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.