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…..an 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.

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.”

Jun 272011
 

The Naperville city council is hell-bent on pushing the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative forward and they seem to be doing it with what appears to be reckless neglect. So why the rush? Why do they want to push something through that doesn’t need to be fast tracked? There is no emergency. Things are working fine. If something does need to be done, common sense would say let’s explore our options, let’s be prudent and make sure what we are doing is the right thing. It’s almost as if some members of the Naperville city council are steering an out-of-control train loaded with their constituency and only council member Krause is trying to protect the citizens of Naperville by reaching for the brake to slow the train to a safe speed.

At nearly every city council meeting, citizens speak up requesting that the city council use their ‘collective’ heads and slow it down. Watch and listen as Naperville citizen Jeff Perkins addresses the city council regarding the $19 million general obligation bond of which $6 million is earmarked for the NSGI (Naperville Smart Grid Initiative.

Commonwealth Edison had a $63 million pilot program for the Smart Grid and their CEO stated that results showed  ‘it costs too much, we’re not sure what good it will do, we looked at most of the elements of the Smart Grid for 20 years and we’ve never been able to come up with estimates that make it pay’. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan states that the ‘results are disappointing’, and yet all but one of the Naperville city council members want to push forward and saddle our city with additional needless debt. Watch and listen to council member Kenn Miller who seems to think he knows more than Commonwealth Edison and the Attorney general on the topic.

Now watch and listen to council member Doug Krause who repeatedly speaks for the best interests of the citizens of Naperville.

 

Why the rush you ask. We can partly learn this by following the money. The Federal government, through the Department of Energy, is funding approximately half of the expense IF the city of Naperville can rush the project to get the grid in place within a three-year period. In essence, the Naperville city council ‘sold out’ and allowed itself to be ‘bought’ by the Department of Energy for half the dollars of the project if it pushed the Smart Grid Initiative through. Hence, not enough time was factored in for using prudent judgment with regard for the cost of the project, the effectiveness of the grid, and the health safety of the citizens of Naperville.

The Naperville city council is turning our city into a nanny-city by tap-dancing to the music of the Federal Government. The Naperville city council wants to tell us what we already know which is how to control our use of electric which we currently refer to as the ‘off and on’ switch.

It makes you wonder how many cities throughout the country declined to ‘sell out’ to the Department of Energy before the federal government  found an accommodating city council in Naperville.

The next time you see a Naperville city council member other than citizen-friendly Doug Krause, ask him or her “Why the rush”.

And if you happen to hear the sound of ‘tap-dancing shoes’ coming down the street, chances are they belong councilmen Bob Fieseler, Kenn Miller, and Mayor Pradel.

May 062011
 

The economy is down, unemployment is up, Naperville’s population is declining, vacant homes are increasing, and people are struggling to make ends meet and what does the Naperville city council do; they raise the water rate. Now we are not talking about 2% or 5% increase, we are talking about a 29% increase. There is no decimal point between the ‘2’ and the ‘9’.  You are not misreading this. Twenty-nine percent is 29%.  What makes this even more egregious is that when the Naperville city council is given the choice of raising the rate by 29%, 19% or 13%, they choose the 29% rate because it is supposed to make the citizens happier five years from now based on council assumptions. It is another example of the council’s major malfunction of relying on faulty assumptions when making decisions. It is as if the Naperville City Council bases many of their decisions on the following premise, “if everything works out perfect we will be just fine in the future.” What could possibly go wrong with that mind-set? Take look at this exchange between the Director of the Naperville Water Department (Jim Holzapfel) and Councilman Fieseler regarding faulty assumptions and an $8.5 million ‘water’ deficit.

Leadership requires the ability to think critically, and approving a water-rate increase of 29% at this time by a 5 to 4 vote indicates there might be some room for improvement on this leadership dimension within the majority who voted for this outrageous increase

Where is ex-councilman Furstenau when you need him? Even the ‘expense conscious’ ex-councilman Furstenau couldn’t have saved the citizens on this one by voting against the increase because the two new council members Steve Chirico and Joe McElroy also voted against the increase. Both Councilman Chirico and McElroy along with long-standing Councilman Doug Krause, who voted against the 29% increase, made excellent points while discussing water rate increases. Watch and listen to councilmen Krause (the senior prevailing voice of reason on the council), followed by new councilmen Chirico  and  McElroy, who are sensitive to the financial struggles on Naperville citizens:

The bad news is that the 29% water rate increase will take affect next month (June). The good news is that both new council members Steve Chirico and Joe McElroy appear to be Naperville-citizen-friendly. The citizens of Naperville need council members who have the courage to ease the financial burdens that council decisions place upon the citizenry.

It was encouraging to see the first council member seated and ready to do business last Tuesday night was Councilman McElroy. You get the feeling that both McElroy and Councilman Chirico are ready to get to work and ‘right the ship’.

This appears to be in contrast with another council member who was looking for support to take a city council meeting night off in August. Watch and listen to the exchange between Councilman Fieseler and Councilmen Wehrli and Miller

As one resident was heard saying, ‘Hey cowboy, not so fast looking for a night off in August’, when there is so much yet to be accomplished (Smart Grid Initiative, mapping of districts, and ‘righting the ship’)

Mar 212011
 

Part of the Mission Statement for City Council Watchdog is to ‘promote awareness of local issues among Naperville citizen-voters’. Occasionally we need to be ‘set straight’ by our readers. It was pointed out to us that our posting dated March 4 titled ‘Naperville City Council Saved by the Bell’ stated “All ten presenters made compelling points against continuing the Smart Grid project” which would have been correct  if we would have included “without additional research to answer very important health-safety related questions along with privacy issues. So the issue is not that they oppose the smart grid or the meters but rather they oppose the apparent lack of awareness the Naperville City Council used in making their decision to approve the project without full knowledge and satisfactory answers to citizen concerns.

Now what makes this situation all the more interesting is that it comes almost immediately after another evident fiasco involving the Naperville City Council’s ill-advised approval and implementation of the new emergency radio system. Many firefighters and police officers along with a good number of Naperville citizens including Naperville citizen Bill Eagan strongly feel the communication system is littered with fatal flaws.

City Manager Doug Krieger agreed with Eagan that the communication system “is currently not operating at an acceptable level. The safety of our public safety personnel is paramount.” So if ‘safety’ is ‘paramount’ then why was this system implemented and why is the Naperville City Council moving forward albeit in small steps with the Smart Grid initiative since there are health concerns with the project’s technology. Watch and listen to the words of Naperville citizen Jennifer Stahl when she presents the Naperville City Council and City Attorney with an interesting question regarding the Smart Grid project.

Did you notice the deafening sound of silence from the Naperville City Council and City Attorney at the end of her question, or at least the sound of no response to her query?

Getting back to the Emergency Radio System that the Naperville City Council supported and approved, consider the following perceptible fatal flaws: frequent loss of contact with first responders based on ‘dead spots’ within city limits, incoherent transmissions with the digital system and how voices are interpreted, interference with other emergency equipment within the vehicles including sirens and lights and the inability to maintain all-important contact when buildings are entered.

No wonder Naperville citizens have trust issues with the ability of their local leadership in the Naperville City Council to exercise good judgment and critical thinking when it comes to their decision-making skills and talent. Watch and listen to Naperville citizen Lisa Rooney when she accurately and respectfully addresses the Naperville City Council.

If you still have doubts as to whether or not Naperville City Council members use sound and time-tested wisdom, watch and listen to the words of Councilman Bob Fieseler when he loosely considers the comparison the wireless technology of garage door openers with the Smart Grid.

Now that thought process and wisdom might apply if and when the Naperville City Council requires and pays millions of our tax dollars for the installation of garage door openers, but to try to pass that sideways logic off to an enlightened Naperville citizenry is demeaning to the intelligence of our community.

The Emergency Radio System fiasco is a $20 million debacle, followed by millions of tax-payer dollars for the Smart Grid and now, and according to Naperville Finance Director Karen DeAngelis, Naperville is projected to have a general fund deficit of $13.7 million in 2013, $16.8 million in 2014, $19.4 million in 2015, and topping out at $25.9 million in 2016; and part of the Naperville  City Council’s answer to addressing the budget deficit  is to layoff 4 police officers while millions are spent on projects that are flawed or not fully researched.

If it sounds like the Naperville City Council is out of control, then the record is being set straight.