watchdog

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.

Jan 262020
 

Even without knowing what year or month it is, it’s easy to know when re-election time is near; it’s when politicians surface from the inky shadows. Such is the case with former Naperville city councilman, and current District 41 State Rep Grant Wehrli.

Wehrli ‘served’ on the Naperville city council from 2005 – 2014. To say he ‘served’ is a misnomer, it’s more like he was served. Wehrli has seldom been accused of helping the average person on the street, unless there is something in it for him. You could say that’s the typical prototype of a politician, however Wehrli has taken it to a new level. It’s difficult for the average voter to come up with something that Wehrli has initiated and accomplished that has helped his constituency.

Wehrli’s lack of accomplishment as a State rep makes him ripe for defeat in the November general election which is why Democrats feel confident in Wehrli getting his walking papers out of Springfield. Wehrli specializes in winning elections without an opponent, but such is not the case in Wehrli’s next campaign.

Wehrli is the assistant minority leader in the House which is something akin to being the assistant manager in a hardware store, the difference being the guy in the hardware store has an upward career path with opportunity.

In 2018 Wehrli’s opponent was Democratic challenger Val Montgomery. It was determined that Montgomery would not be eligible to serve if she won the election because she didn’t live in the district, which prompted a jovial celebration by Wehrli before the election. In essence Wehrli had no opponent, however even considering that, he barely squeeked out a victory by a 52 to 48 percent vote tally, a mere margin of victory of 1,908 votes in a Statewide election. That’s less than Naperville city councilman Paul Hinterlong’s margin of victory over nine of ten city council candidates in his last election.

Wehrli’s profession is listed as ‘city councilman’ so he specializes in living off the taxpayer. With his annual rep salary of $67,836 and a per diem of $111 per day, tax payers have little if anything to show for Wehrli’s time in Springfield. His campaign contributions show a high percentage from liquor commissioners, a liquor distributor and a sizeable contribution from a Naperville pet store; less for puppies and more for Wehrli.

The only good thing about Wehrli in Springfield, means less time for him in Naperville. Based on that theory, if he were to run for election in the Pitcairn Islands (South Pacific), I would gladly throw in a dollar for his campaign. Watchdog has readers in the Pitcairn Islands so it’s likely he wouldn’t win that election either, but it’s worth the dollar.

Jan 182020
 

What does a mayor do when s/he is ousted from office by term limits? Why not run for another office that’s a bit more lofty, let’s say President of the United States. That’s what Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana is doing, and he’s currently among the front runners. Why couldn’t Naperville mayor Steve Chirico do the same thing?

There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both were elected to their first term as mayor in 2011, both re-elected in 2015, both have two ‘e’s in their first name, and both have last names that occasionally get mispronounced. Buttigieg is a little young (more inexperienced), while Chirico, is a little older (more mature and wiser). Both attended outstanding universities; Buttigieg Harvard and Oxford, and Chirico Northern Illinois University. There is little doubt that NIU’s football team could pound Oxford into the turf.

Chirico is a successful business owner getting his start owning a small tile shop, while Buttigieg once walked into a tile shop having no idea what he was looking for. (Never end a sentence with a preposition). Two presidents got their start as business owners (the Bush presidents), and President Donald Trump comes from a business background, so Chirico would fit right in (again no prepositions to end a sentence).

There are some major differences between Buttigieg and Chirico. If Chirico was elected President in 2024 he would be the same age as was George W. Bush, and Zachary Taylor when they were elected. If Buttigieg gets elected at age 37, he’d be the same age as famous deli owner Bernie Chatzky. Also South Bend’s population is only 102,000, while Chirico’s Naperville is over 140,000.

Can a mayor actually get elected President? Calvin Coolidge, Grover Cleveland, and Andrew Johnson would say ‘yes’ if they could. So again, why not Mayor Steve Chirico?

Finally, there is one huge difference between mayors Chirico and Buttigieg; Chirico looks more presidential, while Buttigieg looks more like Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman.

 

Jan 112020
 

Now that Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and other holidays are over, it’s time to get back to what’s important; competition, sports, and game-changers. The college football championship between LSU and Clemson is this Monday with the Tigers guaranteed of winning (both teams are the Tigers). The NFL Divisional Championships are this weekend, and this weekends College Basketball Game of the Week is between Drake and Valparaiso; that’s how Drake fans describe it. Jeopardy is televising the Tournament of Champions. Even when President Trump dropped a big one on an Iranian terrorist, it was described as a ‘game changer’. Everything has become a game. So why not Naperville city council meetings?

For most folks, city council meetings are boring. Not much humor, very little if any wit, and unending council member jabbering. Even council members have been caught dozing off on camera. We will spare you those video clips for now.

What can be done to liven things up a bit at the dais? How about, in the spirit of friendly competition and game playing, every time a council member says something foolish, that person is required to relinquish his/her chair and stand for the remainder of the meeting, with the object of the game to be the last council member sitting, while the other eight are standing. The game continues from meeting to meeting until every council member is standing except for the winner who is still sitting.

Based on past experience of watching council meetings for over ten years, it’s possible that eight can be standing within ten minutes, however it may take numerous meetings to determine a winner. So who is going to be The Judge of Foolish Comments (TJOFC). It could be a committee, but that hasn’t worked with the Fifth Avenue Development. Dictatorships work quicker and more efficiently, so one person is the answer. Possibly a losing candidate in the last election.

Let’s take a look at predicting the finish of the game from the first one standing to the last one sitting:

1st up is councilwoman Patty Gustin:

The only way not to be the first one standing is to say nothing which guarantees she will be the first one standing.

2nd to stand is Judy Brodhead:

“Chickens don’t bark”, need we say more.

3rd up is John Krummen:

Anybody watching Krummen as a Smart Meter Ambassador knows he will be quick to stand.

4th up is Theresa Sullivan:

She seldom seems confident with what she is saying, so standing quickly is inevitable

5th up is Paul Hinterlong:

Paul can’t resist talking which results in rambling, hence a good bet not to make it in the top three sitting.

6th is Pat Kelly:

Kelly is getting better, but he has a proclivity to turn left and lose the listeners.

Now for the Top-3 still sitting:

3rd is Benny White:

Benny talks the least, which is a great strategy for not saying something foolish, but that can last for only so long.

2nd sitting is Mayor Steve Chirico:

Being the mayor gives him the most exposure, hence the most to say, which is a formula a foolish remark.

Last council member sitting and the winner is Kevin Coyne:

If he spoke as much as Mayor Chirico, Chirico would have been the winner.

Let the game begin, at the next council meeting on Tuesday January 21st at 7:00 PM.

Jan 042020
 

Welcome, not only to a new year, but also a new decade. Five days into a new decade and the Naperville city council has yet to make a bad decision; that’s impressive.

City officials have raised, or lowered the bar, depending upon your perspective, with a new Mission Statement. Out with the old, and in with the new. Who doesn’t want new? New is good right?

Naperville mayor Steve Chirico thinks it’s good. He has to, he is the mayor and he voted in favor of the change. He really had no choice. However, he has taken a huge step forward with his following bold comment:

“The purpose of a mission statement is every decision we make needs to support our mission statement and our policies, and if it doesn’t then we need to question our decisions, because that doesn’t make any sense. We need to use this as a guiding statement, so all our future decisions align with it.”

He has left no wiggle room, when he states, “EVERY decision we make needs to support our mission statement,” and “we need to use this as a guiding statement so ALL future decisions align with it”. Which council member is going to be the “keeper” of the mission statement when decisions are made? The answer is probably no one.

Chances are good that some public forum speakers will remember the mayor’s bold statement and hold the council to it. That begs the question, what happens then.

The answer is easy. The Golden Rule will apply which is ‘he who has the gold makes the rules’ which is the city council. So the city council does have wiggle room, it’s called interpretation of the mission statement.

Dec 282019
 

To no one’s surprise, Naperville city officials decided to update and fast track its Mission Statement to highlight inclusiveness and diversity as values. This was brought about by recent negative race related events by just a couple of misguided and uninformed individuals, but just enough to get officials scrambling to look more stately.

I fully anticipated the city council to take the current 28-word mission statement and turn it into a 248 word masterpiece. To my surprise the end result approved by the council was a mere 26 words. That’s a reduction over 7%. When do politicians reduce anything by 7%, unless it’s service of some kind.

Especially considering council member Judy Brodhead said, she “does words for a living”.

Who knew she was living in poverty? She has never seen a preposition at the end of a sentence that she doesn’t like, and dangling participles are her specialty.

The old Mission Statement read, “To provide services that ensure a high quality of life for our residents and a dynamic environment for our business community through collaboration, innovation, and sound fiscal management”.

Naperville’s new Mission Statement reads, “To provide services that ensure a high quality of life, sound fiscal management, and a dynamic business environment, while creating an inclusive community that values diversity.”

Gone are the powerful words, ‘for our residents’, along with ‘collaboration and innovation’, replaced with ‘creating an inclusive community that values diversity’.

Each of the nine city council members got something in the Mission Statement they wanted except for council  member Patty Gustin who wanted more words:

Here’s a run down of what each council member contributed to the new mission statement:

  • John Krummen – fewer words from 28 to 26.
  • Theresa Sullivan – ‘provide services’
  • Paul Hinterlong – ‘ensure a high quality of life’
  • Kevin Coyne – ‘sound fiscal management’
  • Mayor Steve Chirico – ‘a dynamic business environment’
  • Benny White – ‘creating an inclusive community that values diversity’
  • Judy Brodhead – two prepositions, ‘to’ and ‘of’
  • Pat Kelly – the period at the end of the sentence.

Naperville’s new Mission Statement is guaranteed to remain the same until another incident requires officials to again scramble to redo it to fit that environment, making Naperville’s Mission Statement only as good as the moment.

Dec 212019
 

If you want to get something done in Naperville, just find one person to complain about it, and the city council is more than willing to use heavy handed methods of regulation to force residents into complying. A few years ago one resident complained that a bee was in her birdbath which then lead the city council to place restrictions city-wide on beekeepers. The city council’s effort to make life more miserable for honeybees failed miserably. As residents learned more about honeybees, beehives became more prolific, giving nature’s little friends more of an opportunity to help residents and nature.

The newest one-resident complaint involves 19 stand-alone driveway aprons in one neighborhood. An apron is the small area between the curb and the sidewalk. A property owner had parked on the apron which initiated the complaint. Naperville code allows parking on the apron as long as the vehicle does not overlap the sidewalk, even by 1/4 of an inch. Other than one person, neighbors in the area have no problem with the ‘offender’.

Enter the conversation at the dais, with solutions to the horrific ‘problem’, Naperville councilwoman Judy ‘chickens don’t bark’ Brodhead. Watch and listen as she advocates for ticketing the vehicle (into submission) followed by her incredibly creative idea of encouraging residents to purchase tiny little cars that can fit into the little tiny space.

Pay special attention at the end of her suggestion when she seeks affirmation which is met with silence, at which time she responds with “what are you going to do, say no to me”.

She will forever be remembered for her ultimate bit of wisdom when she said:

No one will say ‘no’ to her on that one.

Dec 142019
 

Kudos to the Naperville city council for cutting back on expenses. The council continues to make valiant efforts to find ways to trim expense. There are only so many ways to continue to trim the ‘fat’.

Maybe it’s time to cut back on useless overlapping work. I say start with the Historic Preservation Commission, in fact, why not just abolish it. Even though the expense involved is minimal, the fact that 11 commission members waste time serves no purpose, other than 11 people saying they are on the Historic Preservation Commission; impressive yes, but serving no purpose.

According to the city’s website, “the Historic Preservation Commission reviews and make recommendations on applications for Certificates of Appropriateness (COA’s)”. Sounds good and straight forward. However prior to the Kroehler Mansion COA appeal, there were 16 CAO’s for demolition, 12 were denied by HPC, 8 were appealed to the Naperville city council, and all 8 were approved. Now with the Kroehler appeal being approved by the city council that makes it 9 for 9 with appeals being approved by the council.

Watch and listen as resident Tim Messer makes the statement to the city council:

That begs two questions:

1) Why didn’t the other four denials appeal to the city council for approval with a 100% chance of being approved?

2) Why not simply abolish the commission and have all COA’s present directly to the city council for approval , with all being approved?

Obviously there is a disconnect between what the Historic Preservsation Commission is charged to do, and the Naperville city council’s interpretations of its own guidelines.

It’s a complete waste of everyone’s time.