The main event at the the Naperville city council meeting on December 4 focused on whether or not to approve the Water Street Development Project. Simply stated this is a huge project in a small 2.4-acre parcel of property in the downtown area of Naperville that could encompass a hotel, apartments, businesses, and vastly insufficient parking. One thing this high density project would accomplish is to turn Naperville’s future more towards a big city skyline, and away from the quaint-like, small town, village atmosphere which currently is Naperville’s charm. In time we could begin to rival Chicago, New York City, Tokyo, and Shanghai, China for high density.
In 2007 the Naperville city council approved a development proposal with specific guidelines. This current project considerably exceeds those parameters, so you would think that a decision or at least some specific direction to the developer would be the course of action. However the course of action by the Naperville city council has been indecision and procrastination, (which they specialize in) encompassed in a sea of bureaucracy. For those opposed to this project, this is great; no city leadership means no action, which means nothing happens.
The lack of leadership (statesmanship) on the council’s part is flagrant. The Naperville city council along with the city manager have basically dealt with the developer, and even city staff, as though they were pinatas by beating them up, twisting them around, pounding them again, and then asking them to come back for more of the same at the next meeting. When the developer makes changes, they get lambasted by the council for creating a ‘moving target’, yet this is what the council requested.
There is no doubt that this is an immensely important council decision, because it truly impacts Naperville’s future. But someone from the council needs to step up and show leadership. It’s not that difficult. It simply takes courage and clear communication.
So which one of our council members could rise to the task? Let’s look at it by process of elimination. Council members Brodhead and Hinterlong like to follow the flag carrier so that eliminates them. Fieseler and Wehrli have not been resident-favorites lately and their stock value has declined, so scratch them from the list. McElroy and Chirico are rising stars and bring a lot of ‘good’ to the council proceedings so they definitely could provide much needed leadership to the council. Krause is always advocating for residents and as a result he has taken so many shots from his council peers that his suit coat resembles Swiss cheese. That leaves Mayor Pradel and councilman Kenn Miller, both of whom are not running for re-election, as the likely candidates to fill this leadership role. Considering that Mayor Pradel sends council members to the podium to read his proclamations during council meetings, that would eliminate him. That leaves councilman Kenn Miller as the ‘stand-up guy’ to be the needed leader. In essence, he would be a lame duck leader, but as the saying goes, he can do anything he wants during his last term in office. Why not be an outspoken leader.
Simply tell the developer, “ This is what you have proposed. However, this is what we will accept. Can you do it?” If the developer can do it, then it’s a done deal. It’s not that difficult if you eliminate the bureaucracy and procrastination. Naperville doesn’t need to become Shanghai, but if it does, then has anyone seen the Green Street Pedicab guys? That’s the father and son team who tried to start a rickshaw type of business hauling people around downtown Naperville. They might need to get back in business and order a fleet of rickshaws.