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?