Council candidates talk traffic, downtown bars, Water Street
By Hank Beckman For The Sun March 13, 2013 9:50PM
David Wentz listens to Jeff Davis speak during a forum for City Council candidates hosted by The Naperville Homeowners Confederation at the Municipal Center in Naperville on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 19, 2013 8:58PM
Traffic, safety and the Water Street project dominated a candidate forum for Naperville City Council candidates Wednesday.
About 75 people showed up in Council Chambers to listen to 11 candidates make their case for election to one of four open seats in the April 9 municipal election.
The forum’s sponsor, the Naperville Area Homeowner’s Confederation, posed the first question to the group, asking candidates what could be done to ease a perennial problem: traffic congestion.
“It’s time to look at each neighborhood’s problems in a comprehensive fashion,” incumbent Doug Krause said.
Another incumbent, Judith Brodhead, said it was crucial to work with county, state, and federal officials for funding roadway improvements, Dave Wentz suggested adding right-hand turn lanes to ease congestion, Bill Habel said that solutions must include discussions with neighboring governments, and John Krummen stressed the necessity of improving intersections.
But some noted that improving intersections and widening lanes would do nothing to ease congestion if the City continued to add to its density.
“Reduce, or at least not increase the density of traffic in certain areas,” Jo Malik said, noting that the newly approved Water Street development would only add to the problem.
“I voted no on it,” Krause said, noting that he voted to approve a much smaller project in 2007. “They never addressed the issue of traffic.”
Brodhead voted for it, saying that any development in the area would add to traffic. And she praised City Council for sticking to its guns in bringing down the height of the proposed project, noting that the developer’s original stance was that they had no Plan B.
“It turns out there was a Plan B,” she said, “and a Plan C, too.”
Kevin Coyne voted to approve the plan on the Planning and Zoning Commission and said he didn’t think the traffic problems would be as bad as some predicted.
Jeff B. Davis said he would have voted for the project and pointed out that the developer owned the property.
“They have the right to do it,” he said.
Incumbent Paul Hinterlong said he voted for it and warned that if the current plan didn’t materialize, the area could be developed piecemeal, without any coordination.
Wayne Floegel, Wentz, Habel and Krummen also said they were in support of the project, but Tom Glass and Malik dissented, Glass saying that there need to be a “clearly defined use for that property,” and Malik noting that the development didn’t conform to the Naperville Downtown/2030 Plan.
“They didn’t stick to it,” she said.
Drinking and drugs
Candidates had strong opinions on safety, particularly the increase in violence at downtown drinking establishments.
Malik said there should be a three-strike rule for establishments that repeatedly had incidents, Glass called for an increased police presence downtown, and Floegel advocated better education for bartenders, bouncers and servers.
But Habel, Business Representative for IBEW Local 701, cautioned against overreacting.
“It sounds good,” he said of cracking down on offenders, “But you’re also penalizing the people who work there.”
The uptick in heroin abuse among Naperville’s young clearly worried the candidates.
Krause and Hinterlong noted that City Council had recently allocated n additional $50,000 to fight the problem. But Malik said that “more attention and more resources needed to be directed at the problem.”
Brodhead noted that many might be conceptualizing the heroin problem with a skewed perspective.
“This is a new problem and the old solutions might not work,” she said.
Brodhead noted that the users often didn’t use needles, they progressed from using other prescription drugs and the price of heroin was low.
“They’re not afraid of it,” she said.