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.

Jun 022018
 

Watchdog’s website has a “Countdown To The 2019 Election” currently showing 303 days, 15 hours. 11 minutes, and 31 seconds, until the good folks of Naperville either rehire or fire council members (Becky Anderson, Patty Gustin, Paul Hinterlong and Rebecca Obarski) along with Mayor Steve Chirico running for office. Some council members will likely get bounced out, as they should; fresh thinking is always welcome.

However, when it comes Mayor Chirico, is anybody willing to run against him? Maybe, but what are the chances of someone unseating Chirico? Probably as likely as the Chicago White Sox rebuilding plan being successful, which is next to zero. It’s not easy unseating an incumbent, especially if the incumbent is getting the job done, which Chirico is doing.

Former Naperville Mayor George Pradel’s nemesis during election time was councilman Doug Krause, who holds the record for second-place finishes. Krause finally got tired of losing, so he not only left the council, he also left Illinois. Who on the council wants to be the next Krause? Councilman Paul Hinterlong could be a Krause wanna-be, but he would only lose once to Chirico because term limits dictate how many times Hinterlong would get pounded by Chirico.

There are a few current council members (Rebecca Obarski and Kevin Coyne) with the talent to lead Naperville, but the only advantage to running and losing to Chirico would be to position themselves as front runners in the next election (2023) when Chirico packs it in for greener pastures as his two-term limit makes him part of Naperville’s history.

That leaves Chirico with a dilemma; what if no one runs against him? What’s the fun of winning an election by getting one vote, like a third-world country. This year alone Chirico has raised more than $50,000 in campaign contributions, probably $49,000 more than he needs to win.

To make it more of a challenge (actually fun) for him, would be for Chirico to offer anyone willing to run against him $10,000 worth of yard signs. He could become the first Naperville mayoral candidate to donate to a competitor’s campaign, maybe the first in the country, and still win the election convincingly.