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December 2007 Archives

With the dawn of the new year it's a lot more fun to look ahead than to look back. There's a lot going on in Naperville as these very active blogs have shown. Now, as we face the brave new world of 2008, we'd like to ask you - the Naperville Sun reader - what YOU think will be the biggest story of 2008 to impact the city. You can always blog right here....but there's another one way, too. Just cast your vote in our online poll. You'll find the poll on the home page on the right hand side if you just scroll down a tiny bit. To make it easy we've identified the top five topics or stories that we think are going to be big - really big - in the coming year. You might agree, then, again, you might not. Either way - just cast your ballot (it doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat). And if you think we're wrong and there are other stories that will be bigger, you can always tell us about them right here on the blog. We'll leave the vote up until January 15 so everyone has a chance to participate and then, in a future edition of The Sun, we'll announce the top vote getter. So let's hear it....time to vote or blog. Either way, we'd love to know what you think?

2007 had its share of good guys and bad guys. Sunday’s Sun features the first of a three-page series looking back on the year's top stories. The first segment focuses on stories that a panel of Sun staffers felt were under-reported or over-reported during the year. What do you think of the panel's opinions?

On the heels of the just published three-part Sun interview with Dick Furstenau and his lawyer, Shawn Collins, the city's attorney came in yesterday (12.26) to have a chat with a reporter and an editor. In the first of a two-part series beginning today, Jim Sotos, the man representing Naperville and all the city defendants with the exception of Peter Burchard, has a totally different take on the arrest, lawsuit and censure.
Sotos maintains that Councilman Furstenau did strike Officer Hull and that the allegations Furstenau makes in the lawsuit are false. On the topic of censure, Sotos defended the vote and cited Furstenau's alleged history of verbal abuse of city employees over the course of several years. Everything the attorney representing Naperville and the defendants says stands in stark contrast to what Furstenau and his attorney say. However, there are two things that Sotos agrees with Collins on: The labor-intensive case will run upwards of a million dollars and won't be adjudicated until, probably, 2009. So, we seem to be at a stalemate. I guess it's see you in federal court and oh, about those legal fees? The Naperville taxpayers will ultimately be taking care of those bills. Ideas, anyone.

When Dick Furstenau and his lawyer, Shawn Collins, sat down with a Sun reporter and two editors Friday afternoon for a three-hour interview that was carried in a three-part series, the councilman asked us not to blog that day on his situation. We complied but - now with the interview complete - and available for reading at napersun.com along with a full archive of the Sun's coverage of the lawsuit, it's time to see what Naperville taxpayers think.
After digesting the interview, do you think Councilman Furstenau has been targeted for censure by the highest echelons of the Naperville government because of his differences of opinion with the city's police department?
If so, and if Shawn Collins is right, this whole episode could cost Naperville i.e. the taxpayers "upwards of a million dollars." Or, is Furstenau all wrong in his assertions and is it only right that he was censured? There is one nagging question, though, that comes into play. Just prior to the Council's 8-1 vote for censure, why wasn't Furstenau given the opportunity to address his accusers? Isn't that one of the hallmarks of the democratic process? At any rate, this whole situation seems headed for the long haul . . . all the way to a federal court room in Chicago. Where do you stand now, Napervillians, after hearing Dick Furstenau's side of the story?

The editors and moderators of Potluck wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. While we take a couple days off to enjoy the holidays with our families and friends, we remind you of this other occasion when opposing factions ceased hostilities, if only for a short while:

On Christmas Day 1914, the first Christmas of The Great War, an amazing cessation of hostilities took place in some sections of the British front-line. Below is the account of the truce in the Sailly - Armentiers sector manned by George Anderson, George Gordon, William Milne, Alexander Pirie and their comrades of 6th Btn, The Gordon Highlanders.

Chicago's done it, along with other big cities. Banning cell phones while driving would undoubtedly save lives. I would just hope the city would also make it a crime to apply eyeliner, mascara, lipstick or other makeup while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

Napergate

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In response to a comment by Marybeth posted today, we have a Napergate ad that ran in The Sun.

NOTE: There's more discussion about Napergate where it started in the Free Form Friday thread and in some of the Furstenau threads.

Every so often we like to ask Potluck visitors to suggest what topics you want to discuss. So here's your chance. Tell us what issues you want to talk about.

Bear with us...

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We're having a problem with comment posts. Several posts are coming over as Anonymous, when we know people are attaching names to many of them. We're working on this problem. In the meantime, please include your name as part of the comment field if you desire, or e-mail me at tslowik@scn1.com, tell me the time of your post and how you want your name to appear in the commenter field.

I think the glitch may also be creating a delay in the posting of comments. We do manually review all comments, and while we check for new comments as often as possible, I believe we may not be seeing some comments until some time after they have been posted.

UPDATE: Our Web people assure us they cannot recreate the problem, thus the conclusion is it's human error on your end. Please be sure to fill out the commenter field unless you want your post to appear as anonymous.

Also, you don't have to fill in the e-mail or URL fields in order to post comments.

One thing the Naperville Park District is good at is flying under the radar, politically speaking. Here we are in the midst of a search for a new executive director, plus this week the park board is expected to terminate construction management, architectural and engineering services contracts for the proposed $35 million Frontier Sports Complex Recreation Center, effectively killing that project, for now. Will the rec center ever be built?

Amidst a throng of supporters pleading his case, the City Council enacted the "C" word, as in censure, against their colleague Dick Furstenau at Tuesday night's city council meeting. The vote was 8-1 with Furstenau casting the lone nay vote. It seemed - and this was probably the case - that the vote was pre-ordained from the beginning. The general atmosphere inside the chambers was somber as council members all echoed the same theme, as in "we all have to do better" before coming down on one of their own. What was also noteworthy is that Furstenau was praised by his peers for the job he does on the Council but, apparently, not for the way he does it. So,where do we go from here? Will it be business as usual as we move forward, or will hard feelings come to the fore, especially in light of Furstenau's civil rights lawsuit that now hangs like a dark cloud over Naperville, even on that rare sunny day. The only person that did okay last night - really more than just okay - wasn't even in the room. That's former city manager Peter Burchard after the Council okayed a severance package that gives him $32,000 in cash, forgiveness on a $50,000 loan and medical coverage through June of next year. Not a bad deal, since Burchard voluntarily quit, which ususally - but not in this case - takes severance off the table. Thoughts, anyone.

From the active discussion on the last post about Naperville School District 203's upcoming bond issue referendum, it became clear that a lot of people have different reasons about how they'll vote on the February tax-increase question. What's your's?

Road warriors

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Tuesday's Sun features a story about the status of construction along Plainfield-Naperville Road between 95th and 111th streets, a nasty stretch of road in case you haven't driven it lately. What other construction or congestion hot spots around town should people know about?

On Tuesday night Naperville's City Council is expected to consider a motion to formally censure Councilman Richard Furstenau. If council members decide to censure their colleague, do you think he would sue them?

The results of The Sun's second-annual Most Famous Person from Naperville poll are in, and author Susan Elizabeth Phillips picks up this year's crown. We offered 12 nominees, but there were more names we could have included. Who did we leave out?

Another shoe dropped yesterday in the case of Councilman Dick Furstenau vs. the City of Naperville with new defendants being named in his violation of civil rights federal lawsuit against the city. The three new defendants are: former city manager Peter Burchard, city attorney Margo Ely and Naperville police officer Joe Matchett. Along with the names come additional allegations. Furstenau alleges events have taken place since the complaint was filed that include: threats made to local business people supportive of Furstenau, who have been told that if they do not drop their support of him, their business projects will not be approved by the City Council; letters released to the media and public falsely accusing Furstenau of misconduct, including hitting a Naperville police officer and, finally, repeated violations of the Open Meetings Act - including an illegal executive session held Dec. 4 - in which an unlawful censure resolution against Furstenau was drafted and discussed.
This matter doesn't look to be going away any time soon and one has to wonder if the estimated $400,000 to defend the lawsuit will wind up being just a drop in the bucket. Will more funds be needed and who's going to supply them? You, the Naperville taxpayer. Any thoughts, folks.

In the latest volley fired in the war of words in the Furstenau- Burchard affair, the president of the Naperville Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 42 issued a blistering open letter calling for the resignation of the councilman. In the letter, Joe Matchett, president of the Lodge also thanked former city manager Peter Burchard for his open letter that lambasted alleged actions taken by Furstenau. Matchett went on to say that Furstenau remaining on the council and voting on issues that affect citizens and city employees is a "conflict of interest." Fursenau's lawyer, Shawn Collins, quickly retorted that he and Furstenau "regard this letter as false and defamatory" and that a lawsuit would be filed against Matchett. This new development comes on the heels of Furstenau's first lawsuit for federal civil rights violation after the coucilman was acquitted of charges of striking a Naperville police officer. Police Chief David Dial, police officer Michael Hull and detective Michael Cross are named as defendants. So, far one lawsuit filed...another supposedly to be filed. What's the next step and who else stands to get sued in this matter?

...A site for its third high school. The Indian Prairie School District 204 board meets Dec. 20 to discuss the status of negotiations with various owners of alternate sites for Metea Valley High School. What are the chances Santa will bring board members a land deal?

Naperville's latest accolade is a dubious one, if you believe it. The National Motorists Association says the city is the worst speed trap in Illinois, based on a survey and input from its members. Does the city deserve this honor?

At the last City Council meeting it was decided that the estimated $400,000 cost to hire outside attorneys to defend the city against Councilman Dick Furstenau's federal civil rights violation lawsuit will be borrowed from Naperville's capital projects fund. But, the tax levy for fiscal 2009-2010 would have to be bumped up by that amount to pay back the fund. After all the math is done, that translates into the owner of a $400,000 home kicking in $8 toward the defense fund. At the meeting a couple of councilmen alluded to the fact that this $400,000 was just an estimate and that the costs could, indeed, go higher. Given the fact that Mr. Furstenau has a high-profile attorney, Shawn Collins, and that the councilman - by every indication - seems to have every intention of taking this case to the bitter end, who knows how much the city will really have to spend for outside counsel? And how do Naperville taxpayers feel about being put into the position of having to kick in their hard-earned dollars to pay for the defense of the city against one of their own elected officials? Tell us what you think.

Outgoing Naperville city manager Peter Burchard, whose last day of work is Dec. 7, is reportedly negotiating with the city for a severance package. The package reportedly involves a cash amount, continued medical coverage and forgiveness by the city of a housing loan. Normally, when someone quits a job, they don't get anything. Severance is ususally reserved for workers who get laid off, fired or for other reasons that have nothing to do with voluntarily resigning a position. The question is: Should Burchard get a severance package from Naperville even though he quit his position as city manager, or does his 10 years of service warrant special consideration? You be the judge.

The news on the Furstenau affair that came out of Tuesday night's City Council meeting basically boils down to this:

1) Mayor Pradel called for a resolution to be drafted and included on the agenda for the meeting two weeks from now that would call for Councilman Furstenau's "censure." Included in Pradel's resolution was the outlining of a commitment to work in a respectful manner with city staff and follow council rules of decorum. The resolution - which follows outgoing city manager Peter Burchard's open letter to the city in which he blasted Furstenau with a litany of alleged abuses of power and intimidation - passed by a vote of 6-3 with the expected platitudes by council members that abuse of power won't be tolereated etc. etc.

2) A vigorous debate ensued as to how the city was going to pay for the estimated $400,000 in legal costs to fight Furstenau's civil rights lawsuit against the city. After several seemingly interminable minutes, it dawned on the mayor that Furstenau's vote on the matter was a conflict of interest, an observation that was echoed by several councilmen. Furstenau left the council chambers, a vote was cast on the legal defense fund and then Furstenau was called back to join the remaining deliberations.

Three questions:

1) Does the City Council really have to "commit" or maybe "recomit" to the obvious - cordial workings with staff and following rules of decorum? Doesn't that kind of go unsaid?

2) If Furstenau is censured, will it really mean anything or is it just the council's window-dressing response to the Burchard letter?

3) How many more times will we see Furstenau asked to leave the chambers while a vote takes place only to come back to conduct regular business - as if nothing has happened?

It seems like a big elephant has taken up residence in the City Council chambers,.

It's official: Voters in Naperville School District 203 will find a referendum on ballots Feb. 5 asking that the typical homeowner pay an additional $82 per year for 20 years to fund various improvements -- mainly to Naperville Central High School, Mill Street Elementary and a new early childhood center. Will you vote for it?

The Naperville Park District board says its may decide the next executive director by Dec. 16. What does that person need to know about taking charge of Naperville's parks and recreation programs?

In a scathing letter released on one of his last days at work, outgoing Naperville City Manager Peter Burchard issued a blistering attack on City Councilman Dick Furstenau, who is suing the city for violating his civil rights after being acquitted of misdemeanor battery charges. In the 15- page emailed letter Burchard accuses Furstenau of intimidating and traumatizing city staff, threatening to have them fired, hurling profane language at police officers and trying to steer work to a developer who was unqualified to do a certain engineering job. Burchard makes clear that Furstenau's behavior has called into question the best effort and ethics of Naperville municipal staff and workers. In one of the most damning parts of the letter, Burchard states: "On many occasions, employees have stated to me that they believe Councilman Furstenau has infected the work environment with political influence that depletes our professional integrity." He concludes by calling on city officials for a "public discussion" of Furstenau's behavior. Where will this go from here, and, one has to wonder, was this one of the reasons Peter Burchard is calling it quits in Naperville?

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

November 2007 is the previous archive.

January 2008 is the next archive.

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