Mayor: Naperville 'must fight complacency' for strong future

Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico talks a lot about the future. He often says he wants future generations to look back and thank today's leaders for setting them on a prosperous path.

As he gave his third State of the City address Monday before a Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce crowd of 580, Chirico talked about the decisions he thinks will create a successful future with balanced finances, a strong economy and a well-run city.

"Great communities just don't happen by accident," he said during a lunch at the Embassy Suites hotel. "Careful planning and thoughtful decisions made Naperville the city it is today."

Some of the decisions Naperville stands to consider this year relate to "collaboration, consolidation and efficiency," Chirico said.

The city council plans to begin discussions April 9 about whether internal resources should be allocated differently between the city and the two other organizations that share in its property tax levy - Naperville Public Library and Naper Settlement.

The fire department also is pondering station consolidation.

"Safety is the No. 1 concern, of course," Chirico said. "But we recognize Naperville has reached build out. So we need to ask ... if our stations are in the best locations, or if reconfiguring them could provide better service."

No areas of the city are vastly underserved, with slow fire department response times, or vastly overserved, with stations too close together, City Manager Doug Krieger said. But if the city were to choose station locations based on current population distribution, they likely would be placed differently.

"We're always looking to optimize," Krieger said.

Chirico also emphasized the idea of consistent optimization toward goals of providing financial stability, economic development, public safety and a high-performing government.

"We must fight complacency - and the status quo - all day every day," he said. "Naperville is a leader. We always have been, and we always will be. It's simply who we are."

Financially, the city is on track to meet a series of principles set in 2015, which include increasing reserves to 25 percent of operating expenses and reducing debt by 25 percent by the end of 2022. Chirico said the city has built cash reserves of 21 percent and reduced debt by nearly $20 million since 2014.

In economic development, a long-vacant former Walmart is just one of three vacancies at large facilities the city recently has filled. Chirico said the Mall of India is expected to open at the former Walmart site by late summer, with a grocery store, food court, learning center, shops and eventually a banquet hall.

Chirico thanked leaders of the past, calling them "giants" and challenging those in the audience to become "giants" in their own time.

He recognized the late Frank Slocumb, longtime president of Harris Bank in Naperville. He applauded Mayor Emeritus George Pradel, who led the city for 20 years. And he praised retiring KidsMatter Executive Director IdaLynn Wenhold, who helped grow a nonprofit that strengthens the city's youth

Wenhold introduced Chirico before his speech with a rhyming rap to the accompaniment of the Cloud 9 boys' a cappella group from Waubonsie Valley High School.

"He won't accept less than what's best for our city so we are all blessed," Wenhold said. "He's not as cute and cuddly as Mayor Pradel used to be. But he's sure a classy mayor, standing strong for you and me."

  Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico highlights a 40,000-square-foot Patel Brothers grocery store on Ogden Avenue at Jefferson Avenue, which filled a former Menards that sat vacant for 17 years. Bev Horne/
  The Patel Brothers grocery store in Naperville is the largest of the 54 stores the Chicago-based chain runs across the country. Bev Horne/
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