Feb 162020

Lately Naperville city council meetings take more time than watching a major sporting event or driving to Des Moines, Iowa. Council meetings are ending later and later, often times starting on one day and not ending until the next day. That’s asking a lot of the folks attending the meetings or remote viewing.

Mayor Steve Chirico has done a really good job starting meetings on time (7:00 PM), limiting public forum speakers to three-minutes, and resuming meetings, in a timely manner, after a brief recess. So what’s up with turning the lights out so late?

Watch and listen to Naperville councilman Kevin Coyne as he mentions the issue, followed by Chirico’s comment:

Meetings could start at noon, speakers could be limited to one-minute, short recesses could be eliminated, or allowing two or more speakers to talk at the same time would also shorten meetings and definitely be entertaining.

The real answer is less jabbering from council members, specifically council members Patty Gustin, Judy Brodhead, John Krummen, and Theresa Sullivan. They appear to have a difficult time making their point in a succinct manner, without circling around later and re-stating their same thought with slightly different wording.

If public forum speakers are required to make their point within three minutes, why can’t council members organize their thoughts prior to speaking, make their point, and be done with it. Council members Kevin Coyne and Benny White can do it, along with the mayor, so it can be accomplished.

What is maddening is when the council can deliberate endlessly, and conclude with a 9 to 0 unanimous vote. Some council members must think the more they talk, the more important their vote becomes. The next council meeting is Tuesday evening. Let’s not only listen to the content of their message, but also how long it takes them to make their point.

Feb 092020

If you keep kicking the can down the road, you finally reach a dead end. That’s where Naperville city officials find themselves with regard to the lack of affordable housing in Naperville. This comes as no surprise, the city council has been talking about this for years. That’s the problem, they’ve been talking without taking necessary action for years.

Twice a State of Illinois agency has cited Naperville for inadequate affordable housing, Naperville is the only city in Illinois with a population of more than 50,000 residents cited for the shortage. More than 25% of Naperville households are paying higher housing costs than federal government guidelines define as affordable which is less than 30% of household income is spent on rent or mortgage, and utilities.

This means that Naperville needs to add no less than 3,000 lower cost homes for buyers with incomes of less than $50,000, and more than 2,000 low-cost rental units for renters with incomes below $35,000, and as time goes on, it will only get worse. By the middle of the century almost 14,000 new housing units need to be added to reach a balanced housing mix of both affordable and market-rate units.

Naperville city councilman Patrick Kelly, also a member of Naperville’s Housing Advisory Commission, was flabbergasted with the thought. Astonishingly he said, “It was like, holy cow! That’ a lot of units! Where would we even put them!”

That is not what you want to hear from a sitting member of the city council, especially one sitting on the Housing Advisory Commission! Where has councilman Kelly been while this issue has been marinating and boiling over. Simply stated, it’s either a foolish statement, or Kelly is in ‘over his head’ which is a nicer way of saying he is incompetent.

Kelly’s comment would be comparable to the principal of a grade school, looking out the window of his office, on the first day of school and saying, “Holy cow, look at all those kids! Where can we put them!”

There is a way that councilman Patrick Kelly can try to redeem himself and solve two major Naperville issues at the same time; the issues of affordable housing and the Fifth Avenue Development. Simply suggest building a 20-story low-income housing project on the property and bingo, both issues solved. Now all he has to do is get four other council members to buy-in to the idea, and push it through without public input.

Feb 012020

Naperville city officials like to think that everybody wants to live and work in Naperville. That’s what they tell us. Naperville is #1 in every category, and if not #1, then somewhere in the Top-100. If there is a staff opening in the Municipal Center, all they need to do is post an opening, and bingo the position will be filled before the day ends. Apparently that may not be so true anymore, if it ever was.

City officials announced that effective immediately, city employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave, and a revised time-off policy allows city staff to accrue sick days annually up to a maximum of 12 weeks for employees hired after 2011. Officials said offering these upscale benefits will “keep city benefits competitive”. The word ‘competitive’ is an understatement, since no other suburban municipality has paid parental leave. The idea is to increase retention and use the inflated benefit as a recruiting tool.

As is usually the case with government, their first solution to a concern or problem is to throw money at it, and walk away thinking it’s solved. It’s always easy to throw money at something, when the money doesn’t belong to the one throwing the money. The kicker is that there is always someone down the block offering a dollar-an-hour more, and now you have to throw more money at it to keep it ‘competitive’.

I’m happy that city staff will get a financial benefit, however it takes more than money to maintain or increase retention. Surveys have proven that employees want to feel valued and appreciated. This is where city officials including department heads are falling short. It doesn’t take much for a city official or supervisor to express appreciation to an employee for a job well done, or being an important part of the team. This is a top-down opportunity for the mayor, the city council, city manager, and department heads, to acknowledge jobs well done by city staff and express genuine appreciation for their efforts and results. It takes so little time to help employees feel valued.