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Naperville has a habit of looking forward

Heather Eidson/Staff Photographer
Heather Eidson/Staff Photographer

When you want to make things better, you spend your time pointing out where things need improving. Developers list the things the community doesn’t have. Reformers dwell on those things that need remediation.

And writers quickly discover that they can generate a lot more favorable mail by writing about what’s wrong with town government rather than what’s right. Unfortunately, that reinforces one of the more unhealthy aspects of life today, the cynicism that is so pervasive among the perpetually dyspeptic.

An example is the DuPage Children’s Museum, an amenity that helps our town in many ways. It was saved by clever financial arrangements, and the cost was borne by investors, not taxpayers. However, instead of the praise they deserved, the City Council was criticized by uninformed cynics.

Well, this time of year you ought to be able to write about what’s right. Last Saturday, I attended a meeting of the Homeowners Confederation, something I should do more often because they always have informative presentations. The speakers presented the current status of our Electric and Water/ Wastewater Utilities, how they are dealing with the challenges we face, and what some of their future plans are.

What always strikes me when I encounter Naperville’s public employees is their competence, the high quality of their work, and the extent to which they’ve dedicated themselves to saving taxpayers money. I seldom run into anyone who isn’t knowledgeable, experienced, and considerably better at their jobs than most private employees I’ve met.

Their bosses often get the credit, but that gives the impression that the success is all their doing. In fact there’s an entire department under them that’s working hard to give us the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.

Naperville has always been a progressive and forward looking town. Yes, progressive. It’s not a bad word. Since Teddy Roosevelt’s time, progress has been exactly what this world needs. We have always been first, or at the forefront, in everything from engineering to the environment, and that’s a good thing.

For example, we will pay for our part of the cost of the smart electric meters in five years with the savings from voltage control alone. And the meters will save in several other ways, including future savings as they are integrated into the advanced metering infrastructure for water and natural gas. I don’t think we’ll be bothered by more protests because those were actually about right wing politics, not safety or privacy, and we wisely elected to keep at-large representation.

In the environment, Naperville has led in many areas, including being the first Illinois community to begin curbside recycling in 1986. Recycling and hazardous waste collection have gone from fashionable ideas to absolute necessities as the expense and health hazards of landfills have grown. What has also grown, however, is dissatisfaction with current opportunities to recycle and dispose of hazardous waste responsibly.

The new recycling center will be a dramatic step forward, but the curbside recycling program must also be increased until we’re not burying things that are hazardous or valuable because they could be reused. While I think that Naperville often does an outstanding job controlling costs, sometimes we jeopardize long-term savings by being too concerned with short-term expenses.

So I think every household should be given, at city expense, their first wheeled recycling cart, and it should be as big a cart as they’re willing to accept. That will ensure that we keep our low pickup cost well into the future, stimulate participation in the program, and help us drive our garbage collection and landfill costs down as low as possible. Like the meters, recycling carts are an investment in the future, something Naperville has never been afraid to do.

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