Nov 222015
 

The City of Naperville began the third and final two-week cycle of picking up leaves last Monday November 16. Residents were diligently and hastily raking and blowing their leaves into the street at curbside, frantically trying to beat the leaf-eating truck that’s is supposed to make the leaves disappear.

They don’t really vanish, they more accurately get evenly re-distributed along the street. Naperville city officials spend a lot of money, well actually tax-payers do, to have this service. While the Naperville city council is trying to figure out where to cut services, part of the answer might just be blowing around in the streets. Most communities don’t spend money to provide this service, and when spring rolls around, their yards and streets seem to look just as good as ours.

The leaf-vanishing trucks are scheduled to be completed with this final cycle by next week; Thanksgiving week. That’s no easy task, considering a couple of days are lost to the Holiday, and especially this year as I look out my window and can’t see the leaves since they are covered with snow, and it’s still snowing. The good news is that the snow will stop this evening, and then a gradual thaw will occur exposing piles of wet leaves.

This year it looks like the City got caught with some unexpected bad weather about two weeks early. It typically seems to happen on the first Saturday of December. I know this because for the last 20 years on the last Saturday of November I’m in either in Champaign or DeKalb watching four state championship football games in the elements; wind, rain, cold, but no snow.

This year may be the same, however if those piles of wet leaves are unable to be picked-up, it’s going to make a mess, with sewers being blocked, and ultimately snow plows pushing everything around. No doubt it would be better to have no leaves in the street, than to have a mess with water back-up and spending tax dollars for that result.

There must be a better answer; maybe even one that would save the taxpayers of Naperville money, and have our community look just as good in spring, as other towns that don’t spend tax dollars to push leaves around.

Nov 182015
 

Sometimes it’s all about the timing. Just as a report, by online media 24/7 Wall Street LLC, was being released showing that Naperville, along with Elgin and Chicago have the highest consumption of alcohol in the State of Illinois, all hell was breaking loose in downtown Naperville last weekend with alcohol-fueled mayhem and bedlam.

Five separate dust-ups involving unruly individuals and the Naperville police broke out at four downtown Naperville locations including Jackson Avenue Pub 7, at 7 West Jackson just after midnight on Saturday morning, then a little over an hour later at Bar Louie, 22 E. Chicago, then only a minute later at the same location chaos erupted, and then just an hour later at 2:30am fisticuffs ignited near Features Bar at 14 W. Chicago. The following night, Sunday at about 2am, a fifth arrest occurred close to the municipal parking deck at 75 W. Chicago Avenue. In total, police rounded up five people on charges of battery and fighting. Other than that it was a peaceful night in kid and family-friendly downtown Naperville.

Naperville city officials came up with a solution to the alcohol-fueled problems over the last few years, and the solution, in part, was to not shine a light on the problem. If it’s not seen, heard, or written about, then it’s not occurring as much. Creative solution to avoid the problem.

Somewhat similar to the solution to the problem of homeless people in Naperville. Homeless folks don’t exist in Naperville; now they’re called street dwellers. Bingo, just like that, problem solved.

Out of 50 states in the country, only three states drink more alcohol, so that means that Naperville is one of the top three alcohol consuming cities in one of the top four alcohol consuming states. I don’t think you’ll find that bit of news on the City of Naperville’s website.

Half of the solution to a problem, is the awareness that the problem exists, and the previous, and current city council don’t seem to have that awareness. If an alcohol related agenda item, is a topic of discussion during a Naperville city council meeting, it’s a safe bet it will be approved.

Naperville city officials continue to refer to Naperville as a kid and family-friendly city, however their actions and decisions indicate otherwise. Naperville’s new focus for the future is to be a destination for entertainment. And the future is here now.

Nov 152015
 

 

 

It’s always more fun spending than trying to figure how to spend less. Governments tend to excel at spending, and fail miserably at cutting expense. Naperville city officials are in the midst of considering where to make spending cuts to help defray the $1.8 million budget deficit, and there are plenty of departments in the City of Naperville to choose from when looking at expenses. Those departments include:

  • Board Of Fire and Police
  • City Clerk
  • City Manager
  • Communication
  • Finance
  • Fire
  • Human Resource
  • IT (Information Technology)
  • Legal
  • Mayor and City Council
  • Police
  • Public Works
  • Riverwalk
  • Transportation, Engineering and Development

Each department is like its own little fiefdom, not really wanting to make cuts, and lobbying for either maintaining their current expenses, or hitting the trifecta with additional dollars.

Each department head pleaded their case to the city council at a recent workshop, almost as if they were presenting their personal annual review to their supervisor for a salary increase.

To the credit of the Naperville city council, one department (IT) was singled out as needing more dollars and support than they were requesting. As councilman Kevin Gallaher inferred, Naperville’s IT needs to modernize at least from ‘the ancient to the old’.

The city council looks prepared to make cuts to the other departments, however considering world events, and current situations within our country, they might want to think twice about cutting the budget for police and fire protection.

Additionally, Naperville’s legal department may need to be bolstered, not for the purpose of making residents lives more miserable, but the the probability of fending off more law suits including possible class action lawsuits. It’s been said that anybody can sue anybody for anything, which is true, and some of these cases look a little stronger than others.

The city council will also be looking at the ongoing issue of medical benefits, including dental, and vision for city council members. It’s interesting to note that aside from the mayor’s position, the only Naperville city council member taking medical, dental, and vision benefits is councilwoman Judy Brodhead. She is holding strong on keeping these benefits for herself.

Even if the council votes to forgo those benefits, it wouldn’t take effect until the year 2019, meaning Brodhead could be covered by taxpayers for another three-plus years, unless of course, voters decide to separate her from the council during the next election in 2017.

Nov 112015
 

Naperville city officials are still searching for possible cuts in expenditures in order to cover the $1.8 million budget deficit. So far the only cut mentioned was outlined by Naperville city council member Patty Gustin:

At Costco’s current price of $3.39 for a case of 40 pint-size bottles, that will reduce the $1.8 million deficit by $22.44 over the year. Naperville city officials have yet to announce any other savings.

This comes after city officials voted to increase revenue, which means increased taxes and fees to residents, by installing a first-time ever municipal sales tax, increasing garbage pick-up fees by 617%, and charging a fee to folks wanting to use municipal meeting rooms.

City officials jump at the chance to increase revenues rather than curtailing expenses. Increasing revenues means extracting or squeezing it out of Naperville residents and businesses.

So while city officials are trying to figure out what additional expenses they can cut, other than water at the dais, how about a couple of guaranteed revenue generators.

How about a ‘Police Proximity Fee’. Police provide a necessary service, and just as paying a fee to use a meeting room, why not charge people a fee when in the proximity of a police officer. You never know when you’ll need the services of a police officer, so ante up a fee for the possible service of that officer. If a citizen is within sight of a police officer, then it requires a fee to be paid. The Naperville city council can work out the details later on how this would work.

Or how about a toll when entering downtown Naperville. It would be too difficult to do when entering the city of Naperville, but extracting a toll from cars entering the downtown area would be easy. Once the Water Street Project is completed, traffic will be moving so slow, there would be no problem utilizing toll gates and booths to collect the fee. The marketing catch phrase could be, “Come to downtown Naperville. We get you coming and going”.

There is absolutely no end to the creative ideas city officials can use to separate citizens from their hard-earned money. It’s possible that if city officials can come up with enough creative ideas, they can have water again at the dais.

Nov 082015
 

It was just a little over three years ago that the City of Naperville’s online network was hacked. So what exactly have city officials learned from the embarrassing experience and how secure is the network now? The answers could be ‘not very much’ and ‘not very’.

We won’t know for sure until it happens again, and it will happen. Government officials have a tendency to invite problems with grandiose statements and reassurance that everything is under control.

When Naperville’s network was hacked in October 2012, it cost the residents of Naperville well over a half-million dollars after insurance, and the system was down for over a month. Ironically, on the day of the hacking, the Naperville city council had a meeting that night, and residents were expressing their concerns about the lack of security within the smart meter system. City officials assured residents that security was not a concern. They said this without ever mentioning during the meeting that the city website network had just been hacked. As if residents wouldn’t notice it while it was down.

That’s the problem with government; they do very little to build trust with their constituency. Is it any wonder why a large segment of Napervillians still have concern about the City’s smart meter system. Fewer and fewer people are buying into the rhetoric when government officials say ‘everything is OK’, so it must be OK. Unfortunately when city officials tell residents to ‘look to the right’, they’d better ‘look to the left’.

City officials tend to think that residents can’t handle the truth, when in fact, what residents can’t handle is deceit and mis-information. City officials need to have the courage to level with residents, and tell it like it is, not cover issues up or make no mention of things that concern residents. City officials have a bully pulpit to share information on the city website, during city council meetings, or through local media, but all too often unpleasant topics are unaddressed, as if they aren’t happening.

Which gets us back to the City’s online network. For city officials to reassure residents that the system can’t be hacked, is an invitation for low level hackers to take on the challenge. Sophisticated hackers can crack into any network. If they can get into the IRS and pentagon networks, they surely could get into Naperville’s. The so-called ‘major league’ hackers have much larger targets in mind than Naperville. The City of Naperville’s network is ‘little league training ground’ just waiting for some clever high school kid to say, “hey guys look what I just did”, and Naperville’s system is down again.

When the Target Corporation network was hacked a few years ago, CEO Gregg Steinhafel took the hit, and departed Target within a year. When it happened to the City of Naperville, the IT department was given a standing ovation during a city council meeting, and undoubtedly another monetary raise at the end of the year. Nobody was held accountable.

Now we have a ‘new’ city council and a new mayor with a strong business-style approach to getting things done. The question isn’t whether or not the city network will be hacked, the question is, does the city have a Plan-B to deal with it. Time will tell.

If Naperville’s IT department is not getting better faster than the hackers are getting better, then Naperville better have more than just a Plan-B.

Nov 042015
 

Shopping is not one of my favorite activities, but as the dutiful husband that I try to be, I will run to the grocery store and pick-up an item that my wife needs for cooking or baking purposes. I get myself psyched up to be surgical, by getting in the store, getting the item, and getting out of the store as fast as possible. Inevitably, I’ll get a phone call from my wife while standing in the check out lane, asking me to get another item. She has this innate ability to know when I’m getting ready to check out. Of course I do it, knowing that a happy wife makes for a happy life.

The same type of thing happened at a recent Naperville city council meeting when it came time to vote on a policy change, to charge a fee for folks wanting to use meeting room A and/or B at the municipal center. This had been discussed for a half-hour that night by council members, following a number of residents speaking before council deliberations.

Within a minute before the vote, the mayor of Naperville, Steve Chirico, made a late addition to the policy which included other meeting rooms not discussed. Watch and listen as mayor Chirico does the magician sleight of hand to widen the policy:

Supporters of the mayor would say that was a clever move on his part, others would say, it was tricky on his part, while others would say ‘what just happened’.

Whichever category you fall into, one thing is for sure, the mayor knows how to get things done.

Nov 012015
 

It’s official. If you would like to use a meeting room at the Naperville Municipal Center, you’d better bring cold hard cash, your checkbook, credit card or a bunch of piggy banks, to pay for the privilege of using a room for whatever good cause you may have, or the folks at city hall will tell you to take a hike, beat it, or get out of here.

The Naperville Municipal Center is the building city officials approved to build with tax payer’s dollars. In other words, your dollars built the building, that the mayor of Homer Glen referred to as a ‘Taj Mahal’ of city halls. This is the building that city officials use for their convenience for offices to conduct business and have meetings. It’s in these offices and meeting rooms that they create policy mandating that the tax payers who built the building and meeting rooms, can’t use the building and meeting rooms unless they pay a fee. Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t be a happy guy.

Watch and listen as Naperville resident Jim Haselhorst makes a very common sense presentation to the city council. Pay special attention to the last minute or so, when tax payer Haselhorst asks an excellent question, only to be ignored and sent on his way by the entire council:

Nine members on the council, along with the city manager, give Haselhorst what is commonly known as the “bum’s rush”, scoot him out the door without the common courtesy of an answer.

This council meeting occurred Tuesday October 20 at 7pm, the same night and start time for game three of the National League Championship Series involving the Cubs at Wrigley Field. That hasn’t happened in 7 years. It’s possible that Jim Haselhorst is a Cub’s fan and he gave up something special for his few minutes in front of the council, but even if Jim isn’t a fan, he still took the time and made the effort to address the council and deserves more than a rude brush off. Would it have been that difficult for one of the ten,including the city manager, to give him an answer. Even something as simple as, “Thank you Jim for your comment, we appreciate it,  and we’ll consider it with all options.”
Apparently, Mr. Haselhorst wasn’t worth a 4-second response.

To the credit of mayor Steve Chirico, he does keep the meeting moving in an efficient business-like manner, and council members John Krummen and Paul Hinterlong both have recently asked/allowed speakers to complete their comments beyond the time-allotted limit. Refreshing to say the least.

Now if the Naperville city council would only give 15 four-second courteous responses to presenters, it would only add one minute to the length of the meeting. That’s not too much to ask for the folks who ‘built’ the council chambers.

Oct 292015
 

Naperville city officials have been playing with liquor ordinances and policy for years, tweaking it here and there, making it more and more confusing, while making liquor more and more available, at a quickening pace.

Watch and listen to Naperville councilman Kevin Coyne, as he summarizes the current code, ordinance, and liquor policy in Naperville:

Simplification of the liquor code has not been part of the equation, though mayor Steve Chirico, also the liquor commissioner, has that on his ‘to do’ list.

City officials most recent venture in the world of liquor is to now make the sales and service of alcohol available on Sunday at 7am when ordering a meal. “I’ll take a whiskey sour and a a shot of vodka, with a ham sandwich, and can you make the sandwich real, real small.”

Watch and listen to Naperville resident, Charles Brown, as he presents his common sense take on the issue:

Considering Naperville city officials seem to be focusing on transitioning Naperville from a kid and family friendly city to a destination for entertainment, why not simply stop the game-playing encroachment of liquor availability and make it available everywhere all the time.

Like hot lava flowing downhill from a volcano, which ultimately takes it course of consumption, face the fact, deal with it, and be done with it. Naperville has the real possibility of moving from Mayberry to Pottersville. And if not Pottersville, who knows, maybe we could become the new Las Vegas of the midwest.

As unlikely as that may seem, every ultimate destination begins with a first step. This is just one more step in that direction.

Oct 252015
 

Last weekend was my weekend to gather leaves around my home and rake them into the street at curbside. I take this chore as a personal challenge. As my dad would say, ‘if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right’.

I have a time-tested and proven plan which includes a weather report, working with the wind, starting in the back yard and using a tarp to drag the leaves to the front, and depositing them very carefully not less than 15 feet from the driveway. I also allow room for the garbage guy to get my cans without pushing through the leaves, and I give the postal worker room to get to the mailbox.  Here is the tricky part; trying to figure out from which direction the truck will be coming to vacuum the leaves. I never seem to get this one right, because inevitably the truck pushes the leaves towards the entrance to my driveway.

Then I meticulously rake the front yard leaves to curbside, allowing 12 inches from the curb to the 24 inch high pile of leaves stretching from lot line to lot line (again accommodating for garbage pick-up and mail delivery). The 12 inch path allows water to pass through. When I’m all done with leaf placement, I use my hose to spray a layer of water on the leaves, which stabilizes the leaves against the wind.

When done, I stand back to admire my accomplishment, and wait for the leaf guys to come rolling through. There must be a million leaves waiting to disappear. This year, within a few days, the leaf guys came through and again I guessed the wrong direction. By the time they were done, there was a trail of one million leaves stretching down the street blowing in the wind. Wow, what a seemingly waste of time, and taxpayer dollars.

The City of Naperville spends a lot of money trying to collect leaves throughout the city during a six week period in Autumn. This year the process began October 19 and ends November 30 and possibly sooner depending upon weather conditions.

Leaves are piled in the street at curbside and every two weeks trucks (leaf loaders), and vacuum units, come by and magically make the leaves disappear, according to city officials; what disappears are the budget dollars, while the leaves simply get rearranged in the neighborhood.

In a perfect world, the process works perfect, however leaf collecting is anything but perfect. Typically the first of the three drive-byes to pick-up leaves is too early and a small percentage of residents have their leaves ready. Most of the leaves are still on the trees. The second drive-by is a race between the residents raking leaves into the street, and the leave trucks circling the neighborhoods. And the third drive-by often-times doesn’t get completed due to inclement weather.

So are the residents really getting the best bang for their leaf-collecting buck? A million leaves stretching down the street would say no.  With a City budget deficit of $1.8 million, maybe our leaf collecting expense could be put to better use, by 1) chipping into the deficit, and 2) allowing residents the right to utilize municipal center meeting rooms without a fee to use the ‘peoples house’, a term appropriately coined by councilman John Krummen.

Those wanting to use a municipal center meeting room could simply bring a bag of leaves, in lieu of paying a fee. It’s a win-win-win. The good folks of Naperville could use what they ‘built’, city officials could save a bundle of money and use it towards the deficit, and we could get leaves off the street.

Oct 182015
 

It’s budget time in Naperville, which means it’s crunch time for the Naperville city council which means it’s time for residents to get crunched by city officials.

Naperville city manager, Doug Krieger, said Naperville has dug a financial hole, and the way to fill the hole is with cash, and the way to get cash is from Naperville residents and businesses. It always seems to be the same formula for government officials; squeeze it from the very people who did not dig the hole.

Watch and listen to Naperville mayor Steve Chirico, as he clearly states the challenge:

The City of Naperville currently finds itself with a $1.8 million budget deficit. This comes after city officials approved a first-time ever city sales tax, and raised the cost of trash pick-up by 617%. So what is the Naperville city council to do about this? Watch and listen as councilman Paul Hinterlong raises that question during the last council meeting:

One suggestion is to squeeze it out of groups wanting to use meeting rooms at the city municipal center. This would make it more difficult for individuals and groups wanting to help other individuals and groups, by charging them a fee to use the ‘peoples house’. At best that would bring in up to $38,000, and most likely far less, towards the $1.8 million deficit, which would be like trying to fill a crater on the moon with a couple of bags of sand.

The Naperville city council did make a huge effort to reduce expense by eliminating drinking water at the dais during meetings. At Costco’s current price for bottled water, that should save the city about $26.40 over the year. This definitely shows that council members are willing to sacrifice for the cause.

What the city council needs is some creative thinking for revenue and expense. Watch and listen to councilwoman Rebecca Obarski as she expresses this thought:

Considering that eliminating council-member drinking water during meetings is the best the council can do creatively thus far, and considering council members want to charge a fee for meeting rooms at the municipal center,  and considering council members should lead by example, here is a short list of possible revenue sources:

  • charge each council member $10 per seat at the dais for each council meeting.
  • sell advertising space in front of each council member’s seat at the dais.
  • sell advertising for a personal-injury attorney to be placed on each city owned ambulance.
  • rent out office space for council members at the municipal center for $500 per month each.
  • sell “Cops” TV show advertising space on each police vehicle, and replace sirens with theme song “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you, bad boy”.
  • sell Tabasco advertising space on each fire department vehicle.
  • issue each council member with a ‘NASCAR-like’ fire proof suit covered with local business advertising logos, for use during council meetings and special events.

The list of possibilities is endless.