Feb 262017
 

Sooner or later it had to happen, the idea of Naperville as a sanctuary city. It’s been circling around the city like a beat-up, nasty, ping pong ball circling in a toilet bowl that’s just been flushed. Watch and listen as a resident (Anthony Castagnoli) from somewhere throws the topic at the Naperville city council:

He references CNN, the culprit in ‘fake news’, and Civics 101 as the basis for resisting the Trump train. With all due respect to Anthony, he probably would have benefited from also taking a class in Civics 102. We applaud his right to state his position, and the courage to do so.

This was followed by Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson’s response to the speaker and anyone listening:

We have a Naperville city council member, other than councilman Kevin Coyne, willing to take a stand, even it if means losing her council seat, which most likely would happen. While most other Naperville council members and candidates beat around the bush, and are wishy-washy about using the name ‘Naperville’ and the words “sanctuary city” in the same sentence, councilwoman Anderson is willing to “welcome all” to Naperville, though she did give herself a little wiggle room by tacking on the words “more symbolic than anything”. However her sentiment is clear, bring them in (to Naperville) one and all.

Councilwoman Anderson takes Emma Lazarus’s quote associated with the Statue of Liberty, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free….” and by her use of the word “all” adds a few more folks to the group including felons, and as President Trump states, “some really bad dudes”.

Naperville councilman John Krummen is leaning towards Anderson’s position when he stated during the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation Forum for candidates that he supports “our police not being actively involved in helping the Federal authorities rounding-up illegal immigrants”. What is so difficult to understand about the meaning of the word ‘illegal’?

It appears Krummen would echo the words of speaker Anthony Castagnoli who said “local law enforcement should not be engaged in seeking out people suspected of a crime in regards to being documented or not”.

Could Naperville become a sanctuary city? It just takes five of nine to approve the idea. Right now the vote looks like two most likely in favor, one against (Coyne) and six remaining silent…nothing but crickets.

Would Naperville remain a sanctuary city? If President Trump holds true to his position, and there is no reason why he wouldn’t based on his first month in office, Naperville city officials would fold like a bad lawn chair and cave in to the the almighty dollar, when the Federal money grab pipeline drys up.

Feb 222017
 

The last time we saw Naperville resident, Mr. Ron Keller (February 7) , he was pleading his case in front of the Naperville city council regarding the high cost of living in Naperville, and specifically the sky-rocketing electric rates.

Since that time, the City of Naperville responded to Mr. Keller’s tale of woe very quickly and helped him by explaining why he is using more electric than he needs, and then the city exceeded expectations by checking his water meter and determining it needed to be replaced, thereby saving him even more money.

Good things can happen for residents when they address the city council in person. It also helps when they do it just prior to an election.

Feb 192017
 

In just 44 days we will know which four of the eight Naperville city council candidates will transition from being a candidate to becoming a member of the Naperville city council. On February 8, the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation hosted a forum for candidates to express their positions on a number of issues including:

  • 5th Avenue development
  • Utility rates
  • Housing vouchers
  • Opioid crisis
  • Ogden avenue corridor
  • Sanctuary city status
  • Affordable housing
  • Parking on Washington street
  • Reducing footprint of Naperville government
  • Home rule sales tax
  • Candidate election budget

Watchdog ranked the candidates 1 through 8 based on results by a very informal focus group of 10 people (out of the area) with strong people-skills, who were unfamiliar with all the candidates, hence making it a more level playing field. Their backgrounds were varied, including recruiting, management, financial, home maker, executive, energy, out-of-state council member, communications, human resource, and public relations. Watchdog did not participate in the rankings, but will endorse four candidates by mid-March. The grading scale went from:

Grading Scale
Letter Grade Number Grade
A+ 7
A 6
A- 5
B+ 4
B 3
B- 2
C+ 1
C 0
C- -1
D+ -2
D -3
D- -4
F+ -5
F -6
F- -7

Candidates were also graded on their opening and closing statements. Each candidate was given a composite grade/score based on the average of the ten focus group members. Each candidate’s total score was determined with a possible high score of 91 (13 X 7), and a possible low score of -91 (13 X -7). Straight C’s would have provided a total score of zero (13 X 0).

All eight candidates scored above average with a range of 64 down to 5. The candidates ranked as followed:

Rank Candidate Totals
1 Coyne 64
2 Isaac 62
3 Gallaher 36
4 White 33
5 Berkowicz 32
6 Strick 27
7 Brodhead 18
8 Krummen 5

Observations:

If the election was based on the above results, two incumbents would be re-elected (Coyne and Gallaher), and two new council members would be elected (Isaac and White) replacing Judy Brodhead and John Krummen.

Both Berkowicz and Strick would be close to breaking into the top four, not far behind Gallaher and White for city council inclusion.

Brodhead’s and Krummen’s closing statements focused on accomplishments of the city council, rather than their own contributions toward the accomplishments, while Coyne listed his accomplishments on the council, Gallaher focused on values, White on issues, Strick on personal achievement, Isaac focused on vision, and Berkowicz added a personalized touch.

The three issues garnering the best cumulative average scores (answers) were:

  1. Candidate election budget
  2. Parking on Washington St.
  3. Housing vouchers

The three issues garnering the worst cumulative average scores (answers) were:

  1. Sanctuary city status
  2. Ogden avenue corridor
  3. Opioid crisis

Best opening statements were by Brodhead, Coyne, and Isaac.

Best closing statements were by Coyne, Isaac, and Gallaher.

Watchdog asked each member of the focus group for one, two, or three-word impressions of each candidate during the forum. Considering perception is reality, the following are descriptions (perception) of each candidate:

Julie Berkowicz

Supportive, cooperates with others, good listener, respectful, thoughtful, amiable, self-critical, helpful, friendly, innovator, open-minded, approachable, team player, takes partners, keeps it simple, sincere.

Judy Brodhead

Read opening statement, listed council accomplishment not hers, makes tentative statements, bland, past-oriented, conforming, wishy-washy, agreeable, indecisive, reactive, team player, goes off on tangents, flaky, time-waster, low-end performer, stays in comfort zone, follower, little initiative, over-matched, blends in, embraces diversity.

Kevin Coyne

Organized, pragmatic, assertive, can-do attitude, driver, focused, business-like, expressionless, controlled, time-disciplined, monotone, fact oriented, alliance builder, action-oriented, practical, abrupt, direct, prepared, trustworthy, collaborates, problem-solver, drives change, communicates clearly, to-the-point, negotiates win-win solutions, critical thinker, prioritizes, keeps it simple, incorporates common sense.

Kevin Gallaher

Read opening statement, thinker, informal and casual, stuffy, disorganized, complacent, lacking passion, relaxed, non-pretentious, promotes inclusion, anticipates ripple effect of decisions, thrifty.

Mike Isaac

Clearly stated platform, confident, energetic, good eye contact, spoke of his vision, expressive, animated, high quality verbal communication, stimulating, fast paced, future oriented, ingratiating, persistent, orderly, creative, independent, decisive, goal oriented, courageous, loyal, resilient, adaptable, communicates effectively, engages, inspiring, strong bias for action.

John Krummen

Analytical, shifty, intermittent eye contact, slow-moving, data-focused, lacking confidence, unsure, awkward, serious, harsh, cold, distant, overly cautious, manipulative, scowling, curious, values diversity, gives recognition, ill-at-ease, contemplates, current with information, challenges assumptions.

Mike Strick

Read opening statement, impulsive, demanding, strong-willed, vague, passionate, determined, obtains commitment, gives credit to others, shares personal experience, common sense, delegates, strong, forceful, fiscally conservative.

Benny White

Military background, amiable, task oriented, approachable, industrious, accountable, maximize productivity, good eye contact, comfortable with himself, respectful, honest, looks beyond the obvious.

The two-hour forum allowed each candidate approximately 15 minutes each, which is not much time, however that allows ten focus-group members a total of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to evaluate each candidate making the number of impressions quite reasonable.

A big ‘thank you’ goes out to the ten focus-group members for investing their time and helping Watchdog to make this possible.

Candidates
Item # – Category Berkowicz Brodhead Coyne Gallaher Isaac Krummen Strick White AVERAGES
1 – Opening statement -3 6 6 3 6 1 0 4 2.9
2 – 5th Ave. development 3 3 4 1 6 0 4 0 2.6
3 – Utility rates 5 0 5 3 3 2 2 2 2.8
4 – Housing vouchers 5 -1 7 0 7 0 7 6 3.9
5 – Opioid crisis 3 2 1 2 3 -2 3 -1 1.4
6 – Ogden Ave. corridor -2 -1 4 -1 5 -3 3 -1 0.5
7 – Sanctuary city status 4 -4 2 0 5 -5 -4 4 0.3
8 – Affordable housing 0 0 5 4 3 -3 2 1 1.5
9 – Parking on Washington St. 5 4 6 5 5 4 3 5 4.6
10 – Reduce footprint of Naperville government 5 -3 7 3 4 4 -3 4 2.6
11 – Home rule sales tax 0 4 6 5 5 4 1 3 3.5
12 – Candidate election budget 5 5 5 7 5 6 6 4 5.4
13 – Closing statement 2 3 6 4 5 -3 3 2 2.8
TOTALS 32 18 64 36 62 5 27 33 2.7
Feb 162017
 

Have you ever noticed, when you’re driving in downtown Naperville, you’re dealing with idiot pedestrians, but then if you’re lucky enough to find a place to park, you become a pedestrian dealing with idiot drivers. Well now Naperville is trying to help drivers and pedestrians at the same time, not an easy task, especially when both efforts appear to be working against each other.

In the recent Naperville Survey, residents again considered traffic congestion and parking to be the number one issue of dissatisfaction. It was also the top concern during the last resident survey, and it will probably be the same #1 troublesome concern when the next resident survey rolls around.

Naperville’s Department of Transportation, Engineering, and Development (TED) has been busy trying to figure out ways to lessen traffic congestion, increase parking, and improve the flow of traffic, especially in the downtown area.

At the same time Naperville’s Downtown Advisory Committee has been busy working on designing a more appealing streetscape plan with new, long-lasting sidewalks, corner improvements, adding benches, and other amenities, including widening sidewalks for outdoor restaurant seating, and more room for pedestrians to do what they do best, which is walking with shopping bags. The problem is that if you’re going to widen the sidewalks, you’re going to lessen street-space for vehicles to navigate, or reduce parking, or both. So which is it for city officials, helping pedestrians or drivers? They can’t do both, or can they?

Chicago figured out a way in 1909 to address the problem when they ‘finished’ lower Wacker Drive in 1926. Of course, as we know, it’s never really finished, just updated. But you have to give Chicago credit for being ‘ahead of the curve’ (pun intended) with traffic flow and congestion.

Chicago did it from below with traffic, while cities like Des Moines and Minneapolis did it from above with sky-walks for pedestrians. It took Des Moines 118 years from its incorporation date (1851) until its first sky-walk in 1969 to open. It’s pretty cool (actually warm) to leave the warmth of your home, to drive to downtown Des Moines, park in a heated garage, walk through a sky-walk to your office or for shopping or having a meal without the need to wear a coat in the middle of February.

Maybe city officials could create a downtown vehicle ordinance similar to what they did for watering restrictions. If your address is an even number, you can water on even-numbered days, odd-numbered addresses can water on odd-numbered days. The same could be done with driving a vehicle in downtown Naperville; it would depend if your license plate ended in an even or odd number. Signs could be posted when entering the downtown area, much like signs posting weight limits for trucks in certain areas. Yes, it would require that drivers know the last number of their plate and date, but drivers should be required to put a little effort into venturing downtown.

Or what about the idea of turning the middle dividing line between lanes, into a very narrow walkway for pedestrians to walk single-file, heel-to-toe. It could be considered Naperville’s version of the ‘pedestrian fast lane’.

Feb 122017
 

It’s like an earthquake with constant after-shocks. A horrible decision by Naperville city officials to enter into an agreement as a member of the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA) in 2007. At the time it seemed like a good idea to a few (city officials and council members), but others spoke up against the idea, only to be ridiculed, mocked, and chastised for not supporting what has turned out to be dreadful decision.

The decision for Naperville to purchase its power from IMEA’s Prairie State Energy Campus downstate has caused Naperville’s electric rates to skyrocket. Naperville is ten years into the devastating agreement (are you sitting down) with another 18 years to go. Yes, that’s until the year 2035. It appears a couple of downstate Illinois yahoo’s took the city slickers from Naperville behind the coal shed, sold them a bill of goods, locked them in to a 35 year contract, and sent them back to Naperville to extol the deal.  A bad deal indeed for the rate payers.

In 2014, electric rates were increased by 6%, followed by 7% in 2015, 8.3% in 2016, 3.6% this year, 3.6% next year, followed by another 17 years of hefty electric rate increases.

Mr. Keller will be at the tender age of 95 when this bad deal is over.

Fast forward to 2012 when the City of Naperville dragged electric rate payers into another bad deal, when city officials forcefully had Smart Meters installed on homes and businesses with the promise that rate payers would save money on their electric bills. To date, not one dime has been saved by anybody. My not-so-smart meter was installed January 24, 2013, and I have yet to see a penny’s worth of savings.

Two city council members involved in that fiasco are running for re-election; Judy Brodhead, and John Krummen. Brodhead was on the city council and voted ‘yes’ for the non-saving meters, and John Krummen was an ‘Ambassador’ for the meters. In other words, he was a mouthpiece telling the fine folks of Naperville how they would save money. A question each should be asked during their run for re-election is, “Regarding your support of smart-meters, where are the savings on our electric bills, that you clearly said would occur?”

Council members Krummen and Brodhead were either naive, or lied to rate payers, neither of which are favorable for re-election. Naperville deserves better.

Feb 092017
 

They said it couldn’t happen, and it did. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Then just six days later, something else that couldn’t happen happened; Trump was elected President. Based on that, since Utah is the Bee Hive state, why couldn’t Naperville become the bee hive capital of the world. Somebody has to do it, so why not Naperville?

This probably wouldn’t even be a thought, if it wasn’t for the Naperville city council making an issue of something that hadn’t been an issue in Naperville for over 185 years of existence. You ask, ‘how did this become an issue’? The answer is simple. One resident, that’s one as in one, complained to a city council member that bees were making it difficult for birds to get water from her bird bath. Oh, what a great city we live in, when that is considered an issue to be regulated.

The council member, who’s name rhymes with ‘Anderson’ rather than dealing with the ‘issue’ one on one with the resident and putting the ‘issue’ to rest, decided to stoke the flame of discontent, and bring the ‘pressing issue’ to the council for lengthy bantering between council members, leading to the type of action that council members live for, which is regulating something that was never regulated in 185 years.

They decided to limit the number of hives on a normal size lot to three, and issuing a few more restrictions including the distance a hive must be from the lot line, and the height of the fence needed to contain the bees. Bees aren’t dumb, they are still going to cross over a lot line, fly above a fence, and enjoy water from a bird bath along with the birds. The birds and the bees have been a topic of discussion for years with no problem.

The council’s action, along with more and more people becoming aware of the plight against bees, has stirred interest among residents to try their hand at beekeeping. Now here is where it gets exciting. Let your mind just think of the possibilities. The average bee hive has 25,000 bees. With a maximum of 3 hives per lot, that’s 75,000 bees per lot. Let’s conservatively say there are 13,000 lots in Naperville. If everybody became involved in beekeeping, minus the resident who complained, that’s one billion bees. Think of the amount of honey Naperville could produce. Think of the number of blooming flowers we could have. Which would, of course, then give the city council an opportunity to regulate the number of flowers a resident can have in their yard. Council members would be ecstatic.

Now I know this is a stretch, but just imagine if bees could be trained to fly late at night, like homing pigeons. Imagine 1 billion bees being dispatched to downtown Naperville at 1am to clear out a crowd of over-served, trouble-makers. Bingo, another problem solved. Don’t say it can’t happen. Science just hasn’t figured out a way to make it happen.

Still don’t think it’s possible. Spring training starts in just a few weeks for the World Champion Cubs, and President Trump is staying up late and getting up early to Make America Great Again.

Feb 052017
 

It looks like the battle of four mayors against one resident will be won by the politicians, with a little help from the court system. This comes as no surprise. The saying, “you can’t fight city hall. and win” exists for a reason, and the reason is that typically politicians win and residents lose. And if you add the court system into the equation, then put your money on politicians winning.

This appears to be what’s happening with a resident’s effort to have a referendums placed on the April 4 ballot for the annexation of Lisle, Warrenville, and Woodridge into the city of Naperville.

The resident along with his/her attorney have put up a good battle by cleverly finding a path in Illinois law for having the question presented to residents for an up or down vote on the ballot. Mayors Joe Broda of Lisle, David Brummer of Warrenville, and Gina Cunningham of Woodridge have been profusely sweating beads in absolute fear of losing their stranglehold of local power which is what would happen if the referendum makes it to the ballot and a relatively small percentage of voters approved the annexation. The chance of voters approving the referendum is slim, but very possible. The chance of the referendum making it to the ballot is even slimmer and next to impossible.

The odds weren’t good enough for the politicians, so enter the court system which can either can say ‘no’ to the referendum or more likely, wait so long to make a decision, that it’s impossible to have enough time to get the referendum on the ballot, which gives the politicians victory by default. Oops no time left. Sorry.

The final date for finalizing the election ballots has passed, according to Ken Menzel, legal council for the Illinois State Board of Elections. It takes time to get everything in order for the ballot, hence the hard deadline. Military and absentee ballots have to be sent out, on or about by February 17. The petitioner (resident) had until Feb 1 to respond to the motion for dismissal. The mayors then have until this Monday February 6 to respond to the resident’s response, with the next hearing by the court scheduled for this Wednesday February 8.

The bottom line, as Beulah the long distance operator would say in the old days, ‘your time is up’. Hence the politician’s strategy to delay, delay, delay, worked with the help from the court system. As my 98-year old uncle would say to me when we were playing cards (rummy), “it’s hard to beat the guy with the pencil”. The court had the pencil.

The outcome of this situation comes as no surprise. The politicians won the battle (referendum), however the politicians lost the war; their proclaimed desire for government consolidation.

This is where Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico comes into play. He has been an outstanding flag carrier and bugle boy for the importance of consolidating government. However when push came to shove he missed an outstanding opportunity to say, “we (the mayors) should at least look at the viability of doing this (annexation)”. But he didn’t. Even if he didn’t want the annexation, or if he knew it wouldn’t happen (court delay), he could have ‘appeared’ to be open-minded to the possible benefit. In essence his words and his actions were compromised. Now when he carries the government-consolidation flag, it’s not quite as big, and when he blows the government-consolidation bugle, it’s not quite as loud; in fact, it’s out of tune.

Feb 022017
 

The results from the City of Naperville’s Survey Report, have been gathered, totaled, certified, and now available in a 143 page report. It comprises almost everything you would want to know about how residents view their fine city. All sorts of bar graphs and pie charts depicting beautiful colors.

For the most part, the report implies things are hunky dory in Joe Naper’s city by the river, and frankly they are pretty good even though 6% of the folks think otherwise. Now 6% isn’t much, however with an election coming up in 61 days on April 4, just a small portion of that 6% can make or break a candidate for city council, especially an incumbent.

This election has four incumbents up for re-election including, Judith Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, John Krummen, and Kevin Gallaher. Incumbents tend to like the status quo, keeping things as they are, which means keeping themselves in office.

This year’s survey results show that the same top issues bothering residents now, are the same top issues annoying residents when the last survey in 2012 was conducted including,

  • Flow of traffic and congestion management
  • Public transportation services
  • Visibility of police in neighborhoods and retail areas

Other areas of displeasure and concern by Naperville residents included:

  • Overall value of electric utility rates
  • Maintenance of street signs, pavements, and markings
  • Overall value for water rates
  • Curbside bulk leaf removal service
  • Household hazardous waste disposal services

Another area of interest included ‘Perceptions of Safety’. Categories included:

  • In your neighborhood during the day
  • In your neighborhood at night
  • In downtown Naperville before 10pm
  • In downtown after 10pm
  • In commercial and retail areas
  • At train stations
  • In city parking garages
  • In your children’s school
  • Areas of assembly (worship, sporting events, etc)

Even though residents felt safe in each of the above, the area of feeling least safe was downtown Naperville after 10pm, twice as unsafe as city parking garages, and four times as unsafe than in their own neighborhoods at night.

Most interesting observation about the survey was that in a 143 page report, and hundreds of categories, with a thousand or more possible answers, there was not one question about how residents view and feel about city officials including the city council, the mayor, and the city manager.

One could say, that the ultimate survey about their effectiveness comes at election time, which is correct, however the city manager is not an elected position. Also if city officials really wanted a “mid-year” grade on their image by residents, wouldn’t a few questions about themselves be included in the survey? Apparently not.

Which gets us back to ‘status quo’. Politicians like to hear about change, unless change involves them.