Jan 282017

It seems that when the temperature rises, kerfuffles and dust-ups, typically liquor-fueled also increase in downtown Naperville. It happened during the very early hours of January 21 near Bar Louie, when a crowd of over 100 revelers got out of hand and had to be broken up by the Naperville police. Reinforcements from the Lisle and Aurora police departments, along with DuPage County Sheriff’s Department also were summoned to gain control.

A few folks were arrested on a variety of charges including two counts of battery, criminal trespass to property, felony aggravation for resisting a police officer. In the chaos, one Naperville police officer was struck by a beer bottle. Fortunately the officer was not injured. There was no mention if it was an import or domestic.

It was the warmest day since November 18, so if this is any indication of what it might be like this summer, Naperville police officers might find themselves quite busy in downtown Naperville. More people, more traffic, more bars, makes for more problems.

This happened around the same time that Neighborhood Scout website released its 2017 list of 100 Safest Cities in America and the 100 Most Dangerous Cities. Naperville was nowhere to be found on the list for safest cities, though Wheaton, Plainfield and Lockport were listed. Fortunately Naperville was not on the list for the most dangerous cities, which included Rockford, Danville, and the #1 least safest, East St. Louis. Chicago did not make the list due to its higher population, and per-capita crime rate.

Cabot Cove, in ‘Murder She Wrote’ with a population of 3,560 has the world’s highest murder rate, with an average of 5.3 per year which equates to about 1,500 murders per million. It’s estimated that 2% of Cabot Cove’s residents met a grim end, with the murder rate for visitors even higher.

Neighborhood Scout ranked cities with a minimum population of 25,000, and looked at violent crime data reported to the FBI, with the total number of property and violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Crimes included murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft. It wasn’t that long ago that Naperville was listed among the safest cities in the U.S., but now that’s just a memory.

Surprisingly, Naperville did find itself on a list among the nation’s best places to live for families, another list as the 29th best place to purchase a vehicle, and in the Top 100 best places to buy a sesame bagel. So at least we’ve got that much going for us.

Jan 262017

Naperville city officials are well-insulated from criticism, negative comments, and journalistic investigations, which gives officials free reign to do as they want. If you look on the city website there is no mention of class-action law suits against the city, or monetary settlements paid to residents and citizens who have been wronged by city officials or city actions. You won’t hear it at the yearly State of the City address, and you won’t see or hear it on local television. It’s as if Naperville is Mayberry U.S.A.

Numerous times during Watchdog’s five-plus years of existence, Watchdog has referred to the local newspaper (The Naperville Sun) as  the 10th member of the city council, since it is the mouthpiece of the Naperville city council. Columns have been written by mayors Pradel and Chirico, City department heads, police chiefs, and local groups supporting city officials. That’s not to say that’s wrong, but where are dissenting, respectful view points expressed for a large audience to hear or see.

Limited options exist:

  • Public forum during council meetings, where speakers have a three-minute time limit to express their view, with a maximum of ten speakers. If more speakers want to be heard, the three-minute time limit per speaker is reduced to two minutes or one minute as it was during the Smart Meter fiasco. When speakers had prepared three-minute presentations, they were told that night by Mayor Pradel, that their three minutes would be reduced to two minutes or one minute. For anyone who has ever prepared for a time-limited presentation, to be told just prior to speaking that, oh by the way, your presentation can be only half as long or one-third as long, you know the stress of the moment to clearly re-organize your comments.
  • Naperville Connect Newsletter included with utility bill. Only bland informational topics supporting city actions . Nothing mentioned about residents and business being charged for services not rendered (garbage pick-up), and no mention how residents/business can be reimbursed, which then resulted in a class-action lawsuit.
  • Reader comments to the local newspaper (10th council member) with a limited number being printed, and all being screened so as to not be too critical of city officials.
  • Reader comments to website postings including Watchdog with all comments be posted, and screening done only for the appropriateness of language. In Watchdog’s  5+ years, every comment submitted has been posted; all have been written with class and in good taste.
  • Local television, nothing controversial, everything in ‘mellow beige’ and non-rememberable.

So how did Mayberry become Mayberry? Maybe just like Naperville, don’t mention the issues and they will magically go away.

Jan 222017

Just when you think you have seen the last of him, he pops up again, like gum on your shoe on a hot August day. I’m referring to Naperville’s ex-councilman Dick Furstenau. Like Senator Marco Rubio, who was referred to as ‘little Marco’, Furstenau is affectionately known as ‘little Dick’. He sat (not served) on the Naperville city council from 1999 until 2011 when he was unceremoniously dumped at the curbside by Naperville voters. This was prompted and preceded by a series of unsavory events between Furstenau and the City of Naperville, which involved the police, accusations, law suits, the court system, and all sorts distasteful actions, resulting in Naperville tax payers losing a lot of money, Furstenau losing his council seat, and the City of Naperville losing a lot of respect.

In the old days, a ne’er-do-well would get tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail, but nowadays that person just moves on to another government job. This gets us back to Furstenau or ‘little Dick’, when he popped up at the last Naperville city council meeting during public forum and used his three minutes to pat himself on the back.  Pay attention to the ‘mutual admiration society ritual’ between Furstenau, Mayor Chirico, and councilmen Hinterlong and Gallaher:

OK, so the Water Commission dug a $140 million hole and the Commission got out of the hole with a series of rate increases including 5%, 15%, 15%, 15% and then 17% according to Furstenau and he hangs his hat on this as an accomplishment? So while Furstenau, Chirico, Hinterlong and Gallaher were slapping each other on the back for a job well done, there was no mention of the ‘Forgotten Man’ who really filled the $140 million hole; it was the ratepayer.

Watch and listed to Naperville City Manager, Doug Krieger, as he explains how government fills a hole:

In Furstenau’s video clip, he proudly states the Water Commission has “more than an ample amount of money in every one of our accounts” and “plenty of money in reserve”. Inept government officials dig a huge debt-hole, fill it by increasing rates and tax dollars, resulting in government coffers over-flowing with money, while taxpayers (residents and businesses) accounts have their funds siphoned out.

Furstenau’s time is up at the DuPage Water Commission. Unfortunately, he’ll pop-up somewhere drinking from a government trough. It becomes a game of Whack-a-mole, pound him down and he pops-up somewhere else.

There’s no doubt that Furstenau knows a glass of water when he sees it, and he can identify water when he tastes it, but other than that what exactly did he accomplish on the DuPage Water Commission. It was probably the same thing he accomplished on the Naperville city council; which was filling an empty seat.

Jan 192017

Naperville’s local newspaper (Naperville Sun), also known as Naperville’s 10th council person, ran an editorial in last Sunday’s January 15 edition, “Talk of merging towns is just silly” in which it outlined reasons why a possible referendum to annex three cities (Lisle, Warrenville, and Woodridge) into Naperville was a ‘silly idea’.

Maybe it is a silly idea, but considering the newspaper is simply an extension of the city council (hence the 10th member), Watchdog considered it appropriate to respond to each point.

  • “The plan would be expensive, time-consuming and more complicated than anyone understands. Merging…might take years”.

Considering the speed at which government works, it could take some time, but if the effort was made at ‘Trump-speed’ it wouldn’t that long, and the benefits would be worth it.

  • “The move also would mean the residents of the assimilated towns suddenly would have representatives whom they don’t know and didn’t choose”.

Basically that’s what we have now. Considering Naperville city officials overturned a landslide vote for district representation a few years ago, most residents today couldn’t name one council member.

  • “It would burden Naperville’s City Council with an additional 70,000 people whose interests they don’t fully understand and who may have chosen their original town precisely because they did not want to live in Naperville”.

The last thing we want to do is “burden” council members with an occasional additional phone call or email from another resident. If there is one thing that most Naperville council members have, it’s time on their hands. If you doubt that, tune in to a council meeting and listen to the endless talking about topics in which they agree. And according to Naperville city officials, who wouldn’t want to live in Naperville. Additionally, Naperville has a city clerk who is actually attending council meetings rather than doing time in the Graybar Hotel.

  • “We doubt there would be a savings in city personnel. Larger cities require more people to run them, not fewer”.

Reducing the number of mayors from four to one, and council members from 28 t0 8, is a good start.

  • “Calling a Warrenville a Naperville, does not make it a Naperville”

This reminds me of Naperville councilwoman Brodhead’s comment about “chickens don’t bark”, what does this have to do with the price of cheese in China. Does anyone beyond a 50 mile radius of Warrenville, even know where Warrenville is?

  • “A merger also would create more of the dissatisfaction that happens when people find themselves removed from the center of their city and its activities.”

Naperville is 35 miles from Chicago, and that doesn’t stop us from going to the lakefront or a Cubs game. That’s the beauty of transportation.

  • “it’s wrong that such an action does not require the consent of the voters of the city into which the others are being assimilated”.

Try telling that to Obama’s Department of Justice. What the mayors see as ‘wrong’ is the fact that citizens and residents could control what city officials can’t, and that’s the outcome of the vote on the referendum.

  • “Whether voters in Lisle, Woodridge, and Warrenville would ever approve the merger is an unknown”.

That’s the purpose of the referendum, to find out if they would approve it.

  • “We know from experience that unpredictable things can occur when choices intended merely to be protests or statements of dissatisfaction appear on the ballot”.

The key word there is ‘unpredictable’, which is exactly what city officials from all four cities don’t want. If government officials are in control, it’s predictable; when residents have control, government officials begin sweating profusely.

It’s doubtful that this referendum for annexation (government consolidation) will ever see the light of day on the ballot. Government officials with a little help from the court can make that predictable.

Jan 142017

Isn’t it amazing how we oftentimes are willing to ‘support’ an idea, until we realize how it can negatively impact us. You probably have seen the video clip asking Wal-Mart shoppers leaving a store, if they are in favor of higher living wages for Wal-Mart employees and the answers are ‘yes’, but then when asked to contribute 15% of the value of the merchandise they just purchased, to the employees, they come up with reasons they don’t want to or can’t do it.

It’s OK for others to do it, but not for me to do it. It’s the “not in my backyard” mentality. We’re all in favor of ‘it’, until ‘it’ affects us.

Naperville city officials have been active in supporting the idea of government consolidation. They exercised this idea when they made the relentless effort to consolidate the Naperville Township Road department into the City of Naperville, with the focus being on saving money for residents. The City received a lot of push-back from the Township Road supervisor, who probably liked the idea to consolidate until he found out he was the one being consolidated out the door.

Naperville city officials have done such a wonderful job of extolling the merits of government consolidation, that someone wants residents to consider and vote on the idea of annexing (consolidating) Lisle, Warrenville, and Woodridge into Naperville. Petitions have been submitted to put the idea up for vote in the April election.

All of a sudden, Naperville city officials, along with the mayors and city officials of Lisle, Warrenville, and Woodridge, are trying to rip away the voters/residents opportunity to make the decision at the voting booth.

This is a classic example of government officials double-standard. When their jobs or fiefdoms are in danger of disappearing, they come up with every reason why annexation/consolidation is not a good idea. What could be more exciting than eliminating numerous bureaucratic jobs of duplicity. What’s wrong with three of the four mayors standing in the unemployment line, or whittling down the number of  council members from 28 to 8.

Orlando, Florida’s population (256,000) is about 20%% more than the combined population of Lisle, Naperville, Warrenville, and Woodridge, (215,000) yet Orlando’s city council has only seven council member / commissioners versus Naperville’s nine; 28 if you combine all four cities.

I’m not saying that annexing those three cities into Naperville is a great idea, but it is an idea. The irritation comes in the fact that all four mayors ran for cover in a hastily prepared press conference with the goal of extinguishing the idea. Their self-preservation, group-answers were:

  • There’s no advantage for annexation
  • The petitions are flawed
  • Everybody is happy with the status quo

The mayors went on to say that petitions were circulated in a ‘haphazard way’ not with serious intent, but as a ‘political stunt’. If anyone knows about political stunts, it’s politicians. Additionally, the audacity of the four mayors to consider it a ‘flawed law’ that allowed a citizen or a group to file the petitions. That in itself speaks loud and clear about the mindset of politicians when it comes to the rights of residents to be heard.

Not one of them stood tall or separated himself or herself from the pack by at least encouraging the idea for discussion and consideration. Apparently government consolidation is only for others.

Jan 122017

Naperville city officials assembled a Senior Task Force in 2015 assigned to create a framework of amenities and designs for housing that builders can use in order to meet the needs of senior citizens. Co-Chairperson Bev Patterson Frier took on the assignment with vim and vigor, and with the help of her peers created a suggested list of designs for kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, stairways, doorways, hallways, entryways, etc. Most of the suggestions would not increase the cost of construction.

The senior task force also suggested that a percentage of multi-unit apartment rentals for seniors over the age of 60 be reserved for those who have an annual income of less than $36,000 per year, with rent of $1000 per month or less.

Builders and developers who accommodate task force suggestions could then enhance their opportunity for approval by city officials when submitting plans to city staff along with the Planning and Zoning Commission and ultimately the Naperville city council for final approval.

Kudos for city officials in being aware of the special needs for senior residents, and for being proactive in creating the Senior Task Force. A tip-of-the-hat to Bev Patterson Frier and her peers for taking on the challenge and making this happen. If government worked as efficiently as Naperville’s Senior Task Force, imagine the possibilities.

Jan 082017

Just when you think government consolidation has simmered down a bit with the Naperville Township Road supervisor and the City of Naperville, word has surfaced that an unknown individual has gathered petitions and submitted them for referendums to be placed on the April 4 ballot asking voters if they want the cities of Lisle, Warrenville, and Woodridge to be annexed into the city of Naperville, with each city being a separate referendum.

Let me make it perfectly clear, the unknown individual (UI) is not Watchdog. No need to send me any emails praising or condemning Watchdog. Whomever the UI is, it’s either a good Samaritan, rabble-rouser, or a trouble maker, s/he has stirred things up.

Warrenville Mayor David Brummel said the people of Warrenville “love our culture”, the city of Woodridge basically said, ‘no comment’, while Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico with a memory like a steel trap (nothing gets in and nothing gets out) said he met with someone months ago (doesn’t remember the name), and they had a general discussion about annexation, but that was about it. He’s not in favor of the referendum, however he fully supports government consolidation if it can eliminate redundancy and save money by being more efficient.

Lisle Mayor Joe Broda said the idea of being annexed by Naperville ‘is laughable’. The last time I heard a politician say something is ‘laughable’ is when Trump announced his candidacy for President. Then we all heard over and over again how ‘laughable’ the idea of Trump getting elected was. Hillary even gave her ‘laughable shoulder shake’ during the debates. Is it slightly possible that Broda has over or under-estimated the residents of Lisle.

When I first heard this annexation idea, I thought it was nuts. But after thinking about it for a full three seconds, I said, ‘hey this might work’. Think about the possibilities:

  • The combined population for all four cities is about 215,000, about the same as Orlando, Florida’s 213,000 or Scottsdale, Arizona’s 226,000. Both cities are flourishing.
  • Governor Rauner and Naperville city officials are ‘flag carriers’ for government consolidation, and this would be a classic example.
  • Naperville could finally use the new city flag designed by Neuqua students. Could this annexation be the reason Naperville council members John Krummen and Patty Gustin gave their ‘blessing’ to the students to ‘go forth and create a new city flag’.
  • Naperville could incorporate athletes from the annexed cities into their sports programs and win all sorts of state championships.
  • We could eliminate the positions of three mayors including Lisle’s Mayor Joe Broda. He might think it’s not so laughable anymore.

Naperville’s Mayor Steve Chirico would remain the mayor of ‘Big Naperville’ because he is paid less and likely accomplishes more than the other three mayors combined. If that’s not reason enough, how about the fact that our mayor can beat-up the other three. In case you forgot, Mayor Chirico was a high school wrestling champion.

This could be just the beginning. If things really work out well in Big Naperville, and if California succeeds in their desire to secede from the Union (now that Trump will be President), Big Naperville could petition to become the 50th state replacing California, thereby allowing the U.S to keep its 50-star flag.

Jan 052017

If it wasn’t for the Naperville city council and city officials, Watchdog’s postings would be out of business. I suppose Watchdog could move on to other towns, but more and more towns have their own Watchdog, plus I live here, and I’ve done so since 1978. Covering other towns would either be too boring with little if anything to post, or overwhelming with too much to cover. Imagine being the Watchdog for Chicago or Cicero. I can imagine it, which is exactly why Naperville for this Watchdog is the perfect location.

Let’s face it, Naperville really is a pretty cool place. The founding fathers and those following have done a pretty good job of creating what we have now. Of course there are going to be mistakes made by city officials but the only way to never make a mistake is to do nothing. In the course of my brief semi-pro baseball career as a pitcher, I never gave up one home run in the big show, because I never made it to the big show.

Some mistakes by city officials are huge screw-ups, but none are done intentionally. When something has gone wrong, some city official usually steps up to acknowledge it, with emphasis put on the word ‘usually’.

The advantage websites such as Watchdog have is that video embeds add the color to the text, they add the flavor to the picture. Nothing adds more to a posting than hearing and seeing council members in their moments of brilliance or idiocy, expressing themselves. That in itself doesn’t take any interpretation by a third party as it does in the print media. Watchdog text simply adds a perspective which readers can agree or disagree, typically among each other.

This Watchdog website was never meant as an in-depth, journalistic attempt, to uncover wrong doing, and to that extent Watchdog has achieved its goal. It simply shines a little little light on a topic with a twist of occasional humor.

Jan 012017

Pouring cold honey out of a container is a very slow moving process, akin to trying to reduce the number of redundant government entities. That’s what a bill signed last July  by Governor Bruce Rauner is trying to do by requiring Illinois county boards to submit a report identifying opportunities for local governments to consolidate or eliminate wasteful or duplication of services and responsibilities.

This is what Naperville city officials have attempted to do by consolidating the Naperville Township Road department into the City of Naperville road services. The effort has been met with nothing but resistance from the Township Road Supervisor, resulting in court action and a likely binding referendum. That shows the difficulty of well designed intentions of government officials trying to make a positive difference by reducing the number of local governments, which currently numbers close to 7,000 fiefdoms in Illinois; that’s more than any other State.

For many government officials, once in office they don’t want to leave, especially if what they are doing is next to nothing. Naperville city officials should be commended for persistence in making the effort for consolidation. It’s not easy or fun tackling bureaucracy in a tangled web of duplicity, inefficiency, and wastefulness. In fact, it almost seems overwhelming, but anything worth having, is worth working for, even if it is one fiefdom at a time.