Enough Naperville City Council Candidate Forums

I think I am addicted to anything and everything city council related. My life revolves around city council meetings. If it’s the first or third Tuesday nights of the month, I have to be watching it. My wife said, ‘why don’t you just record it and watch it later’. I do that. I could watch it on the city website the next day, but I don’t want to wait that long. I have to see it that night. It’s like watching ESPN’s Sport Center highlights.

However, I think I finally found something that can curb the addiction; Naperville city council candidate forums. I watched the last three, and found each to be more difficult to watch than the previous one. Too many predictable questions. Too many canned answers.

Then half-way through the final forum, a great question was asked that energized me, “How effective do you perceive the city’s current leadership to be?” Finally, this was the differentiator, this was a chance for someone to break away from the herd, this was a chance for someone to exhibit leadership with courage, to stand head and shoulders above the others. That person didn’t have to throw anybody under the bus, just simply show that leadership could be improved.

Only three (O’Meara, McElroy, and Kelly) of the 11 candidates did it. The others basically said the current leadership is fantastic. If that’s the case, why are the other 8 running for office? Is it simply to occupy one of the two open seats of departing council members. The most disappointing answer came from the first candidate, Bruce Hanson. He appeared to be uncomfortable by being put on the spot, rather than seizing the moment and embracing the question, he slithered down, not wanting to stir the pot, and took the safe road.

Watch and listen to the 11 candidates answer:

A simple yet effective answer could have been, “Current leadership has been good, in fact, very good, however if ‘better’ is possible, then ‘good’ is not enough …” and then mention a few things that could make it better, as did O’Meara and McElroy, with Kelly’s answer being the best.

Another disturbing revelation of the forums occurred during the candidate’s opening and closing statements. Of the 11 candidates, all but four had to read their prepared statements, rather than being skilled at speaking extemporaneously. The four who spoke without reading included, Whitney Robbins, Patrick Kelly, Joe McElroy, and Barbara O’Meara. Surprisingly, current council members Paul Hinterlong and Patty Gustin were among the 7 to read prepared-in-advance statements. Apparently a few years of council experience hasn’t transferred over to speaking without reading prepared statements.

Two leadership dimensions which are lacking with most members of the current city council, and with a majority of current city council candidates are demonstrating courage and driving change. Demonstrating courage requires willingness to voice unpopular opinion, approaches conflict proactively, and provides direct and action-oriented feedback to others. Current council members Kevin Coyne and John Krummen have it, along with candidates O’Meara and Kelly who seem to have it.

Driving change takes energy, perseverance, and determination with a ‘can-do attitude’, makes decisions and takes action to move ideas forward. Current council members Benny White and Coyne have it, and it appears candidates Kelly and O’Meara also have it.

No doubt the current city council is good, however with ‘better’ being possible, ‘good’ is not enough. This election is an opportunity to make it better.

The Cubs play a night game in Miami, the third Tuesday of April (city council meeting night); that may help me kick the addiction, though I doubt it. I’ll be watching the meeting after the game.

Show 2 Comments


  1. Jim Haselhorst

    Just because someone is not reading off a piece of paper does not mean they are saying is extemporaneous. It just means they have memorized their closing statements and can say them without needing something to read, which is about as canned as you can get.

    • watchdog

      If they can’t say it, without reading it, then that’s a concern. Do they carry a card in their pocket when they need to give a 15 second elevator pitch? Speaking with someone vs reading to them, creates a connection. I’ve never had a candidate knock on my door to read a statement.

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