Pradel is endorsed for another term as mayor
March 31, 2011 3:08PM
Updated: August 27, 2011 12:34AM
If voters are looking for some large change in Naperville’s city government as a result of Tuesday’s mayoral election, they’re probably going to be disappointed. The current system of government and the candidates running both inveigh against it.
Under Naperville’s form of council-manager government, the mayor doesn’t have all that much more power than any of the other eight council members.
Moreover, the three candidates running, including the incumbent mayor, all come from the current council. There is no fresh blood in this race. Pradel says that if he wins, this will be his last term.
As for the system, the mayor is only one vote on the council, and he has no veto power. By state statute, he is also the liquor commissioner, but the council involves itself in matters concerning booze as well.
Like the rest of the members of the council, the mayor can’t hire or fire the city manager, or any other employee, on his own. It takes a majority vote of the council to change policy — or buy a new police car, for that matter.
The city manager, hired by the council, runs the day-to-day operations of the government and is responsible for the staff. The City Council sets policy, approves the budget, authorizes purchases and so forth as collective decisions. It’s not a system that allows for a would-be strong man.
Anyone who wants to be a dictatorial mayor in a council-manager system and run roughshod over the council members is going to be disappointed.
Actually, under this system of government, there’s probably no good reason why all the elected officials couldn’t be elected as councilmen, and the mayor chosen by the council every two years when the new council takes office — in the same manner done by school boards and park district boards. But that’s not what the state legislated.
So whether A. George Pradel is elected for another term, or one of the two incumbent councilmen opposing him, Doug Krause or Kenn Miller, wins election, there is not going to be a sea change.
Pradel has been mayor for 16 years and certainly knows how things work. Krause has been on the council for 20 years, longer than Pradel has been mayor. Miller is the relative newcomer, but he’s still been on the council for six years.
Elections generally are referendums on the incumbent, and some people criticize Pradel as being a cheerleader for Naperville but not a leader.
To be sure, the mayor spends a lot of time accentuating the positive about Naperville in giving his speeches, cutting ribbons for new businesses, appearing at civic functions, talking to and encouraging kids and visiting residents who are hospitalized.
Looking at the mayor’s datebook reveals that he is programmed pretty much for every waking hour of every day, including weekends.
But to his credit, if a city’s mayor isn’t going to be a cheerleader for the town, who is?
Pradel is also a stabilizing influence for the city, a nice guy who residents want to embrace, though you don’t get to be a U.S. Marine and then a longtime police officer without having enough iron in your backbone to do the job.
His opponents say they will spend more time and effort getting business to Naperville, but we already have the Naperville Development Partnership, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Naperville Alliance to shoulder the load in various ways on attracting and retaining businesses. Until the current recession, Naperville has been very successful at getting businesses to come here, and there’s not much any mayor can do to solve the nation’s underlying economic problems.
As for Pradel’s opponents, Krause and Miller are both pretty good council members, but, in a system where they are very close to the equal of the mayor now, they’ve each had a number of years to push their agendas, just as the mayor and every other council member has.
We like Krause’s idea of publicizing the names and city email addresses of advisory committee members to allow residents to contact them easily, but this would have been as valid 20 years ago, albeit with snail mail instead of email, as it is now.
Besides, the entire council would doubtless want to have the opportunity to say yea or nay to such a proposition.
Finally, the current configuration of the council has worked well on dealing with the fiscal woes Naperville has had and is keeping our city on a pretty straight path that will serve it well now and in the next few years to come.
If Pradel wins, all three men will remain on the council, because Miller and Krause are in the middle of their current terms, and we endorse that result.