Aug 122018
 

With the influx of $2.8 million of additional revenue for the City from the recent special census equating to about $800,000 per year thru the year 2020 until the next census, Naperville has an opportunity to invest money in numerous areas of needs and wants. One area that’s both a need and a want would be the Naperville Police Department.

It’s becoming widely known that Naperville is a great community to raise a family; it’s both safe and affluent. It’s also becoming a day-destination for ne’er-do-wells. We are seeing an increase of brazen crime including everything from purse-snatching to auto theft and break-ins. This is no fault of the Naperville Police Department; it’s a matter of numbers, more bad guys and not enough good guys.

That alone should be reason enough to shore up the police department with additional police officers and proper equipment. Add to that, the news we see daily with unrest in country in the form of unruly protests and worldly concerns, makes additional policing a need and a want. Fortunately most of us don’t come in contact with an increase in crime. However what we do see on a daily basis is a proliferation of inconsiderate drivers.

Recently residents were sharing their frustrations on a website/communication (Next Door Meadow Glens) specifically mentioning the intersection of Wehrli Road and Bailey, and how drivers see the stop sign as a suggestion rather than a rule of law. It’s not happening just there but everywhere. Driving etiquette has become passe. It’s next to impossible to drive to your destination without seeing any one or more of the following infractions:

  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to stop
  • Failure to yield
  • Following too closely
  • Improper lane usage
  • Lane change in an intersection
  • Light violation
  • Noise level
  • No turn signal
  • Passing in a no-passing zone
  • Speeding

Is there anything more irritating than driving the speed limit and have someone tailgating you to the point you can’t see their headlights. Again, no fault of the Naperville Police Department, there just aren’t enough eyes to reign in inconsiderate drivers. A show of financial support for the NPD would be a step in the right direction.

Aug 052018
 

It wasn’t that long ago when a return on investment of 1% on a CD seemed like a good deal, compared to the 0.1% banks were paying individuals. Municipalities were doing better but still struggling and needing to extract money from their residents and anybody driving thru town.

Naperville city officials had a brilliant idea. Why not do a partial, special census and see if city coffers could be fortified by an increase in population, and that’s exactly what they did. They spent $210,000 for the census, and bingo, it was shown that Naperville’s population had increased from 141,853 to 147,841. That’s a walloping increase of 5,988 residents, which translates into an increase of about $880,000 in tax income annually which projects to a total of $2.4 million in new revenue through May of 2021 when the results of of 2020 census will be certified.

That’s an amazing return on investment of 1,030%, which begs the question, what are they going to do with the extra revenue? City officials have been known to go through money like a hot knife through soft butter.

City officials said through a memo (big print) that a small amount will go toward capital projects, while the bulk of the new found revenue is earmarked for the city’s general fund. What exactly does that mean? The detail (little print) remains to be seen; big print giveth and small print taketh away.

Jul 292018
 

Chicago Sun-Times sports writer Rick Morrissey referenced Naperville in his July 22 column when he stated, “The Cubs organization has gotten a tad too big for its designer britches. It stamps anything that moves with a Cubs logo, then sells it for $29.95 plus shipping. Its glass-and-steel building spree has turned Wrigleyville into Naperville”. I couldn’t tell for sure if his reference was a compliment or cheap-shot towards Naperville, but knowing Morrissey’s style, I’m going with a creative cheap shot. But considering it’s true, then it’s not really a cheap shot.

For years, Naperville city officials have prided themselves in being first for all kinds of actions, some good, most not. That’s why it’s a bit surprising that city officials, especially councilwoman Becky Anderson, haven’t taken a position  outlawing the use of plastic straws. Considering Anderson’s liberal position on most issues, including making Naperville a ‘Welcoming City” (sanctuary city), one would think she would consider this the last straw in protecting Naperville.

If not Anderson, then which council member is willing to draw the short straw and bring up the topic under ‘new business’. Election time is nearing, and taking a definitive position on something, can make or break a re-election bid.

Other current council members up for re-election include Patty Gustin, Paul Hinterlong, and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski. With Gustin being on thin ice, she could go for double or nothing, and base her campaign on this issue, making it the straw that broke the camel’s back. Her slogan could be, “I’m not taking it anymore; this is the final straw”.

With restaurant servers being subject to a $1000 fine and/or 6 months in the slammer for offering a plastic straw to a diner elsewhere, what are the options? Just as grocery stores ask if you want paper or plastic, servers will ask if you want paper, glass, or metal.  Paper straws dissolve (your beverage has a cardboard taste), glass straws can shatter, and metal straws can be used as a weapon. Another option is to BYOS (bring your own straw).

A friend, from Tinley Park, was in a Naperville restaurant last week and the server put down his drink with no straw. He politely asked for one and got a lesson along with the straw. Apparently the company is “going green” (code for saving money) and they are not automatically giving straws, but they must be requested. He thought it was interesting because he never asked for ice, but got ice.

Watchdog is seeing this ‘Great Straw Debate’ as an opportunity to supplement my retirement income, by stockpiling plastic straws. I can get 100 flexible colored straws for 99-cents at Target. That’s a penny a straw. When plastic straws disappear, I can sell them for 2-cents each and double my investment. My wife thinks I’m nuts, but she also thought I was nuts when I said I was trying to learn how to levitate.

When we go out for a meal, she enjoys ordering a beverage, and I get excited about getting another straw for our retirement investment. I consider it a sound financial strawtegy.

Jul 222018
 

Who doesn’t love completing surveys. I for one enjoy them, or least I did, until I began to get so many, that I decided to save precious time by deleting or tossing them. I crossed that bridge when I found out that some surveys worked against me. By completing a survey from my auto insurance company, and indicating I was a very happy customer, I was placed in a group with less opportunity of getting a better insurance rate. Why? Because I was happy; there was less chance of me leaving for another auto insurance company.

Watchdog decided to do a survey and rather than investing a lot of time on it, I decided to survey one person whom I could trust to give honest answers, myself. I horizontally listed all nine council members in alpha order, and then rated each one from 1 to 10 vertically, with ‘1’ being equal to an empty seat, and ’10’ being “getting it right” most of the time.

Of course ‘getting it right’ was based on my definition of ‘getting it right’, which likely is different than your definition, but in the spirit of keeping the survey simple, my definition seemed appropriate.

Additionally to add some pizzazz to the numbers Watchdog listed each council member from Watchdog’s first impression of that person’s contributions to council meetings, to Watchdog’s current impression of each. In other words, has Watchdog been open-minded about each council member’s contributions over a period of time; have they gotten better or worse over time.

Finally, considering it would be rude to rate a council member’s contribution equal to an empty chair, Watchdog refrained from a rating of ‘1″. Likewise, considering a ’10’ rating means there is no room from improvement (which there always is), a ’10’ was there only for reference.

With all that in mind, here is the result of the one-person survey:

Becky Anderson went from 7 down to. 2.

Many of her decisions and positions are based on what’s best for Anderson. Her rating fell drastically when she took the position of wanting Naperville to be a ‘Welcoming city’ (sanctuary city). She lost Watchdog with that one.

Judy Brodhead went from 5 down to 3.

She adds very little if anything interesting to meetings and seldom if ever, takes a strong position on any topic, while playing it safe, and nearly always votes with the majority.

Mayor Steve Chirico went up from 3 to 9.

When Chirico was first elected as a council member, Watchdog was very critical of some of his comments. He owned-up to his mis-steps in the very beginning (which most elected officials don’t do) and has become an absolutely outstanding leader for Naperville.

Kevin Coyne went from 5 to 8.

Initially losing his first attempt running for election by just a few votes, he tried again and was elected. His somewhat quiet demeanor should not be mis-interpreted. When he speaks, people listen; he doesn’t waste words. He can say more with fewer words, than anybody at the dais.

Patty Gustin went from 7 down to 3.

Simply stated, Gustin as been a disappointment. Too much talk, and not enough originality.

Paul Hinterlong went from 6 up to 7

It’s taken nine years to move up one number, which means it could take another 18 years for him to move from 7 to 9. He does add a little humor to meetings and asks some interesting questions. Overall, a good member on the council.

John Krummen moved up from 2 to 3.

But 3 is a long way from 5 which is average. He entered the council as a 2 because of his position and performance as an “ambassador” for the hotly divided debate on Smart Meters. It’s difficult to erase the image of him constantly looking over his shoulder at the podium during Smart Meter debates as if someone was about to dump a pail of water on his head.

Rebecca Obarski went from 6 to 8.

The last thing we needed on the council was another lawyer, but she came to the dais knowing she had a bit to learn, and has become an outstanding member of the council to the point that after Chirico finishes his term limit as mayor, she would be a strong candidate.

Benny White entered as a 7 and remains a 7.

He is a valuable member of the council with an appealing style of communication. He limits his comments, which makes what he has to say important.

Overall the council averaged a 5.6 with 5 being average. Definitely room for improvement at election time, however as an overall city council, they are getting the job done making Naperville a good place to be as a resident.

Jul 152018
 

Sometimes if you have something important to say, all you have to do is find an open door, with a bunch of people sitting at a meeting, an available microphone, and three minutes to make your point. That’s exactly what Lisa Ann Witmer Wegman did during public forum at a recent Davenport, Iowa Zoning Commission meeting when the topic at hand was Portillo’s coming to town.

Once at the open microphone, it didn’t take her long to get to the meat of what was on her mind. Watch and listen as she begins firing away. Pay close attention to the seasoned gentleman seated behind her as he does a hand-to-the-forehead five times, a nose-touch twice, and a hand-to-the-chin three times during the three minute rant; that’s one exasperation every 18 seconds as he undoubtedly is wondering what in the world is going on.

You have to give credit to the chairman of the commission for listening and then getting the focus of the meeting back on track.

It sounds as if Lisa Ann Witmer Wegman has a lot going against her, but if she can stay in Iowa long enough before moving to Texas, she will be able to enjoy one of Portillo’s finest hot dogs. And what’s the deal with losing her password at the local library. Who knows, she just might pop up at the local library board meeting with an open mic waiting.

It could be worse, she could be having a problem with the town’s water department.

Jul 082018
 

It’s July 4th weekend and there is no shortage of local issues to look at, however even the Naperville city council decided to cancel the July 3rd meeting in lieu of something other than local issues. Why shouldn’t Watchdog do the same thing.

What could better than talking about baseball, especially at the 8 to 10 year old level which happens to be the age of my two baseball-playing grandsons. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read Rob Manker’s article in the Friday July 6th edition of the Naperville Sun titled “Lessons on field can give winning, losing perspective“, I encourage you to do so. It’s not your typical article about organized youth baseball, with crying kids, idiot parents, and Mike Ditka-like wanna-be coaches, along with bad sportsmanship, and over emphasis on winning at all costs. It’s about what should be important at that age and keeping things in perspective.

St. Louis Cardinal manager Mike Matheny, wrote the book “The Matheny Manifesto” (2015) which is a great read especially for any parent or youth coach. In it he explains why he said he would only coach a team of orphans. It’s not because he doesn’t love baseball or kids, it’s because he didn’t want to deal with ‘idiot’ parents; they take the fun out of the game and add unnecessary pressure to the kids.

He was raised old-school in a small mid-west town, taught to do the right thing, not to take short-cuts, and to be selfless, humble, appreciative, respectful and disciplined.

Parents were pleading with him to coach their kids. Who wouldn’t want a major league player and manager coaching their kids. He finally relented under one condition; the parents had to agree to his style of coaching which included three main goals:

  1. Teach the boys how to play baseball the right way.
  2. Make a positive impact on them as young men.
  3. Do all this with class.

Nothing about winning, individual statistics or awards. Just simply doing it the right way.

The book gives outstanding perspective of what’s important.

What makes a dad or grandparent proud is not about his son or grandson winning, or making the All-Star team, or a game-winning hit, or striking out the side, though it happens, it’s about:

  • tipping the cap to another player after that player makes an outstanding play in the field
  • shaking the umpire’s hand and thanking them for officiating the game
  • shaking hands with the other team’s players after the game
  • encouraging a teammate after an error
  • thanking fans for coming to the game

I know this because I am the proud dad of a coach and proud grand-dad to two players.

Jul 012018
 

Politicians and city officials are typically not known for keeping a watchful eye on expenses, since it’s so easy to get more money by squeezing it out of residents with higher taxes and fees, in essence easy come, easy go. Spending other peoples’ money comes easy. However Naperville councilman John Krummen has been a leader on the council when it comes to employing sound business practices on issues involving money.

Most recently during the last Naperville city council meeting on June 19, councilman Krummen questioned two agenda items. The first involved the funding for Naperville’s Hazardous Waste Facility. Watch and listen as Krummen questions Public Works Director, Dick Dublinski and asks the always important question “what if..”

All too often little attention is given by city officials to ‘what if Plan-A doesn’t work’. In the business world, contingent plans are vital to successful outcomes. It’s been said that typically Plan-B’s are more successful than Plan-A’s, but if there is no Plan-B, that’s not good. So kudos to Krummen for addressing the need for contingent plans, “having discussions now, rather than later”.

Krummen followed with another expense related topic regarding the traffic light to be installed 95th Street and Knoch Knolls road. Watch and listen as he questions Bill Novack, Director of TED (Transportation, Engineering, and Development) concerning the $300,000 expense for the light, especially as it relates to the struggle that the city council had in trying to deal with $300,000 in budget cost savings.

Krummen didn’t settle with Novack’s answer, coming back at him with the possibility of ‘bargaining harder’ for a better deal with Will County.

Is it possible that councilman Krummen did something that Novack hasn’t done, and that’s reading President Trump’s book, ‘The Art of The Deal’.

Jun 242018
 

There was a time not that long ago, when Naperville city officials would take some bold positions and prided themselves for being on the cutting edge of doing what’s right. This surely was not the case at the last Naperville city council meeting when the hot topic on the agenda for the evening was discussion about Naperville’s Animal Control Ordinance, and specifically the sale of commercially bred animals ( primarily puppies) by pet stores.

City council members now and previously have been moving forward at the speed of pouring cold honey in resolving the issue. City officials have been hoping someone else would make the decision for them, including State of Illinois officials (not happening), Federal Law by creating the 28th amendment to the Constitution (not happening), or possibly with the 11th Commandment being found on a mountain top.

The scenario is always the same. The topic finally makes the agenda, many loving pet owners attend expressing their passion for pet protection, pet store owners present their position for making a huge profit in order to stay in business, council members mention the tough position they are in for making a decision, a few little tweaks are made to the ordinance, a vote is taken usually resulting in a unanimous decision (to appear in agreement), the meeting adjourns, the lights are turned out, and some members of the council head downtown to tip a few brews at their favorite establishment. The only thing different this time, it was too late for brews because the meeting lasted 5.5 hours finishing at about 12:30am.

When the dust settled after the discussion, a few ordinance tweaks resulted including:

  • Requiring pet stores to promote microchipping
  • Reducing allowable barking time after 10PM from ten minutes to two minutes maximum
  • Increasing fines for breaking existing ordinance rules
  • Dogs can’t look out the window (OK, that one is not real…..yet)

Left out were the sourcing of dogs (puppies and cats) for sale by pet stores, and requiring a four-year warranty on the health of dogs and cats. In essence, pet stores will not need to change their business model and will continue, for the most part, doing business as usual. If this topic would have been a heavy-weight boxing match, pet stores would have defeated pet lovers by a TKO (technical knock out) with the help of the referee (city council).

More than four years of talking by the Naperville city council, and that’s the best they could do. Shameful, considering many other cities (including Austin, Boston, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, etc.) and entire States (California, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington) have taken bold positions to protect puppies, cats, etc.

Here’s an idea for pet stores to stay in business, rather than making huge profits on the backs of puppies, how about selling more fish.

Jun 172018
 

Learning city council rules and points of order can be a daunting task for newly elected council members. However by the time a council member has three-plus years of experience you would think that person would understand how things are done at the dais. Such is not the case with Naperville city councilwoman Patty Gustin. As her four year term is coming to a close, she still struggles with knowing the rules. To make matters worse, she tries to bull doze her way through the process.

It happened again at the last Naperville city council meeting when councilman Kevin Coyne made a motion to to amend the proposed animal control ordinance which was seconded by councilman John Krummen. Gustin jumped in wanting to get a second to her amended motion over Coyne, and nothing could be heard except for crickets.

In essence Gustin was trying to amend Coyne’s motion ,which can’t be done according to council rules. Mayor Steve Chirico tried to help her dig herself out of the hole she dug by explaining how she could make a motion in substitution, but Gustin was determined to do it her way and it fell flat.

I’m reminded of the saying, “Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt”. That might be a bit harsh for Gustin, however reviewing council rules would undoubtedly benefit her city council endeavors.

Jun 102018
 

NaperChange is an active group of residents keeping watchful eyes on city officials including the Naperville city council. NaperChange was created in large part as a result of the Bauer Place vote, a town home annexation that came into the City and replaced four dilapidated vacant homes that were really a ‘junk yard’ by the time they were sold. It has turned out to be a successful upgraded development and a ‘win’ for neighbors, though not all agree on how the annexation played-out.

Watchdog applauds their efforts and for the most part agrees with their positions on many issues. The following post was published by NaperChange on May 27, 2018 and reprinted here with a respectful counter point-of-view by Watchdog.

Link

“On Wednesday, May 16th AIG Investors III appeared before the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission, regarding a property at Diehl and Raymond, requesting the following: 1.) Rezoning; (from Office, Research and Industrial “ORI” to Office, Commercial and Institutional “OCI”) 2.) Conditional Use; age restricted rental units 3.) Zoning variances: • Parking, from 392 units required in City Code to 304 units; • Height, from the current 43’ allowed to 54’8”; • Number of units, from the 139 allowed under current code (2,600 per acre) to 174 requested.

So, if approved, the proposed project will be taller than allowed by Code, have more units than allowed by Code, and have fewer parking spaces than required by Code.

AIG Investors III includes Mayor Steven Chirico and his brother, Anthony Chirico.

As the Naperville Sun reported, Mayor Chirico will recuse himself from the vote if it comes before City Council.

So, no issue, right? The Mayor will recuse himself from a vote on Code variances on a personal project from which he will, presumably, personally benefit financially.

No conflicts, right?

Of course the mayor will benefit financially, along with others, including the City of Naperville with additional tax revenue. It’s called ‘good business’ when it’s successful and there are no losers.

The City staff which has to recommend approval or rejection of variances to City Code ultimately reports to City Manager Doug Krieger, who reports to Mayor Chirico and the City Council. So City staff is put in the position of recommending or not recommending variances to Code on a project which will presumably personally benefit Mayor Chirico.

No conflict there, right?

Considering everything a conspiracy, which is what this would be, is a stretch, especially considering the mayor has cultivated a culture of “speaking up to authority” within the Municipal Center. Mayor Chirico doesn’t always get what he wants (oftentimes he is on the short end of council votes) but he encourages opposing views if backed by facts.

City staff recommended approval of the project.

The Planning and Zoning Commission (“PZC”) has to review and recommend approval or denial of variances to City Code for the project. Mayor Chirico has either appointed or reappointed all nine members of the PZC. The Naperville Sun recently ran an article about Mayor Chirico’s success at fund raising for his yet to be announced run for reelection. According to the Sun, at least eight people which Mayor Chirico has appointed to various Commissions have contributed to his unannounced campaign. Including through an LLC at least one member, Andrew Margulies, of the PZC. Mayor Chirico’s campaign committee spent over $2,200 at Hugo’s Frog Bar. The General Manager of Hugo’s Frog bar is Anthony Losurdo. Mr. Losurdo is also a member of the PZC. No conflict there. Right?

Appointing or reappointing people to commissions is necessary, and isn’t it wiser to work with people you know and trust, rather than have an ‘open cattle call’ and appoint people off resumes, and hearsay. The fact that some contribute to the mayor’s campaign fund shows trust in the mayor’s ability to lead. A tab of $2,200 at Hugo’s for a large group of people is not unusual considering my wife and I took our two friends from Texas out to dinner at Hugo’s and dropped $220. A lot of unsavory dots have to be connected (Margulies, PZC, Losurdo Hugo’s GM, PZC) to imply a conflict of interest. Again another stretch.

On May 16th the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project 8-0.

An 8-0 vote by the PZC is not unusual.

The proposal will now go to the City Council for approval of variances to City Code. The same City Council which Mayor Chirico presides over. The same City Council which has several members strongly aligned with him. The same City Council which has members whom have received political and financial support on their City Council campaigns from Mayor Chirico.

No conflict there, right?

Yes, some city council members strongly align with the mayor, while other city council members don’t . Again, not unusual. The fact that the mayor provides political and financial support to some council members again is not unusual. Any good leader wants to lead a competent team. Isn’t that what any of us would want.

Is this illegal? No. Should that be the bar for conduct, if it’s not illegal it’s ok?

If it’s not illegal, then yes, it is OK, unless it’s unethical, and ‘unethical’ is a matter of opinion supported by fact. 

Remember the good old days, when elected officials not only avoided conflict, but also the appearance of conflict?

Is it appropriate for a Mayor to be asking city staff whom ultimately report to him, a commission consisting of members which he has appointed or reappointed, and a council of which he is a member and which has members he has supported financially and politically, to approve variances from City Code on a project which will presumably benefit him financially? If the variances are approved for him, how can they not be for the next one asking for variances?

One size doesn’t fit all, and each situation should be decided on its own merit. Have we lost the art of common sense?

This is the second time Mayor Chirico has presented a development project which will presumably benefit him financially for approval of variances through City staff/PZC/Council, the other one being for the development at 720 N Washington. (Which was good timing, given the proposed 5th Avenue development envisioned. A possible entirely new, bustling business district two short blocks away.)

To imply the mayor is up to no-good, is looking at the situation through a distorted lens. Like him or not, isn’t this exactly what is happening to President Donald Trump. No matter what he does, or what Chirico does, or any other government official we don’t like does, we can spin it down the ne’er-do-well corridor, connecting dots to a preconceived conclusion of conspiracy?

But Mayor Chirico says he will recuse himself.

What is he supposed to do? Resign? Do nothing? No matter what he does, there will be those who either disagree with him, don’t like him, or deny him any credit.

So, no conflicts. Right?

Right.