NaperChange is an active group of residents keeping watchful eyes on city officials including the Naperville city council. NaperChange was created in large part as a result of the Bauer Place vote, a town home annexation that came into the City and replaced four dilapidated vacant homes that were really a ‘junk yard’ by the time they were sold. It has turned out to be a successful upgraded development and a ‘win’ for neighbors, though not all agree on how the annexation played-out.
Watchdog applauds their efforts and for the most part agrees with their positions on many issues. The following post was published by NaperChange on May 27, 2018 and reprinted here with a respectful counter point-of-view by Watchdog.
“On Wednesday, May 16th AIG Investors III appeared before the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission, regarding a property at Diehl and Raymond, requesting the following: 1.) Rezoning; (from Office, Research and Industrial “ORI” to Office, Commercial and Institutional “OCI”) 2.) Conditional Use; age restricted rental units 3.) Zoning variances: • Parking, from 392 units required in City Code to 304 units; • Height, from the current 43’ allowed to 54’8”; • Number of units, from the 139 allowed under current code (2,600 per acre) to 174 requested.
So, if approved, the proposed project will be taller than allowed by Code, have more units than allowed by Code, and have fewer parking spaces than required by Code.
AIG Investors III includes Mayor Steven Chirico and his brother, Anthony Chirico.
As the Naperville Sun reported, Mayor Chirico will recuse himself from the vote if it comes before City Council.
So, no issue, right? The Mayor will recuse himself from a vote on Code variances on a personal project from which he will, presumably, personally benefit financially.
No conflicts, right?
Of course the mayor will benefit financially, along with others, including the City of Naperville with additional tax revenue. It’s called ‘good business’ when it’s successful and there are no losers.
The City staff which has to recommend approval or rejection of variances to City Code ultimately reports to City Manager Doug Krieger, who reports to Mayor Chirico and the City Council. So City staff is put in the position of recommending or not recommending variances to Code on a project which will presumably personally benefit Mayor Chirico.
No conflict there, right?
Considering everything a conspiracy, which is what this would be, is a stretch, especially considering the mayor has cultivated a culture of “speaking up to authority” within the Municipal Center. Mayor Chirico doesn’t always get what he wants (oftentimes he is on the short end of council votes) but he encourages opposing views if backed by facts.
City staff recommended approval of the project.
The Planning and Zoning Commission (“PZC”) has to review and recommend approval or denial of variances to City Code for the project. Mayor Chirico has either appointed or reappointed all nine members of the PZC. The Naperville Sun recently ran an article about Mayor Chirico’s success at fund raising for his yet to be announced run for reelection. According to the Sun, at least eight people which Mayor Chirico has appointed to various Commissions have contributed to his unannounced campaign. Including through an LLC at least one member, Andrew Margulies, of the PZC. Mayor Chirico’s campaign committee spent over $2,200 at Hugo’s Frog Bar. The General Manager of Hugo’s Frog bar is Anthony Losurdo. Mr. Losurdo is also a member of the PZC. No conflict there. Right?
Appointing or reappointing people to commissions is necessary, and isn’t it wiser to work with people you know and trust, rather than have an ‘open cattle call’ and appoint people off resumes, and hearsay. The fact that some contribute to the mayor’s campaign fund shows trust in the mayor’s ability to lead. A tab of $2,200 at Hugo’s for a large group of people is not unusual considering my wife and I took our two friends from Texas out to dinner at Hugo’s and dropped $220. A lot of unsavory dots have to be connected (Margulies, PZC, Losurdo Hugo’s GM, PZC) to imply a conflict of interest. Again another stretch.
On May 16th the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project 8-0.
An 8-0 vote by the PZC is not unusual.
The proposal will now go to the City Council for approval of variances to City Code. The same City Council which Mayor Chirico presides over. The same City Council which has several members strongly aligned with him. The same City Council which has members whom have received political and financial support on their City Council campaigns from Mayor Chirico.
No conflict there, right?
Yes, some city council members strongly align with the mayor, while other city council members don’t . Again, not unusual. The fact that the mayor provides political and financial support to some council members again is not unusual. Any good leader wants to lead a competent team. Isn’t that what any of us would want.
Is this illegal? No. Should that be the bar for conduct, if it’s not illegal it’s ok?
If it’s not illegal, then yes, it is OK, unless it’s unethical, and ‘unethical’ is a matter of opinion supported by fact.
Remember the good old days, when elected officials not only avoided conflict, but also the appearance of conflict?
Is it appropriate for a Mayor to be asking city staff whom ultimately report to him, a commission consisting of members which he has appointed or reappointed, and a council of which he is a member and which has members he has supported financially and politically, to approve variances from City Code on a project which will presumably benefit him financially? If the variances are approved for him, how can they not be for the next one asking for variances?
One size doesn’t fit all, and each situation should be decided on its own merit. Have we lost the art of common sense?
This is the second time Mayor Chirico has presented a development project which will presumably benefit him financially for approval of variances through City staff/PZC/Council, the other one being for the development at 720 N Washington. (Which was good timing, given the proposed 5th Avenue development envisioned. A possible entirely new, bustling business district two short blocks away.)
To imply the mayor is up to no-good, is looking at the situation through a distorted lens. Like him or not, isn’t this exactly what is happening to President Donald Trump. No matter what he does, or what Chirico does, or any other government official we don’t like does, we can spin it down the ne’er-do-well corridor, connecting dots to a preconceived conclusion of conspiracy?
But Mayor Chirico says he will recuse himself.
What is he supposed to do? Resign? Do nothing? No matter what he does, there will be those who either disagree with him, don’t like him, or deny him any credit.
So, no conflicts. Right?
A much bigger question is why political leaders after being in office for substantial periods always seem to end up with posh developments and can’t get these projects approved unless they bust every code regulating the rest of us peons?
Lets cut the crap and simply admit those in power usually get there to use that power in ways which advantage them over the regular citizen and after a period of time little anomalies turn into very big ones. Our state of IL is rife with corruption both big and small and it permeates down to all our cities including Naperville.
Bottom line is the laws (codes) on the books should apply to everyone equally. If these codes need changing then change them for all not just the politicians who control the code writers and implementers.
I agree, no conflict of interest, no ethical questions, no conspiracy and no corruption here. These lines of “conspiracy and corruption” could be applied just as liberally to all past council members and mayors.
Krause was a very successful Realtor in our community, he frequently committed then voted on development projects that he ultimately became involve in the sells of were the lines needed to draw a chain of conspiracy or corruption would have be much shorter. The reality is it is very hard for anyone in real estate sells not no end up in this position when elected to council, this also can be said for lawyers.
Lawyers have colleagues both within their offices and in other offices that they frequently deal with. Every major development or project that goes before PZB and then council for approve has legal representation speaking for them at these meetings. So any lawyer on the council would again have enough of a link (by the NaperChange standard) to the attorney representing this project to be a conspiracy or corruption. Using these standards even a person working for Navistar, Edwards, Nicor, etc could be linked to members of the city staff, PZB or city council making anyone working for the city a possible conspirator and corrupt.
Chirico has always been very supportive of various community efforts intended to improve the quality of life in Naperville. Chirico was very successful businessman in our community for decades before he ran for and was elected to city office. The fact that he has personal wealth that he has chosen to place in companies to develop properties in Naperville is only natural for any Naperville business person. Were would you rather he invest his money? Lisle? Aurora? Wheaton? Boolingbrook? Chicago? The fact he has chosen to invest it in the community were he lives, were his children live, were his grandchildren live is only nature, it is not corrupt or part of some conspiracy.
As to the variances granted for the project in question. They break no new grounds. Variances for setbacks, parking, density and height are actually quite common. In fact just about every project of this size or large has gotten these kind of multiple variances. Water Street got them all. The proposed Old Nichols Library development will need just as many, and the Bauer One project that triggered the creation of the NaperChange organization got most of these as well. So if getting this many variances for one project represents a conspiracy and corruption then it has been going on since at least 1994 when I moved to Naperville.
Conspiracies and the appearances of corruption are easy to create if you want to spend enough time to trying. That is what the “six degrees of separation” theory is all about, that any two people can be link by six or less relationships (business, family, friends, etc). The proof of this a a very popular parlor game called “six degrees of Kevin Bacon”, were you show a link between any person and in Hollywood and Kevin Bacon by six or less such links. The more prominent and active in a community a person is the easier it become to show a link in less then six relationships, ergo Mayor Chirico.
The bar for ethical behavior and corruption for public officials in Illinois is now so low, that it makes this look like no big deal.