Uh Oh, Here We Go Again; City Council Says, No Problem, It’s Paid For

Unfortunately, so often good intentions go bad, especially if it involves government, and it looks like it could be happening again in Naperville.

The Naperville Jaycees offered a huge donation to help build a Smart Park adjacent to the Naperville Municipal Center. I’m not exactly sure what a ‘smart park’ is, but if that’s what it takes to get $200,000 from the Jaycees then I’m all for it. The definition of ‘smart’ is a quick-witted intelligence, or clean, neat, and well-dressed. So if that’s required to get into the park, I might be able to almost qualify on one of the two.

Initially the Naperville city council made the Jaycees jump through some hoops in order for council members to accept the generous gift, but ultimately the Jaycees qualified for handing over the money to city officials. When council members were shown the plans for the Smart Park in full color, the council was quite excited about the possibilities. Beautiful colors have a way of raising the excitement level.

During the last council meeting (April 17) as the plans were unveiled, with all the bells and whistles, you could feel the enthusiasm from city officials. It was almost as if they were kids, and each was being offered a cute little puppy. What kid doesn’t want a puppy. When kids learn from mom and/or dad that they have to feed it, give it water, take it out , and clean-up little surprises left on the floor, they still want the puppy. Then after they have the puppy, somehow they forgot about the responsibility that goes with it.

This almost happened during the council meeting until Naperville councilwoman Rebecca Obarski threw a bucket of cold water on the council when she asked, how is maintenance going to be paid for? The audacity of Obarski to ask such a great question during the fun and festivities. Watch and listen as she asks her question, followed by Mayor Chirico’s response, which doesn’t quite satisfy Obarski, and city manager then chimes in with a little bit of double-talk intermingled with some fuzzy math.

Good for councilwoman Obarski for asking the question, and dilly, dilly for the good folks of Naperville for having the answer on record. We’ve been down this road many times before; “don’t worry, it’s paid for”, including  hearing it when Naperville cut a horrendous deal with its provider of electric, and then we heard it when the Carillon was built, and now it’s falling apart and in desperate need of funding.

It’s never a problem, until it’s a problem. But bingo, Naperville city officials always have a Plan-B to solve financial problems.  And who better to explain Plan-B than Naperville city manager Doug Krieger:

Show 19 Comments


  1. Gerard H Schilling

    No end to the nonsense proposed by these liberal, wealth redistributors (our money their nutty ideas) to build a complex nobody needs or wants except them. The convoluted nature of payment for this needless expenditure is increased rates/taxes or whatever in necessary to pay in perpetuity for this obsolete boondoggle before it is even built.

    Just for once can’t these purveyors of mayhem and fiscal irresponsibility headed up by our forever financially wrong, tax glutton, business manager save us money instead of wasting more of it at every turn?

  2. Julie Berkowicz

    So how far does $101,000 go? Can they share the projected revenue amount from these solar panels? Obviously, cloudy days like today wouldn’t be very productive. There are so many other needs in this community!

    • Jim

      Interesting! When it comes to city revenue being used to maintain the smart park you have a problem, but when it comes to sharing revenue generated by smart park funded solar panels intended to support this park and it maintenance suddenly your all in. Can you say double standard?

      • Share the wealth

        I believe it was a question about “sharing” the information about about revenue, not the actual revenue itself. $101k isn’t a whole lot of money for a project like this. And I don’t believe she was saying use the revenue generated by the park on other projects, it was more of a “don’t waste any money on the park when there are other more important needs.

        • Jim

          But these solar panels will not exist if not paid for by the donations that are also building the park, so if you don’t build the park you don’t get the solar cell and there is no solar cell revenue to “share”. That was my point.

  3. Ed Crotty

    If you guys were in charge, Riverwalk would never have been built. Downtown would be shuttered and folks would just stay inside and watch Fox News. It’s ok to give back to your community, you don’t have to be so greedy all of the time. It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday. Go out to one of our beautiful parks and see the people enjoy them.

    • Concerned Citizen

      I will gladly go visit one of our great parks, but I will not use a smart park. You are blurring issues – no one is complaining about parks, this area is already a park. They are complaining because this is a pet project that is absolute waste of Staff’s time and money (10 years of future SECA funds). I wish I could take out what is essentially a 10 year interest free loan to build something. Thank you Obarski for asking the right question.

      • Jim

        SECA funds are not involved. The funds are coming from bond issues. Were was your concern for the use of SECA funds when they were used to purchase the Building for the Children’s Museum and pay its rent all these years? Remember the only reason the SECA fund exist is because of the work of the Exchange Club, Rotary, Jaycees and a few other non for profits.

        Do you use the Jaycee Pavilion, or Marina, or various other recreational amenities this organization has been instrumental in funding and making happen?

        What is your problem with the Jaycees? What has this organization done to make you attack them this way?

        • Concerned Citizen

          Wow – who said I have a problem with the Jaycee’s besides you? I have no issue with them or a Park sponsored by them. I seriously question a Smart Park, which is a WASTE of MONEY. I’m fairly certain a nice park could be built for much less money and still sponsored by the Jaycee’s. Jim, keep drinking the Mayors Kool-Aid.

          • Jim

            As a Jaycee member for close to 25 years what I see in your posts is the implications that the Jaycee members are either stupid and easily manipulated or they are the Mayor’s stooges (i.e. they have “drank the Kool-Aid”) and will blindly and unthinkingly follow his lead. How I’m I not suppose to take this as an attack on the Jaycees?

  4. John

    I’m glad that council woman Obarski asked the pertinent question about who will pay for what . There is very little credibility for fiscal responsibility within the council . They sit there with a pot of money and dream up Smart Park . Does anyone know what that is except spend money .

  5. Jim

    It is always impossible to predict the future, their are just to many unknowns that can throw a wrench into the works. That is why all decisions has some risk associated with them, if we knew everything and all decisions were risk free then all of life’s choice would be no brainers.

    Take for example the aforementioned IMEA, when originally proposed (the point at which Naperville and many cities agree to become members) in 1984 it was intended to be primary a contracting agent for these cities (and for the most part still is). The decision to become part owner (approx 15%) in the Prairie State Facility was made based on independent consults recommendation that made assumptions about capacities, costs and operations that were reasonable at the time, but during construction economic factors shifted (changes in EPA requirements, China exports to US, Natural Gas Boom, etc). These factors drove up cost (added requirements delayed construction, and reduced generating capacities) while reducing cost for alternative energy sources. This combined with an electrical fee survey based on similar assumption by an independent consultant that also turned out to flawed cause the city to not increase electrical rates when they should have been increased. These two factors caused the city to be purchasing power for more then it was charging residents and because of the time it took to see this was a permanent change (not some short term economic fluctuation) along with the time needed for council to approve a rate increase (to the breakeven on cost point) lead to the city accumulating over $1 million operating deficit. The ripple effects of these events have cause a snowball effect in the operating cost for the city’s electrical utility. While city council has to deal with these type of short term situation it’s primary responsibility is to make decision that benefit the community in the long term. In summary the IMEA decision was a good decision based on the information at hand, but hind sight is always 20/20.

    The present city council can not control the economy, decisions of the state legislature, the US congress, the president or the decisions of future city councils. They can only make reasonable assumptions about what will happen in the future based on the commonly accepted projections and standards of today, which will be, from time to time, wrong. That is were the risk comes in when making decisions and commitments to the future. As was pointed out in another post, what would downtown Naperville be today if the people behind the Riverwalk had not taken the risk and made the decision to go for it. Hindsight maybe 20/20 but it does not build the future.

  6. Jim

    Since the Carillon was mentioned I will point out that it serves as another good example of how not knowing the future and making decisions based on short term concerns can negatively impact future out comes.

    The durability and maintenance cost of the Carillon were based on completion of the Carillon as designed. But the city council, yielding to community concerns about cost, eliminated some of these design elements resulting in the “completed” Carillon not being built as designed and making the original durability and maintenance cost estimates for this structure no longer valid. Parts of this structure, that were designed based on them being enclosed and not exposed to the weather, ended up being left exposed to the weather as a result of these short term cost cutting decisions. These same parts of the Carillon are now breaking down due to exposure to the elements and are the reason the city council now has to make a decision and choice one of several options that are all no win scenarios for our community.

  7. John

    Just tear down this ugly structure and stop the opinionated discussions .

  8. Joey

    May i suggest a buffet type government. I you want a smart park the costs get added to your tax bill. The same with the Carllion.. If you don’t want them you don’t pay.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Perfect. I want Police, Fire, Water, Sewage. Please outsource my electric to reduce pension costs.

  9. Julie Berkowicz

    Share the Wealth, You got it! All this talk about free money ultimately always leads to the need for more taxpay $$$$. Another example of additional fees to the consumer is the Renewable energy program from City of Naperville Electric. Customers have to pay for supporting the program! http://www.naperville.il.us/services/electric-utility/powering-our-community-for-the-future/renewable-energy-program/
    Businesses and North Central College are recipients of grants from Naperville for their solar systems, yet I haven’t found any for residents. Please let me know if anyone is aware how residents can receive these same benefits.

    • Jim

      Many of these programs are actually funded by grants for the IMEA. These grants spell out how these funds can be used. Are you suggesting the city stop accepting or acquiring these type of funds simply because the have strings attached that prevent them from being used in away you would like them to be used?

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