Dec 312017

This is Watchdog’s 100th posting for the year 2017. It’s the most postings of any year since Watchdog started in December 2010. It’s also Watchdog’s 589th posting overall, hence averaging 84 postings per year. For this final posting of 2017, I want to answer some of the most commonly asked questions I receive,.  So in no particular order, here we go.

Why did Watchdog start?

It started for three reasons:

  1. A Naperville council member was involved in a kerfuffle with a Naperville police officer in downtown Naperville. The City graciously dropped the charges against the councilman, but rather than being appreciative, the councilman sued the City. His case against the City fell apart, and the real losers were the good folks of Naperville who had to pay legal costs.
  2. A young friend of mine was fully prepared to start a creative ‘designated driver service’ in Naperville utilizing a collapsible scooter. The idea was to drive the customer home in their own vehicle, and then return to downtown Naperville using the scooter. The idea was well-received by local business, along with radio and TV media, but not by the Naperville city council which over-regulated the business, out of business.
  3. I began attending meetings and I was appalled by the disrespect some council members exhibited towards residents during meetings. The need to ‘call out’ those council members and hold them accountable was born.

How long will Watchdog continue?

I’ve heard, that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan. With that being said, the plan is for another four or five years at most; dropping back about 20 – 25 postings per year until Watchdog rides off into the sunset.  I enjoy writing, but there is a time commitment necessary to do it, so dropping back seems prudent.

Why don’t you comment on reader’s comments, especially if those comments are critical of Watchdog?

I am simply the swizzle-stick, or facilitator presenting a point-of-view for others to respond to each other, or the topic. I don’t feel it necessary to justify or defend.

Do you ‘approve’ all of readers’ comments?

Yes. Surprisingly, though many disagree with each other or me, no one has resorted to inappropriate language.

Considering the current city council, which council members are assets, and which are liabilities?

Assets would be Mayor Steve Chirico, and council members Kevin Coyne, Rebecca Boyd-Obarski, Paul Hinterlong, and Benny White. Liabilities would be Becky Anderson, Judy Brodhead, Patty Gustin, and John Krummen.

How about previous council members?

Asset would be Doug Krause. Liability would be Grant Wehrli and Jim Boyajian

Which council member, current or past, has provided the best material to write about?

Dick Furstenau. He had the right to remain silent, but not the ability.

Which council member is/was the biggest disappointment?

Bob Fieseler. He had unlimited potential, but totally misplayed interacting with the Smart Meter Awareness Group.

Which current city council member has been the biggest surprise?

Rebecca Boyd-Obarski. She started out tentative with the learning curve, but quickly came up to speed to become a solid leader on the council. She exhibits self-confidence and asserts herself appropriately to advocate her point of view. She is willing to voice an unpopular opinion, while providing direct and action-oriented feedback to others.

Which current city council member has the most appealing style?

Kevin Coyne. He doesn’t often speak, but when he does, people listen. He makes his point in a few words and moves on. He speaks clearly and succinctly. He communicates a clear picture of what matters, and enables an open flow of information, while effectively tailoring his message to a variety of audiences.

Is Mayor Steve Chirico good for Naperville?

Absolutely. His strong leadership style is evident. He cares, he listens, and it’s not about him, it’s about Naperville. He demonstrates accountability and courage, maximizes relationships and builds trust, while driving change. He leads Naperville, the same way he built his flooring business…successfully.

There must be something you like about the Naperville city council, what is it?

Term limits.

What has been Watchdog’s biggest disappointment?

The current 5 to 4 ratio of assets to liabilities. A 6 to 3, or 7 to 2 ratio would be much more encouraging. Also the city council’s reversal of voter approval for district representation, and falling back into the abyss of at-large representation.

What has been Watchdog’s biggest satisfaction?

The emergence of Watchdog groups elsewhere. My favorite happened in 2013 when I was contacted by Michele Chrisitian from the Pitcairn Islands (famous for Mutiny on the Bounty) in the South Pacific, wanting to know how to create and implement a Watchdog group for their community. The template is simple; watch, listen, and write.

Dec 242017
  • The entire state of Wyoming only has two escalators.
  • The ampersand symbol is formed from the letters in et—the Latin word for “and.”
  • Ravens in captivity can learn to talk better than parrots.
  • It’s a myth that no two snowflakes are exactly the same. In 1988, a scientist found two identical snow crystals. They came from a storm in Wisconsin.
  • When Disneyland opened in 1955, “Tomorrowland” was designed to look like a year in the distant future: 1986.
  • When the last official Blockbuster Video closed in November 2013, the final rental was the apocalyptic comedy This Is the End.
  • In 1939, Hitler’s nephew wrote an article called “Why I Hate My Uncle.” He came to the U.S., served in the Navy, and settled on Long Island.
  • On an April day in 1930, the BBC reported, “There is no news.” Instead they played piano music.
  • Ben & Jerry learned how to make ice cream by taking a $5 correspondence course offered by Penn State. (They decided to split one course.)
  • The word “PEZ” comes from the German word for peppermint—PfeffErminZ.
  • In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel was spending $2,500 a month on rubber bands just to hold all their cash.
  • The Vatican Bank is the world’s only bank that allows ATM users to perform transactions in Latin.
  • The Q in Q-tips stands for quality.
  • Editor Bennett Cerf challenged Dr. Seuss to write a book using no more than 50 different words. The result? Green Eggs and Ham.
  • Reno is farther west than Los Angeles.
  • William Faulkner refused a dinner invitation from JFK’s White House. “Why that’s a hundred miles away,” he said. “That’s a long way to go just to eat.”
  • How did Curious George get to America? He was captured in Africa by The Man With the Yellow Hat — with his yellow hat.
  • Fredric Baur invented the Pringles can. When he passed away in 2008, his ashes were buried in one.
  • God and Jesus are the only characters on The Simpsons with a full set of fingers and toes.
  • The sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel is 666.
  • Only one McDonald’s in the world has turquoise arches. Government officials in Sedona, Arizona, thought the yellow would look bad with the natural red rock of the city.
  • Brenda Lee was only 13 when she recorded “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
  • Dolly Parton once entered a Dolly Parton look-a-like contest—and lost.
  • In Peanuts in 1968, Snoopy trained to become a champion arm-wrestler. In the end, he was disqualified for not having thumbs.
  • The famous “Heisman pose” is based on Ed Smith, a former NYU running back who modeled for the trophy’s sculptor in 1934.
  • Before settling on the Seven Dwarfs we know today, Disney also considered Chesty, Tubby, Burpy, Deafy, Hickey, Wheezy, and Awful.
  • Herbert Hoover was Stanford’s football team manager. At the first Stanford-Cal game in 1892, he forgot to bring the ball.
  • In 1965, a Senate subcommittee predicted that by 2000, Americans would only be working 20 hours a week with seven weeks vacation.
  • There are roughly 70 ingredients in the McRib.
  • Brazil couldn’t afford to send its athletes to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. So they loaded their ship with coffee and sold it along the way.
  • George Washington insisted his continental army be permitted a quart of beer as part of their daily rations.
  • When Canada’s Northwest Territories considered renaming itself in the 1990s, one name that gained support was “Bob.”
  • President Nixon was speaking at Disney World when he famously declared, “I am not a crook.”
  • In a 1917 letter to Winston Churchill, Admiral John Fisher used the phrase “O.M.G.”
  • Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don’t drift apart.
  • Until 1954, stop signs were yellow.
  • Garbage trucks in Taipei play Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” to let people know it’s time to bring the trash out.
  • In 1991, Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, married Russi Taylor—the voice of Minnie.
  • In the 1880s, a baboon worked as a signalman for nine years on a South African railroad. He was paid in brandy and never made a mistake.
  • “Jay” used to be slang for “foolish person.” So when a pedestrian ignored street signs, he was referred to as a “jaywalker.”
  • Duncan Hines was a real person. He was a popular restaurant critic who also wrote a book of hotel recommendations.
  • The only number whose letters are in alphabetical order is 40 (f-o-r-t-y).

Read the whole article here on Mental Floss

Dec 212017

On Wednesday Congressional Republicans passed a major overhaul of the U.S. Tax Code thereby opening the opportunity for individuals and businesses to see a reduction in the amount of taxes they pay.They should notice the savings as early as January, around the same time that Naperville city officials will be hammering the good folks of Naperville with higher water and electric rates. In essence, city officials are staking claim to a chunk of your federal tax savings.

In a way, your family and/or business has a partner, and it’s not a silent partner; it’s the City of Naperville and they want to be ‘paid or else’. It’s the ‘or else’ that causes mistrust of government officials. Government officials thrive on the Golden Rule; he who has the gold makes the rules, and the rules always favor Naperville city officials.

The City of Naperville raised the water rates in May. They did it without much if any resistance. It was so easy that the City decided to look at the numbers again, and bingo, they realized the model they used to determine the new rate structure was so flawed, that they needed to raise the rates again just seven months later. This most likely would go under the heading of ‘grossly incompetent’. Naperville city officials see this as no problem, they’ll just squeeze it out of the good folks of Naperville. It’s the same quick fix, the ‘not-so-silent’ partner (city officials) always resort to, raising rates and taxes.

It’s almost useless to look at the new rates, and projected rates because the ‘Golden Rule’ trumps what city officials say. Just because they say it, doesn’t make it real. If ‘fake news’ applies to journalists, then fake words can apply to politicians.

So what can politicians do to redeem, in some degree, their image? They as a group or individually can speak up for the ‘little guy’, the good folks of Naperville. They can show where money is being saved. Individual council member can champion a particular endeavor that will benefit the good folks of Naperville. They can speak up for positive attrition. Some folks at the Municipal Center simply need to go. Incompetence is unacceptable. Manage the City as if it was a business, because it is a business, and the residents are not-so-silent partners in that business.

Dec 162017

It’s not often that you see a 44-foot Christmas tree on display horizontally, but that’s exactly what some folks noticed when they drove past Naperville’s Municipal Center between late last Wednesday night and very early Thursday morning. The City of Naperville’s official Christmas tree was down for the count of ten.

Some folks may have thought it was by design, considering Naperville pride’s itself in being the first to do things differently, and a horizontal Christmas tree is definitely different. If that was the case, then the saying “you don’t want to be the first kid on the block with a new pogo stick” would again appropriately apply to Naperville.

No, this was the end result of a ‘perfect storm’, a tall tree, high winds, and inadequate support cables. At the time it probably seemed like a good idea by Naperville city officials. When the tree was standing, it looked pretty good. A short while later, it didn’t look so good. It definitely was an eye-catcher.

Naperville is not the first city to have a horizontal tree. Other cities have had that happen too, but that’s usually after a tornado or hurricane.

Interestingly, last year, the City of Aurora had their official “holiday tree” topple over due to strong winds estimated at between 40 and 50 mph. Apparently another old saying went unheeded by Naperville city officials; ‘those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it’.

You can’t control the wind, but you can control the size of the tree. If you do choose a big tree, then you can definitely control the support cables.

The good news is that nobody was hurt, and Naperville was able to resurrect the tree in all of its glory. Not so for Aurora. Their beautiful blue spruce had to be recycled and turned into mulch and aromatic tooth picks.

Dec 142017

Naperville residents should prepare to get hammered by Naperville city officials when electric and water rates increase after the first of the year. The Naperville city council sees residents and businesses of Naperville as a ‘bank’, and when city officials need money, they simply make a withdrawal from the bank in the form of increased taxes, utility rates, fees, and fines. It’s the easy fix for council members. Looking for ways to cut expense or increasing revenue (without extracting it from residents) is more difficult, hence not much time or creativity is devoted in that effort.

One proven method of adding dollars to the city coffers is to conduct a special census showing additional head-count in the city, thereby getting additional funding from the state and federal government. Those dollars are are also from citizens, so the good folks of Naperville are still the source of the funding, but in a less direct manner. City officials don’t care how or where they get the money, as long as they get it.

Conducting a special census has been lucrative for city officials as the following chart shows, so why not do another one in 2018:

Census Year Cost Added Population Additional Revenue Added Revenue per Person
2003 $121,000 8,041 $2,600,000 $323
2008 $258,000 8,160 $2,600,000 $319
2018 $238,000 4,650 $1,600,000 $344

The City’s ROI (return on investment) has been outstanding. Comparing the cost of the special census to the added revenue stream is a fun venture for city officials. The more people added to the city population, the more money the city gets.

Is it any wonder why Naperville city councilwoman Becky Anderson would like to make Naperville a ‘Welcoming’ city, another name for sanctuary city. More money for the city, and she could add voters to her ‘get-Anderson-elected-to-anything’ effort.

If estimates and projections for the special census are correct, what could the city get for the additional $1,600,000 in revenue? The answer is easy. It would almost pay the cumulative salaries of the top five Naperville School District 203 employees, along with the salaries for the highest paid park district, police department, and city of Naperville employees. That doesn’t count pensions; another special census would be needed for that.

Dec 092017

Dogs may be “man’s best friend”, but it appears the Naperville city council is not a best friend to a dog. When the Naperville city council had an opportunity to help make dogs’ lives safer and happier, they stepped back into the shadows and decided to do nothing, other than kicking the can down the road. Ask a Naperville city council member what their favorite sport is, and chances are you will hear a deafening scream for soccer.

Council members can’t bring themselves to take any action in favor of pet protection. The council decided to table a vote on an ordinance banning pet stores from selling dogs and cats from any source other than rescue organizations or animal shelters. The city council meeting lasted ten minutes short of four hours with 75% of the meeting being devoted to the issue of puppy mills.

Thirty-eight people spoke totaling almost two hours with over 90% favoring pet protection from puppy mills, but when it came time for the council to take a stand one way or another, all but Mayor Steve Chirico chose to do nothing and wait again for something magical to happen at the State level or elsewhere.

Decision-making has not been a strength of council members Becky Anderson, Judy Brodhead, Patty Gustin, and John Krummen. For them to kick the can down the road is no surprise, however it is a surprise that Kevin Coyne, Paul Hinterlong, Rebecca Obarski, and Benny White joined in the delay. The eight council members kicked the decision 60 days into the future, and chances are they will kick it again in 60 days.

The other option was for the council to approve city enforcement of the State of Illinois Animal Act which restricts pet stores from buying from commercial breeders with five or more breeding dogs that have been cited for violations during inspections from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).

Mayor Chirico stated that “it’s time for (some type of) action” and that even short steps in the “in the right direction” would be prudent. He finished by saying, “We need to move forward”. At which time, the other members of council moved backward.

To councilman Paul Hinterlong’s credit, before moving backward, he expressed his frustration at both the State and Federal level for not taking action, and leaving it for local government.

In the meantime dogs and cats will have to endure with the status quo. No doubt, that if those eight council members could trade places for one day with a puppy mill dog, they absolutely would be able to finally make a timely decision.

Dec 072017

There is no doubt that the Naperville city council has problems with it’s seemingly inability to make timely decisions (puppy mills), and sucker-punching residents (surprise water rate increases), but as of yet, the city council doesn’t need to hire a sergeant-at-arms (referee) to maintain security and order during council meetings.

That’s what Palatine Township board members plan to do in order to conduct meetings in an orderly manner and prevent kerfuffles between board members; hire a referee. Apparently things are getting out-of-hand in Palatine among the five-member township board.

In addition to stepping in to prevent fist-a-cuffs, the referee will have expertise in meeting rules and provide a modicum of decorum among board members.

Let’s face it, sometimes somebody has to step up to the challenge and maintain order:

The Naperville city council is getting two for the price of one; a mayor who is also a referee or sergeant-at-arms; a sort of bouncer. Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico came in 4th place at the 1978 Illinois State Wrestling Championships. If need be our mayor can beat up your mayor. More importantly Chirico has the ability to maintain order during council meetings and if need be, he could apply some of his famous wrestling moves including the:

  • Face buster
  • Choke slam
  • Back breaker
  • Brain buster
  • Drop kick
  • Pile driver
  • and my personal favorite, the 360-degree head twist

As long as Chirico is in office, Naperville doestn’t need a meeting referee. He doesn’t even need a gavel to pound. When Mayor Chirico speaks everyone better listen.

Dec 032017

A strange thing has happened over the last few months during city council meetings, councilwoman Patty Gustin is talking less, and Naperville councilman John Krummen has spectacularly filled the void. Krummen is not only talking more, (not that he wasn’t before), but now he is relishing face-time in the spotlight. To state it simply, he has never seen a microphone or mirror that he doesn’t like. That’s good news for Krummen, but not-so-good news for many watching and listening to him.

Krummen likes the sound of his voice so much, that he repeats himself, in circular monologue fashion, and has become known as the ‘human Lunesta pill’. Technically Lunesta is a tablet, but ‘pill’ is apropos for Krummen.

I tried using a stop-watch to time Krummen’s talk-time during the last meeting, but I continued to doze off. In fairness to the councilman, I tend to write postings after midnight, and his sedative, hypnotic style, is ideal for dozing.

Public forum speakers are allotted three minutes to make their point, and most speakers are able to do that. Krummen tends to be 3-minute challenged, and occasionally Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico has to redirect Krummen’s wandering or tactfully ask him to keep it short as he does in the following video clip:

Krummen’s self-evaluation that he “doesn’t talk often” and when he does, he “has a lot to say” is inaccurate on the first part, but spot-on correct on the second part.

A couple of opportunities present themselves to Krummen when he retires:

  • With Garrison Keillor riding off into the sunset, Krummen could become a story-teller, if he can learn how to get to the point.
  • Become a paid-guest at dinner parties, talking with other guests, with the sole purpose of quickly clearing people out of a room, house, or event.
Nov 302017

It might be time for Naperville’s Director of Public Works (Dick Dublinski) to take a long vacation or find another line of work. During the November 21 city council meeting he was questioned by Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico regarding the city’s autumn leaf-pick-up program. Dublinski had just completed a short presentation about the program indicating that he had a long list of tasks yet to complete in addition to leaf pick-up.

Watch and listen as Mayor Chirico makes a few comments about his observations of the current process and asks Dublinski if a report could be made about any other options:

Watch and listen as Dublinski responds to the mayor:

So Dublinski has been to many conferences and no machine exists than can get the job done. Is it possible that Dublinski has been to the wrong conferences? Is it possible that Dublinski is overwhelmed with his workload? It appeared that way when he listed his yet-to-complete tasks. Is it possible that Dublinski is simply burned out? Most of us have had that at one time or another; it’s understandable. But to say there is no other option, implies resignation to defeat.

What does the City of Chattanooga (population 177,000) know about leaf pick-up that Naperville doesn’t know? The answer is a different option for picking up leaves.

It appears Chattanooga’s process has many advantages:

  • Fewer people involved in the process
  • Leaves are picked-up and not simply redistributed on the street
  • Leaves don’t need to be raked into the street for pick-up, hence no drain blockage. Leaves can be raked in the area between the sidewalk and curb for pick up.
  • No need for a street sweeper

The Director of Naperville’s Public Works might be good at what he does, but if better is possible, then good is not enough. Mayors and council members come and go through elections and term limits, but department heads linger like gum on your shoe on a hot August day.

Naperville has had problems not only with the Department of Public Works but also the Departments of Public Utility –  Electric (Mark Currran) and the Department of Public Utilities – Water (Jim Holzapfel). Just as teams and corporations need to occasionally change coaches or managers for improvement, so should municipalities. If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to change the team’s general manager. In Naperville, that would be City Manager Doug Krieger.

Naperville’s non-elected leadership team needs to replace complacency with a good dose of creativity and energy. Chattanooga is serious about collecting leaves.

Nov 262017

The Naperville city council doesn’t take too kindly to the public forum portion of city council meetings. Why should they? Typically city council members have already made up their minds on most issues presented during public forum. It’s as if they see that portion of the meeting as an inconvenient intrusion to their agenda.

City council members may hear the presenters, but do they really listen, do they really care? It seems doubtful. When city council members are busy with their devices, talking to each other, or shuffling papers, they surely are not giving their full attention to the speakers. Often times, the only response a speaker gets from the council is a dismissive ‘thank you’ at the end of their comments.

During the November 21 city council meeting, Naperville resident Jim Haselhorst addressed the city council regarding the SECA (Special Events Cultural Activities) fund. Watch and listen as Haselhorst makes some spot-on accurate comments:

Haselhorst is absolutely correct. The last thing council members want to hear is criticism directed toward them. You can usually tell when a speaker’s comments make council members uncomfortable, because the speaker is dismissed with nothing more than a polite ‘thank you’.

Council members would probably respond to that by saying either 1) the speaker presented a comment, not a question, or 2) public forum is not a dialogue. That sounds plausible, but the facts are that council members have responded to presenters they like, or responded to comments with which they agree.

The good news is that presenter’s comments are on the record for all to hear, and those watching and listening realize the presenter has been shooed away like a fly at a picnic.

Sadly this Naperville city council, unlike other recent councils, has a group-speak mindset, walking in lockstep. Oh, there are occasional differences of opinion, and votes that are not unanimous, but when it comes to speaking up in support of speakers, most council members will not break-away from the group mindset. It takes courage to do that; something that some council members lack.