Wouldn’t it be nice if Naperville residents had an advocate to represent them during city council meetings. Someone who could ask questions and get answers.
It’s become apparent after watching Naperville city council meetings for eight years that unless you are a resident with a bee in your birdbath, or unless you live on the same street as a council member, your voice is nothing more than background noise to city officials.
It happened again at Naperville’s most recent city council meeting on October 16. The meeting lasted 3.5 hours and during the meeting the city council approved a two-year, $100,000 agreement with S.B. Friedman and Co. to represent the city as an advocate in negotiating and securing agreements with Ryan Companies for the development of the Fifth Avenue Project. In addition to providing service as an advocate for the city, it will be a buffer for city officials giving them another degree of separation for bad decisions that may result in the development of the project. One of those “hey, I didn’t do it” excuses that city officials like to use when something goes wrong. Utilizing an advocate for city officials is useful. Wouldn’t having an advocate for residents be useful for residents?
Watch and listen to Napeville resident Jim Hill as he uses his 3-minutes to respectfully address the city council with some great questions regarding Naperville’s pending electric utility rate change:
This was followed by Napeville Mayor Steve Chirico trying to answer those questions.
So far so good. However this is where it starts to go sideways when the mayor brings Electric Utility Director, Mark Curran into the conversation regarding Smart Meter “savings”.
Curran is an artist when it comes to double-talk, utilizing the principal “if you can’t convince them with facts, dazzle them with bull—- ” The promise that Smart Meters would save rate-users money, has not materialized. Not one dime has been saved, not a nickel, not a penny.
This was followed with some fuzzy math from Curran and the mayor.
Now this is where it really breaks bad as the mayor cuts off dialogue with resident Jim Hill and refers to ‘wasting the public’s time:
Since when is informing residents “wasting the public’s time”. I’m guessing the mayor would like to ‘have this comment back’ but video is unforgiving, once it’s out there, it’s out there. Typically Mayor Chirico is sensitive and gracious towards speakers, so this may qualify for a ‘mulligan’. No doubt it was out of character for the mayor.
Electric rates, up or down, have direct impact on every Naperville resident and business. The council spent “wasted” 53 minutes talking about approving another car wash on Ogden Avenue, but couldn’t invest another 10 minutes informing resident Jim Hill and the tens-of-thousands of rate payers about his questions and concerns.
Inviting resident Jim Hill to the mayor’s office for dialogue is cool for Jim Hill, but what about the rest of us. Can we all line up at the mayor’s door to get the same information. Hence why not have an official position of Residents Advocate at the municipal center. Some one who can get answers during the council meeting that all of us can hear. Someone who has the best interests of Naperville residents in mind.
In theory, each and every council member should be an advocate for residents, but in actuality, unless you have that bee-in-a-birdbath, it’s not happening. Council members seldom speak up in support of residents, and seldom challenge each other with stimulating questions and conversation, they tend to walk in lock-step and vote in unison.
Interestingly, this electric rate change could result in a slightly lower rate. I don’t suppose that has anything to do with the upcoming municipal election in 162 days could it?