Naperville council candidates' views vary on consolidation
Government consolidation is a hot topic this election season in Naperville, as eight candidates seek four spots on the city council to serve with Mayor Steve Chirico.
A question about merging three neighboring towns into the city recently was denied a spot on the April 4 ballot, but a separate question about combining two township road districts remains.
So as the idea of increasing efficiency by decreasing layers of government gains steam, the eight council candidates -- four incumbents and four challengers -- are making their views on consolidation known.
While all say they oppose the idea of annexing Lisle, Warrenville and Woodridge into Naperville, several say they hope road district consolidation gains voter approval.
Incumbent Kevin Coyne, a 41-year-old attorney, is one of the people behind the ballot question about road district consolidation, which will ask voters in Naperville and Lisle townships if they want to combine the two road districts into one unit of government.
Coyne, who first was elected to the council in 2015, says he wants to consider partnering with DuPage County on animal control and exploring police cost-sharing with Aurora or the DuPage County sheriff's office.
"I've been very outspoken on the effort to reduce the size of government in Naperville and within our region generally," Coyne said. "We're looking for different ways that we can somehow make these things happen."
Newcomers Michael Isaac, Benny White and Michael Strick are among candidates who also say they support the road district consolidation.
Isaac, a 34-year-old small business owner who sits on the council's financial advisory board, says he's a "strong proponent" of government consolidation -- as long as residents can be assured they won't lose the high level of services they enjoy.
White, a 52-year-old retired Army officer whose term on the Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school board is expiring, says he thinks the city also should look at whether road services in Wheatland Township can be consolidated or completed more efficiently.
Strick, a small-business owner who has run unsuccessfully for positions including Will County Board and 84th District state representative, says services for city roads on the fringes of Naperville could be a consolidation or cooperation opportunity with other units of government. He also said the city should explore new sources of water other than the supply from Chicago that comes through the DuPage Water Commission and should share fire department services and equipment across borders.
"I would really like to see a lot of consolidation going on with other entities, with other cities as far as fire coverage," Strick said.
Incumbent Kevin Gallaher also said he supports fire service consolidation, but the move can't be seen as a "hostile takeover" or a reduction in services. The challenge comes because money and pensions are involved and some elected officials don't want to give up their "personal fiefdoms," he said.
"I think consolidation is here, it's time," said Gallaher, a 53-year-old attorney elected in 2015 after also serving on the council from 1995 to 2002. "I don't think it should be nearly as controversial as some people have tried to make it out to be."
Because of the controversy and delays that often accompany consolidation, incumbent John "Johnny" Krummen said it is not "politically expedient."
"It's going to take some time for people to come around to it," said Krummen, a mechanical engineer who has an MBA and was elected to the council in 2015. "If we don't actually combine units of government, we can combine services."
He suggested traffic signal maintenance, road salt purchases, office equipment and computers as ideas to pursue in cooperation with other units of government.
Incumbent Judith Brodhead said the most the city can do with consolidation is make small changes, chip away at its property tax levy and prevent major tax increases.
Brodhead, a 65-year-old associate professor of English at North Central College who has been involved with city government since 1990 and on the council since 2009, said she predicts townships will disappear within a generation, led by efforts such as the road district consolidation idea in Naperville and Lisle. But the quickest results can be found by empowering department heads to be creative in finding partnerships and savings.
Newcomer Julie Berkowicz, a 55-year-old sales professional who has been involved with Boy Scouts, veterans groups and her homeowners association, said she agrees consolidation comes down to condensing costs. She said it's important to regularly scrutinize the budget to prevent "areas of duplication," and she'd like to establish a satellite traffic court in Naperville so police officers don't waste time on the job driving to Wheaton for contested cases.
The top four vote-getters April 4 each will earn four-year terms on the council.