The Naperville city council takes a lot of ‘heat’ and rightfully so, however they are citizens as are the rest of us. The only two differences are that they sit on the elected side of the dais, while the ‘common folk’ sit on the other side, and they have the absolute power to make our lives more pleasant or more miserable with the decisions they make. No matter what decisions they make, there will be some unhappy people; they can’t keep everybody happy and frankly, that’s not what they were elected to do. Their basic job is to make Naperville a better place to live for its residents.
They take a lot of criticism from all areas including citizens of Naperville, local newspapers, and even occasionally from the City Council Watchdog…..well, OK maybe more than occasionally. Yet to their credit, not one council member has ever disrespectfully criticized me. I have briefly chatted with all but two, and emails have been exchanged between most council members and me. There obviously has been disagreement, but none has been disagreeable. In fact, one council member (Grant Wehrli) has been quite humorous, at times, in his disagreement with me. He doesn’t hold any punches, he tells it as he sees it and I respect that. He also has a very real and personable side, which you don’t necessarily see at council meetings. He’s not there to win friends, he’s there to get the job done and how can you not respect that commitment.
Most if not all have full time jobs and other than the mayor, the council members receive a part-time salary and some perks for their efforts. How many of us would really want to sit on their side of the dais and deal with what they have to deal with; apparently not many considering that out of a city population of about 141,000 only three ran for mayor, and 12 ran for the three open council seats. You look at the nine council members and ask yourself is this the best that Naperville can do, and the answer is apparently yes. Getting elected to the council is not an easy task, especially if you’re not an incumbent, yet this is exactly what Joe McElroy and Steve Chirico did, so that’s a major accomplishment.
The Naperville city council has to deal with many boring issues including the following at the last city council meeting:
- Valet parking transfer zones
- Sign compliance
- Amplifier permit for the Turkey Trot
- Storm water variance
- 30-foot building setback line
- Electronic message boards
- How many live chickens can a resident have running around his yard
In addition, of course there are some high-energy issues such as:
- Smart meters
- Emergency radio systems
- Term limits
- District representation
Those always elevate the adrenalin, and liven-up an audience.
Some of the better moments during council meetings occur during the Public Forum portion of the meeting. This is when residents get to march up to the podium and express their feelings and thoughts for three minutes. Now that may not seem like enough time, however let’s face it, the council has to draw a line, otherwise most residents could talk for 30 minutes and we’d never get done with the meeting. A few months ago, one resident was upset because he saw a fire truck idling at local grocery store while a couple of firefighters were quickly gathering groceries for the fire station; he thought that was a waste of taxpayer money. The council politely listened, while I’m thinking ‘give me a break, it’s less than a mile from the station to the store, they need to have nourishment at the station, they risk their lives for us, it’s cool seeing a fire truck, and it gives residents a chance to say ‘thank you’ to the firefighters while they shop….what’s the harm’. Then the council has to listen to the same resident complain about a motorcycle cop, parking his cycle on the sidewalk while he uses his radar looking for speeders. Again the council respectfully listens and thanks the speaker for his comments, rather than saying what I would say which is “Don’t speed and you won’t get a ticket, and what do you want, the police officer to park his bike in the street and risk an accident….give me a break” That’s why I would not make a good council member. I’m sure members of our council often times want to make blunt comments, but usually choose to take the high road, so you have to give them credit for that.
As promised in last week’s posting we wanted to focus on what council members were doing right during this week’s meeting by selecting the top five and then choosing the council member most likely to be re-elected based on Tuesday’s ‘doing-it-right’ results. The nine-member council made this more challenging to do since three of the nine (Fieseler, Hinterlong, and Miller) were not present for the meeting, though council member Miller did appear near the conclusion.
- Hence, Hinterlong did not make the Top-Five; so we missed his typical common-sense approach to issues and his friendly calm demeanor.
- Miller also missed out, however the fact that he came to the meeting after attending a business meeting is commendable. Many elected officials would not have even bothered to show-up but Miller did. In addition, he looked refreshed and apologized for being late. Even after a full day, he looked energized and ready to rock-‘n-roll. Council member Kenn Miller has his critics, as we all do, however he really does try to do the right thing, and represents Naperville in a positive manner.
- Council member Brodhead missed the Top-Five, though she did add some good humor to the evening with her comments.
- Chirico also did not crack the Top-Five list, however his wife attended and he always seems to be more ‘user friendly’ in her presence. So kudos for Chirico showing his ‘approachable’ style.
Now for the Top-Five:
# 5 Council member Grant Wehrli did not want to delay a resolution approving employee benefit changes; he wanted to “move it along”. Like it or not, he is an ‘action’ type of leader and he wants to make things happen.
# 4 Council member Bob Fieseler. He was not at the meeting, and that is exactly why he made the Top-Five list. Sometimes less is better, and in this case, a no-show is a good-show. (Again, I am looking for the positives)
# 3 Council member Doug Krause. If there is one person who really speaks for the citizens of Naperville by his actions on the council, it is Doug Krause. It takes courage to be the lone voice on the council supporting citizen issues and he occasionally takes ‘heat’ from other council members for doing so. Tuesday evening he supported the citizen-side of the Smart Meter issue, he favored a signage issue for a business in these difficult economic times, he voted ‘No’ on the AT&T wireless issue, and with regard to the ‘chicken’ issue, he supported ‘doing nothing’ which is sometimes better than ‘doing something’ with regards to additional citizen regulation.
# 2 Council member Joe McElroy speaks softly, using few words, makes a lot of sense, is always respectful, and you feel compelled to listen to him for those reasons. Regarding a signage ordinance variance, he said ‘you either have the ordinance, or you don’t’. He also voted ‘no’ to the AT&T request to install wireless equipment, and he asked the speakers which cities did not approve the AT&T request.
# 1 is Mayor Pradel. He started the meeting on time, and he displays empathy, care, and concern for the citizens of Naperville. He attempts to keep the meeting moving, and seldom uses the gavel. He truly is the face of Naperville and treats people at all socio-economic levels with respect and courtesy. To be a police officer for so many years, including being Officer Friendly means he had to maintain law and order in a dangerous profession, while still being a genuine nice guy.
The goal was to select the council member most likely to be re-elected, and considering Mayor Pradel has indicated he will not run for re-election, that means council member Joe McElroy is the one most likely to be re-elected.
How does Mayor Krause sound?
Great article. Your right. I tend to be critical of these people, but they are the ones stepping up for the opportunity to make change. Looks like I should attend these meeting because I would love to explain to the one citizen who was complaining about the fire truck. First firefighters buy their own food, so they have to visit the store. Second the truck has to stay running. If they were to stop the truck and they received a call, then the truck didn’t start, what next. With the truck running, they know they can get to a call. As for the motorcycle cop. Good for him. I am glad he is giving tickets. My kids are walking around downtown. i have enough to worry about. The last thing I want to worry about is a speeder or someone jabbing on the phone, running into one of my kids. Great article. Looks like I will be attending these meetings and for the most part these guys do a good job and yes i do have some issues with some of the stuff they pass, but as you said, you can not please everyone. Just do the best you can. As long as the people come first.