Sep 282017

There was a survey a few years ago, and the question was, “What age is considered old?” The consensus was 15 years older than the age of the person responding. If the person was 20, then 35 was old. If the person was 55, then 70 was old. I asked my grandson how old is old? He asked me how old I was and I told him. He then added one year to my age and gave me that number as being old. Even at the tender age of 9 he was either being PC or sensitive. Politics might be in his future.

Maybe ‘distracted driving’ is a relative term. I remember when I was young and dirt was new, my mom would get upset with my dad when we were driving in the car and my dad had the radio on. She said he wouldn’t be able to hear an emergency vehicle. In the spirit of matrimonial harmony he would turn off the radio. That became my norm for distracted driving; even now when I turn the radio on, I do think of that, but the radio stays on.

I have a friend who gets upset with his 18 and 20-year old sons when they are texting or on the phone while driving. I remember years ago taking the boys with us to Friday night football games, and he was texting or on the phone. Now he wonders why they are doing it. That would go under the parenting chapters of double standards and role models.

My wife happened to be in the vicinity of Naperville Central High School when school was letting out, and she mentioned that just about everywhere she looked, kids were on their devices while driving. The next day I decided to position myself in my vehicle at corner of Porter and Webster as students where leaving the campus in their vehicles and do a visual survey of the first 50 vehicles that passed my location. Amazingly 37 drivers were busy looking down presumably on their devices. Most looked young enough to be students, but at my age, everyone looks young so there may have been some teachers and school officials in the slow moving conga line.

I decided to do advance my unscientific survey the following day by viewing 100 vehicles slowly flowing by at the corner of Hillside and Webster. This time 61 drivers were occupied with their all-important device. It’s possible that each of the 61 were as good of a driver as my dad was and I am while listening to the radio. A distraction is a distraction. What really surprised me that during the time it took 150 vehicles to pass by, not once did I see a police officer as a reminder that device distractions are unwise, unsafe, and illegal.

I know the police have their hands full; I get it. Maybe there was an officer there the days before and after I was there. I know check points are very effective against DUI’s, vehicle safety infractions, etc. I would think the same would apply for inappropriate device usage.

Maybe if my dad would have been pulled over for unwise radio usage while driving (URUWD), I might not be listening to the radio when I’m driving. No, I’d probably still be listening to the radio, especially when the Cubs are on.

Sep 232017

Two-thirds of the Naperville city council got exactly what it wanted; landmark status for the old Nichols Library building. It’s not what Naperville mayor Steve Chirico wanted, and it’s not what council members Kevin Coyne and
Benny White wanted. It’s also not what property owner/developer Dwight Avram wanted. They simply wanted the vote to landmark tabled until November 7 in order to work out a deal with a third party interested in using the building at a new location, (Jackson and Eagle streets); a stone’s throw from the current main library.

With so much riding on the landmark status, the request was more than reasonable. Avram made other accommodations to the obstructionists including withdrawing an application submitted to the city’s plan commission for development approval. His purpose was to buy a little time to solidify the extremely creative idea of moving Old Nichols Library to the new location. Old Nichols would remain whole, it would be given the maintenance it needs to come to life again, the current location could then be developed, as was Water Street, and as will be Fifth Avenue. Preservationists would be happy, the city would be happy with additional tax-generating revenue and two less vacant or problem properties, the property owner (developer) would be happy; who is there not to be happy? The answer is the six Naperville city council members voting against the win-win-win opportunity:

  • Becky Anderson
  • Judith Brodhead
  • Patty Gustin
  • Paul Hinterlong
  • John Krummen
  • Rebecca Obarski

Why the rush to judgment on their part? What was the harm in knowing all the options? Waiting until November 7 was a no-lose situation. By the ‘gang of six’ shooting from the hip, there is much to lose now, including an epic law suit against the city. Shame on the ‘gang of six’ for putting Naperville residents and taxpayers on the hook for huge financial jeopardy.

Unless the ‘gang of six’ has a plan for a happy ending to this mess, Watchdog suggests a large plaque be placed in front of Old Nichols Library building with the names of the six council members responsible for what could be one of the worst decisions made by two-thirds of the Naperville city council.

The names of the Naperville city council members responsible for the horrible decision to deny Fox Valley Shopping Center (now West Field Shopping Center) to be built on the southeast corner of Rt. 59 and Aurora Avenue in Naperville, and to then be built across the street in Aurora have no plaque commemorating one of the worst, if not the worst decision by Naperville city officials costing Naperville millions of retail tax dollars. And what was their reason for their decision? They thought it would create too much traffic, the same traffic that generates millions of dollars for Aurora. Naperville still had and has the traffic but without the revenue.

Naperville’s six city council obstructionists should not be forgotten. A well-lit plaque would be most appropriate.

Sep 212017

This is a story that won’t go away, and it shouldn’t; questions need to be answered, and policy needs to be clarified. It involves the tragic suicide death (January 11th) of Naperville North student Corey Walgren. No parent should ever have to read a sentence with the words ‘suicide death’ along with the name of their child in it.

The details of the event are heartbreaking for all those involved, either directly or indirectly. A student, in this case an honor student, gets called into an office to speak with a dean of students and a school resource (police) officer regarding an alleged sex video, which turned out to be an audio. After a brief discussion, the student is left “unattended” except for a school employee busy with work, leaves the office, walks less than a mile to a parking garage and jumps off a parking deck to his death. This all happened within less than three hours. One can only imagine what was running through this young boy’s mind during those few hours, and especially minutes before his final and needless fateful decision. He’s gone, nothing can bring him back, and for him this horrible period of time is over. His emotional and physical pain no longer exist. For others the emotional pain remains.

This is where the story becomes boilerplate. A lawsuit has been filed naming the resource police officer, the school dean, along with school district (203), and the Naperville police department. As expected the school district and police department are washing their hands of any responsibility by claiming policy was followed. No one is talking other than to deny, deny, followed by more denial. How ironic that school system officials and police department heads portray honesty, and forthright communication as pillars for their foundation of trust and integrity, yet when they are asked to display accountability they run for cover.

Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall’s answer is that an internal police review showed no wrongdoing on resource officer’s part. School district officials confirmed that the dean of students followed protocol. I guess with those determinations, everything worked, all is fine, and there’s nothing to see here, so just keep moving along.

Those non-answers are not good enough; parents want real answers and change. If policy was followed, then policy needs to be changed. Considering that Marshall and District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges are two of the highest paid government employees in Naperville, solid, truthful answers need to be forthcoming, and drastic changes to an obviously flawed policy need to be corrected, with both Marshall and Bridges leading the way.

Sep 172017

Let’s start with the conclusion and work backwards to the beginning.

  • The development of the 5th Avenue Project will happen as the Naperville city council wants it to.
  • The project will be developed by Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies.
  • It will upset a good number of residents but not enough to delay the outcome.

So what’s the problem. The Water Street Development turned out pretty good, (up to this point), in spite of much criticism from many sources including Watchdog which is why I said ‘up to this point’. Situations can change. Naperville city officials learned a lot from the Water Street dilemma, but apparently not enough to prevent the current 5th Avenue debacle.

City officials had a detailed, yet simple plan. It was probably conceived in large part by Mayor Steve Chirico. Being a successful business owner, he knows how to make things happen logically and quickly. A time-waster, Chirico is not.

The difference between getting things done in government versus getting things done in business, is that too many people/groups have to get involved, making government work at the speed of pouring cold honey from a jar. President Trump is experiencing the same slow-motion at the Federal level.

Chirico and supporters of the project are getting resistance from a vocal group of residents and from a majority of council members. They all want a say-so of what’s going on, and they feel they have been left out of the communication loop. Naperville councilman John Krummen nailed it when he said, “The city has done a very poor job on the optics.”

If finger-pointing of responsibility for communication is in order, then fingers are pointing towards Naperville councilwoman Judy Brodhead. She volunteered to be the non-voting liaison between the committee and both the city council and public. Brodhead said “things could have been done better in the way this was communicated to council members and the public”. Brodhead was the liaison, and by definition ‘liaison’ means communication or cooperation that facilitates a close working relationship between people or organizations. In other words Brodhead is holding the ‘smoking gun”. She had one job and she failed miserably.

If Brodhead pleads ‘not guilty’ to being an abject failure, her defense could be that Mayor Chirico should have prevented her from volunteering and asked someone else to step forward. The logical choice would have been councilwoman Becky Anderson who was and is the biggest critic of the process. By having Anderson as the liaison, you can be sure there would have been loud communication to all those currently feeling left out.

Anderson didn’t volunteer, nor did apparently any other member of the council except for Brodhead. If Brodhead gets any credit, it should be for the fact that she did volunteer to be the liaison, though totally ill-prepared to do so.

Watch and listen to Naperville resident Sandee Whited speak during public forum, which is followed by Brodhead’s dismissive comment to Whited when she says, “absolutely none of that is accurate”. Brodhead continues by saying, “what we probably didn’t do correctly was keeping people apprised of the schedule”. Brodhead uses the word “we” when in fact it was Brodhead’s responsibility as liaison not “we”. Brodhead concludes by saying “they are incorrect”, again showing her inability to be accountable.

If Mayor Chirico has any responsibility in the mis-communication, it’s his mis-placed trust in Brodhead’s ability to get the job done. In Brodhead’s case, it’s another classic example for the escape clause that residents have in term limits.

Sep 142017

It only took the Naperville city council a total of 94 seconds to approve spending $3,210,146, which equates to $34,150 per second, and the kicker is that not one member of the city council asked one question. It’s so easy and so much fun for Naperville city council members to spend money when it’s not theirs. They see the money as theirs because they squeeze it from the good folks of Naperville. If they need more or want more they just take it. It’s just money. It’s that simple.

Watch and listen to the Naperville city council as they unanimously vote (9-0) in favor of the following three agenda items without discussion and without asking any questions:

  • Approve the recommendation by GCG Financial to award the medical insurance renewal to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois for a one-year term and for an amount not to exceed $2,750,860.
  • Approve the contract with CVS-Caremark for a one-year term for pharmaceutical management services.
  • Approve the contract with OPTUM-Unimerica Insurance Company for a Specific Stop-Loss Reinsurance Policy for a one-year term for an amount expected to be $459,286.

This comes one city council meeting after city staff said there were no additional ways to cut expense in the budget, and Naperville city officials ‘bought it’. Score one for city staff on that deflection. But why would the city council question that answer, when spending is so much more fun than saving. Business and private enterprise strive to drive down expense without compromising quality, because it’s their money, but Naperville city officials are not held to that standard, because it’s not their money, so why discuss it or question it.

City officials would probably answer it by saying it was questioned and discussed prior to the vote, but city officials have no problem asking questions during council meetings that they already know the answer to, but they do so to get it on record, and to “inform” those watching and listening if the answer benefits city officials.

Citizens are getting hammered with medical costs and insurance, trying to figure out ways to get decent coverage with premiums they can afford. For them to see the council slide this through so quickly without informing the residents why it’s such a good deal, is a dis-service to the good folks of Naperville.

Unanimous votes, in 94 seconds, without one single question from a council member can be defined in one word, shameful.

Sep 102017

Another year is going by, another Rib Fest is in the rear view mirror, and the Last Fling is now history. Again the Naperville city council has missed an opportunity to put some ‘skin in the game’ by showing residents they can do their part in helping to off-set some higher fees and taxes, that they voted to inflict upon residents.

Watchdog has been trying for years (since December 2010) to encourage the Naperville city council as a group or individual council members to put in a little effort, even if only token, to do their part in helping residents pay for higher fees and taxes.

The city council has no problem voting to increase taxes (next up is the city sales tax), or fees (electric, water, garbage) and adding all types of revenue generating gimmicks to extract money from Naperville residents and businesses. Most of  you have seen the classic video clip of Naperville city manager Doug Krieger explaining the way to fill a financial hole (created by city officials) is to squeeze it out of rate payers, taxpayers, and residents. It’s easy and apparently it’s fun to get money whenever they want it, without feeling it on their part.

Naperville city officials have avoided the golden opportunity to show residents they want to help by earning a few bucks to toss into the city coffers and help reduce fees and taxes if only by pennies and nickels. The Rib Fest and Last Fling would be ideal venues to have city officials participate in water dunking; put a council member on a platform and folks can buy a ball to toss at a target to drop the council member into a tub of water. Or how about charging residents a fee for a pillow fight with a council member, or Nerf-sword fighting with a council member. The good folks of Naperville would gladly pay a fee, and line up for a chance to have some fun pounding a Naperville city official.

There are so many ways city officials could help slightly offset their votes for higher fees and taxes. How about some of the following:

  • Council members could wash cars at the Municipal Center
  • City officials could have lemonade stand at the Municipal Center
  • City council members could do ‘Drive you home from the bar’ nights. They could rotate the nights with ‘Chirico Fridays’ and ‘Hyphen-Saturday’s when Rebecca Boyd-Obarski drives folks home from the bars.
  • Council member ‘Meter Reader Days’ thereby reducing the exposure of their constituents to added RF, and to criminals having electronic usage information.
  • City council members could do “$1 salary” months in lieu of their regular salary. Remember it’s about ‘public service’.
  • ‘Moser Tower Spackle Sundays’; council members can show their desire to keep the tower and the Carillon.
  • Making Tuesday night city council meetings, a revenue generating experience with council members wearing NASCAR-like attire at the dais. Each patch is a sponsor who kicks in cash to the SECA fund kitty.
  • Certain letters of the agenda can be sponsored by something. Take some wisdom from professional baseball. Example. “Every time there is an agenda item J-1 during the 2017 Naperville City Council season, it is proudly sponsored by Anderson Book Store. Anderson Book Store is a diamond level sponsor of agenda item J-1 and your Naperville City Council”.

There is no limit to the creativity Naperville city officials have in coming up with revenue-generating ideas to help residents rather than squeezing them for additional dollars.

Two city council members (Anderson and Gustin) have announced their candidacy for other offices. Rather than the same old, same old, campaign ideas, why not utilize some of the above. Show their potential constituency that they are willing to take a dunk, a pillow to the back of the head, or Spackle the tower, to help the good folks offset some higher fees and taxes that they voted for.

Sep 072017

Addition is not always the best method for improvement, sometimes it’s subtraction. If you are looking to increase the square footage of your home, or improve the value of your portfolio, then addition is way to go. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, or give yourself more room in the garage, then subtraction is the answer.

When it comes to the Naperville city council, adding more effective council members is beneficial, but in order to do that, current less-than-effective members have to be subtracted from the council to make room for higher quality. They can be voted out of office, or they can move on to other elected positions.

Two council members, Becky Anderson and Patty Gustin, have announced their candidacy for other offices. Anderson is running in the 2018 Democratic primary for U.S. Rep Peter Roskam’s 6th District Seat, and Patty Gustin is running in the 2018 Republican Primary for a DuPage County Board seat.

If either or both are elected, the Naperville city council will have a huge opportunity for improvement. Looking at the nine-member city council, both Anderson and Gustin would qualify for membership in the lower third for demonstrating accountability, communicating effectively, thinking critically, and driving change.

Getting elected out of office would be the preferred method improvement by subtraction, but sometimes getting elected into (another) office provides the same result.

Sep 032017

Have you ever noticed how long it takes to get something done in government. If you live in a democracy or a republic, it can take forever and a day. Everybody wants to get involved with their opinions and ideas, then there’s a lot of discussion which can escalate into an argument or a fight.

The City of Naperville created a carefully conceived plan to choose a developer for the Fifth Avenue Project, which will be a huge development (over 13 acres) near the 5th avenue train station. City officials chose a 15-member advisory committee of outstanding individuals to review proposals from eight companies. A list of criteria was created from which the development firms were to be scored. With much talk and review, one company (Ryan Cos.) stood head and shoulders above the rest and that company was chosen to be presented to the city council to consider as the potential developer. Council approval was the next step towards having the company use their time and money to survey public opinion in the area and then develop a plan for the council to consider.

When city staff presented the findings to the city council and the public during the August 15 city council meeting, it was not received very well by some council members and residents in the project area. Council members said they were not happy with the process; in other words they felt left out of the communication loop as did the residents. Not that the development company chosen was not the best, just that they were left out. No one seemed to understand that choosing this company just meant the company could now move forward in involving others with public opinion of what’s needed in the area if anything.

That’s the ‘problem’ with a republic or a democracy. Everyone wants input, feelings are hurt, egos are bent out of shape, and the process drags on and on. Sooner or later a plan is created and a decision is made, and a vote up or down is taken. Chances are that this company is the one that will be selected to take it to the next step, but not until everyone has had their input and ego massaged. You may have heard the story about the camel being the end result of a committee assigned to design a horse, rather than just having it designed by the guy who knows what a horse should look like.

The beauty of a benevolent dictator, is that the right or best thing can get done quickly without endless discussion. Now before you get bent out of shape with that idea, consider the key word is ‘benevolent’; well meaning and  organized for the purpose of doing good. Now change the word ‘dictator’ to trusted leader. Now who wouldn’t want a trusted leader who’s purpose it is to do good. You could end the endless, circular talking. and get things done.

Yes, I know ‘trusted leader’ is difficult to wrap your arms around. If you don’t trust your leader, then vote him or her out of office. Which is why we are a democratic republic. Which means get ready for endless, circular talking, bruised egos, upset people, resulting in the same decision; Ryan Cos. will be the developer selected.