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.