Naperville City Council saved by the bell

If the open forum portion of the Naperville City Council meeting held March 1, 2011 would have been a heavy weight boxing match, it would have been a victory by TKO for the Naperville Citizens who oppose the Smart Grid project.

The only thing that saved the Naperville City Council from utter defeat and embarrassment was the “bell”; the three minute limitation rule which allows a citizen to state his or her case within three minutes. The City Council has a time keeper to “ring the bell” on a citizen’s presentation, thereby shutting him down and giving the Council a chance to regain their composure after getting pummeled with facts and outstanding questions that they can’t seem answer with confidence.

Typically citizens approach the podium with ‘hat in hand’ hoping not to get verbally pounded the Panel of 11 (8 Council members, the Mayor, City Manager, and City Attorney). So often presenters become human piñata’s for the Council, but not this night. All ten presenters made compelling points against continuing the Smart Grid project which is becoming a fiasco.

The most convincing, forceful, persuasive, and gripping presentation of the evening came for Naperville Citizen James Rooney, who in just a matter of a few minutes presented his credentials, facts, and pin-point questions to the Council. You could almost see the Council members shrinking in their seats, beads of sweet appearing on their foreheads, and looking elsewhere to others on the Panel of 11 and staff members for relief. It finally came from the time keeper, but not before Council members were back peddling and deflecting. Given another few minutes, the Naperville City Council would not lost by a TKO, they would have lost been a convincing knock out. Take a look at the interaction between Naperville citizen James Rooney and the Naperville City Council.

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This was followed by outstanding presentations again from Naperville citizens David Bendis and Lisa Rooney.

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The final exclamation point to the Citizens’ domination of the City Council came from Naperville Citizen Kim Bendis. Take note that at the end of her excellent presentation, when spontaneous applause respectfully erupts, Mayor pro tem Grant Wehrli loses his composure when he has to resort to pounding his gavel and nearly shouting that the citizens were utilizing “a method of intimidation” to those who may be “advocates of the Smart Grid”.
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Well excuse us Councilman Wehrli, but of the last 23 citizens to express their opinion about the Smart Grid, not one citizen has spoken in favor of the project. If this was such a phenomenal concept, why would the Naperville City Council have to spend thousands and thousands of taxpayer dollars on PR firms especially when it was reported November 23, 2010 that Councilman Fieseler stated “Saying the Smart Grid shouldn’t be in Naperville is like saying the City shouldn’t use the Internet. We’re not going to try to change people’s minds.” This came at the same time that City Manager Doug Krieger said, “The issues are not with technology, because the technology works.” It appears Doug Krieger must have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, because we didn’t know he was an expert on the topic.

That’s part of what make this whole debacle a fiasco. The Citizens of Naperville hear the technology works and the project is proudly moving forward. Then we hear that they are still investigating, and it may not move forward. We are getting different stories from the Naperville City Council not only from different people, but from the same people.

Maybe they have come to realize that their legacy hangs on this decision, and no matter which way they go, they lose. Either they stop the project and look like fools who have wasted taxpayer money, or they move forward with the project and look like industrial strength fools when it unravels down the road.

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  1. Kevin O

    I cannot comprehend the defensive banter presented by council and the “we will play it by ear” concept that seems to be taking place. It makes you wonder if PR firms and the fallible certification of the private institution UL stand to profit, who on the council stands to profit as well? If having my energy usage made readily available to the world via the several security concerns of the smart meters is not enough, what will it take for council to look out for the concerns of the citizens as opposed to pocketbooks? Naperville has already reduced the police force and now they are willing to tell criminals when I am/am not home. I certainly hope the reduction in police officers does not reduce response time to a call to emergency services.

  2. Joseph

    After the March 15 meeting, I think it is important to understand that this group is looking out for the best interest of the entire community. They do not oppose the smart grid. They don’t even oppose smart meters. They have presented very clear data as to why we should be looking at a hard-wried smart meter option for the safety of our community. Its still a smart meter. The city will still get what they want and our community will be safe. Why does it still seem like the council is trying to figure out what to do? It seems clear to me. Stop the project. Re-evaluate the project plan. Rework the budget. Reinvestigate a safe solution. Do the testing this group is asking for. Why not be the example of how to do it right and create a win-win with the government and the community at the same time.

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