Apr 212018

Unfortunately, so often good intentions go bad, especially if it involves government, and it looks like it could be happening again in Naperville.

The Naperville Jaycees offered a huge donation to help build a Smart Park adjacent to the Naperville Municipal Center. I’m not exactly sure what a ‘smart park’ is, but if that’s what it takes to get $200,000 from the Jaycees then I’m all for it. The definition of ‘smart’ is a quick-witted intelligence, or clean, neat, and well-dressed. So if that’s required to get into the park, I might be able to almost qualify on one of the two.

Initially the Naperville city council made the Jaycees jump through some hoops in order for council members to accept the generous gift, but ultimately the Jaycees qualified for handing over the money to city officials. When council members were shown the plans for the Smart Park in full color, the council was quite excited about the possibilities. Beautiful colors have a way of raising the excitement level.

During the last council meeting (April 17) as the plans were unveiled, with all the bells and whistles, you could feel the enthusiasm from city officials. It was almost as if they were kids, and each was being offered a cute little puppy. What kid doesn’t want a puppy. When kids learn from mom and/or dad that they have to feed it, give it water, take it out , and clean-up little surprises left on the floor, they still want the puppy. Then after they have the puppy, somehow they forgot about the responsibility that goes with it.

This almost happened during the council meeting until Naperville councilwoman Rebecca Obarski threw a bucket of cold water on the council when she asked, how is maintenance going to be paid for? The audacity of Obarski to ask such a great question during the fun and festivities. Watch and listen as she asks her question, followed by Mayor Chirico’s response, which doesn’t quite satisfy Obarski, and city manager then chimes in with a little bit of double-talk intermingled with some fuzzy math.

Good for councilwoman Obarski for asking the question, and dilly, dilly for the good folks of Naperville for having the answer on record. We’ve been down this road many times before; “don’t worry, it’s paid for”, including  hearing it when Naperville cut a horrendous deal with its provider of electric, and then we heard it when the Carillon was built, and now it’s falling apart and in desperate need of funding.

It’s never a problem, until it’s a problem. But bingo, Naperville city officials always have a Plan-B to solve financial problems.  And who better to explain Plan-B than Naperville city manager Doug Krieger:

Apr 152018

Things are working pretty good at the Naperville Fire Department. They receive a lot of recognition and awards. In fact, things are going so well with Naperville’s fire department, city officials are looking to see how they can change it. It’s being done in the spirit of cost effectiveness and efficiency, meaning it might be time to consolidate the number of fire department locations and trim the number of employees.

Naperville city officials have publicly said nothing about privatization of the fire department, but nor did city officials from the hundreds of other municipal fire departments throughout the country before the change became imminent. Naperville city officials should be applauded for seeking cost efficiencies but should those cost cutting measures be focused on the fire and police departments? Those are services of safety and well-being that can affect all residents and businesses in Naperville. Other than clean water and refuse pick-up, just about every service the city provides affects the good folks of Naperville to a far lesser degree than police and fire services.

Personally I can do with much less Carillon music than I can do with a lower response time from the fire department. When it’s time to review my home owner’s insurance, the insurance company wants to know the distance from my home to the closest fire station, and not whether or not I can hear the Carillon bells.

Currently Naperville’s arrival time is about six minutes about 90% of the time. Seems like a reasonable amount of time unless I’m the guy having a heart attack, or it’s my home looking like a huge Bunsen burner. Given the chance to reduce that time down to five minutes or having leaves removed from my yard by the city, I’ll go with the five minute response-time option from the fire department.

Naperville city manager Doug Krieger said that any reductions in fire department staffing to facilitate consolidation would happen via retirement and attrition. So that’s good news for job security within the fire department, but it’s not good news for the workload of those remaining, nor is it necessarily good news for the residents and businesses of Naperville depending upon quick response time in an emergency.

Many municipalities have moved to privatizing fire department services in an effort to combat unionization and the increasing costs of higher salaries, benefits, pensions, and defending lawsuits, so trying to control those expenses is understandable, but to what end? If the end is a reduction in service or positive outcomes, then even though city officials may come out ahead, it will be at the expense of the good folks of Naperville.

The good news is, if you live within the sound of the Carillon bells, and your home catches fire, you’ll be able to hear the bells a few minutes longer until a fire truck or ambulance arrives.

Apr 082018

It’s about time that the Naperville city council picks up the energy level a notch when announcing proclamations during city council meetings. And what’s the deal with the Mayor making other city council members state the proclamation rather than investing the time to do it himself.

For the longest of time, Mayor Chirico and his predecessor Mayor Pradel would call upon council woman Judy Brodhead to saunter down to the podium to announce the proclamation. Could it be that she was selected to make it appear that she was finally doing something constructive other than taking up space at the dais. It never seemed fair that Brodhead would be called upon to make the long trek to the podium, and then have to go all the way back to her seat.

Now we have councilman Kevin Coyne making that journey to the podium; he must have lost the coin flip. Watch and listen to Coyne as he gives it his all while announcing that April is National Fair Housing Month:

And what’s the deal with Coyne saying, during the proclamation, that he is Mayor Chirico. Are we looking at a case of identity theft?

Every council member called upon to announce a proclamation, does it as if they really don’t want to be doing it. Where is the pizzazz? Where is the energy and excitement? Why not make it not only interesting, make it memorable. Even a guy taking an order for a hamburger shows more gusto.

And enough of the “whereas”, how about making it “henceforth”. In 62 seconds, Coyne said “whereas” four times, that’s once every 15.5 seconds. And why is it ‘whereas’? Is that to mean that for April only, Naperville will be supporting and encouraging ‘Fair Housing’, and when May 1st comes along, it’s back to business as usual, and screw fair housing? So instead of “whereas” with a deadline of May 1st, change it to “henceforth”. In other words from this point forward, Naperville is supporting fair housing with no deadline. Now that’s a bold proclamation!

Some other missed opportunities by the Naperville city council for proclamations included National Oatmeal Month (January), and National Welding Month (April). Does Naperville have a problem with oatmeal and welding? October will be National Sarcastic Month. Let’s hope the Naperville city council won’t let that one slip away.

My personal favorite opportunity remaining for the city council to make an impassioned proclamation is coming this June, ‘National Fight The Filthy Fly Month’.

Why not make it memorable with pomp and circumstance like the following proclamation:

Can we get a dilly dilly from the city council.

Apr 012018

The first riddle I ever heard was ‘why did the idiot throw the butter out the window?’ The answer is, he wanted to see the butter fly. I know it sounds immature, but I was immature when I heard it. I must have been about five years old. Shortly afterward my dad told me the first joke I can remember. During dinner he said, ‘I went to the dentist today, and he told me that my teeth were fine, but my gums have to come out’. He thought it was funny, but I kept trying to figure out how that would work, until I finally got the joke.

I remembered the joke and riddle while I was waiting in my wife’s doctor’s office, looking out the window at Moser Tower which houses the Millennium Carillon. The Carillon is fine but the Tower is falling apart far sooner than ever expected. Deterioration and cracking has a tendency to make things fall apart.

The namesake of the tower is ‘Moser’ named in recognition of Harold and Margaret Moser’s donation/gift of $1 million towards the project. The Moser family is responsible for the development of much of Naperville. The father was Ed Moser (a doctor). He had three sons (Harold, Jim and Ed) and both Harold and Jim were very successful in business. They were visionaries who purchased a lot of land in Naperville when it was relatively inexpensive and later sold it for the development of numerous subdivisions. They made a healthy profit, but the real profit came from selling the land with the incentive for a good price if the purchaser would agree to also purchase the building materials from Moser Lumber Yard in Naperville. Shrewd indeed. Naperville began to boom. The purchasers and sellers were happy with a fair price and quality materials to insure that what was built would be built to last.

Which brings us back to Moser Tower. How ironic that it’s crumbling; built not to last. One can only imagine that Harold Moser would not be a happy guy. The City of Naperville has hired engineering consultants for a cool $148,000 (about $1 from each resident) to determine what went wrong and how to fix it. Based upon the findings, the City will decide if they want to give Moser Tower a temporary fix for big bucks, a “permanent fix” for many more bigger bucks, or just blow it up on the 4th of July and be done with it.

Both Harold and Jim were very philanthropic, and even if Moser Tower becomes cannon fodder, the Moser name will live-on in Naperville. Jim was a co-founder of the Riverwalk, the Children’s Museum which sits on the former site of  Moser Lumber Yard,  and Safety Town.

Maybe their most cherished legacy is in the form of Jim Moser’s son, Porter Moser, head coach of the Loyola Ramblers. They made it to college basketball’s Final Four. Built to last thru three-quarters of the semi-final game before falling apart in the final quarter. I guess they just don’t make things to last, like the used to.

Mar 242018

At the time they sounded like good ideas, a Senior Task Force and an Advisory Commission on Disabilities; who wouldn’t applaud that. Well now it’s possible that some members of the Naperville city council wish they wouldn’t have to consider the wishes of each group. It would be so much easier to approve more outdoor seating areas in front of downtown businesses if they didn’t have to be mindful to the needs of disabled or senior citizens.

Both groups requested council members to reconsider the ordinance and increase the minimum sidewalk clearance width to eight feet. The concern was that by reducing the width of usable sidewalk area, it would impede folks who use wheelchairs and walkers, etc.

Watch and listen to part of the lengthy discussion that would almost be comical if it weren’t true, about how much room is necessary if two wheelchairs were coming towards each other from opposite directions, how much room would be needed to accomplish the maneuver and how the use of hands could alter equation:

Then Naperville councilman Paul Hinterlong throws a stick into the conversation:

Which then begs the question about what about a guy in an iron-lung; what is he to do? This embed is NSFW, (Not Suitable For Workplace (strong language):

Council members seem to be forgetting that the word ‘sidewalk’ is defined as a paved path for pedestrians also known as a walkway. Nowhere in the definition is the idea of how many tables and chairs can be squeezed into a limited space in order to increase business revenues and tax dollars. Simply stated, it appears the Naperville city council is determined to achieve gridlock on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Naperville.

The discussion lead to a side-topic near and dear to city officials; how much can they jack-up the permit fee for sidewalk seating. Watch and listen as Naperville councilman John Krummen uses some high-tech numerology to determine the fee should be raised from $500 to $1000:

He knows it’s “arbitrary with no math behind it”, but that’s good enough for Krummen. Suggestion: keep that in mind, when Krummen decides to run for office again. His decisions on money maters could be ‘arbitrary with no math behind it’, not exactly what tax payers, rate payers, and residents want to hear from an elected official.

Fortunately, the voice of reason (councilman Benny White) countered with some common sense:

Credit councilman Benny White with a nice defensive move that even the Loyola basketball team would be proud of.

Mar 182018

If ever there was a current Naperville city council member who exemplifies the need for term limits, it would be councilwoman Judy Brodhead. She was elected in 2009 and after nine years, she is still occupying space at the dais. If it wasn’t was for term limits, the only way to get her off the dais would be to airlift her elsewhere. It’s been said that she spends a lot of time lurking in the inky shadows at the Municipal Center, roaming the corridors.

Apparently it would benefit the residents of Naperville if she got out more often and visited the outer edge of the city, especially south Naperville, and specifically the southwest corner of the intersection of Book Road and 103rd Street where there are plans to build a subdivision consisting of 61 custom single-family homes on 32 acres of undeveloped land.

Watch and listen as Brodhead presents an unusual question to Len Monson, the attorney for Oak Hill Builders and Developers Construction about how flat is flat:

To Monson’s credit, he answers it with about as flat as flat can be. There are no mountains, no hills, no valleys or lakes, or oceans, or rivers, or forests, or glaciers. The highest peak in the area is the white line dividing the lanes of traffic on 103rd Street, making it flatter than a pancake.

During Brodhead’s long tenure on the council she has asked some puzzling questions and made some curious comments. Who can forget one of  Brodhead’s all-time favorite, profound statements, “chickens don’t bark”.

Councilwoman Brodhead might want to heed the advice of President Abraham Lincoln, or was it Mark Twain, or maybe Ray Teller (Penn and Teller), or possibly Harpo Marx who said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt”.

Mar 112018

It had to happen sooner or later, and it always seems to happen sooner. The City of Naperville needs money and they are going to get it one way or another; either higher property tax or increase in sales tax. When the dust settled at the last Naperville city council meeting, the council voted to increase the home rule sales tax from 0.5% to 0.75% for a total of 7.75%. That means the City of Naperville still has an opportunity, over time, to increase it another 92.25%, and in actuality it doesn’t have to stop there. ‘He who has the gold makes the rules, and Naperville city officials have the gold’.

The vote was 8 to 1 in favor of raising the sales tax, rather than increasing property tax. The one ‘no’ vote was councilman John Krummen, not because he didn’t want the sales tax increase, but because he preferred raising property taxes. Watch and listen as Krummen explains that he would be affected more by a property tax hike than a bump in sales tax, but he is OK with that because his assets have grown dramatically.

Well dilly dilly for Krummen. His assets are more than most of ours, he can happily afford higher property taxes, and let those less fortunate than him, especially senior citizens living on a fixed income, take a big hit. Out with the old folks and in with the millennials. Enough said for Krummen’s compassion for those of us with less.

Watch and listen to Mayor Steve Chirico’s 180 degree, opposing viewpoint to Krummen:

Either way, the good folks are going to have less money than they have now, but Krummen’s support of a property tax hike would be a mandate, no getting around it, whereas Chirico and the other seven members of the council are at least allowing folks the opportunity of choice.

I’m guessing the Founding Fathers would prefer choice over mandate.

Mar 042018

Imagine if your neighbor needed money, came to your home, requested cash, received it, and went back home. Then he did the same thing the next week with the same result. A day later, he comes back for more money, and he kept doing this daily over and over, always getting more and more money. That’s exactly what the Naperville city council is doing to the good folks of Naperville; extracting more and more money, not only for different things, but also for the same things.

It’s so easy. The city council directs the city manager to create a budget. The city manager directs city staff to come up with a budget. The inflated budget is presented to the city council. The council huffs and puffs, pontificates and bloviates, talks and talks, then votes to approve the budget; the meeting is adjourned and city officials head downtown to tip a few brews in celebratory fashion. That’s it, it is as simple as that.

Naperville city officials say ‘this is it, we’ve done it, problem solved’. But that’s not it, it’s not done, and the problem isn’t solved, because within a short period of time the problem resurfaces, more money is needed, more taxes need to be increased along with fees and utility rates. And it starts all over again.

Watch and listen to Naperville council woman Becky Obarski as she states she doesn’t think the council is walking towards a solution, “this is the third year in a row we voted to raise things, and each time we were told this is the path”.

Councilwoman Obarski continued,

Obarski appears to be the only city council member that has had this epiphany.

The Naperville city council along with other city officials don’t feel the pain; that’s the real problem. If they did, they wouldn’t be so quick to ‘knock on our doors’ looking for more handouts. Part of the solution might be that the other council members and city officials need some skin in the game; they need to feel our pain. Something, anything, to make things a little more uncomfortable for them, like sitting on tacks, pebbles in their shoes, requiring push-ups or sit-ups prior to the vote to raise taxes, fees, and rates.

I would gladly drop down and do 50 push-ups, or climb a rope to avoid more taxes. Pebbles in my shoes, why not, I could look at it as a from of acupuncture, to better my health. No doubt that fewer taxes, fees, and rate increases would improve the health for most of the good folks of Naperville.

Feb 252018

I’m guessing that many of us, myself included, never heard of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Unfortunately with the horrific event in Parkland, Florida, I now know that beside having a high school named in her honor, she was an American journalist, suffrage advocate, and conservationist, passing away in 1998 and living to the ripe old age of 108, far longer than any of the students and teachers on that eventful day.

Much has been said about what to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again elsewhere like it always seems to do. Some want to use this as an opportunity to move towards erasing the Second Amendment (A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed), while others want to turn our schools into fortresses; heavily protected or impenetrable buildings. Most folks have probably gravitated to one camp or the other. That’s usually how it works nowadays.

School shootings are not new. Does anybody remember 1988 when 30-year old Laurie Dann shot and killed an 8-year old , while wounding five in Winnetka. My earliest recollection of a school shooting was in 1966 when Charles Whitman climbed to an observation deck at the University of Texas and within a 96-minute shooting spree, he had killed 17 while wounding 31 people.

In fact, the earliest recorded school shooting in ‘America’ occurred in 1764, at Enoch Brown School in Greencastle, Pennsylvania when one teacher and nine students died. If you Google ‘when did the earliest school shooting occur’, it will take you to a list from that date to Stoneman Douglas. If you scroll down it will take you 105 seconds to get to the bottom of the list. So this is not a new phenomenon. It’s been happening for a long time.

It seems like people are looking for a quick and easy answer, which typically involves throwing more money at the problem, rather than dealing with the cause. Watch and listen as Tucker Carlson , chats with Matt Bevin, the Governor of Kentucky, who some think including myself, nails the issue.

A good friend of mine, who graduated from pharmacy college the same year that I did (career number two of four for me), went on to med school. He vowed he was not going to be a ‘prescription mill’ doctor; a doctor that treats symptoms rather than causes. About ten years later we got together for dinner, and I asked him if he was able to do it. He said, ‘no’. He learned that if a patient left his office without a piece of paper (prescription), they didn’t feel like they were getting their money’s worth. Changing eating habits, or exercise, or lifestyles takes more time and is not easy.

A quick easy answer is not always the best answer, but it seems to be the answer most folks want.

Feb 172018

Who doesn’t like good Italian food, combined with live music and dancing, wrapped around a great festive time with friends? Well there are at least seven people, and they are all on the Naperville city council. And of the seven, who is the biggest curmudgeon of them all; that would have to be Naperville councilman John Krummen.

It all unfolded during the February 6 Naperville city council meeting when John Barry, owner and CEO of Star Events tried to re-open the door for approving Festa Italiana, at the Naper Settlement proposed for August 3-5. The event had been in the works for over a year, and then an unclear, cumbersome, and flawed process caused the plug to get pulled, time ran out, and the fun event disappeared into the inky shadows of the Municipal Center.

Watch and listen as Barry has his three minutes to resurrect the opportunity, and pay special attention how Krummen builds Barry’s hopes with a few words, only to be trampled within seconds as Krummen hides behind ‘process’.

Now watch and listen as the city clerk tries to clarify the processes, followed by a question from Mayor Chirico, when Krummen, again points out that he is a ‘process-guy’ only to have him conclude that it “sounds like we (the city) need to clean up some of our processes”.

So people, (residents, event planners, etc.) are held accountable to flawed processes. The amazing thing is that not only are the recipients of a fun event denied the opportunity of the event, the city and Naper Settlement also lose positive economic impact because of flawed processes.

Only two members (Mayor Chirico and council member Patty Gustin) of the nine-member council voted to reconsider the event. Gustin pointed out “As a city council, we have said to the Settlement, to do things to make the Settlement relevant, do things to increase the budget, increase revenues, and things like that, so it is not a tax burden on taxpayers, this is exactly what they are doing, and for us to deny it, is kind of like speaking out of both sides of your mouth.”

No less than three times, during the 40-minute council discussion, Krummen mentioned that he is a ‘process guy’; maybe he needs to change and amend his comment by saying he is an ‘effective-process guy’. In essence, Krummen, through the council’s vote, was saying to the fine folks of Naperville, “You get nothing. You lose. Good day sir!”