Jul 212019

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.

Jul 142019

Baseball’s All-Star game marks the theoretical half-way point of the baseball season, just as July 4th marks the half-way point Naperville’s city council meetings for the year. July 16 will be the first meeting of the second half of the calendar year so it might be a good time to review how Naperville’s city council meetings can be seen.

The Naperville city council meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the Naperville Municipal Center located at 400 S. Eagle Street in council chambers on the main floor. Meetings begin at 7:00PM and last about two hours. The shortest meeting I can remember lasted about 30 minutes and the longest concluded after midnight.

In contrast to former Mayor George Pradel, when meetings would begin after all the council members would come in late like it was a social gathering, Mayor Steve Chirico is punctual, getting meetings started on time, oftentimes with council members running to their seats during roll call.

Just like a ballgame, nothing beats being at the meeting in person to see the entire performance unfold. Rather than having the camera dictate what can be seen, your eyes can see what can’t be seen online or on TV, including a council member dozing off (it’s happened), council members chatting while a speaker is making a presentation, or council members on their devices checking scores, emails, or menus, again while speakers are speaking.

Meetings can also be viewed live, on TV via the government access channel, or online. You can also view previous city council meetings on the city’s website.

The City of Naperville will post the agenda for council meetings on the Thursday preceding Tuesday’s council meeting thereby giving all the opportunity to view topics to be discussed five days in advance. This Tuesday’s city council meeting is available for viewing.

What could be more fun than gathering the entire family around the TV with a big bowl of popcorn watching your elected officials talking endlessly about a topic only to have it tabled until a future meeting.

Jul 062019

A guy has an infected finger and goes to the doctor for a diagnosis. The doctor recommends surgery to remove the infected digit. The guy goes to two more doctors for a second and third opinion; both make the same prognosis. Finally, while on safari, the guy decides to visit a local witch doctor for his recommendation to see if there is any other option besides surgery. The witch doctor says, “Surgery not necessary. No need to do anything. In short time, finger will fall off all by itself”.

That’s the situation the Naperville city council finds itself with the deteriorating Moser Tower which houses the 72-bell Millennium Carillon. Naperville is in the third round of testing to determine if they want to 1) make major repairs for a big-time expense of about $3.8 million, 2) make repairs on-the-cheap to keep it standing for a few more years, or 3) demolish the 160-foot structure for about $600,000.

It seems as though the Naperville city council is suffering from paralysis through analysis, unable to make a decision thereby kicking  the can down the road. It’s cost Naperville taxpayers over $200,000 and still no decision from Naperville city officials. Maybe they should tell the testing company what conclusion they want in the report, so the testing company can submit a report that the council likes, and they can vote in favor of that direction.

Better yet, how about a binding referendum allowing voters to choose which of the three options they want. That’s much too simple, much too logical. If voters choose to demolish the money pit, what better time to do it, than the 4th of July as a rousing send off for the last Ribfest in Naperville.  Again the Naperville city council missed a golden opportunity to make it a 4th of July celebration to remember. Forget spending $600K for demolition. How much would 40 sticks of dynamite, a long fuse, and a Bic lighter cost. If they want to save the cost of the Bic lighter, they could simply use the last burning charcoal briquette from Ribfest to ignite the momentous event.

The third and final testing and assessment report, prior to the soon-to-be fourth and fifth final testing and assessment reports should be available to the Naperville city council by August. City officials can then make a decision or choose to do nothing and wait for more reports. In time Moser Tower will come down all by itself.

Jun 292019

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s me, or are members of the Naperville city council walking closer to the line of lunacy when it comes to comments during council meetings. During the June 4 city council meeting, councilman Benny White wanted to know everything that’s not going to be built on a particular property, and now during the June 18 meeting two more council members added their gems of brilliance to the proceedings.

First it was councilman John Krummen. It happened during the discussion of changing the current water meter reading method from manual to an automated system which allows residents to see their water usage in real time. In other words rather than seeing a spike in water usage when a residents gets the water bill, they can actually see it when it happens in the comfort of their homes, at the exact moment it happens.

Watch and listen to Krummen as he explains the advantage to residents for the automated real-time viewing of water usage:

Imagine a resident, with nothing better to do, than watch his or her water meter usage on line, and then all of a sudden, there it is, a water leak. What are the chances of that actually happening. It won’t be like an explosion, most leaks are gradual, that’s why they are leaks and not geysers. Does Krummen actually think there is a resident anywhere in Naperville with that much time on their hands to actually be sitting in front of their computer waiting for a leak to occur. This is Naperville, not Twodot, Montana.

And then, during the discussion on Naperville’s leaf pickup program, here comes councilman Paul Hinterlong with a mind boggling question to Dick Dublinski, Director of Public Works when he asks, when will the leaves fall:

To Dublinski’s credit, he tries to keep a straight-face, which is not easy when presented with a question like that. Dublinski’s answer did confirm that he is not a meteorologist. We can assume Dublinski was referring to WGN weatherman Tom Skilling, and not his brother Jerry who stayed at the Graybar Hotel for years with his Enron shenanigans.

In a way, you can’t fault councilman Paul Hinterlong for his desire to know when the leaves will fall. I’d like to know if my tire will ever go flat, or when the Cubs will start winning consistently. Hinterlong is a Cubs fan, so that proves he is a good guy, but come on, ‘when will the leaves fall’ , that’s above Dublinski’s pay grade.

Rather than getting an answer to that imponderable, maybe Hinterlong should be focusing on ways residents can make their leaves fall quicker, like using a leaf blower, or getting the neighbors together for an old-fashioned “tree shake”. Bigger trees require more neighbors, and more shaking.

It’s unfortunate that the July 2 city council meeting has been cancelled because of July 4th. It would have been exciting to see who will be the next council member to join the ranks of White, Krummen, and Hinterlong with another off-the-wall comment or question.

Jun 232019

For most Naperville council members, listening to residents is not a favorite part of city council meetings. It slows the process down. It’s even worse, when a knowledgeable resident shines a bright light on a topic some council members would prefer to remain in the inky shadows of the municipal center,

Enter Naperville resident Jim Hall to speak for 38-seconds, just enough time to irritate Judy Brodhead by outing her for taking a ‘second bite of the apple’, when one is sufficient. Watch and listen to Jim Hall as he questions why a council member should vote twice on the same issue; one vote as a member of a board or commission, and another vote as a member of the city council.

Council member Patrick Kelly was also mentioned, however he is new to the dais, still learning where his seat is located, and deserves a mulligan on this one. However, Brodhead knew exactly what she was doing, so it should come as no surprise to her. It’s her last term in office, so she has been pulling this stunt for quite some time.

Kudos for councilman Kevin Coyne for supporting Hall’s comment by stating his position on the matter. Brodhead, rather than remaining quiet, appeared to be irritated by Coyne’s comment.

Brodhead had the right to remain silent, but she didn’t have the ability, much like the Church Lady on  SNL’s ‘Church Chat’.

The last name city council members want to see on the “speaker’s list” is Jim Hall, which happens to be the first name Watchdog wants to see on the “speaker’s list”.

Jun 162019

Before an election, candidates tend to play it safe, and refrain from saying anything silly. Most of their positions and comments are ‘vanilla’ in nature. After the election, the winners tend to disengage the ‘think-before-you-speak’ option and make some silly comments as did re-elected councilwoman Patty Gustin during the last council meeting.

The agenda item pertained to an ordinance involving tattoo businesses. Watch and listen as Gustin shares an intense bit of wisdom from personal experience:

Wow, that clarified the issue.

Later, on the same subject, she again added a gem of wisdom:

Again, a brilliant observation by Gustin, “anybody can sue anybody for anything” including the city getting sued by anybody for anything. After the comment, council members squirmed in unison, in their seats. Just what city officials want to broadcast, ‘anybody can sue the city’.

The winning comment for the night, and maybe for the year, if not the decade, came from, of all people, councilman Benny White. Keep in mind, that since White’s election, he has been very careful not to take a misstep, by saying something foolish. However, on this night, White surpassed the demarcation line of silly and foolish, and entered the arena of idiotic and stupid when he made a request to a presenter from North Central College.

The agenda item had to do with the rezoning of property from Little Friends to North Central College (NCC). There were concerns from residents and some council members as to what the college was going to do with the property. NCC did not want to commit to any specific plan until they knew rezoning would occur. It turned into a tug-of-war between ‘tell us the plan’ before we approve rezoning, vs. “approve the rezoning before we tell you the plan”, at which point council Benny White came up with this brilliant request to the NCC presenter:

Imagine what is running thru the mind of the NCC presenter when he hears the request, “what are you not going to be putting there”. He’s probably thinking, “are you kidding me”.

It might be too harsh to say that White’s comment and request was idiotic and stupid, but I can’t think of two better words. I’m sure when the list of things not going to be put there is submitted to the council, it could be rather extensive. It would probably include:

  • No explosive testing
  • No uranium-enrichment facility
  • No heliport
  • No theme park
  • No airport runway
  • No hazmat storage facility
  • No ribfest parking lot
  • No beehives the size of Buicks
  • No Walmart
  • No puppy mill
  • No drive-in movie theatre
  • No kissing booth (maybe)

The list could be endless. However if White wants the list, that is what he shall get. Local officials always get what they want. What they don’t want is an unending list of video clips showing silly (and yes stupid) things they have done or said.

Jun 082019

Lawmakers in Springfield are giddy, with their decision to legalize recreational marijuana sales in Illinois. They couldn’t be happier, tripping over each other to get their pictures taken after the vote to free the weed and plant the seed. But now Naperville city officials could be a buzzkill as they consider whether or not the Naperville city council  will opt out approving the retail sales of cannabis.

Naperville city council members Kevin Coyne and Patty Gustin hosted a panel discussion regarding the burning issue. Coyne and Gustin are the ‘odd couple’; one is focused, the other one is discombobulated. The ‘focused’ one’s last name rhymes with ‘coin’ as in quarter, as in ‘quarter-ounce’. The panel discussion was titled, ‘It’s not your mama’s marijuana’. Apparently Coyne’s and Gustin’s mamas were a lot different than my mama. Any money left over in the Watchdog household after paying bills was used for food, and a 10-cent double-stick popsicle on Saturdays.

It’s possible that city officials could give a thumbs-down to selling Ganja in Naperville, which means that folks would have to drive a short distance to a neighboring town to get their fix, but that wouldn’t be a problem for the good folks of Naperville, since a hefty number already do that to buy gas, since Naperville city officials jacked up the sales tax on fuel a few years ago. Family-friendly Napervillians could go for a family outing to the next town over, for a fill-up on gas while stopping for a fill-up of recreational weed. Whatever money saved could be used towards the kids tuition.

However, if city officials decide to allow the sale of marijuana in Naperville, that could be the answer to all the empty store fronts. Think of the possibilities. Naperville city officials would no longer have to be concerned about a string of car washes along Ogden Avenue. It might be a good time to invest in Bic lighters.

Jun 012019

It’s amazing that one day a person can be sitting at home watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, and then a short time later get elected to the city council with a small plurality of a small percentage of registered voters, and find themselves sitting at the dais making voting decisions for hundreds of thousands of dollars effecting Naperville’s population of over 147,000 residents. It’s a little scary when you think about it. Fortunately, five competent council members can trump four incompetents.

The good news is that the Naperville city council is a competent bunch, and far better than recent councils. However do they really know what they are voting for, and more accurately, do they truly understand what each city department does and how it works. Have any of them taken the time to learn the workings of each department.

In one of my previous careers, the CEO of a very successful retail company started out stocking shelves. At a very young age he wanted to understand how each department in the store worked and how it all came together under one roof. He volunteered to come in on his day off and help in each department; merchandising, hard lines, soft lines, health and beauty, grocery, electronics security, management, etc. He worked his way up to become a store team leader, district manger, regional manager, V.P., President, and ultimately Chairman and CEO. He was an outstanding leader because at each level he learned all he could which enabled him to understand how all the dots connected which provided him with a sound foundation to make wise decisions.

It took time to do that, and council members don’t stay around long enough to follow the same path, however they can be in office for four or eight years. Why not invest one day working with each department head, and one day working in the field to get a real taste for what it’s like including:

  • City Manager
  • City Clerk
  • Finance
  • HR
  • Legal
  • Public Utility – Electric
  • Public Utility – Water
  • Public Works
  • TED (Transportation, Engineering, Development)
  • Fire Department
  • Police Department

Council members can look at it as CE (Continuing Education). Many professions require CE to keep current. Shouldn’t council members be current in understanding how their decisions impact the residents of Naperville and city workers. Watchdog suggests Naperville city council members begin with Naperville’s Police Academy (18 hours), and Naperville’s Fire Academy (12 hours). It would also be a show of support for members the Police and Fire Departments, along with other city departments. Council members wouldn’t be ‘spending’ time learning, they would be investing time understanding.

May 252019

My grandsons like to play Wiffle ball in their back yard with their dad and I join in for a few innings. Often the ball gets hit over the fence into an adjoining yard and my son with no effort grabs onto the top of the 6-foot fence and jumps over to get the ball. His strength and endurance amaze me, since even at the peak of my physical shape 50 years ago, I couldn’t do what he does. He’s in top physical condition; he’s a part-time fire fighter (FF) in Barrington and has been for years.

Wanting to learn more about being a FF I decided to participate in Naperville’s Citizen Fire Academy. It’s 12-hours of ‘hands-on’ training over four nights (3 hours per night). It consists of one hour of listening and 11 hours of doing. The first night we had Naperville Fire Department orientation, a tour of the main station (#7) on Aurora Avenue next to the police department, and we were issued our gear (coat, pants, hood, gloves, helmet, and boots) which was worn all during our training and turned in during the last class. Just carrying the gear in a bag to my car was exhausting. Wearing it was just as exhausting. It took me ten minutes just to put my boots on. I suppose it would have been easier if the boots were one or two sizes larger, then I could have done it in eight minutes.

This is a good time to mention that being a FF is not hard work, it’s really, really, really hard work!

Topics we covered included:

  • Hose and ladders (the hose is heavy and the ladders are tall)
  • Search and rescue (walking through a ‘smoke’ filled building in complete darkness)
  • EMS (saving lives without losing your own)
  • Auto Extrication (tearing apart a car, to save someone)
  • Water rescue (throwing out life preservers and remembering to hold on to the other end of the rope)
  • Air pack training (heavy, cumbersome, and challenging to breathe)

Absolutely everything a FF does has a purpose and a ‘best practice’ for doing it. Nothing is left to chance.

Naperville’s Fire Department is one of the Top-3 in the country and one of the best in the world! The NFD is a Legacy Agency, having been accredited every five years since 1997 (1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017).

Some interesting facts about the NFD include:

  • Naperville firefighters train 6,000 hours per month!
  • The response time from getting the call to being at the event is 6 minutes. It takes 1.5 minutes from the time of the call to getting the vehicle out the door, and 4.5 minutes to get to the event. (It took me 10 minutes to get my boots on).
  • Less than 1% of calls are fire related
  • The highest percentage of calls in 2018 were EMS (Emergency medical service)
  • In March of this year, the NFD had a 75% ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation) – meaning they started breathing again, and a 50% survivability rate – meaning they walked out of the hospital. The National average is 20% ROSC and 12% survivability
  • They get about 16,000 calls per year
  • Average about 2 vehicle-injury accidents per day
  • Naperville has 10 fire districts (stations)
  • It is a 202 person department including 10 Captains, 24 Lieutenants, and 152 firefighters, and 16 support staff.
  • FF’s work a cycle of 24-hour shifts with two days off.
  • In 2018 the Top 3 EMS calls by type were falls/traumatic injury, behavioral/psych/overdose, and respiratory distress.
  • The training facility is located on Brookdale Road near Rt. 59 (live fire facility) Station 4.

The FF’s doing our training were doing it on their own time. They could not have been more patient, informative, friendly, committed and knowledgeable. When asked what their most difficult call to go out for is, they all said “anything involving kids”.

If you want to learn so much more about the NFD, I encourage you to attend Citizen Fire Academy training. You can also get a 2018 Naperville Fire Department Annual Report at the NFD headquarters Station 7 on Aurora Avenue. It is filled with a wealth of information about everything the NFD does.

If you are in a grocery store and you happen to see a NFD fire truck, engine, or ambulance parked outside with a few fire fighters inside the store shopping for groceries, know that everything they purchase is on “their own dime”; they pay for and prepare their own meals. A ‘thank you for your service’ would definitely be appreciated by the fine men and women of the Naperville Fire Department. They work hard and smart and they deserve our appreciation.

May 182019

Two friends are driving in opposite directions along a road when they each pass a billboard about the same time. The next day, they meet to play golf and they mention seeing each other the previous day on the road as they passed the billboard. One said the billboard was blue, while the other said it was yellow. Each thinking the other guy was wrong, decided to place a friendly wager, and drove to the billboard. Sure enough it was blue, but then they looked on the other side and it was yellow. Depending upon their perspective, which way they were coming from, they were both right. It happens in politics all the time.

Recently, a reader (BDWeiser, 45-year resident) replied to a Watchdog posting, which was then replied to by another reader (Jim Haselhorst, former Naperville mayoral candidate). Both see things, and mayor Steve Chirico’s leadership from a different perspective. The topics included:

  • Winefest
  • Jaycee Wi-Fi Smart Park
  • Chriskindle Market
  • Old Nichols Library
  • 5th Avenue Development
  • Ribfest
  • SECA funds
  • Last Fling
  • Family members

It all depends upon which side of the ‘billboard’ one is looking towards. The bottom line is that it is possible to disagree with being disagreeable.

Here is a link to the comments  Feel free to join the conversation.