Apr 292017
 

Much of Watchdog’s material comes directly from Naperville city council meetings. There is nothing better than seeing and hearing it directly from city council members via a video clip. When Watchdog first started in December of 2010 through about 2012, I would attend meetings. The advantage in doing that was being able to see the entire council, not just whomever is speaking, as is the case on TV or online. A lot of things can happen that you can’t see without being there, including non-verbal communication, council members ignoring speakers, and a couple of council members dozing off during the meeting. By not going to the meetings, I have missed those classic moments. However by watching meetings from the comfort of my home, has allowed me not to be distracted by bobbing heads of people also dozing off, sitting in front of me in the audience.

If city councils were described in flavors of ice cream, this Naperville city council would be vanilla; bland to the point of being unremarkable. Previous councils filled with characters would be Neapolitan or Chunky Monkey. They definitely kept viewers awake, and there was no loss of material for Watchdog.

I like to think that I see and hear most of what’s being said during meetings, but recently it was brought to my attention by a Napervillian, who never misses a meeting, that councilwoman Patty Gustin has a serious case of the ‘blahs’. I re-watched her portions of the last meeting, and sure enough there it was, when Gustin was commenting on passing an ordinance approving temporary use of property:

Then again, less than a minute later:

And again when discussing Naperville’s procurement code:

How could I have missed that, along with all the other times Gustin in previous meetings had the ‘blahs’. It dawned on me that I have a serious case of the ‘Patty Gustins’. I had become impervious to her comments because they either made no sense, or they really made no sense.

Apparently Gustin has the ‘blahs’ because even she is not interested in what she is saying. Or could it be that if ‘the devil is in the details’, then maybe ‘the devil is in the blahs’. I think it’s the former.

I realize it would be difficult if not impossible for councilwoman Gustin to recover from the ‘blahs’, but possibly she could substitute it with the “yada yada’s”.

Apr 272017
 

In Watchdog’s April 20 posting, “Ricky Bobby Says If Your Not First, You’re Last“, Watchdog was caught with an inaccuracy by none other than the mayor of Naperville, Steve Chirico. I like to say ‘inaccuracy’ when it applies to me, but when it applies to someone else, well then, they are flat out wrong. You can call that a double-standard, which is exactly what it is.

The posting was about Naperville being selected as the second best city in the U.S, in which to live. This was determined by a number of factors including survey of 397 reviews, of which two people rated Naperville as a ‘terrible’ place to live. I mentioned that the two people had probably just opened their electric bills prior to answering the survey. In fairness to me, that could be true, but that’s not what the mayor caught me on.

I also said, “Naperville will probably come in second place (Ann Arbor was first) for the next 28 years, the amount of time remaining on the horrendous electric utility contract hanging over Naperville like a bad three-piece suit.” Again, that could also be true, however Mayor Chirico did not call me out on that one either.

Mayor Chirico did call me out when I said, “Maybe Naperville should focus on Ann Arbor to see what they are doing that we could be doing better. My guess is that it’s the electric bill”, meaning that Ann Arbor’s electric rates were lower than Naperville’s. The mayor jumped on that like white on rice when he said, “Ann Arbor’s electric rates are significantly higher than Naperville…and as it turns out, the national average, which is just slightly below what Naperville residents pay”. Mayor Chirico not only said it, he verified it with the following link:

http://www.electricitylocal.com/states/michigan/ann-arbor/

Oops, Watchdog’s guess was flat out wrong and the mayor had the smoking gun to prove it.

Naperville’s residential electric rates are 10.16 cents / kWh. Ann Arbor’s residential rates are 14.13 cents / kWh.

Naperville’s commercial and industrial electric rates are also lower than Ann Arbor’s rates.

The bottom line is that Watchdog was wrong. Naperville pays less for electric than Ann Arbor. However, that still begs the question, why did Ann Arbor rate first, while Naperville came in second place? It could be that traffic flow is better in Ann Arbor, or it could be that the Big Ten football team in Ann Arbor would be a slight favorite against Naperville’s North Central team.

Considering Watchdog was wrong about the electric rates, I’ll give it another guess, it’s sesame seed bagels. More seeds in Ann Arbor than in Naperville. Let’s see if the mayor can disprove that one.

Apr 222017
 

City officials  really wanted Caterpillar to choose Naperville as its global headquarters, but when the dust settled, Deerfield was the choice. Naperville came in somewhere between second and last place, again confirming that if you’re not first, you’re as good as last.

This must have been a bitter pill for Naperville city officials to swallow, considering that just this month, Naperville was chosen as the second best city in which to live. Last Wednesday Caterpillar released a news announcement stating Deerfield ‘gives our employees many options to live in either an urban or suburban environment’. Isn’t that what the second best city in the country also offers?

The announcement went on to state, ‘Deerfield was chosen because of it is approximately a 20-minute drive to O’Hare and convenient to Chicago via commuter train’. Naperville is also convenient to Chicago via commuter train, and it’s only a 35 minute drive to O’Hare (25 miles versus 16 miles from Deerfield). Is that 9 mile and 15 minute difference really the determining factor. Seems unlikely, and if it is, then why wouldn’t Caterpillar choose Mt. Prospect, Des Plaines, or Park Ridge, all of which are closer to O’Hare than Deerfield, and available to Chicago via train.

It is possible that Deerfield put a full court press on Caterpillar showing the ‘love’ that Naperville didn’t show. One of the problems in being chosen the second best city to live in, is complacency, resting on it laurels.

Naperville provided Caterpillar with an information folder highlighting the advantages that Naperville has to offer, as if Caterpillar is like a family owned bakery, Caterpillar is not a family owned bakery, and maybe Naperville city officials should have elevated its game and proven to Caterpillar that Naperville is working hard and smart to become the best city in which to live and work, and why Naperville is the better choice for companies to call home.

At a recent Naperville city council meeting, city officials went all-out by placing little replicas of Caterpillar equipment on the dais.

 

The little tiny one was placed in front of Naperville city manager, Doug Krieger; definitely not worthy of Krieger’s position, or of Caterpillar’s size.

Maybe what Naperville city officials could have done to emphasize its desire to be the home for Caterpillar would have been to do what former Mayor Pradel did to a Naperville building that he didn’t like,

except in this case the mayor and council members could have beat the livin’ daylights out of a small John Deere tractor. If you’re going to come in second or last place, you might was well make it memorable and do it with gusto.

Apr 202017
 

When I heard that Naperville was ranked the second best city to live in, the first question I had was, who was ranked first. No doubt that coming in second place is pretty good unless your Hillary Clinton, in a heavyweight championship fight, or interviewing for a job.

Naperville is a wonderful city and I am happy to have been a resident for the last 39 years. Could it be better? Of course it could. If better is possible, then good is not enough. That’s the hope for each city council election; to elect the best candidates, thereby improving the collective group. Obviously, city leadership has done a far better than average job over the years in planning Naperville’s growth. However the good folks of Naperville, are the real strength of the city.

These so-called ‘best’ lists are fickle. It wasn’t that long ago that Naperville wasn’t even the best city within a 7 mile radius of the municipal center; Bolingbrook was given that honor. Now Naperville is the second best city in the United States. How does that happen, and who creates these lists. Maybe someday we will see an expose on CBS’s 60-Minutes, how this works, but until then we have to go with it.

This particular list was created by Niche, a company that ranks cities and towns and looks at public schools, crime, employment opportunities, cost of living index, and general amenities. Apparently carjackings didn’t carry much weight, nor did the number of law suits, and class actions against the city account for much. Niche evaluated over 200 cities and 15,000 plus towns; that is a lot of evaluating.

The company scrutinized the results of 397 Naperville reviews. 111 people rated the city as ‘excellent’, 187 said it was ‘very good’, 91 said Naperville was average, 6 said it was a ‘poor’ choice for living, and two folks said Naperville was a ‘terrible’ place to live. I’m guessing the two that said Naperville was terrible, had just opened their electric bills prior to Niche’s survey.

Who remembers second place anyway? Who was the second best horse to the last Triple Crown winner? Who came in second place in the last Naperville mayoral election? OK, that’s an easy one, the same guy who always came in second place…it was what’s his name, yes that’s it, it was him.

Ricky Bobby says, ‘if you’re not first, you’re last’.

Naperville councilman John ‘Johnny’ may agree with Ricky Bobby.

So which city came in first place? It was Ann Arbor, Michigan. Maybe Naperville should focus on Ann Arbor to see what they are doing that we could be doing better. My guess is that it’s the electric bill. Based on that, we’ll be in second place for the next 28 years, the amount of time remaining on the horrendous electric utility contract hanging over Naperville like a bad three-piece suit.

Apr 162017
 

I really like my water meter. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I love my water meter. Not in the same way that I love my wife, or my kids, or my dogs, but close to it. Lately I have caught myself gazing at my water meter, I don’t take it for granted, like I did  my electric meter. Yes, I am one of those folks who didn’t give my electric meter a second thought. I just took it for granted. It was there, it worked, it was accurate. I received a bill, and paid it, simple as that.

I knew there was talk of taking my electric meter and replacing it with a smart meter. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. Then one day, while I was organizing my paper clips by size and color, the doorbell rang, and it was a guy in an orange vest saying he needed to install a new electric (smart) meter. Parked curbside was a Naperville police car. I went to the back of my home to unlock the fence for the installer, as two of Naperville’s finest escorted the installer. I offered each police officer a bottle of water, but they declined. I think they wanted their hands free in case pandemonium erupted. I could tell they didn’t want to be there and why would they, they were trained for mayhem, chaos, and fisticuffs, none of which was about to occur. The installer didn’t want to be there, and I didn’t want to be there; my paper clips were waiting. In no time they were done, and I was left with the dreaded smart meter. All I could hope for was that John Johnny Krummen was right and I would see a savings on my electric bill. It never happened. Rates skyrocketed.

Now city officials want to replace our current water meters, with new ones. City officials say they are not smart meters, but the company doing the installation, HBK Water Meter Service, Inc. in Rolling Meadows say they are definitely smart meters. Looks like somebody, the City or HBK is spreading fake news. Hmmm…I wonder which.

The City says the current meters under register water usage by about 4%. If city officials say it, it must be true, right? I’m sure they must be able to shuffle some numbers around to show a 4% loss, guaranteeing at least a 4% increase to water bills. If  residents says they do not want the new meters because it’s reading properly, the City can counter that by saying, “Well, if the meter is accurate, then there must be a water leak on your property, hence be prepared to spend thousands to prove there is no leak.” All of a sudden, a guaranteed 4% increase looks pretty good.

City officials say they are replacing 3,000 meters per year, with a total of 43,000 needing replacement. The saving grace is that I may be the last house getting a replacement meter, which means I have 14 more years to love my water meter even more than I do now. Considering my age, by that time, I may not even remember that I have a water meter.

Apr 132017
 

Now that the Naperville city council election is over, with 11% of the council being new (one member), will the city council continue its quest to becoming a ‘Welcoming’ city, not a sanctuary city yet, but a step closer. Government likes taking incremental steps, little baby steps, until it takes all of us where we don’t necessarily want to go, and then we wonder how we got there.

Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson has been beating the drum for ‘Welcoming city’ status. I always thought we were and are a welcoming city, but Anderson wants to make it more official, as if to say, ‘We really are a welcoming city, really we are, we really and truly are welcoming’. The more she pushes it and the city council falls into line, the more we have to wonder if we really are welcoming.

The recent election show we are welcoming, well sort of welcoming. Voters welcomed some diversity in the election. Voters could have welcomed more diversity, but that was not to be the case. If Anderson’s quest is to welcome diversity, that’s one thing, however if her real quest is to take steps towards becoming a sanctuary city, well then that’s something else.

The El Paso, Texas city council also wants to be a ‘Welcoming’ city, in fact so much so, that during a recent city council meeting one of the agenda items was to approve an ordinance not to do city business with any company involved in building Trumps’s wall, in essence, putting pressure on local companies not to contract in building the wall between El Paso and Mexico. Any company doing so, would be ‘black-listed’ from doing business with the El Paso city government. Magically just before the meeting, the agenda item was pulled and disappeared. Obviously somebody said, ‘oops we better not vote to approve it’. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the El Paso city council won’t black-list those companies, it just means that it won’t be overt.

Last month two San Francisco city council supervisors introduced legislation that would bar the city from doing business with any and all contractors who worked on the U.S / Mexican border wall.

The Naperville city council could do the same thing, by choosing not to approve any contracts with anybody with even the slightest connection to building Trump’s wall. Similar to the ‘Six degrees of (separation) Kevin Bacon’ concept, that any two people (businesses) on Earth are six or fewer acquaintances (businesses) apart.

Yes, I know this is a stretch, but if El Paso can do it, so can Naperville; they both want to be ‘Welcoming’ cities.

Apr 092017
 

Something happened after the recent Naperville city council election, that hasn’t happened since Naperville became Naperville. Yes, Benny White was elected to the council, in essence replacing incumbent councilman Kevin Gallaher, but that’s not what’s unusual,  new council members get elected all time time, in fact in the last municipal election six new members were elected. So what’s so unusual about Benny White getting elected?

It’s not that he gathered the third highest vote total, it’s not that he had more votes than two incumbents (Krummen and Gallaher), and it’s not that he’s the first ‘Benny’ elected to the council. So what is it? For those of you who have met Benny White, and supported Benny’s campaign, you know exactly what it is.

It’s the fact that Benny White’s election to the city council effectively raised the collective average IQ of the entire city council. That’s exactly what Dr. Benny White’s election to the council did. He received his BS degree in management from West Point, he received his master’s degree in kinesiology from Indiana University, and his masters degree in business from Webster University, and he topped it off with his doctorate degree from Benedictine University in values-driven leadership. And by the way, he is also a retired 22-year Army officer.

Considering the educational and professional make-up of our current city council, Dr. Benny White’s background and experiences, especially in leadership can only help our council in need of clear vision.  He is definitely not just another yes-person, or tag-along-with-the-crowd seat warmer.

The election results will be officially confirmed by the DuPage County clerk’s office on April 25, and White will be sworn in Sunday April 30, with his first official participation as a Naperville city council member on May 2.

Kinesiology, the study of the mechanics of body movement, hopefully Dr. Benny White can move the council in a positive, resident-friendly direction.

Apr 062017
 

Improving the quality of the Naperville city council at election time, is like climbing a sand dune, you go up two feet, then slide down one, then go up two feet, and slide down three. A lot of work, time, money, and words, and very little improvement to show for the effort. The end result of this year’s election is that new comer Benny White was elected, and incumbent Kevin Gallaher was given his walking papers by voters when he came in 8th place out of eight candidates. In the city council election of 2015, Gallagher was the lowest vote-getter of the eight council members elected.

This year, the top four vote-getters in addition to White were incumbents Judy Brodhead, John Krummen, and Kevin Coyne. Krummen barely edged out fifth-place finisher Julie Berkowicz. The vote differential was a mere 90 votes. In other words Krummen won by the same number of people, lined-up at Portello’s drive-through waiting for a hotdog. 143,000 people in Naperville and John ‘Johnny’ Krummen won by 90 votes; definitely not a convincing majority.

It had to be the big red ‘K’ on his yard signs that pushed him from fifth place to fourth place. Two years ago in the last city council election, Krummen came in 7th place with eight being elected, so he is definitely living on the edge with voters. Krummen is the candidate who used pictures from his 2015 election on his 2017 mailers, making it appear the folks from 2015 were endorsing his candidacy in 2017. Tricky John ‘Johnny’ Krummen tricked the voters, just as he tricked the residents with all the money they would save with so-called smart meters. Not one dime has been saved by one resident.

Councilwoman Judy Brodhead benefited from her ballot position (first name on ballot), and the fact that she was the only female incumbent. In the 2015 election, she was one of four females on the ballot and came in fourth place; definitely not a vote of confidence. When the term limit referendum passed a few years ago, it was designed for the likes of Brodhead because it appears that might be the only way to get her off the dais. Her expiration date has long passed, but she continues to take up space during council meetings.

Councilman Kevin Coyne, endorsed by Watchdog, came in second place with a total of 6,217 votes which equates to about $11 per vote spent by and for him, totaling over $70,000. That’s a shipload of money spent to be a public servant. Coyne will serve four years at $20K per year salary (part time) meaning there will be a $10K net salary profit for his term, equating to $2500 per year or about $7 per day or 30-cents per hour. That’s a lot of money spent for three dimes per hour net salary-profit.

Benny White also endorsed by Watchdog came in third place, will be a welcome addition to the council. Residents can only hope that he is who we think he is. Time will tell.

Mike Isaac (endorsed by Watchdog) came in 6th place. Watchdog felt he was the strongest candidate of the non-incumbents, but it appears Naperville is not as Welcoming as councilwoman Becky Anderson proclaims Naperville to be.

It’s not easy climbing a huge sand dune. The key is perseverance.

Apr 012017
 

April 4th is the big voting day in Naperville for electing city council candidates. It’s not that difficult to do, if you create a process or set of rules to follow in mathematically calculating those best suited to sit at the dais.

Over the years, Watchdog has refined the process, because frankly, Watchdog got tired of picking losers. It started before I was old enough to vote, while watching presidential conventions on TV;  I wanted Adlai Stevenson to defeat ‘I Like Ike’ (Dwight Eisenhower). My guy lost, as did every other Presidential candidate I chose for the next quarter of a century. Then bingo, I finally picked a winner with Reagan. It was at that moment that I finally perfected the perfect algorithm for picking the preferred candidate, though not politically correct.

Assign one point for each variable to each qualifying candidate, while others get zero points. Total the points at the end, and bingo, the preferred candidate is known.

With that in mind, here we go:

Incumbent vs non-incumbent, always go with the non-incumbent. With incumbents you know what to expect, which typically is not good. Hence go with the unknown.

Male vs female, go with female (OK, not PC but it works). When physical fights erupt in meetings, and politicians enter the Graybar Hotel, we know which group are defendants.

If you can pronounce or spell the candidate’s name, go with that candidate. (Again I said it was not PC)

Does the candidate have my first name? If so give him one point. If not, then a big zero goes in that column.

Yard signs. One point for placement and one point for creativity. Has any candidate found a public place where only his or her sign is located, or are they all jammed a street corner like tombstones in a cemetery. Brodhead gets a point, and an extra point for having one in a tree. Coyne garnered a point and extra point for having one floating in Whalen Lake off of Royce Road.

Mailers. A point each for creativity, size, color scheme, and keeping it easy-to-read. Some candidates lost points for size, much too big (Coyne and Strick), some lost points for being too busy (too wordy), some lost points for too many mailers, some received points for Watchdog not getting a mailer (Brodhead and Gallaher). Candidate Krummen was outed for using pictures from his 2015 campaign on his 2017 mailer. However he gets a point for trying to trick the voter for the same reason.

Picture of candidate. Krummen and Brodhead get a point because their pictures almost look like them. Others lost a point including the ‘undertaker’ (my apology to funeral home directors), the bad-debt collector, and the used-car salesman. (Again not PC, I get it.) Benny White gets a point for including “Dr.” on his mailer. Who knows if it’s true; it’s impressive and that’s what counts. Seuss was a doctor too.

Websites. Forget it, too much information. No time to waste. Baseball season is starting, the Final Four coming down to one, and Dancing With The Stars in season.

Plug the numbers in, add them up, and the four winners are Isaac, Coyne, Krummen, and Brodhead. But wait, there’s one more rule, arbitrarily replace two with two others, hence replace Krummen and Brodhead with White and Berkowicz, and bingo, you have Watchdog’s Final Four; Isaac, Coyne, White, and Berkowicz.

This posting was published April 1st.   April Fool’s Day.