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.

Jun 122011
 

So what exactly is ‘it’ that the Naperville city council wants? Well ‘it’ represents anything and everything they want. If they want to delay devising a district or ward map, they delay ‘it’. If they want to add a gas tax, they do ‘it’. If they create codes like there is no end in sight, they do ‘it’. If they know no one is watching, or nobody can stop them, they take delight in ramming ‘it’ down our throats. ‘It’ makes absolutely no difference to them what’s best for the citizens of Naperville; they choose to do what’s best for them.

The most recent and ongoing ‘it’ is the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative and the instillation of wireless meters to all citizens of Naperville. Like it or not the citizens of Naperville are going to be ‘forced’ to accept these unwanted meters. The Naperville city council would take issue with the word ‘forced’ but let’s call it what it is; in this case, the ‘it’ is forced. For months, groups such as the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group have presented facts and information in front of the city council, only to be chastised, ridiculed, and ignored.

For a while, the Naperville city council was dancing around the issue and leading citizens to believe they may have a chance of stopping this run-away train. One presenter in particular (Jim Rooney in the posting titled ‘Naperville city council saved by the bell’) had the city council, all nine of them, on the ropes, when he forcefully yet respectfully presented facts and posed questions they could not answer. It was a classic example of how one person backed by the truth and courage, can make others relying on hidden agendas to cower under the glaring eyes of the public eye.

There is one Naperville city councilman (Doug Krause) who is fighting for the citizens of Naperville to be heard and get a ‘fair shake on the deal’.

He has been on the city council for longer than any of the others and he has seen many free-swinging cowboys come and go on the council and he keeps being re-elected because he takes the job of representing his constituency seriously. However, he is only one of nine council members and more times than not is outvoted on common sense issues and doing what is best for the citizens of Naperville. With regard to the other eight council members and the issue of the ‘Smart Grid’ councilmen Chirico and McElroy are so new they are still trying to remember where they sit at the dais, council member Brodhead is content reading proclamations, Miller is flying under the radar, councilman Hinterlong speaks in common sense that goes over the heads of most of his peers, Wehrli truly thinks this Smart Meter thing makes sense, Mayor Pradel is there for the ride and planning his next ribbon cutting, and then you have councilman Fieseler who has his foot on the accelerator of this initiative with no intention of looking for the brake.

Many Naperville citizens are opposed to the wireless meters because not enough thought and research has been completed to ‘sign-off’ on the installation of these meters. Many others simply prefer the continued use of wired meters. Why use wireless if wired works? What is the purpose of trying to fix something that’s not broken? The government will give all sorts of reasons why we should do it. If the government says it’s good for us, then we should take the medicine right? What could possibly go wrong?

If we use wireless, we can help control our usage of electric. Isn’t that what my ‘on and off’ switch on the wall does? How about this one; we can go online anytime of the day or middle of the night and see how much electric we are using. That sounds like a good use of time. Alternatively, how about this benefit of using the wireless meters; the city can eliminate the meter readers, that sounds like a great idea, put all of them in the unemployment line. The city has spent millions of dollars to save thousands of dollars. Now that sounds consistent with government actions including the Naperville city council.

Here is the real insult to this whole debacle. The Naperville city council wanted and considered approving a Customer Privacy and Advocacy Handbook with no input from the citizens of Naperville. So, the idea was to approve it and then let the citizens of Naperville take a look at it. This sounds a bit familiar. Haven’t we heard this government ploy recently with regard to then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s comment on the National Health Care Plan known as Obamacare.

Finally, to prove that the Naperville city council is more concerned about their needs rather than the needs of their constituency, the Smart Grid Initiative would require that each citizen-user submit their social security number and driver’s license number to the city for what they call identification purposes.

The real reason they want this information is for  collection of delinquent account purposes. So in essence, the City of Naperville is willing to risk the financial security of all of its citizens via personal identity theft, in order to make it easier for them to collect some dollars from some delinquent accounts. The City assures us that this personal information will be guarded; again what could possibly go wrong?

The “good news” from the Naperville city council is that citizens may have the opportunity to ‘opt out’ of using wireless meters. Those citizens will have to most likely cough up some additional dollars to ‘opt out’. My guess is that the City of Naperville will make “it” so financially painful to opt out, that no one will be able to afford to opt out. If the Naperville city council wants it, they take it.

May 112011
 

The citizens of Naperville overwhelmingly approved the formation of district representation for the Naperville city council. Five districts are to be created with one council member elected to represent each of the five districts, while three other council members will provide at-large representation. The citizens of Naperville wanted to have this happen quickly in time for the 2011 election. However if there is one thing that local government and the legal system is extremely adept at doing, it’s making things happen quickly like voting on and raising the water rates immediately, or making things happen slowly like creating a five-district map; which the citizens of Naperville may have within the next four years. Have you ever noticed that if government wants something now, it happens now, yet if the citizens want something, it happens later if at all?

The Naperville City Council is pondering what to do. How can they possibly accomplish this in such little time? A year, two, or more just does not seem like enough time. The anticipated one-word answer by the Naperville City Council is ‘procrastination’; do nothing, then drag it along, and then when the pressure is on give it to a highly paid consulting firm (business partner) for them to solve. Another potential waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Naperville city council needs to incorporate Occam’s razor into their decision making process. Occam’s razor is a scientific and philosophic rule, which states,

“The simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex.”

So here is the first idea. Give the assignment of drawing a district map to a team of students from each local high school. It could be teams of students from debate class, or political science, or business. Get students involved; who knows they may become city council members some day.  Give them the paradigms and a time frame to complete the challenge (a weekend, a week, a month) and give the winning team a $50 gift certificate for a pizza party. They will get the job done quicker, better, and less expensively than using a consulting firm.

Now for the next idea. The Naperville City Council likes to talk about ‘transparency’.

Sometimes they make things so transparent that they can’t even be seen. It makes you wonder if they like it better that way. Take for example the agenda for the Tuesday night city council meetings. Yes, you can dig it out of the city website but that takes time and the website is not exactly user friendly. Why not make it easy for people to see what is on the agenda. Collaborate with the local newspaper (Naperville Sun) and publish it on the Friday or Sunday prior to the meeting. Naperville citizens could see it and decide if an agenda item catches their attention; like the recent topic of raising the water rates by 29%. Now publishing the agenda would take some real courage on the part of the Naperville city council. The question is, do they have the courage to do it. Or, will they stick to their value of “transparency” so that as few as possible see it.

‘Occam’ had a simple idea…” keep it simple”   How simple is that.

May 032011
 

‘That’s right, you read it here.  Let’s dispense with the suspense and give you the bottom line of this posting right now’….that’s  how we started our April 27 posting titled “Naperville has too many city council members” and we stated ‘the Naperville city council has too many council members (eight not including the mayor) for a city of our size (141,000 residents). And we proceeded to support our statement with the numbers of council members from various cities along with comparable populations. Now that’s not what needs to be corrected. What we need to correct is the fact that we said the city of Naperville needs to and can reduce the number of council members from eight to four or five. Now we still believe that would be prudent, however the bottom line fact of the matter is that the laws of the State of Illinois dictate the number of council members a municipality needs to have; it is not a decision that can be made by the citizens or the city council of that municipality with a simple referendum. So even though Naperville was able to pass referendums for term limits and the creation of wards or district representation to replace at-large representation, we don’t have the luxury of reducing the number of council members Naperville has with a referendum.

The first person to bring this to our attention with a considerate email was Councilman Grant Wehrli. We then contacted Naperville city attorney Margo Ely who explained it was her understanding that council number is based on Illinois law, but did not site the specific law.

Providing this information to the city council guard dog, research into the Naperville municipal code (http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=14853&stateId=13&stateName=Illinois) began again.  Naperville municipal code (section 1-5-1 – Powers and functions of the of the Mayor and city council) states “The City Council shall consist of the Mayor and eight (8) Councilmen elected for four-year terms as provided by State law”.  This statement references 65 ILCS 5/5-2-2 that outlines the maximum number of aldermen, when not elected by the minority representation plan.  The second reference 65 ILCS 5/5-2-8 discusses staggered terms and tenure.  When attending seventh grade English class in Naperville I was told that I must site my sources properly.  Had the constructors of this section of the municipal code taken that seventh grade English course as I did, they would have also sited 65 ILCS 5/5-2-12. Please note the screen shots of the Naperville municipal code below.  – City Council Guard Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for a second opinion for confirmation, we also contacted Illinois State Senator Dan Duffy (R-26, Lake Barrington). He responded immediately and asked his administrative assistant (Cindy) to research the topic ‘if Illinois state law limits the number of council members a municipality has on its city council’ and Cindy along with State Senator Dan Duffy confirmed ‘Yes, the council number is restricted by Illinois law.

(65 ILCS 5/5-2-12 subsection (b) determines the number of council members)

In cities of at least 100,000 but not more than 500,000 population, the council shall consist of the mayor and 8 council members.

So Watchdog stands corrected by Naperville city councilman Grant Wehrli, Naperville city attorney Margo Ely, and the office of Illinois State Senator Dan Duffy.

Now with the record set straight, it still begs the questions, how is it that the city councils of Dayton, Ohio, Hollywood, Florida, Ft. Collins, Colorado, and Pasadena, California with comparable populations get the same amount of work done with fewer council members than Naperville? And how is it that the individual council members of Phoenix, Arizona, San Diego, California, and Seattle, Washington can represent so many more residents per council member than those of the Naperville city council? We may have to research elsewhere to get those questions answered.

Apr 262011
 

That’s right, you read it here. Let’s dispense with the suspense and give you the bottom line of this posting right now; the Naperville city council has too many council members for a city of our size (eight not including the mayor). And we’ve got the numbers to support that bold statement.

But before we get into the numbers and open some eyes and hopefully some minds, let’s anticipate some misguided opposition to that statement. Some will say we need 8 city council members because we are growing in population. Well contrary to that sentiment our population has actually declined by about 2% when comparing the last two census figures. Others will say that it’s because we have 8 council members overseeing our ‘success’ that our city has been selected as the best city in the U.S. in which to live. You can lay that one to rest because in the past we were #1, but now we are now #2 within a 10 mile radius of city hall; Bolingbrook has over taken us. Others will say that we need 8 council members because “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Now that may be the lamest excuse of all. We never had term limits and districts for our council members, however because of a few determined citizens and a massive mandate  to vote for term limits and districts we now have them. So it can be done and this is the time to make it happen.

To the happiness and giddiness of city council members and local government, they have been able to delay the will of the people until the election of 2015. That’s three years after the world is scheduled to end. The last thing the city council wants to do (well almost the last thing) is to move quickly when drawing up a map for districts. As Mayor Pradel stated, “We’ve got a while to do this.” Unfortunately the legal system is allowing the Naperville City Council to procrastinate which the city council specializes in.

But listen close folks…..the city council’s propensity for delaying decisions and actions can now work in the favor of the citizens of Naperville by starting a movement to reduce the number of council members. This could be accomplished easily in time for the next election. We will have five districts and we simply need to eliminate the three at-large ‘floating’ Naperville council member positions. As I said earlier the ‘almost’ last thing the city council wants is to do is draw a map for districts and prepare for term limits. Well the ‘real’ last thing the city council wants is to be reduced in size from 8 members to 5 or 6 maximum. If you think drawing a map is difficult for them, just imagine if city council members thought they could be ‘reduced out’ of the city council.

OK let’s take a look at the numbers and specifically compare 8 cities to Naperville.

Since each of the 8 cities plus Naperville has a mayor or president of the city council we have not included that commonality into the numbers. So we are looking at the number of council members alone for each city.

First let’s compare Naperville to cities with comparable populations which include Dayton, Ohio, Hollywood, Florida, Ft. Collins, Colorado, and Pasadena, California.

City State Population # Of Council Members Residents per Councilman
Naperville Illinois 141,000 8 18,000/1
Dayton Ohio 153,000 4
38,000/1 (+211%)
Hollywood Florida 142,000 6
24,000/1 (+33%)
Fort Collins Colorado 139,000 6
23,000/1 (+28%)
Pasadena California 144,000 7
21,000/1 (+17%)

As you can see those cities have from as few as half as many council members (4) to two-thirds as many (6), and one with one less member. The important metric to notice is the number of residents each city council member of that city represents. Each member of the Naperville city council represents 18,000 residents. Now compare that to Dayton, Ohio where each Dayton city council member represents 38,000 residents; that’s more than twice as many as Naperville. The other three cities represent from 21, 000 each in Pasadena, California to 24,000 in Hollywood, Florida. So why is it those other city councils are so much more efficient at getting the job done than Naperville is.

Now let’s compare Naperville with four other cities (Phoenix, San Diego, Detroit, and Seattle) that have a comparable number of city council members (8 or 9). Phoenix, Arizona with a population of 1,446,000 residents has 8 city council members. That equates to 181,000 residents per city council member in Phoenix; that’s ten times more residents per council member than Naperville at 18,000. Apparently the average Phoenix city council member is 10 times better at getting the job done than any of Naperville’s council members. Take a look at San Diego with 8 council members representing a population of 1,300,000 residents which equates to each San Diego council member representing 163,000 residents or 9 times more residents than Naperville’s council member represents. Detroit and Seattle have 9 council members each with populations of about 4 times as many as Naperville.

City State Population Council Members Residents/Council Member
Naperville IL 141,000 8 18,000/1
Phoenix AZ 1,446,000 8 181,000/1 (10 times)
San Diego CA 1,300,000 8 163,000/1 (9 times)
Detroit MI 714,000 9 79,000/1 (4.4 times)
Seattle WA 609,000 9 68,000/1 (3.8 times)

So no matter how you look at it, Naperville has too many city council members. Are other city councils that much more efficient or competent than Naperville is? That sounds reasonable. Is Naperville that much more wasteful than those other cities. That sounds reasonable too. Or maybe Naperville is over represented; isn’t that like being over served in an establishment with a liquor license. If four or five council members can successfully do what it takes 8 to do, then we need to reduce our 8 council members to four or five. Since we are drawing up a district map with 5 districts then 5 council members sounds ideal and in line with what other successful cities are doing throughout the country.

Fewer council members mean more efficiency, shorter meetings, less expense, and the public forum can increase from three minutes for each presenter to five or six minutes.

What better way to represent citizens than to allow them more time to express their concerns. Like we said initially, the bottom line is that the Naperville city council has too many members.

Feb 092011
 

It’s been 100 days since the November 2, 2010 elections when two referendums were overwhelming approved by Naperville citizens; one for term limits for city council members and the Mayor, and the other for ward representation. Has anybody heard anything or seen anything come out of the City Council, local government, or local newspaper regarding this powerful statement from the voters. If anything is happening, it’s moving along at the speed of almost standing still. And if anything is being said, it’s with the sound of deafening silence.

Now consider the fact that the ward or geographic representation referendum passed with an astounding 66% mandate. We are not talking about a slim margin; we are talking about two out of every three voters want local representation and they want it now, not when we are closer to the year 2020 than 2010 when it was voted for by the citizens.

This 66% mandate was surpassed by the 72% landslide vote in favor of the referendum for term limits; nearly three out of every four voters want term limits, and again they want it now rather than years down the road. Isn’t it interesting how the City Council can invest so much time and show the appearance of effort in listening to one local business person regarding a turf war with a homeless guy. The City Council will jump on that topic like ‘white on rice’, but when it comes to a 66% mandate and a 72% landslide, that lingers on and on.

This is an absolute classic example of local leadership not listening to their constituency. It’s almost a misnomer by referring to the City Council, Mayor, and City Manager as local leadership. Let’s call them what they are………politicians; it’s as simple as that.

Leaders lead, they make things happen, the respond to what is needed for those they lead in a timely manner. Politicians are self serving; get in office, and stay in office.

So how did this delay in term limits and local representation happen? Well, to do this let’s start with the Naperville Voter Education League. Bill Eagan was one for the driving forces behind the effort to have Naperville voters decide on term limits and a district or ward type of format. The City Council had to approve including the referendums on the ballot, which of course they did. They probably didn’t like the idea, however how bad would it look for them if they didn’t allow it. The last thing a politician needs is to ‘look bad’. So there they were on the ballot. Did the City Council members believe the referendums would pass? It’s more than doubtful and here’s the proof in Council Furstenau’s words soon after referendum results had started coming in on voting night, , “There is no question that this has caused all kind of concern in the last two hours with the councilmen, and the city (staff), and the City Manager. There’s going to be a lot of chaos.”. So apparently there was no plan in effect if the voters voted in favor of the referendums. This lack of a plan comes as no surprise.  Leaders would have had a plan; however politicians look for excuses to delay the wishes of the voters.

The politicians found their excuse in the court system. Without boring you with the details, the excuse is they don’t have enough time to prepare for term limits and local representation for the 2011 election, but they may have time to prepare a plan by the 2015 election; if not that one, then maybe the one after that one in 2019.

Now here is where it really goes sideways; the staff is waiting for the City Council to give them direction, and the City Council is waiting for the staff to prepare information for considering a direction. In other words, nothing is getting done in a timely fashion.

And if it is getting done, you don’t see it on Tuesday night Council Meeting agendas, and you don’t see in the local newspaper. But if you want to get a blow by blow account of the ongoing battle for turf between a homeless guy and a business person, then it’s available.

If term limits for council members would have started with the 2011 election, the soonest a sitting council member could be subject to a limit would have been 2023. By waiting till 2015 or 2019 that pushes those limit dates to 2027 or 2031. Now we’re beginning to get to numbers similar to the Cubs winning the World Series.