Nov 232017

The third and final two-week leaf pick-up cycle ends tomorrow November 24. The good news is that the city made it through the cycle without snow fall. Now the race is on to see if the street-sweeper can officially complete the process before snowballs start flying.

As with any job, there are three parts; preparation, the actual job, and finally the clean-up (street sweepers). The third leaf pick-up cycle occurred during and after rainfall causing the streets in Watchdog’s neighborhood to have a green/brown leaf-soup type of consistency evenly spread from curb to curb over the street.

During the ‘New Business’ portion of the last city council meeting, Mayor Steve Chirico made the following comment regarding his observation of the process:

It is reassuring to know that at least the mayor is aware that the current process leaves much to be desired, but until a better method can be developed, and it will, what we have now is about the best we can hope for, using the current method of leaf retrieval.

Nov 182017

Is it just me, or did anybody else notice the common theme between two articles on the front page of Naperville’s tenth council member (The Naperville Sun) last Friday? One article was titled ‘No Worse Fate Than Failure’, how the pressure to keep up is overwhelming students, and the other article was titled, ‘Report: City tops holiday spenders’, Naperville residents projected to dish out $2,381, highest in U.S.’

Friday’s ‘student pressure’ article was the first of a three-part series and I encourage you to read the articles. Kids are feeling pressured to excel in all aspects of their lives including grades, athletics, popularity, etc. Kids exert pressure on themselves partly  because they want to ‘make their parents proud’; they don’t want to disappoint them. Kids want to fit in with their peers, keeping up the image.

Parents, adults, residents, call them what you will,  are doing the same thing, not only trying to keep up with the Jones’s but trying to excel in materialism, popularity, and image.

WalletHub, a personal finance website analyzed over 500 U.S. cities and determined that Naperville residents will spend almost $2,400 this holiday season ranking Naperville #1 in the country. The City of Naperville relishes in being ranked #1 in just about anything. I’m not so sure that city officials should be tooting their horn on this one. Being ranked #1 in Family Friendly, or the Best Place to raise a family, or the best library system or school system are categories that Naperville previously ranked  #1, but no longer. Now we are #1 in holiday spending.

Just as kids are feeling the pressure to keep up the image, is that what we as adults are doing? Are we simply doing it to not disappoint others, especially our kids? Are we doing it to impress others with how good or successful we are? Maybe our kids are watching and learning from us; keeping up the image.

The Federal Reserve’s numbers suggest that many Americans are living beyond their means. The cost of living has increased 30% over the last 13 years, while household incomes have grown by 28%. We are trying to do more and more, and get more and more causing self-inflicted stress and pressure. It’s almost as if we are trying to race our own shadow.

Naperville city officials are doing the same thing. The more they get , the more they want. The more they want, the more they think they need. To what end? The difference is that their inability to separate ‘wants’ from ‘needs’ doesn’t cause stress or pressure for them, it causes it for the good folks of Naperville.

Maybe if the City of Naperville lightened up on us, and we lightened up on ourselves, then maybe the kids could cope better and feel less pressure and stress on themselves.

Nov 162017

When it comes to Naperville and liquor, there isn’t too much that city officials have seen that they didn’t like. Naperville and liquor are synonymous. So when a resident made a pitch to the Naperville Liquor Commission regarding a pedal pub (a tavern on wheels) it came as a bit of a surprise when the commission gave it a thumbs down by a unanimous vote. The resident was seeking approval for a bring-your-own-bottle permit. The concept has been approved in other cities including Nashville, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Champaign.

The vehicle is an up to15-passenger bicycle-like vehicle with folks facing each other. The vehicle is powered by pedaling passengers with a back-up motor if necessary. It looks somewhat similar to a picnic table on wheels with a middle aisle, and individual seats or stools rather than a bench. Some would consider it a personal injury attorney’s dream, especially if a BYOB permit was allowed. No helmet, no seat belt, no harness. The faster you pedal, the faster you go. What could possible go wrong.

The liquor commission came up with a couple ideas of what could go wrong including overcrowding on downtown streets, passenger and pedestrian safety, and the ever-present over-consumption. Losing a couple of passengers during a right or left hand turn would be terrible if not tragic. Going in reverse to pick them up with reverse pedaling would require the ultimate in teamwork. Who knows, maybe Naperville could be recognized some day as the birth place for synchronized pedaling in reverse, while consuming an adult beverage, as an Olympic event.

The dismissal of the pub on wheels by the liquor commission did not dampen the enthusiasm by the resident, because plans are going forward to operate two or more vehicles in downtown Naperville without the BYOB concept, hence no liquor permit needed. Who needs alcohol when you can do birthday parties, graduation and prom parties, land AA meetings aboard the 15-seater.

The question remains, will the publess pub on wheels operate in the winter? Hot chocolate works. Maybe another Olympic event can be born in Naperville; snowball fights between pedestrians and passengers moving on alcohol-free pubs-on-wheels.

Nov 122017

If you want to get Naperville city officials a useful Christmas gift this year, get them a little cheap calculator. The one I use is a Canon LS-80Z made in Malaysia, it costs about $5.  It’s not made in America, but math is math and I’ve been using it for about 20 years, and it works. Whatever Naperville city officials are using to do math is definitely not working, or maybe it does work, but the city official using it isn’t working. In this case that person would be Naperville Director of Water and Wastewater, Jim Holzapfel.

Naperville raised the water rates in May of this year. Now word comes out that city officials grossly under calculated the numbers causing a shortfall of $3 million. Usually when Naperville city officials get the numbers wrong, it’s a decimal point, so a 1.4% increase is actually 14%, or missing a couple of 0’s here or there and a $30,000 expense becomes $300,000. For city officials it’s only numbers or a couple of dollars, but for tax or rate payers, it’s the difference between signing the kids up for hockey, or having them play whack-a-mole on the kitchen table. As councilwoman Judy Brodhead once said “it’s only $5,000” when referring to an expense.

When Naperville city officials blow it, they blow it big time. In this case some of the inaccurate numbers they used to determine water rates included:

  • Incorrect starting balances
  • Inaccurate revenue streams, some appearing twice
  • System leakage
  • Inaccurate meter readings
  • Non-metered water losses

Other than that, everything else was picture-perfect; what’s a few decimals or zeros.

Undoubtedly city officials will blame it on the company hired to do the rate model. That’s the problem. City officials spend money to hire somebody else to do the work, then they head downtown to pound down a few brews, come back to accept the report, then send it to the council for approval, and bingo, the new rates are inflicted upon residents and businesses.

Where is the oversight by city officials? Inaccurate numbers and conclusions move along the conveyor belt for approval, from Holzapfel, to city manager Doug Krieger, to the Naperville city council. Are there no checks and balances? In the business world it’s ‘trust but verify’, in government it needs to be ‘don’t trust but confirm’.

It’s also possible that Naperville city officials are attempting magic with a version of sleight of hand tricks with numbers.

It’s either by design or incompetence, neither of which are beneficial to rate payers.

To make matters worse, the new (supposedly corrected) numbers don’t add up. Holzapel said the average residential water bill would increase by $3.76 per month in 2018 (wrong, it would go up $3.67), and it would increase by $2.31 in 2019 (wrong again, it would go up $4.19). They still can’t get it right. How Naperville does their math vs. universally understood and accepted mathematical principles are two different things.

What needs to be done, won’t be done; someone needs to be held accountable. Someone needs to ‘disappear’ on a Friday, with someone new appearing on Monday to take over. You can be sure that will grab the attention of all those remaining in the Municipal Center. Accountability and accuracy at every level will increase and decimals and zeros will again have meaning.

If city officials find that sure-cure solution too difficult to execute, they can set up an ongoing ‘Go Fund Me Account’ to cover sure-to-be math shortfalls in the future. What’s currently being done is totally unacceptable.

Nov 092017

Word leaked out last week, that Naperville’s water utility miscalculated nearly everything possible creating a huge $3 million deficit in the water department’s rate model used to determine water rates. The Naperville Sun also confirmed and reported the story early this week, meaning that at least a handful residents are aware of the situation. Watchdog’s weekend posting will focus on this topic.

You won’t find anything about this on the City of Naperville’s website. Mum is the word. Also there was no mention of the issue during the city council’s November 7th meeting. Apparently the city council and city officials are hoping to avoid acknowledging the screw-up as though it never happened. Undoubtedly city officials will try to shift the blame elsewhere, but the bottom line is that it’s the City’s responsibility to trust but verify the numbers are correct and they didn’t.

However what we did learn from last Tuesday’s council meeting was that Naperville city councilman John Krummen gets to do “a lot of fun things” being on the council, and that being a council member is a “great gig”, in fact, as Krummen puts it, “it’s the greatest gig in the world”. Krummen stating it in two words describes it as “wicked cool”.

The good folks of Naperville are probably delighted that Krummen is having a blast, however they would probably be happier if someone would have caught the numerous errors in determining the water rates. That ‘someone’ could have been Krummen. There is probably not one city council meeting when Krummen doesn’t mention that he is a ‘numbers guy’; he likes to look at the numbers. Well he wasn’t looking at the numbers on this one, nor were other city officials.

I’m sure no one begrudges Krummen having a good time on the taxpayers dime, but the least he could do is tell the rest of us what he learned on his field trip. I remember taking field trips in kindergarten and first-grade and being just as giddy as Krummen, but I couldn’t wait to tell my folks what I saw and what I learned and how cool it was, maybe not ‘wicked cool’ like Krummen’s field trip, but still cool.

Nov 052017

I have lived in Naperville for almost 40 years, and for most of those years I never noticed the leaf pick-up process. There would be a pile of leaves in the street and they would magically disappear by the time I came home from work. Now that I have retired the leaf guy always seems to come by when I’m getting the mail. It’s difficult to miss him; the truck sounds like a German Panzer Tank rolling through the neighborhood.

I live on a circle, at least that’s what the street sign shows. It’s more like the letter ‘C’. There are probably 20 homes on the ‘C’ (circle). Most of the homes rake their leaves onto the street. I take it a step further. I make sure the leaves are about 18 inches from the curb, and then I water them down to make sure they don’t blow around. A good number of my neighbors do the same thing. Last week the second round of leaf-pick-up occurred. A little snow-plow-like vehicle came around and plowed the leaves about five feet from the curb to the street. No longer did the leaves adhere together, and they became ideal targets for younger drivers to drive through.

A few days later, here comes the same guy, again plowing the leaves, a few inches towards the middle of the street. About an hour later I hear the sound of the German Tank approaching our street. It takes about five minutes for the truck to appear and it’s pulling a leaf sucker upper with a guy sitting on it looking like a statue, no movement, just trying to stay warm.

Here is where it gets interesting. The leaves are getting sucked up into a chute with many leaves not making it to the chute, they are flying out. The leaves that are making into the chute are then blowing out into the truck, with half of those leaves blowing out of the truck. It reminded me of when I mow, and the grass catcher gets full, the clippings begin to fly out.  I’m guessing 25 to 30% of the leaves on the street actually make it into the truck. The other 70 to 75% make it back onto the street, except now they are evenly distributed all over the street, rather than in a pile.

No doubt that the company contracted to pick up the leaves is doing the work, but not with the intended results. Another classic example of socially acceptable non-productive work, paid for by the good folks of Naperville.

Nov 022017

Another uneventful Halloween has come and gone in Naperville without any need for an ordinance restricting the hours that Trick or Treaters can appear on your doorstep, banging on your door, or ringing the doorbell in search of free handouts.

Most communities surrounding Naperville have ordinances limiting the hours from 3 PM til 8 PM for Trick or Treating. Naperville has no such ordinance, proving that allowing the good folks of Naperville the opportunity to do the right thing, they do it, without the need for another unnecessary ordinance. Good for the city officials of Naperville for either not doing it, or not thinking of doing it. Unfortunately when one community comes up with an idea of separating taxpayers from their money, other communities jump on the idea like white on rice.

I have thought how cool it would be to be the guy that gets paid to come up with ideas for extracting money from residents for government’s insatiable consumption. At that person’s annual review time, the salary increase is based on how many ways taxpayer’s were screwed into paying more for what they used to pay less for. Some of the recent great ideas were:

  • Cook County’s Soda Tax
  • Chicago’s bag tax
  • Rainwater Tax

There is no limit to the wild creativity of pounding people with new taxes.

So hooray to the Naperville city council for letting the kids trick or treat without carrying an alarm clock. However it did occur to me that I may have inadvertently provided a reason for the council to create an ordinance for Halloween.

In the past I have handed out little hotel shampoos and conditioners (gathered when I traveled), fortune cookies (from my favorite restaurant), and little bags of coupons from local newspapers or mailers, along with a bite-size candy bar. Occasionally not wanting to promote an entitlement mindset with the older little ones, I would ask them to do a trick for the treat, but my wife thought that I was promoting bribery so I stopped that one.

For the last few years, I have been sitting in my little yellow VW Beetle in my driveway intercepting trick or treaters before they get to the front door and giving them a ‘handout’ (piece of candy) of their choice. It beats getting into a wrestling match with my two poodles every time the doorbell rings. Prior to that, Halloween night was pandemonium at the Watchdog residence. Trying to be a person of solutions, I decided to use the car in the driveway idea and it’s worked. I simply take a bowl of treats with me to the car, along with a non-spill-able cup of hot chocolate, and the car keys to occasionally warm-up the car, and watch the parade of kids roll by being surprised that they don’t have to walk all the way up to the front door and wait for a treat.  It’s worked perfectly.

However, I am beginning to think that maybe it’s not such a good idea; an old guy (me) sitting in a car summoning kids over for some candy. Bingo, could I have given the council reason for an ordinance. Maybe next year I will sit in the garage, but that seems a little unsavory too. Maybe until the city comes up with an ordinance requiring me to participate in a poodle vs man wresting match to see who can get to the front door first, I will ask the city for forgiveness rather than permission, and utilize the comfort of my little yellow 2000 VW Beetle.

Oct 292017

Naperville city officials really like Naperville being ranked first. Not only first, but first at doing new things. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as Naperville is first. City officials let one get away. It could have been Naperville, but Honolulu beat them to it by announcing via text (ironic) that Honolulu was the first city in the United States to pass an ordinance against crossing the street while texting or looking at your phone / device.

You can text, or you can cross a street, you just can’t do both at the same time in Honolulu. Doing both at the same time doesn’t make safe sense; passing the ordinance does make sense. Hence wouldn’t it make sense to have the ‘same’ ordinance in Naperville too? What’s the downside? Saving lives is good. Avoiding accidents is good. Adding money to the city coffers without making it a tax is good, right? Without the ordinance, texting while crossing the street is an outstanding method of population control. Without the ordinance, there is a much better chance that  texting-drivers will meet texting cross-street walkers in an up-close and personal way.

If city officials are hesitant to pass such an ordinance because they weren’t the first city council to do so, that’s no problem. They can simply re-define ‘first’ by stating that Naperville is the first city in the United States, not named Honolulu, to approve a ‘no crossing while texting’ ordinance. As Naperville continues to grow and become more dense, especially in the downtown area, this issue is only going to become more intense.

In the meantime, if you have to be texting and want to cross the street in Honolulu, text an Uber. You might be doing the same in Naperville some day.

Oct 262017

Naperville has become accustomed to being ranked in Top-Ten lists, from schools, to libraries, to restaurants, to best places to live, etc. My personal favorite is Naperville ranking as “One of the top 30 Best Beach Towns in which to live in the U.S.” Who would have guessed that one. Frankly that ranking makes the others suspect, but anybody can rank anything in any order they want.

It happened again just recently when the Human Rights Campaign Foundation ranked Naperville dead last in creating a friendly environment for LGBTQ inclusion  (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer). Naperville scored a first by coming in last place for something. Coming in last place is not an easy accomplishment. Fortunately for Naperville it wasn’t all Illinois communities, just large ones. Chicago scored the highest in Illinois for LGBTQ inclusion, followed by Aurora and Champaign.

Chicago scored 100 points out of a possible 100, which means it doesn’t get any better than Chicago for LGBTQ inclusion. Naperville scored 42 (apparently a lot of opportunity for improvement) with the national average being 57 points. I say ‘apparently’ because what’s the problem?

Naperville resident Eva-Genevieve Scarborough, (active in the LGBTQ community) said she is not surprised by the ranking even though she has never had an issue in the city. She did clarify that by saying she doesn’t always feel accepted. Does anybody ‘always feel accepted’; it’s rather doubtful. I don’t always feel accepted. As a member of the OGWWH community (Old Guys With White Hair), I accept that I’m not always accepted. I’m OK with it, that’s life.

Naperville got dinged in the rankings for not having an LGBTQ police liaison or task force for reporting ‘hate crime’ statistics in 2015 to the FBI. Is this another classic example of a ‘solution’ looking for a problem? Apparently the fact that Naperville provides an environment of equality (being treated with dignity and respect) and inclusion works against Naperville in this ranking. If only we had some problems, we could rank higher. That’s a lofty goal.

Let’s hope that city officials don’t do with this ranking what they did with the one resident who was upset about a few bees in her birdbath, when the the city council felt compelled to pass an ordinance placing restrictions on beehives. Sometimes doing nothing this the best course of action. If it’s not broken, there’s no need to fix it.

Oct 222017

A strange thing happened in Naperville over the weekend of October 12 thru the 15th. 7.8 inches of rain fell during that time period, one-half ml. or one thunderbolt short of eight inches. What’s really strange is that no residents appeared in front of the city council during public forum on October 17 to complain about flooding in their basements. Typically that happens like clock-work.  You can count on a string of disgruntled residents voicing their frustrations to the council asking for a remedy.

The fact that no one appeared in front of the council can only mean a couple of possibilities:

  • Naperville city officials have finally solved the problem of flooding.
  • Residents have given up trying to get the council to listen and act on the problem.
  • Everybody was too busy still trying to bail water out of their basements.
  • Watching the Cub’s playoff game had priority.

The next council meeting isn’t until November 7, so it’s possible the council will dodge the issue and few if any residents will be there to complain about their tale of woe.

A number of streets in Naperville were closed due the flooding. One of the problems was the deluge of rained happened immediately before the first of three leaf pick-up cycles. Many streets were lined with neat piles of leaves at curbside. Add to that about 8 inches of rain and bingo sewer drains get clogged with no where for the water to go; hence flooded streets and basements.

It’s not the City’s fault that leaves, rain, and bad timing happened at the same time. It could happen at the beginning of the next leaf pick-up cycle, or the last leaf pick-up cycle. However it would appear that city officials might want to consider other remedies for disposing of leaves.

A friend from Tinley Park was driving through the maze of flooded or closed streets in Naperville that weekend and realized quickly that piles of leaves acting as dams in the streets didn’t make the situation any better. Apparently that problem doesn’t exist in Tinley Park. What do they know that we don’t know in Naperville.