A few days ago, a Naperville City Council member asked for my take on big issues facing our community. While there are many possibilities, ranging from major impacts like traffic and road construction to relatively minor topics like recycling carts and how they will be paid for, there was nothing I could quickly zero in on as a game changer.
As I continued thinking about the question, I realized that, while not in the forefront, there is one issue that underlies all the rest. It is something that needs a comprehensive action plan to address and the sooner, the better.
Quite simply, we need to understand if residents can still afford what a “Naperville lifestyle” has come to mean. Over the years, our town developed a certain image as an upper middle-class bastion. Unfortunately — and streets lined with “McMansions” notwithstanding — for many this is a misconception that masks some serious issues.
While data supporting this contra-indication is mostly anecdotal, that does not mean the problem does not exist. Thinking about friends and acquaintances, I am sure almost all of us can identify a neighbor who is unemployed or underemployed.
While Naperville’s 5.7 percent April unemployment rate is an improvement over 2013’s 7 percent, that is faint comfort for those still searching, taking a lesser position, or forced into retirement by a diminishing job market. It also does not help that Naperville’s cost of living is higher than both the Illinois and national averages.
One bright spot is the relative strength of our local housing market and associated home values. Of course, the only time market value of a home comes into play is when it is for sale or being assessed for property taxes. The former can be a positive if moving out of town. The latter can lead to a bigger tax bill.
So what can be done?
For starters, stop comparing public service cost increases to a coffee shop latte. Not everyone can afford daily $4 drive-thru caffeine fixes. Similarly, taxing bodies need to quit seeing homes as ATM machines. Not every program is necessary, and some lower cost alternatives might be appropriate. DuPage County’s “rain tax” and four-year degrees at property tax-supported College of DuPage are two ideas over-burdened homeowners might not need.
Changing gears a bit, one of my favorite events is coming up at 11 a.m. July 19 at Ball Gardens in West Chicago. The annual benefit brunch for University of Illinois Extension programs, sponsored by DuPage Friends of Extension, supports community initiatives while providing a great opportunity to learn what is new in gardening.
If you are like me and always interested in new plants and concepts for your garden, order your tickets by going to http://dupagefriendsofextension.webs.com/ or calling Marilyn Joyner at 630-534-6443. At $36 a ticket, you get a great brunch, a behind-the-scenes look at the beautiful gardens at Ball Horticultural, and an opportunity to support the U of I Extension, an important local resource.
Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: Bob Fischer