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.
Actually city council has manage to tow the line on taxes since 2008 (something neither the park or school districts can come even close to claiming). So yes all the talk on how the city needs to do more to control taxes is complete BS!
The city is one of the most transparent governments I have ever seen. They actually put the city check book ledger online so you can see how much and were every city penny spent is going. Go luck get that lever of transparency for either the park district or school district.
In fact good luck figuring out how the park district is actually spending any of the tax dollars they get. The park district is the least transparent government organization I have encountered. Half there board meetings are not even recorded and good luck finding out were and when they will be held. Now admittedly the Park district board member do not officially get any compensation, but who know what “fringe” benefits they might be getting and what they are worth. Again a transparency issues.
You imply the park commissioners are getting perks with no proof. Yet we have proof of our Mayors business making money off of developments he voted on.
So do the realtors (like Gustin), lawyers (like Coyne and Kelly) and even union members (Hinterlong) on city council. The reality is that members of city council have had financial affiliations with organizations that profit from the outcome of their votes for as far back as I can remember.
This was an issue for many years in Naperville, with several sources complaining about these financial conflicts, but because voters still elected these individuals to city council positions nothing has ever come from this.
The reality is, as has been pointed out many time over the years, that the very nature of these elected offices makes these conflicts inevitable. And frequently unpredictable.
For example the city maybe considering establishing an HR program to help former city employees, as a result of downsizing, find new jobs to reduce unemployment benefits cost for the city. Should Sullivan, who owns a business to provide this kind of service, be allowed to vote on whether or not the city creates this cost cutting program? Since no specific business is being considers and the only thing under consideration is the creation of a program that her business might place a bid on, should this program be adopted, there is currently no conflict of interest. So by council rules she should speak on and vote on this matter.
In short anytime you have an elected office that provides no benefits and a below poverty level annual salary in a high cost of living community such as ours, these elected officials will need a second income. An the source of that second income, because of the wide scope of community interests city government is involved in, has a very good chance of one day intersecting with city business. The only way to prevent this is to make these positions full time city government jobs with salaries and benefits good enough to support them living in our city, which means creating something more like what the city of Chicago has then what we currently have. Choose your poison.