Thursday, July 31, 2008

First Motorcycle Customer

I wanted to be the first motorcycle customer at Cuppy's Coffee, the new coffee business in Woodstock. I couldn't get there until about 3:45PM, but I was still number one.

You may have seen the nice article in this morning's Northwest Herald (Page 9C) that described today's "soft" opening. A soft opening is the first day of business, before advertising and a Grand Opening. It gives the staff a chance to put to work what they've learned in training, without the pressure of high traffic flow.

An advertised special of the day was the Mocha coffee, so that's what I had. It was freshly prepared and quite tasty. While I was waiting, I was offered a sample of the strawberry-lime smoothie, and I'll definitely return for one of those.

Stop in soon. Read over the menu and then pull up to the window. A word about traffic flow. Remain stopped at the window where you order. Cuppy's is not like McDonald's, where you order at one window and then pull up to the second window to pick up what you have ordered.

If you haven't seen Cuppy's Coffee yet, it's right in front of Kmart, on the east side of Route 47. Either turn into Kmart to reach their drive-thru or turn on Cobblestone and enter for the drive-thru on the north side of their building.

Summer hours are 6AM-8PM Monday through Saturday, and 8AM-4PM on Sunday. And, while you are at your computer, check out Be sure to click on "Fiction or Fact".


Mounted Radar

Who says that Texans are not creative?

This picture came my way in this morning's email. Looks like a good idea that could work around here.

Think of the fuel savings; no pesky gas gauge to keep an eye on, while sitting in an air-conditioned squad car watching speeders race by. No over-heated engines and tow bills. No flat tires.

Just cool (or maybe not-so-cool) natural air-"conditioning" - except for the smoke stacks shown in the background. Well, not to worry about too many of those in McHenry County.

In Colorado we had a mounted troop at the sheriff's department. Are any of these left in Illinois? Heck, they are hardly even any reserve police officers or sheriff's deputies left. Bureaucratic snarls and worries about liability have resulted in decisions by many law enforcement agencies to shut down use of "reserve" or volunteer personnel.

Is this the right decision? Why should they close their eyes to the substantial savings available by using dedicated volunteer help?

Training costs are not all that high, nor is the cost of equipment, when compared to the labor cost of another officer. Many volunteers are dedicated to such a high level that they will pay for their own training and provide their own equipment. Yet departments still say "No."

For example, putting a reserve officer on a horse with a radar gun saves a department one salary. Of course, a department might require a 40-hour training course to find the on/off switch on the radar gun. Or let the officer sit in his own car (not recognizable as a police vehicle) and check speeders along any roadway. The idea is to "catch" the speeders, isn't it? Not just slow them down until the pass the squad car.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How (Not) to Drive on the Square

As I headed toward home early this evening, I drove around the Square from Main Street to Dean Street. As I approached the turn by Starbuck's, I noticed a blue Dodge Caravan stopped in the traffic lane next to a parked car, on the trunk of which sat two young men. (For a larger image, just click on the photo.)

When the driver of the Dodge didn't move, I fired up the trusty little camera and prepared to take a picture, expecting the driver to pull ahead and clear the driving lane. Instead, the young woman got out of her vehicle and walked back to ask if I was going to put her picture on my blog.

I suggested she might want to move her vehicle out of the traffic lane, and she stated that she wasn't violating any law. So I offered to clarify the law for her and asked her if she wanted me to call the police. "Sure, go ahead."

As I dialed the Woodstock Police, a car parked in front of Starbuck's backed out, and the young woman got back in her car and pulled into the parking space. I parked elsewhere and walked to her car to be sure I had seen the rear license plate correctly, and surprise! No front license plate.

Guess it's a good thing the cops didn't come. She could have gotten two tickets!

As I walked back to my car, she said in a loud voice to anyone within hearing, "That's the guy who takes pictures of peoples' cars and puts them on his bloggggg."

You know? If she had just pulled forward when I stopped behind her (or if anyone else came up the street behind her) and waited for her to move, this wouldn't even be happening. Instead, she earned herself some publicity by getting out of her vehicle and sounding off.

Happy to oblige, young lady.


Email about Barack Obama in Afghanistan

Have you seen the email yet about Barack Obama's recent visit to the War Zone? Not very complimentary, right? Someone purporting to be a captain in the USMC "wrote" it.

It's false, according to

A good place to check, when you get this type of email, is A check there this afternoon reveals that this email is a hoax.

Most emails of this type are junk. Before you place any credence in them or forward them, you might want to take a minute to check and see what you can learn about the credibility of such an email.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cop Forks Over $35 for Dinner Ticket

Did you see the Associated Press article about the Portland, Oregon, cop who parked in a no-parking zone while he ate dinner?

An attorney, who was in the restaurant, approached Officer Chadd Stensgaard and told him he was illegally parked. In other words, park in a legal parking spot, just like the rest of us. The cop told the attorney that he was allowed to do so, and the attorney filed a complaint and had a ticket issued.

Police are allowed to violate parking laws when they are on official business. A meal break is not official business. The cop was fined $35.00.

I remember an afternoon in Denver when I flagged down a motorcycle cop and asked him if he would issue a ticket to an illegally parked car. When he said that he would, I pointed out a blue Chevrolet four-door sedan that parked illegally in a no-parking zone every afternoon at 5:00PM, with the back end of the car across a crosswalk and interfering with traffic flow because of a curve in the street.

As soon as the cop realized I wanted him to put a ticket on a detective's car, he backpedaled very quickly and said he wasn't "allowed" to ticket a police car. I told him he could do it and that I understood that he didn't want to do it. If the cop was on official business, a judge would dismiss it.

The cop refused, which I expected him to do. Obviously, he would have been dead meat at the police station, if he had tagged a detective's car. I talked to his commanding officer the next day, and he told me the cop should have just written the ticket. Of course...

Most cops in smaller communities obey the traffic laws. Towns are just too small to do otherwise. But when you get into Chicago or Denver or L.A. or New York, it's a different story.


SUVs Soon to be Outlawed

Did you read the short article in the Northwest Herald about the man in State College, Penna., who fired at police officers with a rifle and tried to run over them with his SUV.

Where are all the SUV haters? Why aren't they protesting and marching up and down U.S. 14?

SUVs should be outlawed, because "they" are being used to commit crimes. Police should line up at all the traffic lights in the County and force drivers to park their "weapons." Just stuff it into "Park" and take a hike.

Maybe Chicago will have an SUV buy-back, like they had for guns recently. $100, if it runs; $10, if it doesn't. Oh, but don't sell them. Melt them down, so that no one else will be able to use them to commit crimes.


Free Health Exams

Do you know a woman who is between ages 35-64 and who is uninsured or under-insured?

Pass along valuable advice about free pap smears and mammograms from the McHenry County Department of Health. You can read about it on Dr. Richard Gorski's website,

Just think; you could save a life and it wouldn't cost you a thing.

Thanks, Dr. Gorski!

U.S. 14 - Danger Zone

Did you read last Friday's article about the 3-car crash on U.S. 14 near MCC? It occurred just after 3:30PM between Lucas Road and North Ridgefield Road, when an 18-year-old from Harvard heading east toward Crystal Lake crossed the centerline and hit a westbound car, also driven by an 18-year-old, a man from Woodstock. The crash closed down U.S. 14. Just great on a Friday afternoon; right?

I can't tell you how many times I have been met on U.S. 14 between Woodstock and Crystal Lake by drivers who wander across the centerline. The worst one recently was a blonde woman driver on a cell phone. She was more interested in her phone conversation than she was in staying in her lane. I didn't have to dive onto the shoulder but, if the white shoulder lane line had been freshly painted, I would have had white paint on my tires!

Thirty-five years ago I heard a tip from a fellow reserve sheriff's deputy who worked for Bell Telephone in Denver. In his training he learned to watch the left front tire of the vehicle coming toward you. If that tire is creeping toward the centerline, it's time to take cover.

Do whatever you have to do - flash your headlights, horn your horn, drive onto the shoulder.

A third car was involved last Friday. The BMW driver swerved to avoid the two vehicles that had just hit. In doing so, he left the roadway, and the BMW turned on its side. Fortunately, the driver, his wife and his two children were securely fastened by safety belts and the infant's child safety seat.

By the way, police estimate that as many as 70% of child safety seats are improperly installed. Next time you read about a safety check, go by and ask an officer to inspect whether you have installed the child safety seat in your car correctly.

The Harvard driver was cited for improper lane usage. Big deal. What was he doing, when he crossed the centerline? Was on his cellphone? Text-messaging someone? Switching CDs? Eating his lunch? A Careless Driving ticket would have been a good call, backed up by the improper lane usage ticket.

When (not "if") you see careless or reckless driving on U.S. 14, call the police. There are three jurisdictions between Woodstock and Crystal Lake.

Woodstock to Lily Lake Road, call Woodstock PD: 815-338-2131
Lily Lake Road to N. Ridgefield Rd., call the sheriff's office: 815-338-2144
N. Ridgefield Road into Crystal Lake, call Crystal Lake PD: 815-459-2020 Ext. 1

Get the license plate number and be able to describe the car and driver. "TELL" the dispatcher you want the car stopped and that you'll witness in court. And then do it.


Second Opinions

Are "second opinions" worth it? Do they clarify or just lead to further confusion?

Recently, I read a newspaper column by a popular writer on financial topics. Her column was about the difficulty of finding life insurance when there is a health impairment.

Some of her advice was right on, such as finding and working with an experienced life insurance broker. There are many good agents and brokers in the life insurance field, and then there are many who are not so good. Some of those just haven't had time yet to mature in the field. Some are trained by managers of questionable values. Some are just ignorant. And there are those who are stupid. And then there are the crooks.

Her good advice? If your health history includes high blood pressure or diabetes or a multitude of other ailments and if you are taking, or have taken, medication for these ailments or have seen a doctor for them (okay; take a breath here), then find a broker. A broker is someone who can sell insurance from different companies, not just one company.

If you have an agent with a really good company (for example, Northwestern Mutual Life), talk to that agent. Talk to him/her, as in "interview" the agent. Do NOT apply for insurance yet. Even though that agent is what used to be called, and may still be called, a "captive" agent of NML (meaning, he has to sell you the NML product line), he may have good knowledge of how you should approach applying for new insurance if there is a health impairment.

When I was a Northwestern Mutual agent, I often thought the home office underwriting rule must have been, "If you need insurance, you won't be able to get it from NML." Their underwriting is tough. They really want only the good health risks. Sure, they'll offer you insurance at increased rates because of your health condition, and some of that is fair enough. "Some," I say, because often (at least, 30 years ago) I could find insurance at substantially lower premium rates by shopping other life insurance companies.

Many, if not most, life insurance agents are brokers, too. But they might have to offer the application first to their own companies, and this may not be in your best interest to apply with that company, if you are almost sure of a rejection or a higher premium.

After discussing your health situation with your agent/broker, then you can decide whether to submit a "preliminary inquiry." Through this procedure you give all the health information to the insurance company, and they get a chance to look at the situation without having to make a decision on an application. The bottom line might not be much different, though. And you should be aware that medical findings are reported to the MIB. That's not Men-in-Black! It's the Medical Information Bureau, a national clearinghouse for health information of those applying for insurance.

What I'm getting at is, get a second opinion. Talk to your own agent, and then go and talk to someone else. Ask a lot of questions about who that other agent/broker ought to be. Ask trusted friends who their agent/broker is. Find a specialist, not someone who sells auto, homeowners, umbrella insurance and a little health insurance. Talk to someone who specializes in life insurance.

If you need some help in that area, give me a call or post a question here. I have been out of the business for over 20 years, so I don't know all the answers. And I don't have a license, so you don't have to worry about whether I'll try to sell you something. I do know most of the questions, and I know when I'm not getting the right answer.

Watch for a future article on wills, trust and estate planning.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Gallery in the Garden - Great, but ...

This past Saturday and Sunday there was a great art show in Woodstock - the kind of event that can help put (keep?) Woodstock on the map. It was the kind of event that ought to occur many times during the summer and one that could draw visitors and artists from quite a large area, benefiting not just the artists whose works were shown and sold but also other merchants - the bed-and-breakfast inns. the small hotel on the Square (yes, Virginia, there is a hotel on the Square), restaurants, shops, etc.

The art show was the 3rd Annual Gallery in the Garden, sponsored by the residents at 600 Lawndale Avenue. Where's Lawndale Avenue? It's the side street by the Groundhog Day house, off Fremont Street.

The weather cooperated beautifully, providing two dry days - perfect weather, even if a little on the warm side. But, after all, it's July in Woodstock.

I happened to notice a few of the informal transactions taking place and wondered about sales tax. You know, that nasty 7% that keeps the State and City in business...

Today I checked with the City and inquired whether a permit had been issued for the event and whether sales tax was collected. The answer? "The Community and Economic Development Department was not consulted regarding this event but we will look into it with an eye toward next year."

Huh? I still don't know the answer, but I've got a good idea. Reading between the lines (sorry, Arlene), I think the answers were 1) no permit was issued; and 2) no sales tax was collected. But I could be wrong.

This year was the third annual Gallery in the Garden. Shouldn't the City have been asking questions after the first one? After the second one? Questions like 1) Why didn't you contact us before you held this event? and 2) Are you planning to do this next year?

It's not like this was a garage sale, and who cares about sales tax. Anyone who buys pottery or a painting and spends $50-300 expects to pay sales tax. Sales tax won't keep them from buying it (unless you're in Chicago or Cook County and staring at 10% for a sales tax rate!).

The City could even waive the fee for a permit (dangerous territory, I'm sure), because of the nature of the event, good will, economic benefit to the City through sales tax revenues, or
because the Council is packed with nice people. Or for any other reason.

Would sales tax or a permit for the event keep an artist away? Not likely. If it was worried about that, the City could create a class of events, based on frequency, for which a permit would not be required (again, dangerous territory, probably). But the sales tax is not optional. When you are in business, you must collect sales tax.

It could be that each artist just included the sales tax in the selling price and then did the accounting when s/he got home. Could be... Likely? Well, you be the judge.


Lake County SAO Drops Charge

This morning the Lake County State's Attorney's office dropped its case against Greg Kachka, the former Marine who was charged with Disorderly Conduct for allegedly pointing his ".38 cal." finger at an Island Lake Trustee and the Island Lake Village Clerk.
Greg and the (in)famous t-shirt are pictured here. The photo is compliments of Thanks, folk!

I got acquainted with Greg shortly after he was charged and believe I bought the second t-shirt sold by the legal defense fund that was started for him. $500 was raised, including, according to the Chicago Tribune, a $50 check from someone (a soldier, I heard) in Thailand.

Where's the party, Greg?

Maybe I'll buy two more t-shirts and donate them to the Trustee and the Clerk!

Of course, this is the right action by the Lake County SAO. The only better action would have been never to take the case in the first place! They should have spanked the hands of the Trustee and the Clerk when they came in crying and whining about how afraid they were. If they were so afraid, how come it was a month before the cops arrested Greg???

I'll kick in another $20 for a t-shirt for any case Greg might mount against them for frivilous charges.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lizzie Palmer's Video

Be sure to watch this 5-minute video on YouTube, made by Lizzie Palmer, reportedly 15 years old. It's a fine tribute to the military personnel who defend us.

Harry S. Truman

Being that I am from the Show-me State, I especially enjoyed this email today from a friend in Colorado. If anyone knows its source, will you please let me know?

"When President Harry Truman retired from office in 1952, his income was substantially a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

"When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, 'You don't want me. You want the office of the president. That doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale.'

"Later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, 'I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.'

"We now see that the Clintons have found a new level of success in cashing in on the presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale.

"Was good old Harry Truman correct when he observed: 'My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference. I, for one, believe the piano player job to be much more honorable than current politicians.'"

Emerson Lofts - A Walk into the Future

Earlier today I responded to a comment in a different article and mentioned that Emerson Lofts was right down the street from Grace Hall, which is now the Woodstock Christian Life Services administration building. I wondered "aloud" whether such a renovation project might take the place of demolition of Grace Hall.

Having never visited Emerson Lofts, I took that opportunity this afternoon and drove to the models at 320 North Seminary Avenue, Woodstock. When I stepped through the door, I immediately had a "Wow!" experience. I stepped right into an open, airy, high-ceiling, bright atmosphere, hidden behind the brick front of the former Emerson Typewriter Factory.

Sure, the decorating was top-notch, but it only complimented the natural brick and exposed wood that form the foundation of these beautiful homes.

The advertising indicates there are 52 "amazing" floorplans. There is no cookie-cutter approach here. Some have lofts; others can have lofts added for additional bedroom or den space.

Stop by to meet Stephanie and Karen. They will be happy to give you the "tour." Take some friends with you. Prices range from $175,000-400,000. Garages are extra; one- and two-car garages are available. For a preview, drop by
While it's hard to imagine buying a home without a garage, I recall a friend who lived in Washington, D.C. and did not own a car. She lived in Foggy Bottom and was within six blocks of her office. Rather than spend money for a garage and a car, she rode the train when she could. When she couldn't, she rented a car. Or she bummed rides from friends (and paid them well for driving her to or from some event or place). And she was far ahead financially for not paying for a car when she did not need it.

Have you seen the "Get Exposed" billboards around McHenry County? These billboards advertise Emerson Lofts, right here in Woodstock. When you see them, think Emerson Lofts.

A little history? The Emerson Typewriter Factory built its brick manufacturing plant and then held its grand opening on April 21, 1910. The estimated value of the factory in 1910 was $40,000. Today that might make a nice down payment on a new home there.

What was the price of an Emerson typewriter in 1910? $40.00

By the way, if you have a couple of them in your Woodstock basement, dust them off and trot over the Emerson Lofts. You just might be able to part with them there.

Todd School for Boys

a/k/a Todd Seminary for Boys?

Does anyone have any history for the School? Or know when Grace Hall was constructed?

Who would like the building preserved? How would you suggest it be preserved?

WCLS offers it for a buck. That's a joke. How much will it cost WCLS to tear it down and cart away the debris? If someone will cart it away, WCLS ought to pay them, not charge them a buck for the building!

Plan Commission member Steve Gavers suggested it might cost in the "seven figures" to move it. I'll add, if it could be moved at all. Can you just imagine lifting the structure onto rollers and then pushing/pulling it along Route 47?

What would it cost to modernize it into condominiums with up-to-date wiring, plumbing, windows, HVAC, etc.? Elevators? Escalators? Is the building itself solid? What about asbestos?

To what location will the corporate offices of WCLS, now located in Grace Hall, be moved? Anything in the plans about a new Admin. building?

I don't have a dog in this fight, as they say. I didn't even intend to speak at the public hearing, until I realized that all testimony is sworn testimony.

Could Grace Hall be the WCLS centerpiece for the next 50 years? And what will happen then, when a different corporate head, different Plan Commission, different City Council and different residents gather to ponder its future or its demise?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thanks to Angelo's

As I walked to the Square at 7:00 this evening, I was pleased to see that the Dean Street sidewalk at Angelo's Restaurant was clear of trash receptacles and that the sidewalk had apparently been cleaned. Thanks, Angelo!

And again at 9:40PM the sidewalk was clear as I walked away from the Square.

Putting the trash out later at night is a definite improvement, noticed only by contrast with previous evenings. Many thanks for helping the keep the sidewalks open and free of receptacles when summer, week-end, pedestrian traffic is heavy at the Square.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Plan Commission Rejects Grace Hall Demolition

The Woodstock Plan Commission met this evening and rejected the proposed demolition of Grace Hall. It approved the request by Woodstock Christian Life Services (WCLS) for the northeast and central parts of its request.

CEO Terry Egan gave a good presentation of the plan, as did others representing WCLS. Vice Chairman of the Board Paul Killinger offered Grace Hall for sale for $1.00, to anyone who will move it. Commissioner Gavers later estimated it would cost "seven figures" to move it and asked where it could be moved to.

Commissioner Bob Morrell (pictured) asked several questions about the "footprint" of the proposed development.

One resident spoke eloquently about the historical significance to Woodstock of Grace Hall, mentioning the lifelong contribution of Todd School and its headmaster, Roger Hill, to the creativity of Orson Welles. She felt that Woodstock could benefit much more from its association with three world-class figures: Welles, Eugene V. Debs and Chester Gould. She mentioned that Debs had founded the Socialist Party in the U.S. while incarcerated in the Woodstock Jail after the Pullman Strike in Chicago.

Testimony before the Plan Commission is sworn testimony. The person who will make statements to the Commission first swears to tell the truth. Earlier this month two people told me that Quinn Keefe had addressed the Plan Commission last month and stated , as Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, he represented the business community and the Chamber, and as their representative, he spoke in favor of demolition of Grace Hall.

One Chamber Board member has told me that the Chamber Board never took a position on the demolition of Grace Hall. (Did they ever even discuss it?) Because the Plan Commission Chairman had directed the audience not to repeat remarks that had been made last month, it was apparent that the Commission would weigh last month's comments with those to be made tonight.

If the Chamber Board had not voted to adopt a position in favor of demolishing Grace Hall, then the Commission needed to know that there could be a question about that position. With that in mind I asked the Commissioners to determine whether the Chamber Board had, in fact, adopted a position in favor of demolishing Grace Hall.

A request is being sent to the President of the Board of Directors of the Chamber to learn when, or if, the Board made such a decision.


Questionable Business Practices? (Honda)

Three weeks ago I needed to replace a small cosmetic part for my motorcycle, after it fell off as I rolled to a stop on a local street. Luckily, it fell off just as I stopped. I heard it, stopped and picked it up. Ordered a new part; it came in two days later and I picked it up, paid for it and installed it.

Two weeks later its matching part on the other side fell off. Now, what are the odds that two similar pieces would encounter the same stress failure and fall off? The second time, I was in traffic on a road with a sloping gravel shoulder and I had to keep going.

I ordered the second replacement part and put it on when it came in. Only then did I realize that I didn't have a bolt and "collar" (thick shim or spacer), because I hadn't stopped to pick up the second part when it fell off. (You'd think I was riding a Harley, not a Honda!)

OK, so why am I writing this?

Each of the other parts, which were shiny metal and molded to fit, cost $12.25; that's $24.50 for parts.

Yesterday I ordered the bolt and collar and expected to pay $1.00-2.00. Imagine my surprise when I picked them up and was told that the cost would be $11.03! For one bolt less than 1" long and one thick spacer. Outrageous! I asked for the phone number for Honda's Customer Service but got side-tracked and left without it.

It gets better. Stick with me. When I called later, the parts kid at Honda Northwest wouldn't give me the phone number for Customer Service and asked why I was upset. After all, the computer showed the price. Easy for him to say.

I came up with the phone number by first calling the Honda Rider's Club of America and then called Honda Customer Service, when a very polite, friendly, and professional young woman named Heather offered to help me.

I told her that my invoice showed a nice discount off the List Price, and then she surprised me by telling me that the MSRP was much lower than the List Price. Oh, really?

What pricing shows on the invoice from Honda Northwest?
NET........$ 6.69.............$3.62

Honda's MSRP for the bolt?... $7.60! (not $17.56)
Honda's MSRP for the collar? $3.69 (not $7.82)

Will I deal with Honda Northwest again? No way! Why would there be such a discrepancy between Honda's MSRP and the dealer's List Price? Computer error? Or questionable business practices, maybe?

So, while I still feel stung by the $11.03 for a buck's real worth of a bolt and collar, maybe I got off cheaply by finding out how they do business, before I gave them the bike for an expensive repair job.

My motorcycle repair shop of choice is Randy's Cycles in Huntley, where I have been treated fairly for more than seven years.

Genuine Computer Virus Warning

This is an original message, not a forwarded e-mail about a computer virus warning. An acquaintance opened an email at his office this week with the Subject: UPS Tracking Number. His computer crashed. His administrative assistant's husband experienced the same result after opening a similar email.

So....... be careful.

If you have sent a package via UPS or if you have the Tracking Number for a package you are expecting, go to and use the tracking tools there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Illiteracy in Woodstock

A flaming arrow came inbound tonight, and I just had to post it for the amusement of all. It's the last (at least, at this time of night) comment in my posting about the "Square is not your bedroom" of last Wednesday.

How is illiteracy viewed in Woodstock? When a person cannot express himself in writing, use correct forms of grammar and choose the correct words in a sentence, he tells the world just what his level of intelligence is. And it's not a level to be bragged about. Perhaps the author of that comment has a nice job in a factory somewhere, where he won't have to use pencil, pen, typewriter or computer on his job.

Unfortunately, our schools have contributed to this in a huge way by not insisting on correct grammar. The standard should be kept him from the earliest years right on through high school. Of course, it is impossible to insist on correct grammar from your students when you don't know better yourself. And it's hard to combat what the child is hearing at home.

I was appalled when I visited a third-grade classroom a few years ago and heard the teacher say something like, "Him and I went to the library." A few weeks later, this same teacher said something to the effect of "He gave the book to him and I." And that was in front of about six teachers, the principal, various other staffers, and the attorney for the school district.

If our students don't learn good grammar early, they will carry poor language habits right on into their adult years, as did "soccerxc44" in his comment tonight.

It's too bad that they don't even hear what's wrong with their speech or recognize what is wrong with what they have written. They don't even know it's wrong!

Good grammar should be automatic, just like "Please" and "Thank you." Hmmm, well, I guess that explains why it is what it is.

Should we dust off the stool that is over in the Dunce's Corner?

Miranda Rights - Your Rights!

Everyone should read and save the article from this morning's Northwest Herald on Page 3C - about a suspect, Dustin Goy, who signed a paper waiving his Miranda Rights after a Crystal Lake Police detective allegedly told him that he was not waiving his rights by signing.

What are your rights, if you are accused of a crime?

The U.S. Supreme Court said, "...The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says may be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him or her."

Pretty clear; right?

The police receive extensive training in administering the Miranda Rights. They also are trying to get an accused to talk, so it's a fine line they must walk.

It's interesting that the article does not name the Crystal Lake detective. Why not?

Kids are taught early that the police are our friends and that, if they are in trouble, they should find a police officer, who will protect them.

Somewhere along the way, every person should be taught that there may be circumstances when the police will not be your friends. Was Goy's case one of those times?

Judge Sharon Prather will issue her ruling on September 3. It might be interesting to be there and hear how she views the detective's effort to get Goy to talk about what had happened, while at the same time apparently telling him that he was not waiving his rights and saying, "You just need to sign this and talk to us."

If you ever find yourself in police custody and believe you are being accused of a crime, READ the form. Don't rely on verbal explanations from any officer. And call your attorney. Tell the officer, politely, that you'll be very happy to talk with him and answer his questions - after your attorney arrives and if your attorney tells you that it is okay to answer them.

Dick Tracy Park-ing

Recently the City changed the parking pattern on Dick Tracy Way, between Lake Avenue and Fremont Street. I'm sure it was to protect the little kiddies who jaywalk from cars to the park there.

As it is now, parking is prohibited on the north (west?) side of Dick Tracy Way.

What has really happened to the parking pattern?

More cars now park on Fremont, including so close to the corner that sight distances and turning room has become narrowed. The result? When cars are parked on both sides of Fremont at Dick Tracy Way, only one lane of traffic can get through at a time. This can present an unpleasant surprise for two drivers who arrive at the same time, because the driver turning off Dick Tracy Way won't see the oncoming car on Fremont in a safe amount of time.

A further step in parking restriction is needed by creating no parking zones on Fremont near the corner. Parking on both sides of Fremont should be prohibited for a certain distance away from the park. Even one-two car lengths would help.
This change will also ease the flow of traffic into or out of the police department's restricted driveway from Dick Tracy Way to the employee parking lot at the rear of the PD. Just imagine a squad car rolling up Fremont at the 30MPH speed limit, heading for the "lot", and moving over into the middle of the street to pass between these cars. As he nears the intersection, a driver turns from Dick Tracy Way onto Fremont, and ... bam!
Which raises another question... When a sign reads, "Do Not Enter (Police Only)", does this mean that no vehicles should enter? Can police vehicles enter on official business? Does it mean that off-duty employees arriving for work should not enter against the signs?
Or does it mean that only the "police" should not enter?

Just wondering...

Runners/Joggers in the Street

How can Woodstock get runners and joggers out of the streets? I mean, like, when there is a sidewalk just 4-5 feet to their right.

Easy. Ticket them.

This afternoon on Dean Street a woman was running north along the curb. Running is good for your health; right? Especially when you wear earphones for your MP-3, so that you won't have to hear the cars and trucks coming up behind you.

Maybe all this is really not important. After all, how many joggers have been run over in Woodstock?

Woodstock Fire & Rescue is always happy to respond to calls, and they probably don't get many jogger vs. vehicle calls. They'll get to practice first aid and maybe even transport the injured jogger to the hospital. Maybe they'll even get to call in a helicopter.

The simplest, easiest solution is to ticket the joggers AND to publish it widely. Without the publicity only the one jogger gets the message. With lots of publicity, including the cost of the fine and court costs if the jogger fights the ticket, the word will circulate much faster.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

And heeeeeeeeere's Bill!!!

If you wanted an evening of entertainment without a $45 ticket at The Opera House, you should have been at the MCC Conference Center for the Bill LeFew Show. The conference center was "sold out"! SRO! Standing Room Only! Missed it tonight? Go Wednesday, July 23, or Thursday, July 24. 7:00PM. MCC.

Bill put on a good show. It's obvious that he enjoys a crowd, and he did a good job of keeping the crowd awake. The program, called "How to reduce your property taxes", followed a brochure handed out at the door by staffers of the County Treasurer's office.

The center holds 350, if all are in their seats. Tonight they were. Temporary seats and standees probably accounted for another 50-60. I was a little surprised that more people didn't yield their seats to those more senior or visibly disabled. Does courtesy not exist in McHenry County? It was touch-and-go as to whether MCC was going to permit those in temporary seats (folding chairs) to remain in aisles, but all were careful to maintain open passages in the aisles.

Bill started at 7:00PM sharp!, which was appreciated by all, and he quickly overcame the initial disappointment of some who had read his brochure before the program started. He spoke clearly and loudly, and the sound system worked well under the able control of the MCC staffer who really knows her business.

Bill opened the evening with, "I'm Bill LeFew and I think you pay too much in property taxes." That ought to get him a few votes! He said that his office mails out 150,000 tax bills each year and collects $740,000,000. Whew!

He explained "levies" - the monies that the local governments say they "have" to have - and what the three things are that affect your tax bill: 1) the communities' spending (the tax rate); 2) assessed valuation; and 3) the "discount" you get. Not really a discount, he said. What he was referring to was the range of "breaks" available, IF you apply for them.

Bill read the minds of many who wondered why the County didn't just adjust property taxes when a resident hits age 65. The County cannot gather age information when you buy your house. So, if there is a tax break when you are 65, you'd better hotfoot it over to Bill's office and tell him it's your birthday.

Bill gave examples of two county residents who didn't claim certain exemptions until they were in their 80s. Each paid over $40,000 in unnecessary property taxes, and they can't get it back.

Several times during the evening, Bill gave "his" office telephone number (815.334.4254) and told all to call him. "Call me directly; I'll help you." Will Bill get 150,000 telephone calls tomorrow? Put on some extra coffee in the morning. Okay?

When you get the postcard from the assessor in October, Bill said to call him. He will look up the tax bills of some (four?) of your neighbors so that you can compare them with yours. If theirs are lower, he'll mail you their tax bills, and you can go to your township assessor and request that your assessment be lowered. If they are higher than yours? Hang up.

I was a little uncomfortable with one piece of advice that Bill gave the audience. Some residents will qualify for the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption. One condition is that the household income not exceed $55,000 (a number set by the State of Illinois and which changes each year). Then he mentioned that son or daughter who comes back home to mom and dad "to help out, don't you know." Since that child's income would be included in "household income", he suggested that child should get a P.O. Box. Wink, wink.

To me, that sounds like fraud. Not a good thing for a resident to get involved in.

It would have been better for Bill to merely explain that a child's income will be included in household income and that senior citizen might not qualify for that particular exemption.

One other area of caution, LeFew explained, occurs when a resident does his estate planning and puts his house in a trust. The County considers this a "sale" and all exemptions are wiped out. They aren't hard to get back if the resident is still the beneficial owner of the property; all he has to do is going in and request them again. But, if you don't, your tax bill will go up.

Nothing is retroactive, LeFew said. So call Bill and tell him your situation. Let him help you find out whether you can lower your tax bill by qualifying for any or several of the ten (10) tax breaks available. That number, again, is 815.334.4254

Farmers' Market Over-Parking?

Each Tuesday and Saturday the Farmers' Market takes over the Square and occupies many parking spaces that would otherwise be available for customers of the fixed-location stores lining the Square.

Business hours for the Farmers' Market are, I believe, 8:00AM to 1:00PM. Recognizing that set-up and break-down times are needed, I was surprised this afternoon to see one trailer being removed at 3:30PM. Surprised, I say, because I think this same trailer was being removed last week at about the same time.

I can't imagine that it takes 2.5 hours to wind up one's business, put all the unsold merchandise back in the trailer, count up the dough, hoof to the truck and make tracks.

Does anyone know why this trailer is remaining on the Square until 3:30PM?

Now That's Smart!

... or is it? It used to be, but is it now?

This is 2005 Smart, which gets 52MPH, according the owner today when he was filling a 5-gallon gas can in Crystal Lake. He has had this car for three years.

I've seen the SmartCars - even dropped by the dealership in Palatine.

Why would a little car like this not get 52MPH?

When I asked him about mileage of the new SmartCars, he said the gas engine model gets only 32MPH. ONLY 32? He said that's because they changed the engine, and he added, "You can thank George Bush for that!"

And then he added that the diesel engine model gets 87MPH. That's probably for the 2005, do you think?

He also forecasted gas to hit $10.00/gallon. I wonder what he knows that the rest of us don't.

Dealerships must be having a horrendous time getting rid of large SUVs and Hummers and, of course, it has been in the news about pick-up trucks.

What are you driving? While the bottom has fallen out of the used-car prices on big vehicles, is it better to bite the bullet now and get rid of that gas hog?

Special Education Information for Parents

Do you have a child in Special Education in District 200 (or anywhere?)

Are you overwhelmed with paperwork, record-keeping, who-said-what, deadlines for evaluations and tests?

Confused about IEPs, IDEA, FAPE, LRE and all the other shorthand in this field?

An excellent resource is This week's free weekly e-newsletter helps parents with information about how to organize your records and information. Pete and Pam Wright, from Virginia, are nationally known and have been publishing their information for ten years.

Go to and subscribe to this immensely helpful newsletter. Pete and Pam have also published excellent resources in hard copy, principally "FETA" (or From Emotions to Advocacy) and other books well worth their prices.

Are you interested in a local parents' support group? Feel like you are the Lone Ranger at times? Most of the time? If there is enough interest in a local support group for parents of children enrolled in Special Education classes, a group will form here in Woodstock.

There is a new group forming in Algonquin-Lake in the Hills, and groups may also be formed for the McHenry-Johnsburg, Huntley, and Harvard-Marengo areas. The rule-of-thumb here is that "many hands make light work." If you are interested now or for the Fall of 2008, please let me know. You can post here or email me at

Ho-Hum...Island Lake Case Continued

Have you been wondering what's cooking with the Greg Kachka case, of Island Lake fame?

Greg is the ex-Marine who allegedly pointed his .38 cal. finger at a Village Trustee after she allegedly made faces at him after he (factually) questioned the Board about some Village matters. Rumor has it that investigators are going to tear out the walls of the Board meeting room for evidence of any missed shots.

For an update on yesterday's court appearance, read the July 21st entry on Laurie is doing a great job reporting on this case. How do you keep a straight face, Laurie?

Supposedly, the case will be back in court next week. How did they ever get back on the docket so quickly? Is the judge expecting that it will take only a ten-minute trial to find Greg Not Guilty and toss the Lake County State's Attorney's case out of on its ear?


Monday, July 21, 2008

Bicyclists Ignore Traffic Laws

Almost every day I see bicyclists speeding through stop signs, riding the wrong way on a street, running down pedestrians, you name it.

Do the police ever ticket a bicyclist?

If an officer ticketed a bicyclist, would he find his picture up on the PD bulletin board with Gomer written across it? Well, he shouldn't!

In a battle of car vs. bicycle, you don't need three guesses to know which will win.

And it's not just the kids who are the flagrant violators, although plenty of them ignore the laws.

Adult men in their fancy bicycle training or racing suits cruise right through stop signs like they aren't there. Where I tend to see them is at South and Dean Streets. More than once I've seen a man zoom right through the stop sign and turn toward the Square.

The kids are something else, though. They seem to display Attitude - like, "I dare you not to get out of the way." They ride f-a-s-t on sidewalks and then sail off the curb and across the intersection without looking or slowing. Pity the poor driver who hits one of them. Can you say lawsuit?

Oh, and helmets? No way. That's not cool.

I'll tell you what's not cool. TBI is not cool. Traumatic Brain Injury is definitely not cool. I knew a chiropractor in 1993 who had a very slow, almost-stopped fall from a bike. He had been riding on the sidewalk and slowed at a corner. He was almost stopped when the front tire hit a stone, and he pitched off the bike right on his noggin. He suffered a permanent head injury and, even today, has no short-term memory. He lost his professional practice and has never recovered. He gets along okay from one day to the next. But ask him what happened yesterday? He cannot tell you.

Let's see the police include attention to violations by bicyclists in their daily work. Just write the tickets; no explanations, no excuses, no reasons, no warnings.

The City should post bicycle rules on the Square. How else will bicyclists know that they are not to ride bikes on the sidewalks in front of the businesses around the Square or in the Square park itself? It's fair to provide a warning. Same for skateboards. After the signs are up, just write the tickets.

I did see an officer put the run on a gang of kids and bicycles in front of Cobblestone's the other day. I was just about to call, when he rolled up. He didn't bother to get out of his car and talk to the kids. He didn't make contact cards on them. He didn't question the driver of the car, who was talking to the 4-5 kids on bikes, about his illegal temporary tag. They were a scroungy lot, but perhaps he already knew all of them. At least, he moved them along.


Open Letter to Mayor and Woodstock City Council

An open letter to Mayor Sager and City Council Members Dillon, Turner, Webster, Thompson, Larson and Ahrens:

On February 14, 2008, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners issued its Findings and Decision in the Sgt. Gorski matter. It seems to me that this important document should have been ratified at the March Regular Meeting of the BOFPC. At the least, that document should have been referred to in Minutes. Without official documentation, it has become invisible.

As you must know, Sgt. Gorski was exonerated by the Board. Chief Lowen's charges were not sustained. The charge against Sgt. Gorski was dismissed by the Board. The Board ordered that the City pay Sgt. Gorski all unpaid back wages.

Apparently, the City has not done this.

What the City should do is pay Sgt. Gorski all his back wages and return him to duty status. This was the Board's finding. According to the BOFPC, Sgt. Gorski remains an employee of the Woodstock Police Department and the City.

The Board issued its Findings and Decision five (5!) months ago. The City flinched in court on last Friday morning by ducking the conference scheduling for which the court date existed. I fully expect the City, through its City Attorney, to claim on August 15 that it has been unable to resolve the matter and then to proceed with conference scheduling.

When Chief Lowen's case was called, it was not even important enough for him to be there; at least, I didn't see him. I understand that he was not required to be there but, still, the City is spending a lot of money and he should have been there. Rich Flood was not even there but instead sent an employee attorney from his office. An employee of the City Attorney's office would have no authority, other than to stall the case for another month. If they were serious about settling the case, the settlement would have been ready to be presented last Friday.

In the meantime the City's legal fees continue to grow. Is there some reason that the City does not require expediency in resolving legal matters, in order to keep legal fees and costs as low as possible?

More importantly, when the case was called, the BOFPC was not represented before Judge McIntyre. This was a huge error, unless they have some reason to believe that Chief Lowen's case is not really against them. The Commissioners are officials of the City of Woodstock; yet they were not there and their legal counsel, if they have counsel, did not approach the bench when the case was called.

It's an extremely shabby way to treat a 19-year employee.

The City has exposed itself to financial peril by not honoring the decision of the three-man civilian Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. Their 3-0 decision in February cannot be over-emphasized. If you haven't read the Findings and Decision, please do. You'll get the full impact of the decision by reading it carefully.

If the Chief eventually wins his case before Judge McIntyre, all that will happen is that the case will go back to the BOFPC, which has no reason to change its Findings and Decision. To complete any hearing that they might be ordered to reconvene, all they will do is call Sgt. Gorski, listen to his name, rank and badge number, and make the same decision - that Chief Lowen has not proven his case. Why would they change that decision?

I would like to believe that you are men and women of honor and integrity. You can demonstrate this by directing Mr. Clifton to pay Sgt. Gorski all back wages immediately and return him to duty without further delay.

Mr. Clifton, will you please forward this to Commissioners Giordano and Schroeder, whose email addresses I do not have. Thank you.

Gus Philpott

cc: Commissioner Howell
City Manager Tim Clifton

1 Reason for High County Taxes

According to a page given to me during last week's County Board meeting, 22 County Board members earn $18,601.70/year for staying awake during Board meetings and heading up some committees. But . . . the Chairman of the County Board gets paid $74,406.02! Whoa! Wait just a minute! $74,000??? And that's plus a whopping $13,182.96 for his health insurance AND $6,272 contributed to his pension.

I thought that was a part-time job. Pretty nice, eh?

I'll be doing more digging to figure out the disparity in health insurance costs to the County (us!) for health insurance costs of the other 23 Board members. According to this same page, these are the health insurance costs for other Board members (the number of Board members whose health insurance cost is the amount shown is in parentheses).

County Annual Health Insurance Contribution (FY 2008) for County Board members, excluding Chairman Koehler:
$17,050.56 (5)
$13,182.96 (1)
$12,537.24 (1)
$9,478.32 (3)
$8,214.72 (1)
$7,800.00 (4)
$7,339.68 (1)
$646.08 (1)
$0.00 (6)

The above numbers are "each", not total for the number shown in parentheses. There are five (5) County Board members for whom we pay $17,050.56 PER YEAR for their health insurance. What in the world is going on here???

Why would any business pay a health insurance cost (premium/contribution) almost equal to the annual compensation of its worker???

Lower Your Tax Bill? Really?

The Northwest Herald reports this morning (Page 2A) that McHenry County Treasurer Bill LeFew will conduct three meetings this week on how to lower your property tax bills. At least, that's the headline.

He will present his "Ten ways to lower your property tax bill" at three meetings. Does he have a pamphlet like the one passed out last week at the County Board meeting by the Assessor's office? That one, "Ten Questions to a Fair Assessment", and the content of the PowerPoint presentation did not satisfy a packed house at the Board meeting, who wanted to know HOW to lower their assessments.

It seems that everybody except the Assessor knows that property values have declined in McHenry County. The Board watched and listened passively to the Assessor and asked no questions.

When housing sales have plummeted and you can't sell your house for anywhere near what (you think) it's worth, isn't that a pretty clear statement that property values have declined?

One friend in Woodstock had her house on the market for 540+ days. She dropped the price 3-4 times and finally sold it.

Of course, lower assessments would mean lower property taxes. Lower property taxes would mean some belt-tightening. And not only "tightening". All might have to grab that hole-punch and knock a few more notches in the belt!

Turn off your TV and get yourself over to MCC on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night at 7:00PM. Catch up with Treasurer LeFew in the MCC Conference Center in Building B.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Law Is Unconstitutionally Vague

An excellent article appears in today's Chicago Tribune at,0,3803865.story

Written by Chicago attorney Gabriel Fuentes, of Jenner & Block, the article discusses three recent cases where individuals were charged with Disorderly Conduct. A Carpentersville case was dismissed; a federal appeals court ruled a Bloomingdale arrest as unconstitutional.

The third case, that of Greg Kachka, continues its court schedule in Waukegan tomorrow morning.

Read the Tribune article. Better yet, print and save it. You never know when you might need it. I met Gabe Fuentes when he was representing the Carpentersville homeowner who allegedly told her neighbors' kids to stop climbing in a tree like monkeys. It never made the press, but that's not even what happened! Gabe is first class!

Greg Kachka, you may remember, is the Marine who wore a t-shirt to a Village of Island Lake board meeting and allegedly pointed his ".38 cal. finger" at a Village Trustee and the Village Clerk. They both filed Disorderly Conduct charges against Greg. The details appear elsewhere in The Woodstock Advocate; search (upper left) for Greg Kachka.

They were so alarmed or disturbed that it took weeks for the cops to show up at Greg's door. Some threat, eh? If they were so alarmed or disturbed and if their peace was breached at the Village Board meeting, how come they didn't dive under their desks for cover and call the police department immediately?

T-shirts for Greg's legal defense fund are still available for $20 plus shipping. If you want one, get $20 to me and I'll pick it up for you. No charge for the pick-up and delivery. Better yet, not just one or two. Buy five or ten.

Attorney Fuentes discusses in the Tribune article how charges of Disorderly Conduct can be used to silence opposition. The statute is vague by not defining "alarm" or "disturb" or how the peace must be breached for a person to feel threatened.

If you saw people around you being arrested for DC and worried that you might be arrested, how excited would you be to go to your town council and protest their actions (or inactions)?


Plan Commission Minutes for June 26

It's my understanding that the Plan Commission of the City of Woodstock is scheduled to meet on Thursday, July 24, at 7:00PM (at City Hall) and that the proposed demolition of Grace Hall on the Woodstock Christian Life Services property is to be further discussed and considered.

For a summary of the June 26th meeting of the Plan Commission, read Jenn Wiant's article at

How much notice should the public have of scheduled public hearings and those public hearings which are continued? How much trouble would it be for the City to post an announcement of the meeting and its agenda one week ahead of time? Busy people (residents) have busy schedules and, if they want to attend, they may have to move other appointments around.

And how about the Minutes of a prior meeting? The Minutes of the June meeting are not yet posted online. Should Minutes be posted well before the next meeting?

The City may explain that the Minutes have not been approved by the Commission and thus cannot be posted. Well, I say that the City could then post draft Minutes and allow the public some time to inspect them. If there is an error, the public can bring it up at the next meeting, if a Commissioner doesn't bring it up first.

This is called Government By The People, which is exactly the way it is supposed to be.

The public can examine the listing of Woodstock Boards and Commissions on the City's website and pick those of the highest interest to attend. Regularly scheduled meetings are posted.

The Open Meetings Act requires announcement of Special Meetings, and these are to be posted by the City on its website. To know of Special Meetings, you'll have to check the City's website frequently.


Woodstock Police Working Without Contract

The officers of the Woodstock Police Department have been working since May 1st without a contract. To what risk does this expose our community and our residents?

The officers belong to a union and have collective bargaining rights. The previous contract expired on about May 1. The two sides have been unable to reach an agreement, and this means that the officers have been working more than ten weeks without a contract.

What impact does this have on the morale of the officers on the street?

Are they likely to feel that the City really doesn’t care about their employment or financial security?

I’m reminded of “Together we stand, divided we fall.” Right now, the officers are standing together. And stand together they will and must, in light of what is happening with Sgt. Steve Gorski’s case.

The officers can see clearly how the City treats a long-time officer. These days, 19 years on the same job approaches some kind of a record for many. Few employees in any industry or occupation stay with one employer for 19 years.

How many officers have started looking for work elsewhere? If they have their eyes and ears open for job opportunities with other departments, how dedicated and how loyal will they be to what is happening right here in Woodstock? Why would they stick their necks out here, if they don’t know what is going to happen to their pay and benefits?

The City needs to be crystal clear in its bargaining. If the City’s budget is so tight that it doesn’t even squeak, then pay stabilization or even pay cuts may be necessary. But they’d better be across the board, with the brunt borne by every one of the employees, supervisors, department directors, executives in City management, contract services including the Office of the City Attorney, and Mayor and City Council members.

How long will it be until the new contract is in place?


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Woodstock Steps Up Enforcement

The City of Woodstock is stepping up its enforcement against property owners who move a former tenant's household possessions to the curb after an eviction. The number of unsightly piles and the length of time they are left at the curb should be noticeably shorter.

As a result of piles at adjacent houses on First Street, the new program is

1. Notice to the property owner, giving him 24 hours to remove it.
2. The City may issue a $25 Violation Notice to the property owner for each day the pile is there.
3. If not removed, Public Works will pick up, and the owner will be charged for time and material.

No longer will we have to look at these piles for days on end.

Just send an email to or call Donovan Day at 815.338.4305 during business hours Monday through Friday.

Thanks to the City for stepping up to the plate on this one.

Motorcyclist Not Ticketed in Crash

A motorcyclist crashed his bike on U.S. 14 last Sunday during the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation charity ride. According to the Northwest Herald, he was eastbound on U.S. 14 near Dean Street, when traffic in front of him slowed and he ran off the roadway, presumably to avoid running into a vehicle stopping in front of him.

While it's nice to know that Woodstock PD didn't spend months investigating the accident, it's curious to me that the motorcycle operator was not ticketed. He was injured and taken to the hospital, and his motorcycle was towed from the accident scene.

The Northwest Herald did not publish the operator's name, nor has there been any follow-up.

I don't recall reading of any other accident handled by Woodstock PD that involved vehicle damage and injuries, when the driver was not ticketed.

Why should he have been ticketed? He failed to maintain control of his vehicle. He crashed his vehicle.

I've been on charity rides and one of the reasons I no longer go on them is that too many motorcycles ride too closely together, operate at speeds in excess of posted speed limits, disregard traffic control devices and generate too much noise. On one ride a pack of about 25 bikes rolled up to a stop sign. The first bike stopped, then went on. All the others, except yours truly, went through the stop sign on the first biker's stop. That was when I dropped back and just enjoyed the rest of the ride alone.

I don't object to the mild rumble of a throaty motorcycle exhaust. What I do object to is when operators "crack" the throttle and cause excessive, unnecessary noise. Also, when they decelerate sharply in lower gears to generate loud, excessive, unnecessary noise. That type of operation generates a black mark for all motorcycle riders.

Was this operator distracted by his buddies alongside or behind him? Was he talking while he was riding alongside another bike? Had he turned his head away from traffic too long and, when he looked forward again, Surprise!

Otherwise, why would he not notice traffic slowing in front of him and adjust his speed accordingly? We can probably rule out text-messaging or talking on a cell phone, although I did see a motorcycle operator the other day with his BlueTooth hanging on his ear. I thought, "There goes another Borg!"

So, what was the real reason that this particular motorcycle operator was not ticketed for something like failure to stop in time to avoid an accident or improper lane usage or following too closely? There is a good reason that the State form is called a Crash Report, not an accident report.


PeopleSearch: Debby Wallace

I'd like to find out if "Six Degrees of Separation" really works. Will you help me locate Debby Wallace?

The Debby for whom I'm searching lived in Littleton, Colorado, in the early 1980s and had family in Utah. Her husband, Bob, died of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in about 1979. Then she met Stan Helmke, and he was diagnosed with NHL before they married. After he died, she told me she wanted to be married to a college president. Sometime after that, she met a Wyoming college professor who was offered a position as a Dean of an Illinois college or university, and they married.

How about putting the "process" to work and copying this posting to any staff member or teacher you know at an Illinois college or university, and asking them to forward it to anyone they know who might know her? Is it really possible to get in touch with anyone in the world within six steps?

It's my hope that Debby is happily married and in good health. Will you help me reach her? Contacts to Thanks!

Secret to Success in Life

A friend in Denver recently wrote to me that the most valuable lesson he has learned is from Cavett Robert, founder of the National Speakers Association.

(I wonder how many people have even ever heard of Cavett Robert!)

In 1980-81 Joe moved to Phoenix to work for Cavett. His job was to book Cavett as a paid, professional, public speaker. Joe was to fill Cavett's schedule - five days a week, 23 days a month.

How old was Cavett at that time? 73!!!

Joe wrote that Cavett repeatedly told him and everyone at his seminars, "The secret to success in life is to find something that you enjoy doing so much that you would gladly do it for nothing ... and then get good enough at it that you actually get paid for it."

Are you enjoying what you do that much?

Parking Tickets in Woodstock

From the FAQ webpage of Woodstock's Police Department:

"How do I pay for my parking ticket?

"You can pay a parking ticket in person at the police department 24 hours a day seven days a week, or by mail to the Woodstock Police Department at 656 Lake Avenue Woodstock, Illinois 60098. Parking tickets must be paid within 30 days of the issued date to avoid the fine increasing. Any parking ticket that is not paid after 10 days is processed through the McHenry County Circuit Clerk’s Office and will be assessed additional court costs. "

Got it? Really? See any problem with the wording?

I hope you didn't stop reading after "Parking tickets must be paid within 30 days of the issued date to avoid the fine increasing."

If you did, you might think that you could hold off on paying the parking ticket until pay day or until you can drag your kid's bottle of pennies to the bank and turn them into dollar bills. Somewhere there must exist a schedule of parking ticket fees; perhaps it's on the ticket.

Last time I saw a parking ticket in Woodstock was February, 1996, when I mistakenly parked overnight on the street, not knowing about the 2:00-6:00AM rule. Of course, it didn't help that the warning signs really were missing along the highway into town!

If you don't want to have to take out a payday loan to "avoid the fine increasing", then pay up, and you'd better not wait 29 days. Read the rest of the paragraph:

"Any parking ticket that is not paid after 10 days is processed through the McHenry County Circuit Clerk’s Office and will be assessed additional court costs."

Now, this really makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? If a errant driver doesn't fork over his $5-10 for a parking ticket, does the City really send the ticket to the Circuit Clerk's Office on the 11th day?

Let's say you get the parking ticket and are leaving the next day on vacation. Are you going to miss your flight to stop at the P.D. on the way out of town and pay your ticket? Not likely.

When you get back, you find out that your ticket is being processed at the courthouse. How much is that going to cost you? You probably cannot even find out by phone, because the cashiers there will tell you "the computer has to calculate it" when you come in to pay it. Dumb!


If the ticket isn't paid in 15 days, the PD could mail a postcard for $.27, reminding the violator to cough up his dough. If he doesn't, then 30-40 days later the ticket can be processed for payment. But at the Circuit Court, where bank robbers, home invaders, carjackers and murderers are processed?

Maybe the City needs to put down the hammer, and I don't mean "Drop the hammer." This is Woodstock, not Chicago!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Judges & Lawyers: Speak Up, Please

An open letter to the judges and lawyers in McHenry County:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When you are at the bench, how about speaking up so that you can be heard in the courtroom? When you mumble and speak so softly that you cannot be heard past the lawyers' tables, you deprive us in the courtroom of the opportunity to learn what is happening with your case.

Judges usually call cases in a loud enough voice to be heard. How else would those there to testify even know to go forward? Lawyers, of course, have the privilege of the printed docket, so they know in what order cases will be called. The average Joe Blow doesn't have that privilege.

But after calling a case, a judge's voice drops. Sure, the lawyers can hear. And the judge can hear what the lawyers have to say. Otherwise, the judge will direct them to speak up.

This morning I told the court clerk that the voices of the judge, lawyers and others would not be heard, if they didn't speak up. Her solution? I could buy a transcript. Well, I don't want to buy a transcript! I just want to hear what is said.

Maybe it would help if the lawyers at their lawyer's table didn't talk. Maybe it would help if observers and witnesses in the seats didn't talk. Maybe it would help if lawyers didn't talk to observers about matters not involving a case.

And maybe it would help if the courtroom security office (f/k/a bailiff) paid more attention and acted more quickly to quiet those in the seating area. And then monitored to see if they stayed quiet.

The rules for courtroom decorum are published. Why aren't they followed? And enforced?


Lowen v. Gorski - See Ya Next Month

The lawyering in court began this morning, when Woodstock Police Chief Robert Lowen's attorney met with Sgt. Steven Gorski's attorney before Judge Maureen McIntyre in the Circuit Court of the 22nd Judicial District at the McHenry County Government Center.

Who are the defendants? The three Woodstock residents who are commissioners of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) and the sergeant.

What happened in court? The next court date was set for August 15, 2008 at 9:00AM, and Sgt. Gorski's attorney, Tom Loizzo, is to speak with Rich Flood, City Attorney for Woodstock.

This was worth a four-month wait???

The Woodstock City Attorney, Rich Flood, should have been in court, not one of the hired guns who could not commit to anything except the next court date. No wonder our court system is clogged to the breaking point.

If I had been Judge McIntyre, I would have sent Attorneys Flood and Loizzo into a conference room and told them to stay there until they settle. Of course, she couldn't do that because Rich Flood wasn't there. I could be wrong, but I didn't even see an attorney for the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners at the bench after Judge McIntyre called the case.

Last February the Board didn't buy the Chief's charges against Sgt. Gorski. Without even hearing from Sgt. Gorski, the Board ruled 3-0 in favor of Sgt. Gorski and ordered that the charges by Chief Lowen be dismissed. The Board also ordered that Sgt. Gorski was to receive his back pay.

That was February 14, 2008.

That was five months ago.

Has the City paid Gorski his back pay? No!

Instead Chief Lowen filed a case in Circuit Court in March, requesting an Administrative Law Hearing.

All that happened today was a "scheduling hearing." The lawyers stood before Judge McIntyre and were to lay a schedule by which the court case started by Chief Lowen will proceed. Instead, they will come back on August 15.

Will the City reinstate Sgt. Gorski, deliver all his back pay (as ordered on February 14 with statutory interest)? Or will they plead for more time?

This is likely to mean months more of wrangling and delay.

The City should pay Gorski his back pay and put him back on the payroll. If he can't work because of work-related back injuries, then he belongs on paid disability status. He walked into court with a cane this morning and moved with extreme care and difficulty. In my opinion, he belongs on desk duty or on the disability list until his agility returns.

The game that the City is playing can bankrupt Sgt. Gorski. Is that its plan? How long could any of us go without a paycheck?

What message is this sending to other police department employees (officers, clerical, telecommunicators)? What message is this sending to ALL Woodstock employees, when the City (the City Manager, the Mayor and the six City Councilpersons, the Human Resources Director) condone this disregard for a decision of its legitimate, appointed Board?

The City Council should tell the City Manager to tell the Human Resources Director to pay Sgt. Gorski. And he ought to get his check on Monday!


D.C. Handgun Registration

A short article in this morning's Northwest Herald (Page 7) reports that handgun registration began yesterday in Washington, D.C. This registration is the result of the Heller decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.

When security guard Dick Heller showed up to register his handgun, he was turned away from police headquarters. According to the article, he was turned away because he did not take his handgun with him.

Heller, you may or may not know, was the man whose case resulted in overturning the D.C. prohibition on handguns. Heller is a security guard who is armed on-duty, but who could not keep his duty handgun in his home because of the D.C. law.

Well, of course he would not take his handgun to him. That's like going swimming in the pool right under the sign that says no swimming. If he walked into police headquarters to register his handgun, they would arrest him for having an unregistered handgun!

Gun registration is one step away from gun confiscation. When the cops know what guns you have, then someday they will just knock on your door and demand the guns (by name of manufacturer and serial number).

I'm suspicious of even the requirement of the Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification Card (popularly called the "FOID" card), but I'll agree with it because it "might" slow down the gun possession by criminals and certain others.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Viking Dodge - Today's Lies

If you have been following Wayne, of Viking Dodge vs. Wayne Beto, then you know he is still around. Wayne is the man with the signs in Crystal Lake who has been, and is, picketing Viking Dodge at the corner of US 14 and IL 176. You can read the whole story here [search (upper left) for Viking Dodge] or you can go to and search for Viking Dodge. There are 34 entries there.

Wayne asked me to drop by today at 3:30PM, because he planned to picket. I met Wayne and his son in his favorite parking spot, and we walked across the street to the grass along the curb in front of the dealership.

When Wayne is in Crystal Lake, many drivers honk and wave as they pass. Frequently, a driver will stop and talk with Wayne. If you wonder what's going on, stop and ask Wayne why he is there.

We were there for about 45 minutes and stayed near the curb. The right-of-way extends for 20 feet from the curb, and it is legal to be there. Wayne has already fought off Crystal Lake about the signs on his car. The City Attorney for Crystal Lake finally agreed with Wayne that his right to picket there is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

While we were there, two Viking Dodge employees walked to the front of the lot and within about 25 feet of us. Their demeanor was pleasant enough, and they did not attempt to engage in any conversation. About 4:15PM Wayne's son and I walked back across the street to our vehicles. His son pulled out and circled around to pick up Wayne. I later wished I had waited for him to pick up his dad.

About 6:30PM Wayne called to tell me that someone at Viking Dodge had called the Crystal Lake Police and reported that Wayne was "on their property" and had been blocking vehicles from using their driveway. Two officers showed up and talked to Wayne and his son. A police department report now exists with an assigned number.

Since I was there, I know for a fact that none of us was on Viking Dodge property and none of us blocked the driveway.

I went to the Crystal Lake Police Department this evening and offered information about exactly how we conducted ourselves this afternoon. I stated to the police sergeant that it is a serious matter when a person files a false report with a police department.

Our courts are already clogged enough with cases, but it is my hope that Crystal Lake PD will be closely monitoring all future reports by Viking Dodge management.

An employee of Viking Dodge was convicted of stealing one of Wayne's signs. One day Viking Dodge employees boxed in Wayne's car with three big pick-up trucks, until the police showed up and took control of things. On another day Wayne was challenged in the bowling alley parking lot by Viking Dodge employees.

On another day a box of nails was scattered throughout the highway shoulder where Wayne usually parks. Now who would have done something like that? IDOT cleaned up that mess; at what cost?

Viking Dodge is suing Wayne. The case has been continued 11 times. That's ELEVEN times. They can't seem to get ready. Why a judge would ever allow a case to be continued ELEVEN times, I'm having a hard time figuring out. I'd be screaming, "Try this case or dismiss it!"

If you are thinking about doing business with Viking Dodge (or with any car dealership), do your homework. Read the horror stories of buying experiences of others. Remember: car salesmen get a lot of practice selling cars; you get hardly any experience at buying them. Who do you think is going to win in the deal?

The car salesman is not your friend. His job and that of the Finance Manager is to get as much of your money out of your pocket as possible. Your job is to keep as much IN your pocket as possible.

Read everything. Read it twice. Do not leave any blank spaces empty. If there is a blank space in a contract, either a number goes into it before you sign it, or you put a line through it or an "x" and then initial it. What do you think is going to happen if you leave it blank? Right!

And get a copy of EVERY form you sign, no matter what the Finance Manager says about the copying machine's being broken or that he'll mail it to you the next day. Tell him to send the salesman over to Kinko's for a copy; many Kinko's are open 24/7.

Don't get rushed. Don't allow yourself to feel pressured. There is nothing inherently wrong with buying a car on the day you are there, but you don't have to. There will ALWAYS be another car. In fact, probably the same car! If you feel you are getting pressured, just get up and walk out.

>>>>> Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. <<<<< Print that and staple it to your checkbook before you head off to a dealer.

Thanks to All for Comments

I would like to express my appreciation to each of you for posting Comments to the Gangs article and to the "Square Is Not Your Bedroom" article. I especially appreciate the thoughtfulness and detail of those who are offering creative, constructive comments for preserving and enhancing the Square.

And without you others, those constructive comments might not have been submitted.

There were a few Comments that I have not posted. They were basically vulgar and threatening, and there is no reason to publish them.

And so, thanks. Keep 'em coming.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jib Jab!

Remember the first JibJab?

Well, there's a new one. And it's free. Go to and enjoy!

Gangs and Gatherings on the Square

Recently I was talking with a businessman on the Square about the groups of young people hanging out. He has noticed their presence increasing for the past nine months. How did he refer to them? "The punks."

Is this what we want on our Square? In our town? (click on the photo to enlarge it.) Do we want our sidewalks crowded with kids loitering and blocking the sidewalk with their bodies and their bicycles?

Now, Woodstock is not a "club." All are welcome. And we are going to expect the kids to act with manners and good sense, and not to block the sidewalk and drive away tourists and customers of stores or businesses.

When you walk on the sidewalk, you are entitled to your half of the sidewalk. Just because a gang of kids is walking toward you, you do not need to step aside. Let them move back over on their half of the sidewalk.

I did hear a few "choice" words on Main Street this evening from the gangs of kids gathered on the movie theater side of the street. They could be heard across the street.

What can you do? Contact the police department by telephone and in writing ( and register your concerns. And, every bit as importantly, go to City Council meetings and address the Council during the Public Comment portion of the meeting.

Here is an invitation to Mayor Sager, to each City Councilperson and to the heads of all City Departments.

Come to the Square in the evening. Pick an evening; any evening. Bring your family. Walk up and down the streets that branch off the Square itself. Go into the Square around 8:00-10:00PM and decide for yourself.

Do you feel safe? secure? comfortable?

No? Well, what are you, our elected representatives and hired personnel, going to do about it?


Dangerous Driving

What got my attention about this car? The driver stopped on Washington St. (Church St.?) at the stop sign at Main Street - for a long time, even though there was traffic behind him. Then two young males ran toward the car, the right rear door opened and they piled in.

In fact, they were almost in when the driver started up abruptly. That held my attention, because the rear door was still open and the passenger wasn't all the way into the car!

I got a glare from the driver (young Hispanic male) as he passed me and noticed my camera. I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of his license plate, but I think it was A31 6043. At least, that's pretty close.

Look carefully at the "bra" on the front of the car. See that rectangular outline on the front bumper. Makes it kind of hard to read the front license plate, doesn't it?

Pet Peeve - Vehicles in Front Yard

What's with certain people, anyway? Too many drugs? Too much booze? Too little parental guidance when they were kids?

Why do people park in their yards? (Click on photo to enlarge it.) Well, probably because it's not their yard. It's the landlord's yard, and he's not there.

Motorcycles are motor vehicles. They belong on streets or in driveways, not in front yards or on sidewalks.

Drive by 217 E. Donovan. If they are there, give the Code Enforcement officer a call at 815.338.4305 or email

Free Parking

Parking on the Square is often hard to find. You know, a lot of people come to the Square to dine, go to the movie theater, the Opera House, grab a coffee at Starbuck's, pick up a book at Read Between the Lynes, enjoy the concert on Wednesday evening in the Square.

But why is there free parking on the Square in handicap parking spots? The sign clearly reads "Reserved Parking (for handicapped persons) $250 Fine."

A legislator (not from our districts) told me a while back that police officers don't like to write violations like this because they cost a lot of money.

Well, that's just the point! As a matter of fact, if you do this in the Village of Algonquin, it'll cost you $500, not $250.

Police should be vigilant for these violations and immediately ticket the vehicle - the first time they spot it. No such thing as "drive around the block and hope it's gone when you come back." Tag it the first time, and don't stop writing if the driver hurries up and claims that he was "just there for a minute." Make it a Very Expensive Minute.

The Square Is Not Your Bedroom

Wednesday night on the Square. Great crowd. Great music. Lots of people of all age groups. No dogs. No bikes in the Square itself.

But how casual is too casual? Where are the parents? I don't consider myself a prude, but there is such a thing as Public Display of Affection, and this type of behavior is not appropriate. OK, so it's just my opinion.

Maybe someone knows these kids and would like to pass this along to their parents. But even as I write this, I wonder ... will the parents even care?

I say, if YOU care, then confront this type of behavior. Do not allow it. Why did all the folks sitting around them accept it?

How long did it go on before the Woodstock police officer approached these kids?

A Worse America . . .

“The day the O.J. Simpson verdict was announced, I said to my then-teenage son, ‘David, please forgive me. I am handing over to you a worse America than my father handed over to me.’”

This is the beginning of Dennis Prager's excellent column, which can be read at

It’s worth reading. Take a couple of minutes and read it. Just click on the link.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Square - How Safe?

Tonight I overheard this - "Some folks from Chicago were in town and went to the Square on Saturday evening. They didn't stay long - they didn't feel safe."

Wow! Right here in little ol' Woodstock.

Well, folks; here's what I say: "The Square is our Square. You should be able to go there at any time of day or night and feel safe. Safe from the punks and the gangs. Safe from skateboarders and loiterers. Safe from unruly people and foul language. Safe from people relieving themselves in the Square itself."

Let's "Take Back the Square." If you are a target or are harassed or in any way made to feel uncomfortable, they'd I'd say that you have reason to feel "alarmed or disturbed" and that your peace has been breached.

Get on your cell phone and call the Woodstock Police Department. Tell the telecommunicator what is going on and request a police officer to meet you there. Point out the people who are bothering you and tell the cop that you want them arrested. Be willing to go to court and testify as to what happened that alarmed or disturbed you and breached your peace.

Start going to the Square regularly and sitting on a bench to enjoy it. And take this number with you: 815-338-2131. Program it into your cell phone right now!

"Woodstock City Code Section 4.6.1: DISORDERLY CONDUCT:
"No person shall commit disorderly conduct. As stated in 720 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/26-1, a person commits disorderly conduct when he or she knowingly:
A. Does any act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace."