With the battle over the existence of the Naperville Sister City Commission in the rear view mirror (thank you to Council for voting to keep it), we can now turn our attention to another arm of the City….the mysterious N.E.S.T. Task Force.
If one listens in on a City Council meeting you will hear N..E.S.T. referenced with great and increasing regularity. It is very common for this committee to be brought up during Council discussions on issues of sweeping import. They are treated as an authority and as a resource.
Should we renew the I.M.E.A. contract? Ask N.E.S.T.
Do we have enough car charging stations? Ask N.E.S.T.
Is the City’s sustainability plan sufficient? Ask N.E.S.T.
N.E.S.T. sends speakers to almost every meeting to use their three minutes of free air-time. They are referenced ad nauseum by Council and staff during the meetings. Literally billions of dollars, countless jobs and industries, and the sustainability of our environment are usually at issue when this group is mentioned.
All of this begs a spectacularly obvious, yet largely unanswered question, namely…
“who the @#$% are they?”
Who are the members of N.E.S.T. and how were they selected?
What are their individual qualifications and could any members have conflicts of interests?
When are their meetings, who can come, what happens at the meetings, what happened at prior meetings, who are they talking to on the dais, how much staff time is spent working with this group, and enumerable other questions exist because this group is cloaked in secrecy while designed as a “task force” and therefore exempt from Open Meetings Act rules.
In the context of campaign donations disclosures and commission appointments, transparency has been raised a great deal of late. Addressing transparency when it comes to a group that is playing a very large role in the spearheading of our City’s environmental sustainability initiatives should be taken more seriously.
Watchdog Takeaway: N.E.S.T. should be made into a formal City Commission. Doing so would serve as a credibility boost to N.E.S.T. and it would add transparency for the public. As currently designed, the amount of weight N.E.S.T. is gaining at City Hall is very questionable given the lack of transparency there is as to how it operates.