Aug 202011
 

It’s not often that you can get a panel of 11 people consisting of politicians, lawyers, and government bureaucrats including the Naperville city council to ‘freeze’ and become speechless for what seemed like an hour, but that’s exactly what Naperville citizen and Smart Meter Awareness Group member Joanne St Ives did at last Tuesday’s city council meeting when she asked a simple straight forward question. In fact, the only audible sound you could hear was the hyperventilating of council member Bob Fieseler while the others sat in frozen silence. It was not until citizen St Ives asked again for an answer that the deafening silence was broken. Watch and listen as Joanne makes her less than three-minute right-on-target presentation to the Naperville city council with her question coming at the end that freezes the entire council.

The city council’s consternation comes from the fact that it is very difficult to argue against the truth and common sense. Now typically politicians, lawyers and government bureaucrats are very adept at speaking without making sense and chances are that most of them own many pairs of tap-dancing shoes. The more they dance around issues, the more shoes they need. And when it comes to the topic of the Naperville not-so Smart Grid Initiative, there is a whole lot of tap-dancing going on.

Now to be fair, there is one council member (Doug Krause) who represents the voice of reason on the Naperville city council by truly considering the best interests of Naperville citizens. Watch and listen as he addresses his peers.

Balancing out council member Krause’s concerns for his constituency is the power play of council member Bob Fieseler who basically states that ‘come hell or high water’ the citizens of Naperville are going to get these (not-so) Smart Meters whether they want them or not.

Then council member Fieseler follows up with this brilliant observation about the unimportance of paying attention to detail.

Apparently, Fieseler takes the same stance that the person in charge of making sure the Titanic had binoculars for the crows nest did; why pay attention to detail, what could possibly go wrong; forget the details, let’s just get this ship moving.  Keep in mind that council member Fieseler who downplays the importance of detail is the same person who appears to be the ‘front person’ for this not-so Smart Grid Initiative debacle.

On a separate but related note, Kim Bendis, another member of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group, wrote a detailed letter dated June 13 to city manager Doug Krieger listing and asking for answers to a series of thoughtful and important questions regarding the NSGI to which the city manager responded one month later. One question was “Is there anyone on the city staff or city council who personally, professionally or politically is benefiting from the NSGI project?” In other words is there any conflict of interest. That sounds like a respectful, fair, and reasonable question that any citizen has a right, if not an obligation to ask. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “the first responsibility of any citizen is to question authority”.  For the most part the Naperville city council does an outstanding job of avoiding any semblance of conflict of interest. To this, each of the nine council members should be commended and applauded. Interestingly, it was the only question that was not answered either directly, or with the aid of tap-dancing shoes.

Aug 122011
 

Between June 22 and August 15, the Naperville city council will have conducted one city council meeting (July 19). That is one meeting during a span of 55 days or nearly two months. Based on that, you would think that the city of Naperville has no issues. There apparently is no sense of urgency on the part of the Naperville city council members to get anything done. If the city of Dayton, Ohio with slightly more population as Naperville can get more work done by four council members than Naperville can do with nine, maybe we need fewer council members.

Are they aware of the fact or do they care that the city of Naperville is swimming in debt. Obviously not, in fact prior to their almost two-month sabbatical they passed an ordinance authorizing a delegated sale of general obligation bonds for an amount up to $19 million. A substantial portion of that additional debt is earmarked for the Naperville ‘not so’ Smart Grid Initiative; which is a colossal waste of money by the Naperville city council. If a committee of executives for a major corporation made this atrocious decision, the board of directors would fire the entire bunch. If members of the Naperville city council managed their businesses as they manage city affairs, they would bankrupt their business.

If two city council meetings per month are too taxing for the council members, maybe they should consider taxing the citizens of Naperville less.  In addition to Naperville’s financial woes and the ongoing NSGI debacle, the Naperville city council has done absolutely nothing with the formation of districts or wards and implementation of term limits. What are they waiting for? Do they think the voters will forget the landslide vote favoring term limits and the creation of wards? Though most council members might be clueless about what to do, most Naperville voters are cognizant of what needs to be done. It is time for the Naperville city council to do what they were elected to do, and that is to do the ‘peoples’ business in a responsible and honorable manner. It is time for the Naperville city council to pick up the pace. Just as there is ‘no crying in baseball’, there should be no time off from council meetings for Naperville city council members until the work is finished.

Jul 282011
 

The majority of Naperville city council specializes in being penny conscious and dollar foolish. The city is swimming in debt and rather than looking for some good footing and heading to shore the Naperville city council decides to strap on lead vests to its citizens and have them swim further out by approving a $19 million bond obligation to be used in part to fund an absolutely unnecessary fiasco called the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative. The majority of the Naperville city council appear incapable of saying ‘no’ to additional expense.

It’s encouraging to see a council member (Doug Krause) come to the dais with solutions and firm positions on issues. One such issue is filling open positions with full time employees. Councilman Krause’s solution is to hire part-time employees rather than full time employees which addresses three opportunities; 1) it costs less to hire part-time (employee benefits are not offered), 2) staff employees for the City of Naperville need some help with the increasing workload, and 3) this creates a pool of talent from which to choose when the economy improves and full time positions become available.

Councilman Bob Fieseler looks at the issue from a different perspective. His answer is to continue dropping additional workloads on city employees because somehow magically the work appears to be getting completed. Look at the following videos from the July 19 Naperville city council meeting.

Therefore, the question to council member Fieseler would be “How hard can you run a horse before it drops?” Based on councilman Fieseler’s solution to the problem (make the staff work harder), here are a couple of ideas that councilman Fieseler may want to consider to demonstrate solid leadership on his part and setting a good example.

Suggestion one. The city of Naperville currently has 909 employees, which is down from its high of 1070 employees. So that’s about 85% doing 100% of the work. If councilman Fieseler volunteered to step out of the council and forfeit his salary and benefits for austerity reasons and setting a good example of fiduciary responsibility, we would have 88% of the council members doing 100% of the work. This is doable. Cities of comparable population (Dayton, Ohio, Hollywood, Florida, Ft. Collins, Colorado, and Pasadena, California) have as few as half as many council members (4) as Naperville has, and those cities are not wasting money on not-so Smart Grid Initiatives.

Suggestion two. If councilman Fieseler does not want to be the one to ‘step away’, he could volunteer another council member (or maybe two) and then take on their workload.

I’m guessing somehow magically he could get the workload done too, just as the city staff  that he referred to is getting it done. Then the question becomes, “How hard can you run a city council member before he drops

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.”

Jul 092011
 

If Naperville was a corporation, and the city council was the board of directors, the corporation would be heading towards bankruptcy, and the board of directors would be replaced. It’s amazing how much time and effort is spent by the Naperville city council on minutia and how little time, and effort is invested in addressing major financial and leadership issues.

The city of Naperville is swimming in debt and the water level is quickly rising. In an effort to improve Naperville’s financial woes the city council is considering doubling pet license fees and hiking parking fines to help offset, in part, their ordinance authorizing a delegated sale of general obligation bonds for an amount not to exceed $19 million of which $6 million is directed towards the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative fiasco. The actions and decisions of the Naperville city council would be comparable to the crew of the Titanic rearranging the deck chairs prior to sinking. Rather than pulling the plug on needless expense (NSGI fiasco), they are taking on more water ($19 milllion)

The Naperville city council’s logic is tilted sideways. For example, City Manager Doug Krieger recommends the parking fines be increased because in fiscal year 2011 parking fines are projected to bring in $262,000, which exceeds the $355,000 spent annually on Community Service Officers who write the tickets. Does it ever cross their minds that rather than increasing fines to meet the expense, they could reduce the expense by eliminating community service officers and related department expenses that are incurred? The Naperville city council’s first thought is to take dollars from the citizens of Naperville, rather exercising their fiduciary responsibility and cutting expense.

The Naperville city council’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases that Ronald Reagan quoted about government in 1986,

“If it moves tax it (Naperville citizens).

If it keeps moving, regulate it. (Naperville business)

If it stops moving, subsidize it.” (SECA)

As Civil Libertarian P.J. O’Rourke said, ‘Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys” Giving more money to the Naperville city council in the form of higher taxes and fines, and giving power to the Naperville city council in the form of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative fiasco is not a sustainable solution to the council’s mis-management.

It’s time for members of the city council to join councilman Doug Krause by stepping up to the challenge of demonstrating courage and supporting the citizens of Naperville. While councilmen Fieseler and Miller, along with Mayor Pradel are rearranging deck chairs, there is still a chance for the majority of the council to join councilman Doug Krause and steer the ship in the right direction.

Jul 052011
 

The Naperville city council is intensifying its effort to force-feed the citizens of Naperville with a diet of unproven technology they do not understand, want or need. The technology in question is the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative (NSGI), which is in itself a misnomer. The Naperville city council is pulling no punches in inflicting this fiasco upon the citizens of Naperville.

No amount of public outcry, information or facts will detour them implementing this waste of public funds and heap additional debt upon the citizens of Naperville. The Naperville city council professes to want the citizens of Naperville to fully understand this ‘initiative’ however they make no effort to allow citizens to disseminate information. In fact, as you will see from the letter below written by Naperville citizen Kim Bendis, the Naperville city council is making every effort to keep a lid on citizen involvement. Make no mistake about it; the Naperville city councils determination to ram the NSGI down the throats of its citizens is no less  resolute than General Sherman’s march upon Atlanta. The Naperville city council is hell-bent on implementing the NSGI, just as a heroin addict is fanatical in obtaining drugs.

 

From: Kim Bendis <queenbendis@att.net>
Date: July 3, 2011 4:20:

Subject: Police called to stop us from passing out fliers, why?

Hi All,

Yesterday afternoon before getting a manicure, buying some gifts, and attending a fabulous birthday party with box seats to Styx at rib fest (Mayor Pradel showed up as a surprise for the birthday boy), some friends and I decided to pass out some fliers and get some signatures for the petition at the Neuqua Valley H.S. shuttle site.  I arrived about 1:15 pm, with the two others arriving around 12:30 pm. At 1:55 pm an officer on a motorcycle said that he had gotten a call from someone from the district asking that we not pass out fliers.  Puzzled I asked if there were any complaints about our interaction with people etc., he said no, just that someone from rib fest had called him and asked us to leave.  Not wanting to cause a scene and feeling a bit sheepish b/c this was the first time that I had ever been involved on the “other side of the law” (besides the once in a blue moon traffic ticket) we were very polite with Officer L.H. and agreed to leave even though we didn’t understand what we had done wrong.  We were not accosting anyone, paid our taxes to district 203, and were just practicing our right to free speech.  We didn’t understand what the big deal was.  Office L.H. said that since Neuqua was private property we needed to clear it with the district before proceeding just as the organizers of rib fest had done.  I told the officer, “Okay, I guess that makes sense, but would he have been called if we had told the rib fest volunteers that we were passing out free bottled water to anyone using the shuttle?”  I doubt it!  Before leaving, I went over and talked with the 2 people who were rib fest volunteers and asked if they had called the police and apologized if we had offended them in any way.  The woman said that she was not offended; she just said that all the rib fest volunteers had been “warned” that there might be people wanting to pass out fliers and petitions regarding the smart grid and they were instructed to call the directors of rib fest who would then call the police.  So this is my question…. if the city is so confident about their decision to install wireless smart meters on every home, school, church and business and sure of their claims that they will save us money, will secure our privacy and protect us from unwanted health hazards, why would they care if a few “uninformed” residents passed out fliers and petitions?

I am even more committed to empower our friends, families and neighbors to ask “smart” questions regarding the city’s smart meter installation.  I know that this isn’t the easy or popular side of the debate to fall on, however there’s too much evidence and current national case studies to ignore the fact that this city wide roll out of wireless smart meters is not a “smart” idea! We live in an era where our past is affecting our present and future.  Because of advocates within the food, plastic, environmental and business arenas the trend towards organic, BPA free, Climate Change and Fair Trade concepts are powerfully emerging.  The same push needs to occur within the power (utility) industry.  The City of Naperville is not allowing for residents to be fully informed, otherwise there would not be the need for an ambassadorship program or in the city’s PR firm’s own words (p. 14) “the need to quell dissension”.  We are compiling a list of volunteers to  pass out literature and sign the petition asking our city council to stop installation until Naperville residents have had the opportunity to weigh in on the issue.  This issue is crossing generational as well as political lines.  Representatives from the Democratic, Republican and Tea Party are all sending out e-blasts!  We need 3000 signatures ASAP before the city-wide installation begins September 1st.  The city claims that they have “not heard from enough residents to stop the project.”   Consider using your social network to spread this e-mail and become involved in the future of our city.

I was recently interviewed for the TribLocal  http://triblocal.com/naperville/2011/06/17/city-looking-for-smart-grid-volunteer-ambassadors/ and stated that we are advocating for our city to be educated and informed residents surrounding this issue rather than passive recipients of an intentional marketing strategy (the “ambassordorship program” is a marketing strategy found on p. 19 of the PR firm’s contract).   The debate continues b/c to date the city has been unable to answer questions surrounding 1) Financial Viability– Return on Investment (ROI) and Quantitative Societal Benefits fail to be seen in reality.  According to the city’s own budget our existing analog meters are 99.95% accurate, so why go into millions of dollars in debt when what we have works and doesn’t pose these risks? 2) Security/Privacy: with Citibank, Google, Lockhead Martin, iPhone4 etc. all getting hacked and PIKE, Symantec and the GAO all warning  that end-to-end encryption is not happening and that the Smart Grid is vulnerable to cyber-attacks why not wait until these issues mitigated? 3) Health: with the WHO coming out in May saying that wireless technology is a contributing factor to cancer along with scientists such as Dr. Myron Wentz (best selling author The Healthy Home, benefactor to Wentz Auditorium on NCC’s campus and Albert Einstein recipient for his humanitarian & scientific discoveries) have all stated that the cumulative affect of RF and EMF radiation is harmful over time.  Finally, with cities around the country (real time case studies) placing moratoriums against smart meters (46 cities in CA, and the States of  ME, HI, CT) why would Naperville residents want to be part of a national science experiment and first adopters of a program that is proving to be flawed throughout the country?

If you are willing to pass out petitions, host a casual conversations meeting, or volunteer in another way e-mail me at queenbendis@att.net.  The first meeting that we held at Grace United Methodist last week was well received with 60 people in attendance (along with Councilman Bob Fieseler, chair of the smart grid committee and Councilman Krause) and 40 new people signing the petition.  We want to reach the goal of 3,000 people signing the petition by August 4th, 2011 before the full scale roll-out of the smart meters begins in September.  Please join us in our effort to keep Naperville safe, secure and a leader in our nation as a family friendly community while also leading the way towards an eco-friendly future! Go to www.NapervilleSmartMeterAwareness.org for more info. and an on-line petition.

Thanks for your support,

Kim Bendis

 

 

Jun 182011
 

Illinois State Senator Dan Duffy (R-26th District, Lake Barrington) was recently interviewed for an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  The article below describes nepotism in the Illinois state government.  The watchdog questions that since this is happening on the federal and state levels, could this be happening on the local level in Naperville.

Why do candidates run for office in the Naperville city council? Why are decisions made to spend millions of dollars for dubious projects? Why are decisions made that make absolutely no sense to those who are directly affected by those decisions? Who benefits from those ‘makes-no-sense’ decisions? The classic line from the 1976 movie “All the Presidents men” might be part of the answer to some of those questions…. “Follow the money.”

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_ef2781a0-4e74-5831-bc8f-6ea572e5720f.html

May 202011
 

It’s been said that one person with courage and perseverance makes a majority, however this was not the case in Tuesday’s Naperville city council meeting when councilman Doug Krause was out voted by a margin of 8 to 1 on the issue of authorizing the city manager to recruit externally and fill one vacant transportation project manager and a public information coordinator.

Naperville Finance Director Karen DeAngelis forecast that the municipal deficit will approach $700,000 for the 2011/2012 year, and could reach $26 million by the year 2016. This is diametrically opposed to Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger’s comment that he is “confident” the 2012 fiscal year budget will be balanced. Somebody has this one wrong. If this were a horse race, I would put my money on the finance director that she has it right.

This is serious folks. These are not idle words; they are solemn words of warning. Yet the Naperville city council repeatedly appears to ignore the ominous ‘iceberg’ that lies ahead.

Some may argue that the council is composed of optimists or romanticists thinking that things will be OK in the near future. Maybe the Naperville city slogan should be “What could possibly go wrong” though I am not sure that would parallel their ‘oath’ to practice fiduciary responsibility. Maybe that’s the problem; eight of the Naperville city council members think they are practicing, while one (Councilman Doug Kruase) knows this is the real thing. This is not dress rehearsal, this is show time. It’s time to turn the wheel to avoid the iceberg and continue to cut expenses when and where they can.

To make the situation even more dire is the fact that state officials are talking about reducing or eliminating the local share of state income tax revenue it collects and shares with local municipalities including Naperville. Leaders from municipalities throughout Illinois have been to Springfield to voice their opposition and lobby for their cities to receive their fare share of those funds. When we contacted the mayor’s office to see what Naperville has done to ‘fight’ for those dollars, the answer was ‘we sent a letter’. Are you kidding me, the City of Naperville spent 44 cents and sent a letter. I suppose that’s an example of being expense conscious, but that’s like the owners of the Titanic not spending a couple of bucks for a set of binoculars.

Councilman Krause has it right. Watch and listen to his comment regarding his quest and awareness for cutting expense.

Newly elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel presented a four-point litmus test to the Chicago city council regarding the city budget and expense.

  • Can we afford it?
  • Is it worth it?
  • Do we need it?
  • Can we do it better?

Councilman Krause gets it. Maybe the other eight members of the Naperville city council need to either listen to their big city brother 35 miles to the east of Naperville or listen to Councilman Krause a few seats to the right of Mayor Pradel.

?