Monday, June 30, 2008

Price of Gas

In today's email arrived this picture and one word, "SAD". (Click on the image to enlarge it; then hit your Back button/arrow to escape.)

We can thank you-know-who for this. There is no doubt in my mind that Bush's rush to war has resulted in this price.

May I commend to your reading the new book by Bush's former press secretary, Scott McClellan? It's available at the Woodstock Public Library. The title? What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Woodstock Is Saving Money

- - or is it?

If a town places a barricade in the center of a street, should it be lighted at night?

This is such a silly question that it shouldn't even be asked!

A week ago on Saturday morning, I was driving north on Clay Street from the Square and came up a barricade in the center of the 500 block of Clay that had either been knocked down (not likely, since it wasn't mangled) or folded and laid down in the street (by some miscreant). Recognizing it as a hazard to passing motorists, I stopped and set it back up over the gravel surface of a repair job that had been started, but not finished.

I sent an email to Public Works ( and informed them that the barricade had been restored to its proper position and I also suggested that a battery-powered, blinking light be placed on it as a warning to approaching motorists.

So far, so good; right?

On Monday night I drove by again and saw that no light had been placed on the barricade, so I sent another email asking about the light.

Have I received a reply to either email? No!

Actually, I would not even care if I didn't get a reply, if they took care of the problem. But, since they didn't take care of the problem, I expected an email, even if it informed me that the City didn't care whether someone ran over a flattened barricade in the street and caused a lot of damage to the underside of his car. Or even if the car left the roadway or ran into another car or hit a house. Shall I go on?

I have a habit of following up with the City when they don't attend to matters that need attention. A while back Tim Clifton wrote to me and told me that City employees would acknowledge my initial request, make their own decisions about action to be taken and that they would not continue to reply to my repeated requests.

OK, so where was the acknowledgement in this case?

A wise person once said, "If you don't have time to do the job right the first time, then you don't have time to do it over."

So tonight I am emailing Tim Clifton and asking what the City policy is about placing unlighted barricades in the center of a City street. My guess is that he is going to reply and tell me there should be a barricade in the street should be lighted. That's just common sense. You give a driver the proper warning of an obstruction in the street.

My question to him is: Why didn't Public Works just put a battery-powered blinking light on that barricade last Monday?

One is a Lonely Number

See this poor, lonely, naked signpost? It's right in front of the Opera House. Why would I even see it and pay any attention to it?

About three years ago I contacted the City after a tourbus parked one Sunday afternoon right in front of the Opera House, after discharging its passsengers for a performance there. I felt that the bus ought to be moved away from the front of the Opera House during the two-three hours that its passengers would be inside.

The City informed me that the parking area right in front of the Opera House was a Loading Zone and agreed that the bus could stop there to unload and pick-up passengers. Several times after that, I asked why there was no Loading Zone sign and I was told that, once upon a time (you can tell where this fairy tale is going...) there had been a Loading Zone sign there and it would be replaced.

I don't give up on much, but I did give up on this issue. I figured that maybe the City funds just weren't available for a $25.00 sign, or maybe no Public Works employees were available (how many would it take?) to install a small sign. Anyway, how much can one nag on behalf of a lonely signpost on a street corner?

So, what was on the Agenda of the City Council for its June 17th meeting? An "Ordinance designating the area on Van Buren Street in front of the Woodstock Opera House as a Passenger Loading and Unloading Zone."

Of course, this causes me to wonder whether the area was really previously designated as a Loading Zone and if there ever was, really, a sign on this lonely post.

Rest easily, signpost. Soon you'll have a real purpose in Woodstock.


Reckless Driver in Jewel-Osco Lot

It's getting so that you take your life in your hands, when you shop at the Jewel-Osco in Woodstock. Sure, groceries cost an arm and a leg, and the price of gas to get to Jewel is almost enough to cause a heart attack.

But should you have to risk your life just to navigate the parking lot and find a parking place?

The driver of this old, rusty, Dodge Ram pick-up truck (license 17 999R) was quite impatient this afternoon and was apparently having trouble finding a parking place. As I stopped at one of the stop signs and allowed customers with shopping carts to pass in front of me, he exited a row and turned in behind me. (Although he stopped closely behind me, I was most appreciative that he didn't hit my car.)

I turned into the next parking aisle. As I pulled into a space, he "gunned" it and took off for the end of the aisle, then whipped a left U-turn and hit the accelerator hard, causing his tires to squeal, and headed back toward the store. Then he pulled in sharply and braked to a stop, past the dividing line between facing cars in the parking lot.

As I walked over to get a picture of his truck, the driver of the car next to the truck was backing out, and that driver spoke to me about the pick-up truck driver's speed and carelessness. He said he was glad his kids had not been in his car and that the truck had almost hit his car, when the driver pulled into the parking space.

Tire-squealing is actually an element of a Reckless Driving charge. The thought crossed my mind that two of us (the driver in the other car and I) might tilt the odds in favor of a conviction in McHenry County Traffic Court. At any rate, the pick-up truck driver got a pass today.

Maybe one of Woodstock's Finest will observe this driver operating recklessly on City streets and find a way to invite this driver to pay a visit in Traffic Court. Let's hope so.


Police to Ticket

Should the Woodstock Police ticket parking violators on sight, or is it necessary for citizens to telephone the Police Department and request that a ticket be issued?

At noon today this black Chevrolet pick-up truck (license NOSBIG) was parked on Throop Street, completing blocking the sidewalk south of Cass Street. Cass Street is the short street where the Chamber of Commerce and Woodstock Hobbies are located.

Granted that most of the pedestrian traffic is on the Square and not around the outside behind the businesses, but this location is a popular spot for parking violations.

Wouldn't you think that the beat officer would stop on his first trip past, assuming he is not enroute to a call, and tell the owner/driver of the pick-up to move it or be ticketed? One warning should be sufficient, and the word ought to get around to the other construction workers in that building.


RC Air Show

You've seen the announcements for the airshows in Johnsburg; right? Not the Navy's Blue Angels or the USAF Thunderbirds, but the little or not-so-little remote-controlled aircraft that perform amazing maneuvers at the hands of their controllers on the ground.
Yesterday (I know, I know; why didn't I write about this last week?) was the Second Annual RC Air Show on Pioneer Road, north of McHenry.
The event was well-organized and well-attended. By 12:30PM parking was starting to get tight. There were many aircraft there - both being flown and just on display.
I was nearly the last to sign up to "fly" one of them in the morning schedule. Unfortunately, the plane I was second-in-line to fly crashed on landing. Not a bad crash, but enough to loosen the tail surfaces and create a repair job before it could return to the air.
We have, right here in Woodstock, a well-stocked store and a knowledgeable businessowner who can get you started. Stop by Woodstock Hobbies, on the Square at 124 Cass Street, and get acquainted with Bill Pfeiffer. Visit his website at Bill donated a plane for yesterday's raffle. Bill, I'm still waiting for the call to pick it up!

Blog of Note

Blogs are a wonderful creation. Authors can rant and rave to their heart's content. I certainly like mine!

And authors can express their opinions (thanks for the U.S. Constitution) and call attention to concerns and issues that others "should" be concerned about.

May I urge your reading of The author - a physician and long-time area resident - has strong feelings for an issue that affects his son, who is a 19-year employee of the City of Woodstock. Not 19-year-old son; his son has been an employee of Woodstock for 19 years!

Go to his blog. Start at the bottom and read up. It will open your eyes.

Illegal Advertising Along Highways

Why do developers get away with illegal advertising on the highway right-of-way? Want to know which developers? Just click on the photo to enlarge it.

It's a classic case of lack of enforcement.

For five years I have been ragging on IDOT and McHenry County to enforce existing laws about advertising in the right-of-way.
These signs miraculously sprout on Friday afternoons and disappear on Sunday nights. Why?
Those are the hours when IDOT offices are closed and the McHenry County Planning & Development Department is closed. Does anyone think that the developers don't know this?
IDOT claims not to have the manpower to pick up these signs on week-ends. I believe them. I certainly wouldn't want to see two IDOT employees on overtime and a dumptruck out for sign pick-up on a week-end. At least, not without direct billing to the developers. The money will be better spent filling potholes. (Too bad IDOT wasted $1.8 MILLION on U.S. 14 putting in rumble strips!)
Under the "leadership" of the former director of the County's Planning & Development Director (who can remain nameless since she was fired recently), that Department asked the State's Attorney for an opinion as to whose responsibility it was to remove illegal signs from County roads. Rumor has it that the SAO told the County that it's the Townships' responsibility. I can't find out, for sure, because the County claims attorney-client privilege for the advice. Baloney! County money was spent; the opinion should be open record!
Are the Townships interested in removing illegal signs? Ha-ha.
In the meantime, the blight on the roadsides continues. It had slackened a while back, but it's in full swing now. Just cast your eyes to the shoulder next time you are driving on a State highway in McHenry County or on a County road.
But wait! Maybe all businesses should just start advertising on the highway shoulder. If the developers can do it with impunity, why not the rest of us?
Watch for advertising signs for The Woodstock Advocate at your next stop sign. And don't remove them, either. That's theft!

Loading Zones in Woodstock

When a curb parking area is designated as a Loading Zone, did you know that parking is permitted only for 15 minutes and only while loading or unloading? Woodstock City Code Section 5.3.11 is the reference here.

This is a little-known and lesser-obeyed section of Woodstock's City Code.

Example: the designated Loading Zone at the end of Benton Street, just before the railroad tracks at Church Street, provided convenient parking for two cars on late Friday afternoon. (To view the cars more clearly and see their license plate numbers, left-click on the photo.)

This restricted-parking zone is striped as a no-parking zone but signed as a Loading Zone. It is used for deliveries, sometimes by trucks really too long to be parked in it, but that's another story. On Friday the vehicles in it were a black Acura sedan and red Infiniti Impala - probably not pizza delivery vehicles for Pirro's. And, even if they were, they can be there only while loading and unloading and then only up to 15 minutes.

When is a Loading Zone not a "legal" Loading Zone? When it is in front of the Jewel-Osco in Woodstock.

The property manager has striped the pavement and placed signs there to indicate that parking is for customer package pick-up. It was business-like and professional of the shopping center to do that. Certainly, its intention was that customers would not park there to run in and shop and that drivers would not "stand" (stop their vehicles but remain at the wheel) there while passengers went in to shop.

But that's exactly what happens, because the City of Woodstock has not entered into a Vehicular Control Agreement with the property owners/managers. All the property managers want such an Agreement. All it would take is a small amount of attention by the City to complete an Agreement. When it's in place, then the Woodstock Police Department can enforce traffic laws on the northeast corner of Route 47 and Country Club Road, commonly thought-of as the Jewel-Osco corner.

Technically, there are three property owners there: 1) Jewel-Osco; 2) the strip of stores west of Jewel-Osco; and the Golden Eagle Community Bank property.

If you are a customer of any of the businesses on that corner, stop and visit with the store's manager on your next trip. Tell the manager of the store that you are sick and tired of endangering your life just to cross the driveway from the parking lot to the store, because so many drivers run the stop signs. If enough customers tell enough managers enough times, they will band together and "persuade" the City to complete a Vehicular Control Agreement.

It's not that complicated. The Village of Algonquin uses a one-page agreement. Woodstock currently requires a four-page agreement! I guess higher legal fees result, when a four-page agreement is required.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shopping Center Drops Charges

Remember Don Zirkel? Of course, you do; right?

Mr. Zirkel, 80, of Bethpage, Long Island, N.Y., was arrested at the end of March for wearing a t-shirt to the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, N.Y. and refusing to turn it inside out (you know, the old high school trick) or leave the food court of the mall, where his wife and he were having lunch. Well, not just any t-shirt. This one had a message, "4,000 troops, 1 million Iraqis dead. Enough."

Mr. Zirkel was at an anti-war rally and was protesting the fatalities in the Iraq War. He was charged with pretty serious stuff: criminal trespass and resisting arrest. Hauled off to jail. Handcuffed to the wall for two hours and then released from custody. (Shades of Alice's Restaurant, right?)

And since then? Nothing in the news. A search today revealed a June 1st New York Times article that reports the shopping mall dropped the charges.

For the full article and a picture of Mr. Zirkel and his t-shirt, go to

Maybe we should all get these t-shirts. I've tried to find a phone number for him, but his wife of 57 years and he live in a residence for seniors. If I head off to Bethpage, N.Y. later this summer, I'll buy them lunch and find out how to get a t-shirt.


Broken Window Theory

When Woodstock Police Chief Bob Lowen began holding his Coffee with the Chief monthly meeting, he mentioned the "broken window" theory at one of the early meetings.

As I recall his explanation, if a window is broken on a house and not repaired, pretty soon the screen door will be falling off; then something else will go wrong, and then the house becomes dilapidated and an eyesore.

To keep the house from falling down, you get after the owner right away and have him fix the broken window. The reference here involved violations of City Code, not police matters.

That made sense to me. Little problems become big problems. I've been accused of holding the position that jaywalking leads to a life of crime. An exaggeration? Maybe not.

Last week I read The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, published in 2000. I had meant to read it about three years ago, after I read Gladwell's second book, Blink. In Blink the case of cops who pumped about 50 rounds into a man standing in a doorway (in New York, I think) was examined.

In The Tipping Point Gladwell writes about the Broken Window Theory, which was the subject of an Atlantic Monthly article in March 1982. That article, called Broken Windows and by James Wilson and George Kelling, included the following:

"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
"Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars."

In Woodstock we have a diligent Code Enforcement Officer who inspects violations of the City Code.

In our police department we have, and need, diligent officers who mind the "small stuff", starting with illegal parkers blocking driveways and sidewalks and parking in no parking zones. Officers should enforce existing laws without the necessity of a citizen's calling them.

Sure, there will be times when they haven't yet spotted the violation. But when a resident parks in his driveway every day and blocks a sidewalk, forcing pedestrians and children on bicycles into the street, shouldn't one of the officers on one of the three shifts take note and address the violation?

Officers have many more important issues to address than minor parking violations. But these are the "broken windows" for cops. A polite, friendly letter could be sent from the PD, noting the violation and educating the resident. Often, a resident might not know of the violation. Or he may have been parking his car in that manner for years without penalty. But that doesn't make it right.

To save the important response time of the street officers, why not create a user-friendly form letter that can easily and quickly be personalized (so it doesn't come across as a "form" letter)? It gets mailed for $.42 to the resident. This is a lot cheaper than having an officer stop for 15 minutes to talk to a resident. If compliance results, end of story.

If it doesn't, then the officer can make a quick stop and perhaps even write a Warning. And if non-compliance continues, just write the ticket(s).

This can also apply to out-of-state licensed cars parked overnight in Woodstock. The cop sees the out-of-state plate and can make a logical assumption that a visitor is in town. Leave a polite warning form on the car, not a ticket. I'll long remember my first morning in Woodstock, when I was greeting with an overnight parking violation. "Welcome to Woodstock. Pay $5.00."

How much friendlier would it have been to receive a warning notice: "Welcome to Woodstock. We're glad you're here. Reminder: we have a 2:00-6:00AM no parking rule on all City streets. Please call the P.D. for more information."


Parks in Woodstock - for the Public?

Just what's up with the huge land grab by the City of Woodstock for "parks". (click on photo to enlarge for easier reading)

Check out this "friendly" sign next time you are in Emricson Park. What message does it really convey to you?
When you hear about more soccer fields, do you realize that they are being placed on City land, created with City dollars (your dollars) and then leased out to leagues for soccer games?

Should the City be in the business of creating playing space for organized play/leagues (only), charging the leagues for the use of City property, and then restricting the use of City property so that residents cannot go to the parks and use those huge, beautiful, green fields for enjoyment?

The amateur sports business is big business. Just ask any family with kids who play soccer. How much does it cost to participate? Membership fees, team fees, uniform costs, transportation, practice times, game times, participation rules.

You'd better keep off these fields. They have to be "maintained." The grass has to grow back before next week's game.

Your thoughts?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Honoring Illinois' Fallen

The Office of the Governor of Illlinois has ordered the United States and Illinois flags to be flown at half-staff from Sunrise, Monday, June 30, 2008 until Sunset, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, in memory of Pfc. Dawid Pietrek, USMC.

From the Patriot Guard Riders website:

"USMC Pfc. Dawid Pietrek, 24, of Bensenville, Ill. (where he enlisted) has given his all for his adopted country.
"Dawid was a citizen of Poland, with his US citizenship application in process, when he laid down his life for us all.
"Semper Fi!
"Dawid's entire family still resides in Poland, and has granted PGR the honor of standing for their Hero, OUR Hero, at his burial services at Arlington National Cemetery."

From the Daily Herald:

"Dawid Pietrek came to the U.S. at about 21 on a green card with dreams of going to college and becoming a police officer."
"The 24-year-old DuPage County man was killed Saturday (June 14) with three other Marines while returning to their base when their Humvee was blown up by a roadside bomb in the worst single attack this year on U.S. or coalition forces in Afghanistan."

Cell Phone Rings in Court


This notice is posted on the door to Judge Caldwell's courtroom. What part of that is hard to understand? One would think that each person entering would then check his cell phone and turn it off. Right? Wrong!

Midway through this morning's call, a lawyer's cell phone began to ring. And not just "Ring-ring"; it has one of those obnoxious ringtones. You should have seen him scrambling to find it. Naturally, it was in the bottom of his briefcase on the floor. By the time he found and silenced it, the bailiff (now the politically-correct term is Court Security Officer) was approaching.

What did the bailiff do? Nothing!

If the cell phone of an ordinary Joe had rung, what would have happened? My guess is that his phone might have been confiscated and returned later; possibly a lot later. (In Carpentersville the court duty cop officiously announces that your phone WILL be confiscated and you can pick it up after 4:00PM in Elgin.)

Coincidentally, this lawyer was with three others who thought it permissible to talk in hushed tones through much of today's court time. Finally, I asked the one talking the most if he would step outside to finish his conversation. Why didn't the bailiff quiet them? I'll add that the lawyer with the ringing cell phone was not among the three who talked.

When court opened and Judge Caldwell entered, all in the courtroom rose and stopped talking - except for two (how should I call them - "mature"? "experienced"? "older"?) lawyers. They didn't miss a word in their conversation.

In Judge Caldwell's courtroom it was impossible to hear what was being said at the bench. The judge spoke in low tones, and the lawyers speaking to the judge spoke in low tones while their backs were to the "audience." I finally approached the bailiff to ask if we in the courtroom were entitled to hear what was being said at the bench.

His answer was that the arguments were recorded. He also let me know that I could take a seaet in the jury box, where I would be closer to the bench.

Big deal! So now, do I have to find where to go in the courthouse to hear the recordings? And what kind of foolishness will I encounter if I ask to hear a tape?

My viewpoint is that the public is ENTITLED to hear what is said. How else are we assured of a free country and to know what is asked of, and granted by, the judge?

On April 25th I wrote to Presiding Judge Sullivan to ask if the public was entitled to hear what was being said at the bench. I know he must be busy, because I haven't received his reply yet.

We voters should remember before the next time that judges are elected to ask those candidates for office where they stand on making sure that the public can hear what is being said in the courtroom!

By the way, I surely hope Judge Caldwell has more exciting days than today. The matters today were b-o-r-i-n-g. But that's the stuff that lawyers get paid the big bucks for. If they did their jobs expeditiously, thoroughly, promptly, completely, correctly - respecting the client's checkbook as if it were their own, the dockets wouldn't be clogged and plaintiff's and defendants would not have to wait years for decisions.


Viking Dodge v. Wayne Beto

Another day in McHenry County Court came and went in the battle of Viking Dodge v. Wayne Beto. When I pulled into the courthouse parking lot this morning, there was Wayne's car, right in the first handicapped parking spot near the building.
Wayne was on-time in Judge Caldwell's court, although his attorney from Franks & Gerkin was AWOL. And AWOL through the second call of Wayne's case.

And what happened later? Nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Viking Dodge has apparently asked for ANOTHER continuance. I didn't wait around longer. Wayne thinks today is the 11th (count 'em: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11) continuances in a case that was started two years ago - in June 2006!

It seems to me that somebody at Franks & Gerkin ought to be grabbing the reins and putting a stop to this legal nonsense. After the second continuance, I would have been ordering my attorney to grow some backbone and ask the judge - politely, professionally, respectfully BUT firmly - to dismiss the case. And after the 3rd or 4th continuance?

Well, maybe Franks & Gerkin is representing Wayne pro bono. I didn't ask. If they are, I guess Wayne won't care how many continuances there have been or will be.

Wayne, as you may already know, is a disgruntled former customer of Viking Dodge of Crystal Lake. Wayne has been picketing Viking Dodge by parking the Dodge Magnum he owns on the shoulder of U.S. 14, just east of Route 176 (Terra Cotta Avenue). On some days he'll even walk along Terra Cotta Avenue in front of Viking Dodge with one of his signs. Wayne is careful to stay in the public right-of-way and off of Viking Dodge's property.

Oh, Wayne drives a Dodge? Indeed, he does. One that he bought at Viking Dodge. One that he had serviced at Viking Dodge. One that he intended to trade in on a new car from Viking Dodge. A car that Viking was to order from the factory, built to the specifications in the order Wayne placed at Viking Dodge.

Up until that point, Wayne was a satisfied customer of Viking Dodge. And then everything changed. Wayne is not now just a dissatisfied customer of Viking Dodge. Make that a DISSATISFIED Customer.

And he won't go away. He won't be silenced. Wayne has big signs on his car, informing all passersby of his disappointment and displeasure.

Wayne can't get any press coverage in "the" daily newspaper of McHenry County. They won't take any interest in the story, even when Wayne approaches them with new information, like nails scattered along the highway shoulder - coincidentally, right where Wayne parks. Now, who would have done such a dastardly act???

Like when an employee of Viking Dodge stole (and was convicted of) stealing one of Wayne's signs. Like when a manager approached Wayne and said something like, "You have no idea who I am!" Like when three Viking Dodge employees drove big pick-up trucks over the corner where Wayne was parked and then blocked his Magnum by parking inches in front of and behind him, and alongside on the highway side of Wayne's car.

Two of the pick-up trucks had no license plates. I was there that day and asked a Crystal Lake police officer to ticket them; instead he telephoned his sergeant, who called Viking Dodge, who sent license plates across the street for the trucks. Favoritism? You bet! Viking Dodge is a huge sales-tax payer in Crystal Lake!

Crystal Lake ticketed Wayne a while back for illegal signs on his Magnum. Gee, I wonder who sicced them on Wayne. Any guesses?

Wayne and I talked about that a lot, and I supported him in keeping after the Administration of Crystal Lake and the City Council. This was clearly a Freedom of Speech action supported by the U.S. Constitution, and finally the City Attorney wrote Wayne and said the charge would be dismissed by the City. But why was Wayne harassed in that manner in the first place?


Daley Doesn't Get It

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court ruled that people can own guns in their homes. One article mentioned that Heller was a security guard in Washington who could carry a handgun at work in Washington, D.C. but could not have at home.

Dick Daley is all righteous and pompous and using his bully pulpit to say that Heller (the Supreme Court case) doesn't apply in Chicago. Last time I checked, Chicago was still in the United States. Maybe Hizzoner has a newer map. The only dangerous part about law-abiding citizens having handguns in Chicago is Daley!

I don't usually attack people in The Woodstock Advocate; however, Daley deserves it. He seems to think he "owns" Chicago. Look at the murder rate in Chicago, the gangs, the drugs, the slums - great job, Dick!

Daley is going to waste thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of dollars of taxpayer money (and we know how rich the coffers in Chicago are) arguing against the U.S. Constitution that he swore to uphold and now against the law of the land, as pronounced yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maybe someone needs to sue Daley and haul him into court for violating his oath of office and for directing the improper use of City monies.

I say, "Arm all law-abiding citizens in Chicago at taxpayer expense. Teach them to shoot and to shoot straight. Teach them when to shoot." Then watch the murder rate, the drive-by shootings and other crimes against persons drop precipitously. The savings in police services, hospital services, social services would more than pay for the guns!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bond Court

Ever been to Bond Court at the McHenry County Jail?

I was there this morning to see what I could do to help out a young man who has found himself in hot water.

In order to gain access to the viewing area, one surrenders his ID card to a jail security officer and is given a key and directed to a locker, where everything is to be placed - wallet, keys, everything. I was permitted to take pen and a notepad to the viewing area.

Visitors are escorted to the courtroom viewing area, which is separated from the courtroom by a wall and window. At first I thought the window might be one-way glass, but I later learned that those on the "inside" can see that there are people in the viewing area.

Court is to start at 8:15AM; this morning it started a little earlier. Prisoners are escorted to a seating area off the courtroom but visible to the judge, others in the courtroom and to those in the visitor viewing area. The judge, who did not introduce himself so far as I could tell, opened the proceedings and said rather quickly and without particular emphasis to the prisoners, "You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one may be appointed for you."

Now that got my attention, because I have always heard the rights read as "You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you." He didn't bother with the other Miranda rights; presumably, they were all read to, and consented to by, the prisoners before they were jailed.

There is a big difference between "may" and "will", but it didn't seem to make a lot of difference this morning. The Public Defenders' office won't have to worry about running out of business. They may all die from over-work, but they won't run out of business.

Although it was somewhat difficult to understand the judge through the amplified sound piped into the visitor viewing area, it was impossible to hear what any of the defendants said. There was a microphone on a stand to the side of the podium behind which they stood; it should have been in front of them, so that they spoke into it when answering the judge's questions.

There didn't seem to be much effort given to helping a prisoner figure out how to bond out. He either could or could not afford the bond on his bail.

I wonder how much money the McHenry County Jail (and taxpayers) would save if someone assisted the prisoners in exhausting every means to bond out.

The judge sets the bail and then the prisoner can bond out, if he can come up with 10% of the bail, plus $28 for the jail officers to push a few papers around a desk.

The female prisoners were called first, and then the men were called up individually.

While I was there, I picked up a copy of the Visiting Hours. One particular rule jumped out at me as rather Draconian. "All detainees/inmates eligible for vistation (sic) will receive a thirty (30) minunte (sic) visit each week."

So much for keeping a prisoner connected with society, so that there will be a better chance that, when he is released, he'll stay out. I'm a proponent of rehabilitation and for that, a person must stand connected with family and his community. Thirty minutes out of 168 hours doesn't provide much chance for connectivity.

When I first skimmed the Notice of visiting hours, I blew right past the typos. After looking at it more carefully, I wondered why a Notice distributed by a County office contains typos. This particular version has been in use probably for almost six months, because the visiting hours changed last January 6.

Visitation is misspelled twice as "vistation".
Minute is spelled "minunte".


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Woodstock Legal Actions

Just how many legal actions is Woodstock involved in? What's the breakdown of legal fees paid by the City of Woodstock? What categories and how many dollars?

Every business tracks its legal exposure and the expense of that exposure? Is the City of Woodstock - surely, a business - tracking this exposure and forecasting its probable expenses?

It is critical to forecast legal expenses and to determine just how much it is likely to cost to wage the battle, as well as the likelihood of winning. There are legal expenses, whether you win or lose. It's all a matter of degree.

The stewards of the money of Woodstock are the City Manager and the City Council. Just how much is discussed and decided in the Executive Sessions of the City Council - those closed sessions from which the public and the press are excluded. When does the public get an accounting of the decisions and the expense of those decisions?

It has come to my attention that on Thursday, June 26, at 10:00AM there will be another (!) meeting to discuss the employment/reinstatement of a female police dispatcher who was (wrongfully?) terminated two years ago. The information provided to me is that the City of Woodstock was ordered by a Federal arbitrator a year ago to put her back to work with full back pay for the year she was off.

When parties agree to arbitration, don't they agree to accept the decision of the arbitrator? Arbitration agreed-to is assumed to be fair and a less-expensive proceeding than an all-out court case.

So, what's wrong with this picture? If she was ordered back to work a year ago with full back pay - and she hasn't been back at work - now it looks like she is owed two years' back pay.

For a City that is facing a severe financial strain with expected reduced revenues, will we end up paying an employee for two years not to work? Why wasn't the direction of the Arbitrator accepted and followed? Is the case now that there is going to be an arbitration meeting about the arbitration meeting???

Is it time to begin questioning in great detail just how much Woodstock pays for legal advice? Who is doing the feasibility study to determine whether we might get more legal services for the same or less money? The City does that with the trucks and the salt it buys. Why not do it for the services it contracts.

More residents need to get involved in Woodstock government. Too few show up at City Council meetings. The only way for government to be Government of the People, for the People, by the People is for the PEOPLE to show up!

Why So Secretive?

On May 15th I filed a FOIA Request with the City of Woodstock for information about a traffic crash in which a McHenry County Corrections Officer allegedly left the scene of an accident after a party at Coleman & Co. called the Bailiff's Ball.

Standard procedure with FOIA requests is to address them to the City's Freedom of Information Officer. That person makes a determination whether, and to what extent, the request can be complied with, and that person responds.

On June 20 the law firm of Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle replied on behalf of the Woodstock Police Department and denied my request.

Their letter informed me that the official responsible for the denial is Sgt. Richard Johns (of the Woodstock Police Department).

Here's my question to the City: Why didn't Dick Johns reply directly to me? Why were City funds (so precious now, to hear the City say) expended to have the City Attorney's office reply to me and pass out the "boilerplate" reasons denying my request? Just how much did that letter cost? $150? $300? Did the City think I would be more impressed (or scared off) by the law firm's letterhead on the response? (I'm not.)

The denial was based on the position that release of the information would "constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of person privacy..." Baloney. If it was a hit-and-run, what "privacy" is a driver entitled to? Sure, he's innocent until found guilty.

And we all know he wasn't drinking; right? No sheriff's department employee would go to a bar for a Friday night party and drink. Would he?

If a driver leaves the scene, gets tracked down and is issued a ticket, that's public information. Woodstock PD should have issued a Press Release, and the information should have been in the paper and on the radio within 2-3 days. The citation goes to the courthouse, and a trial date is a public record. If the City wants to redact his address, DOB, D/L number, fine.

The second reason for the denial was that "... disclosure would interfere with pending law enforcement proceedings and deprive the individual involved of a fair trial or an impartial hearing." This one is a double slice of baloney.

How in the world could releasing court date information interfere with his getting a fair trial?

What I am interested in, is that he GETS a trial! That is, he ends up in court and doesn't skate off into the blue because he is connected with the Sheriff's Department.

The City Attorney's office also informed me that I could appeal to Tim Clifton and, if the denial is upheld, file suit in Circuit Court.

I mean, this is all stupid! This is how Woodstock wants to spend its taxpayer revenues? The appeal with Tim Clifton will be filed.

And, since it seems to be standard practice in the law enforcement field to blow this kind of smoke, suspecting that an individual doesn't have the resources to file a further appeal in Circuit Court, maybe it's time to figure out just how to file such an appeal. It's all boilerplate, just as the Motions to Dismiss or to Suppress that will follow are boilerplate, as are the subsequent Responses to Motions.

What we need in Woodstock is a transparent government and not one that thinks it is better than the people it is here to serve.

If anyone has more information for me about that crash and especially the name of the driver , actual charge, or the court date, please let me know right away.

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance!" (John Philpot Curran (1750-1817), Irish judge and politician)

County Flood Warning?

Did I miss a class in understanding government jargon?

On the McHenry County website ( this morning is the following Flood Announcement.


The gist of it is pretty clear, but just exactly what does "training" mean?

And "over and over"? Who writes this stuff? Are we paying someone thousands of dollars each year who didn't even graduate from high school?

Hello? Any hydrologists or weathermen out there who can explain this?

Did someone just copy-and-paste portions of a National Weather Service bulletin and not bother to read it before publishing it on the County website? Come on, folks. We can do better than that! It's not like there was a rush to post it, since the warning is for a time period 12 hours from now.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Job Interview - No Resume

I was thinking today about a job interview in Denver more than 20 years ago, and it seems like just yesterday. I was coaching someone on job-finding skills and motivation and recalled this story.

I had stayed in Denver about five years too long in the early 1980s. The job market had been terrible. Oil, real estate, agriculture - you name it. In the pits! One Sunday I read a classified ad for a job and thought, "That's me!" But I wasn't so naive that I thought it might be a real job. Most job-seekers know that the classified ads - the Want Ads - are the #1 Worst Place to look for a job.

I called first thing Monday morning and set up an appointment for 1:00PM. Lucky me; right? I arrived about 12:45PM, and the hiring guy was out to lunch. Literally. I quickly saw that it was a legitimate operation. I was in the regional office of a large investment banking firm with headquarters in Kansas City. What? A real job? Good thing I had worn my best suit!

At about 12:55PM the VP breezed in, greeted me and asked me to follow him into his office. As he passed through his doorway, he held his hand back and asked for my resume.

"I didn't bring one," I said.

He stopped in his tracks and turned around. "You didn't bring a resume? Why not?"

"I don't know if I want the job. Five minutes from now I'll know if I want the job and you'll know if you want to see a resume."

Ninety minutes later he looked at his watch and exclaimed that he had other business to get done and asked me to bring him a resume. That afternoon I prepared six pages of reasons he ought to hire me, and I delivered the packet the next morning.

I met with him again and we talked about the job in more detail. I really wanted it and asked him to hire me on the spot. He told me he had promised the home office that he'd interview for two weeks. I agreed with him that he should be honest with the home office, so I suggested he hire me that day and then interview for two weeks, at the end of which he could inform his superior that he had found the right guy! That would take the pressure off of him. Pretty creative, eh?

It turned out that the funding for the position was never approved. He had run the ad to test out the marketplace for candidates. That reminded me of the pecking order in corporations.

Not like another VP I met in Phoenix in 1989. She hired me and then introduced me to consulting firm's president as their new employee. Later she privately told me that the president was more than a little upset that she hadn't first "presented" me for his okay. But that's a story for another day.


Garage Sale Sign

Get a load of this garage-sale sign that was on the corner of Church Street and Madison. Nicely lettered. Large letters. Different colors. But in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

The large, homemade, cardboard sign was probably put up last Wednesday or Thursday, advertising a sale on Oak Street, over a mile away from the sign. The sign advertises that the sale was Thursday, Friday and Saturday, yet the sign was still up on Monday evening.

It's bad enough when the signs are put up all over town and taken down after the sale. But most signs are abandoned by the people who hold the sale. They never go back and take down the sign.

What's the rule about garage-sale signs? On your own property. Only. Not down the block. Not blocks away. Not a mile away.

Of course, one logical question is, how do people know not to put up signs like this? They could be mind-readers. They could spend hours on the City's website trying to find out about garage sales. They could search the City Code. There is one other possibility.

A person wanting to know about City Ordinances could take a course in intuitive psychic investigation and then know to search of the City's website along the following path:

Click on City Departments
Click on Community & Economic Development
Click on UDO

UDO? What's that? Well, "that" is Unified Development Ordinance. You already knew that; right?

Now that really makes a lot of sense to the person not involved on a daily basis with City government. How in the world is a person to know to go to "UDO" and search for those rules/ordinances that are going to trip him up and cost him money?

UDO belongs on the City's homepage, where residents and businessowners will at least have a fighting chance of learning about an ordinance before a threatening letter or Notice of Violation shows up on their doorstep or in their mailbox.


Citizen Captures Bank Robber

Did you catch the news about the Michigan man who foiled a bank robbery and captured the robber - because he was (legally) carrying a concealed weapon?

Businessowner Nabil Fawzi was in the bank at the window of the teller he regularly went to. When he observed his own teller acting in an unusual manner, he inquired and was told by his teller that she thought the teller next to her was being robbed.

Mr. Fawzi was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, which he drew and then confronted the robber. He disregarded the robber's statement that he had a bomb, and then he held the robber until the police arrived.

When the cops arrived and saw Mr. Fawzi holding a gun on a person in a chair, they had to figure out what was going on and, fortunately, they didn't just start blasting away. Mr. Fawzi was released after the bank employees and he explained what had just happened and after he showed his permit to carry a gun.

I was in the United Bank of Denver one day in the 1970s right after a teller was robbed. I was second in line behind the robber and had no suspicion of the robbery. He stepped away and I saw that the teller was in shock. By the time she explained she had just been robbed and pointed to the note on the counter, the robber was gone. Although I had a concealed weapons permit at the time, I didn't carry a gun when I was doing my "day" job - selling life insurance.

I did think about it a few times. I wondered what a client might say when I delivered his new policy, if I opened my briefcase to get the policy and let him see a pistol. I can just imagine his words, "What's that for?!!!"

"That's to find out if this policy is really going to pay off."

Never got to say it, though...


Out-sourced City Attorney Cost?

As I posted an explanatory comment to the Starbuck's article after promptly receiving a response from the City, I got to wondering just how much does the City of Woodstock pay for our out-sourced City Attorney. And could the City hire an experienced legal staff as Employees, pay their benefits (often 30% of pay) and still save money?

How much would a consultant charge to evaluate the savings, if any, available to the City? Or could the City's Financial Director handle it?

Does anyone know how much the City of Woodstock paid in 2007 to the law firm in Crystal Lake that handles the City's legal issues? Does the City get cost/benefit analyses from the law firm, when it considers taking a stand on an issue?

Starbuck's Outdoors Seating

Several years ago, after Starbuck's opened on the Square, it requested, and received, permission to create outdoor seating on the public sidewalk.

On a recent visit to the Square, I noticed that Starbuck's has placed tables and chairs on both sides of the sidewalk in front of its business. One row is against the front window of the business, and a second row has been placed against the railing that separates the sidewalk from the vehicle parking spaces at the curb.

This second row of tables results in there being a narrow passageway for pedestrians on the public sidewalk. The space, while not measured this morning, appears to be about six feet wide. And, when customers of Starbuck's sit sideways to the table, their legs extend even into that "free" space.

Should a pedestrian have to step around a customer who is slouched in his chair and blocking the sidewalk right-of-way? I suspect that few pedestrians say anything to the seated customer, and even fewer probably step on his toes. "Ohhhhh, excuuuuuse me, I didn't see your feet..."

Let's continue to attract pedestrians and shoppers to the Square, and let's not allow a few unthinking latte-drinkers to create a subliminal message that Woodstock is less than a friendly place.

The City has been asked for a copy of the Special Use Resolution passed by the City Council that grants permission for Starbuck's to use the City sidewalk (public right-of-way) for business purposes. I'm fairly sure that the "free" space is defined in the Resolution.

Monday, June 23, 2008

And Another Parkway Pile

Within a few blocks of the abandoned furnishings at 134/136 First Avenue is this mess - at the house just north of 930 North Clay Street. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a house number on the front of the house?

The same rules as for landlords could be applied to owners of property who discard furnishings or junk at the curb and hope that scavengers will come to claim it before the weather ruins it.

My own suspicion is that people in need are hesitant to pull up at a curb to inspect or take property. They don't really know whether it is there to be taken. No one wants to be charged with theft for taking junk off the curb. And does the junk at the curb belong to Marengo Disposal, if the property owner has called for a paid pick-up?

Recycling used furniture helps both the person who wants to get rid of it and the person who needs it. Perhaps Woodstock should designate one week-end each quarter (or each month during the summer) as Free Curb Pick-up week-end. Then owners/tenants could put their junk out for anyone to take.

Whatever remained on Sunday evening would have to be taken back in, unless a Monday pick-up was arranged in advance. Any takers on this idea?

Furniture Tossed in Parkway

How long should neighbors have to look at a pile of discarded furniture before it is removed?

This pile is at 134/136 First Street. Neighbors, passersby, and the owners of the $450,000 rowhouses of Woodstock Station get a nice view of this mess.

The City Council should act now to create a very tight and immediately-enforceable ordinance, giving a property owner 24 hours to remove such a mess or the City will remove it at the landlord's expense. How'd it get there? The property owner may have had to evict his tenants, and then he cleared the rental space of the tenant's personal property and furnishings.
An eviction is an unpleasant circumstance. It's the unfortunate tenant who finds himself in such a predicament and who must abandon some or all of his furniture, for lack of money to move it or store it.

But should the property owner be permitted to toss it on the curb, where who knows how long it will remain? No way! The property owner should arrange either for storage or for same-day removal by Marengo Disposal Company. And if MDC won't come until Wednesday? Then put out Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

This isn't the only pile in town. Normally, these piles show up about the first of the month, not the 23rd.

Does the City Council have the "intestinal fortitude" to get tough with landlords? Does the developer of Woodstock Station have any remaining clout with the City Council?


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Illegal Fireworks in Woodstock

On this morning's editorial page of the Northwest Herald is a good editorial complimenting the announcement by the Lake in the Hills Police Department that they will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to illegal fireworks.

Will Woodstock P.D. follow suit?

Every year there is a fine City (legal) fireworks show at Emricson Park.

And every year there is a fine (illegal) fireworks show just east of Emricson Park from a home on Hill Street. Rockets shoot high into the air and explode before and after the City's show. Boomers can be heard before and after the City's show.

Calvary Cemetery on Jackson St. may once again prohibit sitting on their grass to watch the show. This was a popular place for viewing the City's fireworks program for years. Too many people drove into the cemetery grounds and parked on the grass. Too many people trashed the grounds and did not respect the hallowed ground that a cemetery is. It is not, and was not, a park.

It was a privilege to sit there. The privilege was abused. And now the cemetery prohibits the use of their lawns for fireworks viewing. Please respect their decision.

Guilty Plea - Big Mistake!

Back in December I was contacted by a woman in Florida who had found The Woodstock Advocate and wrote to me for assistance for her Illinois son who had gotten a ticket for passing a stopped schoolbus.

Under normal circumstances this is a very serious traffic violation, but it appeared these were not "normal' circumstances. The driver had a local attorney in his small town near Champaign, and I offered him suggestions to discuss with his attorney.

Most importantly, it appeared that he had not violated the law! The schoolbus had been stopped in the school driveway for 12 minutes with the stop-arm out and the red lights flashing. There was no one getting off (or on) the bus. There was no one on the bus - not even the driver! The crossing guard said the driver was in the school delivering the morning mail.

In that small town there was no Vehicular Control Contract between the school district and the town; therefore, no violation occurred because the police had no authority to enforce State traffic laws on the school property. They didn't even know what a VCC was, when I called them.

The schoolbus red lights and stop-arm are to be used only when pupils are getting on or off the bus, so the schoolbus driver violated state law (except the law didn't apply on school grounds, because there was no VCC).

The ticket was written in November. Last week the driver pled guilty and was fined $300. And the worst part? He'll lose his license for 90 days, when the record of the conviction gets to the Secretary of State's office.

What kind of attorney tells or lets his client plead Guilty to a no-brainer case like this? The attorney should have immediately filed a Motion to Dismiss, based on there being no Vehicular Control Contract. The police had no authority to write the ticket in the first place!

The bus driver apparently claimed (not in court, of course) that she was on the bus and tying the shoelaces of a young girl? For 12 minutes? Making the girl tardy? Yeah, sure...

The school claimed it had a videotape of the driver passing the bus. Yet they couldn't produce it, when the driver's lawyer asked for it. Why? No videotape!

It looks to me like small-town lawyering is costing this driver a lot of money. As this case dragged on and on, I recommended to the driver that he get a second legal opinion. Instead, he "laid down." By pleading Guilty, he didn't even force the police to try to make their case against him.

My guess was that the bus driver never would have shown up in court. Automatic dismissal - no prosecution witness. Or, after the prosecution witness(es) testified, the defense attorney should have grilled them to get the truth. Then he should have asked for a Directed Verdict of Not Guilty; if the judge granted it, then the driver (defendant) never would have had to testify.

A decent attorney would have eaten the lunch of the prosecution and made fools out of them. But sometimes lawyers in small towns are careful not to ruffle too many feathers, because they have to make a living there. Is that what happened in this case?

Could the driver now withdraw his Guilty plea and ask for a trial?


Friday, June 20, 2008

IL GOP Endorses Right to Carry

The following is from

Just a few short weeks ago the IL GOP adopted a new party platform at their convention in Decatur. A new plank in that platform was virtually ignored by the media but could be considered a foundational mandate by Illinois firearm owners - the IL GOP's new party platform comes out in support of Right to Carry for Illinois citizens!! At the bottom of page six you will find this surprising addition:


While the threat of terrorism is certainly a significant aspect of safety for Illinois citizens, day-to-day safety and security of our local communities is also critical. A majority of the crime committed in Illinois is by repeat offenders. We need to ensure that crime is aggressively prosecuted and prison sentences are carried out.

Even with more faithful execution of our laws by law enforcement from the street to the judicial bench, citizens will remain at risk to criminal acts in their homes, their neighborhoods, their businesses and in going about their everyday lives. Illinois Republicans note with shock and dismay the growing climate of violence in Illinois’ largest city and call upon Gov. Blagojevich and the General Assembly to enact such policies as may permit law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, their families, their property and their businesses. Specifically, we endorse:

Continued use of the Firearm Owners Identification system and use of criminal and mental background checks by licensed firearms dealers;

State pre-emption of local ordinances which impede the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms (see the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution);

We strongly endorse and support the 2nd Amendment to the Bill of Rights to the U. S. Constitution. We believe every citizen (American) has the right to keep and bear arms. No state city or local law should be allowed to infringe upon this right;

Enactment of “Concealed Carry” legislation offering permits to properly trained, law-abiding citizens to bear concealed weapons for personal protection ...

This should be good news in Illinois. Ask your McHenry GOP elected representatives where they stand on concealed-carry.

You don't have to plan to carry in order to support this. YOU are safer when the right-to-carry exists in your state. Serious crime drops, when criminals don't know if their potential victims might be armed.

$250 Parking Spot

Why, oh why, do drivers pull into handicapped parking spots, when they don't display either the special license plates or the special placard that indicates they have the privilege to park there?

I know - they are running into the Post Office "just for a minute". Then there is a line or a delay, and they are there 2-3-4-5 or more minutes.

Early this afternoon the parking lot was almost empty, but the proud owner of this
with the Illinois license "BOFFIN 1" felt entitled to swing right in and take up one of the two handicap parking places. I thought about walking back into the lobby and saying, "The police are out there writing a $250 ticket on that grey Jeep in the handicapped parking spot." Let's see; would that be Disorderly Conduct?
You may have seen some of the drivers who make it to the Post Office and properly use these two spots. Some of them can barely make it from the car into the Post Office and back. They need these spots.
Now, if this driver has a placard, it belongs on the inside mirror, not on the dashboard or the passenger seat or the floor. If it is not displayed properly, then it is not displayed.
I wonder ... how many tickets has the Woodstock Police Department issued this year to violators of handicapped parking restrictions?

The Bucket List

Have you seen this movie - The Bucket List? Don't miss it. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star in it.

I'm not going to review it here. Just trot over to your nearest RedBox after you reserve it for $1 at

Watch it, and then make your own Bucket List. I've already started mine.

What won't I have to put on my new list?

A 23-day whitewater raft trip through the Grand Canyon with 14 others in three little rafts
Horseback riding in the Colorado mountains
Being a motorcycle cop
Earning Private Pilot and Commercial Pilot licenses and an Iinstrument rating
Walking barefoot on a bed of hot coals
Learning to speak Russian
Stepping off a plank 180 feet above the ground and riding a zipline to the valley floor
Becoming a regression hypnotherapist

What will you put on your Bucket List?

2nd Amendment Rally - Chicago - 7/11

The Second Amendment Freedom Rally will be held in Chicago on Friday, July 11, 2008. Gun-owners and others who believe in and support the Second Amendment will gather at 11:00AM at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 West Randolph Street, in the Chicago Loop.

This rally is organized by the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) and Back in April the ISRA hosted IGOLD - Illinois Gun Owners Lobbying Day - in Springfield, and an estimated 2,000+ gun owners, including yours truly, trekked to Springfield for the day.

Whether you own a gun or would carry a concealed weapon (if Illinois law were changed), it is critical to support the right to own one. As it is now, the criminals have guns and carry them.

Law-abiding citizens, if they carry a concealed weapon for their own protection, are criminalized under Illinois law. Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two states that forbid law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon.

The City of Chicago? Look at the murder rate! Look at the drive-by shootings. Mayor Daley leads the charge to prevent law-abiding citizens from even owning handguns. Of course, he has bodyguards, doesn't he? What do they carry? Guns! And good ones!

Think you are safe in McHenry County? In Woodstock? Think again. Once again, the criminals are carrying concealed weapons. But you and I? If we do, then we become criminals.

Show your support by attending and participating in this rally. This rally is not about concealed carry. It's about the Second Amendment and your Constitutional right, which has been taken away from Chicago residents. For your own copy of the flyer and to print copies to pass out, go to

Catch the Metra at the Woodstock station at 7:48AM and enjoy the ride! You'll get to the Loop in plenty of time for the short walk to the James R. Thompson Center at West Randolph and North Clark Streets.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Turn Down That Car Stereo!

Are you fed up yet with the loud car stereos? You know - those loud, thumping, bass sounds that rattle your windows, when you are inside your home and watching TV, listening to the radio, or just trying to have some conversation with another family member?

Or when you are sitting at a traffic light, and the jerk in the car alongside you has his stereo cranked waaaaaay up?

The police could do something about it. They can do something about it. But will they do something about it?

Any citizen can call the police department to complain about loud (amplified) car stereo sounds. And, what is nice about the way that the traffic law is written, the cops can do something about it without a signed complaint from a citizen and without the citizen's having to go to court against the violator.

In the Illinois Vehicle Code is Section 625 ILCS 5/12-611. "No driver of any motor vehicle within this State shall operate or permit operation of any sound amplification system which can be heard outside the vehicle from 75 or more feet when the vehicle is being operated upon a highway" (street)... The fine is up to $50.00. This is a motor vehicle law, fully enforceable by police officers and deputy sheriffs.

So, if you live on a street, say Dean St. or South St. or Lake Ave. or about any other street in Woodstock and if you are annoyed by inconsiderate drivers with vehicles with loud sound "systems", call the police department. Report the vehicle and give as good a description as you can. Or email and provide as much information as you can: vehicle make, model, color. License plate number, if you can get it (like, if you are working in your front yard). Location, date, time and any other information. Then ask the police to cite the driver the next time they observe his loud radio.

And, if there is a particular recurring problem with the same vehicle in your neighborhood and if you can't (or don't want to) work it out with the driver, then you can file a Complaint with the police department. In this case, you will have to be able to identify the driver, at least by physical description, and you will have to go to court as the complaining witness.

Wouldn't it be nice if Woodstock City Council authorized posting of some Quiet Zone signs around town? Good places for them would be around the Square, near the Alexandria House and Bundling Board bed-and-breakfast inns, and other places. They could be portable, so that the Community Service Officer could move them around - sort of like the radar speed trailer.

The only requirement is to know how far 75 feet is. Pace it off. Or measure the length of your car and figure out how many car lengths is 75 feet. It's not very far.

There is no reason we need to be battered by these stereos. Some of them are just a little loud. Then there are those that are LOUD.

We've got to decide who is going to run Woodstock. The law-abiding residents or the lawless. Is this a problem in your neighborhood?

Loading Up with Charges

Remember the Huntley school district bus driver who allegedly jammed on the brakes on April 30, when the kids on the bus were being unruly? As one story goes, she jammed on the brakes to teach them a lesson. Several were apparently pitched out of their seats.

The bus driver was charged with 38 (THIRTY-EIGHT!!!) misdemeanors; two for each of the 19 reportedly-injured students. The charges? Reckless Conduct and Endangering the Life or Health of a Child.

This is the dumbest thing of which I've heard in a long time. Why in the world would the police department (Huntley PD?) issue on 38 charges? Obviously, they are intending to "make a statement." Thirty-eight charges - - that leaves a lot of room for plea-bargaining, doesn't it?

If I were the judge, I'd admonish the police chief, the officer(s) and the Village Attorney for this tomfoolery. If they think they've got a case, they could make it without this kind of nonsense.

Today's Daily Herald article reports that the incident occurred in the parking lot of Leggee Elementary School in District 158. The first thought I had was, is there a Vehicular Control Contract between the School District 158 and the law enforcement jurisdiction there (Huntley PD?). And is it tight enough to hold? But then I re-read the article and realized they didn't charge her with traffic violations. These charges are much more serious.

The bus driver, who has been fired, has asked for a jury trial. The next court date, for a pre-trial status hearing, is July 17. Should be interesting to watch all the legal maneuvering that is sure to follow.

Will her attorney ask for separate trials in each of the 19 individual students and bankrupt D158 with legal fees?

Osco Price Scan Error

When I made a purchase at Osco this morning, I was pleased to see the shelf tag with a Preferred Card Discount of $4.00 on the $13.92 item. Often I miss the sales, and this morning I had gone to Osco to purchase the item, whether or not it was on sale.

When I got to the cashier, I handed her my Preferred Card and watched her ring up the purchase. I assumed the correct price would ring and didn't check the receipt. Upon arriving at home, I noticed the price error when I entered the amount in my checkbook. I was glad I had used my debit card, because I might not have noticed the error a few weeks later when a credit card statement arrived.

I phoned the Osco counter and the same cashier answered. She remembered the transaction and asked me to stop at the Customer Service counter on my next trip to the store; then she quickly offered the information that the item would be free because of the scanning error.

I decided to handle it today (and visit the RedBox movie kiosk, thanks to a promotional e-mail from RedBox). When I arrived at the Customer Service counter, the young woman phoned for the price check, and an Osco employee brought her the sales price tag from the shelf with the $9.99 price (through June 21). She rang up my full credit and then started to charge me for the $9.99 sales price.

As soon as I reminded her of Osco's no-charge policy when a price scan is higher than the sale price, she remembered it.

Moral of the story? Check the prices while your transaction is being rung up. Check your receipt. Save your receipt. Know store policies. Ask for the right correction.

I appreciated the quick counsel from the Osco cashier who informed me of the Osco policy. Thank you!

Biker's Prayer

Having just returned from a 3,000-mile motorcycle trip, this email had special meaning for me.

A man riding his Harley was riding along a California beach when suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, the Lord said, “Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish.”

The biker pulled over and said, “Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can ride over anytime I want.”

The Lord said, “Your request is materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking: the supports required reaching the bottom of the Pacific and the concrete and steel it would take! It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that could possibly help mankind.”

The biker thought about it for a long time. Finally, he said, “Lord, I wish that I and all men could understand women. I want to know how she feels inside, what she's thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she really means when she says nothing's wrong, and how I can make a woman truly happy.”

The Lord replied, “You want two lanes or four on that bridge?”

$96,000 in Hotel/Motel Taxes

When I first heard a few years ago that the City intended to go for a hotel/motel tax, I had my reservations about how any collected monies would be used.

So I started looking around for the "hotels." Finding none, I began counting the motels. That didn't take long. Their owners were concerned about competition and whether the additional expense imposed on their customers would reduce their business. If you are like me, you wonder how many tourists come to Woodstock and stay at the Days Inn, the Holiday Inn Express or Super 8. My guess is that most of their customers are commercial customers - business people or employees of companies doing utility work in the area. It's only a guess on my part.

The two bed-and-breakfast inns in town were able to fend off the City and get an appropriate exclusion. Any taxes from them would be miniscule, compared to the other "hotels and motels."

At any rate, motel guests coughed up over $96,000 for Woodstock's coffers (no pun intended) in the last year.

As I recall, the hotel/motel tax revenues are to be used to promote Woodstock - as a whole. Let's see who got the money. According to this week's Woodstock Independent,

$30,000 Woodstock Opera House
$15,000 Woodstock Downtown Business Assn.
$12,000 Woodstock Chamber of Commerce
$12,000 McHenry County Visitors and Convention Bureau
$ 6,000 Challenger Learning Center for Science & Technology
$ 5,000 Cultural Diversity Commission (what's this? Commission appointed by whom?
$ 5,000 Farmers' Market (5 G's, so the fixed business' customers have no parking 2X/week?)
$ 5,000 Groundhog Days Committee (for a one-week-end activity?)
$ 3,000 McHenry County Heatwave (has anyone heard of this?)
$ 500 Woodstock Folk Festival

What's wrong with this picture? Which one of those businesses promotes Woodstock, as a whole. Which one is really trying to attract business to Woodstock; i.e., customers to come to Woodstock and shop; you know, spend money!

Maybe there is a clue in my use of the singular verb "is". The answer will be singular. Which one (not ones)?

My answer is the Woodstock Downtown Business Association. This forward-looking group is working hard to create something new, alive about Woodstock.

The Opera House? Last time I checked, this is run by the City, so it looks to me like the City is collecting the money (tax) and distributing it to a City operation/department. Take a look at the ticket prices next time you are thinking about attending some event there. They have Chicago and Sears Centre pricing on tickets - effectively, in my opinion, eliminating a large portion of Woodstock's population from family attendance.

What would be the benefit to the entire Woodstock community if this $96,000 had been spent promoting "Woodstock"? When it is doled out piece-meal to many organizations, isn't the effectiveness of the money diluted? Sure, those organizations can use it to meet their own payroll, but what does that do for the City?

The downtown area around the Square needs a huge make-over. What makes customers come back time after time? In each block are a few nice stores. And then there are the others. Woodstock needs a long-range plan to revitalize downtown - to make it exciting, vibrant, "electric", attractive.

And it needs to control the loiterers in the Square and on the sidewalks around the Square. The level of pride of our young people in Woodstock is evident - barely. When groups of kids congregate and block the sidewalks, the cops and the merchants need to move them along. We want visitors (and residents) to have a "Wow" experience - and not "Wow! I'm never going there again!"

Save Grace Hall?

The Woodstock Plan Commission will conduct a public hearing on Thursday, June 26, 2007 at 7:00PM in the City Council Chambers to consider a request from Woodstock Christian Life Services (WCLS) to demolish Grace Hall. How many are aware of the connection between Orson Welles with Todd School's Grace Hall and Roger Hill?

Grace Hall is a building on the site of the former Todd School - now owned by WCLS, which has submitted a petition for a special use permit to construct several new duplexes on their campus (Hearthstone Village, Hearthstone Manor, etc). The project includes the demolition of Grace Hall, which is currently used for WCLS corporate offices. Grace Hall housed students, faculty apartments and a suite of offices. A sound studio in the basement contained equipment to cut phonograph records, tape radio shows and edit movie film. There is an Orson Welles connection to this building.

The following information was provided to The Woodstock Advocate by those who are interested in Woodstock’s history.

“Orson Welles attended the Todd School from 1926-1931. Welles credited teacher and (Todd School) headmaster Roger Hill as exerting the single greatest and lifelong influence on his creativity. After spending several years of his adolescence studying and performing at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois, Welles returned there many times in later life. The 1934 Todd Drama Festival at the Woodstock Opera House, orchestrated by Welles and financed by Hill, played a crucial role in promoting Welles's career as an American stage actor.

OK, so who was Orson Welles?

Among other things he directed and narrated a CBS Mercury Theater radio program on October 30, 1938, called The War of the Worlds, adapted from H.G. Wells’ class novel of the same name. Many listeners believed they were hearing reports of an actual attack by Martians. (Source: Wikipedia)

To hear a portion of that radio broadcast, go to The program is “interrupted” at 3:40 minutes for a “special announcement.” What would you have thought, had you been a listener on that day?

If you are interested in offering your opinion to the Plan Commission about the preservation, be sure to mark your calendar and attend this important meeting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Woodstock Water Issue

At last night's City Council meeting a Woodstock resident addressed the City Council about a serious, ongoing water problem in her backyard. Her family and she had flooding problems in last August's flood, and this spring she has had serious problems with standing water in her backyard. They live on West Jackson Street, approximately one block south of the library.

She spoke during the Public Comment period of the meeting and presented her detailed story of efforts to get the City to seriously consider the problem, which is being caused by water pooling in her yard, causing very rapid weed growth. She spoke about her frustration at trying the deal with the City and get some resolution to the problem. She had her facts all lined up. She spoke clearly and directly. She spoke about certain City employees who had come to her residence and then about the problems trying to get them to come back or return calls.

One of the best things she did last night was ask the City do DO something. Not "try" to do something. Not think about it. Not study the problem. Fix it! When no commitment was forthcoming, she called them on that. And she got a commitment, finally, that there would be action today.

And today there was action. Late this afternoon there were two City trucks there and a backhoe in the neighbor's yard. She was told that an underground pipe had been found clogged with mud.

And she has already notified the City of a correction to her comments last night. She knew her problem had been ongoing for two months, but last night she referred to the problems having started in May. Today she realized she had meant to say "April" and she called to have the record corrected.

What experience have you had with Public Works? Do you have some barbs to sling their way or some praise to heap on them? Any particular employees who deserve your comments?

Here's a hint for those who represent the City. When a resident is speaking about a serious concern, do your best to stifle your yawn. If you just can't hold it back, at lease cover your mouth.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CFL bulb dangers

Back on February 4th I wrote about CFLs - Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. Be sure to watch this clip on YouTube of Congressman Ted Poe, R-Texas 2nd District. Did you know that Congress is going to make us use these bulbs, all of which are produced in China?

Mr. Poe says it better than I ever could. Be sure to watch this short clip:

McHenry County Sheriff's PB & PA Lodge 192

Recently I received two copies of the April 2, 2008, letter from the McHenry County Sheriff's Police Benevolent and Protective Association, Lodge #192 (PB & PA), addressed to Members, Friends and Local Business Owners. The letter announces the July 30th Golf Outing and solicits donations. The letter states that contributions would be tax deductible.

The letter invites readers to contact any of three Sheriff's Department employees at their Sheriff's Department telephone numbers and is signed by Eric Ellis as President (of the PB & PA). Notes accompanying the letters, which were mailed on separate dates and hand-addressed in different writing styles, called attention to the following issues:

Responses are to be directed to the official working address of the Sheriff's Department and to telephone numbers at the Sheriff's Department, which should be used only for official business. Should Department employees, whether deputies or correctional deputies, be allowed to conduct Lodge business during working hours? Should they be using County-provided telephones and mail-handling services for the fund-raising for their golf outing and PB & PA services?

Are these activities conducted with the approval of the Sheriff, who has a fiduciary capacity as steward to taxpayer-provided monies?

The letter states that contributions are tax deductible. Are they? Really? For contributions to be tax-deductible, an organization must be registered with the Internal Revenue Service. A check at and a call to the IRS at 800/829-1040 resulted in information that IRS has not approved the PB & PA as a charitable organization.

Does the PB & PA have a Determination Letter from the IRS? Now, they may have this. Approval as a tax-exempt organization, which is what makes your contribution tax-deductible, may be pending. Perhaps the PB & PA just hasn't made it yet through the process and onto the approved IRS list. A letter will be sent to Eric Ellis on June 18, requesting a copy of the IRS Determination Letter.

Being an IRS tax-exempt organization and a not-for-profit (State/Illinois) association are two different things. An association/organization can be a not-for-profit and not be tax-exempt. What happens when you donate/contribute money to a not-for-profit organization that is not also tax-exempt? No tax deduction!

The Golf Registration/Sponsorship Form indicates that the PB & PA is a non-profit organization. However, a telephone call to the the Charities Division of the Illinois Secretary of State office today did not reveal any registration for a "McHenry County Sheriff's Police Benevolent & Protective Association." So, is it a legal not-for-profit in Illinois? If so, under what name?

Being a contributor the the PB & PA Golf Outing is not cheap. Categories range from $300 as a Dinner Sponsor to $50 as a Bronze Hole Sponsor ($100 for Gold Hole Sponsor; $75 for Silver Hole Sponsor).

How much money do they really raise? And how do they spend it? Where are the financial statements of the PB & PA? Are they open for public inspection?

Why does the Sheriff tolerate this non-official business and use of taxpayer-funded equipment and property on official work time?


Gov't. - of, by, for the People

As I drove to tonight's Woodstock City Council meeting, I thought about this great country and how we are governed. Seems like I heard years ago that it is "Government of the people, by the people, for the people." With that thought in mind, I arrived at the meeting - almost on time, but not quite.

I had seen the agenda for tonight's meeting and that Det. Cipolla was to be promoted to Sergeant. Having been reading the Minutes of the Police and Fire Commission online and having the beginnings of understanding as to how that Commission is supposed to operate, I wondered how the Police Department was going to promote him, when no Minutes (available online) reflected any consideration by the Commission of such a promotion.

I also wondered how the Police Department was able to promote him. Was there a vacancy in the Department? Were they filling the spot that is held by Sgt. Steve Gorski? Was the quota of sergeants being increased?

The agenda for tonight's meeting was ordered so that the promotion and oath of office for Det. Cipolla's promotion preceded the Public Comment period.

I asked the City Council why all the Police and Fire Commission meeting Minutes are not posted online. The Agendas appears online, but Minutes of all meetings do not. I suggested that it is critical for Minutes of all meetings to be prepared. If the Commission meets, Minutes should be recorded. If they go into closed session, then Minutes of the closed session should be kept separately. When the closed session ends, the Minutes of the open portion of the meeting resume.

I also asked for more notice to the public of Special Meetings of the Police and Fire Commission. According to the City's rules, a meeting can be called on 24 hours' notice, and then a Notice of the meeting is to be posted in a conspicuous place. I proposed that more notice be given, so that the public has a chance to learn of the meeting and attend.

City Manager Tim Clifton answered my questions. On May 6 the City Council temporarily increased the number of Sergeant positions.

On June 2 the Police and Fire Commission approved the promotion of Det. Cipolla to Sergeant.

As many in Woodstock are aware, Police Chief Bob Lowen is trying to fire Sgt. Steve Gorski. Sgt. Gorski was suspended without pay on August 29, 2007. At the February 4, 2008, Chief Lowen asked the Police and Fire Commission for authority to terminate Sgt. Gorski, but the three-man Commission voted 3-0 that Sgt. Gorski should be reinstated with full pay and interest on back pay. There is no public record of this meeting!

The City Council approved a "temporary" increase in the number of sergeant's positions on May 6. When the Department finally accepts the ruling of the Police and Fire Commission and reinstates Sgt. Gorski, what will happen to Det., now Sgt. Cipolla? Will he be demoted? Or will the temporary position be made "permanent"?

Instead of reinstating Sgt. Gorski, Chief Lowen is pursuing legal action and will ask Judge Maureen McIntyre on July 18 to decide whether the Police and Fire Commission wrongfully cleared Sgt. Gorski.

What is going to happen on July 18? Arguments will be made to Judge McIntyre, and then she'll take some time (probably) to deliberate before announcing her decision. Of course, it is always possible that she'll decide that the case is open-and-shut and make her decision on the spot. The three-man Commission was able to; perhaps she will be able to.

If not, she'll set a date for her decision, and everyone will traipse back to court to hear it. How long with that take? Another month or two without a paycheck for Sgt. Gorski? More interest to be paid for the City's delay in paying him? Certainly, more legals fees incurred by the City.

I was directed to avoid discussing "Mr. Gorski's" employment because it was a personnel issue and is in litigation. Continuing with my remarks about the operation of the Police and Fire Commission, I mentioned that we weren't talking about "Mr. Gorski", but rather Sgt. Gorski. In my mind, that "slip" showed me the direction of the City, and I believe the City is going to find that it is going down the wrong road.

After the meeting I began to wonder when Chief Lowen got permission from the City Manager and the City Council to pursue this legal action and to expend City funds in doing so. Was this done in open session or in executive session? And who will pay for the legal defense of the three Commissioners, since they are named in the Chief's legal action, along with Sgt. Gorski? Is the City going to be paying for both ends of this legal action (except for Sgt. Gorski's portion)?

In thinking further about Government of the people, I question why the police chief is challenging the decision of the Police and Fire Commission - the "People". "The People" spoke on February 4. They said to reinstate Sgt. Gorski. Yet 4 1/2 months later, Sgt. Gorski remains on unpaid leave.

You tell me - if you went almost a year without pay, what financial shape would you be in?

Is there a win/win solution here?