Dec 282019

To no one’s surprise, Naperville city officials decided to update and fast track its Mission Statement to highlight inclusiveness and diversity as values. This was brought about by recent negative race related events by just a couple of misguided and uninformed individuals, but just enough to get officials scrambling to look more stately.

I fully anticipated the city council to take the current 28-word mission statement and turn it into a 248 word masterpiece. To my surprise the end result approved by the council was a mere 26 words. That’s a reduction over 7%. When do politicians reduce anything by 7%, unless it’s service of some kind.

Especially considering council member Judy Brodhead said, she “does words for a living”.

Who knew she was living in poverty? She has never seen a preposition at the end of a sentence that she doesn’t like, and dangling participles are her specialty.

The old Mission Statement read, “To provide services that ensure a high quality of life for our residents and a dynamic environment for our business community through collaboration, innovation, and sound fiscal management”.

Naperville’s new Mission Statement reads, “To provide services that ensure a high quality of life, sound fiscal management, and a dynamic business environment, while creating an inclusive community that values diversity.”

Gone are the powerful words, ‘for our residents’, along with ‘collaboration and innovation’, replaced with ‘creating an inclusive community that values diversity’.

Each of the nine city council members got something in the Mission Statement they wanted except for council  member Patty Gustin who wanted more words:

Here’s a run down of what each council member contributed to the new mission statement:

  • John Krummen – fewer words from 28 to 26.
  • Theresa Sullivan – ‘provide services’
  • Paul Hinterlong – ‘ensure a high quality of life’
  • Kevin Coyne – ‘sound fiscal management’
  • Mayor Steve Chirico – ‘a dynamic business environment’
  • Benny White – ‘creating an inclusive community that values diversity’
  • Judy Brodhead – two prepositions, ‘to’ and ‘of’
  • Pat Kelly – the period at the end of the sentence.

Naperville’s new Mission Statement is guaranteed to remain the same until another incident requires officials to again scramble to redo it to fit that environment, making Naperville’s Mission Statement only as good as the moment.

Dec 212019

If you want to get something done in Naperville, just find one person to complain about it, and the city council is more than willing to use heavy handed methods of regulation to force residents into complying. A few years ago one resident complained that a bee was in her birdbath which then lead the city council to place restrictions city-wide on beekeepers. The city council’s effort to make life more miserable for honeybees failed miserably. As residents learned more about honeybees, beehives became more prolific, giving nature’s little friends more of an opportunity to help residents and nature.

The newest one-resident complaint involves 19 stand-alone driveway aprons in one neighborhood. An apron is the small area between the curb and the sidewalk. A property owner had parked on the apron which initiated the complaint. Naperville code allows parking on the apron as long as the vehicle does not overlap the sidewalk, even by 1/4 of an inch. Other than one person, neighbors in the area have no problem with the ‘offender’.

Enter the conversation at the dais, with solutions to the horrific ‘problem’, Naperville councilwoman Judy ‘chickens don’t bark’ Brodhead. Watch and listen as she advocates for ticketing the vehicle (into submission) followed by her incredibly creative idea of encouraging residents to purchase tiny little cars that can fit into the little tiny space.

Pay special attention at the end of her suggestion when she seeks affirmation which is met with silence, at which time she responds with “what are you going to do, say no to me”.

She will forever be remembered for her ultimate bit of wisdom when she said:

No one will say ‘no’ to her on that one.

Dec 142019

Kudos to the Naperville city council for cutting back on expenses. The council continues to make valiant efforts to find ways to trim expense. There are only so many ways to continue to trim the ‘fat’.

Maybe it’s time to cut back on useless overlapping work. I say start with the Historic Preservation Commission, in fact, why not just abolish it. Even though the expense involved is minimal, the fact that 11 commission members waste time serves no purpose, other than 11 people saying they are on the Historic Preservation Commission; impressive yes, but serving no purpose.

According to the city’s website, “the Historic Preservation Commission reviews and make recommendations on applications for Certificates of Appropriateness (COA’s)”. Sounds good and straight forward. However prior to the Kroehler Mansion COA appeal, there were 16 CAO’s for demolition, 12 were denied by HPC, 8 were appealed to the Naperville city council, and all 8 were approved. Now with the Kroehler appeal being approved by the city council that makes it 9 for 9 with appeals being approved by the council.

Watch and listen as resident Tim Messer makes the statement to the city council:

That begs two questions:

1) Why didn’t the other four denials appeal to the city council for approval with a 100% chance of being approved?

2) Why not simply abolish the commission and have all COA’s present directly to the city council for approval , with all being approved?

Obviously there is a disconnect between what the Historic Preservsation Commission is charged to do, and the Naperville city council’s interpretations of its own guidelines.

It’s a complete waste of everyone’s time.

Dec 072019

Michael Jordan, Ernie Banks, Walter Payton; all MVP’s, all gone, but still the best at what they did. It doesn’t mean they weren’t replaced, they were, But the results of their efforts have not been duplicated.

It’s easy to identify MVP’s when they are high profile, not as easy when they are behind the scenes or in support positions. Such is the case with Naperville city council team member, Reggie Lynch. After 20 years of outstanding service with the City of Naperville, all in the position as administrative assistant to the city council, she will be leaving at the end of this month.

Reggie was hired by former mayor Sam Macrane, which may be Macrane’s most important contribution to Naperville. Mayors and council members come and go, and Reggie Lynch has been there to help them all. I’m sure it has not been easy for her to have numerous bosses, (council members, mayors, and city managers) over the years) but she has made it work, like a duck swimming effortlessly over the water, while churning under the water to make things happen.

As the Watchdog (she knows me simply as Bob) for almost ten years, I have had reason to interact with Reggie when I needed clarification or help getting some basic questions answered like any other resident, and she has always exceeded expectations. Always pleasant, always informative, always friendly, and always took the time to help. I never felt as though I was intruding on her time. She was inviting and always made people feel comfortable chatting with her.

To say that she has been a tremendous asset to the City of Naperville and its residents is an understatement. I wish her good health and happiness as she moves along.

Dec 012019

Have you noticed that sometimes Naperville city council meeting agendas list “Closed Session” prior to the regular open session meeting. ‘Closed’, why does it have to be closed? What goes on in there that we don’t know about?

I imagine it’s all sorts of things such as:

  • Who is going to get fired next?
  • What’s the latest law suit against the city?
  • How do we get residents to do something they don’t want to do?
  • I bet I can beat you at arm wrestling.
  • Don’t even think about trying to make me look like a fool.
  • Short straw has to read the proclamations tonight.
  • How do we keep a lid on it? (you pick the ‘it’)
  • We have 248 speakers tonight. Anybody want to play video poker during Public Forum?

‘Closed sessions’ make it appear something nefarious is going on in there, otherwise why would it be closed. If you walk by the room you can’t hear any yelling or screaming, nor can you hear the sound of furniture being thrown around the room. Every now and then with previous members of the city council, you could see them entering council chambers after a closed session, looking as though they had eaten some really bad food, or their hair was on fire.

Just as athletes need their own ‘safe’ place off stage like a club house or locker room, council members need a place to ‘loosen the tie’ or ‘get it together’ so closed sessions are needed or maybe therapeutic. Every now and then a council member will give us a glimpse of what happens in closed session. Watch and listen as Naperville councilwoman Patty Gustin, possibly speaking in code, gives us such a glimpse:

I say, “good for Patty Gustin’; her openness is refreshing. And as for councilman Paul Hinterlong, a plumber by trade, apparently he still has the gift of using his tools.

Nov 232019

Naperville’s 2020 budget proposal ($491.7 million) will be about 9% higher than the 2019 budget ($451.4 million). With a $40 million increase in spending, city staff projects the property tax rate will be flat keeping the city property tax bills about the same as this year.

Among a number of planned improvements and services for residents, the Naperville Fire Department requested about $3.5 million for an ambulance, three new vehicles, a pumper truck, and self-contained breathing apparatus equipment.

The Naperville Police Department has two wish items on the 2020 budget; 1) the addition of four new police officers, and 2) a $315,000 armored vehicle (Bearcat) used in SWAT events. Watchdog has long advocated for the NPD to have a Bearcat.

While it’s nice to have an expanded leaf collection program and more salt for winter, and it’s fun to have automated meter reading, and it’s really cool to have three new IT people running around the Municipal Center, the safety and security of our city is paramount, and this happens when our police and fire departments have the equipment they need to get the job done.

OK, the Washington Street bridge replacement project is important, but if I had to, I could find another route from my home to the Dairy Queen. However if one night my chimney looks like a Bunsen burner and I need the NFD pronto, or my house is surrounded by spooky looking people, I’m not calling Ghost Busters, I am calling 911 for ‘Naperville’s finest’ to arrive in a Bearcat.

A ‘tip of the cap’ to council members John Krummen, Pat Kelly, Patty Gustin, Paul Hinterlong, and mayor Steve Chirico for giving a big ‘thank you’ to the Naperville Fire Department during the last city council meeting:

I too participated in a Naperville Citizen Fire Academy this last summer, and it was no ‘day at the beach’; what they do is not hard work, it’s very hard work. It took me 15 minutes just to put on the protective gear. Putting the boots on turned into a wrestling match.

My wife and I also participated in Naperville’s Citizen Police Academy. We had a deep appreciation and gratefulness for what police officers do before we began the course, and an even greater appreciation and gratefulness by the end of the course.

The Naperville city council has the opportunity to show support for the police and fire departments by approving their requests. If there ever was a reason for a unanimous 9 to 0 vote, supporting the NPD and NFD is it.

Nov 172019

Imagine you and your family want to build a new home on a very nice piece of property. You have a very good home builder and all you need to do is let the builder know what you want the house to look like. You and your family start discussing what you would like, then you ask your extended family and relatives for their ideas, then you ask your friends for their suggestions, and then you include the neighbors, co-workers, mailman, and the guy working in the produce department for his ideas. Then after more than two years of talking and more than 60 meetings you find yourself back at the drawing board, having accomplished next to nothing in that time. That’s exactly where the Naperville city council finds itself with the Fifth Avenue Development project.

So what’s the problem? The problem is every member of the Naperville city council not including the mayor; all eight of them. That begs the question ‘why’? The answer is simple. They have no backbone, no spine, they need a huge chiropractic adjustment. The only person wanting and working to move forward is the mayor, Steve Chirico. The rest of them appear incapable of making a decision in fear that someone won’t like it. They can’t even decide to agree to disagree.

Watch and listen as mayor Chirico asks a simple question “can I see seven hands in the air, of people who are willing to give and take, to get this thing done, show compromise and understand that we are not all going to get what we want, but at the end, it’s the best thing for the community. Do we have seven people committed to doing that?”

Getting a response, or a yes, or a raised hand was like pulling teeth. It was a simple question with nothing to fear. Councilman Pat Kelly couldn’t get his hand up as if it was gravity challenged. It wasn’t until he was concerned somebody might see it on video, that he made a weak effort to commit to work together for the city.

Shortly afterwards, mayor Chirico displayed a brilliant strategic move to individually and consecutively, corner and ‘take down’ three council members Theresa Sullivan, Patty Gustin, and Pat Kelly (three sticks in the mud) and get them to publicly commit to moving forward, rather than dragging their heals and sitting on their hands doing nothing. Sullivan was hung-up with ‘process’, Gustin with apartments, and Kelly with ego.

Chirico asked Kelly, “if the city council supported everything on your plan, and if Ryan Companies agreed, are you going to vote ‘yes’ (to moving forward)? If you’re not willing to commit to to getting to ‘yes’ and we only have six votes, there is no reason to move forward.”

Before continuing with more endless talking, the ‘gang of 8’ council members might want to consider watching and listening to a TED Talk, “The Paradox of Choice” with Barry Schwartz. It’s easier than getting a huge chiropractic adjustment.

Nov 092019

What do the Chicago Bears, Houston Astros and Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico have in common? They all have lost four in a row. The Bears have lost their last four games, the Houston Astros lost their last four home World Series games, and Mayor Chirico has been on the losing end of his last four big city council votes including Old Nichols Library, Fifth Avenue Development, Selling recreational marijuana in Naperville, and the wording for the non-binding referendum re: selling recreational marijuana. You could say he’s on a roll, downhill and increasing speed. To say he needs a winner is an understatement.

He appears to be taking it in stride, yet there was a nine-second ‘moment’ during the October 15 meeting immediately after his fourth defeat (wording for non-binding marijuana referendum) when you could hear the  following:

So exactly what was the mayor feeling? It could have been exasperation, a feeling of irritation or annoyance. Or more likely it was resignation, the acceptance of something undesirable or inevitable. He gave it his best shot with his best swing, but the ball landed on the warning track, a few feet short of a winning home run, and the game was over. One more biscuit for breakfast, one more favorable vote, and the losing streak would have been over.

Maybe like Bear and Astro fans, the mayor can hope for a better result in the next game. Sooner or later it has to happen. It did for the Cubs in 2016. The difference is Mayor Chirico doesn’t have 108 years to make it happen.

Nov 032019

The Naperville city council voted to deny the sale of recreational marijuana, however they kept the door open by supporting a non-binding referendum allowing residents to vote their preference. All that was necessary was to choose the wording for the referendum.

When the Naperville city council is given the choice to obfuscate voters or enlighten them, they chose the former. It happened again during the October 15 city council meeting when council members, chose a more wordy form of a non-binding referendum regarding the sale of recreational marijuana in Naperville.

Occam’s Razor is a scientific and philosophic rule which states, “The simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex”, in other words ‘keep it simple’. Lawyer’s can’t keep it simple; it’s not in their DNA. Councilman Patrick Kelly, an attorney, was one of the five favoring a 32-word version of the non-binding referendum rather than Patty Gustin’s 16-word version or Mayor Steve Chirico’s 21-word version which were voted down.

Watch and listen as Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico states his 21-word simple version:

“Shall the City of Naperville, in light of the state legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis, allow its sale within Naperville’s jurisdiction”.

Followed by council member Patty Gustin’s 16-word version:

“Shall the City of Naperville allow the sale of recreational adult-use cannabis within its jurisdiction”.

Finally councilman and attorney Patrick Kelly presents the 32-word lengthy version selected for the referendum:

“Shall the City of Naperville, in light of State legislation legalizing the possession, consumption, and sale of recreational adult-use cannabis, allow the sale of recreational adult-use cannabis within its jurisdiction”.

Considering the Pledge of Allegiance has 31 words, and the Bill of Rights (First ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution) has 5 amendments with fewer than 32 words, the city council surely could have approved a referendum more concise that the one they approved. Rather than trying to impress residents with how clever they can be with word construction, why not focus on the audience, the residents of Naperville, and keep the wording simple. Occam would have been proud.

Oct 262019

The Naperville city council has done a lot of listening and talking about selling recreational marijuana within city limits and they are not done yet. Though the council voted 6 to 3 in September to prohibit the sale recreational marijuana, it later approved a non-binding referendum be placed on the ballot for voters to ‘voice’ their opinion. The only question was should it be placed on the March 17, 2020 ballot, or the November 3, 2020 ballot.

After a lengthy discussion (aren’t they all) they decided by a vote of 5 to 4 for the March 3, 2020 ballot. Watch and listen to the council as they vote for the date of non-binding referendum:

Naperville city council members voting for that date included:

  • Judy Brodhead
  • Patrick Kelly
  • John Krummen
  • Theresa Sullivan
  • Benny White

Those on the losing end of the discussion, voting for the November date included:

  • Mayor Steve Chirico
  • Kevin Coyne
  • Paul Hinterlong
  • Patty Gustin

It was thought that the November general election would bring out more voters, but the idea went up in smoke when the March primary election got the nod. Naperville’s clouded marijuana debate has been hazy at best, hence the non-binding referendum was determined to clear the air for a more accurate picture on how voters feel about the hot issue.

Since it’s a non-binding referendum, council members can choose to ignore the wishes of voters as they did with District representation. Voters chose that option which didn’t please council members, so a re-do vote was conducted, and the council got their wish when at-large representation magically won the vote.

Some council members have stated they would honor the results of the non-binding pot referendum, however we know how that can work. The good news is that a referendum, even a non-binding referendum is a feel-good exercise.

So March 17, 2020 is the big date. Until that date, and after January 1, 2020 recreational cannibus can be purchased hassle-free in surrounding suburbs. And after that date, no matter what the result of the vote, cannibus can be sold in surrounding suburbs. So what’s the difference? The difference is will you need to drive 5 miles to buy it in Naperville or drive 6 miles to get it elsewhere? That’s the real result of the referendum.