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Giving Residents a Voice


Naperville: Where a developer can request the result of the vote before its taken.

Mayor Chirico’s stated focus on business development is fairly well documented. In his first State of The City address he spoke about developing ‘The Path to Yes’ for businesses. A number of examples exist, including defending additional units which were never included in the plans for Bauer Place, and using the same ‘spirit’ of the covenant language as the developer on the Nichols Library.

We found a sequence at the June 20th City Council meeting interesting. Current City of Naperville Code requires a minimum of 50% of the exterior wall construction for all two-family dwellings be constructed of masonry. The developer of the proposed Tramore development requested a waiver of the requirement and to be allowed to use 100% siding on the proposed development.

Councilwoman Anderson was not present at that meeting, so there were 8 Council members voting, including Mayor Chirico. In discussing the petition, several Council members expressed opposition to the waiver of the masonry requirement. The proposal was called for a vote, with a motion made (by Councilman Hinterlong) and seconded (by Councilwoman Gustin).

The developer’s attorney then asked for a ‘straw poll’ to determine the outcome of the vote, before taking the actual vote,

"to see which way the vote’s going to go."

If the vote was going to go against his client, he suggests “we could continue this and carry on discussions” and “bring it back in a month.

Mayor Chirico’s response?

"I'm fine with doing that.

Think about that.

A developer brings a project to City Council requesting approval, there is a motion made and seconded to vote on the project. The developer’s attorney then asks to be told how the vote is going to go, and if it’s not going to be approved, don’t vote so he can bring it back later.

And Mayor Chirico is “fine with doing that”, proceeding to take the ‘straw poll’ by asking Council how they are going to vote, and then telling the developer's attorney “you have the votes.” The vote is then taken and the project approved, 5-3.

Council Rules of Order (Section 1-5-6) ("Council Rules") of the Naperville Municipal Code has no provision for a straw poll.

Section 1-5-6-7-1 states that

"Council Rules of Order shall govern the proceedings of the City Council. When Council Rules of Order do not provide governance, "Robert's Rules of Order" shall govern.”

A straw vote is not permitted under Robert’s Rules of Order ("Robert's Rules") when a governing body is in session (Page 429, 11th edition). Since Council Rules are silent and Robert's Rules govern when Council Rules do not provide governance, it would seem that conducting a straw poll is against the City's own rules.

In a phone conversation, Michael DiSanto, Naperville City Attorney, disagreed, stating that nothing prevents a straw poll from being conducted and that the Mayor as Parliamentarian of the Council has latitude in how a meeting is conducted. (The June 20th City Council meeting was the first Council meeting after Mr. DiSanto was promoted to City Attorney from Acting City Attorney). We don't disagree that the Mayor has latitude in how a meeting is conducted. It would seem that latitude would not include conducting a straw poll not provided for under Council Rules and specifically excluded under Robert's Rules, which govern when Council Rules do not provide governance.

Ignoring the legal aspect for a moment, is that what we expect from those we elected to represent us? Exactly how far is that table tilted toward the business interests in this city?

  • In the last few weeks we’ve learned that a developer apparently needs to only follow the “spirit” of the covenants on the old Nichols Library.

  • Now we see that a developer’s attorney, on a motion already made and seconded, can ask for the City Council vote results before the vote is actually taken, and “if it’s going to go negative” then “bring this back in a month.” And Mayor Chirico is “fine with doing that." The same mayor that strictly follows the 3 minute time limit on a resident speaking.

Think you would get that consideration at a City Council meeting? If not, what does that tell you about whose interests Steve Chirico is looking out for on “The Path To Yes”?

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