Its Christmas Day in Naperville in 2013. Much like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, you are allowed to see how Naperville would change over the next 10 years. Without question, you would see a City that is still very strong and with some very impressive developments and big beautiful new homes. But you would also see some very unfortunate changes. Some of these negative changes cut right to the heart of what has made Naperville such a tight, strong community for so long.
You would see Naperville’s very strong Chamber of Commerce walk away from – almost entirely – its important role as a small business advocate. Rarely does it appear at council meetings or come out strongly on policy matters that impact businesses and taxpayers. From the outside looking in, the Chamber appears to be more of a social club than a serious advocate for business. For a very long time, it had been a force at City Hall. It spoke out on issues impacting business and taxpayers with great regularity. No more and its disappearance has been a great loss for our community.
You would see the Naperville Area Homeowner’s Confederation also seemingly disappear. For many years NAHC was a source of moderate, largely independent input on local policy questions. It was a platform for community leaders, officials, and interested residents to converse, network, and trade ideas and information. Its disappearance has been a great loss for those seeking moderate, nonpartisan politics and policymaking.
You would see our local papers, the Naperville Sun and Naperville Daily Herald, greatly diminish. Each used to have seasoned journalists at City Hall covering every Council and Plan Commission meeting. The talented Tim West would offer deep opinions on local issues. No more. Now our local papers offer a carousel of usually very young journalists. Hank Beckman has Blackhawk jerseys older than most of the reporters covering Naperville today. The quality and depth of local news coverage has taken a large step backward in recent years.
You would also see some of our great Naperville service clubs become much, much smaller. Ribfest – and the millions that it pumped into our not for profit community – is now gone. The Jaycees have greatly downsized the Last Fling and appear to be a significantly smaller organization than it once was. Where are all of our community’s young leaders? The Jaycees used to crank community leaders out with great frequency. This is not happening anywhere close to the degree that it once did.
These largely independent groups and moderate voices were the influencers in our City. They were the people who charted a path for our City’s future. They were also where most of our local candidates were born. Now – we still have voices in the ears of our officials – but they are of an increasingly partisan variety. Daily news out of Washington, D.C., Springfield, and Chicago shows us clearly how things work out once partisan politics rule the day.
So here’s to hoping that all of these very important, storied groups find their mojo in 2024 and re-assert themselves as proactive, assertive leaders in our community. Naperville has missed your leadership greatly …