Apr 262012

If you show a group picture of the Naperville city council members to residents of Naperville, they are hard-pressed to know who anybody is, other than Mayor Pradel. If you add city manager Doug Krieger, and city attorney Margo Ely to the picture, it gets even more confusing for residents. If it weren’t for Mayor Pradel, most folks would think the others were co-defendants in the Blagojevich trial.

Citizens can remember some council member names because of all the political yard signs at election time. Some of these signs are still there long after the election. In fact, in my neighborhood there was a campaign sign for “My man Mitch” who is the governor of Indiana.

It’s difficult to know who’s who on the council. At meetings, it’s challenging to see their nameplates beyond the first few rows of seats. Even if you could see the nameplates, you would see one for councilman Judy Brodhead, which means she could be a he, or he is like the Johnny Cash song ‘A Boy named Sue’. If you watch on line or local TV, you do not see the names plates, so how is a citizen to know which council members to vote for and not to vote for. This could be the strategy for the council members; keep the citizens guessing.

In an effort to help Naperville voters know who’s who on the Naperville city council, it may help to provide some tips, based on their seating from left to right:

Joe McElroy: Joe likes to look up at the lighting as if he is on the beach catching some rays. He usually listens to citizens unless they are asking him questions.

Judy Brodhead: her nameplate shows ‘Councilman’ and Mayor Pradel refers to her as Mrs. Brodhead. She has the unenviable seat next to council member Fieseler.

Robert Fieseler: also known as RF for radio frequency. He likes all kinds of RF and in fact, there is no such thing as too much RF for Bob. He’s never seen an RF that he didn’t like.  He wants to be the first person to charge his electric car at the first electric charging station in downtown Naperville. He likes back-up plans since his initial plans usually don’t work.  He’s in the market to obtain a 14,000-foot extension cord which can reach from Lisle to Naperville, so when the Smart Grid fails, his electric car will not need an electric tow truck.

Doug Krause: still the best-dressed council member in Naperville, and very possibly the entire state of Illinois. You have as much of a chance of finding a wrinkle on his clothes, as you would in finding another Naperville council member supporting his position on Smart Meters.

Doug Krieger (city manager): For Flash Gordon fans, three words cover it all for Doug Krieger “Ming the Merciless”

Mayor George Pradel: If there is one person on the city council who looks like he would not make your life like a ‘living hell’, it is Mayor Pradel (formerly Naperville’s Officer Friendly)

Margo Ely (city attorney): If there is one person who can make your life like a ‘living hell’ it is Margo Ely. In actuality, any attorney can do that. What makes Margo even more amazing is that she is so petite in stature, that on a bright sunny day she does not create a shadow. However, she can put you down for the ‘count of ten’ in no time at all.

Kenn Miller: every used-car dealership on Ogden Avenue has someone who looks exactly like Kenn. Out of a city of 140,000 people, Kenn Miller came in third place behind Pradel and Krause for the election of Mayor of Naperville; that’s not bad until you realize only three people ran for office.

Grant Wehrli: Grant is the one person who occasionally comes to city council meetings in disguise (well-groomed beard). However, he is not one to disguise his words or feelings. Some of his non-verbal communication towards others include the following: rolling his eyes which means ‘are you nuts’, leaning back and quietly laughing which means ‘are you nuts’, and giving a coy smirk which means ‘are you nuts’.

Paul Hinterlong: he is short for his height (yes, short for his height), but what he lacks in ‘dunking skills’ is more than covered by his likeability. You occasionally want to pick him up by his suit lapels and shake the words out of him. The ‘words’ are definitely in him, they just don’t line up in order when they are coming out.

Steve Chirico: You cannot miss Steve. He is a bit too tall for his suit pants, and his eyes light up the closer he gets to the Mayor’s gavel. You have heard about people who like to play the air drums, well Steve loves to pound the ‘air gavels’

Undoubtedly, the Naperville city council is an interesting bunch. Behind closed doors, they are probably a lot of laughs. However, for the citizens of Naperville the council is a lot of laughs for the wrong reasons at the wrong times.

Apr 192012

It happened again at the last Naperville city council meeting. Actually, it happened a number of times. In fact, it happens at each Naperville city council meeting. I am referring to the fact that the members of the Naperville city council break their own rules; not just one rule or two rules, but at least three rules. Every member does it from the Mayor to newly elected member  Chirico. And it makes no difference if the council member is on ‘top of his game’ (Wehrli), or a council member who often times is clueless (Fieseler).

Two of the rules seem less important, however at some time in the past there was a much wiser council than our current council because they incorporated those rules in the Municipal Code. Let’s look at those two rules first, and then get to the more important rule that they break.

Rule # 1 (Let’s call it the ‘The Sometime’s Rule) which in part states:

Speakers: Speakers will identify themselves and provide their current address at the podium before beginning their comments.

(Ord. 04-173, 10-5-2004)

During the Public Forum, portions of the March 20 and April 3 meetings everyone was asked to provide their address, except for one person (Randy Morris). Almost 60 people addressed the council in total, but he was the only one that was not asked to provide an address, and it happened with him at each of those meetings. Hence the “Sometimes Rule”. Watch and listen as the council let’s Randy Morris skate on this rule.

Rule # 2 which the council breaks, (Let’s call it the ‘Kings Rule’)

Timer: A timer shall be used to notify the speaker when the time allotted has expired. The speaker will then be informed that his/her time has expired, and shall stop speaking and step down from the podium

(Ord. 07-204, 9-4-2007)

The timer (person keeping time) should inform the speaker, not the Mayor, yet watch and listen to the following.

We call it the ‘King’s Rule’ because the Mayor who has a three-foot scissors for cutting Grand Opening ribbons is like a King, so why not humor him.

Rule # 3, (The McElroy Rule) which the council really enjoys breaking, is much more important for citizens.

9.2.            Speakers may comment on the agenda item or may present questions to Council provided they comply with all rules in Subsections 1-5-4-7.1 through 1-5-4-7.5 of this Section.

Watch and listen as council member Joe McElroy joyfully and rudely breaks this rule

Watch and listen as Mayor Pradel also breaks the council rule at the last city council meeting by doing a slick and quick verbal beat down on citizen Glen Mendoza.

Now, I’m not saying the council should follow their own rules, on the contrary, I think they should be allowed to break those rules as much as they want because we are all over- regulated, and that includes the council. If they want to slide on getting a speaker’s address, what’s the problem with that? If the Mayor likes to impose the ‘King’s Rule’ what’s the harm with that. I mean, haven’t we all broken rules at some time. Who among us has not done 50mph leaving our driveway………in reverse, or didn’t shovel our snow within the window of time allowed, or parked on the street over night on a beautiful summer night, or screwed up on getting a permit to do something.

We need to cut the council some slack for breaking their own rules. And the council needs to give the citizens a break. In the immortal words of John Lennon, ‘Why can’t we all just get along with each other’? Somebody should ask this question at the next Naperville city council Public Forum. However, I think the “McElroy Rule” would apply.

Apr 172012

If you enjoy unusual forms of entertainment, you might want to consider attending Naperville city council meetings. They occur the first and third Tuesdays of each month, beginning at 7:00pm (or thereabouts) and end whenever. The council’s attention to punctuality has improved immensely since the last city council election. Prior to McElroy and Chirico joining the council, meetings would never start on time; some starting as late as 7:10 or later. It was chic for the council to saunter in as if they were attending their own coronation.

The council follows Robert’s Rules of Order and most of the council members do an outstanding job of walking a straight line on this. Fortunately, whenever they begin to wander off the reservation, the city attorney is there to set them straight.

There are also rules for citizens including no fighting, yelling, screaming, or throwing things. This seems to work. Other rules for citizens that do not always work include no clapping when citizens are happy, and no booing when the council makes citizens’ lives more miserable. Rules are enforced by one of two methods; one is by use of the all-powerful gavel. Mayor Pradel has had years of experience to know exactly when to use it. It is amazing how he can make the gavel-pounding sound citizen-friendly. When the mayor is gone, a council member gets to pound the gavel. Most recently, the gavel-pounder was councilman Chirico. He gavel-pounded against citizens as though he was a member of the Third-Reich.

Occasionally a council member decides to impose a rule for whatever reason. Watch and listen as council member Joe McElroy inflicts a ‘beat down’ (rule) on citizen Tom Glass.

Two other rules come into play during the Public Forum portion of the meeting. One limits the citizen-speaker to a maximum three-minute presentation. What is interesting here is that if the council likes what the speaker has to say, the three-minute rule expands.
If the council does not like what the speaker is saying, then you hear the voice-of-authority say, “The speaker’s time is up”. This happens quite often.

The other Public Forum rule requires the speaker to say his or her name, along with their address. The council is a stickler on this rule; they want the speaker’s address and I don’t think it’s for a Christmas card list. At the April 3 meeting, there were 46 speakers and 45 were required to give their address. The lone exception to the hard rule was Dr. Randy Morris who spoke in favor of approving the Naperville Fertility Center at Washington and Benton streets. Notice how he was not asked to state his address.

You might think this was a council oversight; however, the same thing happened at the previous city council meeting on March 20

Could it be that the doctor and the Naperville city council agreed not to make his address public? The council did vote 7-2 to approve the location of the fertility clinic in downtown Naperville. A rule is only a rule if the city council wants to enforce it. A good example of this is the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group. With regard to the thousands of Naperville citizens who oppose the installation of Smart Meters, rules are rules. For the few who are in favor of Smart Meters, then rules are only suggestions.

Another thing you will notice at Naperville city council meetings is the presence of some of Naperville’s finest police officers stationed at the exits of the city council meeting room. The question then becomes, are the police officers protecting the council from the citizens, or protecting the citizens from the Naperville city council?

Apr 112012

Over 4000 citizens signed petitions opposing the installation of Smart Meters in Naperville. One person objected to those 4000+ citizen-signatures and petitions. When political posturing on the part of the Naperville city government machine completed rolling over Naperville citizens, one-person’s whims outweighed the wishes of thousands of dedicated citizens.  The vote of those citizens was denied. That vote will not be denied in the next Naperville city council election. Until that time, let your collective voice be heard this Sunday at the “Take back your power rally”.

Apr 102012

Tuesday March 20 was primary day in Illinois. The voter turnout was low, and election officials in Dupage County were mystified and baffled as to why that would be. In the largely Republican county of Dupage, the turnout was 26%, compared to the 44% in 2008. In Will County, the turnout was only 20%. One election commission director said, “I’m clueless as to why it was so low.” Another election official said, “It’s difficult to figure out what to do about the fact it is so low”.

Well how is this for an answer, ‘Don’t deny citizens the opportunity to vote’.
This is exactly what the city of Naperville did when it did now allow the citizens of Naperville to vote on a non-binding referendum regarding smart meters. In essence, the referendum would have asked citizens whether the city shall “immediately and permanently stop the implementation of the $22 million Smart Meter project and dismantle all related equipment”. 4,199 people signed petitions requesting the referendum to be allowed on the March ballot. It is likely thousands more would have taken the opportunity to vote on the issue. Hence, thousands of voters were denied the opportunity to vote because one person, I repeat one person said, “I don’t think I want it on the ballot”, and because of that one objection, the city of Naperville would not allow the non-binding referendum to be placed on the ballot. The Naperville city government was relieved and ecstatic that the hot topic was not on the ballot, since the voters would have undoubtedly approved the referendum by a landslide. Would this voter mandate have stopped the city from installing smart meters; absolutely not. Would it have been a major embarrassment to the Naperville city council and city manager Doug Krieger; absolutely yes.

The city of Naperville learned its lesson in 2010 when Naperville voters were allowed to vote on referendums for term limits and district (ward) representation. Voters approved both referendums by a landslide, to the chagrin of the city council and city manager.

The lesson the Naperville city council and city manager learned was, “Keep decisions out of the hands of the voters”

There is one vote the Naperville city council and city manager cannot stop citizens of Naperville from voting, and that vote is for the election or re-election of city council members. You can be sure that 4,199 voters will not be denied that vote, along with thousands of others. You can also be sure there will be new faces sitting at the dais when the next new city council convenes.

Apr 042012

Have you ever noticed how some people like to impress others with their titles? It might be professor, prince, doctor, senator, or councilman, or any variety of pompous labels. As if, this egotistical tag lends more credence to their wisdom, or lack thereof. Interestingly it is the very people who demand to be respected, who are the least respected. Using a title for self-indulgence is nothing more than proclaiming their lack of worth or confidence in themselves, or attempting to elevate themselves at the expense of those more worthy of esteem. Nowhere is the perceived importance of title more noticeable than in all levels of government.

Watch and listen as California Senator Barbara Boxer interacts with General Michael Walsh during a senate committee hearing.

It is likely the General worked even harder to earn his title.

The Naperville city council has its own version of ‘address me by my title’ and that would be council woman Judy Brodhead, or is it council member Brodhead, or is it Mrs. Brodhead as Mayor Pradel refers to her, or is it councilman Judy Brodhead as her name plate on the dais refers to her.
Watch and listen as Council member Judy Brodhead (or as the Mayor refers to her, Mrs. Brodhead) gets bent out of shape when her tag or title is not revered and admired for all to hear.

This occurred after citizen Eric Shidler addressed the Naperville city council in a respectful manner regarding the topic of whether or not to approve the Naperville Fertility Center. A number of points are interesting in this exchange:
• Eric Shidler had completed his presentation and left the podium, but was asked to return by councilperson, or member, or woman Judy Brodhead.
• Mayor Pradel then referred to councilwoman as Mrs. Brodhead, without Mrs. Brodhead getting angry with the mayor.
• Council member or woman Brodhead digressed from the merits of the ordinance to a focus of personal value; need we say very poor judgment on her part.

To say that half of those in attendance felt councilperson or woman Brodhead made a fool of herself might be accurate, while the other half felt that she embarrassed Naperville.

Citizen Eric Shidler deserves an apology from council member, or person, or woman Judy Brodhead. To do that would require her to show class and demonstrate character; hence based on that Eric Shidler (a guest from another city) will not be getting that apology.

For Mrs. Brodhead (thank you Mayor Pradel) to toss in the ‘sexist’ card during such an important city decision was inappropriate. There was a time when actors such as Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep were referred to as ‘actresses’. Now they are proud to be some of the best actors of our time. Their body of work is what is important, not their title. It is unimportant if you are referred to as a councilwoman or a councilman; what is important is how you represent your constituency and the fine city of Naperville. If you are truly that vain, then you need to have the nameplate changed that you sit behind

So how should we address the second person from the left at the dais?
The nameplate shows councilman, and the city is never wrong. The mayor says, ‘Mrs. Brodhead’ and he is the mayor, so he cannot be wrong. Chances are the voters will determine how to address her at the end of the next election when Judy Brodhead becomes ex-council member, person, or woman.

Apr 012012

The city of Naperville has slightly less than a thousand employees and a good number of those folks work at city hall. Have you ever pondered who is the busiest employee of them all? We asked this question to residents and the responses we received varied from ‘no one’ to ‘the guy who shreds papers that the city council doesn’t want anyone to see’.

That did not seem like a very accurate method to determine who this busy person was. We thought if we could find out who uses the most White Out and erasers, then we would know who it was. Again, nobody could provide that answer. We decided to see who’s office door looks as if it gets the most action. Upon a cursory observation, it appeared to be the door to the Naperville city attorney Margo Ely, and then it made perfect sense.

Consider for a moment the Maytag service person commercial, which implies that because Maytag products are made so good, the service rep is not busy. Therefore, the reverse holds true for the Naperville city attorney, she is so busy because those in decision-making positions (the city manager Doug Krieger, and the city council) keep her busy because of unwise decisions, poor judgment, and not paying attention to detail. It must drive her nuts.

Watch and listen to Naperville citizen Tom Glass from the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group as he address the Naperville city council during Public Forum and he alleges criminal activity by the city of Naperville government’s forced installation of Smart Meters upon citizen’s homes.
City attorney Margo Ely then responds to his comment.

It is obvious that attorney Ely is irritated at best and angry at worst. Is it any wonder why she should not be? It is her job to justify the unjustifiable. That has to get old after a while. How many ways does she have to defend the Naperville city council’s huge error in approving such a waste of money that has angered thousands of Naperville citizens?

Margo Ely is not only the busiest employee at city hall; she is also the ‘Most Valuable Player’ on the city’s team. She has to be in order to keep up with the problems thrown at her by the Naperville city council and city manager Doug Krieger. In fact, it would be beneficial to move the council member’s offices and Krieger’s office immediately next to hers and install a revolving door to her office.

Let’s be clear here, the city of Naperville is extremely fortunate to have her as the city attorney. She knows ‘her stuff’ and she is exceptionally good at what she does. I have spoken with her via telephone on a few occasions to get clarification on a topic, and she has been available to chat, highly informative, patient, and gracious. She knew nothing about me, other than I was a Naperville citizen with a question.

Watch and listen as Grant Wehrli refers to a 2% Fire Insurance Tax that the city levies ‘because it can’ and how the city attorney responds.

The interesting thing about this exchange is that Wehrli ‘tells it like it is’.
Just before Ely responds, she smiles (not seen on video) knowing he is correct, and tactfully answers. Neither one covers up the obvious, which is the city can tax because it can.

City attorney Margo Ely is paid in part to pay attention to detail, and she does this with proficiency. Now if the city council and Krieger could do the same, that revolving door to her office might not be necessary.

Watch and listen to council member Steve Chirico when he refers to Edward Hospital as ‘Edwards’ Hospital.

This may not seem important, however as a city council member, you should at least know the proper name of the only hospital in the city, and one of the top hospitals in the state. If you are going to make decisions that impact the hospital, at least have the respect to name it properly. I am sure the city attorney would appreciate that attention to detail, as would residents. If council member Steve Chirico does not see the need, then on the next ballot he could be listed as Steves Chiricos.