Mar 272012

Many cities throughout the country are fortunate by design and elections to have outstanding leadership in local government. Unfortunately, Naperville, Illinois is not one of those cities. It has been in the past, and it may be in the future, but currently Naperville is experiencing a huge void in effective management and pro-citizen leadership. The Naperville city council is composed of nine members including a mayor. Three of those members for the most part represent their constituency in an effective manner, three are mediocre, and three are clueless with regard to the progress of the city. Hence two-thirds of the council are steering the city in the wrong direction. What makes this far more concerning is that Naperville has a council-manager style of government. Since its inception, it has become the most popular form of government in the United States. However ‘big’ and ‘popular’ are not synonymous with successful, efficient or valuable.

According to the International City/Council Management Association (ICMA)
The council-manager plan is the system of local government that combines the strong political leadership of elected officials in the form of a council or other governing body, with the strong managerial experience of an appointed local government manager. The plan establishes a representative system where all power is concentrated in the elected council as a whole and where the council hires a professionally trained manager to oversee the delivery of public services.

By definition, this form of government does not suit the city of Naperville, or maybe more appropriately the current group of elected officials does not suit this type of government. Again, by definition, this form of government requires ‘strong political leadership’ with ‘strong managerial experience’.

What the city of Naperville needs is a city manager that gets the job done, and the job is to ‘oversee the delivery of public services’ and make the city a better place to live for its citizens, while spending and saving money wisely.

The Catch-22 here is that the Naperville city council approves the hiring of a city manager (Doug Krieger) who then is accountable to the city council and not the citizens. If the city council is weak, then a city manager has carte blanche to do as he sees fit with no consequences. Considering the Naperville city council is two-thirds ineffective, that places the citizens of Naperville in a precarious position.

Since Naperville government lacks the leadership necessary to become a first-class city, what are the citizens of Naperville to do?
Well they could:
• vote the rascals out of office, but this could take years to replace six of nine city council members
• replace the city manager, but only the city council can do that
• change its form of government to a ‘strong mayor’ style

Or just maybe the city manager of Naperville could be like the city manager of Keller City, Texas (Dan O’Leary). Keller City is in many ways similar to Naperville in demographics, which we will cover in a future posting. He felt he was not needed, and laid himself off. He said the city has two assistant city managers and a third one (himself) is not necessary. That is the epitome of strong leadership. By doing so, he saved the city of Keller $176,000 (his annual salary) not counting benefits. Doug Krieger could not only be a hero, he could save our city many dollars in salary alone, and isn’t that part of the job of a city manager; saving money for the citizens.

Mar 152012

Who is the Bucky Brandon of the Naperville city council?

Wherever you look there are lists ranking the best of everything from the best airports to the best zoos. Just a few years ago, the city of Naperville ranked as a best city in which to live in the entire United States. This was before the advent of the Smart Meter fiasco inflicted by the city of Naperville upon its citizens. Since that time, Naperville is no longer considered as a best city to live in, in fact, it is not even considered as the best city to live in within ten miles of city hall; smart-meter free Bolingbrook surpassed Naperville and now has that honor.

The thing about lists is that they always reflect one person’s or one group’s point of view or opinion, hence they are interesting and debatable. Every now and then whomever is ranked number one on a list is a given. The best movie of all time (Citizen Kane), or the best basketball player of all time (Michael Jordan), and the best racehorse of all time, Secretariat. Choosing the second best is much more difficult. When Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, who was the second best? It could have been Sham since it came in second in each of the Triple Crown races; however, second bests are very debatable.

When we look at the Naperville city council, we have nine members including Mayor Pradel; however since he is the mayor, we will place him on his own list making him the best mayor currently serving Naperville. That leaves us with eight council members to consider for second best, including Brodhead, Chirico, Fieseler, Hinterlong, Krause, McElroy, Miller, and Wehrli.

In order to know whom the second best Naperville city council member is, number one needs to be selected. Applying Occam’s razor, a scientific and philosophic rule, which states that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex (which means keeping it simple) the best council member needs to be the one who represents the voice of Naperville citizens. Without a doubt that council member is Doug Krause, who best represents the needs and wishes of the citizens of our fine city. Three points support this: 1) he has been re-elected more times than any current city council member, 2) he has served on the council for nearly a quarter of century, and 3) he is probably the council member who is most respected and least liked by his peers. The other members of the Naperville city council tend to get irritated with Doug Krause because he doesn’t march in ‘lock-step’ with them as they trample on the rights of the citizens of Naperville.

Krause is similar to Philadelphia Phillies Hall-of-Fame pitcher Steve Carleton. In 1972, Carleton was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the National League and won the coveted Cy Young award. What makes that accomplishment even more amazing is that he won 27 games for a team that won only 59 games and was the worst team in the National League. The Phillies second best pitcher was Bucky Brandon who won only seven games. The difference between Krause and the rest of the city council is huge. Both Krause and Carleton excel at what they do, and play on bad teams surrounded mostly by incompetents.

So who is the ‘Bucky Brandon’ of the Naperville city council? If it was six months or a year from now, it very well could be Joe McElroy. He appears to be on the brink of breaking the chains that keep him in ‘lock-step’ with the others; he listens, he questions, he appears to be open-minded, fair, empathetic, and reasonable. However, he is still looking for the key to unlock those chains.

Many would say that there is no second best Naperville city council member, but as with Steve Carleton and Secretariat, somebody earns or defaults to that position.

Let’s consider the following:

• we only have six remaining to choose from, so someone has to be Bucky
• At least two council members need to be and will be voted out of office and their names rhyme with Chirico and Fieseler. When they are up for re-election they will start with at least 4,199 votes against them; those are the number of voters who signed the petitions to place the smart meter referendum on the ballot, which the city disallowed. That gets us down to four vying for second best.
• Two council members are probably very nice people, but very bland, and so transparent that it’s difficult to see them, Brodhead and Hinterlong. They do not add much, and when they are not at meetings, it isn’t noticed.
• That leaves two remaining; Miller and Wehrli. Miller is so average that if you Google the word ‘average’, Kenn Miller’s picture appears.

That leaves us with Grant (Bucky Brandon) Wehrli as the second best Naperville city council member. Consider the following:

• whether or not you agree with what he says or does, he has the courage to take a position and state it clearly and concisely
• he knows what he is doing and how to do it
• He did receive the most votes of all the candidates running for city council during the last election.
• he probably knows Robert’s Rules or Order better than anyone other than Naperville city attorney Margo Ely
• He communicates and responds to email, when others appear non-existent by evading and avoiding
• take him off the dais, and he is a genuine very likeable guy with a great sense of humor
• He is very active in the community with a strong focus on being a family man, and he truly believes in what he does and what he says.
• He can disagree without being disagreeable.

Now I know I will get feedback saying I have lost my mind about
Grant ‘BB’ Wehrli being second best council member and I get it.

I do not agree with council member Grant Wehrli on some issues, most notably, the installation of ‘smart’ meters, but I do respect his courage to deliver non-popular messages to his constituency. It is easy to be liked without being respected or respected without being liked, but to be both respected and liked is an art and he seems to be the closest to accomplishing that. He does not tell us what we want to hear, he tells us what he believes we need to hear. That takes courage.

So whatever happened to Bucky Brandon? He is currently selling insurance in Massachusetts. Chances are that a good number of voters would hope that Grant Wehrli would do the same. Bucky Brandon was not afraid to throw the ‘high and tight one’, neither is Grant Wehrli.

Mar 092012

If you are ever interested in going on a roller coaster ride without going to a theme park, or dabbling in virtual reality, all you have to do is venture into the world of local government bureaucracy. It is like being a pinball in a pinball machine where you are bounced and paddled around. When you enter the world of ordinances, codes, forms, phone calls, discussions, mixed messages, approvals, disapprovals, re-approvals, reversed decisions, ambiguities, uncertainty, haziness, and vagueness, you know you are dealing in the twilight zone otherwise known as the Naperville city government.

One of the more recent examples of this was showcased during the February 21 city council meeting when one of the items on the Consent Agenda portion of the meeting involved Naperville citizen Lisa Groskopf who had been issued a permit to build a fence, but later the permit was placed on hold, and she was required to go back to square one and start over. At this point, she had incurred considerable expense. Naperville city staff was leaning in one direction, while the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission was leaning in a different direction. In the mean time Lisa and her family were left leaning.

Watch and listen as Lisa Groskopf addresses the city council.

Now watch and listen as Naperville council member Doug Krause showcases the issue and again is the lone voice of reason supporting a citizen of Naperville.

It seems like some issues, including this one, should never get to the point of being presented ‘on stage’ in front of the council. Granted, it’s difficult to create a policy of one-size fits all, so there are situations where alterations, adjustments, and variances need to apply. However, to make citizens run through the gauntlet is not citizen friendly, especially in a city whose mayor was Officer Friendly,

What is of even more concern is the perception that if someone is in the favor of the city, they get preferential treatment on issues versus someone who might be considered a ‘fly in the city’s ointment’. It is unfortunate that view exists, but that is how government can work; Case in point is Naperville citizen Tom Glass who is now considered a ‘frequent FOIAer’ because he had so many FOIAs denied. Since his questions went unanswered, it necessitated him to ask for more information. He is an outstanding citizen of Naperville who is actively involved in Naperville, yet because he is considered ‘too’ interested in his city, he is now being punished because the city can take 21 business days to respond to his requests rather than five. In essence, he has become a fly in the city’s ointment, and the Naperville city council makes him run through the city gauntlet.

So what is a Naperville citizen to do? Do as Lisa Groskopf did and that is to persevere. And do as Tom Glass does and keep asking questions.

Mar 052012

It’s not often you can attend a meeting  lead by a group of nine local politicians joined by a city manager and a city attorney and get them to be as quiet as if they were attending a funeral service, but that’s exactly what happened at the most recent Naperville city council meeting on Tuesday February 21. It appears to be that when confronted with questions they cannot answer, they get glassy-eyed, fumble with papers, look at each other, and then finish off by staring into space.

During the public forum portion of the meeting, 11 citizens (including one each from Carol Stream and Woodridge) made their opposition to the installation of ‘Smart’ meters perfectly clear, supported by information contrary to the Naperville city council’s propaganda and misinformation. When citizens make the effort and take the time to address the city council and are given only three minutes to make their point, you would think the council would show the courtesy of answering a question. Swiss philosopher, Henri Frederic Amiel stated, “Truth is violated by falsehood, but it is outraged by silence.”

Watch and listen as Naperville citizens Tom Glass and Jennifer Stahl make compelling presentations and then are not given the civility of answers to their two questions.

Politicians are not made for ‘no comment’ unless of course they have something to hide, or cannot provide a truthful answer. Yet there they sit at the ‘People’s dais’ using tax payer dollars to avoid answering questions.

Watch and listen to Naperville citizen Gerard Schilling as he questions truth in local government.

Watch and listen as Naperville citizen Amanda Rykov makes an eloquent presentation asking the council what if other cities, states, and countries  along with experts are correct in stopping the installation of smart meters and the Naperville city council is wrong, and pointing out that even Naperville city council member Fieseler suggests ‘people shouldn’t move to Naperville’

During the final moments of the public forum portion of the meeting, it was evident to nearly all in attendance that the Naperville city council was not willing to show the courtesy of a response and a mass exodus of residents left the meeting in disgust.

It was only at that point that some of the council members began to talk and ‘piled on’ citizen-advocate and council member Doug Krause when he assertively expressed his displeasure for not getting information and documents regarding smart meters in a timely matter from staff. Council member Doug Krause is in a minority of one with regard to supporting the citizens of Naperville which most likely accounts for the fact that he is the longest serving Naperville council member (nearly a quarter of a century). Is it any wonder why the citizens of Naperville support his re-elections?

On the other end of citizen-voter support is newly elected and most likely one-term council member Steve Chirico. He has a tendency to make correct observations, but totally incorrect interpretations of those observations. After 90% of those in attendance left the meeting, he made the observation that relatively few support the opposition to the installation of ‘smart’ meters implying that the thousands of residents who signed a petition to stop the installation are insignificant. If that is the case, then the fact that he received about 7,000 votes in the last election out of 141,000 residents shows that about 134,000 oppose him. Same logic.

There is absolutely no doubt that the Naperville city council along with city manager Doug Krieger could benefit enormously from a spot-on presentation about citizens rights, government responsibility, and how the founding fathers of our Constitution intended for government to relate to its citizens. Watch and listen to Naperville citizen David Bendis as he gives the council a three-minute lesson in history, democracy and patriotism.

Thomas Jefferson could not have said it better himself.

Mar 022012

Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group

Government at any level be it federal, state, or local can be oppressive; that is the ‘nature of the beast’ in general. We vote those who represent us into office and hope they can govern with the best interests of those governed in the forefront. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons those who we have elected disappoint citizens. Most members of the Naperville city council are classic examples of this disappointment. One exception to this rule is council member Doug Krause who continues to be the ‘voice’ for the citizens of Naperville. Sadly, he is a minority of one in this regard, and the citizens come up on the short end of council voting.

The Naperville city council (minus Krause) governs by using the three pillars of citizen-oppression, which are money, muscle, and neutralizing opposition. Money in the form of using tax dollars against or to control citizens, muscle in the form of ordinances and ‘using’ the local police to intimidate citizens, and neutralizing opposition by ‘demonizing’ or insulting those who question or challenge council decisions such as the on-going hot topic of installing ‘smart’ meters.

Let me make it perfectly clear that the city of Naperville has an outstanding police force including the police chief, and they have to take their orders, so the issue is not the actions of the police, the issue is with those who use the police force for their own political agenda.

You have to think that if our Founding Fathers could observe the actions of the Naperville city council and the response by the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group, that the likes of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, and Franklin would give a standing ovation to the leaders and members of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group for their courage to respectfully question authority.