Jun 292017

It was just a little over two years ago that Steve Chirico was elected mayor or Naperville, which means in less than two years from now (2019) we will have had another mayoral election. It remains to be seen if Chirico will run  for re-election for his second term out of a possible three terms. It’s not only possible, but probable that he could have another ten years in office. It’s very difficult to unseat an incumbent, especially if things are running smoothly and voters are satisfied if not content.

In 2015 mayor George Pradel chose not to run for re-election, opening the field for four mayoral candidates including then councilmen Steve Chirico and Doug Krause, along with Marty Walker and Jim Haselhorst.

Krause had years of experience on the council and name recognition. If you didn’t know him from the council, you definitely knew him for his ‘For Sale’ real estate signs throughout Naperville. He was a perennial mayoral candidate coming in second place time and again to Mayor Pradel. With Pradel gone, he decided to give it one last run, however with the same result; this time second place to Chirico. Steve Chirico ran a strong race, with modest funding, a solid campaign, and efficient organization. It was a difficult formula to beat. Marty Walker and Jim Haselhorst filled out the ticket, but neither exhibited the energy or desire to do what was necessary to win.

Many thought Krause could finally win, but when the dust settled, Chirico beat Krause by a two to one margin. Walker finished with 8% of the vote, and Haselhorst brought up the rear with a paltry 2%. In fairness to Walker and Haselhorst, they both did better than expected.

The current Naperville city council with eight members not including the mayor, may over the next two years surface a mayoral candidate or two to challenge Chirico. Councilwoman Rebecca Boyd-Obarski has been coming on strong lately during council meetings, councilman Paul Hinterlong has a loyal base of voters, but he could become the new Krause. Councilman Kevin Coyne’s Harry S. Truman style, is sincere and effective but not flashy enough to tip the scale in his favor, and councilman John Krummen would have a slim, outside chance of contending, if the forums were on radio, but in-person appearances, podiums, and television are no friends of his.

Trump came out of nowhere to win it, so that could happen in Naperville too, but as of now,  the smart money has to be on Mayor Chirico to win re-election.

Countdown to the election

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Jun 252017

Naperville prides itself in being a family friendly city. All sorts of kid-friendly activities are offered in Naperville through the park district, and Naperville’s school districts are the pride of city officials. Get the kids out there in the fresh air, and let them run around in the parks and playgrounds, and play all kinds of sports. Parents pride themselves in providing their children with all kinds of outdoor experiences. Everybody is happy, right? Not quite.

At least one Naperville resident, Elizabeth Catherwood, wasn’t happy, when she noticed that Naperville uses the herbicide Roundup on areas where children typically play; school grounds and park district property. She started a petition stating, “We the families of Naperville, Illinois, respectfully ask that you put into place immediately a cease and desist of Roundup being sprayed at all Naperville parks as well as schools in Naperville where children are present daily.”

If there is one thing in short supply with folks getting and spending your tax dollars, it’s common sense. Catherwood’s common sense solution is to use organic herbicides which are not harmful to people.  So simple.

Who doesn’t want a good looking lawn, weedless turf, and phenomenal curb appeal. Most all of us want that, but at what cost? Are we willing to compromise the health of our children. Apparently Naperville’s park district officials didn’t give it much thought until the petition surfaced.

Within days, Executive Director, Ray McGury of  the Naperville Park District put a hold on applying chemical herbicides, specifically Roundup, in favor of organic products ‘for the remainder of the summer’. I’m guessing that when the dust settles, and no one is watching, the park district will be back again applying Roundup with a vengeance to do away with those pesky little weeds.

McGury said weeds can cause problems with people who have asthma and allergies. I think I’d take my chances with my grand-kids sneezing, sniffling, with runny eyes, rather than coating themselves with a chemical herbicide before having a happy meal.

If the name Ray McGury, rings a bell as the park district person who was given a $20K salary increase in one year, you are correct. You are also correct if you think he was the Bolingbrook Police Chief while Drew Peterson was trying to reduce the population of Bolingbrook one wife at a time.

The Naperville city council has been at war with honey bees and beehives, since they created an ordinance with restrictions on nature’s little friends, the honey bees. Additionally, chemical herbicides are not friends to honey bees and monarch butterflies. Honeybee lovers, Monarch butterfly lovers, and kid-friendly folks, need to keep a watchful eye on city and park district officials. As McGury said, no Roundup for “the rest of the summer”. Let’s see what happens in autumn.

Jun 222017

Naperville’s Moser Tower, which houses the Millennium Carillon, is falling apart. Naperville city officials estimate that the cost to repair it will run from $1.6 million to $3.8 million, which means in everyday taxpayer terms it will run between $3.2 million to $7.6 million as a starter.

The city paid $50,000 over a two-year period to get the estimate. Naperville city officials throw money around like it doesn’t come out of their pockets, which of course it doesn’t, which is why they throw it around. As Naperville city manager Doug Krieger was quoted as saying, “if you dig a financial hole, the way to fill it is with cash, and they way to get cash, is from the rate payers” when talking about Naperville’s electric utility, which applies to any financial hole city officials dig.

The Carillon idea was hatched in 1997, and presented to the Celebration 2000 Committee in 1998. The Naperville Carillon Foundation took over the project that year, and construction of the tower began in 1999 to commemorate the new millennium and it was  completed in 2001, though the flow of  funding, turned into a trickle.

The tower is named after the Moser family. The Moser name (Harold, Jim, and Ed) in Naperville is nearly as big as the Naper name (Joe and John). Naperville city officials did some heavy leaning on Harold and Margaret Moser to squeeze as much money as they could out of them to be the largest donors for the project. No doubt that Harold had a lot of money to squeeze out, so it wasn’t difficult to sell him on the idea. Harold probably thought the Tower would last as long as the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. It didn’t.

In 2005 the City officials took over the Foundation’s debt and officials coughed up about $5 million from the SECA Fund (Special Events and Cultural Amenities) to finish the project in 2007. Now just ten years later it’s falling apart. The Moser boys, Harold and Jim would not be happy campers if they knew that the folks they trusted to get the job done right, didn’t hold up their end of the deal.

Now Naperville city officials have three choices; level the tower and hang the bells on the Municipal Christmas tree (just kidding about the tree) for about a million dollars, make repairs ‘on the cheap’ for about four million dollars, or go all out with repairs for about seven million. The problem with the last two choices is that considering how government works, the problem will resurface again in the near future with new city officials trying to deal with it.

I vote for cutting the losses, level it with gusto, and be done with it. Don’t do to a future city council, what the 2005 city council did to this city council.

Council members really enjoy pounding structures into oblivion.

Turn the demolition into a money making event. Sell tickets and sledge hammers so folks from near and far can take a swing at it like Chicago Cub outfielder Kyle Schwarber trying to launch a piece of it across the DuPage River or on the roof of the Municipal Center.

Auction off the bells. I will begin the bidding with $20 for Carillon bell #7. It can be found between bells number 6 and 8. It’s the one that still has a good ring to it.

Jun 172017

It happens to all of us at onetime or another, the awareness that’s it’s time to go. Sometimes we have the awareness, while at other times someone enlightens us with that awareness. Maybe it’s a relationship, a job, or something else, but it eventually happens.

It’s about this time of the year when major league baseball managers are replaced, out with the old or unsuccessful,  in with the new and the promise of better things to come. A manager can be recognized as Manager-of-the-Year one year, and get fired the next year. He’s the same guy, but the team’s performance is underwhelming. The owner can’t get rid of 25 players, so it’s the manager that takes the hit. It’s not fair, but that’s how it works; life is not fair.

That point was made clear to me in grade school when my teacher asked my friend and me to break a Hershey Almond candy bar exactly in half so each of us had the same amount of chocolate, and the same number of almonds. One of us always had more chocolate or almonds than the other guy.

Target Corporation had a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013 that affected more than 41 million customer payment card accounts. It affected Target’s overall sales, revenues, and profits for months which ultimately led to the resignation of Target’s outstanding chairman, president and chief executive officer Gregg Steinhafel in May 2014. Was it his fault? Was it fair? Of course not, but it occurred under his watch and it was time to go.

The Naperville Police Department has had a flurry of misfortune and and bad press recently, including inappropriate behavior in the backseat of a patrol car by two non-police individuals, an auto accident involving a patrol car resulting in the death of a resident, the suicide of a 16-year old high school youth after allegedly untimely questioning, a negative report that crime is escalating in Naperville, and a Niche.com listing of the Top 100 safest places to live in Illinois and Naperville was not listed.

Any one of those is reason for concern, however cumulatively, it raises a huge red flag, that ‘something is definitely not right’, and someone needs to be held accountable. It has to be the police chief, Bob Marshall. It’s all happened, and more, under his watch.

It’s time for him to go. Is it fair?  Probably not, but when numerous, not-good things happen on someone’s watch, that person has to be accountable. Bob Marshall was an outstanding Naperville police officer for many years before retiring from the department and resurfacing as the deputy assistant city manager where he did an average job, before resurfacing again in the Police Department as the police chief. The City of Naperville has a way of recycling people into different positions, rather than looking for new and fresh talent from outside. It’s been referred to as bureaucratic “incest”.  Just keep reshuffling people from one position to another. That’s not how successful businesses work, but it’s how local government works.

It’s not that the internal employees selected for open positions or promotion are not qualified, but it would be nice if external candidates had a more level playing field, as the city did when they hired Director of Finance, Rachel Mayer from Joliet. That worked, but it happens infrequently in Naperville.

Watch and listen to NPD Chief Bob Marshall as he attempts to add some insight to the tragic event involving the high school youth:

Marshall refers to the “frenzy of media attention”. Of course this happens, this is a huge, tragic story, that gives Naperville the type of national press is doesn’t need.  Marshall continued by saying, “the community is frustrated that answers are not out there yet”. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if the city hadn’t waited for 146 days to make some kind of comment. Marshall concluded by saying ‘kids’ need to “turn to trusted adults for help and guidance”. That is absolutely true, but apparently this youth wasn’t given the time to “turn to trusted adults for help and guidance” before choosing self-inflicted capital punishment for his solution.

Life was not fair for this youth, and it’s not fair to Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall. Maybe as unfair as it is for Marshall to go, at least he has the option. The same can’t be said for the young high school student.

Jun 152017

I doubt if anyone has ever described Naperville city council meetings as non-stop events of excitement, maybe non-stop, but not excitement. Most meetings and agenda topics are boring, which is probably why most residents don’t bother attending or watching meetings. The fact that you are reading this posting makes you part of the vast minority of local government fans.

Most meetings last about two hours with a range of 30 minutes to four-plus hours. There is a noticeable difference between this city council and previous recent Naperville city councils, in the fact that Mayor Steve Chirico runs a tight meeting. He’s not one for wasting time, he starts the meetings on time and if a break is necessary during the meeting, he will announce the amount of time for the break, and then promptly resume the meeting on time, as council members are rushing to get seated. One would think that council members would be aware of this  by now, but not so. During the June 6 meeting, council members Becky Anderson, Patty Gustin, and Paul Hinterlong along with city manager Doug Krieger were tripping over themselves to get to the dais and get seated. Punctuality (respect for other peoples’ time) apparently is not a value they subscribe to.

It’s been said that on your last day at work, you can do whatever you want. It also applies to council members during their last term in office. They no longer have to be concerned about being elected for another term in office, because term limits can do what voters couldn’t do, which is to get them out of office.

This applies to Naperville councilwoman Judith Brodhead. She has maxed out her term limits and now gets to do whatever she wants, which may explain why she was caught chowing-down, what appeared to be the final bites of a huge burrito after a 5-minute break during the last council meeting.

Now in all fairness to Brodhead, it may have been the final bites of a quarter-pounder, either way, it must have been good. What is difficult to understand is why did she request to be recognized by the mayor for a comment, if she still had some tasty morsels to consume. Maybe it’s simply a perk for being in her final term.

From the desk of the Guard Dog:

Perhaps a palate cleanser?

Jun 112017

Recently in social media, there has been a lot of talk about the crime rate increasing in Naperville, during the first four months of this year, compared to the first four months of last year. Numbers support the talk of a higher crime rate in seven of eight categories including, arson, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, murder (1 in 2017, none in 2016), robbery, and sexual assault. The only category of crime decreasing was theft; 371 in the first four months of 2017 versus 379 in 2016 equaling 2% decrease.

Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said police “typically look at three to five years of data,” rather than ” a four month snapshot.” However, from a resident’s point of view, what’s going on during the last four months is of more concern that what happened three, four or five years ago.

Marshall went on to say that Naperville has a lower rate of crime compared to other suburbs. Rather than Marshall comparing Naperville to the lowest common-denominator suburbs , he should be focusing on suburbs doing a better job of fighting crime, and acknowledge that Naperville needs to do a better job in fighting crime. There is no shame is saying Naperville needs improvement in combating crime.

Unfortunately Marshall is talking more like a politician, than a law enforcement officer. By doing so, it’s an insult to the residents of Naperville, and the rank and file in the Naperville Police Department, most all of whom know rhetoric from reality.

Watchdog has the utmost respect for Marshall’s long career as a law enforcement officer. Putting the uniform and the badge on, and putting his life and his safety on the line on a daily basis, for as long as he did, so the rest of us could live in a safer environment, deserves nothing less than total respect and appreciation for his service, and I for one salute and say ‘thank you’ for his service.

The residents of Naperville need Chief Marshall to aspire to a higher benchmark, by speaking as a police officer rather than as  a politician, and focus on raising Naperville to the level of other suburbs and cities of comparable size throughout the country that have better safety metrics than Naperville.

Jun 082017

If you are looking for a way to earn a $25 gift card, the City of Naperville has a deal you can’t refuse. The ideal candidate would be an idiot, and I know because I would qualify. Actually, the city needs five idiots.

Naperville city officials want to test the usability of their new website. It’s not really a new website; it was introduced in June of 2016. City officials like to take their time getting around to testing things. There is seldom a sense of urgency about anything when it comes to local government, unless it’s a tax increase, or new ordinance.

The City is looking for folks with a range of website usability experience from “frequent users to non-frequent users”, or simply stated, from knowledgeable users to idiots”.

In my former life (before retirement) I was once selected to participate in this type of project. At the time, I thought that being selected was pretty cool.  Somewhere along the way I realized that I was selected because I was basically clueless about computers, websites, and usability, or again simply stated, an idiot. It reminded me of a cereal commercial in early 70’s; “if Mikey likes it, everyone will like it”.

I had now become Mikey to my company.

It was OK though, because facts are facts, and as my dad would say, “you might as well do what you do best”, and in this case it was being an idiot.

As it turned out, my company’s usability test, created a perfect website, which was great for me, because the website was specifically for the department I was leading. Another example that I didn’t have to know ‘how to make the sausage, just make sure the sausages were made’.

Interestingly enough here I am 7+ years into writing content for Watchdog, while an amazing young man Vinnie Goombotz, aka Manny Lous Skrez, known as the Guard-dog takes care of every aspect of the technology piece of the Watchdog website. He finds and or creates embeds for the posting. He is a person, along with obviously others, who knew Naperville’s website, a few years ago, was vulnerable to hacking, and bingo, within the year it happened. The good news is that at least now the city is interested in getting usability feedback.

The $25 gift card the city is offering, does have one catch; you have to use it in downtown Naperville. I’m not saying that’s bad, but I am saying that it’s another slap in the face to businesses outside of downtown. Naperville city officials continue to treat businesses outside of the downtown area as lesser partners, and this is another classic example.

If you are interested in being selected to participate in this usability test, the in-person interviews will be held June 21 and 22, where programmers vs. evolution meet.

You can contact Linda LaCloche, at the Municipal Center,  for additional information.  Idiots like myself are invited, in fact they are probably preferred.

Jun 042017

Let me make it perfectly clear. I am an avid supporter of rank and file police officers throughout the country, especially in today’s culture, when police are vilified for doing their job of keeping the peace, and maintaining law and order. It’s simple, you’re either with them, or you’re against them.

Sometimes there are no winners. Such is the case in Naperville, when situations went from bad, to worse, to tragic. Unfortunately each involved the Naperville Police Department.

The ‘Bad’

A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against the Naperville Police Department in April involving an incident in October 2014. It was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago alleging that inappropriate behavior between a woman and an underage boy was allowed to occur in the back seat of squad car, with the woman allegedly taking advantage of the youth. Supposedly Naperville police officers in or near their patrol car failed to protect the underage youth. The case is working its way through the court system.

The ‘Worse’

On April 8, there was a fatal traffic accident involving a woman who died after her car collided with a Naperville police patrol car. The accident occurred near the intersection of Ogden and Feldott Lane. Reportedly, the resident was on her way home from church service, and the police vehicle was in pursuit of a vehicle and in the process of making a vehicle stop. At issue is the timing of reporting the accident and the sketchy details of the report. Apparently it wasn’t handled as accidents normally are. Usually the NPD will contact local media within hours of a traffic fatality; it took almost three days for the information to be released.  The investigation continues which unfortunately could result in another lawsuit.

The ‘Tragic’

On January 11 of this year, a 16-year old junior, Naperville North student (Corey Walgren) took his own life within three hours after being being called into a dean’s office for discussion about a disciplinary matter. After talking with the student, the school officials and officer left the student in an office by himself, while they left to talk with another school official. Upon returning, the student was gone and within a short period of time had taken his own life in downtown Naperville while people were searching to find him.

Tragic is not a strong enough word. No ‘kid’ should be talking with his friends, and having a sandwich, and thinking about the weekend and his future, and then within a few hours thinking about how he would end his life, and then actually do it.

There are no winners in this story. Everyone involved has to carry this tragic situation throughout their lives. The deans, the school officer, the school official, his parents, his friends, and so many others.

The school district said they were “incredibly saddened by Corey’s death” but they believed the situation was handled appropriately; that policy and procedure were proper. Naperville city attorney Mike DiSanto said the city was confident that proper policies and procedures were followed. In other words the school district and city officials are OK with the guidelines in effect, even though these guidelines resulted in the death of a 16-year old boy. How sad, that those in charge in creating policy and procedure are OK with the end result of this tragic situation.

The parents of the student have filed a lawsuit against against the school district and the Naperville Police Department for allegedly improper handling and questioning of their son. As it turned out, records show that the NPD never planned to press charges against the student, they simply wanted to impress upon the student to fully comprehend the seriousness of the situation. His mother said, “I think they wanted to scare him straight”, but instead, “they scared him to death”.