We’ll stipulate that the job of the Mayor of Naperville is not an easy one. Which is why a set of priorities is important. After being sworn in, Mayor Chirico said that one of his first priorities would be meeting with City stakeholders, especially those along the Ogden Avenue Corridor, which he referenced in his State of the City Address as “one of the gateways to our community.” Of the once thriving business community that was at Ogden and Naperville Boulevard, Chirico said “It’s gone…we need to fill those empty buildings.”
Improving one of the gateways, the eastern one, to the City being one of the Mayor’s first priorities sure makes a lot of sense. It would seem that in a year and a half the Pro-business Mayor with the motto of Find the "Path to Yes” and almost $900,000 a year of taxpayer money going to the Naperville Development Partnership (NDP, see Note below) would be able to show some progress on one of his highest priorities. (What tangible results can we see from NDP for almost $900,000 a year of our money? Certainly not improvement along the eastern gateway to our community. Or anything else we’re aware of.) Have any of the four City Council members up for election in April (Councilmen Coyne, Krummen and Gallaher, and Councilwoman Brodhead) proposed some sort of development plan or incentive program for the area? Well, no. They don’t lead or suggest, they follow the Mayor and his agenda.
So how has one of their first priorities gone in a year and a half? Well, Starbucks moved across the street. Some pawnshops have come, gone and come again. Fair Oaks Ford sits largely vacant. Gerald Subaru and Kia has left. Big Lots is gone. An entire strip mall sits empty. The old Grandma Sally’s remains boarded up. The former Wendy’s sits vacant. The former Famous Dave’s appears to have raccoons living there. The closed K Mart continues to deteriorate. The Ogden Mall is a disaster, and Iroquois Center is almost empty. But it’s not all bad news. A Vape shop has opened. So has a gun shop. The “We Buy Gold” store is open for business, as is the Hookah Lounge. Quite the gateway.
So what do long-neglected areas attract? Well, crime.
The Stardust Hotel is a heck of a business to have on the eastern gateway to the community. According to Naperville PD records, there were 341 police calls to that hotel from January 1, 2015 through October 24, 2016. It’s also home to a number of registered sex offenders.
What is the impact of the neglect? Less tax revenue and growth. Which we all end up paying for, as taxes and “user fees” are raised to fund local government, including funding for “economic vitality” programs like the NDP.
Plenty of time, effort and money has been and will continue to be devoted to the political catfight with Naperville Township over maintaining 16 miles of roads. Meanwhile, one of the first priorities of this administration, “one of the gateways to our community”deteriorates and generates crime. Councilman Coyne seems to like referendums. How about one asking residents if they would support incentives to restore the "economic vitality" to the eastern gateway to Naperville? It wouldn't be nearly as catchy as "Vote Yes for Lower Taxes," but we suspect people would be in favor of it.
Mayor, Council, NDP? Anyone, anything?
What were those first priorities again?
Note: The NDP is a public and private venture primarily funded through taxpayer money whose mission is to enhance the economic vitality of Naperville. Naper.org For the year ended April 30, 2015, the most recent available, 89% of NDP funding was from the City of Naperville.