Naperville Councilwoman Theresa Sullivan Asks ‘What Went Wrong Here?’

It’s so much easier to get things decided if you’re not involving other people, unless you’re building a barn in Amish country. Maybe that’s why so many people in Naperville are feeling uninformed when it comes to projects close to their homes. City officials say they are doing their best to let residents know about issues that can have impact on a neighborhood, but the good folks of Naperville aren’t buying the rhetoric.

It makes no difference what the specific issue is, because it’s just another tree in the forest. What is important is that residents continually don’t feel informed.

Fortunately new council member Theresa Sullivan is openly questioning why so many people in Naperville are feeling uninformed. Kudos to Sullivan for being a voice for those residents.

Watch and listen to Sullivan ask the question ‘What went wrong here’, followed by some tap-dancing answers by Naperville Transportation, Engineering, and Development (TED) Director, Bill Novack, with a little coaxing by Mayor Steve Chirico:

So Mayor Chirico acknowledges that “it’s not that unusual for people to feel they haven’t been notified” which in itself verifies something is wrong with the process.

Novack states they are “constantly trying to change it”; well apparently it’s not good enough, and since better is possible, then ‘good’ is not enough.

The mayor then points out that there are minimum requirements for notification, to which Novack says “we greatly exceed the minimum requirements”. Since when does the great city of Naperville use the ‘minimum requirement’ as a benchmark of success. A patient in an intensive care unit of a hospital may have a pulse (minimum requirement for life) but that doesn’t mean the patient is well.

There was a time, not that long ago, when the city council meeting agenda was posted in the Naperville Sun newspaper, but no longer. Watchdog refers to the local newspaper as nothing more than the 10th member of the city council, since it publishes talking points by city officials. However by posting the meeting agenda, at least it gave residents the opportunity to see issues to be discussed or up for a vote. That option mysteriously disappeared from print.

Naperville city officials pride themselves in having state-of-the-art methods for getting things done, why not put a high priority on doing the same for notifying residents, or is the prevailing thought by city officials that residents are on a need-to-know basis, and they don’t need to know.

Show 2 Comments


  1. BDWeiser

    Hey Theresa. Nothing went wrong. Residents are apathetic. They dont read. They dont respond. Oh, wait, until it’s too late. And, then ladies &gents NIMBY!!! Bottom line….progress… w it!!

  2. Jim Haselhorst

    I have seen this kind of reaction by groups of residents many times over the last 20+ years of watching both city council and planning board meeting. I saw it in my own neighborhood several years ago when the city was looking at changing some zoning guidelines for several neighborhood properties.

    I am afraid this is one of those rare occasion were I will have to agree with DBWeiser, the reason is resident apathy.

    Perhaps this is because of how aggressive the city is in requiring notices be sent to residents about anything happening in their neighborhood. I frequently get two or three post cards with notice numbers on them about hearing or other activities happening to property “near me”. I admit, because of the bombardment of large signs, newspaper notices, newspaper stories, etc, I am sometimes tempted to just throw these cards away without actually reading them.

    I am not sure how the people at the meeting the other night (or the many other groups I have seen go before city boards and councils similar to the group the other night) fail to notice. I don’t even live anywhere near this area but drive thru it from time to time and like Councilwomen Brodhead, I to saw the signs announcing these hearing and proposed project.

    I think it is also a product of how neighbors in a community don’t really talk to each other anymore. Its clear some neighbors were aware what was going on (they attended the meetings) but said nothing to their neighbors. No neighborhood discussion was ever had. As a result some neighbors are simply isolated in their neighborhoods, like the group the other night – they are a small percentage of the actual residents in this area yet they wanted their voice to be “heard louder” then the “small unrepresentative group” they claim participated in previous hearings.

    In the case were this happened in my Neighborhood, the small group was lead by one person who invited people to attend a meeting at their house. Of course there were several of us in the neighborhood not invited to this meeting because we had already spoken at official city meetings in support of this change. So we did not even find out about this “neighborhood” meeting until these people showed up at a city council meeting.

    What was particularly insulting was how this group claimed to be more representative of the neighborhood then any previous participants and speakers because they claimed to be the Neighborhood Homeowners Association and the person that held this meeting in his house claimed to be the President of this Association. Of course what they did not tell city council was that more the half of the property owners in this Neighborhood had not be invited to this meeting, had not voted to form an Association and had not voted to make this man President of this Association.

    Sometimes the optics from the dais at city council meetings can be easily distorted by a very organized small group of people that present a united front and seem to represent the will of the residents but in actually are really a minority and only a representative of a well funded special interest group.

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