Sep 302018
 

It’s not often that an employee can retire and walk away with severance pay, unless of course you work for the government. It’s a sweet deal for the employee, and probably for the government, otherwise it wouldn’t occur. That’s exactly what happened when the City of Naperville parted ways with its Public Utilities Director of Water. Along with his paid-time-off hours, vacation hours, and sick time pay, he was given a $30,000 severance payment for ‘retiring’. Not bad if you can get it, and you can definitely get it when your work for the City of Naperville.

The definition of ‘severance pay’ is an amount paid to an employee upon dismissal or discharge from employment. The definition of ‘retirement’ does not include the words ‘dismissal’ or ‘discharge’. So which is it. Did the employee retire or was he dismissed/discharged?

Naperville city officials like to use the word ‘transparent’ when it comes to being open with residents about what goes on in the municipal center, and more importantly how tax dollars are spent. It’s obvious city officials are only transparent with what they want to be transparent about. Residents are on a ‘need to know’ basis, and apparently residents don’t need to know why and how this $30,000 was spent.

When Naperville city attorney Mike DiSanto was asked if it was customary for the City to provide severance payments to retiring employees, Disanto had no comment. Openness and communication skills have not been a strength of DiSanto which makes him a perfect match the position he has with the City. Some would say that DiSanto’s self-image is as lofty as his inability to be transparent.

Interestingly, the departed Director of Public Works – Water was recognized numerous times with bonuses for such accomplishments as working as part of a team with other city departments, and maintaining the city’s core values. One would think that would simply be part of the job description for anyone working in the Municipal Center, not something to be recognized with a bonus. Naperville city officials are liberal with bonuses and salary increases, and now severance payments for retiring employees. It’s easy for the city to give away money when it’s not theirs.

Naperville’s water department has had some missteps recently which helped create a $3-million shortfall in the budget if water-rate increases were not inflicted on businesses and residents of Naperville. Some of those missteps (screw-ups) included inaccurate reporting of revenue streams, non-metered water losses not being included, water meter inaccuracies, system leakage, and starting balances not being noted accurately. Other than that, everything was just perfect with the water department.

With Naperville city officials money solves everything. Simply continue to squeeze more out of residents for employee bonuses, severance payments, and hiring outside ‘experts’ and consultants to do the work of city officials, and let the city attorney say ‘move along, there’s nothing to see here’.

Sep 222018
 

The same week the State of Illinois OK’d medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids, the Naperville Liquor Commission sent the owner of a small chain of stores that sell hemp products , through the gauntlet and then out of town, when he requested to open a store in Naperville.

If you want a license to sell liquor in Naperville, it’s no problem. Naperville’s motto should be “You want liquor, we’ve got the licenses”.  Simply get in line, pay the liquor license fee, and be on your way. There is no limit on the number of liquor licenses Naperville can issue. Every time somebody wants a liquor license, the Naperville city council raises the limit by one. Just as Rome was built one brick at a time, Naperville’s tax base gets built one liquor license at a time.

If you want to increase the number of servings a brewery can offer, no problem. Just pop-in to a Naperville Liquor Commission meeting, state your case as Solemn Oath Brewery did, get the approval, and be on your way. Who’s next in line?

In fairness to Solemn Oath Brewery, their case presented by President John Barley made sense. If for no other reason, with the name John Barley, that in itself should qualify for liquor license approval; almost as good as Benny Budweiser. In time Naperville could have a thousand liquor licenses, why not, all it takes is one license at a time.

However, the Naperville Liquor Commission draws a hard line against approving a cannabinoid store at Washington St. and Chicago Avenue. The problem is not the location, it’s the idea that anything involved with hemp must be bad. Not surprisingly, one liquor commissioner voting in favor of the store was Pamela Davis, retired President and CEO  of Edward Hospital. If anyone on the liquor commission would know the fallacies, safety, and usefulness of cannabinoids, including a natural source of reducing anxiety and pain, it would be the person in charge one of the best hospitals in the Midwest. However her vote was steam-rolled by the commission.

CBD has some benefit for two rare and severe seizure disorders. Additionally, other forms of CBD have shown preliminary evidence for some conditions including multiple sclerosis pain, psychotic symptoms in Parkinson’s, and anxiety. Though the findings are limited in studies, numerous personal accounts, though anecdotal in nature, are promising.

In essence the Naperville Liquor Commission is picking winners (liquor licenses) and losers (CBD providers) based on fear of the unknown (lack of knowledge) about the benefits of cannabinoids. As the owner (David Palatnik) of the chain of CBD stores stated, “we sell the same items as Menard’s,  Target, Walgreen and Walmart. I think it’s unfair to small business”.

There was a time, not that long ago, when Naperville was on the cutting edge of new ideas and concepts, however now, as evidenced by the liquor commission vote, a dinosaur mentality exists among city officials. Picking winners and losers is not part of their job description.

Sep 152018
 

Once a year I get the urge to review family expenses. It usually happens after doing taxes. My thought is that there must be areas to save expense without sacrificing too much convenience or enjoyment. It takes about a day, but it’s time well invested. I was raised with the value that time is money, so as long as I can save more money than the time invested, it’s a good deal. I go through every category of expense, insurance, cable, food, housing, transportation, cell phone, auto, utility, etc. Even my land based phone. I like the land-based phone because when it rings I know where it is.

Naperville city officials insistence that so-called Smart Meters for electric would be a money saver for residents was, as expected, a total fallacy. City officials fought residents to the point that unless smart meters were forcefully installed on their homes, they would be arrested and thrown in the slammer, as some residents were cuffed and arrested. Another example where the City was sued and lost in court, along with its image of being a ‘family friendly city’.

Naperville city officials are reviewing services offered to residents in relation to the cost of those services. In other words, how much inconvenience are the good folks of Naperville willing to endure to save money.

One example of reduced service cuts causing ‘pain and discomfort’ for residents, cited by city staff is the average wait time for calls made to the finance department. In 2016 the wait time was 3-minutes, now in 2018 the wait time is 4.6 minutes; an increase of 60%. Sounds terrible doesn’t it, until you realize it’s an extra 96 seconds or less time than the time between innings of a baseball game. Staff also cited that the number of abandoned calls per day by residents increased from 44 per day in in 2017 to 52 per day in 2018, which equates to less than one per hour.

Just as there’s no crying in baseball, is dropping one call per hour, and waiting an additional 96 seconds anything to whine and cry about when it comes to saving some money. I think not.

The bottom line is why not survey residents online and see which services are most important and which are least important to them. Simply ask the good folks of Naperville how they want their dollars spent. It’s their money.

After reviewing family expenses, I asked (surveyed) my wife if she’s willing to make these changes to save money. She said, yes, if I’m willing sell my 1990 Volvo sitting in the driveway. Ten days later the Volvo was sold, after I came to the realization that my 10-year, and 8-year old grandsons probably wouldn’t want it eight years.

Sep 082018
 

Just when you think we can add some freshness to the Naperville city council with the spring election approaching, an old familiar face (David Wentz) pops up again, wanting to get back on the council. It’s the same feeling you have when you get gum stuck on your shoe during a hot August day; it and he just won’t go away.

Wentz sat (not served) on the city council from 2013 to 2015. His two-year term was two years too long, however he tossed his hat into the ring in the 2015 election, along with 19 other candidates for the eight open positions on the city council. Typically there are four open positions (as there will be in the next election) but because of a couple of referendums, all seats were open at that time.

The referendums had to do with district representation vs. at-large representation. The initial vote by residents was a landslide in favor or changing at-large to district representation. City officials were not happy with the result, so they finagled another vote on the same issue, but this time changing the wording of the referendum, confusing enough voters so the result was to keep at-large representation. It’s much easier for ineffective council members to get elected from a large group of candidates, than for an under-performing council member to go one-on-one with a better candidate.

Dave Wentz would have come in first place with the most votes for city council in 2015 , except 11 other candidates received more votes than he did. In fact, Wentz came closer to finishing in last place (20th) than coming in 6th place. He garnered 4,678 votes equating to a measly 4% of the total vote. He explained his loss as wanting to ‘focus more time on his family, business, and community service projects’. Apparently by getting back into the political fray he’s willing to set aside family, business, and community service. His community service includes being chairman of Naperville’s Citizens Appreciate Public Safety Board. Let’s see a show of hands for all those against appreciating public safety.

Wentz said his reason for wanting to get back on the council was for “unfinished business”, which implies he actually started something on the council. The only business he started on the council was making motions to adjourn meetings.

No doubt that Wentz enjoyed being a Naperville councilman. All too often he had to remind businesses in Naperville with ‘ Do you know who I am! ‘ Apparently they did, along with a good number of Naperville voters on election day.

Sep 012018
 

Looking at your yearly property tax bill can be painful. If you have taken the time to notice where the dollars are going, you’ll see that more dollars are allocated to the Naperville Park District than to the City of Naperville, other than the pension funds for those two entities. Pension funds are to the budget, what the iceberg was to the Titanic.

If you are concerned about the plight of the honey bees, the fact that the Park District gets more dollars than the City is good news, since the Naperville Park District is taking active measures to help our little pollinator friends while the City has done the reverse by placing restrictions on where they live, where they fly, and how many there are.

In an effort to appease one resident’s complaint about a honey bee in her bird bath, and the mistaken belief that the birds and bees can’t coexist, the Naperville City Council ‘put the screws’ to the honey bees. A short lived victory for the city council members, and a long term victory for the honey bees because the council’s actions prompted residents to learn more about honey bees causing a number of residents to place beehives on their property including one in the vicinity of the complaining resident.

More and more cities and towns are supporting honey bees from small town West Dundee to Chicago. Amazing that Chicago aldermen see the benefit while Naperville city officials continue to be short-sighted. Most recently Des Plaines aldermen agreed that their city should allow beekeeping for educational purposes at park districts, schools, and other institutions. This opened the door for the Mount Prospect Park District to support beehives at its Friendship Park Conservatory. Bottom line, thousands more honeybees will be buzzing in Mt. Prospect and Des Plaines by next year.

In contrast to Naperville city officials, the Naperville Park District has been open-minded and has taken an enlightened, rational, and well-informed outlook to the benefits of honey bees. I spoke with Carl Gorra, Park Operations Manager, and he mentioned the Park District has been very active in supporting pollinators with small pollinator gardens throughout the district including the 525 garden plots. Additionally the Naperville Park District has hosted open house and seminars to other park districts in the area explaining why it’s a good thing to do. The park district has identified eight parks for sustainable organic fertilizer with more to follow. Gorra said, “what’s good for pollinators is good for people”.

When asked, what he would do if elected the ‘King of Naperville’, he said he would like it if more people would provide a little space in their yard for a few of the right plants for pollinators.

A few little known facts about honey bees:

  • They can fly a distance of six miles and up to 15 mph
  • A honey bee queen can lay up to 2,500 eggs per day
  • Bee venom therapy (BVT) can be used to treat numerous ailments
  • One of every three bites of food is due to pollinators
  • A honey bee visits up to 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip
  • Honey bees must gather nectar from 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey
  • An average honey bee will make only one-twelfth of a teaspoonful (0.4cc = 8 drops) of honey in its lifetime
  • A honey bee lives only four to six weeks, whereas the queen can live up to five years
  • Honey is the only food that never spoils
  • Remember, honey bees are gentle and have no intention to harm you