Oct 302016

It’s been said that we cause 90% of our own problems, and based on personal experience, I would agree with that. Certain things are going to happen that can’t be avoided accounting for 10% of our problems; a broken water main, cancellation of a flight, a meteor falling out of the sky into my backyard, etc. It’s the other 90% that we have a chance to minimize by planning and thinking ahead of time. My wife thinks I’m a pessimist because I tend to think about what can go wrong. I see myself as a realist by trying to avoid what can go wrong. It’s all how you look at it.

Back when dirt was new, and I was a young, I decided to paint the stairway to our finished basement. I started at the top and worked my way down to the bottom. Upon completion I stood back to admire the end result, and quickly realized that I had painted myself down to the basement with no way of getting back up until the paint dried. That was my first introduction to the 90% rule.

The Naperville city council has a tendency to paint itself into a corner, and it appears they are doing it again. This time by leading-on students from Neuqua Valley High School that changing the city flag is a good idea. Guard Dog’s earlier posting touched on the idea – It’s ok to say no.

Now it’s coming to crunch time when the Naperville city council is going to have to make a decision to either approve the idea and cost taxpayers a huge bundle of money to re-brand everything, or crush the students efforts and dreams.

On November 4, six students from Neuqua will be presenting the winning flag design at a TEDx event in Naperville. The winning design was chosen from nearly 130 entries by a public vote. Unfortunately one choice was not listed; keep the current flag. If that would have been one of the choices, the council would have had some ‘unpainted steps’ out from the corner.

As you can see from the previous posting, Naperville council members Patty Gustin and John Krummen fanned the flame of hope-eternal for the students giving them more belief that changing the city flag is doable. It’s doable if the council wants to spend tax dollars they don’t have. Remember, it was just a few months ago when the council voted to charge residents and needy groups a fee to use taxpayer funded meeting rooms throughout the city including the Municipal Center.

Does anyone on the Naperville city council have the courage to say ‘no’ to the students flag re-design and unnecessary expense. If not, then how about the next group of students from Naperville Central or North who want to present their flag re-design next year or the year after. Sooner or later, the council is going to have to say ‘no’. It might as well be sooner.

Oct 272016

Just as Naperville is about to get more traffic with the opening of the Water Street Development next month, Naperville city officials are considering eliminating 1.5% of it’s downtown parking spaces by reducing on-street parking from 491 spots to 484. Seven fewer parking spots may not seem like many, but when you’re looking for just one spot to park, seven open spots would seem like a bonanza.

Reducing available parking places would be accomplished by eliminating angle parking and converting them to parallel parking on the east side of Main Street between Jackson and Jefferson avenues in addition to the area from Jefferson Street to the Van Buren Avenue parking lot entrance.

The likeliness of this happening is due to city officials’ desire to widen sidewalks to facilitate outdoor restaurant and cafe seating and adding benches making it more enticing for diners, shoppers and pedestrians. That’s all fine and dandy, but before you can dine, shop, and meander through town, you have to find a place to park.

Eliminating seven parking spots may seem insignificant, but consider this, it could reduce sales and revenue by $400,000 or more. Let’s do the math. If you consider a parking spot is desirable about 16 hours per day, and the average spot may rotate every two hours, that’s a conservative eight cars per day per spot X 7 parking spots X 365 days per year with an average conservative loss of $20 in sales and revenue which comes to about $400,000.

(8 cars   X   7 parking spots   X   365 days per year   X   $20 (conservative) spent = $408,800 per year lost)

It takes a lot of books being sold and Anderson’s book store, and hot dogs from Joey’s, and chicken wings from Ted’s Montana Grill to put a dent in $40oK+.

Could it be that city officials are getting us ready for metered parking in the not too distant future. Or could it be, that part of the master plan is, eliminating most street parking, requiring the use of parking garages, with the ultimate goal of city officials, to charge for parking in city owned garages exactly like Chicago? How does $20 for the first ten minutes sound, or $50 for anything over that for the day. The Golden Rule would apply. He who has the gold makes the rules; and the city has the gold with ordinances which gives them more gold for more ordinances.

Some could consider the first step of the plan (converting angle parking to parallel) as prejudiced towards younger and older drivers. Younger drivers because learning how to parallel park is no longer mandatory in high school driver’s education, and the State no longer tests for it. Older drivers because it’s not so easy turning your head like an owl to get into and out of parallel parking spots.

Or maybe the real answer is the simplest; the city wants to corner the market on valet parking.

Oct 232016

It’s been said that one vote can make a difference in an election, and that must be exactly what Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson is banking on, if and when she runs for re-election. Here is how the story unfolded during the October 18 Naperville city council meeting.

Anderson was contacted by one resident (Joyce Brown) concerning bee hives in her neighbor’s yard. Did I mention it was one resident? Good for Ms. Brown for raising the concern to Anderson, but here is where it took a sharp left turn. Anderson thought it was worthy to be brought up for discussion at the council meeting, rather than steering the resident to a more appropriate venue, like the neighbor, or the Home Owners Association.  Council members don’t like to deliver difficult messages, especially when it’s one-on-one. Combine this with Naperville city council member’s eagerness to regulate any topic that can come to mind. The council subscribes to the theory, that states what good is a council, if not to regulate everything.

Watch and listen as resident Joyce Brown states her position:

So the issue wasn’t safety, it was concern for the birds and bees cohabiting. Apparently the birds don’t want to come abound the bird bath with bees present, and the bees don’t know how to swim in it. Doesn’t seem to be a problem in nature. But in this one bird bath, it’s a problem.

A number of folks spoke in support of bees. In fact, there were 42 minutes of support. Then another 20 minutes of discussion among council members. Almost one-third of the meeting was invested in this topic.

In the council’s excitement to pound the gavel of regulation, they were stumped when bee expert Ed Bell asked the council a question they could not answer. The question was, “what color is a honey bee?” Nobody could answer it. At least a couple of brave souls on the council made an effort to earn points with a correct answer, but no luck. It’s interesting that most don’t know the answer, but most are more than eager to regulate bee hives.

Finally a couple of council members decided to take the lead and inject some common sense into the discussion. Watch and listen to Naperville councilman Kevin Coyne as he reviews the proceedings:

How refreshing to hear a council member make sense.

This was followed by more refreshment when councilman John Krummen asked a great question:

Exactly. What problem are they being asked to solve? Good for Krummen to ask the obvious.

The problem is not the bees, and it’s not resident Joyce Brown. In fact, I applaud her for getting a council member to bite on the topic. The problem is Anderson for trying to turn a non-issue, into an issue, and for not re-directing the resident to a more worthy venue; if not the Home owners association, then how about Judge Judy.

Bees do so much good to benefit mankind, including providing great excuses for men.

And women.

And occasionally, bees can add fun and excitement.

And what was the answer to the question of the color of a honey bee? Honey bees are usually golden yellow with brown bands. Though some have predominantly black bodies, almost all honey bees have varying dark-to-light striations. If the council has an insatiable need to regulate bee hives, it would be a good idea to know a little bit about who they are, and what they do. Maybe if that happened, the need to regulate them would disappear. Probably not.

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” -Albert Einstein
Oct 212016

Let the fun begin. For those of you who enjoy congestion, traffic jams, and searching for a parking spot, your time has arrived. Naperville’s Water Street District’s first store is opening officially on November 7.  Southern Tide, a clothing store based in South Carolina, will be followed by the opening of the Hotel Indigo by the beginning of December.

The development, which was approved nearly two years ago, is a 300,000 square-foot project, slightly less than three acres in size, bounded by the DuPage River to the north, Aurora Avenue to the south, between Main Street and Webster Street. It’s a short walking distance to the Naperville Municipal Center, which will make it convenient for members of the Naperville city council on those snowy nights after meetings, or after a night of celebrating in one of Naperville’s many liquor-licensed establishments in downtown Naperville. The only question is, which council member will be the first to have the need.

The approval of the development by the city council marked the shift from Naperville focusing on being a family friendly city, to becoming a destination for entertainment. With that shift, comes increased traffic, higher density, and more challenges for parking.

Naperville city officials have a tendency to make decisions which create unintended consequences including the forced installation of Smart Meters, and the 635% increase in refuse pick-up fees resulting in a class action law suit against the city. Some decisions cause intended consequences including an unending stream of liquor licenses being issued, and all the problems associated with the abundance of alcohol in a relatively small area. The Water Street Development will bring with it, both types of consequences, most noticeably traffic congestion and parking problems.

It’s probably just a matter of time before Water Street’s first store, Southern Tide clothing, comes before the city council requesting a liquor license. Let the fun begin.

Oct 162016

Who doesn’t like the underdog, or the little guy? The big guy doesn’t like the little guy, and nobody is bigger than government, in this case it’s the Naperville city council. Not the entire city council, but enough to make the little guy’s life more miserable. The lone exception is Naperville city councilman John Krummen. Lately Krummen has been differentiating himself from the other eight members of the council by being a voice for reason, common sense, and the little guy.

It happened again during the last city council meeting, when the topic of discontinuing the downtown vendor program was discussed. The City has four licenses available for food vendors in the downtown area, two of which are in use; Joey’s Red Hots and John’s Rib House. The other two are available to anybody wishing to run through the gauntlet in order to qualify for one.

‘Gauntlet’ is saying it mildly, it’s more like getting unmercifully pounded by city officials who seem to enjoy dealing with food vendors as if they are human piñatas. When Joey’s Red Hots owner tried to qualify and provide his service in downtown Naperville, the Naperville city council made his life miserable by making him run over red-hot coals jut for the opportunity to sell a hotdog to someone who might want one. He had to appear numerous times in front of the council and subject himself to all sorts of unpleasant situations, including having his vendor permit yanked at anytime by the whims of the council.

Now the Naperville city council wants to discontinue the downtown vendor program, while grandfathering in Joey’s Hot Dogs and John’s Rib House. So the available two permits will disappear.

Watch and listen to the interesting exchange between councilman Krummen and city staff member Allison Laff, the planning and operations manager for the city:

So let me get this straight. Because no one else wants to subject themselves to the heavy handedness of vendor over regulation, the city wants to ‘lock out the competition’ as Krummen points out. Councilman Krummen continues by saying, “That seems completely unfair”, and he has “a problem with that”.

Good for Krummen speaking up for the little guy, and fairness, and open competition, while the rest of the city council sits on their hands saying and doing nothing.

Mayor Steve Chirico points out that DNA (Downtown Naperville Alliance) and the Naperville Chamber of Commerce are against the food vendor program. And why is that you ask? How about the root of all decisions in Naperville, money. The big guy restaurants don’t want the little guys selling hotdogs and ribs. A little guy selling a hot dog or a couple of ribs threatens the restaurants, and the Naperville city council caves in to the big guys. How pitiful is that.

If councilman John Krummen votes against discontinuing the program, his one vote won’t change the outcome, but by doing so, he will have elevated and separated himself from the herd (his peers) by having the courage to speak up for the little guy.

Oct 132016

A landlord is not what it used to be, and a recent Naperville city council decision has made it even less than what it was a month ago in Naperville. By a vote of 5 to 4, the council expanded the scope of local government when it approved a requirement that landlords accept federal housing vouchers as income when evaluating possible tenants.

Council members against the proposal included Mayor Steve Chirico, and council members Kevin Coyne, Patty Gustin and Paul Hinterlong. Those in favor of government over-reach included Judy Brodhead, John Krummen, Becky Anderson, Rebecca Obarski, and Kevin Gallaher.

A landlord by definition doesn’t exist anymore. No longer is a person who owns and rents property, the lord of his or her land, no longer does he or she have the power or authority, to be the master or ruler of the property. The government has bullied its way to becoming a partner in the ownership of the property. This is just the most recent bullying tactic by five members of the Naperville city council to over-reach by mandating rather than educating and encouraging voluntary participation of the voucher program, commonly known as Section 8 housing.

Nearly 3,000 vouchers have been issued in DuPage County, and about 2,700 are currently being used. Approximately 500 vouchers (about 18%) are being used in Naperville, while Naperville accounts for about 15% of the population of DuPage county. In other words, Naperville usage of vouchers in the county exceeds its percentage of the population. The City is doing more than its fair share of supporting the voucher program voluntarily, but that’s not good enough for the five council members who voted to in essence to expand the program in Naperville.

Five in favor and four against expanding government’s over-reach means that one council member’s ‘yes’ vote was the difference. Three of those five will be running in the next city council election. They include Brodhead, Krummen and Gallaher.

For voters looking for differentiation between candidates in the next election, this is a good benchmark to consider when it’s your turn to vote. Just as it took one ‘yes’ vote for government over-reach to occur, it may take only a few votes to defeat a candidate running for re-election. Voter over-reach can pluck a council member off the dais and replace him or her with a new council member; one who values limited government.

Oct 092016

A paper trail is a wonderful thing. When videos are available to support a paper trail, it’s even more wonderful. However if you are a politician who’s memory doesn’t match the facts, then it’s definitely not wonderful.

Pick a politician, any politician, how about Naperville city councilman Paul Hinterlong. Watch and listen as Hinterlong tries to distance himself from a decision he supported dis-allowing a designated driving service (Booze Crews) in downtown Naperville:

Hinterlong says the issue was ‘long before his time’ on the council. Wrong. Councilman Hinterlong was elected to the Naperville City Council on April 7, 2009, a full five months before Booze Crews appeared as an agenda item for the September 15, 2009 city council meeting. Take a look at the city council meeting agenda for that evening, and specifically L-3:

Naperville City Council Meeting Agenda – September 4, 2009

Oops. Did we just hear Hinterlong publicly state he and the council would not allow for the safety of individuals. One could say that Hinterlong flat out lied about not being on the council, but that would be too harsh, let’s just say that he conveniently forgot, or that his memory is hazy, yet he continues to sit at the dais participating in decisions that effect the lives of others.

My memory is hazy at times, more-so now than 20 years ago, however I clearly remember this issue because I was the mentor of the young man trying to start/continue his designated driving service. Take a look at the young man’s letter  (L-3 above. Booze Crews Pdf) to then Mayor Pradel and the city council.

I clearly remember attending a liquor commission meeting, supporting the young man, and a colder reception anywhere at anytime, I am hard-pressed to remember. One liquor commissioner said, “We don’t have a drinking problem in Naperville”, and Mayor Pradel specifically said, “I don’t think we need a service like this”.

The young man wanted to make a presentation to the city council, but the writing was on the wall, hence the topic was moved to a later council meeting, and during that time Naperville city officials successfully regulated the designated driving service out of business in Naperville. They wanted to pigeon-hole the service as being a solicitor, require outrageous levels of insurance, add cumbersome regulations, and in essence, become a not-so-silent partner in a business, they were determined to see fail. The business never failed, because it never had the chance to start. Naperville city officials regulated it out of business.

When it comes to liquor, and over-serving,  there are a lot of people making a lot of money from taxes on liquor, to DUI attorneys, taxi companies, to morticians, and coffin makers. Some say the taxi owners own the liquor commission and city council. ‘Own’ may be too strong, maybe invested would be more appropriate. What the taxi lobby and city officials did to Booze Crews, they couldn’t do to Uber and Lyft. One can only wonder how many people could have benefited from the designated driving service, and how many lives may have been saved.

Hinterlong and a few of his council peers had a good chuckle about ‘where is that guy now’. The real question, is where are those guys now, council members Furstenau, Miller, Krause, Boyajian, Wehrli, Fieseler, and Pradel. A few lost their re-election bid, a few knew they couldn’t get re-elected, and a few moved on. Two council members remain, councilman Paul Hinterlong and councilwoman Judy Brodhead. One is on thin ice (Brodhead) and one has been exposed again for his words not matching the facts (Hinterlong).

A final thought on Hinterlong’s comment. He says it was way before his time and then he says “we wouldn’t allow it”. Now if it did pre-date his tenure, then he can’t rightfully say ‘we didn’t allow it”. If he wouldn’t allow it (included in the we), then it didn’t exactly pre-date his time on the council. Sounds like double-talk by another politician

Oct 052016

There’s another sheriff and posse in town holding the Naperville city council’s collective feet to the fire. The group’s website is Naperchange.org and part of their Mission Statement includes the following:

  • We are a grass roots organization dedicated to identifying and actively supporting candidates who will serve the residents of Naperville. We are dedicated to actively working to replace incumbent politicians who have demonstrated that they do not deserve to be re-elected.
  • We will continue to monitor our city government, and continue to actively engage and support candidates who will listen to their constituents.

The group goes on to say:

  • We expect our elected representatives to act in our best interests.
  • This council…has coalesced into a body which follows the Mayor’s lead unanimously on virtually every issue and vote. A so-called ‘pro-growth’ agenda has put business and taxes ahead of the interests of residents, yet virtually nothing has been done to generate business or improve the most neglected part of Naperville, the Ogden Avenue corridor.
  • It’s time to change. It’s time to get representatives in Naperville government who will actually represent us, the citizens who voted them in. Help make a difference. Let’s give the residents a voice.

The next city council election in 2017 will have four incumbents up for re-election with their two-year terms expiring. They include Judith Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, John Krummen and Kevin Gallaher. Their votes totals placed them 5th thru 8th in the last election, thereby limiting their terms to two years each rather than four year terms which Paul Hinterlong, Patty Gustin, Rebecca Obarski, and Becky Anderson are serving.

The more eyes and ears watching and listening to the Naperville city council, the better the opportunity to upgrade the council; out with the not-so-good council members  and in with the new and improved council members.

Watchdog encourages you to take a look at their website and support their effort to help make Naperville a better place to live and work. Watchdog firmly believes if better is possible, then good is not enough.

Oct 022016

If you don’t know that Naperville has a test track, you’re not the only one. In fact, a lot of Naperville auto dealerships don’t know either, or more likely they don’t care enough to participate in the association of dealerships who use the test track. Why is that? That’s the question that Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson asked Public Works Director, Dick Dublinski. Watch and listen to Dublinski’s answer, or is it an answer:

“It’s a philosophy I guess” and, “the assumption is other dealerships haven’t bought in yet”. What kind of answer is that? What is surprising is not Dublinski’s answer, but the fact that not one council member asked for some clarification. It appears that no one on the council cares enough to get an answer, and the person being asked the question skates.

It happens often with this council. Say what you will about the previous city council, and I did, one thing for sure is that council members such as Krause, McElroy, Wehrli, Boyajian Furstenau, and Fiesler didn’t hesitate to challenge double-talk. Some of them were experts in using the ploy, but none of them wanted to be taken as fools, by listening to nonsense and not challenging it.

Councilman Kevin Coyne will challenge with a ‘what are you talking about’ response, and occasionally Gallaher, Hinterlong, or Krummen, will ask a follow-up question, but for the most part, this council blends into the woodwork. Mayor Steve Chirico does a good job at keeping the peace and moving things along, but too often questions that need to be asked, are not asked, which can be interpreted as they don’t care.

$4.1 million was invested into the test track which started ten years ago and only 13 dealerships participate, according to city attorney, Mike DiSanto, however 14 are listed on the city website. The results aren’t impressive, if you break it down by the number of uses per day per dealership (3).

The test track is a classic example of how the City of Naperville operates like a government bureaucracy, because that’s exactly what it is. It works something like this. Come up with what they think is a great idea. Spend tax dollars to make it happen. Then let it marinade, with little if any follow-up and no promotion. It looks good on somebody’s end-of-the-year review. It’s called socially acceptable non-productive behavior, and nobody does it better than government.

The good news is that the nine-member city council has two successful business owners; Mayor Steve Chirico (flooring) and councilwoman Becky Anderson (bookstore). They understand profit and loss statements, the importance of watching expense, promoting and advertising, and providing outstanding service for repeat business. They are making the effort to move the city from being an inefficient bureaucracy to becoming successful business for its stockholders and customers (businesses and residents).

What we need is a city council willing to ask the difficult questions, and not willing to be taken as fools.