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.
Approval of disbursements for lawsuits are done during the open sessions of council meetings. Names and nature of suits are not discussed for privacy reasons and in some case because of settlement Non-Disclosure Rules. (Come on Watchdog you know these facts already!!! Why are you leaving them out of your post?)
Lawsuits, city property acquisitions, individual staff pay, etc are discussed during close session because these conversations involve protected personal information, litigation restrictions and other information that if shared with the public could open the city up to further litigation or predatory actions (land profiteering by learning city is considering acquiring). (Again Watchdog you know these facts already!!! Why are you leaving them out of your post?)
The specific examples of smart meters and waste collection have been discussed many times on this website and I will not take up space reiterating my comments on them but simply state the watchdog itself tends to bet dead horses from time to time.
Print publications have limited space available, so editors have to select which comments to print. They usually try to select the best written that represents most of the comments received (plus and minus) as well as balance the two sides by printing the number of comments in proportion to what is received. So if they get twice as many comments supporting an issue as against they tend to print twice as many supporting versus against. To accuse a publication of censorship without proof is simply not responsible behavior. (The Watchdog would not want this done to it, so it should not do it to others)