Nov 252018

Why does the Naperville city council wrestle with problems? Why don’t they just apply Occam’s razor, and also simply adjust the norms. Occam’s razor is the problem-solving principle that the simplest solution tends to be the correct one.

This is exactly how the city council solved the problem of homeless people in Naperville; they renamed them street-dwellers, and bingo, no more homeless people in Naperville. How simple was that. Naperville needs an ‘Occam’.

No matter what the problem is, just adjust the norm. Let’s take the Fifth Avenue Development’s need for parking spots. Just say that 200 new parking spots are needed, but we are going to build spots for 400 vehicles. If the good folks of Naperville are given a choice between 200 or 400, they will be twice as happy with 400. Problem solved.

Or how about this one. Just say the development calls for a 50-story building, but we are going to approve a 6-story building. Make the people happy. So simple. So much time and money can be saved without endless talking and studies and surveys.

There is no end to what city officials (who are they anyway) can say and do. “We need to raise the sales tax by 2%, but we are only going to raise it 1%”. That would make the fine folks of Naperville dance in the streets wouldn’t it.

Between Naperville’s Occam and adjusting the norm, we’d have no problems, only solutions.

Considering this is Thanksgiving weekend, watch and listen to Jim Gaffigan using the ‘adjust the norm’ solution to weight control on ‘CBS News Sunday Morning’.

Why focus on the 70% when it’s so much easier to focus on the 30%. It’s so much quicker to simply adjust of the norm.

Nov 182018

OK kids, let’s take hot cocoa drinks and homemade cookies, to downtown Naperville and sing Christmas carols around the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Christmas tree. No more live Christmas tree in the heart of Naperville. It gives you a fuzzy, warm feeling doesn’t it. Maybe more fuzzy and itchy than warm.

Who’s brilliant idea was it to celebrate the season with an artificial PVC tree in lieu of Napeville’s long enjoyed tradition of a live evergreen tree, and why? Both answers are easy; 1) the Naperville Park District, and 2) to save money.

In a perfect world, the ‘life expectancy’ of an artificial tree is about eight years. The park district was able to purchase a slick 14-foot, polyvinyl tree for $3,400 using a cool 30% off coupon. Next year the district wants to purchase a 4-foot extension for about $3,200 bringing the total to $6,600 for an 18-foot tree. That equates to about $800 per year for the eight years compared to $2,000 per year for a traditional natural Christmas tree. That’s a savings of about $1,200 per year. That’s a nice savings until you realize that from that $1,200 you have to subtract the cost of erecting the fake tree and utilizing park district police. How many times have you purchased something like a swing set, with the words ‘assembly required, 5,000 easy pieces, no problem”.

Let’s be generous here and say $1,000 per year can be saved. Sounds like a good chunk of money, again until you realize the Naperville Park District’s budget is $39.6 million dollars per year. May not look like much until you write that number out…$39,600,000. That’s a lot of zeros. Getting a polyvinyl tree saves about .002% of the budget. That’s comparable to purchasing a $50,000 car and saving $100 if you get the cheap plastic floor mats that are so thin they have only one side.

There must be a better way for the Naperville Park District to save $1,000 per year rather than hoisting a polyvinyl Christmas tree upon the good folks of Naperville to gather around.

Consider this. Naperville Park District, Executive Director, Ray McGury, is the highest paid park director in the area with a base salary about $208,000 per year. If he made $207,000 per year, the good folks of Naperville could have a real Christmas tree. Would he miss the $1000 per year. It’s rather doubtful considering he gets $10,000 per year in deferred compensation, along with $7,200 in auto allowance for 2018. That’s $600 per month auto allowance. You can get a whole lot of auto for $600 per month.

McGury is hesitant to discuss his compensation. “I work for the taxpayers and their board of commissioners, so it’s not for me to comment on my performance” Apparently McGury is very modest about his accomplishments and very appreciative of the taxpayers. I wonder if McGury is appreciative enough to chip in $1,000 per year out of his own pocket, toward the purchase a real, live, 18-foot evergreen Christmas for the good folks of Naperville. Instead of calling it a ‘Christmas tree’, he could refer to it as the ‘McGury Tree’ and get a tax deduction.

Hot cocoa, home-made cookies, and a real evergreen tree in the middle of town. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Nov 112018

Naperville city officials are always saying something. Here are some recent comments from city officials:

  • “Naperville city officials have ID’d clogged drains as a major cause of roadway flooding.”
  • “City officials are aware that there is a second-hand market for commuter parking permits.”
  • “City officials would not comment on cases pending litigation.”
  • “City officials are looking for ways to cut expense.”
  • “City officials are more than confident that electric rates will go down.”
  • “Naperville homeowners are likely to see the city portion of next year’s tax bill increase for the first time in at least three years, city officials said.”

Who are these city officials, and exactly what is a Naperville city official?

I called the municipal center trying to get an answer, and no one seems to know. I started with the HR (Human Resource) department and nobody could define or explain what a city official is. I then spoke with the city clerk’s office, and again nobody had the foggiest idea. I figured the legal department would have to know, but again no success in getting an answer. In fact, the person I spoke to communicated with me as though I was looking for the legal department’s Holly Grail.

According to Google, by definition, a city official is someone who holds a position of authority. OK, so what does authority imply? Someone who gives orders or makes decisions.

About a month ago, I had to go to the Municipal Center to pick up some information and as I walked into the building, I heard a city worker (repairman) say, “Hey Jim, hand me that Phillips screwdriver.” That qualifies as giving an order, so would he be a city official? While I was in the building, two city staff employees were apparently leaving the building for lunch, and one said to the other, “Let’s go to Panera”. That qualifies as making a decision, so is that a city official?

I also spoke on the phone with the city manager’s office in seek of an answer to my question. She said an elected position is a city official. That sounded reasonable, until I asked her about the city manager, “He’s not elected, so does that mean he is not a city official?” I think she was done playing mental gymnastics with me, so the call respectfully ended.

I tried the city clerk’s office one more time, and asked if city officials are responsible for buying things and she said ‘yes’ until I asked about the person in charge of buying paper clips and rubber bands. Is that person a city official? She said not really.

I made one final effort to get an answer, and called HR again. I said, “If I wanted to send Christmas cards to city officials, to whom would I address them ?” The question was met with a long pause, and she said, “how about I find out and call you back?”. To which I responded, “No that’s O.K., but thank you, I doubt they would read them.”

Nov 042018

In two days the mid-term elections finally arrive. So much talk, so many mailings, so many candidates. With so many offices up for grabs, how is a person to know who to vote for. Frankly for me, most of the time I have no idea. I have a general idea, but I really don’t know for sure.

Some elections are easier than others for me including President, governor, senators, and city council, but for some of the obscure races it can be like throwing a dart on the wall. I look back on some of the candidates I voted for when I was young, and wonder, what was I thinking.

I remember being captivated in 1952 watching the presidential political conventions. I was only 8 years old but I couldn’t stop watching it on TV. So many people walking around, so many side conversations, people not listening while someone was talking, everybody was from the “great state of wherever” casting their votes for somebody, adding the votes, and then deliberations in a backroom somewhere, and then they’d do another vote. Lots of cigars and cigarette smoke with signs all over the place.

Ultimately it came down to Dwight Eisenhower vs Adlai Stevenson. I would have voted for Stevenson which would have been my first mistake ever in voting, with many more to follow. I once heard if you are in your 20’s and you don’t vote liberal, there is something wrong with you. And if you are in your 40’s and don’t vote conservative, there is something wrong with you. I didn’t really get it until I was in my 40’s.

I also heard “how can you complain, if you don’t vote”. My problem is still not knowing for sure who to vote for in those ‘less than sexy’ races. My dilemma is if I don’t vote for those more obscure contests, then how can I complain, and considering I like to complain, I am compelled to vote.

So over the years I have come up with some voting guidelines that work for me when I’m not sure who to vote for:

  • Vote for the new candidate, not for the incumbent. There is always that element of hope with a new person.
  • Choose a female over a male. Sounds sexist, that’s because it is. Men seem to screw things up more than women.
  • Vote for a name that I can pronounce. Can’t go wrong voting for anyone named ‘Donald’ as in Duck, as long as he is not running against a woman, unless the woman is an incumbent. Yes, it does get tricky at times, but it’s not that difficult.
  • Vote for the candidate that is ‘easy on the eyes’. Even if what they are saying makes no sense, it’s more enjoyable watching them say it.
  • Choose a non-attorney over an attorney. There is a reason the United States has 10% of the world’s population and 90% of the world’s attorneys, and it’s not because they are effective leaders.
  • Never vote to retain judges. When bad guys keep getting back on the streets, there is something wrong with the judicial system, and that something is likely the judges.

Finally, if you have to vote for a goofy-looking, male attorney, incumbent, with a bad haircut, make sure his name is ‘Bob’ because you can never go wrong voting for a guy named Bob.