May 312012

While more and more Naperville citizens are awakening to local government mis-management, most members of the Naperville city council, along with the city manager continue to doze. Tax dollars are being wasted, the city continues to spend and burden the citizens with additional debt, and an entitlement mentality of local government is leading the city in the wrong direction.

We see it happening at a quickening rate with accumulated outstanding debt, unfunded pension obligations, rising property taxes, while city services are being eliminated or reduced. Within the last year, the city of Naperville lost almost $150,000 in Federal Funds for Loaves and Fishes due to incomplete paper work, leaving the citizens of Naperville with the most need, in a bind.

The city of Naperville has a manager who is charged with the responsibility of making sure these things do not happen. The city council is charged with the responsibility of making sure the city manager manages the city properly; it’s not working. If the city of Naperville were a corporation, it would be bankrupt.

Imagine the Naperville City Corporation. It would have a president (the city manager) and it would have a board of directors (the city council). The stockholders (the citizens) would oversee the Board of Directors, who would oversee the president of the corporation. With the corporation (city) heading in the wrong direction, the stockholders (citizens) would demand a change of leadership, with both the Board of Directors (city  council) and the president (city manager). Change would happen and the corporation’s direction would be corrected. That is how it works. It is a simple as that. However, the city is not a corporation and accountability is not part of the equation; hence, mis-management is allowed to continue.

The local government of Naperville continues to govern as though the citizens of Naperville were snoozing, uncaring, and uninformed. The alarm clock is ringing and citizens are awakening, while the Naperville city council along with the city manager continues to nap.

May 272012

What happens at the Federal level happens at the State level, and it happens at the local level, including over spending, the expansion of government, and denying citizens the opportunity to determine what is best for themselves. The absolute classic example of this materialized in the NSGI (Naperville Smart Grid Initiative) which was partially funded by the DOE (Department of Energy). Simply stated the Federal Government in the form of the Department of Energy “bought” the Naperville city council via a grant to ‘force’ the citizens of Naperville to use what they don’t want, don’t need, and don’t understand…Smart Meters.

If the Naperville city council didn’t know what they were getting into, then they are at best naïve. If they did know, and did it anyway, then at worst it is shameful. Neither characterization of a governing local body is beneficial to the city of Naperville. It is time for a change in the local government of Naperville. Whether it comes in the form of new, fresh, vibrant council members with a strong bias towards effective leadership, or if it comes in a new form of government structure in Naperville, change is necessary for Naperville to be relevant in the future.

The Naperville city council took an oath to lead and work for the city and its residents.

The question is, ‘are they doing this?’

May 182012

I ran some errands last Tuesday and everywhere I went, I noticed cutbacks. The Volvo dealership no longer had coffee in the waiting area, the restaurant had fewer bananas in the oatmeal, the bank didn’t have cookies near the coffee, in fact, the banker wasn’t  sitting in his office; he was gone too.

That was the day of the city council meeting. I always look at the agenda in advance to see if there is anything interesting, which there wasn’t. Since my daughter and her husband were coming over, I decided to stay home and fire up the grill. While they were having dessert with my wife, I had dessert by watching the city council meeting streaming live on line. Watching on line doesn’t give you the full flavor of the meeting. If a council member is dosing off during Public Forum (it happened last year), you don’t see it online, or if council members are not paying attention to speakers (it happens often), you don’t see that either.

During the meeting, the Naperville city council was patting itself on the back for cutting back by not filling open positions, or if they did fill a position, they hired part-time employees (no benefits, less expense). They also ‘applauded’ the city staff for doing more work with fewer employees; the theory being how hard can you run a horse before it drops. Everywhere I look, I see cutbacks except for the number of city council members; there are nine on the council. I’m thinking, do we really need nine? I’m confident we could do even better with let’s say a total of seven…..max.

If there was ever a time to reduce the council from nine to seven, this is the time. The citizens voted by a landslide to approve a referendum for district representation; five districts at one per district makes five council members. Add the mayor and that brings the total to six. Since you need an odd number for a majority vote, let’s throw in one more ‘floating’ council member to bring us up to seven. Bingo, you have cut back from nine to seven.

Cities with comparable populations to Naperville including Pasadena, Ca,  Dayton, Oh, Ft. Collins, Co, Hollywood, Fl, and Syracuse, N.Y. have fewer council members (from 5 to 7) than Naperville and those cities are thriving.

Cities with a comparable number of council members (8 or 9) serve populations far greater than Naperville’s 141, 000. These cities include Phoenix, Az. (1.4 million), San Diego (1.3million), and Seattle (609,000).

Naperville has 9 council members ‘serving’ a population of 141,000, which means each Naperville council member represents about 16,000 residents. Chicago has 50 aldermen representing a population of 4.8 million residents, which means that each alderman represents 96,000 residents. New York City has a population of 8.2 million with 51 council members, so each New York City council member represents more residents (161,000) than the entire population of Naperville. No matter how you look at it, the Naperville city council needs a haircut.

Now if you ask a few of the more knowledgeable Naperville city council members about this, they will say that state law dictates the number of council members in Naperville. To that I say, someone from the Naperville city council needs to make a motion to change that, and someone else needs to second the motion. If you want to hear the sound of deafening silence, try that one on the council during public forum.

Isn’t it amazing how if something benefits the citizens of Naperville, the council says it can’t be done. In addition, if it is done (term limits and district representation) it takes years and years to become a reality. On the other hand, if the Naperville city council wants something done (Smart Meter installations), it happens at the speed of radio frequency.

May 102012

Q. Is there anything good that you can say about the Naperville city council?  – Sherry A. from Naperville, Illinois

A. Yes. They have term limits.

Q. You ease up on Mayor Pradel. Is it because he is retiring after this term?  –  Drew G. from  Shannon, Ireland

A. It’s only because for the most part he has been a very good mayor for the city of Naperville. There may be a time in the not too distant future when we realize how good he was for Naperville. He has been the right person at the right time.  Sometimes we don’t know how good we’ve had it, until we no longer have it.  He may not be flashy and slick, but would we really want a flashy, slick mayor. I for one would not.

Q. Are you in favor of districts for Naperville?  –  David M. from Chicago, Illinois

A. No. I favor wards. Seriously, I favor district or ward representation, however the word ‘district’ is a bit confusing since it also applies to state level government. Of course, the word ‘ward’ can have a negative connotation as in Chicago. Most importantly, district representation gives voters a better chance of voting a weak council member off the dais.

Q. What is your issue with Bob Fieseler? He’s a nice person, but you continue to slam him at every opportunity. Why?  –  Kevin O. From  Naperville, Illinois

A. He probably is a very nice person but that’s not why we elect council members.  I wouldn’t say Bob is slammed; it’s more as if he continues to run full force into brick walls. One such wall is his ill-advised support of Smart Meters. He not only supports it, he is the point person for that fiasco. If you’re going to be the point person, then you will be the first one to slam into a wall. Bob has the right to remain silent; he just doesn’t have the ability to do it.

Q What is your biggest issue with certain council members that draws your ire?  –  Chuck W. from Iowa City, Iowa

A. Disrespect towards citizens. There is absolutely no need for it. The city council has all the power; ordinances, taxes, the gavel, police force, and the all-powerful three-minute clock during public forum. To disagree is healthy, to be disagreeable is not. Council members can disagree with residents, but at least do it in a manner that’s respectful. That’s nothing more than common courtesy and class.

Q. Are you a member of the Tea Party or the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group?  –  Bill R. from Woodridge, Illinois

A. No, however I am very sympathetic to their cause and share many of their viewpoints.

Q. You appear to be a solid supporter of republican State Senator Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington. Why?  –  Eric J. from Kenilworth, IL

A. I was raised in Barrington and have family, friends, and contacts that live in that area. He has been an outstanding leader, and has worked hard and smart, not only for his constituency but also for the citizens of Illinois. He was instrumental as the point person for Red Light Camera reform. He has been criticized locally here in Naperville for “his efforts in Springfield having had little to no effect on our state’s current financial condition.” That would be like criticizing Naperville council member Doug Krause for having ‘little to no effect’ for the curbing the Smart Meter fiasco. One person can only do so much on the local or state level, but both Duffy and Krause continue to fight for what is right for citizens.

Q. Considering Mayor Pradel is not running for re-election, whom are you leaning towards for the next Mayor of Naperville?  –  Karen J. from St. Charles, Illinois

A. No idea. It’s much too soon considering we don’t even know who is running for office. There are a couple of city council members who could nicely fill the position. However, I also look for a strong challenge from the outside, considering the strong vote in the last election for term limits and district representation. Add to this, the outrage citizens felt regarding the Smart Meter Referendum not being allowed on the ballot, and you have the perfect storm for a strong voter turnout supporting an ‘outsider’.

Q. Are you trying to be serious or funny in your postings?  –  Robert J. from Lyons, Illinois

A. Both. Serious things can have a funny side, and funny things can have a serious side.

Q. What three suggestions would you make to the city council to make situations better?  –  Don P. from Naperville, Illinois

A. 1) Have the courage to be honest with the voters.

2) Be respectful and courteous.

3) Lighten up a bit; show the personal side, add some humor, and humility.

May 032012

Imagine the game is over, the points have been tallied, and the losing team has been trounced by a two-to-one or three-to-one ratio. Then about a year and a half later, the losing team begins to rumble that they might want to replay that game. We all know that’s ludicrous, unless of course, it’s the city of Naperville and the game that was played was the November 2010 referendum on the creation of districts.

If it sounds impossible, it is not. The Naperville city council knows it made a huge mistake by allowing this referendum on the ballot. Not only this referendum, but also the referendum calling for term limits, which was also approved by the voters in a landslide.

Almost 75% of the voters voted for term limits. That’s a 3 to 1 ratio. That’s a landslide, not even close. In addition, the vote to approve district representation won by a 2 to 1 ratio; 28,236 votes in favor of district representation and only 14,593 against it. Game over. In every other realm of life it would be, but not necessarily in Naperville politics.

What makes this possibility especially egregious, is the fact that even though the vote occurred in November of 2010, the city of Naperville has been able to legally delay the implementation of districts until 2015; that five years after the fact.

Even more egregious is the fact that the city can choose which referendums to support, regardless of crystal-clear citizen mandates. Example: over 4,000 citizens clearly supported, via petition, a non-binding referendum regarding the elimination of Smart Meter installations. Magically one person objects to the referendum, and the city supports that one person over the wishes of thousands. The city was not about to make another huge mistake by allowing citizens to vote on the issue of Smart Meters. If the city had done this regarding districts and term limits, neither of those referendums would have ever seen the light of day on a ballot.

Now we are beginning to see and hear rumbling about putting this non-issue back on the ballot next fall. The belief is that voters (all 28,236) had no understanding or idea what they were voting for. If that’s the case then we also need to have a do-over vote for the four council members (Wehrli, Chirico, Fieseler, and McElroy,) none of whom had more than 11,000 votes. If you believe we need to re-do the vote for districts, then we need to re-do the vote for council members. It makes just as much sense, which is no sense at all.

The other argument to re-do the vote in favor of districts is the concept that districts are too difficult to implement. So now the whining and crying begins that it’s just too much work, too confusing to set-up the framework of districts. Imagine if the Founding Fathers of our country felt the same way, we would still be under the rule of the British Empire. They created a country, a nation, and we cannot figure out how to put into operation a structure for districts.

Maybe what we really need to re-do, is finding resourceful, innovative, and energetic people to create a districting structure that works for the citizens of Naperville.