January 29, 2010

Tough Times Make For Tough Speech

When January rolls around each year in Naperville, Mayor George Pradel usually preps for his “State of the City” luncheon by getting out his top hat and tuxedo for a celebration of all the good things and growth happening in the city. That was not the case this week, though, when the mayor decided to look back on 2009.

“This is not a business as usual time for the city,” Pradel said, “and this will not be a ‘business as usual’ speech.”

In front of 450 businesspeople, politicians and Naperville residents, Pradel had to look back on a rough year in the city. Along with the recession, the year was one that included the loss of 49 city jobs, 22 of which were filled. When combined with cuts in 2008, the city workforce is now ten percent leaner. Those cuts were a part of the whittling of a $14.5 million budget deficit for 2010-11. The hole is now down to $1 million, so city government still has some work to do.

Pradel noted in his speech that the most likely solution for the remaining deficit would be a gas tax and garbage collection tax, both of which have been previously supported by the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation (NAHC).

Pradel’s tone, a stark contrast from his cheerleading in the past, struck a chord with those in the audience.

State representative Darlene Senger (R-96) was one of many politicians at the Holiday Inn for the “State of the City” speech. She had attended many of Pradel’s speeches in the past, and thought the mayor handled this year’s edition the correct way.

“He knows and senses that this isn’t a day to go ‘Hey hey! Look how good things are here,’” Senger said. “And there are good things going on here, but we also had to lay off people and those things are hard.”

The speech was not just a time to look at hard times, but also to look back on accomplishments of 2009. The under-budget construction of Fire Station 10, the smart grid initiative and the approval of a state project to expand Route 59 were all positives from the last year that brought applause.

After the various pats on the back, Pradel wrapped up his speech with hope for the year ahead—calling for everyone to work together.

“I urge employees to continue to suggest ways we can save money next year,” Pradel said. “Please consider furlough days or other ways that you can help reduce spending. And I will be with you on every decision that you make. And I know we can make it if we put our arms and lock our arms together and walk through this crisis together as a city.”


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