Feb 272016

I think my dad invented the question mark, because it seemed like most everything he said was a question. If I asked him where my shoes were, he’d say, where did you leave them? Or if I asked, what’s for dinner, he’d say, take a guess. Sometimes he’d give me a list of chores to do, I’d look at it and say, wow that’s a lot of stuff. He’d respond with, ‘how do you eat an elephant?’, but then quickly respond with ‘one bite at a time’. It still seemed like a lot of stuff, but at least I then had a game plan.

Trying to work our way up, financially speaking, from being #50 out of 50 states to #49 seems like it would be next to impossible. Illinois Governor Rauner vs. Illinois Speaker of the House, Mike Madigan is a match between an irresistible force vs. an immovable object. It’s similar to an arm wrestling match that’s going nowhere, while the State of Illinois is sinking.

However there has been movement at the local level, in small bites, to consolidate government through an intergovernmental cost-sharing initiative. As small as the bites have been, it is a step in the right direction. The City of Naperville is in the process of cost-sharing with the Naperville Township for highway maintenance. In the big picture, it’s a small bite, however if/when this concept begins to pick-up speed with other municipalities cost-sharing, those small bites become noticeable.

Word has it, that mayor Wiesner of Aurora has a township that has even fewer miles than Naperville Township, and he is very interested in mirroring Naperville’s cost sharing initiative.

Additionally, Naperville city officials are working with a neighboring municipality on a new ‘fire protection without borders’ initiative which if it can be accomplished, would save the State of Illinois millions of dollars.

It’s really refreshing to see city officials thinking and acting in this direction. In Naperville, the seed and plan for these ideas have been spear-headed by Naperville mayor Steve Chirico, city manager Doug Krieger, and councilman Kevin Coyne.

My dad would ask me, ‘which olive is the most difficult to get out of the jar?’. I said the last one, and he’d say, ‘no, the first one. Once you get the first one out, the rest come out easy.’

Maybe, just maybe, the City of Naperville working with the Naperville Township in cost sharing is the first olive out of the jar. Who knows, maybe we can work our way up to #49 with an eye on #48. It just takes one bite at a time.

Feb 242016

The Naperville Township Board recently voted to move forward with a possible intergovernmental agreement with the City of Naperville, which would allow the city to maintain 16 miles of township roads, thereby saving almost $800,000 annually and substantially reducing the township highway tax. Maintenance would include snow plowing and brush pick-up.

The agreement has been a step-by-step process with Naperville city officials along with Township officials agreeing. The final step in the agreement will be a yes-decision by the Naperville Township Highway commissioner Stan Wojtasiak who oversees the department, which is separate from the Naperville Township.

During the Township meeting, Wojtasiak asked the board, “If there is no highway department, no vehicles, and no employees, why do we need a highway commissioner?”

In essence, Wojtasiak was asking, “What do you need me for?” That’s a great question. Looks like we don’t. What do you need a zoo keeper for, if you don’t have any animals?

Wojtasiak’s job status will be decided by the Township Highway commissioner, Wojtasiak himself. Only government can create a situation like that. It’s possible Wojtasiak may decide to fire himself and give himself a huge golden parachute, or he may put himself on a lifetime paid leave of absence.

He could simply re-write his job description as “Highway Commissioner Without Highways”. If he does decide to fire himself, would HR need to be present? Is it possible Wojtasiak the person could decide to sue Wojtasiak the highway commissioner for unjust termination leaving the Township on the hook for damages. So many possibilities.

Feb 212016

Naperville’s Municipal Center, home to the mayor and city council, is quite a beautiful building located on some prime property overlooking Naperville’s crown jewel known as the River Walk. The council chambers where the Naperville city council meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month is not only functional, as it should be, it’s also comfortable and somewhat picturesque. In fact, the mayor of Homer Glen (George Yukich), during a short presentation to the council, mentioned that his town has a Village Hall, not a Taj Mahal inferring that Naperville’s Municipal Center is  little over-the-top.

That takes us to last Tuesday’s Naperville city council meeting when the topic of scheduling a council work shop came up on the agenda. Watch and listen as Naperville councilwoman Rebecca Obarski suggested moving the workshop meeting from council chambers to a meeting room; note how she initially with excitement refers to the workshop as a retreat:

Freudian slip, who knows. An intentional error revealing subconscious feeling, maybe. By definition a retreat is withdrawing from enemy forces, or moving back. It could also be a getaway or vacation.

A workshop implies ‘intensive discussion’, and Obarski apparently isn’t satisfied with Naperville’s Taj Mahal council chambers. Even more interesting is the entire council agreed to using a meeting room; no one questioned the idea. No doubt a meeting room is much more fun, being located next to a lunch room. Think of the possibilities.

Additionally the meeting room is undoubtedly available, since it was just a few months ago the the Naperville city council voted to start charging Naperville residents a fee to use meeting rooms in the Municipal Center. Taxpayer dollars built the Municipal Center, and the council decided to charge those taxpayers a fee to use those meeting rooms in the building they built.

How about each member of the Naperville city council tossing in a few bucks for the use of the meeting room. If residents now have to do that, why not the city officials too. Maybe with that requirement, the council chambers might begin to look more appealing for a workshop. I mean it is seen as a Taj Mahal.

Feb 172016

It’s always interesting how city officials look for things to announce, that with a little spin, make it look like everything is honky-dory within the inky shadows of city hall corridors.

It happened at the beginning of last Tuesday night’s Naperville city council meeting, when councilman John Krummen had a sort-of-good news announcement that he was very proud to make.

Watch and listen as Krummen eagerly revs up his enthusiasm with his announcement:

On the surface, I guess this is cool. I mean, wow, no ‘significant’ deficiencies were found when the ‘city’ auditor met with the financial advisory board. However, when you think about it, what is meant by ‘significant’? If there were no deficiencies found, wouldn’t they say that, rather than inserting the word ‘significant’?

Move on folks, there’s nothing significant to see here with the audit.

When it comes to Naperville city officials, and the millions of tax dollars they are tossing around, what do they consider as a reasonable deficiency. Is it hundreds or thousands of unaccountable dollars, or are they talking about hundreds of thousands or even a million here or there as a ‘significant’ deficiency.

It’s possible that what city officials see as an acceptable deficiency and what taxpayers see as a worrisome deficiency are the same thing; wasted unaccountable dollars.

It’s rather doubtful that if any council member had any level of ‘deficiency’ in their personal business, be it a book or floor covering business, or real estate, plumbing, or legal business, they wouldn’t be congratulating their co-workers or employees with an ovation. Chances are they would be focusing on eliminating or at least addressing those deficiencies.

Since councilman Krummen considered his announcement as a reason for celebration, we can only imagine what other possible announcements might be coming soon by city officials including:

  • Investigations verified that during the last ten years, no council member has been accused of allegedly assaulting a Naperville police officer….oops I mean five years.
  • A report confirms that not one single council member was arrested for shoplifting within four miles of the municipal center.
  • We are happy to announce that council members shovel their walkways ….usually.
  • We are proud to announce that not one city official has purchased anything on line, except maybe some plastic forks, a book, or enough lumber to build a house.
  • An audit conducted by city officials confirmed that city officials don’t pad their expense accounts. The audit was verified by city officials who were audited.
  • A study has determined that not one taxpayer dollar has been wasted on all the city electric-charging stations for electric vehicles that don’t seem to exist.
  • An investigation confirms that of all the municipal recycling centers in the country, the City of Naperville has one of them.
  • A time-study audit has determined that Naperville city officials really enjoy doing time-study audits.
  • A report recently released confirms that former councilman Grant Wehrli’s presence in Springfield has made absolutely no difference about anything.

There are 412 days remaining until the next Naperville city council election. That’s plenty of time for many more ‘significant’ announcements.

Feb 142016

One small step for Naperville Township and one smaller step for Illinois. That’s what happened when the Naperville Township Board voted to move towards an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Naperville which would allow the city to take over maintenance responsibility (snow plowing and brush pickup) for 16 miles of township roads saving almost $800,000 annually while reducing the township highway tax.

Sounds like a good deal for the most part, though a flood of township residents voiced their concerns. It seems the folks think that scheduling brush pick up once a year vs twice yearly would cause only half the brush being picked up. Mathematically it makes sense, however the City of Naperville cut back to once yearly and it seems to work just fine.

Another concern of township residents is that if they had a problem, because they live in the township, nobody at city hall would care enough to do anything about it. This is possible since the City of Naperville has an ‘at large’ style of government versus district representation, and people can get lost in the shuffle, however any council member supporting the issue of governmental consolidation would be on record, and should be available to help those township residents. The key operating word there is ‘should’. Council members who appear to be user friendly in listening to and helping residents are John Krummen, Kevin Coyne, and Kevin Gallaher.

Overall this is a nice effort to help the State of Illinois and residents with their financial woes, but in many ways this intergovernmental agreement is more symbolic, though again it does show it can be done. It’s somewhat similar to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic; too little too late.

With regard to financial health, there is a reason the State of Illinois is ranked #50 out of 50 states and that’s because there aren’t 51 states. Maybe it’s finally time the State of Illinois should put itself up for sale. This would be the ultimate example of intergovernmental consolidation. Using Occum’s Razor the simplest solution is to divide Illinois into four equal parts each of which could become part of Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. Let’s forget Kentucky; it seems like everybody else does.

The plus side for Indiana is that they keep advertising for business to move there because it’s much more tax-friendly. Missouri, of course could strengthen their Major League Baseball image by having the Cubs within their expanded state boundary. Joining Iowa would allow us to finally have some outstanding college football and basketball teams, not to mention Iowa has 25% of this country’s Grade-A black dirt. And don’t forget the line from the movie ‘Field of Dreams’, “is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa”. And finally becoming part of Wisconsin, wow, who wouldn’t want to experience some fine dairy air.

Feb 072016

If you’re a fan of Judge Judy, you know it’s one of the few places where the good guys usually win, and the not-so good guys (also known as idiots) get embarrassed on national television. Not only do they lose the case, they get publicly humiliated from coast to coast.

Judge Judy doesn’t like hearsay; information received from other people that can not be adequately substantiated. President Ronald Reagan brought to life the old Russian proverb, ‘trust but verify’. A very wise piece of advice indeed.

It’s a piece of advice that Naperville city officials did not follow recently, when city manager Doug Krieger and mayor Steve Chirico discussed news with a reporter about a new grocery store (Fresh Market) opening in northwest Naperville, which appeared in the local newspaper last Wednesday.

The only problem is that it wasn’t accurate. Fresh Market is coming to Naperville on the far southeast part of Naperville near Rt. 59 and 95th street, not at the reported location of the former Dominick’s store on North Aurora Road.

The problem started when a sign was incorrectly placed on the former Dominick’s property announcing the future opening of Fresh Market.  A picture of the sign was posted on social media, and then sent to Krieger and Chirico. This was followed by the interview, the story went to press, and the news hit the streets. Oops inaccurate information was trusted, while nobody took the time to verify the facts of the story.

What’s the big deal, it’s just a sign with wrong information being reported and published and everybody passing the buck. The problem is that trusting without verifying is happening more and more often. How much false and inaccurate information is being passed to city officials, and then acted upon without anyone confirming its authenticity.

Does the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency ring a bell? How about sky-rocketing electric rates in Naperville? Maybe Naperville city officials should begin each meeting with the words “trust but verify”. It just might save everybody a lot of embarrassment and a lot of money.