Nov 252012

At the most recent Naperville city council meeting (November 20), the main topic of the evening was centered on the Water Street Development project, and whether or not to approve it. Nearly 30 people addressed the council during the Public Forum portion of the meeting. Then the city council began deliberations prior to voting yea or nay on the subject. They never did get to a final vote because council member Chirico sensing defeat of the project by a 5 to 4 vote (it was 4 to 1 against when Chirico began to talk) invoked a parliamentary procedure ‘council rules’ which allows a council member to table a topic/vote to a later date in order to reconsider the plan of action. Councilman Wehrli objected, but Chirico prevailed and the process will be repeated again at the next council meeting December 4.

Something very interesting was said during the council members discussion of the project. Council member Joe McElroy, as is often the case, brings a lot of common sense and perspective to issues with his pragmatic and simple approach to issues. Watch and listen as he summarizes the obvious when he states in essence, how can the council force something on people that they don’t want and then ask them to pay for it.

He’s right. He absolutely gets it when he said,, “This is a situation where most people are against it, and so it would be really tough to say, in addition of forcing you to accept something you don’t like, we’re going to make you pay for it”

But then the question becomes isn’t this the same when it comes to forcing Smart Meters on resident’s homes, something they are against, and then in addition, making residents pay for it in the form of fees and penalties. McElroy gets it. Krause gets it. But the other seven council members don’t get it.

Keep it simple. Don’t force things on residents that they don’t want and don’t make them pay for it. How simple, refreshing, and citizen-friendly would that be.

Nov 182012

Naperville has always been considered a kid friendly and family friendly city, however each year they lose some of that luster, and continue to drop in nationwide rankings of cities. But just as every action has a reaction, they would be moving up the list (if one existed) for liquor-friendly cities.

A number of cities across the country have eased their policy on drug enforcement, and some encourage and rely on casinos to enhance their revenues. In Naperville’s case, it’s the proliferation of liquor establishments, and increasing the hours that liquor can be served, which has added tax dollars to the city’s bottom line. What is particularly glaring is the fact that for quite some time the city of Naperville has denied and ignored the existence of liquor related incidents and issues. The term ‘profit hides sin’ couldn’t be more true than in the city of Naperville with regard to liquor related incidents.

Other than DUI’s, public intoxication, public indecency situations, scuffles, fist fights, aggravated battery incidents, robberies, stabbings and an occasional murder, everything is just fine in down-town Naperville on a typical evening or weekend night.

As is always the case, whenever there is an issue, local officials are quick to point blame at everyone except themselves. Never mind that city officials have laid the groundwork for liquor related problems including incrementally increasing the issuance of liquor licenses and increasing drinking hours.

What is most egregious by Naperville city officials, including the liquor commission, is the fact that they have denied that problems have existed. A comment once heard at a liquor commission meeting was, “We don’t over serve in Naperville.” This occurred at the same time a young Naperville resident attempted to get the blessing of the liquor commission and Naperville officials to start a designated driving service based in Naperville. The city of Naperville basically over regulated him out of business.

Click here to read our interview with Booze Crews Designated Driving Service’s founder Kevin Oliver

Surprisingly you would think that the Naperville Liquor Commission would be aware of issues and want to rectify them. But apparently that’s not the case. Even more amazing is fact that the city’s liquor commissioner is Mayor Pradel; prior to becoming the mayor, he was an outstanding police officer. If anybody would want to rid the city of liquor problems, it would be a police officer who becomes the mayor. Not so, issues continue, blame is misplaced, and the beat continues.

Most recently, city officials pointed the ‘finger of blame’ towards the Black Finn Saloon. In a show of power, Naperville officials nailed Black Finn for four minor code violations. Two involved managers failing to go through the city’s training for servers of alcohol, one was a clerical error on their application, and the other involved an alcohol-related offense by an employee which was not disclosed on the application and Black Finn handled it appropriately at the time. These code violations would be equivalent to a police officer issuing a ticket to a driver for not having enough tread on a tire.

If you happen to see a council member’s vehicle, you may want to measure it for tread depth.

Nov 142012

During the most recent Naperville city council meeting on November 5, a good portion of the evening involved discussing the Water Street project. I came to the meeting without a horse in the race, so I had the opportunity to listen to the pros and the cons, and those in favor and those against the project.

It’s a huge project covering two and one-half acres of prime property in the downtown Naperville area. The northern boundary is the DuPage River, and the southern boundary is Aurora Avenue, with Main Street on the east, and Webster Street on the west. Included in the development is a 131-room Holiday Inn Select Hotel, almost 44,000 square feet of retail and office space, 62 apartments, and over 22,000 square feet of medical office space. Additionally there will be a 544 parking-space structure. The hotel’s main tower would be nearly 90 feet tall, and two eastern towers 65 feet in height; exceeding the 60-foot height limit for buildings in the down-town area.

On paper the project is beautiful. In practicality the project is dense with regard to activity and traffic. In essence, this is a defining moment for Naperville’s future. Are we looking to get bigger and bigger and follow in the footsteps of Rockford, Peoria and dare we say Chicago. Or would we prefer and benefit from the charm of a smaller town/village environment like that of Hinsdale, Barrington, Lake Forest and Geneva.

As speakers presented their thoughts to the city council I began to see common denominators. Those in favor typically had personal interests to be gained including lawyers representing the developer, some of whom have property within the development area, other speakers who are investors in the development, one who happened to coincidentally or not, have the same last name as one of the developer’s attorneys, and one who may or may not have been a close friend of that same person. Not that there is anything wrong, illegal, or unethical about that because there isn’t. It’s healthy to show support for a cause. However you have to ask yourself what is the motive. Is it personal gain, or is it for the betterment of the city and its future.

Those speaking against the project, including Tom O’Hale appeared more concerned about Naperville’s future rather than any personal gain. Watch and listen as he states his position on the issue.

By the end of the meeting I knew how I would vote if I was a member of the city council and by the end of this weekend I would have known that I made the right decision. I would not vote in favor of the project. And I would have come to this decision based on three factors.

  • I like Hinsdale, Barrington, Lake Forest and Geneva more than Rockford, Peoria, and Chicago
  • The council appears to be leaning towards approving the project, and as a rule of thumb, what is best for the council is not always what is best for the city or its residents. Furthermore, if city manager Doug Krieger is supporting an issue, it’s a good bet that its not good for the citizens.
  • And finally I recently traveled to Door County in Wisconsin, and this last weekend to Galena, Illinois, and I had the chance to learn about the history of each area. Many years ago their leaders had to decide their county and town’s future, and they chose, as did Hinsdale, Barrington, Lake Forest, and Geneva, to keep the charm, appeal, and attractiveness of their life style. In fact, Galena came within one vote of not being the Galena we know today, and more like Peoria.

It worked for them, and it undoubtedly would work for Naperville.

Nov 042012

It’s always interesting when a citizen can take-on a government body and make them look like a panel of fools. That’s exactly what Naperville resident Sandy Glass did to the Naperville city council during the public forum portion of the most recent Naperville city council meeting on October 16.

The Naperville city council has a propensity for making it easy for residents to showcase the council’s buffoonery. The council does this in a number of ways including making city council meetings public, recording those meetings for public viewing, and including a public forum portion of the meeting. The council does these things only because they are required to do so. If the Naperville city council had a choice, they would undoubtedly do-away with all that exposure showcasing their inability to lead, make sense, or be honest with the residents of Naperville.

I have attended or viewed city council meetings for a few years, and I always get the feeling that the Naperville city council can’t wait until the public forum portion of the meeting is concluded. It’s almost as if they feel a sense of relief as one would feel when leaving a dentist’s office after a root canal. There is a reason why a public forum speaker allowed three minutes for a presentation; it’s the same amount of time for one round of a heavy-weight championship fight. If the council can make it through three minutes, the time keeper can save them from being knocked out.

Getting back to citizen Sandy Glass, she did score a convincing and resounding TKO (Technical Knock Out) over the city council, and she did so by pummeling council members Fieseler, Wehrli, and Chirico along with city manager Doug Krieger. One would presume that the other council members would have been subjected to the same ending, if Sandy would have not run out of time. She was on a roll and seemed to rather enjoy the spotlight. It was easy for Sandy Glass because her position on the issues is on the right side of right and wrong, whereas the Naperville city council finds itself typically trying to defend the indefensible.

Watch and listen as the bell rings and Sandy Glass takes-on the council. Also note the following:

  • Regarding council member Fieseler, she points out his inconsistency and double-talk regarding his private life and public life view of the Smart Grid. Fieseler had no comment and appeared to be looking for a way to crawl under his seat.
  • Regarding council member Grant Wehrli, she called him ‘out’ and challenged him to look into the availability of outside utilities to provide residents with electricity, thereby giving residents a choice and getting rid of the current monopoly that Naperville mandates. She even tosses the “Plug into Choice” motto that Naperville uses, and Wehrli fumbles it. As Wehrli states, “I’m willing to do anything, but this is not an option”. For this, Wehrli earned the ‘Buffoonery comment of the night’ award.
  • Sandy Glass then takes-on the entire council with the challenge, “is any council member here willing to help with free enterprise and choice?” The council responds with deafening silence. Not one council person had the courage to speak up. Naperville is a world-class city without leadership; it’s been accomplished by the residents of Naperville and not helped by the current regime.
  • She then pulls council member Steve Chirico into the ring and quickly takes him down by noting that he had a choice of using Com-Ed or Naperville electric for his Naperville based business and he chose Com-Ed. Sandy states, “If a council member’s business can have a choice, why can’t Naperville residents?” Again, after some silence, Chirico responds by saying, “I could have (chosen Naperville) but the cost of equipment and hook-up was cost prohibitive.” That’s fine Steve and it makes sense, but the fact is that you had a choice which is something that Naperville residents don’t have.
  • Sandy Glass then finishes off the round by taking-on the ‘Wizard of Oz’ (city council manager Doug Krieger) when she challenges his business and accounting skills regarding cash flow problems with the city’s electric utility and the $2 million shortfall between what’s coming in and what’s going out. Krieger’s comment is classic political non-sense when he states it’s “due to government accounting standards as opposed to normal financial accounting standards” Krieger basically knocked himself out of ring and could not have sounded more foolish.

Just prior to Sandy Glass leaving the podium, she challenged council member Fieseler to see if he would support ‘clean alternative sources’ of energy, and challenged Doug Krieger to ‘get some vendors in for choice’. Again the sound of deafening silence from Fieseler and Krieger. Could it be that Fieseler found it difficult to respond from under his seat, and that Krieger was Googling ‘normal financial accounting standards’.