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.”