Waldack: Seeking Reality TV? Come to a Village Council Meeting

Commissioner responds to colleagues, residents comments on storm cleanup and ComEd.

This meeting was all about the storms, including another storm cloud brewing over Village Hall.

Commissioner (Bob) Barnett was clearly in campaign re-election mode as he may have been pandering to Downers Grove voters at their most vulnerable time. He suggested taxpayer funding of private property cleanup, which is a major flip-flop on his part from everything he has supported up to now, which would cost taxpayers about another $132,000.

For a commissioner who was unwilling to collect $1 for the most vulnerable of our residents, he now seems to be supporting a policy change that may increase taxes by 25 times as much. After supporting over $1 million in tax increases, he may now be supporting $132,000 on top of the over $600,000 already spent this year due to both winter and summer storms—and not just as a one-time event.

The council majority for the last several years has expounded the delineation of private property from public property in redevelopment issues. The council majority attitude was to “keep the village away from my private property trees.” The ideology espouses the separation, but Commissioner Barnett seems to now promote the frequent removal of the private debris at taxpayer expense.

One must question whether this is a true flip-flop in ideology, or pandering, knowing he did not have the votes to overturn the policy.  Either way, the mantra he pushed for his three candidates at the last election was a village living “within its means.” He may be willing to drastically increase “the means” and start reaching for the village credit card. 

I will reiterate for the record that all those residents who came out to complain to council about the siren policy should realize that council has no direct input with the siren policy. We are not consulted nor does council approve the procedures. That is the purview of staff and staff alone. 

Having said that, Downers Grove has been lucky twice and each time the policy and preparedness has been improved. We have been given unique circumstances and have improved. Until another community has been tested similarly, are you really sure of their preparedness? I have, over the last few weeks, expressed my opinions and frustrations on my web site. 

Commissioner (Sean) Durkin’s comments at the July 5 meeting were correct to a point. We all must take some responsibility for our own safety. However, his suggestion that people always see a storm coming is not always true.

For over a decade, I had the somewhat unique vantage point living in a high rise that allowed me to see storms coming from 20 miles away and also looking down upon people and traffic on the streets below. I saw people and cars below enjoying the spring or summer day below and could count down the seconds that they would be inundated with all manner of rain, hail, and lightning. They would scatter below. In an instant, it went from a beautiful day to serious thunderstorms. The assumption that people see or hear it coming is not necessarily so.

The role of the sirens is to warn. Since our tornado traveled a mile a minute, does five miles or five minutes seem to be sufficient? Would you like more warning? I would, but as I stated above, that’s not part of the council job description.

ComEd is essentially a monopoly deliverer of electrical service. Service has not been acceptable and their message is more public relations than fact. While people like to suggest court action, the realities are that the process would be long and expensive, and the prospects for success are not encouraging. An example would be the public distaste for the District 99 lawsuit over the Woodridge property—which would pale in comparison.

Council has not been passive on the issue. While some may be placated by a visit from a ComEd VP, ComEd has more VPs than an average bank, and the title is there to impress the customer rather than insure action.

The fact is Downers Grove is not alone in bad service and ComEd frequently drinks at the trough in Springfield. We should seek allies in our fight so I suggest we make amends with our neighbors, who we may have estranged in recent years, and seek regional organizations, such as DuPage Mayors and Managers, who we have abandoned in favor of going it alone, to help. There are also our state-elected officials, CUB, and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office ( I misspoke and said State’s Attorney at the meeting). 

Stomping up and down at a council meeting is not welcome—I’ve come close and have been heavily criticized—and so do not take comments or lack thereof as fear or passivity. Emotional outbursts by our visitors to council meetings should be expected and allowed as people do need to vent frustrations on this or other issues.

I like to see our residents at meetings and I want them to speak up. While some may feel it extends meetings and keeps one from going home early, I think it’s part of the job. How do you represent people if you don’t listen to them? You can’t be opening mail and texting during council meetings.

By the way, I noticed some extra laughter and chattering during my comments coming from the other side of the dais. Cripes! Some people don’t want to hear from either residents or commissioners!  Come to a meeting and enjoy the off-camera antics. I am of the opinion that my side of the dais has been the more civil. Come and judge for yourself.

Summer is a time for “reality TV.” There is no better “reality” than coming to a council meeting and actually seeing and hearing how your money is collected and spent. Indeed, you may even want to become part of the process. You can meet and talk to all the actors and even interact with members of the audience and make new friends.  

William Waldack
Village Council Commissioner 

Scott C. July 13, 2011 at 09:58 PM
I'll renew my request for Downers Grove to put video of its Council meetings on the Village website or YouTube (with a link from the Village website) like nearly every one of our neighboring communities does. The podcast is better than nothing, but its very 1999 and not being able to observe the nonverbal communication, etc. takes away from the full experience. If it proves too challenging to get video up on the site and/or You Tube, I'm sure there is a 4th grader around who can help. (Tongue in cheek, of course, but the point remains - there's really little excuse not to have this capability.)
William Vollrath July 13, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Some nights it does, in fact, serve as a worthy substitute to watching The Gong Show...
Doug Grier July 13, 2011 at 10:25 PM
I wish Mr. Waldack was the mayor.
Brian Mc July 14, 2011 at 03:18 AM
While I tend to agree with many of the points made, I have to wonder what expectations the author has of ComEd during times of widespread natural destruction. My DG home and business were without power for 4 days and 6 hours respectively, after the June tornado. I found those restoration times to be remarkably fast, given the scope of damage in our town and across Chicago. This week, the destruction is severe yet again, and ComEd again is offering a 4 day+\- restoration estimate. They have pulled personnel from as far away as Pennsylvania. What more can you expect? I think a common answer would be for ComEd to"trim the trees". I believe that was done, village wide, last year, by ComEd. Perhaps I am missing some backstory to the idea that ComEd fails to meet its duty. I fail to find much fault with ComEd. I'd rather blame these powerless days on mother nature and her increasingly powerful storms.
paul cappetta July 14, 2011 at 04:29 AM
Mr. Waldack tells it like it is and that may upset some people in certain parts of our town.
Doug Grier July 14, 2011 at 01:20 PM
I think the point is the frequency of outages in certain parts of Chicagoland - Downers Grove included. Google Downers Grove or western suburbs and power outage and you will get a taste. Communities that have been proactive in infrastructure such as Schaumburg have far fewer issues - while laissez-faire communities such as DG are plagued with outages and an antiquated and unsightly electrical system. Power lines in strategic locations need to be buried - plain and simple (yes, I know this does not solve all problems). In other areas of town the poles need to be consistent height and straight - not leaning at a 45 degree angle. And, if we are going to have above ground lines everywhere we really need to start cutting down some trees. Hacking up trees is not only a waste of money and unsightly - it's promoting unhealthy, dangerous trees.
Melanie C July 14, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Does anyone have any recommendations for possible candidates? We need to start thinking about these things. Unfortunately, we are saddled with THREE Sandack and DGCA mouthpieces for the next four years......unless one of them is forced to step down due to his lack of ethics and integrity. I have first hand knowledge of this!!!! I believe we need to start our own group. The ideology and premise behind the group could be to locate and interview possible candidates who will run our beautiful town with high moral standards and impartial/unbiased behavior. We could constantly monitor our recommendations and make sure that the road we want to travel on is clear of corruption and cronyism. I truly think we could make a difference if we got together and brainstormed. Coffee with the council on Saturday morning is an option. The forum is resident comments. I would suggest we try to meet there however, my past experience is that unless you are there to pat them on the back for a job well done they don't want you to sit down. Hmmmmmm....... Sorry this is a repeat post.. I put it on wrong article the first time.
Kyle Jordan July 14, 2011 at 02:40 PM
There were many candidates in the last election that were moral and great options for the community. But based on the politics and business power in our sleepy town, the best candidates did not stand a chance to get elected! The voters that turned out gave us the robot commision that we have today, because that is what they were brainwashed into doing.
Tim Meaney July 14, 2011 at 02:44 PM
From its inception the so-called “core services” notion has troubled me because it excludes or reduces the pittance of help for those Commissioner Waldack correctly describes as “the most vulnerable among us”. And now this “core” might be expanded to paying for removal of storm debris from private property? At a cost of over $130K? This reminds me of the time Commissioner Waldack held up an apple core at a Council meeting to describe core services – nothing left but the pits. But instead of putting some real flesh back on that core, it now appears to be developing a tumor….
Melanie C July 14, 2011 at 03:34 PM
I agree Kyle. This is a very sad but true statement. We can thank the DGCA and those individuals that endorse the "robot commission". Mr. Sandack stated that " Becky Reingten stated unequivocally that she stands ready to STAY the course paved by the majority on the last council. Perhaps, this is part of the reason the residents voted to put term limits on our council members. I find it very interesting that at least the last TWO election cycles vthe DGCA endorsed candidates have been elected. Perhaps we should band together and campaign for the candidates that lost in the last election. I believe that they were very good choices but maybe failed to become recognized. Some diversity would be welcomed. "Staying the course" can't possibly be the best option. That gets stale and has the tendency to become corrupt.
Melanie C July 14, 2011 at 04:21 PM
It is not only that Mr. Waldack is upfront with Downers Grove residents, but his only agenda is to serve the community. Unlike the Sandack lemmings who are placed there to serve themselves, their friends and campaign contributors. It is only arrogant to suggest by certain members of the council that residents should be warm and fuzzy when addressing them. Please, pray tell, provide the residents with future guidelines that we can follow when voicing our concerns to the council. Whoops faux pas. That comment might be construed as sarcastic or "disruptive". SORRY!
Jeffrey Crane July 14, 2011 at 04:23 PM
It is not only that Mr. Waldack is upfront with Downers Grove residents, but his only agenda is to serve the community. Unlike the Sandack lemmings who are placed there to serve themselves, their friends and campaign contributors. It is only arrogant to suggest by certain members of the council that residents should be warm and fuzzy when addressing them. Please, pray tell, provide the residents with future guidelines that we can follow when voicing our concerns to the council. Whoops faux pas. That comment might be construed as sarcastic or "disruptive". SORRY!
Steve G. July 14, 2011 at 05:46 PM
So did Mr. Waldack, once upon a time....
paul cappetta July 15, 2011 at 08:10 PM
It's great to hear talk about the next election. Maybe we'll actually get a 25-30% turnout in the WHOLE town of Downers Grove! The Bob Block runs makes the decisions now. It will be very intertesting to see if one of four ever will venture astray when governing. My guess is a resounding no! At least in prior years we had "independant" thinkers on the commission like Bill Waldack. This is the way I see it as a 14 year plus resident and it's pretty crystal clear. The problem is about 80 percent of the eligible local DG voters were asleep during election time this past spring.
Cliff Grammich July 15, 2011 at 11:30 PM
I can't imagine many voters really want to think about the 2013 elections this early. Or even the 2012 elections. I don't recall "block" voting on the Maple Avenue crossing project, one of the first significant decisions this council had to make. I trust all (including Commissioners Barnett and Waldack, who voted opposite ways) voted their convictions on that. Anyway, rather than worrying too much about council politics just three months after the last election, I might lobby for a new town motto: "The Village of Downers Grove--we may not always have electricity, but we might pick up your storm debris!"
paul cappetta July 16, 2011 at 10:24 AM
Cliff, I agree it's a little early but it's never too early to "try" to get the eligible voters at least slightly enagaged in what is happening in local DG politics. I am amazed at how many people I talk to in our town, that can't even name one of the commissioner's names! When you have a less than 20 percent voter turnout, it is a pretty sad state of affairs. It would have been interesting to have polled the residents who came to complain about Com Ed and sirens to see how many voted this spring. My point is this that 80% choose to pass up on their right to have a say on who represents them and their interests! This is pathetic and embarassing for the town and the local political process.
Cliff Grammich July 16, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Paul, I would never discourage anybody from becoming engaged in local affairs nor from voting. I might question whether low voter turnout is the most embarassing thing about VoDG politics. Cheers,.
paul cappetta July 17, 2011 at 11:34 AM
I just like residents to realize that our mayor and commissioners make major decisons that impact what happens in Downers Grove in almost every area from services to taxes and beyond. Why 80 percent sat on the sidelides in one of the most trying economic times in years befuddles me! We should have no lower than a 35 percent turnout in a very important election this past spring. Instead we sat back and let one area of the town in particular dictate by it's strong voter turnout (my compliments to that area for being active in the political process; Melanie is well aware of what I am saying here) who would represent us as commissioners for the next 4 years. I will do all I can before the 2013 local elections to get the message out to vote. When we pass on voting locally, we give our voice on key decisions away. It all seems pretty easy that we could go from a 20 to a 30 percent voter turnout in the next election especially with all the early voting opportunities. And yes Cliff it is very embarassing that less than 20 percent of the eligible voters in DG voted.....it spells apathy.
Jeffrey Crane July 17, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Village leaders depend on low turnout to further their agenda. Just a few hundred more voters and the outcome would change dramatically. Let's get "political."


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