Jul 202011

Wow, where have the gavel pounding, and vitriolic council member comments gone. Why haven’t we heard a council member refer to a staff member’s action as ‘stupid’. Why haven’t we heard a council member demand that staff do a month’s worth of useless research in one day, and give it to that council member the next day so he can let it sit on his desk without looking at it and then say ‘I don’t understand it’.

The Watchdog has been watching the Naperville city council for quite some time and we have been posting since late December 2010, so we have had some time to see changes take place; and the changes have been for the better. A major shift of improvement came after the election when Joe McElroy and Steve Chirico replaced two council members. The council chambers have become civil, and the citizens of Naperville along with Naperville staff are acknowledged with respect and dignity. You sense an atmosphere of more cooperation rather than hostility. Meetings are starting on time, and from where I was sitting, it looked as if the gavel had a slight layer of dust on it, indicating it has not been needed lately. So things are definitely better on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at Naperville city council meetings.

Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues and disagreements about city council decisions. That’s a given, considering the form of government that our country was founded upon; disagreement and questioning authority are healthy as long as it’s done with respect.

There are still hot topics of disagreement between the Naperville city council and a strong knowledgeable base of Naperville citizens. One such difference of opinion is the implementation of the “Naperville Smart Grid Initiative” (NSGI).  For the first time in months, during the Public Forum portion of the July 19 council meeting, there were no speakers on the topic. That does not mean the fine folks opposing this waste of money have given up. On the contrary, they are moving forward and gaining momentum realizing if some group or authority is going to help put the brakes on this fiasco, it will have to approach the Naperville city council from a different angle. The Naperville city council has dug its hole so deep that they couldn’t get out of it even if they wanted to. They are in the same situation that the Titanic was in; too little attention to detail, too little advance preparation, too sure of their decision (even God can’t sink this ship), and too late to change direction. Just as Captain Edward Smith’s name is forever linked to the ill-fated Titanic, Councilman Robert Fieseler’s name will be associated as the ‘point person’ for the NSGI debacle.

Other issues will become more evident including the budget crises that the city of Naperville is experiencing. Another noticeable change in the Naperville city council is when agenda topics are discussed that involve expense, the council members are seriously considering alternatives in order to minimize that expense. That’s good.

However, typically they approve the expenditure. That’s not good. At least they are considering options, so it is a step in the right direction.

Another positive change for the Naperville city council is that they are talking less and keeping the meeting moving. Previously they specialized in ‘circular conversations’; agreeing on a premise, then discussing it endlessly over and over and then agreeing on the original premise. Decreasing those circular conversations is a time-safer for those viewing.  However, during last night’s meeting, there was an agenda topic to ‘Ratify emergency treatment for Emerald Ash Borer’ that consumed 30 minutes of discussion resulting in a unanimous vote 9-0 in favor of ratification. You might be able to justify a 30-minute conversation if the vote was 5-4 or 6-3, or maybe even 8-1, but to talk for 30 minutes and then come up with a unanimous decision is a bit much. Juries have deliberated and decided murder trials in less time. The bottom line is that this may not be the best city council that Naperville has ever had, but for all we know, it could be the best of those to follow.

Jul 172011

Quartzsite is a small town in Arizona with a population of 4000 and growing which is far less than Naperville (141,000 and decreasing) yet both towns are the same size with 36 square miles. What is happening in Quartzsite is not happening here ‘yet’, but it could if the citizens of our fine city fail to remember the famous poem “First they came..” attributed to Martin Niemoller, a Protestant pastor and social activist on January 6, 1946;

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

In our city we are not talking about Nazis, communists, social democrats, trade unionists, etc., however we are talking about local government in the form of the Naperville city council and recent and current events which are concerning at best and out of control at worst including:

  • Excessive water rate increases,
  • Special sessions held in the day (rather than the evening) preventing most residents from attending,
  • Making it more than difficult for start-up entrepreneurial business to operate, like a guy trying to sell hotdogs from a mobile cart in downtown Naperville, to a young fellow trying to start a designated driving service to help those who have been over-served or anticipate the possibility.
  • Inflicting tax increases upon Naperville citizens (gasoline tax)
  • A council member who’s last name rhymes with ‘Fieseler’ tells a Naperville woman during a council recess that  she is ‘toxic’ and is a ‘ticking time bomb’, and ‘needs to stop speaking out on the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative’ and the only way she could fix this was to publicly retract her statement at the next council meeting and send a written retraction to him so he could send it to his newsletter list of people. He wanted all of this simply because she respectfully voiced her opinion during the open forum portion of a Naperville council meeting.
  • Borrowing millions of dollars, while Naperville is swimming in debt, in part to force the NSGI (Naperville Smart Grid Initiative) upon Naperville citizens.
  • Using the police to ‘break up” citizens’ efforts to secure signatures on petitions to slow or stop the NSGI fiasco.(Kim Bendis letter ‘Police called to stop us from passing out fliers’ Watchdog posting ‘Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic’)

Look at the following two videos and the situations, which lead up to these events in Quartzsite, Arizona.

Now let’s make it perfectly clear, I am not saying we are at the “First they came” point ‘yet’. And I’m not saying we are on the doorstep of “Quartzsite” ‘yet’.  And we have a police force of which we can all be proud.  However I am saying that those Quartzsite-type situations got to that point incrementally, little by little, and that is the direction that some members of the Naperville city council ( Fieseler, Miller, Brodhead and Mayor Pradel) appear to be heading, while others (Krause, Hinterlong, McElroy, and Wehrli) tend to bring common sense and reason to the table more often than not. That leaves newly seated council member Chirico vacillating between the out-of-control group and the ‘let’s keep our head straight and try to do it right’ group.

We have a fine city that has been ‘built’ by generations of citizens and previous leaders who have chosen to ‘do the right thing’. We can move in that direction, or we can slide towards Quartzsite. That can be answered if, whether or not, we believe in what Benjamin Franklin wrote, “The first responsibility of citizenry is to question authority.”

Apr 012011

The Watchdog’s Choice for City Council is…..

The upcoming election for the Naperville City Council next Tuesday April 5th is an absolutely wonderful opportunity to inject some energy, clear vision, and common sense into the Naperville City Council. Three current members of the council are running for re-election; they include Grant Wehrli, Bob Fieseler and Richard Fustenau. Of those three only Grant Wehrli was selected as one of the top four vote-getters in the Watchdog pre-election vote, coming in third (71%) behind a fair and balanced candidate Patty Gustin (91%), clear-vision candidate Steve Chirico (71%) and ahead of fourth-place finisher common-sense candidate Charlie Schneider.

We support the results of the pre-election vote and enthusiastically endorse Patty Gustin and Steve Chirico, along with an optimistic endorsement of Charlie Schneider, and a guardedly optimistic endorsement for Grant Wehrli.

Patty Gustin can bring a wealth of knowledge about the inner workings of government to the council along with a high level of intellectual energy. She appears to be fair and balanced and has the ability to take a step ‘back’ for a more clear view and understanding of issues. Her openness and responsiveness is inviting and overall would bring an abundance of fresh air to the council chambers with regard to accountability and trust.

Steve Chirico presents a clear perspective and ability to grasp the complexity of challenges facing the city of Naperville as it grows. This was clearly seen during the recently held forums. His strong communication skills and strategic thinking ability along with his bias to drive change would help fuel the Naperville City Council to move in a positive direction.

Charlie Schneider comes across as a man of few words and a strong partiality towards common sense. Both of these traits are sorely lacking in the current Naperville City Council. He’s going to make his point straight, without getting involved in circular dialogues. Having Charlie Schneider on the Naperville City Council would most assuredly make the meetings shorter and most likely more understandable. He was also instrumental in placing the City Council term limits and districting referendums on the November 2010 ballot.

Grant Wehrli, the lone incumbent to be endorsed by Watchdog, is a no-nonsense Councilman. He has no tolerance for silliness and keeps things moving along. He is typically the only Councilman ready to start meetings on time and is often seen seated ready to rock’n’roll while his fellow council members come sauntering in ‘glad-handing’ towards their seat. He exhibits one characteristic richly lacking in his counterparts on the council and that’s his courage to voice unpopular positions on issues. His ability to manage performance and execution is also evident at Naperville Council meetings.

Occasionally he has filled in for the Mayor, and his propensity to pound the gavel appears to give him great satisfaction.

It should be noted that two incumbent councilmen did not receive Watchdog endorsement; Bob Fieseler (30% approval) and Richard Furstenau (11% approval).

The absolute simple bottom-line with regard to Councilman Richard Furstenau is that he must go. He presents himself as the shining light of fiscal conservatism, however he burdened Naperville taxpayers with court actions that completely drown out his words of being expense and budget conscious. When actions don’t match words, that’s a Watchdog endorsement deal-breaker.

Councilman Bob Fieseler brings many good characteristics to the Naperville City Council; however it only takes a few major mis-steps to negate whatever good has been accomplished.

There is a saying that goes like this, “I am 10% of what happens to me, and 90% how I respond to it.” I dare say that those receiving endorsements from the Watchdog are familiar with this saying, while incumbents not receiving Watchdog endorsements have no clue what it means.