Mar 302017

Naperville’s electric rates are consistent, they are consistently going up, not by a little, but by a lot. This is totally contrary to what the Naperville city council and specifically smart-meter ambassador John Krummen (running for city council re-election) said when city officials sold residents a bogus ‘promise’ that the installation of smart meters would save residents money. City officials were so confident that Naperville residents and businesses would save money, that they forced the installation of smart meters on the homes of residents who didn’t want them. City officials were so confident that they were right about saving money, they went as far as having residents hand-cuffed and arrested for refusing the forced installation. City officials were so confident they were right in doing so, that they bullied a resident into jail then into court. City officials were so confident they were right, that they spent a bundle of tax payer money to fight the battle in court, and try to pound the resident into submission with bullying tactics.The end result was that the City of Naperville lost the court case, and had to pay the resident a settlement costing taxpayers more lost dollars.

The bottom line is that not one Naperville resident or business has saved a nickel on electric rates using smart meters. In 2014 Naperville city officials increased electric rates by 6%, followed in 2015 with a 7% increase, then an 8.3% increase last year, and 3.6% this year and next year.

While Naperville is jacking up the rates in Naperville, ComEd has reduced electric rates to its customers. The Illinois Commerce Commission approved a $17.5 million ComEd rate cut effective April 1. Granted, it works out to about 50 cents less per month per customer, but given a choice between saving pennies with ComEd or paying more dollars per month with Naperville, the choice is clear.

In five days the voters have a choice to re-elect council members John Krummen and Judy Brodhead, both of whom supported the installation of smart meters, and both of whom supported electric rate increases or to just say “NO” to both Krummen and Brodhead; the choice is clear.

Mar 262017

Naperville councilwoman Becky Anderson is doubling down on her quest to “remind people who we are”, as if the fine folks of Naperville have forgotten and need to be reminded. It sounds a bit condescending. These are some of the same folks who voted for Anderson in the last election.

Anderson barely beat councilwoman Judy Brodhead for a four-year term. A mere 570 votes less and Anderson would be running in the April 4th election, while Brodhead would be watching re-runs of ‘Let’s Make A Deal’ on T.V. One has to wonder how Anderson was elected if she has such a low level of confidence in Naperville voters since they have to be “reminded” that we welcome others to Naperville. Could it be that her election to the council was influenced by the Russians. Granted it’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Maybe an investigation is in order.

Watchdog decided to initiate the investigation by heading to Anderson’s Book Store in downtown Naperville to see what I could find. The first thing I couldn’t find was a parking spot. I thought it was my lucky day when I noticed a open spot directly in front of the store. As my excitement was building to pull in, another car coming from the opposite direction made a spectacular move by backing into the open spot, not an easy thing to do considering it’s diagonal parking. My disappointment was only exceeded by the creative genius of the other driver’s amazing maneuver of backing in.

After finally finding a place to park, I walked into the book shop and to my amazement the first book I saw, which was also the closest book to entrance less than eight feet from the front door, was “A Gentleman In Moscow” by Amor Towles. Was this the smoking gun. Why would a book regarding Russia be so prominently displayed? Needing more evidence I asked the friendly and efficient clerk if there were any other books about Russia in the store. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’. Even more amazing, was the fact they were in three separate parts of the store. Books on Kazakhstan, Tajikstan, and Uzbekistan are all in one location, but Russia has multiple locations in the store. Is that the link between Anderson and Russia and the results of the last municipal election? Maybe not, but then again, maybe so.

Anderson’s passion is lukewarm for most issues, other than her desperate and shameless attempt to be relevant by making an issue of a non-issue, by reminding us we are a ‘Welcoming City’. Her only other spark of passion involves taxation of on-line purchases, including Amazon.

Which brings us to a point where Anderson’s ‘Welcoming City’ quest, and Amazon converge. Amazon has a brilliant plan to launch a chain of 300 to 400 physical, brick and mortar stores, with the Lakeview area of Chicago being one of the first. It’s only a matter of time before Amazon proudly opens a store-front in downtown Naperville. The question is, will Anderson still be pushing for Naperville to be a ‘Welcoming city’ by welcoming Amazon?

Mar 232017

If you every want to make an issue of something, just start talking about it, no matter what it is. Naperville is not going down the road towards bankruptcy. It can’t happen right? Well it could, but it’s not, correct? Yes the electric and water utilities are borrowing money from each other, but we’re OK overall right?

Downtown Naperville has had kerfuffles break loose late at night and early morning occasionally turning into chaos and mayhem resulting in pandemonium, but Naperville doesn’t need the National Guard to maintain peace does it? Maybe the city council needs to pass a resolution stating that downtown Naperville is safe and family friendly.

Just keep creating and passing resolutions stating the obvious, otherwise known as socially acceptable non-productive behavior on the part of the Naperville city council.

Naperville city councilwoman Becky Anderson wants Naperville to make a public statement in the form of a resolution that Naperville is a “welcoming city”, that residents and visitors alike are accepted within the city limits. That begs the question, since when has Naperville not been a welcoming city? What happened and when did it happen, that requires a formal resolution to prove to all that we are good folks living in a great city. What exactly does Anderson know that we don’t know?

Councilwoman Patty Gusting chimed in by saying, “they (people) know we are a welcoming city, we embrace everyone, we are so happy…it’s fantastic, we love being here”. OK, now I’m beginning to get worried, what’s going on in Naperville that we have to shout from the top of the Municipal Center, that all is well in Naperville. Since when did Naperville start going bad that we have to resort to a resolution to prove otherwise?

Naperville is a welcoming city, and Watchdog can prove it. Within the last few weeks Naperville police apprehended a couple of ‘bad dudes’, as our President would refer to them as, on separate offenses but using the same weapon of choice; a car to try and run over people. Not very nice behavior to say the least. Congratulations to Naperville’s finest for making these apprehensions. Now this is where the proof comes into play, that Naperville is truly a welcoming city. One of the ‘bad dudes’ was turned over to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and reportedly faces deportation. Congratulaltions to the Naperville Police Department for making this happen, and congratulations to the City of Naperville for proving they are a Welcoming City by welcoming the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to our fine city. Councilwoman Anderson, we don’t need another empty resolution. We simply just need to follow the law and let local enforcement do what they do best; enforce the law.

Mar 192017

Too many candidates for the Naperville city council, and too few seats available to be filled. In 16 days voters in Naperville will determine which four candidates will be elected to 4-year terms and which four candidates will walk away utterly devastated in defeat. Maybe not devastated, but definitely defeated.

Four incumbents are running for re-election including, Judy Brodhead, John Krummen, Kevin Coyne, and Kevin Gallaher, while four others are looking to be elected for the first time including, Benny White, Julie Berkowicz, Mike Isaac, and Mike Strick.

There seem to be fewer candidate yard signs this year.  I’ve seen more yard signs for Brodhead, Isaac, Krummen, and Strick, and fewer for Berkowicz, Coyne, Gallaher, and White. I’ve also seen fewer direct mail pieces flowing into my mailbox than in past elections, though that most likely will change over the next two weeks.

Typically incumbents have an advantage over new-comers due to name recognition, and candidate names at the top of the ballot have an advantage to those lower on the ballot. Based on that, it should bode well for Brodhead and Krummen, since both incumbents are among the top three on the ballot. While new-comers White and Strick are the last two names on the ballot.

Having watched Naperville city council meetings for almost eight years, and writing about the council for almost seven years, it’s given Watchdog a decent perspective regarding which council members are assets to the dais, and which members are liabilities, and if upgrades are in order. With that in mind, and needing to select four candidates to endorse, let’s look at the incumbents first to see how many new-comers, if any, can be added to the council.

Judy Brodhead needs to be replaced. She has over-stayed her welcome, having been on the council since 2009. Her expiration date elapsed years ago. She ‘s probably a very nice person outside of council, which is exactly where she needs to be. She adds nothing in the way of original thought or creativity, and typically is over-matched intellectually and pragmatically.

John Krummen needs to be elsewhere on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, which are the same nights as city council meetings. Krummen’s so-called strengths are numbers and finance, but you would never know it during meetings. Often he asks for clarification for the most simple numbers-related topics. During the last election, Krummen came in 7th place of the top eight vote-getters. The one huge cloud that Krummen could not shake, was his pro-position as an ambassador for the forced installation of smart-meters. Residents have not saved one dime on their electric bills, in direct opposition to Krummen’s words otherwise.

Kevin Coyne is a keeper. He is the most competent sitting council member. When he speaks people listen. He keeps it simple, and has the ability to say so much in so few words. If you look up the words ‘Common sense’ in a dictionary you will see his picture.

Kevin Gallaher was on the city council from 1995 until 2002, then off the council for 13 years, and elected again in 2015. He was the lowest vote-getter in the last election coming in 8th place. The only thing that saved him was the fact that eight candidates had to be elected. A few votes less and he would have been home watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island on Tuesday nights. His 13 years away from the council was a good idea. Watchdog suggests that he do it again, and make a come-back effort to the city council in the year 2030. Gallaher is an ‘OK’ member of the council, but ‘OK’ is not good enough for Naperville.

With only one incumbent being endorsed by Watchdog for re-election (Kevin Coyne), that leaves three council seats available for non-incumbents.

Michael Isaac would be a strong addition to the council. He is an outstanding communicator with a clear vision for Naperville’s future. During the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation candidate forum, members of a focus group observing and listening to Isaac nailed it with the following comments about Isaac’s presentation, “confident, energetic, orderly, creative, decisive, persistent, engaging, inspiring, pragmatic, strong bias for action”. That sounds like a great foundation for a member of any group, including the Naperville city council.

Benny White, as a West Point graduate and retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army,  would definitely bring a positive and disciplined perspective to the council. His service to our country is transferable to our community. He is a straight-forward communicator, willing to share opposing views; two characteristics desperately needed by our city council.

That leaves one seat remaining for either Mike Strick or Julie Berkowicz. Neither is exceptionally strong in comparison to Coyne, Isaac, or White. The other options are to endorse an empty seat, or a write-in candidate, but if the election could get hacked by the Russians, (just kidding) it’s best that we go with one or the other, hence Julie Berkowicz is the choice. Mike Strick is probably a good guy and would do an O.K. job but if O.K. was not good enough for Gallaher, and being a good-person was not good enough for Brodhead, then Strick is the last person out.

In conclusion, Watchdog endorses the following candidates for the Naperville city council:

  • Kevin Coyne
  • Mike Isaac
  • Benny White
  • Julie Berkowicz

Julie Berkowicz could be the greatest thing since sliced-bread, or a total dud. Let’s roll the dice and see how it goes.

Mar 162017

Naperville’s March 7 city council meeting nearly broke the record for the shortest council meeting on file. The meeting lasted just 33-minutes, whereas most meetings last a little over two hours, with some going as long as five-plus hours.

Even with the short 33-minute meeting, it was still at least 7 minutes more than it needed to be, with the seven minutes spear-headed by councilwoman Becky Anderson’s quest to prove that Naperville is a ‘welcoming city’, which is a topic Watchdog will cover in an upcoming posting.

When it takes less time to conduct a city council meeting than it takes to find a parking spot in downtown Naperville one wonders if the council should be applauded for conserving time, or if the council should be booed for creating massive traffic congestion and few available parking spots in the heart of Naperville.

Thirty-three minutes and nothing happened to make the lives of the good folks of Naperville more miserable; no ordinances, no regulations, and no new fees or taxes. That sounds like a good meeting.

For whatever reason, the entire council was hellbent on getting out of council chambers as soon as possible, and they made it happen, proving if they really want to do something, they can do it.

If the Naperville city council can do it, so can Watchdog; hence this posting is over.

Mar 122017

It seems too easy for Naperville city council members to raise electric and water rates. All it takes is a city council meeting, where they talk endlessly about the perceived need to raise utility rates, take a vote which typically ends with a unanimous decision to jack up the rates on businesses and residents in Naperville, then adjourn giving each other high-fives, and off to downtown Naperville to pound down a few brews at a local pub, while the fine folks of Naperville are left to dig deeper into their wallets to cover the rate increase.

For the fine folks of Naperville, it means maybe fewer nights out on the town for a meal, or having the kids wear their shoes a year longer, or dropping the music lessons for the school year. The folks feel the squeeze, but council members go on their merry way unscathed.

Naperville city council members should be required to put some skin in the game of raising utility rates; throw a little money in the pot to help offset the rate increase, even if it just a couple of bucks. Do it as a sign of good faith, or as council member Becky Anderson stated when the topic of ‘sanctuary city’ surfaced during a recent council meeting and she referred to Naperville as a “welcoming city to all”, followed by ” more symbolic than anything”.

What could council members, along with the city manager, do that would be ‘symbolic’. The answer is auction themselves off to the highest bidder with the money raised going to the electric and water utilities thereby lowering residents’ monthly utility bills by a penny or two. Granted, it’s not much, but it’s a symbolic gesture. Make it a big event like the mayor’s State of the City shindig, or better yet, have the auction outside the Municipal center near the steps leading to the building and using loud speakers along with the Municipal Band for the festivities.

The key for the success of the auction is for each council member to ‘sell’ his or her unique attribute, something they are really good at doing. Here are a few ideas:

City manager Doug Krieger does a great Abraham Lincoln and wow, can he dance, or he could be a doppelganger for Ming the Merciless,

but his real gift is teaching the art of double-talking,

Councilman Kevin Gallaher could be a look-a-like for Professor Irwin Corey

Councilwoman Brodhead’s could sell ‘bits of wisdom’

Councilwoman Anderson’s quest to ‘welcome all’ to Naperville could open her home, business, and office space at the Municipal Center to anyone needing a ‘sanctuary’

Councilman Kevin Coyne’s ability to master and teach the art of monotone

Councilman John’s Krummen could entertain bar patrons with his ability to turn his head 360 degrees as he did when he, as the smart meter ambassador, addressed the city council in front of him and the audience behind him at the same time from the podium. Not advised for children to see; it could scare them.

Councilman Paul Hinterlong’s  could teach his uncanny ability to turn every comment into a question.

Councilwoman Rebecca Obarski could auction off her amazing ability to stand in hurricane strength wind and never get one hair out of place, while remaining totally composed.

Councilwoman Patty Gustin could auction off her ability to mesmerize anyone listening to her, by saying so little with so many words.

Mayor Steve Chirico could auction off his wrestling talents including body slams, pile drivers, head locks, half-nelsons, and his specialty of turning his opponent into a battering ram breaking down steel doors. He could charge $10 per opponent and make over $1,000 in a night towards Naperville utilities.

After the auction the municipal band could lead everybody downtown, with the council, to pound down a few brews.

Mar 082017

Hold on to your water faucets and spigots; water rates are going up again in Naperville. Naperville city officials are keeping residents busy running back and forth between their electric and water meters. No sooner do city officials give residents a round-house sucker punch with sky-rocketing electric rates, they then follow-up with a left jab and low blow in the form of rising water rates. Not only that, but city officials also want to inflict an upper cut to residents with a surcharge for water usage.

Naperville wants a 3% water rate increase per year through 2021, in addition to adding a 50-cent monthly surcharge this year, and increasing the surcharge to $1 monthly in 2018, then increasing it to $1.80 per month for the years 2019 through 2021. After that, if residents are still using water, the rates could challenge your car or mortgage payments. In essence, Naperville city officials raise the water rates because they can. It’s as simple as that.

City officials say the surcharge is to offset the expense of meeting new Illinois Environmental Protection Agency standards requiring the removal of phosphorus from wastewater prior to dumping it into the DuPage River. The surcharge is to keep the EPA happy, until the current federal administration can pull a Houdini on the EPA and make it disappear.

Why are Naperville city officials raising water rates?  City officials say it’s needed to repay the Naperville electric utility the $14.5 million it borrowed from the Naperville water department. That’s some clever financing and money manipulation that city officials use. The water department borrows from the electric department which borrows from the water department, and the beat goes on and on. As long as water can keep borrowing from electric and vice versa…no problems. Perhaps Naperville can take over the internet for the city. Wifi can be considered a utility. Another department that needs a department head and another utility to borrow against.

Mar 012017

The new administration in Washington, D.C. is thinking and operating more and more like a lean, mean, corporation focusing on expense and efficiency striving for better results, and it appears to be working. The same can be said for the City of Naperville with a ‘new’ mayor (Steve Chirico) in position since April 2015.

The similarity between President Trump and Mayor Chirico is that both know how to run successful businesses and they have put that knowledge to work in their government positions.

The age-old answer to why something was being done a certain way was, ‘that’s how its always been done’. It’s changing on the Federal level, and local level, though the State of Illinois still operates on the rule ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’ and it’s not working. It’s easier to just keep doing the same thing, even if it’s not working.

It’s been said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and city officials are pushing forward with ‘invention’. Most recently it surfaced in Naperville’s annual spring brush pickup program. Previously the Department of Public Works handled the responsibility entirely in-house, with a little outside help, but now the City is contracting with an outside source for total brush pickup. The idea is for a more efficient and ultimately cost effective way of doing the job. Brush pickup will run for five weeks rather than four weeks, allowing that extra week for a more thorough completion of the job. All other aspects of the brush pickup program will remain the same.

The plan will also allow city employees to invest more time on other responsibilities including tree trimming and sign replacement. Currently the city is running on a nine-year tree trimming cycle. This change will shorten the cycle to six years.

In a perfect world, the new arrangement will work like a charm. Time will tell. About six years worth of time.