Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Special Letter from Sheriff Nygren

In my mail today was an envelope from Citizens for Nygren. Immediately, I thought, “Is there an election for McHenry County Sheriff coming up?” I didn’t think there was, and I hadn’t seen the sheriff’s name on the primary ballot. Hmmm, what’s up?

The envelope was addressed to me and to Current Resident. Guess it wasn’t a subpoena or an award for being a safe driver, so I opened it and found an endorsement for Dan Regna. No surprise there, since I’d already heard that news.

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about the ethics of support of a State’s Attorney incumbent or candidate by the sheriff and by the police chiefs in McHenry County. They are going to have to work with whoever wins, either Mr. Bianchi or Mr. Regna. When they come out strongly in favor of one and if he turns out not to be the winner, how many bridges will they have burned unnecessarily?

Certainly, they as individuals have the right to support anyone they wish, and there is nothing illegal about their personally supporting a candidate. But should they use their official office for doing so? Or the symbol of their office?

In the past I have questioned the sheriff’s mailers, and this one is a slight improvement because the envelope bears the return address of Citizens for Nygren and not of “Sheriff Keith Nygren.” Did I have some small impact on that change?

However, the letter bears in large font the name “Sheriff Keith Nygren.” This results in the Office of the Sheriff being used in a political fashion to promote a candidate, and this is WRONG! The Office itself must not take sides. The Office of Sheriff serves all, regardless of political affiliation or presence in a political race. If Keith wants to take sides, fine; but he should do this as an individual, not as Sheriff!

I also believe it is patently improper to use the symbol of office [meaning here a 7-pointed star (badge) with the words “Sheriff McHenry County Sheriff’s Police” and “Seal of Illinois”] in a political manner. I recall the letter I received prior to the last election for sheriff, and I took the same exception to the use of the badge in this fashion. The badge is the symbol of the office and belongs to the agency, not to the individual who was elected to the office.

Since the letter (and the postage?) was paid for by Citizens for Dan Regna, just who or what is Citizens for Nygren and why is it involved in the Regna-Bianchi race? Normally, that style of name identifies a group formed to support the candidate whose name it bears; however, in this case the political group Citizens for Nygren is supporting a different candidate. Is it appropriate? Is it legal?

Joys of 4-Wheeling

Normally, drivers wanting to experience rocky, off-road, driving conditions head for the mountains of Colorado, Utah or Montana and seek out a ghost town on a summer afternoon. Or sometimes they’ll engage the four-wheel drive and head for deep snow.

At other times, they’ll just drive off the road and find themselves in the predicament of this driver. This vehicle left the road on westbound Algonquin Road (Route 62) in Barrington Hills, just west of Route 68, which is just west of Route 59.

Algonquin Road at this point is a dangerous stretch of about five miles of two-lane road. Although the speed limit is 55MPH and there are only a few crossroads, it is a roadway that has had numerous fatalities. This vehicle left the road shortly past a “lane-drop’, where two westbound lanes converge into one lane westbound.

It’s a stretch of roadway I’m familiar with, because I am often passed on the right by drivers hitting 60-65MPH in the 45-zone to beat me to the end of the two-lane section. Like they are going to save a lot of time, because they then have to hit the brakes and slow down. But I’ve also been passed on the left by drivers using the center, no-drive portion of the road for the same reason.

This driver? Who really knows how he ended up “on the rocks.” The rocks are adjacent to a gated entrance to a property on the north side of the road, and they are a short distance off the road; i.e., not right next to the roadway. Was this driver passing someone on the right and ran out of roadway and out of shoulder? Did a driver refuse to yield or to be cut off, forcing this driver to stay on the shoulder until he lost control? Or did the driver make a right-turn into the driveway too fast? Not likely, from the position of the vehicle.

Was it worth it? The tow truck along, which is not shown in the picture, probably cost $250 to pull him off the rocks and tow it away. Did the driver get a ticket for careless or reckless driving? Or failure to keep his vehicle under control?

A call to the Barrington Hills P.D. resulted in no information other than the officer who took the report was gone for the day.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tolls - Watch it!!!

See the article in USAToday about skyrocketing tolls and Pennsylvania's hope to start charging tolls on now-free I-80?

Think we are immune here? Think again!

How about a 60% increase in tolls on the G.W. Bridge between N.Y. and N.J., from $5 to $8 during peak hours? OK, so what are "peak" hours?

And the Indiana Toll Road's plan to boost the $4.65 toll for cash-payers to $8.00. They must have visited the Illinois Tollway one time too many.

And the N.J. Governor's desire to increase tolls 50% every four years?

I-80 in Pennsylvania is free right now. Are they ever ready to start milking drivers! How about $25 for 316 miles?

OK, so what about the Illinois Tollway? The worry expressed by more than a few when I-Pass came in is that drivers would be lulled into a sense of complacency when they didn't have to toss the coins at the basket every few minutes? Has that happened? You bet it has! Cash toll payers pay double; you can bet they feel it every time they have to fork out those eight dimes.

When will the Tollway start edging the tolls up? Maybe a little here, a little there? Or one big wallop, let the noise bounce around headquarters for a few days, and then "they'll get used to it." Well, I say, "Don't let it happen even the first time."

If the Tollway were effective in collecting missed tolls, it could probably lower tolls! If it prevented missed tolls by nailing every scofflaw right away, it could lower tolls. It could do that through increased video surveillance and more aggressive enforcement of obscured license plates and plates missing from the front of cars.

Video enforcement could be used by the State Police. Just mail a ticket for the missing front plate by inspecting recorded images of every vehicle not displaying a front plate or displaying one obscured by now-illegal license plate covers (those tinted or even clear but fogged glass or plastic covers). If the rear plate is Illinois, mail out a $100 ticket. And collect it!

Don't let the Tollway even tiptoe up to the line of increased tolls. Demand efficiency and productivity - not increased tolls!

AT&T Customer Service..... (too) busy

This afternoon I called AT&T customer service on behalf of a senior citizen who is entitled to free Directory Assistance because of visual impairments.

Did you know that persons who cannot dial telephones can get free 411 service? There is no charge for providing telephone number look-up and I think the operator will even place the call. If you sign up for this service (or assist someone in signing up for it), be sure to obtain the exact nature and amount of how calls placed by the operator are billed.

The reason for calling was that the form sent by AT&T to the customer included a return window envelope, but the form letter did not contain the address to which it was to be mailed. There was no address to show through the window of the envelope! In fact, AT&T sent two letters to the customer on the same day! And sent both with window envelopes that could not be used!

After navigating the lengthy voicetree of AT&T and trying to guess which of the options might lead me down the correct path, I finally heard, "We are busy serving other customers and cannot accept your call at this time. Please call back later" or some such nonsense.

The message might as well have said, "We're too busy now, because we don't hire enough employees to serve you efficiently. Why did you waste your time calling and punching all those buttons?"

Don't you just love it when big business does that to you?

Every business could take a good lesson from the Moen plumbing company; you know, the people who make faucets? When you call their customer service department, you hear a friendly message that asks you to leave your name and number and which informs you that you will be called back within a certain number of minutes.

And do you know what? It works! Their customer service agents call back promptly. A computer dials your number and a mechanical voice tells you that Moen is calling and asks you to hold just briefly. Very quickly a Moen rep comes onto the line.

Now THAT's customer service!

By the way, if you want to try to reach AT&T for the free 411 service, call 800.288.2020 I hope your luck will be better than mine was.

Privileged Parking?

This afternoon I stopped by the McHenry County government center administration building (whew! that's a mouthful) to vote early. Or, since it was 4:00PM, to vote late. :) When I pulled into the parking lot, I couldn't help looking at a shiny, white, Chevrolet Impala parked in a handicapped parking right in front of the building. My, what a fine, shiny, clean car on a day like this.

My attention was first drawn to it by the manner in which the driver had pulled into the handicap parking space. He must have been in one terrible hurry to get to that special little room inside, because he didn't quite making it all the way into the parking space.

Aha! Then I noticed the license plate: CTY BD 6. My, my, what could that possibly mean? Except County Board (District?) 6? Or the sixth plate issued to CTY BD? A vanity plate on a private car and not a handicap parking plate. Nor was there a handicap placard hanging from the rearview mirror or even laid on the dashboard.

I approached the guard inside and asked him to contact the police to have the parking violator cited. Hey, if I park there, I would get to pay $250 for the privilege. He refused and handed me the phone. When I asked why he wouldn't call, he said a citizen has to complain.

What good is it to have a guard at the front desk if he won't protect County property so, after I voted, I paid a visit to Peter Austin's office. He's the County Administrator and the one with the authority to tell the guard to make the call, if a citizen complains about a parking violation.

I spoke with Mr. Austin's administrative assistant, and she directed me to the Court Security officer, who was not available. His assistant explained that guards are instructed to tell citizens to call the police themselves, and I left a message for him, suggesting that policy needs to be revised.

Oh, did I mention that the Woodstock Police were summoned to cite the violator, but (wouldn't you know it?) it was 4:00PM shift change? By the time I voted and walked to Mr. Austin's office, CTY BD 6 was gone (or had been moved). To save an officer a trip, I canceled the call. How long will I wonder if the guard notified the driver that he'd better hotfoot it out to his car and move it?

I also wonder whether a deputy passing by would have cited the vehicle for being illegally parked in a handicap spot. Maybe - - if it was his last day before retirement or the new job in Arizona. And would the Woodstock cop have cited what is probably the car of a County Board member? If he were to do his duty, he'd do it without batting an eye.

Handicap parking spaces are to be respected by all. If that car does belong to a County Board member, wouldn't you think he'd be the first to respect the signs and park legally?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Voting is Over - Do the Ducks Stay?

The Woodstock City Council went way out on a limb last October, when it voted to pass a special-use ordinance and allow farm animals at a residence within the city limits. The issue was whether to allow two large ducks (already defined in the City Code as "farm animals") to be at a residence in Woodstock.

What did the City Council do? It approved the ordinance recommended by the Plan Commission to allow the ducks, subject to three conditions. The most important condition was that the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association allow them. This meant that the Association would have to go through the formal steps of asking the property owners to approve an amendment to the Covenants. After any such approval, amended Covenants would have to be filed with the State of Illinois.

The process was time-consuming and not inexpensive. Any time you are dealing with legal issues and involve the time of an attorney, you are going to spend a lot of money. How much? They'll find out when they add up the total bills.

The voting has been concluded. The time has now passed for property owners to state whether or not they want the ducks there.

What will happen, if the Amendment allowing the ducks to the Covenants does not have property owner support? What if the homeowners do not approve the proposed Amendment to their Covenants?

For one thing the City Council will have egg all over its faces. Immediately after the City Council voted to approve the special use ordinance with the condition that the ducks not be in the City until the Homeowners' Association approved their being at the residence in question, Mayor Sager stated that the City would take no enforcement action against them, even though the ducks were already back at the residence after their brief vacation outside the City.

Did the Mayor have the consent of the other members of the City Council to order City employees to ignore the law they had just passed? How did he get that consent? It was not discussed in the public meeting. Did he (or the Council) even have the authority to do so? Why didn't even one of the other members of the City Council speak up?

Now more than 100 days have passed. Have the ducks been at the residence all this time, in violation of the City Code? Let's say, for example, that a daily citation with a $25 fine had been issued for each day of violation until any approval of the Amendment by the Homeowners' Association. That would be $2,500 in fines.

Let's say, further, that the property owners do not approve the Amendment. Will the City begin enforcing the law?

City employees must not be restricted from performing their lawful duties. They must be able to operate fairly and impartially toward each and every resident. To be so restricted strikes right at the heart of integrity of City operations.

Stay tuned for the final result of the vote. And for whether the City will actually enforce the law that it has ignored since October 3rd.

Heading for Woodstock

I received the nicest email this morning from a Rockford family considering a move to Woodstock. If you would like to add information for them, feel free to add a comment.

"... my hubby and our family are going to be moving this spring from the Rockford area, and we are looking at Woodstock. He works in Schaumburg, and we are looking for a town that will be an excellent place to raise our family. You sure seem like you know ALOT about Woodstock. We are looking at homes in the Prairie Ridge subdivision area- any flooding problems around there? We have a strong history of water issues in our first two homes and just do not want to go there fun! What is your opinion on the schools in Woodstock? Any good churches? We attend a United Methodist one here. Any other info you might think we would be interested in would sure be helpful. How is the crime rate? Thank you for your help and advice, look forward to talking with you!

I suggested inspecting the pin map at City Hall that shows last August's reported flooding locations and added that the map will show only "reported" locations. I believe there were many more. I also gave them the websites for D200 and the Groundhog events on the Chamber's website. I think crime is under control here - and under-reported in local media.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Red-Light Cameras - Algonquin's Next

Three cheers to the Village of Algonquin for plans to install red-light cameras at several intersections.

Red-light running is a huge problem in McHenry County. Why is that? What it shows is utter disregard by drivers for traffic laws. When a driver approaches a "stale" green light (one that has been green a long time), he should anticipate that the light might change to yellow and red. And, anticipating that, begin the thought process that will result in a go/no-go decision.

As you get closer to the light, you'll reach a point where, if the light changes, it will be safe and appropriate to proceed through on the yellow light - and the point after which you will be unable to stop before entering the intersection after the light turns red.

Too many drivers believe the yellow light means Go, no matter what. Well, watch oncoming traffic. Is an oncoming car stopped, waiting to complete a left turn in front of you? Will that driver proceed on his yellow, believing you will stop? It's not worth it.

Red-light tickets are "good" tickets. The systems are designed to identify violators and produce tickets. The ticket is sent to the owner of the vehicle, not to the driver. Does anyone else drive a vehicle that is registered in your name? Better go over red-light rules with them and remind them that, when they are driving your car, they are to obey traffic laws.

Will Algonquin excuse owners who claim they were not driving the vehicle at the time of the violation, IF the owner identifies the person who was driving?

OK, who's next? What jurisdiction controls other traffic lights on Randall Road, such as the light at Randall Road and Route 72? Is that Elgin? That one has to be one of the worst intersections for red-light violations in this area!

If you find yourself approaching a stale green that changes to yellow, pay close attention to exactly where your vehicle is in relation to the nearest curb line of the intersecting road. Also, note exactly where your vehicle is when the light turns red. If you are entering the intersection after the light turns red, you are violating the law. Likewise, if you "enter" the intersection on the yellow and it changes to red after you enter the intersection, you are not violating the law.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Free Movie Rental

Like a free movie rental?

Go to the Redbox in the Woodstock Jewel-Osco (or other Redbox), pick out your movie, and enter code DVDONME.

For rental details and movie selection, go to

You'll need a credit card and an email address. Your card might be charged the $1.00 rental, but they will reverse it. I've never seen a charge show up on my card.

Note the term of the rental: one day, ending at 9:00PM the following day. If you return late? $1.00/day. You can return at any Redbox. Pretty cool.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

As I prepare to head out on the roads this morning, glad for light traffic during to a holiday, I wonder why only Federal, State, County, Municipal (and Township?) offices are closed, giving hundreds of thousands of employees a paid holiday, and the rest of the country is at work. The reason? To pay for the holiday for those who are off?

How many of those government employees will pause even for a moment to remember or understand what the holiday is for? Who Martin Luther King, Jr. was? When he was born? When and where he died? How old he was when he was killed? What was in his speech on the day before he died?

Ask your kids today – “Tell me about Martin Luther King, Jr.” and hear what they say.

I heard Dr. King speak, when he visited Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, in 1964. I wish I could say that I remember what he said.

I do remember where I was when he died. I was working in the Chicago Loop. I remember the riots, because I found myself right in the middle of a police chase one night. I had worked late in the office and heard sirens. As I walked to the “L”, a crowd of about 25 black men ran toward me, and I stepped back into a doorway of a business. Right behind them were about 100 white cops, batons in the air. I knew I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I went to the “L” on Dearborn and stepped into the car when the train for Oak Park arrived. At the next stop about five black men got on the front of the car, and at the following stop about five black men got on the rear of the car. I was one of three whites in that traincar. The two groups glared at each other for about 4-5 stops and then one group got off; at the next stop the other group got off.

Why is Dr. King’s birth celebrated today, Jan. 21? Because of government decree! Rather than celebrating his life on the day of his birth, January 15, governments somewhere along the way decided to “celebrate” on a Monday, so workers could have a three-day week-end.

My opinion about this? It’s a dumb decision. It dilutes the meaning of the day and to too many it just means a three-day week-end without any thought of the reason behind the day off.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Authorized Emergency Vehicle?

Have you heard the stories of illegal use of emergency lights on private vehicles for the purpose of stopping drivers? Do you know how to protect yourself, if you are uncertain whether it is really a police car behind you that is signalling you to pull over?

If the red or blue emergency lights are on the roof of the car behind you and the headlights are flashing, too, it's pretty clear that a police officer is behind you. But what if the lights are behind its grill or shining from the area of the windshield? If it's night-time, how do you really know that it is a police car behind you?

On Thursday night in the Woodstock Library parking lot was a dark blue or black Ford Crown Victoria four-door sedan with what looked like a blue emergency light mounted in the center of the dashboard. Wisconsin license 755 MGY (rear plate only; no front plate). There was a pushbar on the front bumper and a spotlight on the driver's side. My guess is that it was a retired police vehicle.

Emergency lights on most private vehicles in Illinois are illegal. It's possible that this vehicle is registered as an emergency vehicle in Wisconsin. Perhaps it is owned by a volunteer firefighter or a reserve police officer authorized to display emergency lights.

If you find bright lights in your future, such as those red and blue emergency lights so popular on police cars and if you have reason to doubt that the lights are on a police car, do not stop in an isolated spot. Slow down, so that it will be obvious that you are not attempting to evade him. Signal by hand that you will be pulling over. Find a well-lighted place to stop, such as the parking lot of an open convenience store or other place with people present. Or pull into the parking lot of a fire station or police department.

If this is a concern for you, ask a police officer in your community for suggestions as to what to do to indicate compliance but also to keep yourself safe.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The ducks.... thumbs up or thumbs down?

Is anyone wondering about the status of the residency of Jenny and Bean, the two ducks that inhabit a house in Savanna Grove? Back on October 2 the Woodstock City Council voted to approve a special-use ordinance to allow them in the City IF, and only IF, the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association stepped up to the plate and allowed it. To do so, the majority of 100+ homeowners would have to approve an amendment to the Covenants of the Association AND the Covenants would have be amended through a filing with the State of Illinois.

Has this happened? If you remember, the City Council was silent when Mayor Sager announced that the City would take no enforcement action against the ducks. This, right after passing an ordinance that stated clearly that the ducks would only be allowed in the City AFTER the Homeowners Association approved their presence.

How is it that the City Council can pass a new law and then Mayor could immediately say the City would not enforce it? Not one Councilman objected!

Now more than 90 days have passed. Did the property owners vote? Did a majority of the 100+ property owners approve amending the Covenants?

What will happen if the homeowners do not (or did not) approve the amendment? Getting 50+ property owners to approve anything is a huge challenge. I know, from personal experience. I was treasurer of a homeowners association in Colorado 35 years ago, and the board there would never have gotten a majority of the property owners to approve anything!

Shall we hope that the property owners bail out the City Council, not to mention Jenny and Bean, by approving the amendment? What will the City Council do, if the property owners do not approve an amendment?

If you live in Savanna Grove, how about letting us know what's going on? Thanks!

Free Rides for Seniors

Gov. Blago figured out how to break the gridlock on the transportation bill for Chicago's RTA, and he has just solved the problem for the elderly, homeless person. All that person has to do now to board the nearest bus, and he's home! Free rides for the elderly? What else could a senior want when it's 4 degrees outside and the wind blowing?

The gov used his amendatory veto, which must be some backdoor type of sleight-of-hand that will bankrupt local area transit. All the seniors will head for the bus stops (and train stations?) and, once they are able to negotiate the boarding process and weave down the aisle to a seat, they can spend the day riding all over Chicago.

Mike Tryon got it right, when he said there is good news and bad news. The good news for McHenry County seniors ride free; the bad news is there is nothing to ride.

Will the gov's order cover Metra? Can seniors ride to/from Chicago without paying? Can seniors ride the PACE buses without paying?

Dial-a-Ride is not covered, nor is paratransit transportation.

What is "local area transportation"?

Combine the gov's decision on free rides for seniors, his proposed free health insurance for families of four earning up to $83,000, and $5800 daily State aircraft rides for him to and from Springfield, how soon will Illinois run out of money and become a vast wasteland? An empty "hole" between Indiana and Missouri and Iowa?

There is no such thing as "free." Somebody else pays for what is free for someone else.

Roadside Safety Checks

Did Stew Cohen just say (just after 7:00AM) on Y103.9 that the Illinois State Police will be conducting roadside safety checks at US 14 and IL 47? You know, those drive-by inspections for compliance with the seatbelt law? The ones where you drive by the officer on foot who stops you if you don't have your seatbelt on?

I cannot think of a bigger waste of manpower and dollars than to have 4-8 State Police troopers standing in the roadway when the temperature is 4 degrees and the windchill is probably -5 degrees. During rush-hour they need to be catching speeders, tailgaters, reckless passers and aggressive drivers. And responding to wrecks. And responding to calls for assistance when an occupied car is parked on the roadway shoulder with its four-way flashers operating.

What can you do to halt this waste? Absolutely nothing. The order comes down from the top, and the troopers do what they are told to do.

Several years ago I passed by six troopers having lunch in a local restaurant, and I asked them what they thought of using their time in this manner. Their expressions told me the answer, and that day was a summer day. They were politically correct enough not to answer otherwise, because the supervisor was right there with them.

This, by the way, extends to our country and local law enforcement agencies, too. They have figured out how to suck up state dollars through grants, so they too can post officers at intersections to catch those committing the outrageous crime of driving without a seatbelt fastened. Or allowing a passenger to sit unbelted in the front seat. Who gets the ticket for that one? The passenger or the driver? Or both?

In fact, one day I could not even get a deputy to ticket an aggressive driver who tailgated me for five miles on Route 120 toward Woodstock, until we drove right into a pack of deputies checking seatbelts. Now, it wasn't the deputy's fault. I think he would have written the ticket, except think his supervisor told him not to.

Would you like to do something to improve safety on the roads? If you see a serious driving violation, contact the police and ask them to stop the driver. Follow at a safe distance until the officer stops that driver. Stop a safe distance behind the patrol car and wait for the officer to come to you. Tell him you are willing to go to court and testify about what you saw, and ask him to write a ticket to that driver. You may have to insist.

Do not let the deputy or cop act as judge and jury. His only role is to accept the complaint and issue the ticket. Go to court and testify about the dangerous driving of the other driver. Then the judge gets to do his job. Now that's doing something for safety on the roads.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Now, a Groundwater Utility?

Yesterday I read that the Woodstock City Council will consider a new tax to pay for groundwater management. What is this? It rains, and now we have to pay to watch the water go down the street into the sewer?

If residents don't wake up and turn off the TVs and hot-foot it to the March City Council meetings, there will be a new "utility" created and a new tax. Isn't groundwater management something that ought to be paid for by the entire City?

City Attorney Richard Flood was quoted in the Northwest Herald as saying, "It would be similar to getting a water bill. ... in a sense, it's a voluntary fee in the sense that if you wanted to provide for your own stormwater and deal with your own stormwater ... [you] can do that."

Do you suppose there is even just one person in Woodstock who would see such a stormwater management billing as "voluntary"?

Now, how about the initial cost - the cost to "study" the problem? According to Public Works Director John Isbell, the start-up cost would be "substantial." OK, what's substantial? It might cost "hundreds of thousands" of dollars just look at each property and guess (errr, calculate) how much each property owner ought to have to pay. And that's not even including the cost of getting the job done.

Is this what the residents of Woodstock want? The March City Council meetings are March 4 and March 18. My suggestion? Either be there or just tack your signed check, made out to City of Woodstock, on your front door.

For the full article, go to and search for "stormwater". Change "Sort by" to "recent first". Or just click here:

As of this posting, no comments appear following that article. Did anyone read the article?

Wind or Vandalism?

Was it wind or vandalism that destroyed a large, political, advertising sign of incumbent McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi on U.S. 14 across from MCC?

If you see anyone destroying or removing political signs, get the license plate number and description of the car and notify the nearest law enforcement agency. Also, inform the candidate.
Posting of political signs is apparently lawful, although no other private advertising signs can be placed in the highway right-of-way. Signs are to removed shortly after Election Day.
Let's hope that candidates will quickly remove damaged signs (and replace them, if they wish)

Wreck on U.S. 14

Just what is it about slick roads that results in a three-car, chain reaction accident? Excessive speed? Tailgating? Failure to anticipate? Not watching brake lights of cars ahead? Distracted driver? On the phone? Eating a late lunch? Drinking, even out of water bottle - you know the type; head tilted back, can't see the road (I had one of those behind me yesterday near MCC; I had to roll forward to avoid being rear-ended at the stop sign at Country Club Road, coming back toward Woodstock from MCC).
Slick roads do not cause accidents. Inability or inexperience of the driver or a vehicle in poor condition [slick tires; brakes that pull; worn-out wipers (or no wipers); frosted-over windows] is what causes accidents.

This afternoon there was a three-car accident on eastbound U.S. 14 in front of Farm & Fleet. One police car and three WFRD vehicles were there and no wreckers. The third car in line had pretty good front-end damage, but perhaps its driver was going to be able to move it under its own power.
Just a few minutes before, I passed a three-car wreck on U.S. 14, just west of the light at Ridgefield Road. Two cars were on one of the shoulders and one car was on the other.
Do people really need to drive so fast? Cannot drivers slow down and increase their following distance? Just ignore the ignoramus behind you who wants you to speed up. He'll just have to wait. Another 90 seconds to get to Woodstock is a small price to pay for arriving in one piece - rather than one piece here, one piece there.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Find Your Beat Officer Here

Have you been wondering just who your Woodstock Police Department beat officer? Until this week’s Woodstock Independent was published, about all we knew was there were three officers assigned to a beat and, if you wanted to reach the night officer, you had to email all three.

For the past two years I have suggested to the P.D. that it put beat information on its website, so that residents could quickly identify the officer they wished to contact. Thanks to Sue Murray, I was able to create the following grid. If you want to email an officer, address your email to the officer's initial of his first name and his last name, followed by Ex. if you are sending an email to Officer Shane Marshall, address it to

-----------8AM-4PM ----4:00PM-12:00AM-----Midnight-8AM
Beat 21---SMarshall----------JRapacz-----------MGustis
Beat 22---JODoherty---------ASchraw----------MHarmon
Beat 23---FEiselstein---------DDempsey--------DHenry
Beat 24---GKopulos------ ---RBranum----------BMuehlfelt

If you’d like all three officers on your beat to be aware of a situation, put all three email addresses in the “To:” field, separated by commas. No need to send three separate emails.

Do you know in what beat you live?

From the corner of West South Street and South Madison Street, the beats are, generally,
Beat 21, Northeast quadrant
Beat 22, Northwest quadrant
Beat 23, Southwest quadrant
Beat 24, Southeast quadrant

I say “generally” because the exact quadrants need to be viewed on a map. Check the Woodstock City Scene, come to a Coffee with the Chief, flag down an officer in your area or telephone the Woodstock Police Department at 815.338.2131

Remember to lock your cars. Almost all theft-from-auto calls involved cars that were unlocked.

And close your garage doors.

GPA N GMA - Dangerous Driver

Do you know this dangerous driver of a white Cadillac sedan with Illinois license plate GPA N GMA?

This morning I was driving back from MCC on Country Club Road. I drive at the posted speed limit, and this car was behind me as I entered Woodstock. The speed limit drops to 40MPH east of Bull Valley Country Club and then drops to 30MPH between Bull Valley Road and the Post Office. The driver became impatient and then irritated at my 30MPH speed and roared around me.

He barely left the westbound lane completely and appeared to try to intimidate me by driving closely as he passed me. He must have had the accelerator to the floor, because the engine was very loud (high RPMs). He caught a red light at IL 47 and turned right.

I was on my way to the courthouse, so I followed him north on 47. When he turned right by Hovi Chiropractic, I turned also to see where he was going. He parked alongside the Hovi building, and a woman exited the vehicle on the right side, and a man about 55-60 years old with grey hair got out of the driver’s seat.

I thought about siccing the Woodstock Police on him, but the time and effort to go to court just isn’t worth it. Wish I had had my video camera ready. I’ll inform Woodstock PD of his driving violations. With a vanity plate like GPA N GMA, it won’t be hard for the police to watch for a large white Cadillac and observe his driving habits on their own.

Mudslinging - Typical...

The Northwest Herald took quite a shot at former SAO attorney Kristen Foley yesterday morning. I read and re-read the editorial and, frankly, I consider it a cheap shot. I’ve been following this, because I believe the Attorney General’s office should not have released the complaint or the identity of Mrs. Foley. In fact, I wonder if a law was broken by its having done so.

The Northwest Herald editorialized that “Allegations … have been revealed to be nothing more than the politically motivated attacks many suspected from the start.” Whew… that’s a mouthful.

Oh, really? Who says? Just who is the expert, qualified authority who determined them to be such? First, they have to be such “politically motivated attacks”? Who says they are?

Who said, “The best defense is a good offense”? I'll bet he wasn’t talking about football. If an elected officeholder in the County – ANY elected officeholder – spends $56,000 in cash and by personal credit card (or allows his employees to do so), such action deserves criticism at the very least. The County Auditor has raised her eyebrows at these expenses, and the listing was published by the Daily Herald reveals the nature of the expenses.

Why would not the Northwest Herald – “the” daily newspaper of McHenry County – chase its own story on this?

The water became muddied by the different issues raised as the political season began to arrive. Each should be examined on its own merits.

The Northwest Herald lowered any standards it had by attacking an individual whose complaint was made public – a complaint which should have been held in confidence. I’m curious how Bill LeFew got hold of it and why he would have talked about it.

For County Treasurer Bill LeFew to say that he might have to resign as GOP County Chairman in the event of an investigation by the AG and a request to produce records was absurd. His hat as Chairman and his hat as Treasurer must be separate from one another. Claiming to have a conflict-of-interest because he needs to “protect” fellow Republicans is enough to make a person laugh – or throw up. As Party Chairman he should be interested in ferreting out the truth, not “protecting” fellow party members!

Was it smart for Mr. Bianchi to spend, or allowing the spending of, $56,000 this way? Absolutely not. Was it illegal? Only a careful, detailed audit of the expenditures will determine this. If the legitimate business purpose of every expenditure is documented on the receipt or by his or his employees’ logs, then perhaps it was merely poor judgement to run up $56,000 in expenses to be reimbursed.

I hope Mr. Bianchi’s expenditures were not criminal. If someone, anyone, has proof that they were, then he or she must step forward.

For election consideration I shall be much more interested in the candidates’ performance, abilities, qualifications and intentions than the mudslinging of days just past.

Monday, January 14, 2008

January Coffee with the Chief

The training room at the Woodstock Police Department was packed tonight, in spite of a light snow and cold weather. Chief Lowen introduced Sgt. Dick Johns, who described the operation of the telecommunications center and introduced two of the nine dispatchers, who shared some of the personal stories about life in the eye of the hurricane.

Are dispatchers (telecommunicators) busy? Nine dispatchers cover the 21 shifts of a work week. Last year there were 14,000 calls on Woodstock’s 9-1-1 emergency lines and 80,000 non-emergency calls. That’s 257 calls/day, on the average. Obviously, calls are not evenly spaced out at 10 an hour. Recently, eight calls came in one night in about 15 minutes, and the one dispatcher on duty had to handle all of them.

Sgt. Johns presented some history of the 9-1-1 system. The first 9-1-1 call in the U.S. was in 1968, although an emergency telephone system had begun in Europe more than 30 years earlier.

Sgt. Johns gave some do’s and don’ts around 9-1-1 numbers; for example, if you dial 9-1-1- by mistake, don’t hang up. Your number is immediately trapped by the system. Stay on the line and explain to the dispatcher why you called. If you don’t, the dispatcher will call you back to inquire whether there is an emergency. If he can’t reach you or verify your safety, an officer will be dispatched. This is done for your safety. The dispatcher will pay close attention to determine whether you could be under duress; if so, he will dispatch an officer.

I’ve been writing “he” here, but Woodstock has one female dispatcher. It was she who handled the rush of eight calls in a short time, and Chief Lowen complimented her for doing so.

The 9-1-1 system displays your address on a computer monitor. Note: if you get your phone bill at a Post Office box, call the phone company and ask to have the physical address of your telephone shown via computer to the police department. If your bill goes to your P.O. box, you might also dial 9-1-1 from your home phone (try to pick a time when you hope the dispatch will not be too busy; avoid Saturday night!); tell the dispatcher why you are calling – to inquire about the address displayed to him.

Do you use internet telephone service? Vonage? Or have telephone service through your cable provider? Call the VoIP and register your address. Ask how 9-1-1 calls are handled by your VoIP carrier, so that your understanding will be correct.

Be sure that your house number is visible from the street. Chief Lowen said officers and other emergency responders have problems in Woodstock, because not all residents display house numbers. If you call for help, turn on the porch light. Numbers should be placed where the light will shine on them.

One man in the audience said the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District sells house numbers for $20.00. For information, call the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District at 815.338.2621

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Butts to Increase City Costs

An early result of the new Illinois Smoke-Free Act will be increased City costs to keep sidewalks and streets clear of cigarette butts that are discarded by customers of restaurants and taverns in Woodstock. Many smokers will just toss their butts down on the sidewalk or into the street. This is what Judd Street looks like in front of Liquid Blues.

Others may just toss their lighted butts in the City's trash receptacles on the Square. That'll probably drum up some business for Chief Webster and the Woodstock Fire/Rescue folks. Let's hope they can drive up Main Street when the driving lane is narrow due to long trucks parked in the angle parking spaces.

What is the smoker to do with his lighted cigarette before he enters a restaurant or tavern? He has to get rid of it, of course. Some might be lucky enough to find the right place to put it - in a buttcan.

Will the City be painting a 15' radius on the sidewalks at the doors at Liquid Blues? And, if needed, at other establishments that generate the same littering problem?
Should the City quickly address this problem and install buttcans around the Square?

Today's Pay Phone Booth

Know how hard it is to find a working pay phone these days?

Some wag has solved the problem right here in Woodstock with an old Princess telephone. Check out the SBC pay phone in front of the Shell station in Woodstock. Wouldn't we all be surprised if you could really make a call from it?
With the advent of cellphones stuck to almost every waking person it is getting harder and harder to find a working pay phone when you need it. And can you blame the phone companies? Almost no one uses a pay phone these days.

When you do need one, will it be in working condition? Will you have the right change? Will you even know how much change is needed to make your call? Will you try to use a telephone credit card for your call, and you know how much the "hit" is for placing the call? Often there is a flat "service charge" just to connect a call from a payphone, and that's before the per-minute charge (or the flat rate of a certain number of minimum minutes).

Will it be one of those "robber" pay phones that charge you an arm and a leg to make a local call? Or for which you'll have to take out a loan to afford a long-distance call?

Will the City be requiring removal of pay phones that have been taken out of service?

Save Yourself a Front-end Alignment

Within the last two years Lake Avenue was reconstructed and improved between IL Route 47 and U.S. 14. The roadway was widened and a two-way left-turn lane was added. For eastbound drivers the manhole covers seemed to be right where the right tire-track was, and a slight change in elevation in the roadway surface caused an unnecessary “bump” – sometimes, rather jarring.

Now the pavement is already deteriorating in front of City Electric Supply at 1086 Lake Avenue. The pavement is cracking in a circular pattern around the manhole cover and the jarring impact is increasing in severity.

Doesn’t it seem strange that a simple roadway project can’t result in a smooth ride when opened and also that the pavement would not endure more than 1-2 years before repairs are needed?

What is the contractor’s guarantee of good workmanship and who will get stuck with the repair bill? Will the City of Woodstock (and you know who that is; right?) foot the bill? Or will the contractor be required to return and make permanent, long-lasting repairs?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chilling Action by Attorney General

The release of a complaint and identification of the sender of the complaint by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General deserves the harshest criticism and an investigation into the action that resulted in the identification of a Woodstock woman as the Complainant.

The complaint in question had to do with the expenses reimbursed to the incumbent McHenry County State's Attorney and was filed last year. The Daily Herald had published a list of expenses that were incurred and reimbursed in the Office of the State's Attorney.

I may be wrong, but I believe a person filing a complaint and requesting an investigation of a possible impropriety, at the least, and a crime, at the other end of the spectrum, has a right to have his or her name kept in confidence. Otherwise, reporting dries up. People will not blow the whistle. The mechanism needs to be in place to protect the confidentiality of complainants. And that mechanism needs to work!

If you examine the listed expenses, anyone would question the propriety of many of them. Many were for what could be considered questionable items. Many had no explanation - just the vendor and the amount. Go and look at the list for yourself. Go to and then scroll to the bottom and click on See the Reimbursement Spreadsheet.

I don't care who is in office. These expenses need to questioned and explained fully. The McHenry County Auditor was right to look closely at these expenses. It's not just petty cash. The total is in the thousands of dollars. Was there a budget against which each of these items was charged?

Any executive needs a little breathing room with expenses, but these deep gulps of air are costing the rest of us.

$183.29 to Verizon?
$463.79 for shelves?
$882.54 at Sam's Club? For what?
$109.50 at Fast Eddie's? Looks like a car detailing to me. Was it a County-owned car? Isn't there a Maintenance Shop for this, where some kid is paid $8.00 to wash and wax cars?

Go and look at the expenses yourself. Kinda makes a person sick...

You Can Still Register to Vote

Remember all the hoop-de-lah about registering to vote by January 8? And how you cannot vote in February, if you don't register by January 8?

Well, it ain't so. You can still go to the courthouse and register to vote. The catch is that you have to vote while you are there to register!

So, if you need to, hot-foot it over to the courthouse in Woodstock and register to vote, and vote early. Do it. Do it now.

Evanston - Next Sanctuary City in Illinois?

Evanston stands ready to become the next declared sanctuary city in Illinois. Should we care? You bet.

Law-abiding U.S. citizen cannot stand by and let the erosion of laws continue. Can you imagine what would happen to you, if you were in Mexico (for example) and were confronted by a police official about your legal presence there? Come on, folks. There would be no "We're happy you are here, so just be more careful next time."

Care to guess about the conditions in a jail in Mexico? How do you think they compare to the palace in McHenry County; you know, the one on North Seminary in Woodstock? Where prisoners have three good meals every day? Showers. Color TV. Not so good as being free, but better than a - - - well, you can picture a jail in Mexico. Or in Afghanistan. Or India. Or Africa.

Even though we are not in Evanston and have many communities between Evanston and us, we should not stand by silently. Voice your opinion to the law-makers in Evanston and to your County and State officers and elected representatives.

Should sanctuary cities be outlawed? Should elected officials who enact sanctuary city laws be prosecuted? Kicked out of office. Oh, wait; we can't recall them. What a shame!

These comments are not directed at those who are in the United States legally. A legal immigrant is welcome. Those who are in this country are not illegal "immigrants" or "undocument" workers or any other fancy term to obscure the real description of who they are.

They are illegal aliens.

Watch That Yellow Light - or else!

Have you heard about the new red-light camera in Lake in the Hills? Maybe I shouldn't say where it is... Then drivers will stop there (only) and keep running the other red lights.

Lake in the Hills is the nearest community to Woodstock to install this equipment. Here's how it works. It's simple.

1. You run a red light.
2. You get a $100 ticket in the mail.

A complete description of the operation is described on the Lake in the Hills website at If you'd like to know all the details (well, all that they publish), go there and read all about it.

The camera is activated when the light turns red. Pretty simple. Illinois state traffic law requires that drivers not to enter the intersection on a red light. Everyone slows on the yellow light and stops before the light turns red. Right? Well, don't they?

Of course, they don't. Just Friday afternoon, I watched a red Chevrolet pick-up truck run the red light by MCC at 50MPH, the last car through the intersection. The male driver never slowed, and he had a long time to stop.

OK, so the camera starts when the light turns red. What happens next? When a driver enters the intersection against the red light, the camera takes 2-3 photographs of the vehicle and its license plate. Who the driver is does not matter. Illinois law makes the owner of the vehicle responsible. Should it be this way for all moving violations?

An officer at LitH PD reviews the pictures and triggers the production of a ticket for violators. The ticket is then mailed out to the address-of-record for the vehicle's registration. When you get such a ticket, it's a really good idea not to ignore it.

There are procedures for contesting the tickets; read on the website for what to do if you get a ticket.

Naturally, there is no reason to run a red light. If you are paying attention, not chatting away on your cellphone, putting on make-up, shaving, reading or distracted in any of many other ways, you'll be allowing a safe distance in front of you and will be prepared to slow and stop if the green light turns yellow. And you'll be watching the clown behind you who expects you to run the yellow (or the red).

The Bolingbrook Police Department runs a red-light camera operation that uses video to capture the violation. When the vehicle owner receives the ticket by mail, he can go to and enter the Violation Number and license plate number. Then he can watch the video of his vehicle while it turns the red light. The timer shows how long the light was red before the vehicle entered the intersection.

We're also asking if there is a process for the owner to point the finger at someone else, if he wasn't driving the car at the time. If a spouse, child, friend, employee or thief was driving his car, he may not be responsible for the ticket. That information is not on the LitH PD website and will be obtained from the Department.

We are also interested whether convictions are reported to the Secretary of State for the driver's record. Bolingbrook PD claims they are not, but I know of at least one ticket that was promptly reported to the DMV.

And what happens in the case of the driver who brakes late and stops, but crosses the white stop bar? Will he be cited? We'll ask.

Another website advises that the excuse "I ran the light to avoid being hit by the car behind me, which was tailgating me" will not work. Hmmm, would you rather have a $100 ticket or a re-styled rear-end of your car and neck and back injuries?

So, folks, watch those yellow and red lights. When you are rolling up to a "stale" green light (one that has been green for a long time), be prepared for it to change and then to stop.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ridiculous 15MPH Speed Limit

When does a low speed limit make sense, and when does it guarantee that no one will pay any attention to it?

Next time you are at MCC, notice the 15MPH speed limit sign on campus roads. Perhaps you have already noticed it. What did you do when you saw it? Drive 15MPH. Yeah, sure...

When I inquired why the speed limit was set at 15MPH, the answer given to me was that drivers always go 10MPH over the speed limit so, by posting it at 15MPH, they hoped drivers would hold it down to 25MPH.

Now, that's really good thinking for an educational institution. Let's teach our students to ignore the law. I'm sure they didn't set out with that thought in mind, but that's exactly what happens.

The road will easily handle 25-30MPH, so why not set the speed limit at a reasonable level and then enforce it?

There are many ways to enforce speed limits on private roads. One is to ask the Crystal Lake Police Department to run radar on the campus roads. That ought to create a really good relationship between students and Administration.

Another is to arm Campus Security with radar guns and let them police the speed limit. Campus security officers are not cops, so they cannot stop traffic violations, but there is always a work-around. For example, MCC could issue parking permits (stickers) to students who drive to school. Then, if the student accumulates reported traffic infractions, MCC could just yank the permit and sticker.

Actually, stickers might not be such a bad idea. If a driver left his lights on or the campus security officer found a car with a flat tire, the driver could be alerted. Or what if a student's car is accidentally damaged in the parking lot?

Vehicle registration could include email addresses and cell phone numbers. Security could IM, email, text or call the student to inform him or her of a problem with the vehicle.

But back to the speed limit. When speed limits are set arbitrarily low, then they are more likely to be ignored. This doesn't just happen on campus roads; it happens on city streets and highways.

How do you get a speed limit changed? Those who are affected, interested or concerned should speak out. The first stop might be Campus Security office. Don't just say it to the officer in the office. Put it in writing. Ask what consideration will be given to your request, by whom and by when you can receive a response to your request. Make a note of the date and follow up, if necesssary.
Will MCC listen? Only time will tell.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wayne 1, Crystal Lake 0

You may remember last year’s stories about Wayne, the guy with the signs about Viking Dodge in Crystal Lake. You’ve seen Wayne, although mostly in warmer weather. He parks along U.S. 14 in Crystal Lake and holds up his sign for all passersby to see.

Well, Wayne got a ticket last fall for unlawful display of a sign on his car. He had a magnetic sign on the back of his car while it was parked on the shoulder of U.S. 14 near IL 176. What did the sign say? “Viking Dodge Lies”

The Crystal Lake Code Enforcement Officer signed a complaint against Wayne and had a Crystal Lake cop write Wayne a ticket. Not a warning, but a ticket. Of course, if a business in Crystal Lake violates the Crystal Lake sign ordinance, it gets a warning. Then it remedies the violation and the warning is forgotten. Then it violates the ordinance again, and it gets a warning. Then it remedies the violation and the warning is forgotten. Starting to get the picture.

Wayne had an attorney, but I was able to offer him a lot of support and some ideas. I encouraged him to appeal his ticket to the City Council and demand a hearing, which is granted right in the Crystal Lake city ordinance. The City Council refused to grant him a hearing.

Because the wording is right in the city law, I urged him to request a hearing again and, if that didn’t work, then just go to a City Council meeting and speak to them during the Public Comment period. He did, and what happened?

As a result of his own self-advocacy, the City of Crystal Lake said it would dismiss the ticket.

Knowing of one driver’s experience in Colorado with a ticket that had been promised for dismissal, I urged Wayne to go to court, anyway. He did, and he let me know after the court date that he felt that, had he not gone to court, the City might not have dismissed his case. Of course, that’s only a feeling. Perhaps they really would have done the honorable thing in his absence and followed the course of dismissal set out by the City Attorney in his letter to Wayne.

Through his picketing Wayne has been expressing his constitutional First Amendment right to free speech. It was a real stretch for the City to believe he had an illegal sign on his vehicle. A real stretch. We’ll never know just how it happened that the Code Enforcement Officer ordered the ticket issued to Wayne. Did he do it on his own? Was he told to do it? Who called whom?

The lesson is to fight every injustice. One of my favorite sayings is, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” A wise Irish politician and judge said that 200 years ago. We must be vigilant. We remain free by remaining vigilant.

To Wayne? Bravo, Wayne. You did well!

Pioneer Center Funding

Are you familiar with Pioneer Center for Human Services? Do you know what it really does or anything about the important segment of McHenry County population that it serves? For information visit

Perhaps you know an individual who receives services at Pioneer Center. Or one who would benefit from services but who currently does not receive them.

Two informational meetings about Pioneer Center’s need for additional funding to serve our County’s developmentally disabled persons will be conducted on January 30 at 4031 Dayton Street, McHenry. Get directions at

Pioneer Center is asking County leaders and concerned citizens to be participants in this effort. The goal is to initiate a 377 Board, a tax levy that could bring in $6.5 million to provide new services.

On Wednesday, January 30, 2008, two meetings will be held; the earlier one will be at 2:00PM and the later one will be at 6:00PM.

Following these informational meetings Pioneer Center will make a presentation at the McHenry County Health and Human Services Committee on February 8, 2008 at 8:15 a.m. This also is a public meeting. The Committee will be asked to request the County Board to vote.

If you are interested in attending one of the meeting listed above, R.S.V.P. to Tracy Champion at 815.759.7112

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Workshop for Parents of Special Ed Children

Coming up on January 19 is a terrific workshop for parents of children and adults with special needs.

PLANNING FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW will be presented by Brian Rubin, J.D., Sherri Schneider, QMRP, and Matt Cohen, J.D. The program has been arranged by The Arc of Illinois and will be hosted by Options & Advocacy for McHenry County, located in Crystal Lake.

The program will be held at American Community Bank & Trust Company in Crystal Lake. The bank is located at 381 South Main Street, between U.S. 14 and Commerce Parkway. It will start at 9:00AM (arrive before 9:00AM) and conclude at 4:00PM. Materials, refreshments and lunch are included in the registration fee.

The fee is economical - only $30.00. If financial restrictions prevent you from paying the full registration fee, there are stipends available to consumers for part or all of the fee. Contact The Arc of Illinois at 708.206.1930 or Registration can be accomplished online. Anything to save $0.41, eh?

Topics to be covered are:
Government Benefits - The who, what, where, when, why and how of SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, Medicare, HBWD and others.
Who and What is your PAS/ISC Agent? (Heck, I'll go just to find out what all these initials mean!)
Special Needs Estate Planning and Planning for When The Bus Stops Coming, presented by Attorney Brian Rubin.
Special Education in Illinois, by Attorney Matt Cohen.

Shortly I shall post information about the 4th Annual Parent Conference called GET CONNECTED! This will be on Saturday, February 9, at MCC - 8:30AM-3:00PM. Check back soon.

Car on Front Lawn

Here's an example of a typical City Code violation that is addressed by Woodstock's Code Enforcement Officer, Donovan Day. This blue Pontiac four-door sedan is parked on the front lawn.
There is no front license plate and two For Sale signs are displayed in the side windows.
What does this do to property values in Woodstock? If the problem is not monitored carefully and addressed promptly, the problem grows.
The Code Enforcement Officer will visit the property and contact the tenant or owner. He'll explain the City Code, issue a Notice of Violation as documentation of the violation, and ask that the vehicle be moved off the front lawn.
Often, tenants and property owners don't even know they are in violation, and the "soft" approach by the City results in a positive interaction between the City and the public.
If you see a similar violation, just send an email to and Donovan will check it out. Your name will not be revealed to the tenant or property owner in violation, and Donovan will handle everything professionally and courteously.

Inefficiency at Woodstock Social Security Office

If you go to the Woodstock office of the Social Security Administration, you’d better pack a lunch, a snack, take a pillow and some NoDoze.

I arrived at 9:03AM to just pick up some forms. You know – blank forms and maybe a set of instructions. Shouldn’t be all that complicated; right? Just go in, get the forms from a person at the counter and be on my way. Ha-ha, what a novel idea!

The lobby is a fairly small waiting area with a large sign that points to a computer, where you “register.” Register; yeah, sure. All you do in select one of four numbers. When you punch it, a slip is printed with the number assigned to you. My number was 60.

Well, that’s good and that’s bad. The good part is there is no guessing when it’s your turn. The bad part is you can’t tell what number is being waited on. The other bad part (for Social Security) is that the time of your arrival is printed right on your receipt, so you can easily tell how long you have been waiting (and how slow the service is).

Oh, yes. There is an armed security guard on duty. I didn’t know that Social Security clerks were so dangerous that the public would have to be afraid of being attacked. At least, there is no bulletproof glass needed yet to protect the public.

There were about five people ahead of me, and one service window was opened. The other was closed with some really serious-looking shutters. They are effective, too. You can’t see the SSA employees in the back, having their coffee or reading their newspapers.

The man being helped at the window wasn’t in any hurry, nor was the woman employee who was helping him. Sure, it’s nice to get friendly service from government employees but, after all, there were five people waiting. You can usually tell when there is a sense of urgency about workers and customers. When the customer is leaning on the counter and the employee is talking and talking and gesturing, often not much is happening.

At 9:08AM Customer Number 56 was called to the window.

At 9:13AM I approached Security Officer Hervey and asked to speak with the manager of the office about the inefficiency of the customer service agent at the window. Imagine my surprise when he told me that he could not call the office manager to the lobby. I intended to ask her to sit down next to me and observe the slow, slow, slow operation. And also the obnoxious, loud, wall-mounted television on in the lobby.

I was in the office on June 6, 2006, and observed exactly the same slow service. The problem is the bottleneck that exists at the only open window. The window clerk should quickly interview each arriving person and learn why they are there. Time-consuming requests should be handled by employees away from the intake counter. If the arriving customer’s matter can’t be handled in one minute and there are arriving customers yet to be seen, the customer sits down and waits to be helped.

Why should a person with a one-minute need have to wait 15-20-25 minutes just to say why there are there?

After returning home I tried to telephone the Woodstock office at 815.338.3751, but the line was busy several times. Next question? Why would an office telephone line ring busy? Hasn’t the SSA installed voicemail on Woodstock telephone numbers?

And the next question? Why in the world would there be an armed security office on duty in the Social Security office? Is the government afraid that a band of robbers will descend on the Woodstock office, with guns drawn, ordering customers to the floor, and demanding that the office surrender all its “Social Security”?

I complained about this, too, in June 2006. Lots of good that did. Talk about waste!

Well, there is always the tollfree number to Social Security: 800.772.1213 Hopefully, I can order the forms and instructions in considerably less time than waiting in the Woodstock office.

Coffee with the Chief - Mon., January 14

Every month Woodstock Police Chief Bob Lowen hosts a Coffee with the Chief at police headquarters on Lake Avenue.

On Monday, January 14, Chief Lowen's meeting with feature the Communications section of the Department, and Sgt. Richard Johns will explain how the dispatchers work.

Things are a lot different from my dispatching days at a sheriff's department in Colorado. We answered the phones and dispatched deputies. My first duties with that department were at the dispatch console, while I was awaiting patrol training. As soon as that was completed, it was "So long" to dispatch.

But I enjoyed it, because I understand how things were supposed to happen between deputies and dispatchers. Right away I did have the other dispatchers mad at me, because I anticipated the needs of the deputies and had information ready for them before they requested it. When I was not on duty, the deputies still wanted the information fast, as I had provided it. This made more work for the other dispatchers, who were used to just waiting for a deputy to request clearances, if he did.

Typically, a deputy would radio in the license plate of the vehicle he was stopping. Dispatchers would wait for him to request whether the plate was "clear"; i.e., whether the license was listed on the Wanted list. When I was at the radio, as soon as the deputy radioed in the plate, I ran the clearance, and I could tell him before he got out of his car whether or not the plate was clear.

Being "clear" didn't mean that the deputy could just stroll up to the car. All it told him was that, at that moment, we did not get an adverse response from the computer system. The car could be "hot" or the owner wanted, and we just might not have known about it yet.

In addition to the County, we dispatched for several small departments. I remember a couple of calls I got from sergeants with those small departments to thank me for the way I handled the radio communications. With me, there was no chatter. I gave the deputies information that they needed to know - clearly, crisply, briefly, directly.

With computers in the squad cars, things are different today. Frankly, I wonder what distraction the in-car computers are. How many officers attempt to read their computer screens while the car is moving? Do departments prohibit this? How many officers attempt to use the computer (enter data), while the squad car is moving? How many wrecks or near-misses have there been here or in McHenry County?

Kind of gives new meaning to DWT, doesn't it? Driving While Texting.

When you come to the Chief's Coffee, bring your questions about what's going on in your neighborhood. The meeting will start at 7:00PM and will conclude by 8:30PM. There is usually a good turn-out; bring your neighbors.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How to Run a Jail

You've heard of Sheriff Joe Arpaio; right? He's the top cop in Maricopa County, Arizona. Phoenix, don't you know?

If you'd like to read about how a jail ought to be run, read this article at

Sheriff Joe Arpaio charges prisoners for meals. He tells them that, if they don't like the food, don't come back. He canceled all the cable TV until he found it he had to provide it, and then he limited programming to The Weather Channel and G-movies. No more WWE and strong-arm violence. They live in tents, not air-conditioned cells. No weight room, either.

He's hot on the illegal alien issue.

The article is worth reading and passing along to the entire McHenry County Board.

And this article ought to be mailed to every voter before the next election for sheriff. Heck, we could even send it in plain envelopes with no return address...

McHenry County Storm Chaser?

Did anyone else read the short paragraph on the second page of this morning's Northwest Herald story about yesterday's tornadoes? The paragraph about McHenry County's storm chaser?

Hello? Where am I? Kansas? Oklahoma? CNN? The Weather Channel?

McHenry County has a Storm Chaser? I can't help wondering whether this is a paid, employee position of the McHenry County Government or possibly a contracted position.

Does anyone know? Wednesday I'll call the Human Resources Department of the County and find out. If there is such a position of employment, the details will be public record.

Stay tuned...

Dan Regna for State's Attorney?

The flurry of news over the Regna vs. Bianchi contest caused me to visit Mr. Regna's website.

The very first item on his platform is:

"RESPOND TO OUR CITIZENS. By restoring and accepting direct citizen complaints, the State's Attorney's Office will become a community resource agency."

Having contacted the State's Attorney's office several times over the years, this item and its placement in the Number One position gets a lot of my attention.

I have been told by the Office of the McHenry County State's Attorney under both Mr. Bianchi and his predecessor, Mr. Pack, that the Office does not serve citizens of McHenry County. Its job is to serve the County government (and not the citizens).

I was particularly upset a while back, after filing a Freedom of Information Request to get a look at a legal opinion issued by the State's Attorney's Office for the Planning and Development Department. The request was refused on the basis of attorney-client privilege, which was a load of hogwash.

I believe that the Department had requested a general opinion as to whether it could legally go after those who were posting those obnoxious paper-and-wireframe, real estate development, advertising signs on the state and county rights-of-way.

I could understand withholding an opinion, if it involved an individual case. But, when it involved the application of an existing County regulation in a broad manner, there was no reason to hide behind the shield of confidentiality.

So, does the current resident of the State's Attorney's Office serve the public? I don't know the answer to that question. Perhaps he does. If this question interests you, inquire and find out before voting day in February.

101 MPH in a 40 Zone

Aren't you glad that you weren't in Lake County early Sunday morning, when Suzan Jackson is alleged to have been flying low at 101 MPH in a 40 zone. I mean, small planes take off at 65MPH. Did she think she was on a runway?

Let's be glad that it was a sergeant from the Lake County Sheriff's Department that stopped her and not a friend or regular street officer who might have been inclined to give a break to a fellow officer. Just how do you catch someone who is blasting along at 101? Was the speed checked by radar? Or by pursuit? How long did it take to get her stopped?

Jackson was charged with DUI, reckless driving and speeding, according to the Northwest Herald. Speeding over 40MPH over the posted limit qualifies for a Reckless Driving charge. As a police officer, Jackson knew to refuse a breathalyzer test. She was a full-time cop in Kildeer (yes, Virginia; there really is a Kildeer, Ill.) and a part-time cop in Lakemoor.

How interesting to learn in the article of an "incident" involving a firearm (that's a gun, folks) on December 10 in the parking lot at the Iron Bull Tavern in Lakemoor! According to the Northwest Herald and Nicole Owens, "chief criminal of the McHenry County State's Attorney's office" (I think the reporter meant "chief criminal prosecuting attorney"), Jackson was involved in some way, at least as a witness.

What's really going on at the Lakemoor PD, which didn't report that "incident" to the State's Attorney's office until December 18. Where was the newspaper reporting on that? Did I miss it or was there none? A search on and on does not locate any news about the December 10 incident.

Northern Illinois is not the place to mess with cops. I am acquainted with individuals who have run afoul of cops in some of the small towns between Woodstock and Lake Michigan. Some drivers have been regularly harassed by being stopped repeatedly "just because." And, of course, many have read of the beating of one man by three cops (or former cops) outside a bar that resulted in severe injuries to him.

And guess what? Jackson is reportedly the former wife of one of the cops convicted in that beating.

Cops should be the first to obey laws, not the last. They need to be scrupulous in their conduct on-duty and off-duty. And their superiors need to know what is going on with their officers while they are on-duty and off-duty. Superiors, including chiefs, must pay intense attention to the conduct of their officers and be alert for the "bad apples" that are going to spoil the entire barrel.

Tattered U.S. Flags

Surely I cannot be the only person in Woodstock who notices the tattered condition of the U.S. Flags on flag poles around town.

Today's attention is to the U.S. Flag at the Moose Lodge on Clay Street. Drive by and take a look at that flag. This flag has needed replacement for quite some time. Why doesn't it happen?

Don't any of the Mooses (Meese?) ever look at the flag when they enter or leave the building?

If you know someone who is a member of the Moose Lodge, how about asking him to have the old flag removed and a new one raised?

Tattered U.S. flags should be folded respectfully (not just bunched up and tossed in a plastic bag from a local store) and delivered to the V.F.W. Lodge on Throop Street. They have a box out front (like a mailbox) where flags can be placed. Periodically, the members will conduct a formal ceremonial burning of old flags. This is done with great respect for the flag of our country.

If your children or you are interested in the ceremony, contact the V.F.W. and inquire whether it is possible to observe the final honoring of flags after they are taken out of service.

I would like to express my appreciation to the Woodstock Post Office and American Community Bank for the prompt replacement of tattered flags at both locations. Thanks!

Bill LeFew - Nailed by the Mail

What’s the big flap about Bill LeFew’s mailing out 900 Daily Herald reprints about Lou Bianchi’s expenses? After all, this is Illinois; right? Surely, we are not expecting politics to be run in clean and honorable ways.

The big flap is about his anonymous mailing of them. According to this morning’s Northwest Herald, he purchased 900 reprints (or bought the use of the copyright for 900 copies or however he acquired them) and then mailed them out in plain envelopes without any return address. I’d say that’s pretty under-handed, whether it’s illegal or not. Did he stop to think, even for a minute, that someone would most likely uncover who sent them?

Why didn’t he just put his name and home address on the envelope and perhaps add a little note, such as “I don’t want to do anything that some might consider under-handed or slimy while I diss Lou Bianchi, so I want you to know that this is from Bill LeFew.”

No wonder the Republicans are taking such heat these days, starting with Republican #1, the top dog for the next 12 months, who sits in the White House.

Did LeFew peel and stick 900 stamps on envelopes himself? If not, who did? Did another member of the Let’s Get Rid of Bianchi team peel and stick the 900 stamps?

Was the postage metered? If so, through whose postage meter? Through LeFew’s insurance office? Is that a legitimate business expense of his insurance office and deductible for business purposes? I don’t think so. Did he already reimburse the $.41 postage for each envelope out of personal funds?

How much did the 900 copies cost him? Envelopes are only about a penny each. But now consider the time to fold, insert and seal in envelopes.

Did an employee in his insurance office fold and stuff the copies? On company time? What was the business purpose of such employee time, if that's how it happened? Or maybe family members got together for the mailing party.

The Republican Party should kick LeFew out now. I mean, n-o-w. There is no room for this kind of behavior.

When it comes time to elect a McHenry County Treasurer, let’s hope that all voters remember this sleazy mailing and elect a new treasurer.

Woodstock Code Enforcement – Part 2

In December the topic of Code Enforcement in Woodstock was opened here. To read it, click on December 2007 and scroll down to December 15.

What happens when a resident reports a City Code violation that is visible from the street? Examples of common violations are vehicles parked for long periods of time without being moved. You can tell which ones. They are covered with snow, and there are no tracks in the snow in front or, or behind, the vehicle.

Or a car or truck parked in the front yard on the grass. Or it’s a pick-up truck, full of trash and garbage. Or it’s a minivan full of boxes and newspapers, including boxes piled high in the driver’s seat.

Or it might be an accumulation of trash bags along the side of the house or on a deck of the house.

Or it might be a stack of tires or a pile of exercise equipment and lawnmowers stashed on the property.

Presumably, all a resident has to do is notify Code Enforcement of the problem, and the City takes over. A resident can telephone Code Enforcement at (815) 338-4300 or send an e-mail to A file will be opened for the complaint, and the Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) will visit the property. A computerized tracking system is used to track code violations.

A complaint can be filed by any resident. The City maintains confidentiality about the name of the person who complained.

This confidentiality hasn’t always been the case. Until about two years ago the City’s policy was to reveal the name of the Complainant to the party about whose property a complaint was registered. Even when the violation was clear from the street, if the violator asked for the name, he was given the name, phone number and/or email address of the person who complained.

When I learned of this practice more than three years ago, I complained to the City that the policy was wrong and asked the City to get an opinion from the City Attorney. The City did, and the opinion of the City Attorney was that the Complainant had no right to privacy. And that opinion was wrong!

I myself can personally handle any telephone call or email I receive. But, was it fair to the 90-year-old neighbor of a trashy household, if her name was given to the tenant responsible for the trash and clutter next door? Would she fear retaliation or retribution for siccing the City on her neighbor? Would she refuse to contact the City, if she knew her name would be revealed? You bet!

After the new police chief came to town and mentioned at one of his early Coffees with the Chief that a complainant’s identity would not be revealed (by a police officer responding to a call; ex., a loud-music complaint), I asked the City to again seek a legal opinion from the City Attorney’s office. This time the opinion was that a resident DOES have the right to privacy, and now the policy is that a complainant’s name will not be revealed when the CEO makes the contact with a suspected violator of the City Code.

After the complaint is logged, the CEO will visit the property to determine whether a violation exists. If it does exist, then he will contact the party believed to be responsible for the violation. If the house is a single-family, owner-occupied dwelling, the CEO will contact the owner. If it is a rental property and if the CEO believes the tenant is responsible for the violation, he will first contact the tenant to try to resolve the violation and bring the property back into compliance with the City Code.

The City of Woodstock takes a “friendly” approach when addressing violations of the City Code by first making a personal call on the presumed violator. The purpose is to discuss the Code, explain the violation and to request action to remove the violation.

A Notice of Violation (NOV) is issued to establish the violation. In many cases, the violation is promptly corrected, and that’s the end of it. The NOV is then merely a record and no further action is needed.

What happens if the violation is not corrected? More information will follow soon.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Run for Your Health?

Yesterday at about 5:20PM there was a female jogger running south in Route 47 against traffic at Todd Street and interfering with northbound traffic. Although there was a clear sidewalk available to her immediate left, she ran in the street, where she was hard to see. Several northbound cars barely missed hitting her.

At McHenry Avenue she crossed Route 47 and then she ran between moving vehicles to cross McHenry Avenue. She ran behind cars stopped eastbound on McHenry Avenue and was outside the crosswalk.

From there she ran south in the middle of Seminary Street from McHenry Avenue toward Judd Street. I was curious whether she might be hit as she ran down the center of Seminary, and I telephoned Woodstock PD to request that an officer contact her as she approached Judd Street. She continued south on Judd Street in the middle of the street to Calhoun, and then she jogged west on Calhoun with traffic over the railroad tracks, south in Madison Street with traffic to South St., then west in South Street to Dean Street.

When she reached Dean Street, she turned south on Dean and ran in the street against traffic. I lost sight of her at Fremont St.

A short time after that I saw a male jogger running south in Dean Street, with traffic, at Kimball.

There was a recent fatality in Woodstock involving a pedestrian and a recent serious-injury accident in Woodstock, when a homeless man was struck in a hit-and-run accident.

It is time for the Woodstock Police Department to get serious about joggers, runners and pedestrians in the streets, when sidewalks are available. Yesterday sidewalks were generally clear of snow because of warming weather.

Is a Warning sufficient? No, it’s not. If WPD will issue tickets to those who choose to run in the streets and then publicize the violators in the Woodstock Independent and the Northwest Herald, as well as on Star 105.5 and Y103.5 news, safety will be increased for all – for pedestrians and runners, for drivers, and for innocent bystanders who might just happen to be in the way if a driver runs off the roadway trying at the last minute to avoid a runner.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Registered to Vote?

If you are planning to vote in the primary in Illinois and if you are not registered to vote at the address of your current residence, beat a path to the Voter Registration desk at the McHenry County Government Center Annex at 667 Ware Road this Monday or Tuesday. Or go to the DMV on Tuesday (they are closed on Mondays).

There is no excuse for not registering to vote. If you are not registered, you can't vote. If you are registered, then you can decide whether or not you want to vote. If you aren't registered, you don't have that choice.

The DMV is open until 7:00PM, if you can't get to the Government Center Annex during normal working hours.

Do you know someone who is not registered? Don't tell them to go to register. TAKE them to register. No car? In Woodstock call Dial-a-Ride at (815) 338-5240.

Where's the News?

Does anyone else wonder where the news in the Northwest Herald is about the October 26 accident involving four Marian Central students? or the hit-and-run involving Alexander Metschke in Woodstock? or the robbery at the Mobil station?

It is way past time for tickets to be issued to the driver in the Haligus Road accident that killed two and injured the driver and a third passenger. The McHenry County Sheriff's Department should be explaining the delay, and it's not just that the State Police Laboratory is three months behind on toxicology reports. Just exactly why are they dragging their heels on issuing the basic ticket(s) for the accident?

Where is the further information about the vehicle suspected in the hit-and-run right here in Woodstock? Are the Woodstock Police still looking for a green Ford Taurus? Has it been found? We're not such a big town that the police and contacts can't find this vehicle.

Perhaps there was further news and a description of the robber who hit the Mobil station on Seminary; I may have missed it while out of town for the holidays. Why isn't this information on the PD's website? Many departments have a website that is actually useful to citizens for identifying and locating suspects in crimes. When the crime was first reported, not even the race of the robber was identified - only that he was male. I'll bet there are web-savvy officers who would welcome an opportunity to spiff up the WPD webpages.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Kentucky Police Speeders

As I drove back from South Carolina yesterday, I noticed a particular thing about cops in Kentucky. The speed limits are not for them.

I was nearing London, Kentucky, on I-75, when a Laurel County deputy passed me at a good clip. The speed limit is 70MPH, and he was running about 85-90. It looked like there was a passenger (prisoner?) in the car; maybe he was late for court. I called the Laurel County Sheriff's Department and, when a supervisor called me back, he said they didn't have a Car #1118, which was the number stenciled on the back bumper of the squad car. Was there an imposter on the road? I doubt it.

He and I had a nice conversation, during which he asked me, did I ever speed when I was a deputy in Colorado? I told him that I hadn't and that I believed it to be unfair to write tickets to speeders, if I were guilty of speeding myself; especially knowing that a cop would not write me a ticket if he stopped me. I'm talking about on-duty here. In uniform, in the patrol car, just driving down the road.

A little farther north a Kentucky State Police car (2911) passed me, traveling well over the speed limit. And then Kentucky State Police car 2852 pulled off the inside shoulder to pace a UPS tractor-trailer and me. We were right on the 70MPH speed limit. He must have hit 90+ to catch up with us. Then he paced the truck, pulled ahead and exited at the next ramp. If he got called on his speeding, he'd just say that he suspected speeding by us and was doing his duty. State Police officers have the experience to know when vehicles are traveling at about the speed limit, so he was just having some fun.

And then, at Florence, Kentucky, a local police car (looked like Car 2506) passed me at about 85MPH in the 70MPH zone. Last summer when I was through that same stretch, a Florence PD car had passed me, hightailing it for the town. I called that one in, but not this one. After all, what's a small matter of 15MPH over the speed limit, just because you're driving a squad car?

I believe that the police should be the first to obey traffic laws, not the last. As a matter of principle, officers should drive the speed limit, unless they are using emergency equipment or following a speeder for the purpose to ascertaining his speed. Supervisors expect officers to "hurry along" to calls, in order to lower response times. However, speeding to a call is illegal.

In those rare instances where an officer wants to roll up to a bank robbery or domestic call "silently", then he needs to slow down after he turns off his emergency equipment. Many officers and even chiefs do not agree with me; yet they can find no justification in the traffic laws that allows them to speed. They do it and get away with it; after all, who is going to write a ticket to a cop?

Ped Crossing Sign - Going, going, gone

A reader wrote this morning to ask about the pedestrian crossing sign on Throop at Cass. You know the one? The nifty little post in the center of Throop Street that reminds drivers that it is a State law to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in the crosswalk? She wrote that the sign recently disappeared.

Public Works informed The Woodstock Advocate that the sign’s absence is due to snow plowing. They didn’t say whether the sign was removed so that the street could be plowed or if it just got plowed with the snow.

Word is that, when weather permits, Public Works will be replacing the sign.

In the meantime, watch your step as you cross Throop Street. Without that warning to drivers, pedestrians are once again at increased risk at that location.

We have recommended other locations for similar warning signs. Good locations would be South & Jefferson and South & Putnam. They must be many more.

If you would like to recommend a location, email

PayDay Loans - a Good Deal? NOT

Have you ever checked out the rates for a “payday” loan at one of the many outlets for this type of borrowing?

Before Illinois legislators acted last year to begin curbing the usurious rates charged by these outfits, annualized interest rates could reach 780%. That starts to make 28% from your credit card company look pretty good, doesn’t it?

For a good explanation of the high costs of payday loans, go to

If you ever consider a payday loan, think twice. And then think twice more.

The U.S. Department of Defense calls payday loans “predatory.” For military personnel the DOD caps the interest rate at 36%. It’s probably impossible now for military personnel to get a payday loan, because those companies have no interest in lending money at 36%.

Call and get the information – all the information; then take it to your bank and ask them how they (your bank) can help you solve your financial problems. And if you really need help, contact your local Consumer Credit Counseling Service. In McHenry County, Illinois, the phone number is (815) 338-5757.

A particularly bad situation is making a payday loan online. When you do this, the loan may escape the rules in your state; for many readers here, that would be Illinois. Our own legislators acted in 2006 to cut interest rates for borrowers. I haven’t researched this, but my recollection is that interest is capped at about 360%. OK, so they did us a favor in cutting it from 780%, but what about some real protection for consumers?

Sometimes a borrower will believe that a payday loan is cheaper than overdraft fees at the bank and, indeed, it might be. Unfortunately, some borrowers then incur both the exorbitant interest rate of payday loans AND bank over-draft fees, when the check for the payday loan doesn’t clear.