The old saying that 99% of attorneys make the other 1% look bad, could also apply to Naperville city officials, except the percentages are not that drastic, and with Naperville’s new administration, things are quickly improving.
City council members are still too new to get an accurate reading, though each meeting brings actions and abilities more in focus. And leading the improvement is mayor Steve Chirico. One gets the feeling that if you’re getting the job done, Chirico is a staunch supporter, but if you slacking or ‘not on game’, the mayor isn’t pleased. That’s good for Naperville. The captain of the ship better be confident and a good leader, so others can follow the lead.
The same can’t necessarily be said about city manager Doug Krieger. City staff answers to department heads, and they in turn answer to Krieger. So when things go wrong, and they do, the trail leads to Krieger. In business, as in sports, if the team isn’t getting the job done, it’s the manager, coach or leader that get’s called out. It doesn’t exactly work like that in government, though it should and could, and just might happen in Naperville’s municipal center (City Hall).
Deadlines are important to Naperville city officials if they are the ones setting the deadline. However, if others are setting the deadlines for city officials, they often aren’t taken with a sense of urgency; city officials have a lax or laissez-faire approach to others’ needs.
A few years ago, the City of Naperville missed a deadline with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) causing a charity (Loaves and Fishes) to lose out on $148,000 worth of needed funding. HUD had determined that the City had made “serious mistakes” and did not turn in reports about the use of federal funds.
The City of Naperville covered the lost federal funds to the charity by issuing a $148,627 payment to Loaves and Fishes. Lack of meeting a deadline cost residents a chunk of money.
When residents voted to change council representation from an at-large style to districts, city officials said it would take them five years to implement the voter’s choice. Again, no sense of urgency on their part to meet the wishes of residents. A high school class on government affairs could have taken the assignment of creating districts and accomplished it within a few weeks, but city officials said they needed five years.
The Illinois Housing Development Authority ordered the City to submit plans by June 2 to ensure affordable housing in Naperville. Twenty-eight (28) communities were able to do what the City of Naperville couldn’t do, and that was to submit a workable strategy within a reasonable deadline. It’s not like the City didn’t have time, Naperville was notified in December of 2013. Naperville’s answer is to hire a consultant to complete the process in a year. More dollars being spent, more time being wasted. No sense of urgency. Is it any wonder why the City has a $6.8 million budget deficit.
The city does not have a $6.8 million budget deficit, it has a $6.8 million budget structural in balance. $5 million of that comes from spending general funds (includes property taxes) on trash collection that cost the city $12.35 a month per participant (the lowest rate of any Chicagoland community – negotiated with Krieger’s leadership), but only charging participant $2 a month. The remaining $1.8 million comes from other services the city provides and does not charge participants the cost or only part of the cost (for example the city eliminated impact fees). The decision not to pass these cost on earlier (previous city councils over the last 6 years) was driven by the poor economy and the decision not to increase the financial burden on residents and business of our community during such a time. The city faces dozens of deadlines daily (federal, state, county, private businesses, charities), yet this article focuses on two missed deadlines over the last “few years”. Weak justification at best.