Naperville city council needs Occam’s razor

The citizens of Naperville overwhelmingly approved the formation of district representation for the Naperville city council. Five districts are to be created with one council member elected to represent each of the five districts, while three other council members will provide at-large representation. The citizens of Naperville wanted to have this happen quickly in time for the 2011 election. However if there is one thing that local government and the legal system is extremely adept at doing, it’s making things happen quickly like voting on and raising the water rates immediately, or making things happen slowly like creating a five-district map; which the citizens of Naperville may have within the next four years. Have you ever noticed that if government wants something now, it happens now, yet if the citizens want something, it happens later if at all?

The Naperville City Council is pondering what to do. How can they possibly accomplish this in such little time? A year, two, or more just does not seem like enough time. The anticipated one-word answer by the Naperville City Council is ‘procrastination’; do nothing, then drag it along, and then when the pressure is on give it to a highly paid consulting firm (business partner) for them to solve. Another potential waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Naperville city council needs to incorporate Occam’s razor into their decision making process. Occam’s razor is a scientific and philosophic rule, which states,

“The simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex.”

So here is the first idea. Give the assignment of drawing a district map to a team of students from each local high school. It could be teams of students from debate class, or political science, or business. Get students involved; who knows they may become city council members some day.  Give them the paradigms and a time frame to complete the challenge (a weekend, a week, a month) and give the winning team a $50 gift certificate for a pizza party. They will get the job done quicker, better, and less expensively than using a consulting firm.

Now for the next idea. The Naperville City Council likes to talk about ‘transparency’.

Sometimes they make things so transparent that they can’t even be seen. It makes you wonder if they like it better that way. Take for example the agenda for the Tuesday night city council meetings. Yes, you can dig it out of the city website but that takes time and the website is not exactly user friendly. Why not make it easy for people to see what is on the agenda. Collaborate with the local newspaper (Naperville Sun) and publish it on the Friday or Sunday prior to the meeting. Naperville citizens could see it and decide if an agenda item catches their attention; like the recent topic of raising the water rates by 29%. Now publishing the agenda would take some real courage on the part of the Naperville city council. The question is, do they have the courage to do it. Or, will they stick to their value of “transparency” so that as few as possible see it.

‘Occam’ had a simple idea…” keep it simple”   How simple is that.

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