Wow, where have the gavel pounding, and vitriolic council member comments gone. Why haven’t we heard a council member refer to a staff member’s action as ‘stupid’. Why haven’t we heard a council member demand that staff do a month’s worth of useless research in one day, and give it to that council member the next day so he can let it sit on his desk without looking at it and then say ‘I don’t understand it’.
The Watchdog has been watching the Naperville city council for quite some time and we have been posting since late December 2010, so we have had some time to see changes take place; and the changes have been for the better. A major shift of improvement came after the election when Joe McElroy and Steve Chirico replaced two council members. The council chambers have become civil, and the citizens of Naperville along with Naperville staff are acknowledged with respect and dignity. You sense an atmosphere of more cooperation rather than hostility. Meetings are starting on time, and from where I was sitting, it looked as if the gavel had a slight layer of dust on it, indicating it has not been needed lately. So things are definitely better on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at Naperville city council meetings.
Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues and disagreements about city council decisions. That’s a given, considering the form of government that our country was founded upon; disagreement and questioning authority are healthy as long as it’s done with respect.
There are still hot topics of disagreement between the Naperville city council and a strong knowledgeable base of Naperville citizens. One such difference of opinion is the implementation of the “Naperville Smart Grid Initiative” (NSGI). For the first time in months, during the Public Forum portion of the July 19 council meeting, there were no speakers on the topic. That does not mean the fine folks opposing this waste of money have given up. On the contrary, they are moving forward and gaining momentum realizing if some group or authority is going to help put the brakes on this fiasco, it will have to approach the Naperville city council from a different angle. The Naperville city council has dug its hole so deep that they couldn’t get out of it even if they wanted to. They are in the same situation that the Titanic was in; too little attention to detail, too little advance preparation, too sure of their decision (even God can’t sink this ship), and too late to change direction. Just as Captain Edward Smith’s name is forever linked to the ill-fated Titanic, Councilman Robert Fieseler’s name will be associated as the ‘point person’ for the NSGI debacle.
Other issues will become more evident including the budget crises that the city of Naperville is experiencing. Another noticeable change in the Naperville city council is when agenda topics are discussed that involve expense, the council members are seriously considering alternatives in order to minimize that expense. That’s good.
However, typically they approve the expenditure. That’s not good. At least they are considering options, so it is a step in the right direction.
Another positive change for the Naperville city council is that they are talking less and keeping the meeting moving. Previously they specialized in ‘circular conversations’; agreeing on a premise, then discussing it endlessly over and over and then agreeing on the original premise. Decreasing those circular conversations is a time-safer for those viewing. However, during last night’s meeting, there was an agenda topic to ‘Ratify emergency treatment for Emerald Ash Borer’ that consumed 30 minutes of discussion resulting in a unanimous vote 9-0 in favor of ratification. You might be able to justify a 30-minute conversation if the vote was 5-4 or 6-3, or maybe even 8-1, but to talk for 30 minutes and then come up with a unanimous decision is a bit much. Juries have deliberated and decided murder trials in less time. The bottom line is that this may not be the best city council that Naperville has ever had, but for all we know, it could be the best of those to follow.