A forum for comments about Naperville news and issues.

May 2008 Archives

Many large newspapers have an ombudsman, someone who works for the newspaper but who is charged with the responsibility of holding the publication accountable to the public. Newspapers take their public service roles seriously, and an ombudsman is one mechanism.

The Sun is a small newspaper, and we don't have a full-time ombudsman. But in light of recent comments about the role of the paper in the community, I'm going to put on the ombudsman hat and do my best to address questions.

-- Ted Slowik, managing editor

A DuPage County judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by parents who sought to have Metea Valley High School built on the Brach-Brodie property.

This removes a legal hurdle to proceeding with construction of Indian Prairie School District's third high school at the Eola Road property.

The judge's ruling reads like a slam dunk for the school district. Every argument by Neighborhood Schools For Our Children was dismissed. Legal standing? None. Technical deficiencies in complaint? Plenty. Can the court do what the suit asks even if it wanted to? No. Referendum language? No location specified. Open Meetings Act violation? None.

It would appear NSFOC cast as wide a legal net as it could think of and came up empty.

Is this how you see it? Can NSFOC salvage any semblance of victory from this ruling, or for filing the suit in the first place, for that matter? What do you think NSFOC should do next?

What about the other lawsuits--the REAL lawsuits the district faces from the Brach and Brodie trusts, which seek damages because the district sued to try to get the land only to abandon the effort when the price tag came back too high? Let's not forget those. How much do you think those suits will end up costing the district?

The plagiarism scandal at Naperville School District 203 deepened Thursday when school officials revealed that the Naperville Central High School valedictorian also plagiarized a speech. At the same time, the district said it was reassigning Principal Jim Caudill, who admitted plagiarizing a former student's speech when he gave an address at a commemorative ceremony last week.

The district asked the student to return the valedictorian medal, and the speech will be removed from the videotape of the graduation ceremony. (School officials said they discovered that "portions of the address bear a strong similarity to another graduation speech published on the Internet.")

The district said it would form a blue-ribbon panel to review policies related to plagiarism, and called for "reason and integrity" instead of emotion. it noted "Caudill has provided 34 years of tireless service to our students and community."

What do you think of the district's response? What will Caudill's new assignment be? (Could he possibly oversee the massive reconstruction of Naperville Central?) What about the graduating valedictorian--is the punishment just, in your opinion?

Every property owner in Illinois pays taxes to a community college district. Often the amount each pays is small in comparison to other taxing bodies, because the districts are geographically larger and the costs are spread among a larger tax base. Community college trustees are elected.

Naperville is served by the College of DuPage, whose board this week decided to get rid of its president, Sunil Chand. He'll stay on for the duration of his contract -- another year with the title of president emeritus -- collecting at least $200,000.

This is a pattern for the COD board. In 2003 it replaced then-president Michael Murphy before his contract was up, a move that cost the district nearly $300,000.

Often, community college district boards are factional entities where infighting and personal battles gets in the way of responsible stewardship of taxpayer money. There would seem to be evidence of this at COD. Chand's ouster reportedly stems from a dispute over the hiring of a public relations firm. It's a shame the differences couldn't be worked out -- or at least some sort of truce reached -- long enough for Chand to fulfill his contract, which would have been much less costly to taxpayers.

What do you think of Chand's ouster? What's going on at COD? How much do you pay attention to how this taxing body spends your money?

Parents suing Indian Prairie School District 204 and hoping to force construction of Metea Valley High School on the Brach-Brodie property have to wait another week to learn a judge's ruling in the case. A ruling was expected Friday, but the judge says he'll announce his decision May 30, instead.

What do you expect to happen? The school district is confident construction will continue at the Eola Road site, because the referendum didn't specify a location. Will anything come of the NSFOC suit? Will there be any adjustments in high school boundaries or any other changes as a result?

Sunday's Sun features a story about a woman directly impacted by the new Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, cosponsored by the member of Congress who represents Naperville, U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert. President Bush recently signed into law the measure, which protects people against discrimination because of genetic disposition.

In our story, a woman with a family history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer worries about being denied employment or health insurance because of her genetic predisposition. The new law will protect her and others like her.

How worried are you that you might be the subject of genetic discrimination? What concerns do you have about privacy, or other facets of the new law?

Naperville Central High School Principal Jim Caudill Tuesday delivered a speech at graduation. Problem was, it wasn't his own. A large portion of the speech was from a 1997 address written by a student. Caudill admits he didn't credit the student or receive permission before or during the speech, though he says he intended to. He's apologized for his mistake.

In this era of making examples out of students who break rules and/or laws, should Caudill face any additional consequences? Do you believe this was an innocent mistake? What do you think should happen to Caudill?

The Naperville Park District Thursday said it was considering a new proposal from Crestview Builders for the Ponds of Hobson West property, a 6-acre parcel between Plainfield-Naperville Road and West Street.

Monetary details of the new proposal were not disclosed. Last year the Park District offered Crestview $2.5 million for the land; the developer asked for $4.1 million. Residents hoping to save the land as open space instead of residential development said they were encouraged by the latest proposal.

It sounds like a deal may be close. Let's hypothesize and imagine a deal was reached for $3 million: should the park district spend that much for 6 acres? ($500,000 an acre?) In a perfect world everyone would love to acquire every last bit of open space and save it for recreation and preservation, but the reality is land costs money--in this case, taxpayer money.

Is it worth it, in your opinion? Should the park district close the deal?

Drew Peterson, a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy, faces up to five years in prison on a charge of possessing an illegal weapon -- a rifle with a barrel shorter than 16 inches. Peterson, who was released Wednesday after posting $7,500 bail -- 10 percent of a $75,000 bond -- says that as a member of the Bolingbrook Police Department's SWAT team it was legal for him to possess the rifle when authorities seized it and other weapons back in October.

Why arrest Drew on the gun charge now, and why set bond at $75,000? At a hearing Thursday a judge is expected to allow Peterson's son to take possession of the other guns that were seized.

What do you think of the arrest? How do you think this arrest fits into the larger investigations -- into the now-determined homicide of Kathleen Savio, Drew's third wife, and Stacy's disappearance? What do you think will happen next?

Bob Marshall collects a pension of nearly $85,000 after about 30 years as a Naperville police officer. On top of that, he's paid $157,000 a year as interim city manager. After retiring from the police department, Marshall, 54, began a second career as assistant city manager in 2004. If he gets the permanent city manager job -- a post he says he's interested in -- his salary would increase to $174,000, and he'd become eligible for another pension from the city after eight years employment as an administrator, or in 2012.

Now for the questions.

Marshall no doubt is entitled to his police pension. Should the city council put itself in a position where, if it hires Marshall for the permanent post, he could collect a second pension from the city? How important is the pension question to you? If he's earned his police pension, and if he's the best person for the city manager job, what's wrong with him possibly collecting both a police and municipal pension? Or, knowing that the pension issue strikes a nerve with at least some of Naperville's population, would it be better for the council to avoid any appearance of double-dipping by hiring someone else for the job, someone who is not already collecting a generous pension supported by the taxpayers of Naperville?

To be fair, a couple reminders about pensions: civic employees kick in their own pay for them over the years, and taxpayer-funded entities typically contribute a percentage toward them. In Illinois, most publicly funded pension systems are governed by state law, not local units of government.

We know this is a hot-button topic, first suggested by participants of this online community forum. Fair warning: keep the discussion civil. No personal attacks, profanity or potentially libelous remarks will be published.

Will County Executive Larry Walsh on Monday pleaded guilty to drunken driving. He was ordered to pay $1,250 in fines and court fees, plus a $185 fine for improper lane usage. He has to seek counseling and will have his license suspended for 30 days, after which he can drive for work-related purposes only for another 60 days.

Walsh has apologized for his error in judgment. About 40 percent of Naperville's 142,000 residents live in Will County, where Walsh is the top elected official.

What do you think--does the punishment fit the crime? Walsh's lawyer says he sought no special treatment by the court, and the penalty appears consistent with what a first-time offender would receive. Do you agree? How do you think the incident will affect the political career of Walsh, a former state senator?

Newsweek is out with a new list of the nation's top 1,300 high schools, and Waubonsie Valley High School is the only one of the four public high schools serving Naperville on this list. In 2007, Neuqua Valley High School -- Indian Prairie School District's other high school -- was No. 607 on this list, but is absent from the initial 2008 rankings.

Congratulations to Waubonsie!! All public education facilities in Naperville are outstanding, and this is further proof.

How important is the ranking to you? Is it just another list? Do Naperville residents place too much emphasis on lists? Why is it that Neuqua, Naperville Central and Naperville North are not on this list?

UPDATE: On Friday, both districts put out e-mails saying they contacted Newsweek and were told that Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central and Naperville North high schools all were omitted from the list by mistake and will be included when an updated list is posted next week.

UPDATE NO. 2: The updated list shows Neuqua Valley ranked No. 910, Naperville North No. 927, Naperville Central No. 1,011 and Waubonsie Valley No. 1,107.

Perhaps the more appropriate question for Naperville residents is, "Are you getting a refund check?" Many households in Naperville won't be because they exceed the federal government's income requirements for eligibility.

For those who are, how are you spending it? Blowing it on electronics or other retail goods like good little consumers? Maybe paying down some credit debt? Saving it, perhaps? Or using it to pay real estate taxes?

Tell us whether you're getting an economic stimulus check, and what you'll do with it.

An eighth-grader at Naperville's Jefferson Junior High School was arrested Friday for allegedly bringing a pellet gun to school. Authorities petitioned him as a juvenile, and he'll likely face disciplinary action by the school district as well.

The school district says it must adopt a zero-tolerance policy these days, and understandably so. Should the boy be allowed to graduate, or be expelled? Aside from the school's right to administer discipline, was the arrest necessary? Should a child who breaks a rule by bringing a pellet gun to school face criminal consequences?

Tell us what you think.

Maybe you noticed, if you drove Route 59 on May 9, a bunch of cops pulling over motorists. It was a safety initiative by 14 police agencies from Hoffman Estates to Shorewood. Get this--they even gave ample warning, notifying the media ahead of time (The Sun ran a story in advance) and putting up electronic message boards. All the same, this year's initiative--which targeted speeders and seat-belt scofflaws--netted 548 tickets. The kicker is, Naperville police issued nearly half--218--way more than any other participating agency. (Streamwood cops were second with 82 tickets.)

What does this say about Naperville police? Are they especially concerned about our safety, intent on generating revenue from ticket fines, or just driven to be No. 1 at every thing they do?

A couple stories in Wednesday's Sun update Indian Prairie School District 204's legal troubles surrounding Metea Valley High School. In one case, the district is being sued by the Brach and Brodie trusts, owners of the land near 75th Street that the district wanted, but abandoned after deciding the court-determined value was too high. Now the Brach trust says the district owes it $2.2 million plus damages for its portion of the property the district abandoned for a third high school, which would be in addition to the $12 million being sought by the Brodie trust.

Also Tuesday, representatives of the district and a group of parents who are suing the district and hoping to block construction of Metea on the Eola Road property met for a scheduled mediation conference that apparently proved fruitless. "I can only say that the mediation has concluded, there was no resolution, and there are no plans to meet again," said Shawn Collins, attorney for Neighborhood Schools for Our Children.

Both court cases continue in coming weeks. What's your reaction to the latest developments? What do you expect to happen next?

The Naperville Sun broke the story about the arrest of Nicholas T. Birkett, 21, the son of DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett, by Naperville police for possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia. The younger Birkett faces a lesser charge--he was cited under a Naperville ordinance because he had no previous arrests or convictions, while two other men with him face state charges because they had previously been arrested.

What should be the response of the elder Birkett, a former Republican Party gubernatorial candidate who has been a tireless and ferocious prosecutor of narcotics dealers and drug-related crimes? If found guilty, what would be an appropriate punishment for the younger Birkett? What do you think of the arrest by Naperville police, who previously arrested Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar for DUI? (Claar was not convicted).

You can read the full Sun report here:


Naperville police have announced a stepped-up seat belt enforcement campaign. Through June 1, Naperville and other departments will intensify around-the-clock seat belt efforts. Statistics show about 18 percent of adults do not regularly wear seat belts. Are you among them? Have you ever been ticketed for failing to wear a seat belt? Will you plan to wear one now that you know police are stepping up enforcement? And here's a bit of trivia--what's the only state in America that does not require adults to wear seat belts?

Ever hit a pothole so bad you got a flat tire or sustained costly damage to your vehicle's suspension or alignment? We've been there, and we feel your pain. IDOT and Naperville crews are hitting the streets, roads and avenues this week, tackling a bumper crop of potholes caused by the harsh winter. Help us tell them where to look. Where are the bad potholes in the Naperville area? Share your horror stories about potholes past with us, and what you did about it. Did you seek compensation from a government entity because of damage? How did that go?

The first installment of real estate tax bills is due June 1 for many Naperville residents in DuPage and Will counties. Most homeowners pay the bulk of their real estate taxes to local school districts. Other taxing districts on bills are the city, county, township, park district, forest preserve, community college, and more.

How do your taxes this year compare to last? What about your assessment--how has the value of your home changed? A higher assessment can be a big part of the reason for higher taxes, though a taxing district's rate may have increased due to a referendum. How much are you paying, and are you getting your money's worth?

In today's Sun (Sun., 5.4) we spotlight the local effect surging food prices are having on Naperville shoppers. Some food stores are doing their best to juggle rising costs and consumer concerns, but they wonder how long they can last. Shoppers are worried, too, as we cite the plight of one mom who is making more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for school lunches and using less meat. No matter the product, our report shows how virtually every food stuff has risen dramatically in price, from bread to butter to kid juice-packs. We'd like to know how you're coping with rising food prices and whether it's impacting the menus that wind up either in the kids' lunch boxes or what goes on the table for dinner. Have you changed your grocery store buying habits? Tell us right here.

Representatives of Indian Prairie School District 204 and the group Neighborhood Schools for Our Children will sit down at the bargaining table May 13 in an attempt to mediate a lawsuit that NSFOC filed against the district. The group seeks to block the district from moving forward with construction of Metea Valley High School on the Eola Road site, saying the district has an obligation to buy the Brach-Brodie land and build there.

Will mediation work, or will this suit end up being litigated in court? What would be an equitable solution to the situation? Will the NSFOC suit end up being dismissed and will the district proceed with construction in hopes of opening Metea in August 2009? What about the other lawsuit the district faces for backing out of efforts to buy Brach-Brodie? How much in damages and legal fees will the district end up paying because of its court battles with the Brach and Brodie trusts? When all is said and done, will it end up costing the district more to build on Eola than if it had paid the court-determined price for the Brach-Brodie land?

For this post we feature an entry sent to us by Andrew Kriz, an alumnus of Naperville's Neuqua Valley High School and a law student at the University of Iowa. Andrew writes about a friend who was planning to go to Neuqua's prom tonight (5.2), but was denied the chance because he missed the deadline to buy a ticket. Are school administrators being too harsh? Or is this one of life's important lessons?

Andrew's post continues below.

Friday's Sun profiles Robert Marshall, Naperville's interim city manager. Marshall, 54, a 30-year veteran of the Naperville Police Department, is in the running, and, some might say, has the inside track to replace Peter Burchard as city manager. How good of a job do you think Marshall is doing? Should the City Council give him the job and remove "interim" from his title, or continue with plans to conduct a nationwide search for a replacement?

Naperville expected to reap $2.4 million in new revenue this year by launching a red-light photo enforcement program that would automatically send tickets to people caught on tape violating traffic signal regulations. Now the city manager says the program is plagued with technical problems, and staff recommend the city council terminate a contract with a company administering the program.

What do you think of the plan to seek bids from other companies? Given this experience and problems with red-light cameras reported in other communities across the country, how wise is it for Naperville to commit to a program at this time? What about the revenue the city expected from the program--no doubt it will be less, maybe lost altogether. How should the council address the revenue shortfall?

Thursday's Sun features the story of Brianna DeSimone, a 17-year-old Neuqua Valley High School student who has struck up friendships with senior citizens. Joni Spurlock, 73, Aggie Carson, 89 and Rudy Bilotta, 94, live at Eagle Place in Naperville, a Senior Home Sharing residence. DeSimone visits, celebrates special occasions, shares gifts, and even brings by friends and boyfriends.

We thought this story captured the spirit of the Naperville community. What's your favorite story about or example of Naperville's generosity? Tell about how you or someone you know shared their time, treasure or talents with others.

Naperville Potluck

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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