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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Naperville Mayor Chirico aims to follow ‘Path to Yes’


Above / During the State of the City Address, Mayor Steve Chirico recognized two of his predesessors in attendance for their service to the City of Naperville.  Mayor Margaret “Peg” Price served from 1983 to 1991 and Mayor Emeritus George Pradel served from 1995 to 2015.

The State of the City Address presented by the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, traditionally held in late January, was moved to April as Mayor Steve Chirico wraps up his first year in that office.

With a large audience of more than 550 pre-registered members and guests, the luncheon event was held at the Embassy Suites in Naperville during the NACC General Membership Luncheon on Mon., April 25, 2016.

“We actually have 550 registered with room for 20 walk-ins. My hunch is we’ll fill it up,” said Nicki Anderson, President & CEO of the Chamber about an hour before the event.

The room filled up quickly indeed with an enthusiastic buzz as folks greeted each other in the spacious banquet venue set for a plated lunch. Chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors Adam Russo gave a warm welcome to everyone in attendance, at which time enthusiastic applause resonated when each of the previous mayors was introduced.

Photo Galley / Click any photo to enlarge.

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Though unable to stay until the end, PN learned prior to the luncheon that Mayor Chirico planned something different this year beyond the engaging video at the beginning and the normal city updates. After his address, he planned to invite Anderson and Christine Jeffries, President of the Naperville Development Partnership (NDP), up on stage to discuss how they’ve partnered with the City this year in support of the local economy.

“Between the Mayor and Christine, the collaboration and communication has been extraordinary,” said Anderson.  “Christine’s brilliant job of bringing in great businesses and Mayor’s passion for a great city… They give me the information I need to be a valuable resource for our Members and the community and beyond.  Whether it’s a new Member passed along from Christine, or an issue that the Mayor believes businesses need to know, I feel fortunate to have a strong relationship with our Mayor and NDP.”

2016 State of the City of Naperville

Mayor Steve Chirico

Good afternoon. It’s an honor to be with you here today to give my first State of the City address.

I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce, especially Nicki Anderson and her staff, for hosting this annual opportunity to discuss Naperville’s future. I’d also like to thank Embassy Suites for their hospitality.

Joining me today is my wife Julie, who I’m honored to have by my side today and every day. Thank you for your support, dear.

A big thanks to all of my children and my brother Tony for their love and support throughout my campaign and my first year as Mayor.

There are many notables in the room today, including two previous Naperville mayors who collectively gave 28 years of service to the city. Mayors Peg Price and George Pradel, please stand.

I have to admit, I’m a little intimidated up here after 20 years of the energetic George Pradel giving the city’s annual update. Quite honestly, I felt like I needed a little bit of training to adequately prepare me for this moment. Fortunately, Mayor Pradel was more than happy to help me out.

George has been a great help to me this year. As Naperville’s first Mayor Emeritus, he remains one of the city’s greatest cheerleaders. Thank you, George, for all you’ve done for Naperville and for all you continue to do. You have been a great friend and mentor.

I rely very much on the advice from my friends and family. In my view, no one person has all the right answers. When we get advice from people we trust, the end result is almost always better.

Mayor’s Advisory Team, City Council Leadership, City Staff

My Mayor’s Advisory Team was – and continues to be – a very valuable part of my decision-making process. If my Mayor’s Advisory Team would please stand – thank you all for your support and guidance this past year.

As Mayor, one of my main priorities is to position Naperville as the most competitive city in the state. I am committed to accomplishing this goal, and economic development is a key component to this.

Attracting and retaining businesses and filling empty storefronts and buildings is critically important to maintaining a well-balanced community.

That being said, before we could address our economic development initiatives, the new City Council and I had several issues we needed to deal with.

As Naperville continued to move from a growth to a maintenance community, along with the damaging effects of the recession, the city depleted its cash reserves, resulting in a structurally unbalanced budget.

It was important to assure the residents and the business community that we had a responsible and sustainable financial strategy. So, last year we adopted three financial principles.

I am proud of our City Council for taking a politically courageous vote to secure our financial future.

As a result of this vote, we now have a structurally balanced budget, a plan to reduce our city’s debt levels, and we are now replenishing our cash reserves.

To accomplish these goals, we trimmed our costs and aligned our services, but that alone was not enough to balance our budget. We also had to find additional revenues. So, we approved a ½ percent sales tax.

As part of the sales tax agreement, our financial plan also included a $2 million annual property tax abatement. I’m pleased to report that last month we approved that abatement as promised.

In my view, these financial principles will be the framework for all budgetary decisions moving forward. This was an important step in the right direction.

Others agree. Last month Moody’s conducted a review of the city to update the rating of our bonds. I’m proud to say we have retained our AAA bond rating.

Look, this is a big deal folks – it is the highest possible bond rating. Only five cities in Illinois have this rating.

Moody’s called out our superior credit position, financial health, strong local economy, our diverse tax base, and our balanced financial operations.

This achievement is thanks to city staff using the continuous improvement model of delivering efficient services while saving money.

Our City Manager Doug Krieger and our directors did an outstanding job last year finding efficiencies in the budget. I would like to ask all of our directors to stand, so we can thank them for their innovation this past year.

I think innovation is really the key to our long-term success.

Naperville’s history is about progress through hard work and taking a chance. We didn’t get to where we are today by taking the easy votes or following the crowd. Our brand is about standing apart and making tough calls.

One of those tough calls was addressing our electric utility.

As you know, Naperville has a very reliable electric service, and a reliable electric service is critically important to attracting and retaining businesses.

In 2015, on average, each electric customer in Naperville experienced less than 21 minutes of power outages. Our Electric Department’s reliability is literally off the charts better than other providers, but for a variety of reasons, the cost to purchase power was much higher than anticipated.

As a result, in the City Council’s first year while dealing with our budget challenges, we also had to address the long-term financial health of the utility.

This was a difficult decision, but at the end of the day, we made the right decision. I am pleased to report that our Electric Utility is now on a sustainable financial path. • Sometimes, innovation means looking inward and having the courage to say “We can do better.”

Last year, we began streamlining processes within the city to remove impediments to business development.

We empowered our staff to approve variances that traditionally had to come before the Planning and Zoning Commission, followed by the City Council. Our goal is to make this process as simple and streamlined as possible.

‘Find the Path to Yes’

There is a phrase that is used in our Transportation, Engineering and Development group – “Find the Path to Yes.” What does it mean? It means working with our businesses to get them settled expeditiously into Naperville while minimizing their costs.

As a city, we believe we’re partners with the business community. We continually look for the best ways to attract and retain businesses.

We also believe that what is good for our neighboring communities is good for Naperville.

With us today are Mayors from many of our surrounding communities. Mayors, if you could please stand to be recognized as I call your name.

From West Chicago we have Mayor Ruben Pineda. We also have Mayor Joe Broda of Lisle, Mayor Tom Weisner from Aurora, Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and his wife Rachel, Mayor David Brummel from Warrenville, Mayor Martin Tully and his wife Shanon of Downers Grove, President Gail Johnson of Oswego, Mayor Kevin Burns of Geneva, and Mayor Roger Claar from Bolingbrook.

Thank you all for being here today. I look forward to working with all of the local Mayors to lift our entire region.

Our towns face many challenges, so we need to use all of our resources to find success. This means thinking outside of the box.

School Districts 203 & 204

Last year the city partnered with School District 204 and the Naperville Development Partnership on Mission 60564. This project asked marketing students from the three high schools to come up with a plan to attract new businesses to Naperville Crossings.

We were impressed with the creativity, professionalism and business savvy of all of the students. So much so that this year, District 203 is taking its turn with architectural students having the chance to redesign the Iroquois Center on the northeast side of town.

As I told the students a few months ago, you have an opportunity to shape the development of this business district, and really, the future of Naperville.

Ogden Avenue is one of the gateways to our community – and quite frankly, it needs attention.

These students are our future. Their creative thinking can help us identify what tomorrow’s business districts look like. At the same time, this project gives them practical experience toward their personal careers.

I’d like to recognize Dan Bridges and Karen Sullivan, superintendents of Districts 203 and 204, for providing our youth with these types of real-world experiences.

Without our partners, we couldn’t maintain Naperville’s world-class reputation. All of you played a major role in where we are today.

Naperville Public Library, Naper Settlement, DuPage Children’s Museum

Our public library continued their ambitious remodeling project in 2015. The changes provided more space and technology to the community, including entrepreneurs.

A strong modern library will help spur innovation and ideas. It’s a must for our future. The library also continues to make headlines as one of the best library systems in the country. Thank you Julie Rothenfluh for your leadership.

Naper Settlement has big plans as well. Through programs like Pioneers to Mars and a state-of-the-art Agricultural Interpretive Center, the Settlement will add to its learning opportunities for all. Thanks to Rena Tamayo-Calabrese for her leadership.

On the north end of downtown, the DuPage Children’s Museum completed a major renovation resulting from a flood caused by a water pipe break. The rebuilding of the museum took strength, courage and dedication. Congratulations to Sarah Orleans for her determination and leadership.

Edward-Elmhurst Health

We can’t forget Edward-Elmhurst Health, led by Pam Davis. Pam was just honored with the Service Award from the American College of Healthcare Executives. Congratulations Pam, and thank you for all that you do.

Some of our greatest success stories in 2015 came from the idea we’re better when we innovate together. Sometimes that’s in Naperville, and sometimes it’s across borders.

Household Hazardous Waste Facility

Our new Household Hazardous Waste Facility on Fort Hill Drive is a good example.

This facility is a partnership between Naperville; DuPage, Kane and Will counties; and Aurora. It meets a critical need for getting rid of solvents, oil-based paint and other items.

The number of people dropping off these items increased by 10 percent in 2015. Although we increased collections, we were able to cut down wait times from as long as two hours to less than 10 minutes. That’s a huge win for both the environment and for Illinois residents.

Route 59 Diverging Diamond Interchange 

While we are talking about developments in west Naperville, I have to mention the successful expansion of Route 59.

The new diverging diamond interchange where Route 59 meets Interstate 88 is a state of the art model in engineering and innovation.

Innovation continues to lead our initiatives.

Prescription Drug Drop Box Program

Which brings me to the Prescription Drug Drop Box program. This program allows citizens to safely and anonymously get rid of expired or unneeded prescription medicines.

Since its start in 2014, the boxes at all 10 fire stations and police headquarters have collected over 4,000 pounds of unneeded prescriptions.

Think about this. Not only did we prevent these drugs from being used improperly, we have diverted over 4,000 pounds of drugs from improper disposal. So this program protects our waterways as well our residents.

KidsMatter and ParentsMatterToo became a critical partner in keeping prescription meds out of the hands of those who may abuse them.

The “Don’t Be an Accidental Drug Dealer” campaign made our entire community aware that these medicines can lead to big problems when used or disposed of incorrectly.

Last November, volunteers from organizations like the school districts and 360 Youth Services distributed over 200 educational pieces of literature about this issue. Thank you to everyone in this room who participated in this community effort.

I especially want to recognize IdaLynn Wenhold of KidsMatter and Dagmar Kauffman and Michelle Iskowitz of Parents Matter Too. I think they deserve a round of applause for taking on this very difficult, but very important, issue.

The thing is, our Police are on the front lines of combating drug use, especially heroin. • In 2015 all officers in our department were provided with the drug Narcan, and they were trained in its use to reduce the impact of a drug overdose. This program has already saved lives.

In addition, the Police Department recently started the heroin recovery assistance program “Connect for Life.” We now understand that society cannot solve the drug problem through enforcement and arrests alone.

This initiative is another innovative way that our police keep Naperville one of the safest cities in America.

Meeting Needs of Maturing Demographic

From north to south and east to west, Naperville has continued to grow, redevelop, and mature. As we mature, we need to be prepared to meet the needs of our new demographic.

By 2019, 27 percent of our population will be age 55 or older. To make sure the needs of our seniors are understood, the Council created the Senior Task Force in 2014.

This group, led by Karen Courney and Bev Frier, has done an outstanding job in the past year of proposing creative solutions to meet those needs. Thank you to Karen and Bev for your dedication to our seniors. • It’s worth noting that the Senior Task Force is forming a nonprofit organization to oversee a new volunteer driver program.

The new program will connect seniors who need rides to medical appointments with drivers who stay with them during their appointment and then take them home.

This is a great example of Naperville’s volunteer citizens working together to solve a problem without adding costs to the taxpayers.

Naperville is known as a community of volunteers and we rely on many boards and commissions. If you serve – or have served – on a city board, commission, or task force, please stand. Thank you so much for your service.

Thank to Volunteers!

Our community is based on the spirit of volunteerism. This is one of the most valuable gifts you can give your community. Thank you all for giving me a wonderful community to grow up in and to raise my family in. • I would also like to thank all of our veterans in the audience today. Without you, I would not have the freedom to stand here to speak before you. Thank you for your service.

Innovation & Public Safety

I’ve talked a lot about innovation, but there’s another piece of the puzzle to consider.

As a city, we’re consistently looking for other ways to serve the community more efficiently, because innovation and efficiency together save money.

Our Fire Department’s Alternative Response Rescue Vehicle program is a great example.

This program allows one person in an SUV to respond to non-emergency calls as opposed to sending three people in a large engine or ladder truck. This initiative not only saves staff time, but it also saves gas and reduces maintenance costs and we still provide a timely response that better matches the situation.

I’m very proud that this program received the 2015 DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference Innovation Award, marking it as the most innovative and creative program in our county.

We also initiated a pilot program between the Fire Department and Illinois State Liquor Control Commission. This program has brought liquor inspections from the state to the local level. Naperville is the first to be chosen to partner with the state in this effort.

Our Fire Marshal’s service personnel are now trained to perform these inspections on a regular basis. This program brings greater liquor code compliance to our city and makes all of our establishments safer. • With us today is the Illinois Liquor Control Commission Executive Director and Naperville resident U-Jung Choe, Director of Enforcement Ivan Fernandez and Naperville’s liquor attorney Kavita Athanikar. Thank you for your leadership and collaboration.

The Fire Department is also working with our neighboring communities to send the closest emergency vehicle from the closest station no matter where a call for help comes from. Chief Puknaitis refers to this as Fire Protection without Borders. • This will decrease response times and lower operational costs in Naperville and surrounding areas.

Naperville’s public safety departments provide a model for efficiency and community-oriented service. • Last year, the Police Department partnered with the downtown businesses in an innovative approach to reduce crime in this area. Because of this successful partnership, Naperville is still recognized as one of the safest cities in America.

We can’t thrive as a city without the work of a world-class accredited public safety team. Thanks to Chief Puknaitis and Chief Marshall for their continued dedication and innovation.

Looking Forward at Collaboration, Innovation, Sound Fiscal Management

It’s now time to look forward to 2016 and beyond.

As a Council, we each have a vision for Naperville’s future. Collectively, we’re bringing together our goals and visions into one cohesive plan.

To do that, we thought a good place to start was by updating the city’s mission statement. This statement gives us a renewed focus and it reaffirms what we value as an organization.

After considerable discussion, we came up with the following mission statement: “To provide services that ensure a high quality of life for our residents and a dynamic environment for our business community through collaboration, innovation, and sound fiscal management.”

To create this dynamic environment, we have turned our focus to efficiency and consolidation. Governor Rauner’s Task Force Consolidation Report released this year was an excellent place to start.

Many of the recommendations in that report coincide with our service philosophy, which is not just to serve the community, but serve it well.

We also have guidance from DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin’s DuPage ACT initiative. ACT is an acronym for Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency. Chairman Cronin, thank you for your leadership.

We have about 7,000 units of government in this state, so it should not be surprising that Illinois residents pay some of the top local taxes in the nation. It is our obligation to explore cost-sharing opportunities and approaches to ease the burden on our taxpayers.

We’ve identified an opportunity regarding the Naperville Township Road District.

We presented a proposal to Naperville Township to provide services – like snowplowing, leaf collection, and brush pick-up – on all unincorporated Naperville Township roads.

By leveraging the city’s resources, we are able to streamline government and save township taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

I want to thank the Naperville Township trustees for their willingness to discuss this issue, especially Supervisor Rachel Ossyra and trustees Janice Anderson and Kerry Malm. I’d also like to thank the Chamber board for formally endorsing this proposal last month.

We were very pleased to welcome Governor Rauner to Naperville in February to announce legislation stemming from his task force report.

The document identifies many opportunities for efficiencies. It’s a great report, but Naperville is taking it a step further and working on other cost sharing initiatives.

For example, we’re looking to collaborate with Aurora’s 911 service by creating a joint Emergency Telephone System Board to better serve both communities.

Many of you may know that Naperville and Aurora back up each other’s 911 service already, and we share a radio system. Our two cities also provide mutual aid when emergencies occur, so it’s a natural next step to join our Emergency Telephone System Board.

Although we’re focusing on government consolidation, Naperville itself keeps growing.

New Developments

I think it’s appropriate to say a special thanks to Christine Jeffries of the Naperville Development Partnership, as well as the staff at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, for what they do to bring businesses and visitors to Naperville. You are a vital part of our success. Would the NDP staff and board please stand.

This year, we’ll add several new developments to our community.

The Water Street District is changing the face of downtown. This would never have happened without the efforts of Nick and Teresa Ryan. When we talk about working together and innovating for the greater good, we’re talking about Nick and Theresa.

Also downtown, Empire is set to open its doors this spring at the corner of Main and Chicago Avenue.

Two Brothers will open their new flagship restaurant along Jefferson Avenue in the former Wise Boxer Pour House space. And just down the street, Nando’s PERi-PERi opened in the old Rizzo’s.

On our east side, Mariano’s will replace the old Dominick’s by 75th and Naper.

North Central College’s new science center continues to rise and will open next year. President Troy Hammond’s leadership has been vital to the construction of this building. The new science center will help North Central teach science in a way that best prepares students to be our future innovators. • Dr. Hammond, thank you for your vision and for making North Central’s world-class reputation part of Naperville’s success.

On the other side of town is the Park District’s new Activity Center on Fort Hill Drive and Quincy. The activity center will provide indoor recreation space, which includes programs for our special needs residents. Thank you Ray McGury and your team for bringing this amenity to our city.

To support development in our city in 2016 and beyond, we need to continue down “the Path to Yes.”

We also have to look internally to make sure the city is doing everything it can to encourage this new way of thinking.

For example, we know parking is an issue. Without convenient parking, people aren’t going to come here to shop or dine.

The Downtown Advisory Commission is going to have a parking summit later this year. They will explore parking solutions throughout the city to determine the best approach to meet our future parking needs.

Live, Work, Play & Thanks

Going forward, as we look at our development policies we need to keep in mind this mantra – Live, Work, and Play. Business districts look very different today than they did 30 years ago.

Naperville isn’t afraid of change. We’re not afraid to be bold or daring, and we are not going to shy away from challenges. In fact, we’re going to lead the way, because that’s what innovators do.

We’ve seen a lot of that change in the past year. And we’re ready for the changes and challenges that will continue to come our way.

And thank you all for allowing me to serve as Mayor of this great City. As I enter my second year of serving as your Mayor, my commitment to fostering a pro-business environment has never been stronger.

I look forward to walking together down the Path to Yes. Thank you!

Editor’s Note / The Mayor’s address is posted above in its entirety as submitted by the City of Naperville. The subheads and photos belong to PN.

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City of Napervillehttp://www.naperville.il.us.
About Naperville: Located 28 miles west of Chicago, Naperville, Ill., is home to approximately 145,000 people. This vibrant, thriving City consistently ranks as a top community in the nation in which to live, raise children and retire. The City is home to acclaimed public and parochial schools, the best public library system in the country, an array of healthcare options and an exceptionally low crime rate. Naperville has ready access to a variety of public transportation, housing and employment options. The City’s diversified employer base features high technology firms, retailers and factories, as well as small and home-based businesses. Residents also enjoy world-class parks, diverse worship options, the opportunity to serve on several City boards and commissions, a thriving downtown shopping and dining area, a renowned outdoor history museum known as Naper Settlement and an active civic community. For more information, please visit our website at www.naperville.il.us.