Thomas Jefferson said that the biggest hindrance to freedom is ignorance; few if any can disagree with that. It’s also been stated that government goes wrong when the electorate won’t participate in the voting process. That makes sense; government often times gets exactly what it wants when the electorate won’t participate in the voting process. Hence government going wrong, and government getting what it wants are one in the same.
This is why the Naperville city council made a huge, industrial-strength blunder when they allowed Naperville citizens the right to vote on a referendum to establish wards (districts) for council representation, rather than keeping the at-large system currently used. The referendum was approved by a landslide; over 40,000 votes were caste with a nearly two to one ratio for approval. This is no small victory. In fact the total votes in favor of changing to wards nearly equaled the total votes received by the all four city council candidate winners combined (Wehrli, Chirico, Fieseler, and McElroy) in the last election.
The people spoke loud and clear, and Naperville officials were stunned. They simply underestimated the will of the people. Seasoned, well-informed politicians would never have let this happen, yet the Naperville city council along with city manager (Doug Krieger) were again not thinking strategically.
They were complacent, and spent too much time reading their own press clippings. Imagine what goes thru the mind of city council members when they realize their collective fiefdoms are under assault by their constituency. Chances are good that they went from sheer panic to ultimately calming down and becoming hysterical.
Most likely city officials immediately went into damage control mode in the inky shadows of city hall. First they were able to delay implementation of wards for five years, until the year 2015. Yes, you are reading that correctly….five years….2015. It took less time for the United States to win the Second World War (4 years), and less time for the North to defeat the South in the Civil War (4 years). It only took four months to write the Constitution of the United States, yet Naperville city officials succeeded in delaying implementation for five years because it was too difficult for the city council and the city manager to accomplish such a lofty endeavor. How difficult their work must be.
This should have been the first realization that city officials were not about to honor the will of the people. The second awareness should have been when city officials assigned staff to create a map of wards rather than hiring a consulting firm for hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the task, as they did when the Naperville city council hired and paid a company over a million dollars to bamboozle residents into believing that Smart Meters are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If Naperville wanted citizen involvement and wanted to provide a teachable opportunity, they could have asked each high school’s political science teacher to assign this ward-map creation as a weekend homework task and had four maps by the following Monday.
Two years of the five years have elapsed, and now there are rumblings of having a ‘do-over’ referendum election for the same thing that was decided by a landslide two years ago. What a stroke of luck for the city council that a group spontaneously surfaces wanting the same thing that the council wants. It’s important for the city council to distance itself from this group, however much can happen in the inky shadows of city hall. It’s almost like the spontaneous emergence of a lone objector to the Smart Meter referendum. Another stroke of luck for city officials.
Isn’t it amazing that the city council can seek and pontificate the importance of the vote, and citizen awareness for the wards vs at-large, yet city officials can deny thousands of voters the opportunity to vote on a non-binding referendum for the forced installation of smart meters. So in one case (Smart Meters) citizens can’t vote. Yet in another case (wards) they want citizens to do a do-over vote. Based on that, why not do a two-out-of-three vote, or as in the World Series how about the best of seven. Shouldn’t citizens be allowed a do-over vote for council members who have been blatantly less than average in accomplishment or leadership.
I don’t have a ‘horse in the race’ regarding wards versus at-large. However I do believe in honoring the will of the people when the votes are counted. That’s the American way of doing it. Do-over votes and two-out-of-three don’t work even when it comes to replacing glaringly less than average council members. Over 40,000 votes the first time is sufficient. 4,000 signatures on petitions should have been sufficient for the Smart Meter referendum, rather than one one objector incorrectly supported by three Naperville officials. Knowing that city officials want the at-large process to continue, makes me believe wards are a better option. In Naperville a good rule-of-thumb is to find out what the Naperville city council wants and then to support the opposite view, since the opposite view is typically the will of the people.