State of the City Address
Monday, January 27, 2014
Mayor A. George Pradel

Mayor A. George Pradel presented his 19th annual State of the City address on Monday, January 27, 2014, at the Chicago Marriott Naperville Hotel, 1801 N. Naper Blvd.  

Mayor George Pradel - small photoGood afternoon, ladies and gentlemen! It’s my privilege to present my nineteenth State of the City address.

Before I begin, I want to recognize the person who has been by my side for almost fifty-four years. Through good times and bad, my wife Pat has always been my lifelong companion.

When we were married, we promised to be there for one another in sickness and in health. Pat is currently in the hospital following a diagnosis of bone cancer last week. As I told her all those years ago, I will always be there for her, and I will be by her side as we face this challenge together. Pat, I love you.

Our children Carol and George are here today, and both Pat and I are so proud to be their parents and have them by our side. Thanks, Carol and George! And thanks to my entire family for all of their encouragement, love and support. Family truly is everything.

Of course, we wouldn’t be gathered at this luncheon if it wasn’t for the Chamber of Commerce. I want to give a warm welcome to the new Chamber CEO Nicki Anderson! And thank you to Acting CEO Katie Wood and her team for bringing us together to learn more about the state of our city.

I’m happy to report that the state of our city is strong and getting stronger!

2013 was another outstanding year for Naperville. Some people think that thirteen is an unlucky number. I bet you didn’t know that thirteen is actually a lucky number of mine!

My badge number as a Naperville police officer was thirteen. After thirteen years on the force, I was promoted to sergeant. And once I became a lieutenant, my new number was one hundred and thirteen.

So I asked a few of my friends to help me count down the thirteen reasons why 2013 was such a great year for Naperville.

As you can see, it was a big year. That should come as no surprise, because Naperville is a city that has always aimed high to serve its residents and businesses.

I served in the Police Department for 29 years prior to becoming Mayor in 1995. I’ve seen where the City has been and I’ve watched it become the model community others strive to be.

It’s our decisions that we make today as a team that are leading us toward a remarkable future.

While it’s exciting to focus on our future, I also want to recognize our past and those who have helped shaped Naperville’s legacy.

Former Mayor Peg Price served our City from 1983 to 1991, which was a time of great change and growth. She also remains our only female Mayor. Let’s give her a warm round of applause for all that she’s done.

Another notable Naperville resident is Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Dick Locher, who is perhaps best known for his work on the Dick Tracy comic strip. He was also responsible for the beautiful sculpture that we dedicated in August to commemorate our founding father, Captain Joe Naper. Thank you, Dick, for helping bring Joe Naper’s memory to life.

I would be remiss not to recognize those who are working today to shape our future.

Our City Council is an important part of the success that we achieve every year.

Individually, each Council member is passionate and dedicated about issues that affect this community. Together, we work as a team to look at issues from all sides before making critical decisions. These policies have made Naperville the visionary City it is today.

Take pension reform as an example. This reform has been our top legislative priority for some time. We knew we needed to take action at the local level to honor our obligations to our police and firefighters.

So last spring the Council voted to stabilize the Police and Fire pensions by giving twenty-five percent of the Citywide food and beverage tax revenue to them. We coupled that with a payment of six million dollars last year.

This decision is expected to save the City twenty-five million dollars in the long run. We expect these pension funds to be fully funded by 2027, six years earlier than originally planned.

Let’s take a minute to learn a little more about each Council member’s passion for our community.

Thank you all for your vision and service to our City!

In 2012, we asked our residents for their opinions on city services and programs through a Citizen Survey. That survey was the basis for updating Naperville’s strategic plan in 2013.

By working together, Council adopted three goals that set the tone for our work over the next five years.

The first is improving traffic flow and congestion. The Route 59 Expansion Project kicked off in August and will help ease congestion when it is complete in 2015.

The 95th Street Bridge Project started last spring. Once finished, it will provide a direct connection between Plainfield-Naperville and Boughton roads.

In the future, we will invest in a traffic management system that lets us further enhance the operation and coordination of traffic signals throughout the City to improve traffic flow.

The second goal is becoming an e-Government innovator.

We know most people don’t always do business between the hours of eight and five. So our goal is to provide you with a convenient way to pay for services online.

This will eliminate the need for people to take trips to the Municipal Center.

Finally, we’ll set the standard for community education and involvement.

To start, we launched Naper Notify in November. This notification system lets the public receive emergency and community information on the device of their choosing.

Now, people can get a phone call, text message, email or smart phone notification sent directly to them.

Pursuing all of these goals will result in a government that can better serve the community.

The strategic plan also helps us determine where we should allocate our resources and how we spend tax dollars.

Now with our strategic plan in place, we are ready to move forward in a focused way.

We’re already moving forward in terms of development. With the help and support of City Council, we were able to attract some outstanding developments that will add to our already great City.

I participated in sixty-two ribbon-cutting ceremonies last year, and there are many more to look forward to.

One of these is the new Water Street development in our downtown, located just steps from the Municipal Center and historic Riverwalk.

The Water Street development will include Hotel Indigo that will anchor multiple shops, restaurants and retail offices along the DuPage River. The project will also improve the Riverwalk.

We’re so excited to welcome this new growth into our downtown and we can’t wait for construction to begin this spring.

Work on the much anticipated Main Street Promenade East began in 2013. The development, which is expected to open in fall of this year, will complete the Van Buren Parking Facility façade and provide a pedestrian bridge over Main Street.

Moving further out from our downtown, construction of the new Standard Market is well underway near Aurora and Ogden. This trendy market has plans to open April 1.

iMed campus is another development that is quickly going up near Seventy-Fifth Street. This four-story building will offer new medical office space in town.

Speaking of Seventy-Fifth Street, you probably noticed that WalMart is almost finished with construction of its new building near Beebe Drive. The new supercenter is expected to open March twelfth.

And after almost a decade of discussion and planning, construction is now underway on the Freedom Plaza development that will include an Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.

The Embassy Suites will provide one-hundred and sixty eight hotel rooms and a conference center large enough to accommodate events for one thousand people.

Noah’s of Naperville will also serve as another wonderful option for people looking to host events in our City.

This conference center and banquet facility in the I-88 corridor is a great addition that will attract many events. Construction is expected to begin this year.

We are so excited to see so many great developments coming to Naperville. These establishments not only help boost our sales and revenue tax, but also give our community a variety of amenities that add to the quality of life here.

Quality of life is always at the forefront of our City’s decisions.

For example, take the fact that we were able to build a permanent restroom facility in Central Park. Yes – you might think that is funny – and we sure did have a lot of fun performing the ceremonial tearing of toilet paper to open the facility this past summer.

But such a little thing was such a big deal to so many people who enjoy our park, our downtown, and all those wonderful Municipal Band concerts.

We realize that even minor projects mean a lot to people because they improve Naperville’s quality of life.

With that in mind, City Council made the decision to improve some of our existing services.

I’m sure everybody recalls last April’s flooding that dumped more than six inches of rain in less than a twenty-four-hour period. With widespread flooding throughout the City, we revisited the Sanitary Sewer Backflow Prevention Program.

To help as many people as we could, the City expanded the program by seven hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars to allow more people to make repairs to their homes and businesses to help prevent future flooding.

The City also advanced the timeline for the one point eight million dollar Cress Creek sanitary sewer lining program that began just a few weeks ago.

And just the other week, the City was awarded the American Public Works Association Project of the Year in the environmental category for the Huffman Street Flood Mitigation project.

This initiative focused on protecting homes along Huffman Street and improving the overall quality of life for residents living in the Steeple Run Watershed.

Naperville has always been focused on improving the quality of life within our City, but we’re also very focused on sustaining our environment for future generations.

A key service that was discussed in 2013 was the introduction of a new curbside Recycling Cart program.

We’ll be offering residents choices of rolling carts with lids that will boost our recycling numbers.

The City was also very fortunate and pleased to receive nine hundred thousand dollars in state funding that will go toward the construction of a new Environmental Collection Center by our Public Works Service Center on Fort Hill Drive.

This modern facility will not only serve residents and businesses of Naperville but will also serve the recycling needs of surrounding communities.

This center will be a first-of-its-kind in the region and will offer the public a convenient one-stop-drop for recyclables, including household hazardous waste.

Governor Pat Quinn and other dignitaries came together for a groundbreaking last July for this new project. As Governor Quinn stated then, Naperville is at the leading edge of environmental sustainability.

With all of these exciting projects and initiatives on the horizon, it is important to understand how we arrived here.

None of this growth and development could be possible without a solid financial foundation and the practice of good government.

I’m proud to stand here and tell you that the City of Naperville has – once again – produced a balanced budget. It’s not something that happens by accident. It is something that we work hard to maintain every year.

And it is made possible because we have such a dedicated staff that really is the heart and soul behind everything we do in this City. We are blessed to have great leadership that starts at the top with our City Manager Doug Krieger.

Doug, along with all of our department directors, always makes sure the City’s services are the best we can provide. We don’t get where we are by mistake and our leadership and staff is a big part of Naperville’s success.

I’d like to recognize all of our directors right now, and please save your applause until everyone has been recognized.

Please give a round of applause for our City of Naperville directors.

I would also like to take this time to recognize our Finance Director Karen DeAngelis who will be leaving the City at the end of April. Karen has played an important part in our current financial well-being and she helped guide our ship through some difficult economic times.

Karen – thank you for all your great work over the years and I wish you well in your future. We will have some big shoes to fill moving forward.

Directors like Karen and all of the others previously mentioned are such a big part of the City’s success. But another equally important part of the puzzle is the front-line staff working together to make this City so great.

Employees are the City’s greatest asset!

They are the people who fix broken water pipes in subzero temperatures. They run into burning buildings. They patrol our neighborhoods, keeping them safe. They plow and salt our roads during snowstorms. They make sure the lights stay on.

Their work should not go unnoticed and I do my best to thank our hard-working team of employees every chance I get. Let’s give them a big round of applause.

It’s dedication, time and effort put in by the City Manager, department directors, City staff and Council that has allowed our City to continue to flourish.

And flourish, we are! I am happy to report that several of the City’s revenue sources have shown significant signs of improvement thanks to a rebounding economy.

We’re very proud to lower the City’s portion of property tax bills for the fourth year in a row. That will result in additional savings for businesses and residents. We’ll see a seven hundred thousand dollar reduction in the tax levy next year.

This four-year reduction will bring the average homeowner a total reduction of approximately $100 in the City portion of the property tax bill.

Signs of economic improvement are occurring within our City.

Our retail sales tax is up 9 percent above last year allowing the City to reach a new high of over thirty two million dollars.

Auto sales have increased by 17 percent from 2012.

Home sales continue to rise. Since May, residents have already purchased 1,965 homes which is sixteen percent above last year and sixty five percent above 2011.

As a result of all this home buying, the City has seen increases in the real estate transfer tax with a total of three point eight million dollars estimated for fiscal year 2014. This is an increase of fifteen percent over last year, which represents a 45 percent increase over fiscal year 2012.

Our fiscal responsibility is reflected in Naperville’s triple-A bond rating from Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s. As noted earlier, we have held that rating for eighteen years, and the agencies continue to say we have a well-managed and solid financial outlook.

Remember that the City is just one portion of your property tax bill. Just as the City, Park District, School Districts and townships work together for you; they all make up your tax bill.

Out of every property tax dollar, the City only receives about twelve percent - a great value for your hard-earned money!

We take great pride in being a good steward of the revenues which we receive. Nothing is more important than using taxpayer money wisely.

I would like to reiterate that this success did not happen overnight and it was not done alone.

Part of what makes Naperville so great is that we have wonderful partnerships that make our community one of the best there is around.

I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention some of our key partners and some of their accomplishments since they, too, are a part of our City’s vast achievements.

Our park district is slated to open the Knoch Knolls Nature Center this September. This is the City’s first staffed nature center and will be a great asset to teach our community about nature and opportunities in sustainability.

The park district is also seeking public input on the design of a future activity center on Quincy Avenue. This indoor space will offer a wide range of activities and programs to further enhance the lives of our residents and their families.

Speaking of activities, the Naperville Heritage Society is busy planning a new area for children to play in a historic themed setting at Naper Settlement. The Fort Payne Learning Playscape is being paid for by grants and donations.

Another great educational institution, North Central College, welcomed its new president and my friend, Doctor Troy Hammond, who I had the honor of introducing at his inauguration earlier in 2013.

The college has a lot of great initiatives happening under Doctor Hammond’s leadership and they are busy designing their new science center.

Just down the street from North Central we have Edward Hospital under the leadership of Pam Davis, who is actually now System CEO of Edward Hospital and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare since the two organizations merged.

This new partnership will only further showcase the professional staff that is working at Edward’s world-class facility located right here in Naperville.

Pam was also elected to the Illinois Hospital Association Board of Trustees where she will bring her knowledge and expertise to benefit patient care in the state.

We’re so lucky to have great organizations that make up our community, including both our school districts that contribute so much to Naperville.

School District 203 implemented the Future Focus initiative where a district-wide community group ranked priorities for the district.

As a result, the district developed a plan to move forward so that it can continue making a difference in the lives of Naperville children.

School District 204 also is poised and ready for change. Superintendent Doctor Kathy Birkett is retiring after a thirty-five year career in education, which she has spent entirely in District 204.

Doctor Birkett started her journey in 204 as a teacher and rose through the ranks to become the superintendent of the third largest school district in Illinois. Doctor Birkett is a shining example of a formula for success as she has shaped so many programs and initiatives for that district. We will miss her greatly.

I’d also like to mention another person who will be retiring from her role in Naperville. Sue Broad, who is the President and CEO of the DuPage Children’s Museum, will be retiring after more than twenty years spent establishing a creative and fun outlet for play and learning for all children.

Sue – thank you for all your contributions to the Museum and to education for our youth. I wish you a happy and healthy retirement.

While we are saying goodbye to some of the cherished leaders in our community, we are saying hello to others.

In 2013, Mike Krol was named Interim President and CEO of Naper Settlement. His passion and love for history make him a wonderful person to step into this role.

Julie Rothenfluh became executive director of the Naperville Public Library in August. Her forward-thinking mindset will help the library become an even greater asset to the community.

It’s partnerships like these and with all of our community entities:

  • The Chamber of Commerce, 
  • Naperville Development Partnership, 
  • The Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation, 
  • NCTV17 
  • Our public libraries, 
  • Private and public schools, 
  • Downtown Naperville Alliance, 
  • Over 350 volunteers on our boards and commissions and so many others – that really add positive value to the City of Naperville.

We’re also committed to working not just within the City but also with our surrounding communities as well as officials in DuPage and Will counties.

We all have similar needs and working together helps achieve common goals for the betterment of all of our lives.

It really is teamwork and partnerships that drive change.

Don’t believe me?

Well, I have some examples of what our partnerships have done for this City.

Our police department has undergone a significant reorganization since Police Chief Bob Marshall took the reins in 2012. As part of these efforts, the City has focused on providing increased safety to our downtown patrons and visitors.

The police department partnered with the downtown business community, Downtown Naperville Alliance, Liquor Commission, Naperville Restaurant Association and Naperville Development Partnership to implement a number of changes to enforcement and patrol that resulted in an eleven percent decrease in crime in the downtown.

Our number one goal is to provide a safe environment for everyone. This year we’ve provided additional funding through our Social Services grants so that area organizations can continue to provide services and programs such as drug and suicide education and prevention.

In addition, we’ve been committed to keeping young people safe and drug-free by providing them with enriching, positive experiences. I’m happy to report NaperBridge’s teen center that opened downtown in 2013 joins our other social service partners that have worked tirelessly to empower kids to be the best they can be.

Our faith-based community continues to work with all of our community partners to grow our quality of life and provide solid moral guidance, hope and comfort to our residents in their day-to-day lives.

And, of course, what better partnership than between Edward Hospital and the City to provide the City’s first-of-its-kind marathon and half marathon that took to the streets in November.

What a great event to celebrate the hard work of so many athletes, many of whom were from Naperville, who crossed the finish line. We were so proud to work with a variety of organizations to pull off this great event. I can only hope the next marathon will be just as exciting in 2014.

With the New Year well underway, I have no doubt we’ll continue to achieve success in Naperville.

We have a strong, stable foundation, great partnerships, and a will to always improve the quality of life for all of our residents.

It’s because we have that spirit and vision that we’re able to efficiently use our time, resources and tax dollars today so that tomorrow is always a brighter, bolder future for the next generation.

It’s also our spirit and quality of character that helps shape the feel of our community. We are a community that cares for others and that lends a hand in good times and bad.

A shining example is when Naperville heeded the call for goods and funds for those who lost so much in the devastating tornadoes that ripped through Washington, Coal City and other Illinois communities.

We help others, both here at home and beyond our borders, because they are friends and neighbors. They are part of our Naperville family.

We are resilient and we come together when it matters the most. It’s what sets us apart from other communities.

I’m proud to call Naperville home and to be a public servant to the greatest community I have ever known. Let’s keep setting the bar higher and higher every year and striving to create a better tomorrow.

God bless you all, God bless America, and God bless Naperville!