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Park Board and Hobson West

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In Friday's (2.1) Sun, editor/publisher Jim Lynch wrote a pretty stinging column where he basically called the Naperville Park Board "dysfunctional." Is the park board just a rudderless ship? Where is the leadership and is this the kind of board Naperville wants? Tell us what you think.

This was a result of a special call meeting this past Wednesday night to finally try to get something done over the long overdue situation involving the Ponds of Hobson West. The residents want the six-acre tract preserved, a developer was going to build townhomes there but then indicated he was willing to sell the land to the Park District. The whole mess has dragged on for more than a year with no action taken. In Lynch's column he cited the fact that only three of the park board members bothered to show up at the meeting and opined that the reason for that was they didn't want to have a quorum where they might have to actually do something. Instead, being no-shows just lets the clock keep ticking on an issue that should have been addressed by now. Following the debacle of the rec enter, the departure of the park district's executive director and now this situation, where board members can't even seem to respond to community needs, is the park board just a rudderless ship? Where is the leadership and is this the kind of board Naperville wants? Tell us what you think.

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Sometimes by not showing up the Park Board IS doing the community a service, unlike our local school boards. Every time the school boards meet it is for the purpose of doing 1 of 3 things:

1. wasting our money.
2. claiming they are broke and in need of passing another referendum
3. suddenly finding money they have hidden in a rat's hole and then blowing it on some useless, unneeded expense instead of saving it for real purposes. Which brings us back to #1 and #2 again.

Why doesn't Jim Lynch ever call them on this?
Because Jim Lynch is part of the problem in our community. The SUN is the greatest advocate for reckless spending, mismanagement and skyrocketing property taxes our community has ever seen.

Actually, that might be a little harsh, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce (NACC) might be just as bad in that they accept 10s of thousands of dollars each year from both D203 and D204. Yes, your tax dollars go to support the NACC and then what happens when one of these school districts is pushing their latest and greatest tax increase referendum? Surprise, surprise, the NACC is all for it.

Why doesn't the SUN ever report on that!?
Which brings us back to the SUN as being part of the problem.

Seeing a pattern yet?

Response from host:

Look, you're entitled to your opinion. The Sun editors are entitled to their's. You are welcome to disagree with The Sun editors. Fact is, we live in a democracy where majority rules. Most likely--based on past experiences--the majority of people in D203 will vote for the referendum. We'll see what happens on election day.

I thought this should be posted here as well as the older blog about the "Ponds of Hobson West."

I commend the Naperville Sun on the commentary in today's paper. Following are a few comments (quotes around portions from Jim Lynch's commentary):

"I'm referring, of course, to the special call meeting Wednesday night to make a decision on the land between the Ponds of Hobson West."

"The cynic in me would say that the Park District has no interest in buying the land, thus the lack of a quorum at Wednesday night's meeting."

At this meeting only three of the seven Park Commissioners showed up. ("The three who did show were Ron Ory, Suzanne Hart and Andrew Schaffner.")

I believe the residents want the Park Commissioners to be held accountable and want them to express their views publicly. The residents have appeared before the Park District Board on the topic of the acquisition of the property known as the "Ponds of Hobson West" for each of the past thirteen months. The Park Board has essentially been publicly mum on the issue. It’s only been the last several months where brief statements were made by the Park Board President during Park Board Meetings. There has not been any public discussion on the acquisition (or not). The Park Board appears to have been hiding behind the closed doors of their Executive Sessions. Other than recent newspaper quotes, the residents have not had any public feedback as to why Park Commissioners want to (or do not want to) acquire the land. I believe the residents are entitled to know (though a public vote) as to where each Park Commissioner stands on this topic.

"It's a hot-button issue in Naperville and has dragged on for more than a year. A developer owns the land, slated for a townhouse development, and is willing to sell the land to the Park District."

In fact, the attorney for the developer sent a letter to Park Board on Wednesday (Jan. 30) that stated they believe the land is best suited for remaining open space. And, they would respond to a reasonable offer.

"They're about a million and half dollars apart in price and negotiations seem stalled as deadline after deadline has expired and then been extended."

It would seem that a majority of the Park Board deliberately low-balled their offer ($2.5 million) in order to say that they did something while knowing that it would be unacceptable to the developer (to offer him something less than the price the developer paid for it).

The Save Open Space group has expanded its interest to the entire Naperville area. Thus, it wants more park land/open space to be acquired to fit the needs of the residents. There are needs for more ball fields, tennis courts, soccer fields (on the north side of town), and the emerging Lacrosse sport. Also, family picnic areas are at a premium.

The Save Open Space group has said it will put a referendum on the November 2008 ballot to ask the public for funds to buy additional park land.

Also, the Park Board is in the process in issuing $10 million for capital projects over the next couple of years. It could use a portion of those funds to purchase the land and replenish it later. The Save Open space group is willing to raise the additional funds required to seal a deal should a referendum fail next fall.

"Add into this a volatile and passionate mix of residents who cherish their six sylvan acres..."

During the thirteen months, the residents have addressed the Park District Board with civility. Your word "volatile" would not describe how the residents have addressed the Board.

"In The Sun story Thursday we were treated to meaningless quotes by the three members who showed up as to why they didn't want to speak for their colleagues who didn't make it because, among other things, they had other meetings ... were out of town ... or "couldn't be reached for comment."

"Of these three, Schaffner had a pretty telling remark. Speaking of his colleagues he said: "The fact that we disagree on major policy issues is not the sign of a dysfunctional board - rather it is a sign of healthy debate between the competing priorities of our community needs."

"That sounds like a lot of blather - a bloated, long-winded quote that says nothing except pretty much admit (just by using the word) what a lot of people in the community have been saying for a long time."

I believe as new Park Board Members, Schaffner and Hart would be unwilling to publicly criticize fellow Board Members.

"Yes, the park board does appear to be dysfunctional. It did take on this project, and all we've seen is delay after delay. And, now, at a meeting where, ostensibly, something was supposed to get done, the majority of the commissioners couldn't even be bothered to show up."

"I'd call that dysfunctional with a capital D."

As I have attended Board Meetings since the new Board started in May 2007, I would not characterize their public meetings as dysfunctional. They have accomplished a lot the last several months. I can not say how they have acted in their Executive Sessions. On one occasion the Park Board President did storm out of an Executive Session.

Certainly, I agree that not showing up at a special Board meeting may indicate there is an element of dysfunctionality.

"But there is good news. As long as these interminable delays go on, the six acres will remain untouched, and I'll bet I'll drive by that little piece of paradise one fine spring day to see a kid with a fishing pole sitting at the end of the dock.""

The bad news? Naperville loves to trumpet how communicative their governmental leaders and various board members are. And how responsive they are to community input. To a large extent I've found this to be true."

"Except for the park board."

I would agree that they have done a poor job of communicating and have not appeared to be responsive to community input. The last survey performed by the Park District of its residents showed that the highest priority item was to acquire more open space for passive recreational activities.

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This page contains a single entry by Naperville Sun editors published on February 1, 2008 11:34 AM.

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