Nov 302011

Times are tough and money is tight for many, and it is even more challenging for those who have less than most. Now the Naperville city government has made it even extra difficult for those with the most need. What makes this unfortunate is that it was unnecessary. It did not have to happen, if only those in charge would have followed due diligence and simply done their jobs properly.

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, administered by Housing Urban Development (HUD) provides federal funding for affordable housing programs and varied service organizations to serve the underprivileged. The city of Naperville failed to produce a mandatory annual report on the use of funds for the years of 2009 and 2010; hence, the city was notified that funding for those programs would be frozen. HUD did further investigation and discovered additional ‘serious’ mistakes of non-compliance by the city of Naperville.

This affects over $430,000 in funds, which would have helped numerous non-profit organizations in Naperville, including Loaves and Fishes (a community pantry) which stands to lose almost $150,000. Keep in mind that this was caused by lack of city oversight resulting major inaccuracies.

So who is in charge of managing the city?  Unless his title is incorrect, that would be Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger. Krieger said the CDBG program is ‘very rule and timing-driven and we made some mistakes in processing grants’. That would qualify as an under statement. Apparently, the person in charge of the program is no longer employed by the city; however, the person in charge of managing the city (Doug Krieger) is still employed by the city. Krieger further mentioned that he was “not going to put blame on any single source, since it was really multiple sources.” Krieger went on to say that, he was not sure how the non-compliance and errors continued unchecked. Now here is the kicker-quote, “I don’t think I have a good answer”. Since Krieger  an is not sure how this happened and he doesn’t have any answers, this would be code for “I have no idea how to prevent this from happening in the future.  This comes from the very person who seems absolutely sure about almost absolutely everything including the Smart Meters. He is absolutely sure they are safe, absolutely sure the information will secure, absolutely sure wasting millions of taxpayer dollars was a wise investment, and absolutely sure the project will work. Based on that the citizens of Naperville might be absolutely in trouble with the council’s decision to implement the not-so Smart Meters .

It is the city manager’s responsibility to make sure things are done properly. If that is not the case, then his title should be Naperville City Bystander. The Naperville city council needs to hold the city manager accountable for his actions, decisions, and oversight of staff. In the famous words of Ronald Reagan, “trust but verify”. Krieger may have trusted but apparently, verification is not part of his management style.

At the last city council meeting, an agenda topic was being discussed and the term “Perfect is the enemy of the good”. Well to that I say, “If better is possible, then good is not enough.”  If Doug Krieger’s management style is considered ‘good’, then based on this loss of funding for the needy, “good is not enough because better is possible”. The citizens of Naperville deserve better.  It is as simple as that.

Nov 252011

The next general election for Naperville city council is about 16 months from now, however it is never too early to start evaluating those who profess to lead us, and which of those need to be replaced at the next election. Last year we graded each of the nine city council members and ranked them from best to worst,  and interestingly though not surprisingly, the two council members who were deemed to be the least effective are no longer on the city council. Whether or not this will repeat, remains to be seen since the election is more than a year away.

What we can appraise are mid-term performances for the council members based on the grades and comments you submitted. We asked that you keep your comments very brief (one, two, or three words) characterizing each council member and we appreciate your effort in doing so. Though we do not necessarily agree with each comment submitted, we respectfully acknowledge their right to respectfully comment. We averaged the grades and included some of the more common sentiments. We also included the final grade from last spring as a comparison to their grades now.

The mid-term grades at Watchdog University for each Naperville city council member in descending order are:

1) Doug Krause     [A]    Improved from (A-)

Considered as the ‘voice’ for Naperville citizens, council member Krause is time and again, voted down by his peers. It takes courage to be the lone dissenter and speak up for citizens, and this is exactly what Krause does. He admits when he is incorrect (his initial support of Smart Meters). Comments included: good communicator, good follow-up, active listener, balanced, experienced, values input, innovative, flexible, open-minded, seeks collaboration, seeks feedback, looks beyond the obvious, says what needs to be said, strong sense of passion, makes things happen, still the best dressed council member.

2) Joe McElroy      [B+] New to the council

The Watchdog did not originally endorse Joe’s candidacy, and we have learned by Joe’s presence on the council that we were wrong. Joe brings a calm demeanor to the dais, and though he is a person of few words, the words he speaks are meaningful. We get a sense he truly wants to make the right decisions and wants to understand all sides of an issue. Comments include: looks for ways around obstacles and road  blocks, anticipates consequences, sets appropriate priorities, identifies important objectives, cares for others, demonstrates compassion and respect, addresses conflict constructively, most relaxed person on council, comfortable in his own style, truly listens to others, willing to speak up for what’s right, excellent listener.

3) George Pradel    [B]   Improved from (B-)

Mayor Pradel declared this would be his last term in office. He has been an outstanding leader for the most part and a cheerful ambassador for our city. He does not need the gavel to earn the respect his position deserves. To be in office as long as he has been in office and earn a grade of ‘B’ is a major accomplishment since the position of Mayor is high profile. Comments include: friendly, likeable, welcoming, compassionate, approachable, rallies people to accomplish tasks, maximizes relationships, skating through his final term, gives recognition, popular spokes person for Naperville, quietly controlling,

4) Paul Hinterlong [C+] Declined from (A+)

Last year Paul rated # 1 and has slipped to # 4 this year. He has a lot to offer, but he doesn’t offer it. He needs to speak up. Unfortunately when he speaks up he slips up; most notably when he voted to improve the council’s audio system, he implied it was too much work for him to move towards the microphone, hence spending thousands of dollars on audio upgrades would address his concern. Typically, his plain speaking style is refreshing because he has the ability and potential to add much-needed common sense to issues.

Comments include: unsure, thoughtful, friendly, practical, amiable, self-conscious, respectful, quiet, humble, grateful, avoids risks, takes too long to deliver negative feedback, flashes of brilliance, needs to lead rather than follow, gets complacent,

5) Kenn Miller      [C-]   Declined from (C)

If you look up the word ‘average’ in the dictionary, most likely you will see a picture of Kenn Miller. In a two person Mayoral election, he would come in second; in a five-person race, he would come in fifth. The second ‘n’ in ‘Kenn’ is still silent.   Comments include:  unsure, cautious, confused, uncomfortable, suspicious, grim, just another ‘Cheerio in a bowl of Cheerios, analytical, formal, limits gestures, little variation if vocal intonation, trust issues, car salesman mentality, needs to loosen up, waits excessively for information, little if any passion, struggles with understanding concepts, too few leadership dimensions, doesn’t drive change, would be a good Chicago alderman, manages execution well, needs to demonstrate accountability.

6) Judy Brodhead [D+] No change

Judy is consistent in being below average, always meets expectations which unfortunately are low. However, she is still the most effective non-male member of the council. She has an unusual fixation on salt when discussing issues. If given the opportunity, she would be an outstanding kindergarten teacher; seems to relate well with ‘simple’. We get the feeling that Judy sees her involvement on the city council as a hobby. Comments include airy, talkative, happy, disconnected, friendly, non-entity, inconsequential, helpful, irrelevant, spectator, adds very little value if any. Having Judy Brodhead on the city council, is like going to the same average restaurant every day and having the same meal with extra salt.  Harmless but slightly boring.

7) Grant Wehrli     [D]    Declined from (B+)

Grant is one of those people you want to like, however he gives you so many reasons not to like him, which is unfair because he is a likeable person. You also get the feeling that when he was in grade school he probably got beat up quite often during recess. Seems to rely too heavily on his last name, and that can only take him so far. It might be intoxicating for him to see his name on streets and stadiums, which may account for his dismissiveness towards public forum presenters. Comments include: opinionated, voices unpopular positions on issues, demonstrates courage, action orientated, time disciplined, sense of humor, not open minded, assertive, hostile, belligerent, disrespectful towards citizens with opposing view points, arrogant, condescending. Appears to believe that ‘a penny saved’ is a city council oversight.

8  Steve Chirico    [F+]   New to the council

Steve was able to accomplish within just a few months of being on the council, what it takes most council members years to attain, and that is intense dislike from voters. His learning curve on the council has flat lined. He lost many points by gavel pounding a young woman out of a council meeting, and using armed police officers to escort her out of the building. If that meeting had been a hockey game, he would have admonished to the penalty box.  He followed that stunt, a few weeks later, by ridiculing and hurling a personal insult to another young woman who dared to respectfully oppose his viewpoint. He appears determined to be a one-term council member, and chances are that Naperville voters will help him accomplish his goal. Whatever his major malfunctions are could possibly be aided by an industrial strength dose of Fleets prior to meetings. Comments include: defensive, hostile, out-of-his comfort zone, overwhelmed, weak, up tight, inadequate, insecure, powerless, empty suit, testosterone-challenged, inflated hat size, needs an honest mentor, could learn much if he was willing to listen, has potential, analytical, past-oriented, strong willed, reactive, spends too much time looking in his rear view mirror vs. looking forward, slow on the uptake, looks at Naperville as the “Peoples Republic of Naperville”, his current leadership style would qualify him as the ‘tallest midget in town’. Has not performed as advertised in his campaign.

9) Bob Fieseler     [F]      Declined from (D)

Bob’s re-election in the last election apparently gave him a false sense of empowerment. If the election was ward or district based, chances are he would have been classified as a “former” council member. Council member grades were averaged, yet he still managed to earn a solid ‘F’. That is not easy to do. Even Chirico had a ‘+’ after his ‘F’. His ‘flag carrier’ position on the Smart Meter issue has been a major reason for his voter support to plummet. His shelf life is out dated. Comments include: disrespectful, arrogant, demeaning, hostile, whining and crying, condescending, bush-league, integrity-challenged, disingenuous, unreasonable, pandering, double-speak, insincere, evasive, trust issues; other than that Bob is O.K.

Overall two council members improved (Krause and Pradel), one had no change (Brodhead), two members are new (McElroy and Chirico), and unfortunately the performance of four Naperville city council members declined (Hinterlong, Miller, Wehrli, and Fieseler)

Unseating an incumbent is difficult; however, it is becoming easier now than before in large part due to the internet. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a posting or article along with video clip is worth exponentially more. The Watchdog website alone, in less than one year, has readers in 43 states and 29 countries. Naperville citizens are engaged and active in their communities, and very knowledgeable about what is happening in their hometown. Council members can browbeat, badger, ridicule, and intimidate citizens with penalty fees, ordinances, mandated 90-second public forum presentations, pounding gavels, tossing law-abiding citizens out of meetings, and armed police presence at council meetings, but citizens can boot those council members out of city hall at election time. It has been done, and it will be done at a quickening pace. If Naperville city council members cannot grasp that reality, then they too will be sitting on the citizen’s side of the dais requesting their 3 minutes to speak.

Under-performing council members are no longer acceptable. Council members who are disrespectful to the citizens of Naperville will no longer be tolerated. Council members who do not listen to their constituency will be replaced. And council members who waste the taxpayer’s money will be voted out of office. The best way to prevent George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is George Washington’s ‘1776’. As Occam would say, It’s as simple as that.

Nov 112011

Every now and then, a magical moment occurs on the council side of the  dais at a Naperville city council meeting. It happened at the November 1 meeting when the city council was debating whether to approve continued Red Light Camera enforcement to the tune of almost $350,000. The city council tends to spend our tax dollars as if we had a surplus.  We will look at this later, however let’s set the stage as to how the council created this magical moment and in so doing actually shocked themselves with their own vote.

When the Naperville city council decided to approve the ill-advised concept of Red Light Cameras, they said they did it to improve safety by reducing crashes and injuries, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with increased revenue for the city coffers. As always, the council made it sound as if it was in the best interests of the citizens. Even though cities, including Bolingbrook, and states around the country chose not to approve the use RLCs (Red Light Cameras), the Naperville city council pushed forward against the will of the citizens, much the same way that the council is now pushing forward with the Smart Meter fiasco, again against the will of the citizens of Naperville. It makes you wonder why our city council typically chooses to support the wrong side of an issue. What is it that other city councils know, that our council does not know. Are others smarter or wiser than our city council? And why is it that again the city council of Bolingbrook looks superior to ours with regard to common sense?

Watch and listen to council member Chirico openly admit that RLCs “effectively reduce crashes but it is now costing money” and for that reason he would vote not to approve the contract to continue using RLC’s. What happened to the argument of safety? Isn’t this exactly contrary to why the council approved the RLCs in the first place?

Watch and listen as council members Wehrli, Krause and Pradel state their positions on the topic.

Give credit to Krause and Pradel because they are consistent in their vote on the issue. Krause was not, and is not in favor of RLCs, while Pradel voted for RLCs the first time and this time, and as a former Naperville police officer, it is understandable.  In fact, the only two members of the city council who originally supported  RLCs and now voted not to approve RLCs are council members Wehrli and Fieseler. How can this be? They were proponents of the safety aspect of RLCs and stated that RLCs are not for the purposes of increasing revenue. Wehrli even stated “I’m all about safety”. Yet now when it appears safety has increased they decide that it is no longer important since revenues are negatively impacted. This is classic hypocrisy. Let’s make this perfectly clear; council members Grant Wehrli and Bob Fieseler are poster boys for the definition of ‘hypocrite’. They are not bad people, they are just not as advertised.

Now let’s get to that special magical moment when the Naperville city council voted on the issue. Note that four of the first five vote to approve the RLCs, then the final three vote not to approve RLCs hence causing a 4 to 4 tie vote (Hinterlong was absent), and the motion to continue RLCs was thereby not approved. Then listen closely as you can hear the council genuinely shocked that the motion was not approved. It takes them almost 20 seconds to regain their composure as if the wind had been knocked out of them collectively, which was a magical moment.

It is always magical when the citizens win, and even more magical when the Naperville city council inadvertently throws the decisive punch that causes the council to go down for the count of ten.

Nov 042011

If you have ever stepped on a wad of gum on a hot August day, then you know how the Naperville city council must feel with regard to increasing citizen opposition to the Smart Meter debacle that the city council is forcing upon its citizens. The issue just simply will not go away. Even though the city has spent millions of taxpayer dollars to a public relations firm trying to ‘happy talk’ citizens into believing the government has our best interests in mind and why Smart Meters are a good thing, it is not working. By a vote of 8-1 (Krause voted no) the Naperville city council decided to throw another $1.45 million to this PR company hoping to convince Naperville citizens that the council is doing the right thing. The council has already thrown away $3.65 million with not much to show for it; a couple of lobbyists presenting the council mantra during the Open Forum portion of two or three meetings, some impressive name tags for these folks, and some really cool shirts for them to wear during meetings. You’ve got to ‘tip your hat’ to this PR firm for selling their ‘package of snake oil’ to the city manager who in turn sold it to the council who in turn can’t seem to sell it to the citizens of Naperville. If only our local leadership was as smart as this PR company is.

Even the Bank of America decision-makers realized the folly of their ways when they had to drop the $5 monthly charge for debit card usage. Their executives realized very quickly it was not wise to push the issue, yet the Naperville city council (excluding Doug Krause) continues on their road to failure regarding the unnecessary cost of this project, the health and safety concerns, the security and privacy issues, and the rights of citizens.

Listen and watch as Naperville citizens Tom Glass, George Isaac and Kim Bendis present compelling arguments in opposition to the Smart Meters and their support of incorporating due diligence into discussions.

Las Vegas is not taking bets that the Naperville city council will come to their senses. That train has left the station and there are no brakes; only failure can stop that train.

So you ask, “What’s the purpose of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group”? Well, maybe they think that if they are unable to help citizens in Naperville, they can help citizens and city councils in other cities throughout the country to not make the same mistakes the Naperville city council and city manager have made. You can be sure that others are watching, observing and learning from the ill-advised decisions of the Naperville city council. The internet can be a beautiful thing, and it definitely is in this case.

Let’s face it, if it was not for the money grab that the Naperville city council desperately jumped for, the council would not be acting this foolishly.

It’s all about the money; it’s as simple as that. And if you question if that could  be true, all you have to do is note that later in the city council meeting the city council voted not to approve the award of Option Year One (Red Light Cameras) though accidents have decreased at those RLC intersections. If you remember, the council said it was about safety and not about revenue. Looks like even though safety has increased, revenues have not been what were expected so they voted ‘no’ to RLCs.

Council member Doug Krause has been a staunch supporter of citizen’s rights. Listen and watch as Krause ‘goes to bat’ for the citizens of Naperville.

It takes courage on his part to defend the citizens of Naperville, especially when he is on the receiving end of ire from some of his peers including council members Wehrli, Miller and Chirico.

Game six of the World Series was memorable; 19 runs, 28 hits, 5 errors, about 4 hours to play, yet it came down to a couple of impact moments to say it all. The same happened at the Naperville council meeting. Watch and listen to council member Steve Chirico take just 9 seconds to profess he has the gift of knowledge and wisdom that Naperville citizens do not have.

And listen and watch council member Grant Wehrli take just 7 seconds to use the words ‘nefarious’ and ‘government in action’ in the same phrase.

Maybe because they are the same.