Sep 252014

Apparently Walgreens has no idea who they are dealing with, when they recently tried to ‘strong arm’ Naperville Mayor George Pradel, who also happens to be the Naperville Liquor Board commissioner. It’s not often that the public gets to see or hear George get bent out of shape about anything; when it does happen, it usually occurs behind closed doors. He’s like a duck. The part we see is gently gliding across the water, but below the water, things are churning at a furious pace. And isn’t that what residents want in their mayor; cool and in control on the outside, and ready for battle on the inside.

When Walgreens wanted to open stores in Naperville, city officials asked company representatives if they wanted to sell liquor in those stores, and the answer was a clear ‘no’. Now that Walgreens has a foothold in Naperville, thanks to city officials, Walgreens is reneging on their ‘no’ and requesting to sell liquor, which would require a new liquor license category. Bad timing on Walgreens part, considering what city officials are trying to deal with in the downtown area of Naperville. Walgreens trying to get the green light to sell liquor in Naperville now, is like the City of Napervlle trying to win the award for being family friendly in downtown Naperville after midnight on weekends.

Walgreens representatives are trying to ‘put the rush’ on the mayor and city officials for approval, and did so in a letter which Mayor Pradel considered offensive and filled with unfair ‘accusations’. Obviously Walgreens is not familiar with the ‘Golden Rule’; he who has the gold makes the rules, and Mayor Pradel and city officials have the ‘gold’. Mayor Pradel wants to make sure things are done right, and that requires due diligence. Lack of planning on Walgreens part, does not constitute an emergency on the Mayor’s part.

Walgreens representatives might have thought they could take advantage of mayor considering he was ‘Officer Friendly’ when he was with the Naperville Police Department. What they may have overlooked is that even ‘Officer Friendly’ is more than familiar with fire arms, so it’s not wise to upset the Mayor.

Sep 212014

Last Thursday, there was a lot of excitement at the Watchdog residence. It finally happened. It looked rather bleak for more than the first half of the month, but then it arrived in all its splendor. I’m referring to my cherished recycling cart.

The City of Naperville did not disappoint me. They said it would arrive by the end of the month and it did on the 18th. I began to get a little anxious when it wasn’t here by mid-month, so I called the city on the 16th. I asked when my recycling cart would arrive and no one could answer the question, though they could tell me who already received their carts. That’s like telling me last week’s weather.  I still had no idea if or when it was going to magically appear.

Thursday rolled around, and when I went out to get the mail, there it was, laying sideways on my driveway, as though it had been unceremoniously thrown off a moving truck. I was hoping to see the Mayor carefully positioning it upright at the base of my driveway, but no such luck.

I picked it up and carefully opened the lid and peered down; it was a clean as a whistle, well actually pristine clean, because whistles aren’t very clean. I rolled it up the driveway and into the garage. Then came the challenge, trying to figure out where to put it. I pride myself in space utilization, but this was the mother of all challenges. I purposely didn’t get the largest size, thinking that those should be reserved for urban street dwellers, so I chose the middle size, but even that looked huge in my two-car garage. I was determined to find a home for it on the perimeter and after about 30 minutes of rearranging stuff, along with pushing and shoving stuff, I miraculously accomplished my goal. I learned some tips about pushing and shoving while observing folks in downtown Naperville after midnight. It worked.

It was now time for me to use my big, bold, bright-blue, bottomless recycling cart for the very purpose I had intended. I began piling bird food, basketballs, and baseball bats into it, and still had room for a bowling ball, a bag of baseballs, and my wife’s bamboo basket.

My well-built recycling cart, is a thing of beauty.

Sep 182014

Typically I watch the Naperville city council meeting in real time, either in person which I did for the first two years, or live on television over the last two years. I would go to the meeting in order to see council members either dozing off, talking among themselves, or playing with their hand-held devices while residents addressed the council during open forum. Occasionally during a council intermission or after a meeting, I would be able to hear and see a council member ‘going-off’ verbally on a resident. With the addition of councilmen Cherico, McElroy, and Wentz that doesn’t happen anymore, so watching on TV works for me, at least for now.

After looking at last Tuesday’s agenda, I decided not to watch in real time, but to record the meeting instead. I had two other opportunities instead. One was an opportunity to learn something at a continuing education event, and the other was sharpening my pencils. I chose the C.E event. I based my decision on the fact that the Naperville city council is truly not interested in solving the problem of over-serving in the downtown area of the city. Oh, they say they want to take a strong stand, and regain control of the nightly chaos, but they are not willing to do what is necessary to return the city to the residents and families of Naperville.

When I later watched the meeting, the council, as expected, did not let me down. They accomplished absolutely nothing with regard to the ongoing nightly liquor-fueled mayhem after 11:00pm in Naperville. City staff presented a number of light-weight remedies to the problem, and one-by-one the city council erased all but two from the list. The two that the council most likely will approve to solve all of Naperville’s alcohol problems include:

  • additional training for employees (BASSET training)
  • prohibit price reductions on drinks

Wow. Hours and hours of talking, and that’s it. Training employees, who most likely will be gone by spring when the street fighting intensifies, and no longer will anyone be able to get a beer for five-cents off. I should have sharpened my pencils. That would have been time better invested.

Sep 142014

What’s good for the residents of Naperville, isn’t necessarily good for city officials. It’s been a mild summer this year, not too warm and plentiful rain to keep the lawns green. Air conditioning hasn’t been necessary for a good part of the summer, and residents haven’t had the need to be sitting when they opened their utility bills. Overall you could say the residents and businesses of Naperville caught a much needed break.

Giving residents a break is one of the last things Naperville city officials wanted. They would have preferred triple-digit heat waves and non-stop lawn watering during approved hours. City officials need the revenue generated from the utilities in order to cover their bad decisions involving the city owned electric utility, and the city water department. Naperville’s electric utility was millions of dollars in the red. So city officials had the bright idea to borrow millions from Naperville’s water department to cover electric, thinking they could squeeze additional dollars out of the residents this summer. It didn’t happen.

That means the Naperville city council has three choices to cover the money they didn’t get to cover the bad decisions they made. They can do something creative. That won’t happen because creativity is not part of city manager Doug Krieger’s strategic plan. They can cut expenses. That won’t happen because the only cutting the council does is with with a three-foot scissors during grand openings. Which means city officials will do what they always do; raise the utility rates for electric and water. There goes the much needed break that residents had this summer.

City officials will win the one-sided battle of higher utility rates. They’ll high-five each other during closed session, and then after the vote, they’ll head to downtown Naperville to their favorite liquor-licensed facility to catch last-call, down a few shots and head home with another battle victory over residents.

In just 205 days (April 7, 2015) voters will decide which, if any, council members will be re-elected. It’s very possible that more than half will be gone. Residents may again catch a very needed break, but this time, rather than relying on Mother Nature,  they will be making it happen at the voting booth.

Sep 112014

It was November of 2013 when the Naperville city council approved a lofty strategic five-year plan focusing on three goals:

  • Be an E-Government innovator
  • Improve traffic flow and congestion
  • Set the standard for community education and involvement

Fortunately for city officials they still have four years left to deliver results. If the next four years are anything like the first year, they may have to revise the five-year plan into a ten-year plan, because not much has been accomplished.

When the plan was approved, city officials were high-fiving each other. It wasn’t until recently, that the city council learned that it’s going to take a lot of time and even more money than expected to become an innovator of electronic government.

City manager Doug Krieger broke the news to the council when he said, “Technology is a very complex topic, and it’s also a very expensive one.” This came as a huge revelation to council members, which apparently caught them totally by surprise. This is another reason why Naperville needs a fresh flow of new council members with strong business backgrounds. Doing technology right is not a quick, easy, inexpensive fix.

Krieger went on to say that part of the problem is that the city uses approximately 130 separate computer systems, and “most of those systems don’t ‘talk’ to each other”. City employees are often very frustrated with the need to use a time-wasting series of security-related passwords in order to get their work done.

In the meantime, residents get impatient with the inefficiency of the entire process. Calling the city for help, only makes it worse for the caller who either gets disconnected, forwarded to the wrong department, or is forced to listen to mindless music.

The least the city could do is provide some nice relaxing classical music, or city manager Doug Krieger’s stand-up comedy routine with jokes that got him in trouble earlier in the year requiring ‘sensitivity and harassment’ training. We still haven’t heard Krieger’s punchline to the joke that cost residents $5000 in legal fees.

Sep 072014

It was just a couple of months ago that Naperville’s Municipal Center (City Hall) was considered a hostile work environment, and Naperville’s city manager Doug Krieger was given a verbal reprimand, and ordered to participate in the city’s ‘harassment prevention and diversity awareness’ training.

There has been no announcement yet from the city council or on the website as to whether or not Krieger has completed his training. Based on recent comments by Krieger, my guess is that he hasn’t completed the training.

The Daily Herald reported that an out of town man is accused of throwing a woman to the ground in Naperville. Krieger commented that the battery for which the offender is accused occurred “away from the general action in the downtown area”, and nobody was seriously injured. He also stated that the city’s downtown, experienced a relatively quiet Labor Day weekend. Chicago also experienced a relatively quiet Labor Day weekend with 37 wounded in gun fire and three dead.

So a woman gets slammed to the ground, but as long as it doesn’t happen in Naperville’s combat zone (downtown), Krieger implies that it’s not that important, body slams happen, nobody died, she wasn’t that seriously injured, everything is fine, it’s just a woman ,we have a lot of them in Naperville.

It’s no big deal to Krieger as long as lots of money was spent in Naperville this Labor Day weekend, beer was flowing out, and tax dollars were flowing in.

The assault happened a stone’s throw from what Krieger defines as downtown Naperville, or as residents refer to as Naperville’s combat zone. One way for Kreiger and city officials to lower the crime rate in downtown Naperville is to simply keeping defining the area as smaller and smaller, until it officially becomes only the intersection of Washington St. and Chicago Avenue.

The same type of logic was used by Naperville city officials when they eliminated the problem of homeless people, by referring to them as urban street dwellers.

Maybe it’s time for Naperville’s city manager, Doug Krieger to finally attend his sensitivity training, or go back for a refresher.

Sep 042014

We’ve all seen it. A kid going into a hissy-fit because he can’t have what he wants. Kicking, and yelling until he gets his way.  And the parent, rather than doing the right thing, just gives in and gives the spoiled kid whatever he wants. A quick fix to keep the kid quiet. Only to have it happen over and over again, except that the ‘wants’ get more extreme, until the kid is totally out of control and the parents give-up. The parents are classic enablers contributing to the problem they want to solve.

In this case the kids are the downtown bar owners, and the enabling parents are the Naperville city council members.

When World of Beer requested and was granted a ‘No-food liquor license’, downtown bar owners were not a happy bunch. They said why should World of Beer be allowed a no-food liquor license, yet we have to serve food while we’re open. Well first of all World of Beer is not downtown and secondly the business model is totally different.

In essence, downtown bar owners said, we want what they have, and if you don’t give us what we want, we will file suit. After hearing that, council members were in a quandary. What could the council do to keep everybody happy. Bingo. They came up with a solution. They allowed the closure of downtown bar kitchens late at night as a concession to the crying and whining bar owners. This resulted in ‘no late-night food in downtown bars, and no law suit.

The result also turned every one of those downtown establishments into nothing more than another late-night tavern pumping out shots, and beer by the barrel. Is it any wonder why downtown Naperville after 11pm at night becomes a different town.