If you’re watching a sporting event, you typically have a team you’re pulling for, unless you’re simply a fan of the sport. You have the good guys, let’s say the Cubbies, and then you have the not-so-good guys which is anybody they are playing.
When it comes to government, it’s not as easy picking out the good guys, when they are in a pushing and shoving contest. That’s where things are at with the City of Naperville and the Naperville Township regarding Naperville’s offer to manage about 20 miles of of unincorporated township roads, thereby saving taxpayers close to $800,000.
Seems like a no-brainer, however when it comes to government, what seems like common sense is not part of the equation. Naperville city officials have been professional, cordial, and persistent in discussions with Township officials but progress is at a standstill.
The reason for the quagmire is that the decision rests solely with the Naperville Township highway commissioner, Stan Wojtasiak, who said a decision “may take a week, it may take a month, it may take a year”. Stan is not too eager to separate himself from the power or security of his position. Quickly now, name one government official who doesn’t share the same feeling.
During the recent three-hour Naperville Township meeting, which was packed with township residents, township employees, (and likely family members), along with Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, the audience had the opportunity to listen and get answers to their questions from Chirico. The audience was polled, and the vote was 46-42 not to allow Naperville’s mayor to speak or answer questions.
How could a group not even care enough to listen or get their questions answered, with the opportunity to save almost a million dollars in taxes. Well, if the meeting was packed with folks more concerned about the status quo, then it makes sense. However there were also township residents present who would benefit from savings in the form of reduced taxes, so what was up with that group.
Could it be a huge distrust towards Naperville’s city officials including the city council. Could it be the City of Naperville’s litany of issues involving the mistreatment of Naperville’s residents including the forced installation of Smart Meters on the homes of those residents, and the subsequent arrest of residents protesting the unlawful action by the City of Naperville. Could it be even more difficult now to gain the trust of township residents, with a class-action lawsuit against the City of Naperville looming on the horizon alleging fraud, at the expense of residents.
Could it be when it comes to township residents, “better the devil they know, than the devil they don’t know.”
It is more likely that the Naperville township residents that are not also residents of the city are concerned about this being the first step in ending the township government. It is no secret that the Governor is interested in reducing taxes by eliminating taxing bodies and the easiest target of these bodies are the townships. Most other state (all the ones I have lived in previously) get along just fine without township governments, which lead to the logical question why have them? The residents of unincorporated Naperville have a fierce belief that they are independent and free from the City of Naperville’s influence and strongly wise to keep it that way. The reality is they are already subject to City influence they simply wish to deny this reality.
If the Township goes away than unincorporated residents would fall under county government, which they also have convinced themselves they are free from, which again is wrong. They also worry that if they fall under county government their property values will drop, but at the same time do not what to become part of the city because they would be required to pay to have city utilities (water, waste water) installed (several thousand dollars) even though their property values would go up.
Basically the unincorporated Naperville residents have convinced themselves they are getting the best of both worlds by being part of a township when in reality they are not. What they are getting is a massive subsidy by city residents who also pay township property taxes but do not benefit from the services the township provides solely to unincorporated residents. It is interesting to note that in the over 20 years I have lived in Naperville I never received anything for the township explaining what my tax dollars were being spent on until after this debate, then suddenly earlier this month I get my first ever township “newsletter” telling me how great they are.
This whole debate will most likely be completely moot in another year. The state legislator is in the process of passing several constitutional amendments one of which would be to give county government the authority to take over township government responsibilities and eliminate townships. Since the majority of residents in the Chicagoland area live in cities and are paying taxes to support township governments they do not see as beneficial to them in another year most counties will be seeing a push by city residents to eliminate these townships.