May 252019

My grandsons like to play Wiffle ball in their back yard with their dad and I join in for a few innings. Often the ball gets hit over the fence into an adjoining yard and my son with no effort grabs onto the top of the 6-foot fence and jumps over to get the ball. His strength and endurance amaze me, since even at the peak of my physical shape 50 years ago, I couldn’t do what he does. He’s in top physical condition; he’s a part-time fire fighter (FF) in Barrington and has been for years.

Wanting to learn more about being a FF I decided to participate in Naperville’s Citizen Fire Academy. It’s 12-hours of ‘hands-on’ training over four nights (3 hours per night). It consists of one hour of listening and 11 hours of doing. The first night we had Naperville Fire Department orientation, a tour of the main station (#7) on Aurora Avenue next to the police department, and we were issued our gear (coat, pants, hood, gloves, helmet, and boots) which was worn all during our training and turned in during the last class. Just carrying the gear in a bag to my car was exhausting. Wearing it was just as exhausting. It took me ten minutes just to put my boots on. I suppose it would have been easier if the boots were one or two sizes larger, then I could have done it in eight minutes.

This is a good time to mention that being a FF is not hard work, it’s really, really, really hard work!

Topics we covered included:

  • Hose and ladders (the hose is heavy and the ladders are tall)
  • Search and rescue (walking through a ‘smoke’ filled building in complete darkness)
  • EMS (saving lives without losing your own)
  • Auto Extrication (tearing apart a car, to save someone)
  • Water rescue (throwing out life preservers and remembering to hold on to the other end of the rope)
  • Air pack training (heavy, cumbersome, and challenging to breathe)

Absolutely everything a FF does has a purpose and a ‘best practice’ for doing it. Nothing is left to chance.

Naperville’s Fire Department is one of the Top-3 in the country and one of the best in the world! The NFD is a Legacy Agency, having been accredited every five years since 1997 (1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017).

Some interesting facts about the NFD include:

  • Naperville firefighters train 6,000 hours per month!
  • The response time from getting the call to being at the event is 6 minutes. It takes 1.5 minutes from the time of the call to getting the vehicle out the door, and 4.5 minutes to get to the event. (It took me 10 minutes to get my boots on).
  • Less than 1% of calls are fire related
  • The highest percentage of calls in 2018 were EMS (Emergency medical service)
  • In March of this year, the NFD had a 75% ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation) – meaning they started breathing again, and a 50% survivability rate – meaning they walked out of the hospital. The National average is 20% ROSC and 12% survivability
  • They get about 16,000 calls per year
  • Average about 2 vehicle-injury accidents per day
  • Naperville has 10 fire districts (stations)
  • It is a 202 person department including 10 Captains, 24 Lieutenants, and 152 firefighters, and 16 support staff.
  • FF’s work a cycle of 24-hour shifts with two days off.
  • In 2018 the Top 3 EMS calls by type were falls/traumatic injury, behavioral/psych/overdose, and respiratory distress.
  • The training facility is located on Brookdale Road near Rt. 59 (live fire facility) Station 4.

The FF’s doing our training were doing it on their own time. They could not have been more patient, informative, friendly, committed and knowledgeable. When asked what their most difficult call to go out for is, they all said “anything involving kids”.

If you want to learn so much more about the NFD, I encourage you to attend Citizen Fire Academy training. You can also get a 2018 Naperville Fire Department Annual Report at the NFD headquarters Station 7 on Aurora Avenue. It is filled with a wealth of information about everything the NFD does.

If you are in a grocery store and you happen to see a NFD fire truck, engine, or ambulance parked outside with a few fire fighters inside the store shopping for groceries, know that everything they purchase is on “their own dime”; they pay for and prepare their own meals. A ‘thank you for your service’ would definitely be appreciated by the fine men and women of the Naperville Fire Department. They work hard and smart and they deserve our appreciation.

May 182019

Two friends are driving in opposite directions along a road when they each pass a billboard about the same time. The next day, they meet to play golf and they mention seeing each other the previous day on the road as they passed the billboard. One said the billboard was blue, while the other said it was yellow. Each thinking the other guy was wrong, decided to place a friendly wager, and drove to the billboard. Sure enough it was blue, but then they looked on the other side and it was yellow. Depending upon their perspective, which way they were coming from, they were both right. It happens in politics all the time.

Recently, a reader (BDWeiser, 45-year resident) replied to a Watchdog posting, which was then replied to by another reader (Jim Haselhorst, former Naperville mayoral candidate). Both see things, and mayor Steve Chirico’s leadership from a different perspective. The topics included:

  • Winefest
  • Jaycee Wi-Fi Smart Park
  • Chriskindle Market
  • Old Nichols Library
  • 5th Avenue Development
  • Ribfest
  • SECA funds
  • Last Fling
  • Family members

It all depends upon which side of the ‘billboard’ one is looking towards. The bottom line is that it is possible to disagree with being disagreeable.

Here is a link to the comments  Feel free to join the conversation.

May 122019

Last Tuesday had to be very exciting for Naperville’s two new council members, Patrick Kelly and Theresa Sullivan. It was officially their first council meeting. As always, Mayor Steve Chirico gets meetings started on time. There is no dilly-dallying around on his part. He’s got places to go, people to see, and things to do. No sense keeping people waiting in council chambers.

At 7:00pm sharp, roll call begins and when council member names are called they reciprocate with ‘here or present’. Uh oh, there is one missing. Where is new council member Theresa Sullivan? She is nowhere to be seen. How can that be. Her first official ‘coming out’ opportunity, and she blows it off? Maybe she forgot it was meeting night? Maybe she realized the work load was too much and she resigned. Maybe, just maybe she was at the Cubs game.

Surely she’ll get there before the Pledge of Allegiance? No, she was a no-show for that too. Could it be that council woman Theresa Sullivan is a disciple of Colin Kaepernick and she was ‘taking a knee’ in council chambers?

After the pledge she finally surfaced as she raced to be seated. Fortunately she sits on the end of the dais, and didn’t have to stumble her way towards the middle of the group.

In all fairness to new council member Sullivan, she may have had a compelling reason to be late other than finishing the last bite of a huge burrito, and if that’s the case then Watchdog, truly hopes all is well with the Sullivan household.

One thing is for sure, Sullivan now knows that Mayor Steve Chirico starts meetings on time and he has been doing that since he was elected mayor. There was a time prior to Mayor Chirico when meetings would consistently start five to ten minutes late, and council members would come in sauntering as if they were attending a cocktail party, with little or no regard for people waiting in council chambers. No longer does that happen. If a council member is not ready to get started on time, then it’s on them. Chirico runs the council meetings and the city as though it was a successful business because that’s exactly what it is.

Legendary and successful Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi lived and coached in a disciplined manner and required the same from his players. One of his rules for practice was, “If you are on time, you’re late”. In other words, get there early and be ready. Punctuality is respect for other peoples’ time. Let’s see if Sullivan is ready to do the peoples’ work.

May 042019

Getting elected can be the easy job; knowing what you’re doing can be a totally different story. When the next Naperville city council meeting convenes this Tuesday May 7, two new, shiny council members, without dents (Theresa Sullivan and Patrick Kelly) will be sitting at the dais. They will have accomplished their goal of getting elected. Their next goal will be remembering where they sit at the dais, followed by learning Naperville’s version of Robert’s Rules Of Order. That can be tricky.

If Sullivan and Kelly think they have all the answers, they will be in for a rude awakening, as some former members of the city council have experienced. Some council members have admitted to not having all the answers, but their willingness to learn (Rebecca Boyd-Obarski) was refreshing. Others have learned by listening and observing (Kevin Coyne and Benny White), while others (last name rhymes with ‘Gustin’) could have benefited from the quote, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” That quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, or maybe it was Vinnie Goombotz.

Looking at the numbers:

Naperville city council members are paid $12,500 per year. Council members can work as little as they want (former council woman Becky Anderson), or as much as they need to get the job done properly (Paul Hinterlong).

An average Tuesday night city council meeting can last about two hours, with two meetings per month, minus about four meetings per year cancelled for holidays is 20 meetings per year totaling 40 hours which equates to $300 per hour. However most council members pack in the hours taking pride in getting the job done right. 20 hours per week is about 1,000 hours per year, which equates to $12.50 per hour. Compare that to a Wal-mart greeter making $13 per hour.

If a council member is elected to a 3-term limit (Paul Hinterlong and Judy Brodhead) that’s 12 years at $12,500 per year for a total of $150,000. Compare that to Philadelphia Philly baseball player Bryce Harper who just signed a 13-year contract for $330 million; Harper makes more money sleeping 8 hours per night for one week than Hinterlong and Brodhead make over a 12-year period as Naperville city council members. Granted, Hinterlong and Brodhead can’t hit the long ball, well, maybe Hinterlong can, but Brodhead is more of a bunting-move-them-along slap hitter.

Naperville council members are not in it for the money. Both Kelly and Sullivan may be surprised with the number of hours necessary to get the job done right. Neither will have alienated any residents/voters until they make their first council vote, then the irate phone calls and emails will begin to trickle in until it becomes a flood.

Another frustration they likely will experience is social media, mis-information. A classic example is tax, the city council has actually maintained or reduced the tax rate, while the school districts and park district have jacked up the tax. If you take a close look at your tax bill, you will see where those tax dollars are going, but most folks get upset with city officials, and specifically the city council regarding taxes.

Glossy mailers with cool pictures, beautiful colors, and lofty stated goals can help a candidate get elected, but it’s those same stated goals not achieved that can unseat a council member in the next election.