Aug 052011

Naperville is a city of entitlement. The very thing that has caused so much misery to so many is the very thing that the Naperville city council seeks… unhealthy dependence upon the Federal government. In a sense, the Naperville city council is a panel of puppets with strings controlled by Federal agencies such has the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) among others.

Watch and listen to this fascinating exchange between members of the Naperville city council and City Manager Doug Krieger as they discuss the hiring of a CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) administrator. If you look closely, you can almost see the Federal government entitlement-puppet-strings attached to City Manager Doug Krieger as if they were a badge of honor as he explains why the city needs to dance to the Fed’s music. Council member Doug Krause asks a great question to the city manager which he can’t answer (How much is this consultant going to cost us?). Council member Grant Wehrli follows with an excellent observation in the form of a question implying the absurdity of the situation. Council member Joe McElroy adds his gift of saying so much in so few words, by ‘telling it like it is’. Finally, city manager Doug Krieger admits Naperville is a city of entitlement.

Nowhere is it more evident that the Naperville city council is a city of entitlement than in the ongoing failure of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative. The Naperville city council has made a colossal error in judgment by buying into the ill-conceived entitlement grab from the Department of Energy. In the council’s rush to grab money from the Federal government they lost all better judgment and common sense. Here is what we know for sure:

  • Other cities have said ‘no’ to the Smart Grid Initiative.
  • Cities that said ‘yes’ have changed to ‘no’ to a Smart Grid Initiative. They realized the folly of their thinking and wisely changed their mind.
  • The city of Naperville is swimming in debt; why take on more debt.
  • We do not have the money to waste on this needless unproven technology.
  • The first light bulb cost more than today’s light bulb. The same holds true for the smart grid technology. Why pay more now, than less later.
  • Naperville citizens are now burdened for millions of dollars of additional debt for this NSGI fiasco.
  • What we have now is working with more than 99% efficiency; why fix what isn’t broken?
  • The World Health Organization does not endorse the safety of the Smart Grid.
  • The Smart Grid has not yet proven to be safe
  • We can already monitor our own use of energy; we do not need the Naperville city council doing that for us. It’s known as the on/off switch.
  • The Naperville city council says our privacy is protected. Hackers have proven otherwise elsewhere including the hacking of CIA and FBI. The edge goes to the hackers on this one. The citizens of Naperville lose.
  • City government leaders have said ‘the system is secure’. That’s reassuring.  What could possibly go wrong?
  • The city said it would have contractual problems if it pulled out of the project. That is like a surgeon saying to a healthy patient “I’m already here, so let’s proceed with dangerous and needless surgery.

The apparent point-person for this huge Naperville Smart Grid Initiative mess is council member Bob Fieseler. If there ever was a Naperville city council member ‘appendix’, Bob Fieseler is that person. Just like an appendix, we are not sure what it’s good for, and why it’s there, but when it goes bad, it really goes bad.

There is a form of entitlement that the citizens of Naperville need. They are entitled to have representation in the form of strong leadership from each and every member of the Naperville city council. Naperville citizens are entitled to a city council that spends tax dollars wisely, bases decisions on what is best for its constituency, and demonstrates wisdom and accountability. When there is a weak link on the city council, it needs to be removed just as a bad appendix. The citizens of Naperville can perform surgery at election time.

Feb 182011

The Tuesday February 15th City Council meeting had some interesting moments including Councilman Boyajian thinking it was Roll Call, when in fact his name was called for a vote. Another Boyajian moment came when he did a quick beat down on a city staff member by saying, “You really screwed up”. Even better than that was when Councilman Furstenau said he drove by Scott Huber’s tent on Ogden and mentioned “It looks like a pretty big house to me.” However the best one-liner of the night was from Grant Wehrli when he stated, “I’ve heard nothing but silence from the Cemetery people”.

One topic on the agenda was whether or not to authorize the City Manager to recruit externally and fill a vacancy for an equipment operator. Councilman Furstenau voted ‘no’ and stated, “What we can do with 45 people we can do with 44”. Wouldn’t that same logic work with Council members? What we can do with 8 we can do with 7.

The main event of the evening focused on the Smart Grid bill of rights, which deals with the rights of Naperville citizens regarding information and options concerning the new system. A number of speakers each presented their 3 minutes worth of concerns to the Council. Watching the Council during this time you couldn’t help but to think they have already made up their minds and this combined 30 to 45 minutes of presentation was an exercise in futility. Some on the Council looked bored, others had little if any eye contact with the speakers, and a few looked restless. To the credit of the citizen-presenters, they made some outstanding points including middle school principal Dave Bendis and citizen Lisa Rooney.
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So why exactly, with all this controversy about Smart Grid, does the City Council want to move this project forward. Here is what the City has on their website regarding the Smart Grid:

“The city had planned on fully implementing smart grid technology over the next ten to fifteen years with a projected cost of more than $22 million. The first installment of this project had originally been budgeted through the five-year Capital Improvement Plan at $8.4 million for the initial phase of the project.

Naperville was the only municipality in the State of Illinois selected for a Smart Grid Investment Grant by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and was selected from more than 500 applicants. Since the DOE awarded the city an $11 million matching grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which requires the entire smart grid to be installed and completed within three years…”

So originally the City had planned to fully implement this grid in “10 to 15 years”, but now they are required by Federal guidelines to complete this within THREE years. What’s the rush? Well as you can see the Federal government is funding half the project ($11 million) with Naperville matching that amount; that’s the rush. So the City is willing to rush the job in order to spend less for a service that they don’t even know if it will work, for a total dollar amount that they don’t know for sure, and with results that they hope will happen. Fellow citizens, if this is the legacy that this City Council is willing to ‘hang their reputation on’ then they are living on thin ice and bringing the rest of us along for an adventure we don’t want or need. We don’t need to be the ‘first kid on the block with a new untested pogo stick’ just because our parents can buy it at half-price.

Take a look at this excerpt from an August 16, 2010 article by Peter Asmus titled “How to Avoid Consumer Revolt on Smart Grid Technology”,

“In the San Francisco Bay Area, several communities – the most recent being Fairfax in Marin County – have successfully stopped Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) from installing smart meters pending further evaluations about accuracy, security and public health.

Some market participants estimated that roll-outs of “virtual power plants” based on demand response (DR) programs could likely be delayed by one year until these consumer resistance issues are worked out.”

When we have City Manager Doug Krieger making a bold statement by saying he ‘guarantees it is not a health concern” and that health concerns for Naperville Citizens are trumped by ‘cost prohibitive’ options, then we do have reason for more than concern. And  when we have a Councilman (Wehrli) stating “Well they must be safe because the Federal Government says they are.”,  then we have a major concern.  When we have a City Council that votes in essence for the ‘Board or Directors for the Naperville Electric Utility’  because they are one-in-the-same, then we have a classic conflict of interest, with the interest of our citizens health concerns being low priority by our City Council.

I am reminded of the Universal Epitaph, which can be used on any headstone, “At the time, I thought it was a good idea.”.  Well the City Council thinks this is a good idea, and it might be, but not at this time.

Part of the City Mission Statement for the Smart Grid Initiative states, “empowers customers to control energy use”, isn’t this something we already have; it’s called an “on and off” switch’.