SECA) Commission, which means that part of her responsibility was to select which groups, money should be given to, hence making her a perfect fit for a Democratic primary. Most likely part of her platform will be the acceleration of entitlement and pushing for sanctuary cities.

If Anderson loses in the primary (the smart money is on that happening) she will not be losing as Becky Anderson. Very cleverly, she is using the name Becky Anderson Wilkins, hence councilwoman Becky Anderson will be able to say that ‘Becky Anderson’ never lost a Democratic primary. You’ve got to hand it to her;  even she wants to distance herself from herself.

Come on in, the beach is open and the water is fine.

Jul 272017
 

What was once unusual, is now usual; another lawsuit against the City of Naperville. Attorneys at all levels of government are busy defending accusations. On the Federal level it’s Russian collusion with President Trump,  on the State level it’s politicians trying to stay out of the slammer, and on the local level city attorneys are busy justifying incompetence, the results of terrible policy, or sometimes accidents in the truest sense.

The most recent lawsuit filed against the City occurred on July 13. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a 73-yearl old Naperville woman who was killed in a tragic accident on the evening of April 8 after she left a church service and was returning home.

Phyllis Manderson was driving northbound on Ogden and turned left (west) onto Feldott and her vehicle was struck by a Naperville police vehicle heading southbound at a high rate of speed estimated at 68 mph in a 40 mph zone while attempting to catch up to a driver who was allegedly looking at a cellphone.

A terrible accident indeed, but one that may have been avoidable. Supposedly the Naperville police officer had not yet engaged the squad car’s siren or emergency lights prior to impact. Had those actions taken place, it’s very possible Manderson would have noticed and then not made the turn. Witnesses supposedly told investigators from from the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office that they ‘believed’ Manderson did not yield the right-of-way to the police vehicle.

Now it goes to court, the details will be sorted out, and a ruling will be made in time. As is the case all the time with Naperville city officials, they don’t comment on details of a lawsuit that they suppossedly haven’t seen, then when it goes to court, they have no comment because it’s in litigation, and when litigation is complete they have no comment if they lose the case. If they win the case, then they are willing to tell anybody and everybody in every communication mode possible.

It’s tragic for everybody directly involved, the victim and her family, the police officer, and the officer’s family, and all those who know those involved. The definition of ‘accident’ is ‘an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury’.  This situation truly qualifies.

Jul 232017
 

It all happened this week. Bill Clinton cleared Hillary of any wrong doing, the Naperville Police Department cleared Naperville North High School police officer of any wrong doing, and OJ Simpson cleared his reputation by getting paroled. Just keep moving folks, there’s nothing to see here. If Clinton, the NPD, and OJ said it, it must be true.

As much as Naperville city officials want to say it’s over, it’s far from over. ‘It’ being the lawsuit resulting from the suicide of 16-year old, Naperville North student, Corey Walgren. There are so many terrible facets to this story, that it has caught the attention of a country-wide audience from ‘fair and balanced’ Fox News to ‘fake news’ CNN. This is one story that both Fox and CNN can agree.

Watchdog first posted the story June 4 (From Bad, To Worse, To Tragic), with a follow-up posting June 17 calling for Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall to resign(Sometimes It’s Time To Go, Now is the Time). This past week, there was a tragic shooting in Minneapolis by a police officer, when he killed an Australian woman who had called 911 to report an assault. Within a few days the police chief resigned.

In a nutshell, young Corey Walgren meet with a high school dean of students, and high school police officer to discuss a potential serious situation. He was left alone for a brief period of time, and it was during that time that Corey left the high school, walked to downtown Naperville and took his own life by jumping from the fifth floor of a parking garage.

Now the story has gone from tragic to disgusting. Just this last Wednesday (July 19) word came out that the Naperville Police Department completed an internal investigation as did Naperville School District 203 clearing both the police officer and dean of any wrong doing, based on the ‘fact’ that both were following established rules.

That’s it. Over with. Both the NPD and District 203 absolved of any responsibility. This posting has chosen not to include the names of the police officer and high school dean, not because the names are not out in public, but because both have been through enough already. They are good people, they didn’t intend for this to happen. This is tragic for them, along with every person touched by this situation.

For the bureaucratic City of Naperville, school district, and police department, to wash their hands of any responsibility is outrageous. If ‘rules and policies’ were followed, then the rules and policies are horribly flawed and the City, school district, and NPD need to be held accountable, not the individuals following the flawed policy.

A good kid is dead. 16-years old, that’s two times an 8-year old. The NPD said the kid was never in custody, so he could have left the ‘meeting’. That’s supposed absolve them of any responsibility. Do they really think Corey knew he had that option, of course not. I’m in my 7th decade of life and I didn’t know that was an option. And if Corey knew it, or I knew it, neither of us would have abruptly walked out of the ‘meeting’, because it would have been disrespectful to the officer and the dean.

All the people involved in this tragic story are ‘losers’, they have all lost something, some far more than others, while the bureaucratic monolithic structures (City of Naperville and School District) consider themselves just like O.J. with no accountability and no responsibility.

Jul 202017
 

Until now, the State of Illinois hasn’t had a budget since 2015. Illinois was about to enter its third year without a budget, until Illinois politicians decided to borrow more money to keep Illinois afloat. That would be like an alcoholic solving his problem by drinking more alcohol.

Illinois’ time without a budget coincided with former Naperville city council member Grant Wehrli’s term in office as as a member of Illinois House of Representatives when his term began in 2015. Wehrli was an eight-year member of the Naperville city council from 2006 through 2014. Many say that when Wehrli left the council and became an Illinois House Representative that he simultaneously raised the collective average IQ of the Naperville city council while lowering the collective average IQ of Illinois House of Representatives. That may be a bit harsh, but by all accounts appears accurate.

Wehrli’s list of accomplishments as a member of the Naperville city council is short at best, and non-existent at worst and he hasn’t fared any better in Springfield. In a nutshell, is there anything more useless in Illinois politics, than Republican Grant Wehrli in Illinois’ House of Representatives. Can anyone think of one accomplishment he has achieved? Anyone? Is there anything more useless than spending gas on sending Wehrli back and forth from Naperville to Springfield?

The ‘Wehrli’ name in Naperville is well known. There is a saying that “the first generation creates it, the second generation builds it, and the third generation squanders it”.  Based on Grant Wehrli’s actions in Naperville and Springfield, he is the poster boy for ‘third generation’.

He didn’t do himself any favors, nor Republicans, or the good folks of Naperville, when he was recently admonished on the House floor for being disrespectful to House Speaker Michael Madigan. I’m not a Madigan fan, however Madigan’s position as Speaker of the House deserves proper decorum on the part of Wehrli. No one has ever accused Grant Wehrli of being cool under pressure. When problems arise, Wehrli has a gift for becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

It might be time for Grant Wehrli to find something more useful to do, for himself, and the good folks of the district he is supposed to be representing, because what he is doing is surely not working.

Jul 162017
 

If the City of Naperville legal department was a Major League Baseball team, or an NFL team, they would be the Philadelphia Phillies or the Chicago Bears; they don’t win very often. It’s not necessarily the legal department’s fault because by the time they get a case to defend, Naperville city officials have typically lost the case through their action or inaction.

It happened again with a class-action lawsuit against the City which was recently settled. It involved the City of Naperville charging residents and business for services which the City did not render. Watchdog initially posted the article titled “Naperville charging for services not provided” on  (12-13-15) when the City was caught red-handed with their hand in the cookie jar, by charging for refuse pick-up, when in fact those residents and businesses had contracted with a separate vendor for the service, and were not using the city’s vendor.

Watchdog again posted “City of Naperville Slapped with Class-Action Lawsuit” on (5-14-16) when the City was slapped with the class-action lawsuit after attempting to cover-up their dirty deed. Rather than owning-up and taking responsibility for the ‘scam’ they attempted to obfuscate the situation which resulted in the lawsuit. The lawsuit did not have to happen if city officials would have played it straight, but in their effort to save a few bucks they decided to foolishly allow it to go to court, resulting in a seven-figure settlement (if you count the two zeros behind the decimal point).

Again, it’s not Naperville city officials money (it’s the taxpayers) so they don’t mind squandering it. How many times have we heard Naperville city council members refer to multiple-numbers of thousands as a “small amount”.

Watchdog’s third posting about the class-action “Naperville Overcharging for Trash Pick-up Results in Lost Revenue” came on (6-29-16). Naperville city officials have a formula they use for avoiding answering questions. First when word of their misdeed comes out, they answer by saying they have no comment because they have not seen the complaint. Then when it gets to court, they say, they have no comment because it’s in litigation. Then when the case is finalized, they say they have no comment because they are restricted in commenting by agreement in the settlement. If that formula doesn’t work, then city officials refer to Rule #1 which is ‘deny, deny, deny’.

A few years ago, the City of Naperville had a hiring freeze and reduced the number of city employees by not back-filling open positions. The one department which was least effected was the legal department, and in fact experienced an increase in people-power (pre-PC was known as manpower). It appears city officials would prefer dealing with problems after they are out-of-control by giving it to the legal department, rather than dealing with the problem while it’s still solve-able. The thought must be that there’s no sense in having city attorneys sitting around doing nothing. Another example of socially acceptable non-productive behavior on the part of city officials.

Maybe it’s time for the City to hire one really quality person who can review issues before they become out-of-control fires. Someone with common sense. Someone who sees the value in saving or spending a dollar early, rather than wasting thousands later.