Jan 292015

The Naperville City Council has four meetings remaining, until the municipal election April 7, making it a ‘Lame Duck’ governing body.

This municipal election will be quite different than any in recent memory, because rather than just four city council seats up for grabs, all nine will be contested including the mayors position. It’s possible that all nine members of the post city council election will be new, requiring all to wear name tags while getting to know each other.

What we know for sure is that at least four of the following five will not return:

  • Steve Chirico
  • Bob Fieseler
  • Doug Krause
  • Geroge Pradel
  • Grant Wehrli

Chirico and Krause are both running for mayor, with one of the two likely winning, and the other will become a footnote in Naperville politics.

The other four incumbents,

  • Judy Brodhead
  • Paul Hinterlong
  • Joe McElroy
  • Dave Wentz

are anything but shoe-ins, considering the “throw the rascals out” mindset of voters on the federal, state, and yes, the local level of government.

With that in mind, it would be in the best interests of Naperville residents for the current city council not to make any unnecessary or rush-to-judgement decisions, and allow the new council to vote on those issues. The new council will already have to deal with leftover issues including liquor-fueled downtown chaos, major budget woes, high density downtown traffic, and a city manager more qualified for Mayberry than Naperville.

Jan 252015

Naperville city manager Doug Krieger, wants  more authority to settle claims by increasing the current limit of $25,000 to $50,000. In order to do that, the Naperville city council would have to approve amending an ordinance.

It seems like that would be a reasonable request. Less approval by others, means a quicker and more efficient process. The problem with that is less oversight, means more chance of something going wrong. The additional problem, is Naperville city manager Doug Krieger, leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to earning the faith,  trust and confidence of residents.

Watch and listen as councilmen Bob Fieseler and Doug Krause express their positions on the issue:

Krieger has had a number of missteps since moving over from city finance director to city manager, including the roll out of the ill-conceived Smart Meter program, lost Federal funds, and HR issues among others. The City of Naperville has a tendency to churn employees from one position to another, rather than hire more competent individuals from the outside. The ‘good ole boy’ mind-set is ‘alive but not well’ in Naperville. City officials did the same thing when they moved the assistant city manager (Bob Marshall) over to become the police manager, rather than promoting from within the Naperville Police Department, or hiring a true member of a police force from the outside to become police chief.

In Krieger’s case, it is a classic example of the ‘Peter Principle’ which states, in a hierarchy, an employee tends to rise to the level of their incompetence. It would have been wise for Krieger to have embraced the philosophy that “it is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to speak out, and remove all doubt”.

Most of us have to earn the right of more privilege, by proving we can handle current responsibilities with wise decisions and choices. A higher line of credit is a classic example, which in essence, is what Krieger wants, however his track record doesn’t justify it.

Amending the ordinance to adjust the city manager’s authority to settle claims, should not be doubled from $25,000 to $50,000, but rather, it should only be approved if the decimal point is moved over two digits to the left from $25,000.00 to $250.00

Jan 222015

It’s not easy trying to start a small business in Naperville. Just ask the person who tried to get approval from city officials to become a street vendor for Italian Ice. The Naperville city council voted a resounding ‘No’ to the idea by a vote of six to two. The two who voted ‘yes’ to the upstart business were Mayor George Pradel, and city councilman and mayoral candidate Doug Krause.

Watch and listed as councilman and mayoral candidate Steve Chirico outlines the agenda topic:

One might think that Chirico being fit and trim, and the picture of good health, might be a fan of Italian Ice, and being a successful Naperville business owner himself would be in favor of free enterprise, but the following video clip implies otherwise. Watch and listen as councilmen Krause and Chirico, along with Mayor Pradel state their cases, followed by the vote:

In fairness to councilman Chirico, he has been a good advocate for vendors over the years, and he is on the board of the Downtown Naperville Alliance (DNA), which is a collection of downtown merchants. The DNA would probably prefer no street vendors, while Chirico would be OK with four vendors, but being a good representative of the business district, he wanted to strike a balance, hence keeping it at two vendors achieves that goal for now.

It’s difficult to imagine that a street vendor selling a few cups of Italian Ice would jeopardize other downtown businesses. If that’s the case, it looks like Naperville’s downtown business owners are in trouble generating a profit. Rather than saying ‘no’ to an Italian Ice street vendor, it might be more helpful for local businesses if city officials would ‘get off their backs’ with the multitude of regulations, fines, penalties, permits, mandates, and overall stifling policies.

Unfortunately city officials don’t think in that direction; they think in the direction of over-regulation. We’ve seen it recently with their posture towards Uber ride-share, and now with the concept of drones. For all of Naperville officials talk of being on the cutting edge of innovation, they continue to gravitate to the dinosaur mindset.

It’s an Italian Ice street vendor, not a nuclear reactor. Do they have any idea how much flavored ice has to be sold to cover all the regulations, taxes, insurance etc. to generate a profit.

The Naperville city council made Joey’s Redhots (hot dog street- vendor) walk over hot coals to get approval to sell a hotdog on a bun. Naperville city officials made things miserable with regulations and the fear of shutting him down every time his license came up for renewal.

Imagine if the Villa Park city council did to Portillo’s in 1963 what the Naperville city council does to upstart small businesses in Naperville. Portilllo’s started out as a street vendor, and now 50+ years later, there are 32 Chicago area cities generating immense sales tax revenues, along with other Portillo cities throughout the country doing the same.

It’s time for the Naperville city council to stop protecting special interest groups (taxi cab, restaurant association, bars, etc), and do what’s in the best interests of all Naperville businesses and residents.

Voters in downtown Naperville, might like the option of enjoying a cup of Italian ice from a street vendor, especially in an election year.

Jan 182015

Some members of the Naperville city council are experiencing the consequences of their decisions to increase the density and congestion in downtown Naperville, and they are not very happy about it.

Watch and listen as councilmen David Wentz and Grant Wehrli express their frustration dealing with delivery trucks in the downtown area:

Their impatience centers around delivery trucks either stopping on the streets or the alleys to deliver merchandise, which doesn’t leave many options for delivery truck drivers to do their job.

With a little better planning and forethought on the council’s part, much of this congestion could have been avoided, but as is usually the case, most council members did not consider unintended consequences, until they were sitting in their cars trying to get from point A to point B.

Imagine for a moment, what it will be like when the Water Street Project begins and is completed. At that time, today’s congestion problems will seem like utopia, when compared to trying to navigate through downtown Naperville. Trying to turn or deliver something in the Water Street area might look something like this:

What is a delivery driver to do if the Naperville city council squeezes them on the streets and in the alleys? The council made it clear that they are leery about the use of drones, so utilizing drone technology for beer deliveries is unlikely.

That leaves just one option left; drive-by deliveries. That’s right, just slow down enough to launch boxes through the air to their destination. It may take two or three drive-bys to complete the delivery, but at least traffic will flow at 2 to 3 mph. The only problem with drive-by deliveries will be the Anti-Cruising ordinance, which would hinder drive-by deliveries, to the point that delivery truck drivers could receive a ticket. Not only will the truck be stopped on the street, but a NPD squad car will be stopped behind the truck in order to issue the ticket.

Drive-by deliveries and rushing deliveries in downtown Naperville might ultimately look something like this:


Jan 152015

Trash, waste, refuse, whatever you call it, the garbage business is always picking up. When it came time for the Naperville city council to approve which refuse hauling contract to accept, they chose the new kid in town, Waste Management over the current hauler, Phoenix-based Republic, which had serviced Naperville for the last 14 years.

It’s a four year contract for $22.8 million or about $5.7 million per year, saving taxpayers over $330,000 per year. Recycling business will continue with Republic, formerly known as Allied Waste Services.

Republic made a valiant effort to retain the business, pointing out they got the job done after the floods of 2013, and the snow storms of 2014, and were good partners for that 14 year period, as they should have been,. The bottom line, is exactly that,  the bottom line, and the council made the right decision by resetting the base cost and saving taxpayers almost $1,000 per day over life of the contract.

As long as Waste Management can provide the same level of service or better than Republic, it will be a win/win for Naperville residents and business in terms of cost and service. Let’s just hope that the guy in the following video clip is not scheduled in your neighborhood.

Jan 112015

It’s official, or at least it will be on January 14, when Naperville councilman Grant Wehrli’s resignation takes effect. He will then head down to greener pastures in Springfield to represent the 41st District in the state House.

When that happens, the Naperville city council will be short one council member and by law, the mayor and the council are required to fill the vacancy by March 15 to complete his term. It will be a very short term of service, since the election for council and mayor is April 7.

Filling a vacant position can either be a ‘golden’ opportunity as former Governor Blagojevich (now in prison) referred to, or it can be a golden opportunity as it was for Gerald Ford when he was appointed to replace Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (who resigned in disgrace), he was then was elevated to President when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.

Wehrli’s first term in office was not by election, but rather by appointment to complete a term of a vacated council member. From that non-elected term, Wehrli was able to gain a foothold on the council and skate to re-election. In essence, an appointee who runs for office becomes an incumbent, and incumbents are difficult to unseat no matter how ineffective they might be.

This is why, whomever is appointed to complete the vacated term will have an advantage in the upcoming election. There is bound to be some pushing and shoving occurring in the inky shadows of city hall until the appointment is made.

What is the mayor, along with the council to do, in order to stay impartial, if in fact, they truly want to keep it a level playing field?

Let’s talk about what they won’t do. They won’t appoint the Watchdog, but everything else is an option.

In fairness, they could do one of the following:

  • appoint the highest non-elected vote-getter in the last municipal election, which would be current candidate Kevin Coyne. No doubt that would give Coyne a boost in the upcoming election.
  • appoint a non-candidate, someone from the community who cares about the city, and isn’t concerned about getting elected or personal gain.

Then there is always the guaranteed can’t-lose political option of appointing Police Manager (aka Chief) Bob Marshall to fill the vacancy. Marshall could take a 4 week vacation, from his current position as Police Manager to cover the time he’ll be on the council.  The council could then pass an ordinance allowing Marshall to receive a third pension for sitting on the council, until April 8.

Jan 082015

If Naperville councilman Paul Hinterlong would like you to invite him over for a poker game, don’t do it, because it might be a trap. The next thing you know, the Naperville SWAT team will be busting down your door, and hauling you to the Gray Bar Hotel for running a gambling house. In fact, if you happen to see councilman Hinterlong and Naperville police chief Bob Marshall conferring in the inky shadows of city hall, you might want to walk in the opposite direction. It appears both are more than willing to joyfully spring a trap on you, based on a scheme they were hatching during Tuesday night’s city council meeting. It seems Hinterlong and Marshall are not fans of Uber (ride share).

Apparently Mayor George Pradel isn’t a fan either. He doesn’t know what a ‘Uber car’ looks like, but he knows he doesn’t like it.

Watch and listen as Hinterlong and police chief Marshall banter about “setting Uber up” for the take-down.

In fairness to Hinterlong, ‘setting people or businesses up to take a fall’ can be entertaining, and Marshall’s most recent position in Naperville was assistant city manager, so how is he supposed to know that Uber isn’t breaking any Naperville ordinance; it’s not like police chief Marshall is a police officer.

Fortunately for the City of Naperville, the residents, and Uber, councilman Steve Chirico stepped in, along with Naperville city attorney Jill Pelka-Wilger, and councilman Bob Fieseler to keep Hinterlong in his seat, and keep Marshall’s gun in his holster, when each said in his or her own way, ‘hey slow down cowboys’ and let’s use our heads.

As councilman Bob Fieseler concluded with much wisdom, “I would say we would want to be pretty sober before we venture into this”. If we would have had four years worth of this type of wisdom and common sense from Bob, we would have all wanted him to stay for another term, but that darn not-so Smart Meter fiasco got in the way.

Naperville councilman Paul Hinterlong wasn’t done with his shovel when he dug a hole with the “set ’em up” comment. He concluded by saying, “I would like to see us go after these guys (Uber ride share) and let them know they are not welcome in our town”. Re-watch and listen to the following 10-second video clip:

Wow, 89 days before the election and Hinterlong is trying to grab defeat from the jaws of victory. Has he forgotten that we live with a free market system and people should be allowed to use technology to start a business. The Naperville city council was successful in preventing an entrepreneurial designated driving service business from entering Naperville, but as councilman Fieseler said, “Uber is very well staffed and lawyered-up to pursue this” free-market enterprise.

If councilman Hinterlong wants to make a bet with you on Oregon over Ohio State, don’t do it….it could be a set-up.

Jan 042015

The year 2015 will see a revamped Naperville city council. Of the current nine members on the council, it’s possible that there will be nine new faces at the dais. Is it likely? Absolutely not. However, what we do know is that four members are not returning including, Mayor George Pradel, councilmen Bob Fieseler and Grant Wehrli and either Steve Chirico or Doug Krause who are both running for mayor. The four council members running for re-election include Paul Hinterlong, Joe McElroy, Judith Brodhead, and Dave Wentz.

Chances are that either Chirico or Krause will be elected mayor,  just about guaranteeing that a sitting member of the council will be back at the dais. It’s more than a challenge for an “outsider” to get elected mayor, and thus far neither of the two ‘new-face’ mayoral candidates (Jim Haselhorst and Marty Walker) have come out of the gate sprinting, implying that either or both are O.K. with a third or fourth place finish.

The current Naperville city council will leave unfinished business and unresolved problems for the new council. Isn’t that how it usually works; someone causes problems and leaves it for others to remedy.

Three such issues resulting from ill-advised decisions by city officials include:

  • Liquor-fueled mayhem in downtown Naperville
  • High density congestion from the Water Street Project
  • City-owned electric utility rates out of control

The current city council has six meetings remaining to resolve those issues, which is another way of saying, it’s not going to happen. The proverbial cans have been kicked down the road, for the new council to trip over or side-step upon arriving in council chambers this spring.

One question that will get answered Tuesday night, is whether or not councilman Grant Wehrli will decide to show-up for a council meeting, “to do the peoples’ business” prior to departing to the State legislature. It’s interesting how quickly a city official wants to ‘leave town’ when he no longer can gain personal benefit, or when problems he helped cause continue to fester.