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July 2008 Archives

An item on the City Council's Monday agenda says members plan to discuss the Naperville Park District Board. Councilman Doug Krause championed the idea of the city taking over for the district during his 2007 mayoral run. He also said the city could do away with current Executive Director Daniel Betts' position, a job that pays $145,000 annually. Betts is on a leave of absence less than just four months into the job. The district has not given any indication when or whether he will return.

In 12 years, the district has tried eight different executive directors, several leaving not because they necessarily wanted to. If the council did decide to take over responsibility for the board, voters most likely would have a say in a referendum.

With all the turmoil on the Park Board, what could the city offer in the way of leadership that board members can't seem to find on their own? Would the city being doing more than saving money? What are the pros and cons to this kind of decision?

Summer might seem innocent, but the warm weather can make it more tempting for would-be thieves to flip door handles for an easy stash. In May, June and July this year, about 200 vehicles have been burglarized here, according to the Police Department. Of those, 78 percent didn't use force. That means burglars are checking cars to see if they're locked - if not, they lift cds, GPSs, sunglasses, cell phones and any other valuables they can get easily. More than 80 percent of these happen between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. - when you're eating dinner, watching TV, reading and sleeping. You're probably home when it happens.

Two young men have been arrested and a third suspect has charges pending. Police have increased patrols in "hot spots" where these crimes seem to clutter. Police also ask residents to do a simple preventative measure: lock your car doors. Seems pretty simple, but the low crime rate in Naperville seems to lull some into thinking "doesn't happen here."

If this crime has happened to you, what advice do you have for others? What are your horror stories? What else can police do to prevent these crimes? What can you do?

Naperville businessman Jim Bergeron says "a perfect storm" led to the closing of downtown restaurant Tessa's. After 14 months, it closed its doors Sunday. Bergeron says the statewide smoking ban, home foreclosures, bad weather this winter and even the war are factors in the decision. Several other area restaurants have closed too, including the downtown restaurant Masala Yangu in June, and Petey Z's in Oswego, which had moved from near the downtown train station less than a year ago. National chains are struggling, too. Just Tuesday, the Bennigan's in Bolingbrook and Woodridge closed.

But Paul Junkroski, chairman of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, says Naperville restaurants are "weathering" the downturn in the economy. And from the crowds on Friday and Saturday nights and the traffic on Washington Street, he seems to be right.

What were your best experiences at Tessa's? Tell us about your favorite foods, wine or other reasons to dine there.

If so, you might be the culprit behind long wait times at Naperville's emissions testing site. On May 1 the IEPA closed several testing facilities in the state, including the one at 5106 Walnut Ave. in Downers Grove. Since then, the volume of vehicles passing through the Naperville facility at 435 Weston Ridge Road has spiked considerably.
According to Ron Wohrle, operations manager of the vehicle emissions test program for the IEPA, in April 8,446 vehicles were tested at the site. In May the number jumped to 11,569 vehicles, and in June the total reached 14,361 vehicles. Although there has been an increase in the number of vehicles tested at the Naperville station, test volume is still below station capacity, Wohrle said. Motorists are encouraged to test as soon as possible when they receive a test notice and to avoid the end of the month.
During June the peak wait-time hours in Naperville were between noon and 3 p.m. about 10 minutes. The shortest wait time for Naperville was between 8 and 10 a.m., Wohrle said. Then the wait was 2 to 3 minutes. For the first week of July, the average wait time for Naperville was also seven minutes. The peak wait time was between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., with a wait of 10 to 14 minutes. The shortest time during that week was between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. with a wait of four to six minutes.

Do you wait till just before the deadline to test your car and then wonder why the lines are so long? What was your last experience at a testing site? Do the IEPA's wait-time numbers jive with the last time you went to the testing center?

By Ted Slowik

Well, moving day is here. Readers of this forum will know that my family is taking advantage of the great deals out there in today's real estate market, and are fortunate enough to have sold our home. I'm out of the office until Aug. 5 while we make the transition.

I'll leave you for a time with this observation: Cleaning out our home and garage, we've done a lot of purging. You accumulate a lot of stuff in your life, and moving is a great opportunity to go through it and say, "You know, I'm never going to fix this broken lamp, or use this spare lawnmower." We had a big garage sale, and gave a lot of clothes to Goodwill. Whatever furniture was left, we put out a sign that said, "Free for the taking," went to a movie, and it was gone when we returned.

Whatever goods we haven't given away we've placed out with the trash. Here in Joliet, there are a multitude of junk scavengers. I swear, that spare lawn mower wasn't out for five minutes before one of those precariously loaded pickups stopped and someone grabbed it. These days, all metal is precious, apparently.

I wonder, does Naperville have these junk scavengers, too? What do you think of them? I believe Joliet has tried to regulate them. I don't mind the notion that someone would take scrap metal and sell it to a junkyard. It's recycling, in my opinion. My only concern is the safety of these vehicles. Junk dealers presumably are not wealthy individuals, so it's understandable that they're not driving around in late model Ford F250s. But when the bicycle rims and old appliances are teetering off the sides of whatever truck they're driving, I worry.

Share your thoughts on this topic. I'll talk to you again on Aug. 5, but my colleagues will keep the forum going during my absence.

A four-day work week sounds pretty tempting. The Will County auditor's office is trying it. Auditor Steve Weber says, "We talked about this program thoroughly as a staff, and at this point, we plan to continue indefinitely." The office has been testing out 10-hour shifts, four days a week with workers taking either Friday or Monday off. This makes sure someone is available during normal business hours. Weber said he's received national attention for trying the program out, and DuPage County has at least asked about it. Jeff Webb, chief technology officer for the Seattle-based Institute for Corporate Productivity, said studies of gas savings have confirmed that consumption would be lessened and that four-day work weeks can be effective, "depending on the nature of the job." What do you think?

Would you like working only four 10-hour days versus five eight-hour days? What obstacles in your job do you see to this working out? How would it affect your life - good and bad?

The Naperville School District 203 community spoke up in February when it approved a tax-increase referendum to pay for a $115 million facilities-improvement plan. Part of that project is an $11 million early childhood center to be built in the Huntington Estates subdivision off Naper Boulevard.

Architectural plans and computer-generated designs were unveiled Monday night. Groundbreaking is scheduled for April, with completion in 2010.

Also Monday, the district heard updated plans for the $5.2 million renovation of the Naperville North swimming pool.

What do you think of the proposals? Are plans progressing the way you expected? How well do you think the early childhood center blends in with the neighborhood? What do you think of the pool plan?

One good thing you can say about the Naperville Park District--it's actively promoting public participation in plans to overhaul the venerable Centennial Beach. (Now, if only it could keep an executive director around, but that's another story.)

Architects want to know what you think, and park staff will conduct guided tours Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and from 6 to 7 p.m. The changing rooms and main park building need mechanical upgrades, but the historic integrity of the 1931 building must be preserved, park officials say.

The district will also accept comments about the project via phone calls, e-mail and snail mail.

What improvements would you like to see made to Centennial Beach? What do you think of the park district's approach to the project?

There's a nine-year wait to get a space in a commuter parking lot in Naperville. Think about that. Nine years. You could move here when your kid is entering kindergarten and he could be in high school by the time you finally get the call: "Mr. Smith, we have a space for you."

There are remote Park and Ride lots, which help. There are bus routes, which, if you're lucky enough to live within walking distance of, can get you to the train. But Naperville, with the two busiest stations in the entire Metra system, and oodles of parking decks for shoppers and diners downtown, has no parking decks for commuters.

Other towns do, like Downers Grove. Why, there's even government money available to help build such decks, you just need to ask Metra and they'll see what they can do.

The question is this: How much would you be willing to pay to park in a deck for commuters near the downtown train station? Three dollars a day? Five dollars a day? User fees would have to cover the costs, city officials say.

Also, the city is doing a study of the area around the Fifth Avenue Station. How important is it to you that the study include consideration of a parking deck for commuters? In other words, with sites like the public works facility ripe for redevelopment, what should be done with that land: parking deck for commuters, or something else?

The great planner Daniel Burnham once said, "Make no small plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood." We see the spirit of this in Naperville in projects like the Millennium Carillon.

Last October The Sun first reported that an entity calling itself the Omnia Performing Arts Association was considering a grand plan for a project around Naperville's downtown train station. Details were scarce then -- and remain so, today -- but the project is said to entail a 2,700-seat theater, possibly offices and/or condos and parking.

Residents of the area are understandably worried, since change can be stressful and no one likes feeling like they are being kept in the dark. Or worse, no one likes feeling like something on a big scale is being talked about in back rooms by developers and attorneys and city representatives and then by the time it comes around for formal public approval it just sails through. Not saying this is how things are done in Naperville. Chicago, maybe, or some other hypothetical place. Just saying, some people want to know what's going on, is all.

Well, they're supposed to get their chance, Monday, at 7:15 p.m. in council chambers at the Municipal Center, when agents from the performing arts association are expected to address questions and concerns.

What do you think about the proposal? With North Central College opening a new theater soon, does Naperville need a privately funded performing arts space akin to the Paramount in Aurora or the Rialto in Joliet? In this economy, how wise is it to undertake such a project? With the public works center near the downtown station becoming available soon, is this the best use for that site?

UPDATE: We received word late Friday afternoon that Monday's meeting has been cancelled. See comments below.

The city is working to resurface Aurora Avenue, Eagle Street and Shuman Boulevard this summer. City officials say they are saving money by doing the work a year early after a brutal winter that damaged roads beyond normal repairs. City Engineer Bill Novak said Wednesday that "the cost of asphalt is skyrocketing, and we don't see the trend changing next year or anytime in the future." Novak said the city decided to forgo the patchwork that was planned for Aurora Aveneu and begin resurfacing the street along with medians -- both of which were planned for 2009.

What do you think of the work under way on our streets? As columnist Tim West wrote in a column this week, with the downturn in the economy, it might not be the best time to beautify our roads. But then again, maybe we should just count our blessings.

The communal mailboxes in the Cedar Glen subdivision are in really bad shape. They're rusted and broken, and the fine folks at the U.S. Postal Service say they'll replace them. But the post office won't do what the neighbors want, which is split up the clusters of mailboxes and give the folks individual mail delivery. The Naperville postmaster says once a delivery method has been established, it's virtually impossible to change.

Ah, good old bureaucracy.

What do you think? Is it reasonable for the Cedar Glen residents to want a different method of delivery? Is it reasonable for the Postal Service to turn down the request? What's been your experience dealing with the post office in Naperville, for any reason? Are you satisfied with the service you've received from the Postal Service?

Here we go again! Less than four months on the job, Naperville Park District Executive Director Daniel Betts is taking a leave of absence. It's been a revolving door of leaders over at the park district, with one controversy following another. The rest of the administration seem to be adept, but there's something about the director post lately.

Why do you think the park district is having such trouble keeping an executive director lately? Is it because the park board is factional and/or dysfunctional? Poor planning and policies? Just bad luck?

One of the few perks about working in media is that you get nice tributes when you pass away. In movies and television, maybe your name is mentioned in the closing credits. In newspapers, there is the obituary.

It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we report the loss of one of our own. Mark Perry, 50, was a designer, one of the creative production types who build the newspaper pages. Within the confines of the advertising already placed on pages, designers determine the size and placement of stories and pictures on the page, choose type styles and lend their creative expertise to the production process.

Mark, a lifelong Naperville resident, died Saturday after a short bout with colon cancer. His colleagues at The Sun are shocked and saddened by the quickness of his passing . He was at work just two weeks ago, having returned from vacation, looking thinner, and that typical good-natured attitude of his was missing. By the time the cancer was diagnosed, it was too late.

His wife, the former Lois Michel, worked at The Sun in the old days, down on Jackson Avenue, for Harold White, as an entertainment reporter. Our thoughts and prayers are with her, and the rest of Mark's family, during this time of incredible sadness.

Life is precious, and much too short.

The much-awaited Whole Foods Market at 75th Street just off Route 59 opens Wednesday. Sun reporter Susan Frick Carlman took an exclusive tour of the 50,000-square-foot facility last week - the first of the company's stores built from scratch. With a Naper-centric focus, including a coffee bar, WiFi and fireplace, the planet-friendly, human-friendly store will feature an international section and fresh pies baked on-site. The company also plans to seek food from a 250-mile radius. This means food that's fresher and more nutritious, which will support local economies and require less fuel for transportation, said Kate Klotz, Midwest regional public relations specialist. The city is excited, too. Doug Krieger, the city's finance director, sees assorted benefits on the horizon, including $300,000 in sales tax receipts annually.

Tell us what you're looking most forward to in the new store. How will your shopping habits change? Will the environmentally friendly amenities sway you to shop there? What will this mean to the eating habits of your family?

Joliet now has more people than Naperville, according to the latest Census estimates. The counts just in for July 2007 place Joliet at 144,316, moving it ahead of Naperville's 142,479. The five largest cities in Illinois, in order, are now Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, Joliet and Naperville.

It's unlikely Naperville will reclaim the title any time soon. Joliet has a lot of room to grow, and Naperville is pretty much landlocked and built out. Sure, a special census is expected to show the addition of a few thousand more people have moved to Naperville, which will translate to more federal revenue. But within a few years, it's likely that Joliet will add a lot more and continue growing while Naperville pretty much levels off.

This census story offers the chance to ask, what do you like about living in Naperville? What don't you like? What could be better? Why do you think so many people have made Naperville their home? What qualities of life make Naperville so appealing to so many people?

Well, it appears Chris "Mr. Teardown" Cobb is going ahead with plans to demolish the historic Hammerschmidt mansion at 432 E. Chicago Ave. in the heart of Naperville. Less than a week after saying he was willing to field offers from anyone interested in buying the home to preserve this 1893 Victorian gem, he's now inviting in TV cameras for a Discovery Channel show "Total Wrecklamation" Saturday, and auctioning off the home's historic fixtures.

Boy, that was quick.

Should Chris Cobb be hailed as a hero of economic development? A master entrepreneur able to keep the economic engine turning during these sluggish times? Or is he exploiting the situation, a profiteer grabbing prime real estate who is unfazed by pleas from preservationists?

A couple of slick con artists scammed a Naperville couple out of $3,200 last week. George, 87, and Betty, 84, told their story to The Sun so that others might learn from their mistake.

The cons convinced the couple that their grandson was in a Canadian jail and needed bail money wired to him.

One wonders, after reading George and Betty's story in Tuesday's Sun, how the con artists knew to target older couples in affluent communities like Naperville and Western Springs. Do they look at Census data and randomly call people until a vulnerable-sounding older person answers? Or do they buy information, including names and phone numbers, from companies that collect such data?

How do these guys know who to target? How many calls do they have to make before they successfully pull a scam?

Have you ever fallen for a scam, via e-mail, phone or other means? Tell us about it.

The Naperville Township Board tonight meets to consider annual raises for elected officials: supervisor, highway commissioner, assessor, clerk and trustees. Last year raises were about 5 percent. This year, they may be less, one official said, though the final decision won't be made until August or September.

What do you think? What you be a fair wage increase these days for elected officials? And not just township -- what's fair for city council, county board, state representative, U.S. senator -- all those salaries and benefits your tax dollars pay for.

The bad news is, there are a lot of mosquitoes this year because of rains we've had. The good news is, it's not as bad in Naperville as in other communities, and these aren't the mosquitoes that carry West Nile.

Naperville spent about $132,000 battling mosquitoes last year. How well is the city doing? Should the city do more? Spend less? Or has the city got this one just right? What's been your experience with mosquitoes and mosquito control?

Ribfest is arguably the biggest summer festival around, with big-name entertainment and lots of food and lots of people. Love it? Hate it? Don't care either way? It's still Naperville's signature Fourth of July event, and a destination for many thousands this weekend.

So, what's your Ribfest experience? Good or bad, we want to hear about it. What could organizers do to improve it?

It's called Article 36, and it allows authorities to seize vehicles in 48 different instances in which offenders commit a crime, including driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license or transporting more than 10 cartons of cigarettes. (We are not making this up.)

As Wednesday's Sun reports, they've had tremendous success lately taking vehicles away from criminals in DuPage County. What about the Constitution? Isn't there something in the Fourth Amendment about unlawful search and seizure? OK, maybe this doesn't violate the letter of the law, but it certainly tests the spirit. Does the punishment fit the crime, in your opinion, when authorities can seize vehicles like this?

One word about this thread: Let's keep the discussion focused on the legislative aspect of this question, and not enforcement. We've had plenty of threads lately about police. Let's talk about the lawmakers who created this legislation, and the courts that have upheld it.

Members of Naperville's East Central Homeowners Organization say they're having cordial discussions with Chris Cobb and Susan Wilke, a couple who last year bought the historic 1890s Hammerschmidt mansion at 432 E. Chicago Ave. The owners - who live next door - are aware of the home's historic character. But preservationists say that while the house may be structurally sound, it's neglected and may need up to $500,000 to fix it up. For now, the owners say they just don't know what they'll do with the property, but that they'd be willing to sell it for what they paid for it -- an estimated $770,000.

How do you think this story will turn out? Will someone step forward, buy the home and invest in the repairs? The home isn't protected as a local landmark, and the city says it can't get involved in preservation efforts, so it's possible the home's days could be numbered. Teardowns are common in this town, no need to tell you that.

In general, how well do you think Naperville is preserving parts of its 176-year history?

Naperville Potluck

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

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