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September 2008 Archives

Congress lived up to its 18 percent approval rating Monday when the House failed to pass the $700 billion financial rescue package, or bailout. The stock market responded in kind, dropping some 770 points in the biggest one-day point fall in history.

Naperville's local representative, Judy Biggert, voted against the bailout. Do you agree with her vote? Do you agree that the U.S. government should rescue the financial sector, and the alternative could be worse? Hmmmm....higher taxes, or another Great Depression...which do you prefer?

There is so much to the mess, and no easy way out of it. Are you concerned about your personal savings -- your 401(k), pensions or other retirement investments? What about the value of your home? How much equity is in your home? Have you borrowed on the equity in your home? Did you think home values would always increase? Do you now owe more than your home is worth?

In what ways is the financial crisis affecting you?

Double standard

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How come Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, is faced with questions about whether she could juggle the demands of the position on top of raising five children? Would a male candidate in a similar situation face the same questions?

Is this fair? Why or why not? How is this double standard able to exist?

Remember a little more than a year ago, after the charge that Naperville Councilman Richard Furstenau slapped a police officer was tossed out of court, and he asked for an apology and $130,000 to cover the costs of his failed state Senate campaign? Remember that? And how everyone sorta laughed, and said, who does he think he is? And how City Manager Peter Burchard got absolutely incensed about the request, and so did some other city leaders. Remember that?

Remember when Furstenau went ahead and filed his lawsuit, then? And how that was a big deal at the time, and whether he should remain on the council or resign or at least recuse himself. Gee, time flies. Now, here we are, and the legal costs associated with Furstenau's suit have topped $700,000. It's likely to end up costing Naperville taxpayers well over $1 million -- maybe closer to $2 million -- when this is all over.

Today's question is: Should the city have apologized to Furstenau and ponied up the $130,000 a year ago? it would have been a lot cheaper to taxpayers. Isn't that why most claims end up getting settled instead of going to court, anyway? Or would that have violated the city's principals? If Furstenau loses the case, is he responsible for the city's legal fees? Should he be? Or is he in a no-lose situation, where, even if he loses his case, he still gets to say, "See, I told you the city should have paid me $130,000 and apologized, would have saved everyone a lot of money."

Naperville is grappling with a $5.1 million budget shortfall this year, thanks to less-than-expected revenues from sales and real estate transfer taxes. The city has adopted a hiring freeze, will not replace 21 vehicles in the current budget and will look at other steps to close this year's budget gap.

Next year, unless something is done, the deficit will be in the $10 million to $11 million range, city Finance Director Doug Kreiger told the City Council Tuesday. Moves under consideration include eliminating positions, reductions in overtime spending, wage freezes and other steps dealing with reducing personnel costs.

This is just the beginning of the budget process, a time when the City Council ought to be most receptive to hearing what constituents think ought to be done to balance the budget. This forum is your opportunity to share ideas and debate issues. So pretend you're talking to the mayor and city council, and say what you'd like to see done to get Naperville back in the black.

Many people in Naperville received mailings in the past week saying Naperville City Council member Darlene Senger--the Republican running for state representative 96th District--is an "extremist" who would "turn back the clock on a woman's right to make her own health care decisions." The text is set against a background picturing a coat hanger cocked on a sign that says "Back Alley Medical Services Here."

Senger's opponent, Democrat Dianne McGuire, is responsible for the attack ads.

Many were offended by the ads and contacted The Sun to complain. Senger called a press conference in the wake of our inquiries.

Did you receive one of the ads? What do you think? Do you go too far? Do you think they are fair? How well do you think the negative campaign strategy will work? Could it backfire, and end up doing more damage to McGuire than good? Which candidate do you support in the 96th District race, and why?

Warrenville residents turned out Monday night to hear DuPage County officials explain why flooding was so bad in their community last week. And it turns out that no, it wasn't because the Fawell Dam was controlled in such a way to keep all the water upstream and out of Naperville, they said. It was just that there was an awful lot of water in places that drain into the West Branch of the DuPage River.

Sounds logical enough. Still, Warrenville was hit a lot harder during this flood than Naperville, and residents had their say. High water washed out three bridges, effectively cutting Warrenville in half for days. Some residents said they had to be evacuated, and were unhappy with what they said was poor communication by city officials.

What should Warrenville, Naperville and DuPage County learn from this experience? Should the Warrenville Road, Butterfield Road and Williams Street bridges be replaced with higher structures? How could city and county authorities better communicate with residents during emergencies like this?

Naperville officials rallied along Route 59 Thursday to show their support for a capital bill that would include money to pay for widening the always congested Route 59. In case you've been living under a rock, Illinois stands to lose $9 billion in matching federal funds if the Legislature doesn't get off its fanny and pass a capital bill. We haven't had one here in eight years, and school buildings, roads and bridges are falling apart.

No politician wants to raise taxes, but no one wants to toss away all those hard-earned federal dollars, either. Naperville officials and local Rebublican legislators want you to contact Gov. Rod Blagojevich, state Senate leader Emil Jones and House Speaker Mike Madigan and tell them you want to see a capital bill approved by Oct. 1.

Will you do it? Will you bother to call or write your legislative leaders and governor? Would it make any difference in the long run? Would you do it if you knew their e-mail addresses?

The City Council this week voted to implement a hiring freeze. There's only three positions open now, including that of fire chief. Otherwise, the freeze won't apply to essential police officer and firefighter positions, so it's more like a hiring chill than an all-out freeze.

The city is trying to close a $5 million gap in its current operating budget. Personnel costs account for 76 percent of the city's budget.

Do you agree with the hiring chill decision? How else should Naperville look to cut costs from its current budget. As it begins the process of discussing the 2009-10 budget, where should the city look to cut costs in the future?

It's over. The question about whether the historic Hammerschmidt mansion at 432 E. Chicago Ave. should receive landmark status is settled, and in the end it came down to a debate about property owner rights.

The council voted 5-3 not to grant landmark status. Doug Krause, Kenn Miller, Darlene Senger, James Boyajian and Richard Furstenau voted in the majority, while council members John Rosanova and Robert Fieseler and Mayor A. George Pradel were in the minority.

What's next? Will the house be razed by the owners? What's the status of that effort to sell shares and raise money to buy and restore the home? What do you think of the council's decision--did it get it right?

Tuesday was the first day that candidates could pick up packets and begin circulating nominating petitions for the spring city council elections, which might involve a primary. School and park board candidates get to wait a couple more weeks.

In Naperville, the four-year seats of incumbents Doug Krause, Kenn Miller, James Boyajian and John Rosanova are up for election. Krause and Miller are running again, while Boyajian and Rosanova have yet to indicate whether they will seek re-election.

We also learned Tuesday of the first challenger intending to run for city council: plan commission member and Naperville entrepreneur Joe McElroy.

Now, we're not going to let this thread sink into a series of personal attacks about the candidates. If you can't say something nice about them, don't say anything at all. We want to know, who around town do you think would make a good public servant? Who do you know that would be a good person to serve the city on the council? Have you considered running for office yourself? If you know someone who would make a good council member, have you approached that person and suggested the idea of seeking public office?

UPDATE: Boyajian has announced he does not intend to seek re-election.

There's nothing like a long bicycle ride on a beautiful summer weekend day. And the Naperville Park District wants to make sure that routes for that long ride or run easily lead from the city to other surrounding cities. Officials even are developing a master plan and want residents to offer input in the process. The Sun talked to some residents like Tim Ward who uses the trails frequently for biking and walking. "To get out of the town and into the woods - the peace and serenity of it all," he said.

How do you think the district should improve Naperville's trails? How safe are the intersections and roads that connect to the trails? What routes would you like created or made safer? What are the best trails now or your favorite route?

The sound of gushing water filled the basement of Benjamin Moore Paints around noon Monday. Manager Louis Kussman had rushed to move boxes of drapes and paper products to high shelves when water started leaking into the downtown Naperville store Sunday morning. Even after the rain stopped early Monday morning, the water continued to creep up. "Until the river goes down, this ain't going down," said Kussman, standing on the fourth step of the basement stairs and looking at the two feet of water covering the floor. While water was just below the first step around 9 a.m., it had nearly reached the third step 3 ½ hours later, he said.

Stories like this one told by staff reporter Paige Winfield paint a vivid picture. We'd like to share your story about the weekend flooding. Was your wedding or birthday party put on hold? What's the situation at your house, and in your neighborhood? Do you have water in your basement? Are you affected by closed roads, or flooding in your neighborhood? (If you have pictures, send them to photooftheday@scn1.com.) What do you think of the response by city and other emergency officials?

Northern Illinois remained under a flash flood watch Saturday, as Naperville activated its Emergency Operation Center and reported some roads were impassable due to heavy rains.

Still, other communities appear to be much more affected by the flooding Saturday. Naperville is experiencing some problems, but the situation here does not appear to be as bad as it is in other towns.

More rain is forecast for Sunday, as Illinois is expected to be hit by the remnants of Hurricane Ike.

What's the situation at your house, and in your neighborhood? Do you have water in your basement? Are you affected by closed roads, or flooding in your neighborhood? (If you have pictures, send them to photooftheday@scn1.com.) What do you think of the response by city and other emergency officials?

On this solemn day, we pause to remember those who lost their lives during the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the many patriots who have perished in the conflicts in Iraq and Afganistan since that terrible day. We reflect on our nation, our freedom, and the common bonds we share as Americans.

How has 9/11 changed or affected you, and the way you and your family lead their lives? Please be respectful with your comments.

The Naperville Park District board meets tonight and has a short but significant agenda to tackle. Fresh from hiring Ray McGury to be executive director, the board will conduct a special meeting behind closed doors to consider an invitation to buy the Ponds of Hobson West property. Then the board is set to discuss the Ponds offer in -- gasp -- open session. Then maybe it will act on this latest offer to buy 6 acres for $2.5 million and we can all finally see the matter put to rest for good, or until there's another scheme to unload the land.

Then the park board is expected to hear from people who use the community garden plots on West Street, part of the 300-acre Martin-Mitchell bequest in the heart of Naperville that includes Central high school, Naper Settlement, Edward Hospital, Knoch Park, Naperville Cemetery and Sportsman's Park. Some powerbrokers feel strongly that those garden plots are an underutilization of prime property. They can't stand to see that land used so passively, and every day that the land sits unimproved without some sort of ballfield or recreation center on it just brings them more pain.

Some gardeners and their dirty hoes have caught wind of this, and like freshly spread manure they don't like what they smell in the air. So, in typical Naperville deliberative fashion, the board is expected to hear from gardeners about initiating a process to gather public input about the fate of the garden plots.

Let's cut to the chase. Forget all the other components of the Martin-Mitchell property. Let's just talk about the garden plots. Should they stay there on West Street? There are some who are drooling over that land, and want to set up the green thumbs elsewhere. What say you? Do you agree the property is underutilized? Is it right to relocate the garden plots for the benefit of more active recreational pursuits?

A couple stories from Wednesday's Sun illustrate how DuPage County is gradually becoming more diverse. It may still have one of the highest per-capita income rates in the nation, where housing is hardly affordable, and where 100 percent of the county office-holders are Republican. But there are signs of change.

First is Tuesday's opening of the Sudanese Community Center in Naperville. Cofounder Gene Tenner of Lisle estimates that two-thirds of the 800 to 1,000 people who fled to the Chicago area from the genocide in Darfur are living in DuPage County. We wish the center success in serving the Sudanese community and welcome the facility to Naperville.

Second is a story about funding for the DuPage County health department, which is proposed to remain flat at $48 million for 2009. Health Department Executive Director Maureen McHugh notes there are 18,000 Medicaid recipients living in DuPage, and that the county is home to more low-income residents now than it was five years ago. A chief contributing factor is the 29,523 Hispanics who have moved into the county since 2003, she said.

That's a lot of change in a relatively short amount of time. How do you see the changing demographics affecting life in DuPage? Will housing become more affordable? Will taxes increase? Will a Democrat ever be elected to a county office? Have you noticed the increasing diversity, and thought about how it affects you?

The Naperville Sun has received several complaints about Nicor Gas bills. It's summer but readers' bills don't reflect that -- usually bills come every two months in the warm months. The Citizens Utility Board also has received complaints -- almost 500 about their bills. The consumer watchdog group says some customers are being billed inaccuratly because Nicor is not reading meters every two months as required by law. When meters are estimated instead of read, customers can end up paying less than what they're consuming, a CUB official says. Problems come when the meters are read after months of being estimated. Cub says when the meter is finally read, customers get hit with extermely high bills because of the accumulation, and because Nicor charges all upaid bills at the last month's rate. Nicor attributes the higher than usual customer complaints to billing changes. The company is offering some relief. Through Sept. 19, certain customers will be eligible to pay half their balance and pay the rest in installments over nine months.

Tell us your stories about high energy costs and what you plan to do to deal with them as cooler weather heads our way. With natural gas prices hitting $1.45 per therm in July, what will that mean for you?

Things are really tough in the housing market. New home sales, especially. Why, some builders are actually offering buy one, get one free deals. For new homes! Builders are facing a glut of new construction in the residential market. Of course, this is a general trend, and you're likely to find pockets of healthy demand if you go looking.

Amid this backdrop, Crestview Builders is making a new pitch to sell its 6-acre Ponds of Hobson West property to the Naperville Park District for $2.5 million, no strings attached. You may recall, the Park District passed on the opportunity previously. Crestview hasn't dropped its price, but it has removed a number of conditions it had attached to the sale. Yep. The Park District can have the land, free and clear. For $2.5 million, or about $416,000 an acre.

Yikes. That's a lot for park space. Heck, Indian Prairie didn't want to pay anything close to that figure per acre to acquire land for a high school. To us, that still seems steep. We'd all love to see that land remain open. But in today's depressed real estate market, we think the park board was smart to pass on the prior offer, and it should be able to negotiate a steep reduction in price if it seriously wants to acquire the Ponds of Hobson West land.

Do you agree? What do you think would be a fair price to pay for the 6 acres? What's the most the Park District should pay, in your opinion?

The City Council Tuesday night approved a plan to build the city's 10th fire station near 95th Street and Route 59. This entails, among other things, hiring 12 more firefighters and spending at least $1.5 million on a ladder truck. Public service comes with a price tag.

How do you rate public services in Naperville? Police, fire, water, electricity? Do you feel you're getting your money's worth? Would you be willing to sacrifice quality for cost?

Here's a thought: As municipal and state governments look increasingly toward privatization, (of lotteries, prisons, toll roads, etc.), do you think local governments will ever considering outsourcing police, fire, public works or educational services? Could private companies realistically handle educating of our children, responding to emergencies and maintaining infrastructure, at a lower cost? Should such important services be trusted to private enterprise instead of monopolistic municipalities? Tell us what you think.

Teen births are on the rise in Naperville. Teen pregnancy transcends racial, ethnic and class borders. It's one of those social issues that linger in the background until an event comes along and forces it to the forefront.

That's what's happened since the revelation that 17-year-old Bristol Palin, daughter of Alaska governor and John McCain running mate Sarah Palin, is pregnant. She plans to have the baby and marry the father, an 18-year-old hockey player from her high school.

There's no doubt this situation is affecting the election. This situation, along with revelations that the elder Palin tried to get a state trooper fired because he was divorcing her sister, has raised questions about how well the Republicans vetted this vice presidential choice. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, says family members should be off limits, and that seems to be the hope of many Republicans, too.

But some Republicans are using Bristol's pregnancy to champion the party's family-values platform, saying the child will be raised in a loving family. How successful do you think they'll be at turning this into a positive? Do you think this could end up costing McCain votes in November? What do you think about the teen pregnancy issue locally--how much of a concern is it in Naperville?

Organizers are set to kick off Naperville's second annual Celebration of Peace. It will run Sept. 15 through Oct. 16 and feature lectures and discussions, a film fest, a charitable drive to collect art supplies for children, and keynote addresses by Robert Thurman (father of actress Uma) and Martin Luther King III.

We encourage everyone in Naperville to embrace the spirit of the Celebration of Peace. To your best to peacefully resolve conflicts for the next few weeks. If you want to support the drive to collect art supplies, contributions such as chalk, crayons, markers, pencils, erasers, glue sticks, scissors, paints, brushes and rulers are most needed. Used and partial contributions are welcome as long as they work. Drop-off sites include the following Celebration of Peace Community Partners:

District 204 elementary schools
District 203 Administration Center, 203 W. Hillside Road
Anderson's Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Avenue
School of the Performing Arts, 200 E. 5th Avenue, #132
Trader Joe's, 44 West Gartner Road
Whole Foods, 2607 W. 75th
Kroehler Family YMCA, 34 S. Washington Street
Fry Family YMCA, 2121 W. 95th Street
St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 1500 Brookdale Road
Wesley United Methodist Church, 21 E. Franklin Avenue

Naperville Potluck

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

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