Aug 312014

Well it looks like bar owners will win the battle of alcohol and liquor with the Naperville city council. As expected, Naperville city officials will acquiesce and shrink to miniscule size against the Naperville Restaurant Association and bar owners. This is a battle that never really began. It’s a battle city officials didn’t want to win. By winning the Naperville city council would actually be losing. Losing tax revenue, losing favor from the high-rollers, and losing clout from donations and special deals.

The agenda for Tuesday’s city council meeting is available, and it appears the council will look to approve only four of the necessary recommendations for gaining control of the late-night chaos in the downtown area. They include amending the following:

  • Late night entry
  • Maximize single serving size of beer
  • Service of shots
  • BASSET training for security personnel

Basically city officials will be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or in other words, socially acceptable non-productive decisions. The real result of council’s actions will be to encourage the ‘trouble makers’ to drink more, drink sooner, drink faster, and pay more. It’s the ‘pay more’ that bar owners and council members really like….more profit and more tax dollars.

Other stronger remedies were left on the shelf to collect dust including:

  • Rolling back the hours of service
  • Scanning ID’s
  • Reducing the number of downtown liquor licenses
  • Increasing the late night permit fees to offset police presence
  • Pulling liquor licenses from repeat offenders (bars)

This comes as an investigation continues regarding the fatal car accident on July 19 that took the lives of two young men, while the survivor (the alleged driver) will be heading to court. Information surfaced, that the three-some spent a number of hours from about 9pm til closing at a downtown Naperville bar, having no problem being served. Prosecutors said the trio drank a number of beers along with  rum shots before departing around 1:30am. Within a half-hour the Chevy went off the road near the Municipal Center, plowed through a fence, down a short hill, and into the water-filled quarry resulting in the two deaths.

It was just a few years ago that a teacher was stabbed to death in a downtown bar which is still in business, and frequented by city council members.  On September 9, 2009, a member of the Naperville Liquor Commission, ( a bar owner),  had the audacity to proclaim, “We don’t over-serve in Naperville.” That was five years ago, when the problem was escalating exponentially.

City officials didn’t want to look at the problem then, and apparently they only want to glance at it now. What has changed, is the fence near the fatal accident by the quarry has been re-enforced.

Aug 282014

It took a couple of years, but Naperville city officials finally admit they have a problem with alcohol over-flowing in downtown Naperville. Unfortunately it took a few alcohol related deaths, a plethora of  street fights and bar brawls, along with an abundant number of police actions to come to this ultimate awareness. The Naperville city council and the liquor commission now know what residents have known for quite some time: something needs to be done. Downtown Naperville especially on weekends, is a not-so-friendly and safe area.

City officials want to regain control of the situation. One-half of the solution to a problem, is the awareness that a problem exists. So the city council is half way to solving it. The questions have been whether or not they have any idea of what to do, and if so, do they have what it takes to do what is necessary.

Simply stated, the downtown Naperville scene is ‘on fire’, and city officials started the fire. Councilman Steve Chirico said, “It seems like we’ve created sort of an environment that leads to the likely result of these fights and tragedies like we just experienced with the car crash (killing two people). Councilman Joe McElroy said, “The fact of the matter is when you get hundreds of drunk young people in a small tight area, you’re going to have problems.

During last Tuesday’s city council meeting, councilman Grant Wehrli  presented a very clear plan to douse the fire. The video clip is rather lengthy, however it’s important to hear it in its entirety:

There are a lot of moving parts to this plan, it’s complex, yet it may work.

However, Occam’s Razor (a scientific and philosophic rule) states, ‘The simplest of competing theories is preferred to the more complex.

Fire requires three components, heat, fuel, and oxygen. Omit any of the three, and fire won’t occur. In this case, ‘heat’ is the confined area of downtown Naperville, ‘fuel’ is the over-flowing alcohol, and ‘oxygen’ is the high number of people at night in downtown Naperville . Again, omit any of the three (confined area, abundant alcohol, lots of people) and the ‘fire’ (fighting, bedlam, chaos, and mayhem) won’t occur.

The confined area of downtown won’t change. The number of people won’t lessen, in fact, with more building (Water Street Project etc.), the number of people will increase. That just leaves over-flowing alcohol as the one component that can be reduced to the point of dousing the fire.

Listen to Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall’s response to council member Judith Brodhead when she asks the rhetorical question about the lack of alcohol related problems during the high density festivals of Ribfest and The Last Fling:

Now combine that comment with Wehrli’s vision (above) of having a predominantly retail mix in downtown Naperville, and having retail be the driving factor to why people would come to the downtown area. Shutting off the alcohol pipeline earlier, and begin to reduce the number of liquor licenses available in downtown Naperville. That’s it in a nutshell. It’s doable and solvable.

The question remains. Is the Naperville city council willing to do what is necessary to solve the problem? The bars won’t like it. The restaurants won’t like it. The restaurant association won’t like it. The liquor commission won’t like it. The ‘high rollers’ won’t like it. The trouble-making drinking crowd won’t like it.

Naperville residents and families will like it, responsible adults will like it, safety-conscious visitors will like it, and the remaining reputable bars and restaurants will like it.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliana made it happen in Times Square; he turned a bigger problem around and solved it. Our Naperville city council can also make it happen.  Occam would be proud.

Aug 222014

Last Tuesday night’s Naperville city council meeting lasted a grueling  six-hours, twenty minutes, and twenty-three seconds. It ended at 1:20am, much too late for the council to make ‘last call for alcohol’ in downtown Naperville, which may explain why members of the council were insensitive towards speakers and at times, downright rude.

One would think that after having one council meeting during the last two months, they would be well rested and eager to do the ‘people’s work’, however this was not the case. The meeting went from bad to worse when the topic of liquor abundantly flowing throughout the downtown area resulting in weekly chaos, bedlam, fighting, and all-around mayhem surfaced. Decisions by the Naperville city council have lead to the situation, and now they are being asked to fix what they created.

About half-way through the meeting, council member Judith Brodhead gave her famous ‘evil eye’ and ‘EXCUSE Me!’ to a member of the audience who dared make a one or two-word comment. Watch and listen as Brodhead uses her ‘bully’ voice as if she was speaking to a student:

This was immediately followed-up by councilman Bob Fieseler as if it was a tag-team body-slam to the same audience member.

Fieseler’s “what is wrong with you”, is the exact same question residents have about councilman Fieseler. Why so angry all the time Bob? You would think that Bob getting city benefits for working maybe part-time would make him a happy guy, but not so.

Sometime close to midnight, well after most senior citizens are fully dozing, the council finally got to the topic of whether or not to establish a board or commission for senior citizens.  A good number of senior residents were in attendance waiting to be heard by the council after enduring nearly five hours of sitting quietly and listening to the council bloviate. Here comes councilwoman Brodhead being presumptuous again, as she often is, when she started to respond to a speaker (Bev Frier) before the speaker even had a chance to speak. As Brodhead begins to pontificate, Bev says, “Well you haven’t heard me yet”. Watch and listen as Brodhead, in her benevolent manner, finally decides to listen to Bev. Also note, Fieseler’s bad timing and  ill-advised comment at the end of the clip:

About a half-hour later, the council is ready to take action with more inaction, and make a decision to wait, yet they still have one senior speaker (Mike Barber) who hasn’t been heard, and you can hear Mayor George Pradel say, “Do we want to hear the last speaker?”, then a long pause, and finally they decide to give Mr. Barber his three minutes to speak.

Are you kidding me. Mr. Barber has been sitting there for over five hours waiting to be heard for three minutes, and the mayor, who is a senior citizen himself and a former ‘Officer Friendly’ asks that question. That doesn’t seem very friendly.

The winner for the night for being the most insensitive and and flat-out rudest councilman is Bob Fieseler again. Watch and listen as Ramon Nayer respectfully addresses the council and stays within his allotted 3-minute time period:

Fieseler’s “We don’t represent you” which is code for “I don’t care about you” is the reason Fieseler’s fan base has dwindled to the number of digits on your hands minus your thumbs. Ramon handled Fieseler respectfully, assertively, and with ease, as Fieseler backed off.

Finally, watch and listen as councilman Fieseler gets ‘called out’ by speaker Win Wehrli for his rude comments toward Ramon Nayer.

Congratulations to Mr. Win Wehrli for doing right thing in front of the dais. Now if only we could say that about the Wehrli sitting at the dais.

Aug 212014

There has been quit a bit of controversy regarding the Naperville bar scene in the downtown area.  While the Naperville city council limits the number of hot dog vendors in the area, the number of liquor licenses seems to be almost unlimited.  Apparently, the city council was more focused on Naperville’s nitrate consumption rather than alcohol consumption.

There have been some ideas proposed to solve this problem.  Some of these ideas include, but are not limited to:

  • Rolling back the hours of service (this only moves the problem to an earlier time in the night)
  • Inventing an app to scan ID’s and to document drinking habits (this just sets up the city’s attorney having many billable hours with all of the privacy lawsuits)
  • Raising the drinking age in Naperville to 30 (Only raises the fatality age of drivers from early 20’s to early 30’s)
  • Reduce the number of liquor licenses within a geographical area (they all must be renewed at some point and gradually reduce the number year after year)
  • A no entry policy within one-hour of closing
  • Increasing regulation of shots, none within one hour of closing, not announcing last call for shots, no solicitation for shots
  • Not allowing more than half-price off specials
  • Reducing maximum serving size of beer from 24 ounces to 20 ounces, and reducing serving size of distilled spirits from 3 ounces to 2 ounces
  • Increasing the late night permit fee from $200 to $1000.

The hard and sad truth is that this problem was addressed in 2009 by a small business owner who tried to start a designated driving service in Naperville. Frustratingly instead of embracing the concept of a designated driving service, Booze Crews Designated Driving LLC was (in not so many words) told to help people elsewhere.  The company was forced out of business yet the council still remembers the concept as during a city council meeting on April 1, 2014 councilman Fieseler gives the elevator speech while labeling the owner “aggrieved”.

The unfortunate thing is that the motto of Booze Crews Designated Driving service was “Saving Lives One Car At A Time”.  It’s too bad that big government stepped on the little guy and the Naperville City Council set the stage for the tragic car crash last month.  There is no guarantee that the DD service would have driven that car home safely that night, but at least it could have been an option.

I, on the other hand have a solution that has little chance for anyone to debate as it is already being practiced in Naperville.  During the annual Ribfest hosted by the Naperville Exchange Club (their motto is ‘It’s about the kids’) there is a three step process to get alcohol.

  1. The first step is to stand in a line to have your ID checked and once approved, the requester receives a wristband which allows for the ability to buy and consume alcohol.
  2. You must go to another tent to exchange money for “beverage” tickets.
  3. The third and final step is to stand in line and turn the “beverage” tickets into the “Volunteer/Bartender” for your beverage of choice.

If the Naperville City Council is truly concerned about its citizens and visitors, they should step up and take the responsibility.  Implement the three tier check and balance process that is already in place at Ribfest.  Prospective bar patrons would

  1. Go to city hall to have a council member check their ID and issue an over 21 wristbands
  2. Have the city “Manager” sell the “beverage” tickets
  3. The person who tells the public forum speakers their time is up, can cash in the redeemed tickets at the end of the night/week/month from the bar owners.  This job serves two functions, the bar owners get their money and the time keeper can have a more substantial position within the city.  If this is too much of a burden for the time keeper, the timing responsibilities can easily be performed by an egg timer.

Having these additional responsibilities, the city presumably would take a cut of all liquor sales.  This additional funding can be used to have additional police to not only patrol neighborhoods but to enforce the 25 MPH streets of Naperville thus making the streets safe for children.  You see truly, it’s all about the kids.

Aug 162014

During next Tuesday night’s Naperville city council meeting, council members will be discussing potential liquor code amendments for regulating late night liquor service. They really don’t want to, but they have to. It’s one of those unpleasant discussions about an unpleasant topic. It was precipitated by another ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’, when a July 19 accident killed two young Naperville men, and put additional focus on alcohol-impaired driving. The ‘camel’ keeps getting up, only to have it inevitably happen again in the future.

Naperville city officials will talk without doing much. They will think about it, without creating much. They will consider rather than making a commitment, and they may make a change without improving much. City officials don’t want to rock the boat by taking a courageous stand and offending high-rolling members of the restaurant association, or the liquor commission. Confirming this, Mayor Pradel believes the city has made vast improvement with enforcement strategies during the past couple of years. Wrong. It’s only become worse.

Councilman Joe McElroy said, The fact of the matter is when you get hundreds of drunk young people in a small tight area, you’re going to have problems.” Sounds like Water Street will add to the chaos.  For McElroy,  the fatal crash was the “last straw”. Councilman Steve Chirico sees the situation with the most clarity, when he said, “It seems like we’ve created an environment that leads to the likely result of fighting,  and tragedies like we just experienced with this car crash”. Councilman Bob Fieseler would like to see an incremental reduction of one-half hour for last call. Wow….so the price of two lost lives is 30 minutes. That’s 15 minutes per person.

Here is a mixture of some suggested solutions (band-aids) to the liquor (hemorrhaging) problems, some from readers, and some from city officials:

  • Require mittens to be worn by anyone drinking liquor, resulting in spilling more, drinking less.
  • Regulating serving sizes
  • Issue bungee cords connecting feet to arms, making it more difficult for the hand to reach the mouth
  • Require ‘last call’ an hour or two earlier
  • Require ‘last call’ immediately after breakfast
  • Watering down shots
  • Cut shots with lemonade creating a modified “Arnold Palmer slammer”
  • Not allowing shots after mid-night
  • Regulating drink specials
  • Reducing the number of liquor licenses

Considering city officials aren’t eager about reducing the tax income the city receives from over serving, maybe they simply need to totally change how they look at the issue. Rather than pretending to do something, the Naperville city council needs to embrace the chaos and mayhem, by turning the downtown area into a reality show. Issue liquor licenses to everybody. If you want to operate a business in downtown Naperville, make it a requirement to have a liquor license, including yogurt and ice cream shops, the Apple store and the library. The Municipal Center could have a Drive-thru bar. Everybody gets a mandatory liquor license, sort of like Smart Meters.

Who doesn’t love reality shows. Incorporate the best of each, all into one, including Mortal Combat, Survivor, Martial Arts, and Cops. A TV network would jump on this like white on rice. Joey the hotdog street vendor could have a cart on each corner. Cameras all over the place catching each exciting kerfuffle. Cops hauling people away. Non-stop entertainment. No limit on drinks or hours. Money to be made by everybody, with the city being the biggest winner. National recognition on Fox News, CNN and Nightline, and the ‘E’ network needs to replace Chelsea Lately with something, so why not Downtown Naperville Bedlam.

As for the safety issue, set-up roadside stops on all vehicles leaving the downtown area. Naperville could finally set the State record for DUI’s. More money for the city. Anybody trying to leave the downtown area on foot, would be bused to the edge of the city limits. Let Aurora, Bolingbrook, Lisle, and Warrenville deal with it from there.

The city could do something similar to ESPN’s Sports Center’s Top 10 Plays of the Day, with Naperville’s Top 10 Fights of the Night. There’s no limit to how successful this reality show could be, if the city would simply embrace the mayhem.

Aug 142014

For a period of two months, between June 18 and August 18, the Naperville city council had one meeting. So by the time of the next city council meeting, they may need to re-introduce themselves to the residents of Naperville. Keep in mind they awarded themselves benefits, including health insurance, for being part-time. It seems as though this schedule would qualify for being a part-time, part-time employee which would be a quarter-time employee.

Residents still don’t know whether or not it’s safe to re-enter the Naperville Municipal Center, also known as city hall. Just a few months ago it was considered a ‘hostile work environment’. It’s not known if city officials have been able to correct the situation. Nowhere on the City of Naperville’s website, is it reported that the ‘hostile work-environment’ is history. One would think that if things were ‘safe’, city officials would be broadcasting it loud and clear. But not a word.

This may be due, in fact, to whether or not Naperville city manager Doug Krieger has completed his ‘ordered’ participation in the city’s ‘Harassment Prevention and Diversity Awareness’ training. In most cities, the city manager is responsible for helping to formulate and approve the training, and set an example to other city employees by being a role model for good behavior and what to do. However in Naperville, city manager Doug Krieger is the role model for what not to do. Sort of like ‘Gallant and Goofus’. Naperville’s city manager is not a ‘Gallant’.

If one looks at the city’s website, there is no mention of Krieger completing his training. No one at city hall can confirm if he has completed the training. If he has completed the required training, no one can tell the difference, which means he is still up to his old behavior, or someone on the city council marked the little box on the training form as ‘completed’.

Some residents think that one city council meeting over a two month period, is ‘one’ too many. Others, like myself, would like to see the council pick-up the pace, start meetings on time,  set a good example for city staff, and get things done that benefit Naperville residents. They can do it, can’t they? On second thought, maybe one meeting, is one meeting too many.




Aug 102014

Recently I had a reader get on my case about unfairly portraying Naperville’s downtown area, as a haven for liquor, booze, bad behavior and all-around general chaos and mayhem. The reader also mentioned that no one has been murdered down there in ‘quite a while’. He might be right on that one too, depending upon how you define ‘quite a while’.

So I decided a week ago last Friday to work up the courage and venture downtown at midnight and see what’s happening. I chose Friday night, because I was ‘eyes wide open’ awake, and it took less courage than going there on a Saturday night. I grabbed an Arnold Palmer drink, some cashews, along with my fully charged cell phone (camera) and headed north into town. The closer I got, the more I began to question what I was doing. I drove my 2000 yellow VW Beetle thinking I had a better chance of not getting hit by an over-served texter. It worked.

I started by heading right where the action is, the corner of Washington Street and Chicago. It’s a live, vibrant area, and very colorful with about five squad cars lined up in the middle of the Chicago street between Washington and Main, with their blue and red lights flashing. Impressive. Chances are that’s not where mayhem and chaos will erupt.

I continued to drive throughout the 20 square block area, and found lots of revelers, but no police presence. I stopped on Jackson, a one-way street westbound between Washington and Main, to take a few notes, along with a swig of Arnold. Just then I see a vehicle slowly heading eastbound on the street heading towards Washington, obviously the wrong way. Fortunately for the driver, he made it to Washington and disappeared into the night.

Ultimately I did see a couple of police officers on Jefferson Avenue (bicycle patrol), and one officer walking northbound on Washington from Chicago to Jefferson. But that was it. The concentration of Naperville’s finest remained on Chicago talking among themselves along with about five officers on bike patrol. During my ‘cruising’ of the downtown area which is against the anti-cruise ordinance, I noticed some patrons stumbling out of my favorite-named Naperville night spot…Wise Boxer Pour House. Whoever came up with that name was ahead of his or her time, considering Naperville’s fighting and liquor issues.

I then headed over to the action corner (Washington and Chicago) to see if any chairs or tables were flying around in Five Guys restaurant. The place was busy, and all the tables and chairs were upright. Considering the recent mayhem at that location, the owner may have decided to bolt them to the floor.

It was my lucky night, because I was able to park in the prime spot for people-watching; the corner spot in the southeast parking lot where Rose Bud and Five Guys is located. An absolute clear view east and west on Chicago, and north on Washington. If I had a cashew for every pedestrian crossing against the light or J-walking, I’d never have to purchase another cashew this year, and maybe even next year. No effort on the part of the police to help educate pedestrians on the meaning of a red light.

One young girl was stumbling across Chicago street, maybe in an effort to get to Barnes and Noble on the other side. A guy was chasing her, maybe to either assist her, or let her know the bookstore was closed.

It looked as thought a kerfuffle was about to break out in front of the Lantern on the Washington side of the corner. Some guy took issue with another guy when the offended guy was offended by the offender for calling him an offensive name. Fortunately the offended guy had some less offended friends step in and diffuse the situation.

The revelers and the police began to dissipate about 2:15am. I almost didn’t want to leave, because it’s next to impossible to find a parking spot in little popular shopping area. As I drove home, after my night of people-watching, I could only hope that everybody I saw after a night of fun, folly, and heavy drinking made it home safely. Maybe the best part of the night, was getting into my home without my two poodles barking and waking up my wife.

Aug 072014

A few weeks ago, a fatal crash occurred when a driver, accused of being intoxicated, veered off the road near the Naperville Municipal Center (where the city council meets) into a downtown water-filled quarry resulting in the death of two friends of the driver. As is often the case, a make-shift memorial appeared at the launch site of the crash. It consisted of flowers, pictures, T-shirts, cards and other mementos of remembrance.

Typically those memorials, out of respect, remain for a period of time. But not this time, and not at this location. Overnight the memorial disappeared. Almost as if the accident never occurred.

Perhaps the Naperville city council didn’t want the reminder…perhaps they forgot their own ordinance regarding leaving items for 30 days before they can be removed (a la our street dweller). Naperville city officials solved the issue of the homeless, by calling them ‘street dwellers’.

Since the accident happened at the southwest corner of the Municipal Center, perhaps Naperville city officials deemed it distasteful to see the memorial as they pulled into the parking lot, or as they looked out their office windows during ‘downtime’ which is most of the time. Out of sight, out of mind. If they can’t see it, then it didn’t happen, and they don’t have to deal with it. It’s like not looking into your mail box so you don’t have to see your bills. It’s Naperville’s version of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.

The problem is that those spontaneous memorials are just as much for those remaining, as it is for those who departed. In a way, it’s a form of ‘closure’, or a symbol for the briefness of life, and certainty of our limited existence. To have that memorial disappear so quickly overnight, in order that some don’t have to remember, is a dis-service to those who want or need to remember, if only for a short period of time.

Aug 032014

Let’s get right to it. Naperville has a lot of problems, but one specifically is roaring its ugly head in downtown Naperville. It’s called alcohol-fueled chaos, causing all kinds of mayhem, more often, and with more intensity.

Naperville’s downtown area is not large, it’s only about 20 square blocks ( 5 blocks by 4 blocks), yet this chaos/fight continued for quite some time before police arrived.

And who is responsible for this? That’s easy, it’s Naperville’s city officials including the city council, along with liquor commissioner and  mayor, George Pradel, and Naperville city manager Doug Krieger. They have created an environment ripe for bad behavior.

The problem distills down to this, more people, with more access to liquor, in a small area. And it will only get worse when the high density Water Street project is completed.  City officials need to have the courage to change it, and this city council doesn’t have it.  Residents can only hope, after the next municipal election April 7, 2015, that true leadership emerges.

Naperville city officials had a decision to make; get big with big-time problems, or steer the city in a family-friendly direction. They chose greed over a solid game plan of reasonable growth, and now they are clueless as to what to do.

Maybe Naperville city officials could learn from New York City. In the early ’90s, Time Square deteriorated into an area or crime and violence. When Mayor Rudy Giuliani was elected in 1994, he immediately set the wheels in motion to clean up the situation, and did so in major part, by establishing a massive and impressive show of police presence, and a zero-tolerance for even an inkling of bad behavior. Police even enforced no J-walking. It worked. Time Square became a ‘shining jewel’ once again. Unfortunately, after Giuliani left office in 2001, and after 12 years of Mayor David Bloomberg, and now Bill de Blasio,  Time Square is again reverting back to unwholesome activities. That shows the difference between strong leadership with a plan vs weak leadership without a plan. Right now Naperville falls in the latter category.

Using Mayor Giuliani’s plan as a template for Naperville, this is what can be done to get control of the deteriorating situation in the downtown Naperville:

  • Rally behind a strong leader (Giuliani-like); this requires replacing our city manager (Doug Krieger) with a someone who knows how to lead and get things done.
  • Hire a strong police chief, with active and continuous law enforcement experience, who can earn the trust and confidence of residents and members of the police department. Naperville’s police chief’s most recent experience was that of assistant city manager. Naperville needs a police chief who is proud to be defined as a current and legitimate police officer.
  • Immediately cap the number of liquor licenses in the downtown area, with the goal of gradually reducing that number.
  • Immediately shorten the liquor-serving hours by one hour with the option to shorten it by two hours if necessary.
  • Establishing a ‘nuclear option’ to ‘pull’ a liquor license for repeat offenders (establishments) contributing to alcohol-fueled chaos and mayhem involving police-related enforcement.
  • Immediately increasing and maintaining a huge police presence distributed equally throughout the entire downtown area.

Just as retail store security cameras are positioned throughout the store to observe every inch of selling space, police need to be stationed and patrol all areas of the downtown so that at all times every block has at least one set of eyes watching for ‘situations’ to arise. By doing so, if a situation is ignited, it can be extinguished within seconds and not allowed to escalate or continue as seen in the above videos.

The Naperville city council has three choices, 1) continue to do too little, too late and allow things to get worse, 2) have the courage to make the necessary changes, or 3) get voted out of office and let the next city council deal with it.