Sep 262015

Chances are it’s not going to be a good day for me if I wander out to my mailbox and find a letter from the Internal Revenue Service and another from the Illinois Attorney General’s office addressed specifically to me. It becomes one of those ‘oh oh’ moments, and the ‘yips’ surface.

This basically is what happened in Naperville when organizers for the ‘Naperville Mayor’s Annual Golf Outing’ whiffed and realized the IRS had revoked their tax-exempt status because it neglected to file the proper papers. Compound that with the Illinois Attorney General’s claim that the group running the the golf outing landed in the bunker, by not being registered as required by state law.

The golf outing’s charity classification was revoked. It requires groups to file annual forms listing when and from whom revenues come, and exactly where and when and to whom money was dispersed. Similar to a typical household’s check book. It’s not any different for any charitable, non-profit to submit the forms for documentation and transparency.

It’s not that difficult. This is either a simple clerical mistake, or it’s another classic example of incompetence by omission or design on the part of those responsible for doing the right thing. It continues to happen with Naperville; the ‘it’ being failure to properly file simple reports. Divots, divots and more divots.

Because it’s listed as the ‘Mayor’s Golf Outing, both former mayor George Pradel and current mayor Steve Chirico’s names are headliners for the event. Anything good or not-so-good happening reflects upon both Pradel and Chirico.

Not good in this case, when ‘transparency’ is a key word among city officials. And especially when the topic is handled like a hot potato. Pradel referred questions about the situation to a local attorney, who then passed it on to a city employee in the mayor’s office for clarification, who then referred the questions back to the attorney. I think you get the idea, as in ‘I know nothing’.

Apparently the group raised about $200,000 from 2010 through 2014, which is commendable. Of that amount, a little over $4,000 remains yet to be used. My handy dandy little desk calculator shows that $196,000 must have been used for something. The question remains, what was the ‘something’.

Chances are very good, that the ‘something’ was a list of very good causes. The problem is, one is left wondering if the the inadequate documentation was by clever design or incompetent omission.

Mayor Chirico, calling a mulligan, filed paperwork this summer, with the State of Illinois, under the name of “Naperville Mayor’s Charity Golf Outing”. Since the group will have no purchases, a tax-exempt status is not necessary. It also means filing annual reports showing how money is raised and dispersed will not be needed. Obviously, he is looking for a birdie.

The problem is the change does nothing to promote the all-important virtue of transparency. The back-swing, is still flawed.

Sep 232015

When new government programs get hatched, they have a way of sounding exciting. City officials are there with their shovels to break ground, podiums are in place for speeches, and cameras are in place with politicians crowding in so as not to be left out of the picture, which later turns up in their campaign material. Then somewhere down the road in a few months, or years the ballyhooed program begins to fall apart.

Such is the case with Naperville’s electronic recycling program. In 2013, Naperville city officials rolled out the red carpet for former Governor Pat Quinn and other Illinois officials announcing the groundbreaking for Naperville’s new Environmental Collection Center. A State grant for $900,000 was handed to the City to help build the recycling center. The facility was supposed to be the answer for all recycling needs including electronics.

Now we find out very quietly that Naperville’s collection of unwanted electronics was eliminated last Saturday September 19. Not only that, but now the city is “looking at potentially paying tens of thousands of dollars to remove electronics that are currently on-site”, according to Dick Dublinski, Director of Public Works.

City officials have staff working frantically trying to find a vendor to dispose of the electronics. Therein lies the problem; city officials never had a back-up plan. The recycling program was not thought through. Government officials have a tendency to ‘cut the ribbon’ and then move on without thinking about ‘what ifs’. There was no ‘Plan-B’, no contingency plan. Critical thinking, managing performance, and managing execution have typically not been part of the equation for some city officials.

Naperville now has a mayor (Steve Chirico) with strong leadership dimensions and a solid understanding of what it takes to lead a successful business, including the importance of having back-up plans in place, if plan-A doesn’t work.  If he can instill that mindset from the top down to other city officials and department heads, Naperville can minimize being short-circuited in the future.

Sep 202015

It’s official. Naperville has approved a first-time ever municipal sales tax of one-half percent beginning January 1, 2016. It’s purpose is to fill the financial hole created by city officials, and build reserves. For those who didn’t want another tax, and those who wanted 1/4% or 1%, the game is over. It’s 1/2%.

At the same time, city officials increased the charge for trash pick-up from $2 per month, to $12.35, an increase of 617%. City officials claim the increase simply covers the actual cost the service. In other words, the inability of the City to negotiate a better deal, gets passed on to residents. Where is the incentive for city officials to negotiate on behalf of residents, if they know they can simply extract money from The First National Bank of Residents. Perhaps they need to read Donald Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal”.

The refuse fee increase takes more out of the average household in a year, $124.50 to be exact, than the municipal sales tax.. At a 1/2%  sales tax, a household would have to spend $24,840 in Naperville to equal $124.50. I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend $480 per week in Naperville.

And now Naperville city officials are positioned to hit residents with a huge increase in electric rates. If this was a fight, the Naperville city council would hit residents with a jab (trash fee increase), then a left hook, (municipal sales tax) finishing up with an upper cut, and a sucker-punch to the back of the head (sky rocketing electric rates). At a time when residents need a break, city officials are inflicting ‘the perfect storm’ on residents, aka potential voters.

City officials including city manager Doug Krieger, and council members Judy Brodhead and Paul Hinterlong, and John Krummen (smart meter advocate) are in the unenviable position of trying to explain or justify why the promised savings to residents on electric rates is non-existent. Wasn’t that the ‘promised’ selling point to forcefully installing smart meters on homes of residents who didn’t want them. How many times did Krummen get up in front of the council to bang the drums, blow the horn, and carry the smart meter flag for the virtues of smart meters. Where is the savings?

City officials were high-fiving, glad-handing, and back slapping their victory over residents with a sales tax, and trash fee increase. It might not be so easy sucker-punching residents with an electric rate increase.

Sep 172015

Last night’s Naperville city council meeting was a real ‘love fest’ between city council members. No real disagreement, no real opposing views among council members. The meeting was over within three hours. And by the time it was over the Naperville city council had a unanimous vote in favor of approving the city’s first local sales tax, along with a hefty increase in trash collection.

There was a lot of glad-handing, and back-slapping, and high-fives among city council members, and their praise for each other sounded like an evening at the Academy Awards.

However, something else occurred during the meeting, that went almost unnoticed. It was the Naperville city council very quietly and quickly approving a federal lawsuit settlement with a resident of Naperville (Kim Bendis) for $117,500. The lawsuit accused the City of Naperville of violating her constitutional rights.

The City had her arrested, handcuffed, tossed into a police vehicle, and dragged to police headquarters where she was booked. Then after that, city officials sent her (and her family) through the judicial gauntlet. Naperville city officials did everything they could to demonize her, while attempting to break her down during every step of the excruciating process. City officials couldn’t break her down, and in the end she was rightfully acquitted by a jury of her peers. Not guilty was the verdict, loud and clear.

Kim filed a lawsuit against the City in U.S. District Court in Chicago two years after her arrest, claiming Naperville city officials decided in a closed door meeting within the inky shadows of city hall to forcefully arrest any resident, including Kim Bendis, who ‘interfered’ with the forced installation of smart meters, thereby violating her constitutional rights.

Bendis’ high-powered attorney made Naperville’s city attorneys look like law school drop outs, and city officials look like the bullies they were, and the Naperville city council along with city manager Doug Krieger folded like a cheap beach towel, leading to the settlement with Kim and her family.

It’s ironic that the $117,500 settlement was approved on the same night the council approved a city sales tax. A tax takes from citizens to give to city officials who squander those revenues with bad decisions.

For what Kim and her family went through, she deserved ten-times that amount, so city officials got off easy. And really, what do they care because it’s not their money they wasted. It was Kim’s money and the rest of Naperville’s residents.

Here is the part of the terms of agreement that city officials really like, “Bendis can not take any action against any city council member related to the incident, including any other city staff”. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t have the strength or perseverance to endure what Kim went through.

Every member of the current city council, all nine, quietly and quickly shoved the $117,500 out the door. Not one city council member had the common decency to apologize to Kim Bendis and her family for the actions taken against her.

They were all too busy glad-handing, back-slapping, and high-fiving more streams of revenue to pay for more ill-conceived ideas, and bad-judgment decisions.

Sep 132015

There has been much debate about whether or not to approve a city sales tax in Naperville. And if it is approved should it be 1/4% or 1/2%. Watch and listen to mayor Steve Chirico as he clearly presents the need to approve the city’s first ever local sales tax. It’s a lengthy 9-minute video but well-worth watching since the issue is one of the major decisions this council will make.

It’s clear the city has dug a financial hole, and as distasteful as a 1/4% or 1/2% sales tax is, it’s a start to filling that hole, without creating undue hardship. If a 1/2% sales tax will address the problem twice as fast as a 1/4% sales tax, then wouldn’t it make sense to create a 1% sales tax and fully address the problem and be done with it. Watch and listen to resident Bob Schroeder as he presents seven reasons why a 1% sales tax is the wise choice.

Let’s be realistic, would anyone wanting to make a $100 purchase in Naperville balk at paying $101 for it,  and be willing to travel elsewhere to purchase it, if elsewhere also has a sales tax equal to, or more than Naperville’s 1%?

And how many businesses in other towns would be more than willing to add on that 1% sales tax, if they could have their business located in Naperville.

If Naperville is going to approve a municipal sales tax, they might as well do it right, and make it for 1%.

Sep 102015

It looks as though the Naperville city council will decide whether or not to approve Naperville’s first city sales tax during next Tuesday’s city council meeting. If the tax is approved, most likely it will be for 1/2 %. The vote could go either way, with possibly one vote making the difference.

Nobody wants a sales tax, especially elected city officials, and especially those city council members who are up for re-election in less than two years. Those council members include Judy Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher, and John Krummen.

Voters are not happy with incumbents. We are seeing it at all levels of government, federal, state and municipal. The top three candidates for the GOP (Trump, Carson, and Fiorina) are not establishment candidates. On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton is fading behind Bernie Sanders. At the State level, new-comer Rauner defeated Quinn, and at the municipal level, only three council members were re-elected to the Naperville city council (new mayor Steve Chirico, along with Paul Hinterlong and Judith Brodhead.

Incumbent Judy Brodhead was out-voted by four council members including Becky Anderson, Patty Gustin, and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski. Brodhead’s base has eroded, and by voting for a city sales tax, she may be sealing her defeat in the next election.

John Krummen came in 7th place out of eight. Krummen’s Achilles’s heal for re-election will be another increase in electric rates. Krummen was a ‘mouth piece’ for the previous Naperville city council when he ‘carried’ the smart-meter flag,  and was the bugle boy for smart meters. Residents have yet to see any savings in their electric bills after forced installation of ‘Krummens’ not-so-smart meters. If Krummen votes for the tax, he may also be remembered as a one-term council member.

Last week I called the City of Naperville and asked if they could tell me when my smart meter was installed. The staff member said it was installed January 24, 2013. I mentioned that I haven’t noticed any savings on my electric bill, and it was my understanding that I would see a savings. The answer was, “the savings come from no need to use meter readers”. That’s it. That’s the savings.

Considering council members Judy Brodhead and John Krummen voted for the forced installation of smart meters, and with electric rates increasing, if they vote in favor of a city sales tax, their two-year terms may be their last terms in office. If Brodhead and Krummen don’t vote for a city sales tax, and Naperville’s financial situation continues to deteriorate, they would become the ‘poster’ council members for doing nothing when action was necessary.

Sep 052015

Police have always had their detractors and critics. Typically they consist of people who have been caught doing things they shouldn’t be doing, usually illegal things, usually criminal in nature. It goes with the profession. There has always been that vocal minority who aren’t happy following rules.

However in recent years, some critics have included the very people who rely on the rule of law and order including some prosecutors (Baltimore), mayors (Baltimore), Governors (Missouri), all the up to the Department of Justice. Even President Obama set the tone in July 2009 when he said police who arrested a professor “acted stupidly” before he had the full story.

Since then, respect for authority, and specifically police officers has deteriorated at a quickening pace. The job itself is a dangerous job, as seen recently in Fox Lake, Illinois when police officer Lt. Joe Gliniewicz (along with many others throughout the country) lost his life in line of duty.

Watch and listen to the officer’s wife and family as she expresses her hurt and pain:

Members of the police department no longer have to deal only with the bad guys, they have to deal with the bureaucracy of government, and contempt from members of the public who rely on those very police officers who’s job it is to protect those people.

Just within the last week, a Florida police officer in Pembroke Pines was refused service when she attempted to order a quick meal at an Arby’s drive-thru. She was told the employee didn’t want to serve her because she was a police officer.

Since then, the officer and the entire Pembroke Pines police department have been shown appreciation from other fast-food restaurants, along with residents, for the outstanding and needed service that police officers provide to the community. A huge ‘thank you’ has been given to the police department.

Imagine a community, or a country without police officers being the thin line between law and order, versus chaos. Police officers need our support, they need as many ‘thank you’s’ as they can get, so they can do their very dangerous jobs. Maybe buy them a cup of coffee, or pick-up their lunch as a ‘thank you’ for what they do.

It’s Labor Day weekend. Many of us are off enjoying the weekend. They’re working to make sure we can enjoy ourselves in a safe and secure manner.

Sep 022015

It doesn’t seem that long ago, when the McCoy’s and Hatfield’s (city officials and Smart Meter opponents) were going at it with each other, over the benefits and atrocities of Smart Meters. Ultimately it came down to the ‘Golden Rule’; he who has the gold makes the rules, when the city crushed all but one resident (Kim Bendis) for resisting the forced installation of Smart Meters on their homes and businesses.

I succumbed to the pressure of resisting the installation when two Naperville police officers (guns ready if needed) escorted two meter installers to my home and slapped a meter on the exterior. I folded like a picnic chair and accepted my brand new shinny meter while chatting with both officers who were less than happy about having this assignment.

The good news was that if what city officials said about saving money on my electric bill was true, I might be able to save a buck or two. I knew the chances of that were one in a million, but it was still a chance.

As it turned out, I haven’t saved a penny with my now-less-than-shinny smart meter; in fact city officials increased the rate for electric, and get ready because it’s going to happen again.

At least it won’t come as a surprise. Smart meter opponents (Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group) knew it would happen, and Mayor Steve Chirico confirmed it during the last city council meeting.

It’s never pleasant hearing that electric rates are increasing, or a city sales tax is imminent, but residents would rather hear it straight, than to be played for fools.