Jun 152013


Imagine if a large part of your job involved spending other people’s money; not just a little money but a lot of money….millions. That’s exactly what the Naperville city council does, and they are very adept at it. The council meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. During the ‘Consent Agenda’ portion of meetings millions of dollars of expenses are approved. This doesn’t come as a surprise since it costs a lot of money to keep the city running. However, it’s likely more is spent than is necessary; that’s what politicians like to do. If the Naperville city council and especially the city manager Doug Krieger managed the city as though it was a successful corporation, tax dollars would be spent more wisely, expenses would be scrutinized, and overall Naperville city operations would be more efficient.

It doesn’t take the Naperville city council much time to approve millions worth of expenditures, and they typically do this without questioning the expense. Most don’t ask if the expense is needed, or if it can be reduced. There seems to be no urgency in minimizing or eliminating expense items. A council member makes a motion to approve an expense, another one seconds the motion, a vote is take, and most, if not all, council members vote ‘yes’ to spend. Maybe Naperville’s new motto should be, “Vote ‘yes’, and vote often for spending.”

Every now and then a council member does question an expense, or even occasionally votes ‘no’ to an expense, but again this is very infrequent. Between now and the next city council election there will be about 40 city council meetings. So I make a motion, and will bypass Robert’s Rules of Order, and second my motion that we keep score and see which council members take expenses seriously. Let’s keep it simple. If a council member votes ‘no’ to an expense, they get two points, if they question an expense, they get one point, and if they vote ‘yes” to an expense agenda item, they get no points. We’ll provide “Spending Gone Wild” updates with council member scores, and prior to the next city council election we’ll list, in order, the council members who have shown the most fiscal responsibility.

Let the competition begin this Tuesday evening June 18 at 7pm, or whenever the city council decides to ‘mosey on in’ to the 7pm meeting. Punctuality has been described as respect for other peoples’ time. Lately it’s evident that punctuality is not a city council value. It’s a good thing for the council we’re not keeping score on that one.

Jun 092013


Spending money is not an issue for the Naperville city council, however saving a dollar here or there is darn near impossible for council members. During Naperville’s last city council meeting on June 4th, the Naperville city council quickly and easily approved spending more than $16 million for various needs and wants. There was no mention of trying to save Naperville tax payers any of those dollars. There seldom ever is. In fact, can anyone remember the last time the Naperville city council saved a dollar for anything. It may have happened, but I can’t remember it.

Spending other people’s money (tax dollars) comes rather easy for the Naperville city council. It would be similar to you having your neighbor’s check book, and writing checks for whatever you want or need. If the balance gets a bit low, you simply require your neighbor to add more to the account. The question becomes, what’s the incentive for council members to spend less and save more. One incentive would simply be to do the right thing for the residents of Naperville. Isn’t that what they are elected to do. Seems like that would work, but it doesn’t. We’ve seen time and again, that doing what’s best for residents, isn’t part of the equation, when council members vote on issues.

So is there an incentive that would work? The answer is yes, and the incentive for Naperville city council members is getting re-elected. The chance of not being re-elected is a frightening thought for most any politician. Any doubt of that was erased when the Naperville city council worked so hard to overturn district representation (approved by a landslide vote in 2010), and return to the ‘politician- friendly’ at-large method of voting for council members.

Two additional political moves on the wish-lists of Naperville city council members would be to overturn term-limits imposed by Naperville residents by a landslide vote in 2010, and have only four council members (rather than all eight) run for re-election in 2015. It’s much easier to get only four re-elected rather than all eight.

It’s not too soon to start thinking about which, if any, council members should be re-elected; the election is only 666 days from this Tuesday (coincidental number?). So I suggest we begin to keep score and see which council members vote to spend and which, if any, vote to save. Getting re-elected is a powerful incentive, but is it powerful enough to help Naperville residents save money through their ‘at-large’ elected officials. If only we had district representation, we would definitely have our answer.

Jun 032013


Naperville had a house fire last month. Well it was a bit more than a house fire; the entire house burned down….or did burn up, either way it’s gone. These things happen. If it’s someone else’s house, it’s unfortunate, if it’s your house it’s a disaster. It happened in Naperville’s Historic District. If there’s any good news, it’s the fact that it was an unoccupied home.

Naperville Fire Department’s deputy chief said the magnitude and intensity of the fire made it impossible to determine the exact cause of the fire and categorized it as an undetermined type of electrical short. In other words, something went terribly wrong, and it could have been caused by anything.

I’ve experienced two fires in my lifetime. The first time I was in college, when my roommate put oil in the popcorn popper, and then started it, without adding corn. We then left for dinner at the cafeteria. The hot oil came in contact with the curtains and bingo, a fire resulted. Fortunately the Des Moines Fire Department responded quicker than Jimmy John’s and damage was limited. The second time, a little over twenty years ago, a defective extension cord came in contact with some laundry and resulted in extensive damage. In the first case the cause was evident while in the second case it was not as obvious but still determined.

This recent house fire in Naperville resulted from an undetermined origin. It’s doubtful it could be due to magic, voodoo, a popcorn popper, or an extension cord, however they are all possible since the Naperville Fire Department attributed it to an undetermined origin. That means it could also be due to a defective recently-installed smart meter. Smart meters have been associated with house fires.

It would be in the best interest of Naperville city officials, if a defective smart meter installation was not the cause of this undetermined type of electrical short. Sometimes ignorance is bliss for Naperville city officials.