Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Radio Survey Results

Thanks to the 20 readers who participated in the recent radio survey. The question was,

Mostly I listen to radio by
the internet - 2 (10%)
satellite radio - 5 (25%)
FM radio - 13 (65%)

May I invite readers to explore internet radio? For example, free radio is available at All you do is click on the link, click on the arrow, and choose the type of music you want. It's 24/7, and it's free.

Great classical music can be heard at in Raleigh, N.C. And it's okay to support their broadcasting financially. You can mail a check or pay online.

Prairie Home Companion can be heard on Saturdays at

Even Y103.9 ( and Star 105.5 ( now streamline their broadcasting. When you are traveling, you can catch your favorite DJ right from your laptop.

More and more stations are joining the ranks of internet radio broadcasting. Check it out. Good listening!

The Illinois Way

Got this from an out-of-state friend. There is a ring of truth to it.

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House; one is from Illinois, one from Tennessee and a third from Kentucky. They all go with a White House official to examine the fence.

The Tennessee contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. “Well”, he says, “I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me.”

The Kentucky contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, “I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me.”

The Illinois contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, “$2,700.”

The official, incredulous, whispers back, “You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?”

The Illinois contractor whispers back, “$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire that guy from Kentucky to fix the fence.”

"Done!” replies the government official.

And that, my friends, is how it all works !!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pothole Patrol

Yesterday a friend hit a pothole in Hanover Park, bending the rim and flattening the tire on his car. Cost of repairs? Nothing definite yet. A new wheel could be $500 (to match the other three custom 17" aluminum wheels) plus $150 for the tire plus balancing and alignment, plus two trips to the tire shop and one to the alignment place. Easily, $1,000 down the drain.

And he was one of five cars stopped with flat tires from the pothole on Lake Street (U.S. 20).

He filed a police report and will file a claim with IDOT.

If your car is damaged on a State-maintained road, contact IDOT for a claim form. Search for "Illinois DOT" or go to

Under General Info (far right tab), click on IDOT Claims Procedures. There is no Claim Form on the website (that would be too easy). You have to telephone the IDOT District where the pothole damaged your car and order a claim form to be mailed to you.

Then follow the steps. Be sure to disregard the part that says your claim will only be good if IDOT knew about the pothole before you hit it. I'm still laughing over that one.

IDOT should know about every pothole on its roadways. Its own employees should report them, not just drive through them. So should the police, deputies, firefighters, ambulance drivers and every other government employee. And YOU can make a difference by reporting potholes, too.

I recall trying to get the City of McHenry to place cones or barricades on U.S. 31 where a paving contractor had left an unmarked sharp change in elevation from the scraped roadway to the old, higher surface. I hit it at the speed limit one night and thought I had busted something under my car.

The McHenry PD insisted that it could not place a barricade on a State highway. Dumbest thing I've ever heard of. When there is a hazard on the road, the local jurisdiction should identify it and warn drivers. It took three days for IDOT to wring the contractor's neck and make him place barricades around the raised manhole covers and other sharp elevation changes.

How many cars do you suppose were damaged during those three days.

I tried to find someone at IDOT to talk to about an online reporting system. One person told me there already was one, on either or the IDOT website. He must have a better computer than I do, because I haven't been able to find it.

If anyone knows where that webform is, please let me know.

Schlenkert Case - to be appealed?

Recently a reader offered a guess that Deputy Schlenkert's favorable decision in court will most likely be appealed by the McHenry County Merit Commission.

You mean that Deputy Schlenkert won't go back to work right away? The sheriff rolled the dice and came up short in court. Why not suck it up and put an experienced deputy back to work without further delay? He doesn't carry any grudges, does he?

Just exactly how does the Merit Commission function and whom does it represent? Isn't it like the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners in Woodstock, which is composed of three civilians appointed by the City Council? Citizens who are supposed to be impartial and independent of the Woodstock Police Department (and who, based on a February 2008 decision, really are independent)?

This reader wrote, "The Merit Commission is a rubber stamp for the Sheriff. They are puppets that would not dare question the Sheriff's desires." Is this true? If so, why even have such a commission?

The writer also called attention to the physical appearance of different personnel at the sheriff's department and questioned whether any of the command personnel could pass reasonable fitness standards for deputies in the field.

Recently an officer in a neighboring community died on duty, apparently from over-exertion. He had chased a suspect and grappled with him. As I recall, the cause of his death was a heart attack. From the head photo in the newspaper the officer appeared to be somewhat "stout."

I recall the physique of the Ohio sheriff who spoke at MCC several months ago. He was slender and appeared to be in excellent physical health.

Chief Webster sends his firefighters and paramedics to the Woodstock Rec Center to work out; hopefully they will avoid over-exerting themselves when fighting a fire or carrying a heavy patient.

Illinois has no physical fitness standards for deputies after they are hired. As I recall from Judge McIntyre's ruling in the Schlenkert case, neither does the McHenry County Sheriff's Department.

Perhaps this is a requirement that we should have here in McHenry County (and in Woodstock).

Fire on Clay St.

Between 5:00-6:00PM there was a fire in the 1000 block of Clay Street, Woodstock. The "pink house", on the east side of the street, suffered a fire that Woodstock Fire Rescue District must have gotten under control quickly.

When I passed that block at about 5:00PM there was no activity; yet shortly after 6:00PM there were numerous fire trucks, paramedic and police vehicles. The windows on the second floor were broken out to the frames, and a neighbor reported that holes had been punched in the roof.

I was reminded of the importance for every family of having a fire plan - a plan for exactly what to do in the event of a fire (or any other home emergency). The plan should be known to all family members, and there should be occasional drills.

Escape ladders are promoted in magazines and store ads, but does anyone ever practice with them? For example, how to get the windows open (or to break them out), how to attach the ladder and, most importantly, how to squeeze through the window and go down the ladder. Whoever practices that?
Rule No. 1 needs to be that all the people get out and get out fast. Once out, stay out. Nobody goes back in for a pet, for family heirlooms, photographs, the wedding dress. Stay out!
Stay together, so that everyone is accounted for when the emergency response teams begin arriving.
I remember a night when there was a major fire in the townhouse behind mine in Denver. We could not find the homeowner, and the firemen went in twice to try to find him. It turned out that he was in a house two doors down, having a strong drink to calm down. The cause? Careless smoking.
Tell the firefighters about any pets left in the house. If they can safely get them out, they will.

Only You - worth watching

Received this from a friend in Huntley. Be sure to watch this;

And then you may want to send it along to many. It's a series of photographs of animals, set to the song "Only You", sung by the Platters (remember them?). Be sure to turn on your speakers.

Public Meetings - How public?

Should meetings of all boards and commissions of the City of Woodstock be open to the public?

Does "open" mean the public knows about the meetings?

The 2009 Calendar of Meetings of Woodstock's Boards and Commissions has not yet posted on the City's website. When it is, you'll it from the homepage. Go to and then look down the left side. Find "Boards and Commissions". Roll your mouse over it (don't click yet) and then click on Schedule of Meetings.

A quick glance at the 2008 Calendar shows no scheduled meetings for the Liquor Commission. Apparently, the Liquor Commission, chaired by Mayor Sager, held no Regular Meetings in 2008. All meetings must have been Special Meetings. Special Meetings require only 48 hours' notice to members of the commission and to the press, which virtually eliminates any attendance by the public, because the public won't know about the Special Meetings until after they are held.

The Board of Police and Fire Commissioners meets at police headquarters, upstairs in the second floor conference room of the police chief. In order to go to the room, you must request admittance at the glass security window and then be admitted and escorted upstairs to the conference room. While you are inside police headquarters, your movements may be recorded - videotaped and aurally recorded.

Is that open access?

I believe that the BOPFC meetings should be moved to City Hall, where other commissions of the City meet. Then anyone who wanted to attend could just walk in, listen to whatever portion of the meeting he wished to, and leave. More citizen involvement might result, and citizens might begin to offer suggestions and ideas to the BOFPC for its consideration in the performance of its charter.

Thoughts? Should the BOFPC meet at City Hall?

No City Council Meeting Jan. 6

Just in case you are planning to start off the new year by attending a Woodstock (Ill.) City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 6, 2009, don't.

The first City Council meeting of 2009 will be Tuesday, January 20. Watch for the Agenda to be published on the city's website about January 15-16

Think anyone will be there? Or will (almost) everyone be home in front of the TV to watch the Inauguration Day ceremonies and celebrations? Of course, you could just set your VCR to record them.

Or if City Council meetings were broadcast on a Comcast public service channel, you wouldn't have to miss a thing.

An involved resident in Island Lake videotapes Village Board meetings there and posts them on her blog. Would Woodstock residents pay more attention to the goings-on in city government if they could watch council meetings from the warmth and comfort of their own homes?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Error in Illinois Cares Rx Letter

If you know any computer-literate senior citizens who qualify, or might qualify, for the Illinois Cares Rx Program, let them know of an error in the recent letter from the Great State of Illinois that provides information about the prescription coverage for 2009.

The correct website for online application (or re-application) is (not as stated in the letter).

A good habit for any business is to test website URLs and phone numbers in letters before mailing out thousands of copies. And to have at least one other person read the material to be mailed.

This letter (undated - big mistake by the State) and unsigned (bigger mistake) will certainly make work for lawyers and Senior Services and Faith-in-Action and any other agency that helps seniors figure out whether something is good for them or not. Buried in the letter are benefits, but figuring out how to get them (what to do first, second, etc.) is going to require a lot of brain power.

So, tell the seniors to get started early on their taxes and not to forget to attend to their State benefits.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Power Line Down!

About 8:40AM a power line broke in Woodstock and fell to the ground just off Dean Street at Ridgeland Avenue. If you have never seen a hot fire, this one was one to see.

The line fell into wet snow during a light rain. You could hear the crackle and see the brilliant glow of a concentrated fire. Woodstock Police and Woodstock Fire Rescue responded, and they blocked traffic on Dean St. and Ridgeland Ave.

Weather was warm at 50 degrees F., so ice wasn't the problem. Fortunately, the line did not hit anyone or anything.

Friday, December 26, 2008

1st Amendment - Still Valid in Waukegan!

A Federal judge ruled last week that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is still alive and well in Waukegan.

In one comment within the stream of emails sent to me, one writer said, "This decision is for all those persons who speak out and exercise their First Amendment right to protest or challenge state action."

I wonder if this applies in Woodstock. Will it take a Federal case to secure our rights here?

The case: One part of it involved a protest in Waukegan over a towing ordinance in Waukegan that allowed police to tow and impound a vehicle operated by a person without a license and to impose a $500 fine on that person. Waukegan was accused of enforcing the ordinance unfairly against minorities.

I've seen those ordinances in other places. To me, they are clearly illegal seizure of property without due process.

When a man attempted to address the Waukegan City Council, the Waukegan mayor and city council unconstitutionally prohibited him from speaking during the public comment period of a City Council meeting in 2004.

Another part of the judge's finding pertained to "constitutional proscription against content-based discrimination" and said that nothing released the chief of police or the City of Waukegan from complying that constitutional provision.

So, what happens in Woodstock when a speaker in the public comment period of a City Council meeting puts forth an opinion that runs contrary to what the Council "wants to hear." Can the Mayor silence that person? According to a District Court Judge in Lake County, he cannot. Of course, that's in Lake County, not in McHenry County.

I suspect that this same good-sense decision should apply to Commissions appointed by the City Council. Just because a Commission chairman doesn't want to hear what the speaker is saying, he cannot silence him.

I invite the City Council to learn from the Waukegan decision and to educate the Commission chairmen and members as to the importance of allowing all opinions during meetings.

I'll take some credit, thanks

On November 18, 2008, the Woodstock City Council voted to raise the speed limit on Ware Road to 40MPH and directed the Public Works Department to post speed limit signs.

It's about time.

After watching drivers speed along Ware Road, in May 2007 I contacted Public Works to ask what the speed limit really was. The road was basically wide open and could have been construed by some to be "open or rural" roadway with a 55MPH speed limit. The reply from Public Works was that the speed limit was 30MPH.

I wrote back and asked for installation of speed limit signs, but I never received a reply and no signs were installed.

See below for my July 24, 2007, article on this site. You can find it easily by searching on this site for "Ware Road".

On November 2, 2008, a survey on this site revealed that a fair number of drivers thought the speed limit was 40MPH or even 45MPH. You can also find the survey in the same search.

And then on November 18, 2008, the City Council acted to raise the speed limit to 40MPH AND to post signs. It would be interesting to know how many speeding tickets, if any, were written on Ware Road over the past few years, when there were no speed limit signs to warn drivers of the unreasonably low 30MPH speed limit (state law).

Dangerous Intersection

For the time being you might want to avoid the intersection of Donovan and Route 47, by the Donovan Food Mart.

When a driver pulls up to the stop sign on Donovan, he cannot see southbound vehicles on Route 47 at a safe distance until he pulls out into the intersection. This is due to the high pile of snow pushed near the street by the private snowplow clearing the Food Mart's parking lot.

This snow is not the first time this has happened. Click on the photo to enlarge it and imagine the danger if you had pulled out in front of a car or truck traveling 35MPH south on Seminary! (Click the Back button on your browser to return to this article.)

I emailed various departments of the City to contact the Food Mart owner or manager to ask him to direct the snowplow operator not to push snow in such a way that it obstructs the sight-line of drivers on Donovan. Over the past few days the streets have been slick at intersections, reducing traction of vehicles turning out from side streets. You can imagine the problem if a driver starts to pull out, can't get good traction and finds him right in front of a southbound car or truck.

Jeff Van Landuyt of the Streets Department replied promptly (in spite of busy and long days (and nights)) that he'd try to check it out today. Thanks, Jeff!

D.C. Cobbs - Unfair Condition

Minutes of the November 18, 2008 Woodstock City Council meeting reflect that D.C. Cobbs ownership will change and that the format of the business will be changing.

Prospective owner Dan Hart had appeared before the Woodstock Liquor Commission to request an A-2 Liquor License and he will be remodeling the interior of the building and changing the format to a full-service restaurant.

According to the Minutes of the City Council meeting, Mayor Sager stated that the exit to Benton Street must become an emergency (only) exit by May 1, 2009. This condition was created by the Liquor Commission.

Dan Hart expressed his opinion that the change in the Benton Street exit would have an "extreme" effect on his business. He claimed that his customers would like to leave the premises via the Benton Street exit for smoking (thus avoiding Main Street) and also for more convenient parking, especially in view of the proposed movie theater expansion.

From the City Council Minutes, "Mayor Sager said because those concerns were not raised at the Liquor Commission, they were not able to discuss that."

Baloney! The City Council can discuss anything that it wants! And it does - all the time. The Council absolutely could have modified the Liquor Commission's "recommendations", just as it does with recommendations from the Plan Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission.

Councilmen Webster and Ahrens seemed sympathetic to Dan Hart's plight.

There is no reason to restrict the Benton Street exit of D.C. Cobbs. Take a look at Benton Street and then at Main Street. Why not let the smokers congregation outside its exit on Benton Street? Why not let customers who park on Benton Street enter through that existing door? Their vehicles on Benton Street mean less traffic on Main Street!

Why do Council members defer so quickly to the Mayor's rule? What they need to do is stand up and refuse unreasonable conditions imposed on a business owner who must beg for the privilege of doing business in Woodstock.

And much more citizen involvement is needed in Woodstock! Every two weeks the City Council chambers should be packed with residents, as they were last week when the stadium was pitched. City Council members should be lobbied by the public, and they should be supported in taking firm and proper stands for fairness.

The City Council should act now to reverse the Liquor Commission's condition of an emergency exit (only) onto Benton Street, because of expense the owner will incur to alter the door for Emergency Use. Do not wait for liquor license renewal in May.

By the way, it's way past time for the 7-0 votes to end. When three members object to an unfair condition on a business owner, they need to say so by asking for an amendment to remove the unfair condition. Then, if further study warrants imposing the condition, do so. In this case, it doesn't.

New T-W-D Law Really Needed?

Does Illinois really need a new prima facie law that prohibits Texting While Driving (TWD)?

Check out this morning's front-page story in the Northwest Herald (also online at According to reporter Amber Krosel's story, some legislators have a proposed new law up their sleeves for this spring in Springfield.

The "distracted driving numbers" with the story don't tell the whole story. "377 crashes in McHenry County in 2007 involving distraction as a contributing cause." And in 2008 when, presumably, more drivers might have have been texting, talking, tuning, multi-tasking with their iPods and BlackBerries, only 267 crashes?

OK, well, out of how many total crashes? Did drivers wise up and hide their "distractors" and become smart enough not to tell the traffic investigator that they were doing anything except driving the car? How did the reporting officer identify the distraction?

Almost no driver gives 100% attention to driving his car. The question is, can a driver safely operate his vehicle while doing something else?

Rolling forward in traffic and looking at your face in the rearview mirror while applying mascara? How about a Reckless Driving charge? "Any person who drives any vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving." If a woman is applying make-up and taking her eyes off the road ahead for 3-4-5 seconds to look in the mirror while her car is moving, is she willfully disregarding the safety of persons or property?

How about when a driver reads a book or newspaper while driving forward? Reckless Driving? (Ex., the police officer on Route 72 several years ago who was reading a newspaper as he drove past me at 65MPH in a 55 zone?)

Now how about talking on a cell phone or texting? Can that be done safely? Talking? Yes. Texting? I doubt it. A driver's eyes are off the road too long, when he is texting while driving.

But do we need a new law? Without total number of accident figures, one cannot determine how large the problem is? Is distraction involved in 80% of crashes? 50%? 5%?

Why not just enforce the existing laws? When a driver weaves in the traffic lane, cite him. Runs off onto the shoulder? Crosses the centerline (like, every day on Route 14 between Woodstock and Crystal Lake)? Rolls into an intersection before stopping at a stop sign or red light? Runs a red light? Runs up behind another car and has to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it? Cite him.

What about the driver is using his phone and not disobeying any traffic laws? Simple distractions include adjusting the radio, turning windshield wipers on/off, looking at your speedometer. If direction and speed remain steady, the vehicle is still being operated safely.

Have you been involved in a crash or near-miss because you were distracted? Or because another driver was distracted?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nov. 5 Window-Peeping Case

If you are following the November 5th window-peeping case, follow-up articles are posted at Just click on the link.

For those who remember the disorderly charge mentioned in the Northwest Herald article on November 12, the court doesn't know anything about that charge - only the resisting arrest charge.

Where is the glue that will stick these charges together?

Salvation Army - Please Donate

Perhaps you have cut back this year on your holiday spending with all the recession news. It seems to me that the days of the year are just flying by. Soon Christmas will be here, and then gone.

Perhaps you have decided to take some of the commercialism out of the Christmas season, as I have. The season is, for me, what I can give, not what I buy.

For a number of years I have braved the cold and stood in front of the Woodstock Jewel to ring the bell of the Salvation Army. Usually I pick one of the coldest days of the year. Maybe that's what kept me from picking a day this year. I wasn't there, and I didn't see many bellringers this year.

The services of the Salvation Army go on, whether or not anyone mans a kettle. Consider mailing your donation directly to the Salvation Army, 290 W. Crystal Lake Avenue, Crystal Lake, IL 60014. Please do more than "consider" it; please mail it - today or tomorrow. Before you forget.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

HPC down to two members

Woodstock's Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) is down to two members - incoming Chairman Allen Stebbins and Erica Wilson.

Thanks to Lucia Matlock, Merida Johns and Tim Art for their service.

If you are interested in serving on this important Commission, please contact Allen Stebbins or City Hall and express your interest.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Commission should be Monday, January 5, 2009, at 7:00PM in the City Council chambers at City Hall. Watch the City's website for the Agenda, which will confirm the meeting date and time.

An important item for the Agenda is discussion about how to get the recent recommendation of the HPC for Landmark status of Grace Hall on an early Agenda of the City Council. This matter should not be allowed to languish in the twilight zone at City Hall until just before the wrecking ball starts to swing at 318 Christian Way.

I have written previously about my suspicion that, when the recommendation reaches the City Council, there will be a strong objection from Woodstock Christian Life Services that no valid Public Hearing was held by the HPC.

The opinion of the City Attorney is that the November 10, 2008, meeting of the HPC was a valid Public Hearing, even though there was no testimony under oath, no audio recording of the meeting and no transcript of the proceedings.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When we were kids...

I received this great email today and don't have a clue who originated it. If anyone knows of a copyright on it, please let me know.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1920's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's !!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and, when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes; not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

Take-away food was limited to fish and chips; no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Red Rooster.

Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death!

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy fruit tingles and some crackers to blow up frogs with.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because...... WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and cubby houses and played in creek beds with matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes; no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears!

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross buns at Easter, really!

We were given BB guns and sling shots for our 10th birthdays.

We drank milk laced with Strontium 90 from cows that had eaten grass covered in nuclear fallout from the atomic testing at Maralinga in 1956.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!

Footy had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

Our teachers used to belt us with big sticks and leather straps and bullies always ruled the playground at school.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

Our parents got married before they had children and didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kiora' and 'Blade'.

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 70 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

U.S. Flag needs replacement

For several weeks I've been watching the U.S. Flag in front of the Moose Lodge on Clay Street become more and more tattered. Since I'm not a Moose, I've hesitated to call the lodge and suggested that they replace the flag. (To enlarge the image, click on it; then hit the Back button on your browser.)
Has not any member of the Moose Lodge noticed how this flag is deteriorating and reported it to the Lodge manager?
What's more disrespectful? A tattered U.S. Flag or a naked flagpole?
Last summer I did call property management companies of two shopping centers near Northwest Highway and Virginia Road in Crystal Lake. Neither property manager returned my calls, but eventually they removed the tattered flags and then did not replace them!
Flags cost money and they don't last long. Where are they made? Taiwan? Is there a company that produces a U.S. Flag that will last longer than three months?
The U.S. Flag Code has a provision about removal of tattered and torn flags. Unfortunately, the Flag Code has no enforcement provisions and no penalties.
Here's an idea for an entrepreneur. Start a business of renting or leasing U.S. Flags to commercial property owners, with the guarantee to replace flags as they become tattered. If they are removed soon enough, a little sewing might get them back in service. Any takers?

Fair Warning

Heading home last night about 9:00PM I passed this very visible warning on Cass Street on the west side of the Woodstock Square, across from Chase Bank. The purpose? To warn motorists not to park on the Square after 11:00PM. Much of Woodstock ten inches of snow remained on the streets of the Square, making parking difficulty and reducing the number of available parking spaces.

Three electronic panels gave ample warning of the 11:00PM time (time panel not shown), but what about any unlucky motorist who entered the Square from eastbound Jackson, Dean or westbound Jackson Streets and parked before passing the electronic sign?

After enjoying an evening at a Woodstock restaurant, would the driver return to find his car gone? I didn't look for other signs; regular "snow-prohibition" parking signs might be there.
6:59PM As a matter of fact, there are warning signs posted all around the Square, alerting drivers to the parking prohibition. And they look new.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deputy Schlenkert v. Merit Commission

Just before closing this afternoon, the decision became available and the Circuit Court clerk's office printed off a copy for me of the decision in Case No. 08 MR 21, Deputy Bob Schlenkert versus the Sheriff's Department Merit Commission.

Let's skip to the bottom line.

Judge Maureen IcIntyre ruled on December 17, 2009 (sic) - (oops! No doubt she meant 2008!) that the "...Decision of the Sheriff's Merit Commission was arbitrary and unreasonable in terminating Deputy Schlenkert for cause. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Decision of the Sheriff's Merit Commission of McHenry County is reversed."

In a 10-page decision on Wednesday Judge McIntyre ruled in Deputy Schlenkert's favor in Case No. 08 MR 21, filed by Deputy Schlenkert against the SHERIFF'S MERIT COMMISSION OF McHENRY COUNTY, JANELLE CROWLEY, Chairperson, PATRICK McANDREWS, GLORIA URCH, WILLIAM MACK and BRIAN GOODE, Members of the Sheriff's Merit Commission of McHenry County, KEITH NYGREN, Sheriff of McHenry County, and COUNTY OF McHENRY, Kenneth Koehler, Chairman.

Deputy Schlenkert has been a McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy since January 1990 and has been fighting to keep his job since May 2007. Because Schlenkert was off on medical leave for approximately two years, Sheriff Nygren decided that Schlenkert had to go back through the entire basic 12-week (480-hour) academy required of new recruits for law enforcement certification.

Although there are no State requirements for physical fitness and none at the sheriff's department, there is a "POWER" test required to be admitted to the academy. The POWER test is not a fitness-for-duty test or a physical fitness test, according to Judge McIntyre's decision. Schlenkert was already certified as a law enforcement officer, and there are no state standards or requirements for continuing education or training to maintain police certification.

The court record in this case included testimony by Sheriff Nygren, Undersheriff Lowery, and Sergeant Wagner.

Component training of academy content is offered in 40-hour blocks of time. Why would a deputy with more than 15 years' experience and already certified as as Illinois peace officer be required to go all the way back through basic training? If a refresher were needed for certain new information, he could attend only those 40-hour blocks, saving the sheriff's department considerable money in several different ways.

Sheriff Nygren had attempted to fire Schlenkert "for cause." However, Judge McIntyre found that Schlenkert did not refuse to comply with Sheriff Nygren's order regarding academy training. "On the contrary, (he) attempted to comply but failed..." certain components of physical activities required only to enter the academy (but not to participate in the 40-hour blocks of component training mentioned above).

Importantly, the Decision continued, Schlenkert's "failure to pass the test did not disqualify him from performing his duties as a certified police officer as he was neither physically or mentally unfit for duty." In other words, he was fit for duty, both physically and mentally!

Judge McIntyre's decision continues that Schlenkert is not unfit for duty and that there is nothing to indicate that he cannot adequately fulfill his duties as a deputy. "His discharge was not based on substantial misconduct or insubordination."

"This Court finds that Decision of the Sheriff's Merit Commission was arbitrary and unreasonable in terminating Deputy Schlenkert for cause."

So, how does the Merit Commission, chaired by a person who is a full-time Human Resources manager, reach such a decision?

Maybe some of you readers have an answer to this question.

Blaring Air Horns

What is the proper use of an air horn on a paramedics ambulance or a fire truck?

Yesterday afternoon while I was fueling the bug at the Clark station on Lake Avenue, I heard a siren and then an air horn. Looking toward Route 47 I could see an emergency vehicle navigating the intersection and then coming toward Kimball on Lake Avenue.

The driver of the vehicle, Woodstock Fire Rescue District No. 53, then used the air horn excessively as it approached Kimball Street.

It seems to me that the air horn is to be used "as needed" and cautiously. Its purpose is to alert drivers, not bully them.

The first rule of operating a vehicle that is using emergency equipment is to drive safely. Speed is a secondary factor. If the vehicle becomes involved in a crash, the few seconds saved by "pressing on" are lost, because the emergency vehicle won't get to its call and another vehicle will have to be dispatched.

Air horns should be used infrequently and for short bursts. If the driver can't get through, he can't get through. Sometimes, drivers of emergency vehicles have to enter an oncoming lane at an intersection. This is one of the most dangerous maneuvers, because oncoming drivers may be surprised.

If you drive with your driver's window cracked open at the top, you'll have a much better chance of hearing a siren sooner, rather than later. When you hear the siren, figure out where it's coming from. Is the emergency vehicle approaching you from behind, from the front or the side?

Are there times when emergency lights and siren should not be used at all? Sometimes their use creates problems that would not otherwise exist.

An example is when a paramedic's vehicle is enroute to Memorial Medical Center on U.S. 14 and there are no eastbound vehicles in front of it. Are lights and siren needed? No. That's NO. And, when there is heavy traffic in both directions, sometimes the driver should turn off the lights and siren, because he'll arrive faster in the normal flow of traffic than by playing dodge-'em in two lanes of traffic.

When lights and siren are used unnecessarily, westbound traffic stops because drivers don't understand Illinois law. They stop in the traffic lane, rather than only slowing and moving to the right side of the lane. It is not necessary for them to stop, unless for the safe passage of the emergency vehicle. When the emergency vehicle has a clear lane, there is no requirement for westbound traffic to stop. The danger is from the absent-minded, distracted driver who then runs up on a slowing or stopped car and pulls suddenly around it, right into the path of the eastbound emergency vehicle.

When drivers hear air horns less often, they are more likely to pay closer attention to them, improving the safety of all.

Property Taxes - a Must Read

Be sure to read Cal Skinner's McHenry County Blog about the recent meeting of McHenry County Assessors. Find it at and scroll down. You'll enjoy reading the other articles on the way to the bit about the assessors.

What planet is Supervisor of Assessments Donna Mayberry from? For example, consider this comment - taken totally out of context, of course. But why not?

"Just because the market took a dive doesn't mean people are overassessed.”

True. How about because home sales are in the toilet, new construction has stalled, banks aren't lending, foreclosures are continuing at high rates, unemployment is increasing? Now are people overassessed?

The assessors can hide behind "It's not our fault; it's the state law", while they are on the way to the piggy bank to collect $3,000 for job "performance." Phoo-ey. Where are the shoes?

But watch out for tax rates! If your asssessed valuation can't go up, the governments might try to increase tax rates to extract the gold from your fillings.

Seeing is Believing - NOT

When this view of the excavation site for the multi-purpose event venue was shown, I was reminded of a deforestation project out West that the environmentalists were having trouble stopping.

The forestry company, which was clear-cutting wide areas, claimed their clear-cutting wasn't a problem and that it couldn't be seen from the road; so what's the problem, anyway?

The environmentalists were having trouble persuading legislators of the destruction of the land and trees. What did they do?

They hired a plane and pilot and loaded up the legislators for a flight over the area of de-forestation. As the plane approached the area of clear-cutting, it flew low over the tree-tops of a heavily forested area.

And suddenly they arrived at the edge of the clear-cutting and the standing trees disappeared! For miles there were no trees!

Did the legislators get the message? You bet.

In the above image from Tuesday night's City Council meeting, the view shows the sight-line of a 6' person standing near a 10' berm just off Lily Pond Road. Notice that he cannot see what is going on beyond the berm; i.e., during the 'excavation" of the gravel on the Merryman property to be mined. The City Council was assured several times that this would not be a gravel "pit." Excavation is not to be done within two feet of the water table.

Now, of course, I wondered about heavy equipment operating on a surface only two feet over a water table. With the vibration of excavation equipment, how likely is it that equipment will punch through that last two feet? "Accidentally," of course.

And then what?

Entertainment & Sports Complex

What's really planned for the land north of the Centegra Memorial Medical Center (now to be known as "Centegra Woodstock")? Take a look at this! (Click on the image to enlarge it; then click on Back on your browser)

First class, eh? As it should be.

What's interesting is that, in the rush to pass this project through the Plan Commission and the City Council, did anyone ask about lighting? Will we have an Arlington Racetrack lighting situation? Probably. For your safety; right? Will it be low-level lighting? Will it be bright all the time or only as needed? And by sections, as needed, rather than the entire area?

And what about the impact on police services? Is one of the conditions a kick-in for increased police needs (traffic, security, emergency response)? Woodstock PD's Beat 24 will be much busier!

Stadium Traffic

Somewhere in Tuesday's pitch (no pun intended) for the stadium I think I heard one of the petitioner's representatives say the traffic impact would only be 500 cars. Click on the image to enlarge it (then hit Back on your browser).

A little later in the program possible attendance numbers were thrown out, including lawn seating for 10,000.

And, yes, if buses were used to bring spectators to the stadium, each bus might replace the use of seven cars.

The traffic impact of the baseball stadium will be huge. Let's hope it's huge. And let's hope it is planned for, with adequate parking, sufficient entrances and exits to parking, and multiple lanes for exiting U.S. Highway 14 into the stadium parking lanes. All we need is a back-up on U.S. 14 to prevent emergency personnel from using the highway, getting to Memorial Medical Center (what is its new name?) and even to the stadium itself.

No one mentioned the transportation route just north of the stadium's location. Right there, already in existence, is the Metra track. How about a new station right there and then local people-movers to the stadium and the proposed fairgrounds?

Arlington Track was crafty enough to get a stop on the Metra schedule. Start planning now, folks.

Remembering how long it took Jack Franks to persuade IDOT to spend $1,000,000 on the light at Doty Road, does anyone think that U.S. 14 will be widened and lights will be installed by Opening Game in May 2010?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Musta Missed It - Filing Deadline

This week's The Woodstock Independent carries a short "For your information" piece about the 2009 local elections. Mark Indyke will challenge Brian Sager for the Mayor's spot, and Mike Turner, Dick Ahrens and RB Thompson will not have opposition. For this reason there will be no primary.

Last Monday at 5:00PM was the closing date/time for nominating petitions. Will that get the prize for one of the best kept secrets in 2008 around Woodstock?

Where were the drums to round up challengers and contest the seats? Hello? Is anyone home? The lights are on. I think they're still on.

Let this be the last year that incumbents run for office without challenge. Every major position in the City, County or State should have more than one candidate.

The December 15 deadline should not prevent write-in challengers. Does anyone know the rules, if any, to qualify for write-in candidates? Or if you, as a write-in candidate, get more votes than either Indyke or Sager, will you be Woodstock's next Mayor?

Of course, after last Tuesday's marathon until 1:00 A.M., who'd want to be mayor or a member of the City Council?

Crime Reporting in Woodstock

Efforts continue to obtain crime reports in order to report currently what is going on in Woodstock related to crime and arrests, but, man, is it ever hard to pry information out of the Woodstock Police Department!

Back on September 22 I emailed the P.D. and asked how to be placed on the distribution list for press releases and crime reports. I prefer email, but by fax is OK; or I'll even pick them up.

When I didn't receive a reply, I emailed Chief Lowen on October 3 and requested access to these for

Chief Lowen replied on October 9 that he would continue to "supply arrest reports to the news media". When I did not begin receiving them, I re-read his email, including the message that was between the lines.

I wrote to him on November 5 and have not yet received a reply.

I wrote to him again on December 14 and have not received a reply.

Sometime back (2-3 years?) City Manager Tim Clifton told me that City employees would not reply to my repeated requests for information or action; they would acknowledge my initial request and wouldn't response further. At the time I was following up on code enforcement requests, after allowing about 30 days for action. When no apparent action had been taken on visible violations (the pick-up truck with the snowblade backed into the driveway at 721 N. Seminary is a good example; it has been there about three years), I would send in a follow-up request.

Has Chief Lowen been instructed to follow that procedure and to just ignore my follow-up requests? He has never said he would not provide these reports, only that he would continue to provide them to the media.

If that's the case, there is another way to skin the cat. The Illinois Freedom of Information Act is a powerful tool and is often used to obtain information that government entities either don't wish to divulge information or are slow to do so.

If it is necessary to file FOIA requests every week with the police department, I can do that. No problem. I can just fax the request every week, just like clockwork. Then they have the statutory period within which to respond. How much easier it would be just to provide the information.

How was this problem handled in San Diego last year?

In a message today from a San Diego resident who had found my websites, he wrote: "Our (police) department took a beating about 1 year ago in the San Diego Tribune regarding the same issue. Now we issue press releases for everything it seems like! We have a book at the front counter that people can look at that is our CAD printout for the last 30 days. I'm pretty sure it is all public records so they have to release it!"

The people of Woodstock are entitled to know of crime activity. I'll publish it quickly.

Deputy Schlenkert v. Merit Commission

It took all day but I finally learned from the McHenry County courthouse that Judge McIntyre did rule in the case of Deputy Bob Schlenkert against the McHenry County Sheriff's Department Merit Commission. Unfortunately, I learned this too late in the day to get to the courthouse before it closes at 4:30PM.

The decision seems to be in our local Bermuda Triangle. Court Administration told me it was mailed out; a very friendly and accommodating clerk told me they don't have it/can't find it. She is going to look for it, having already checked Imaging for it.

Gotta wonder where things go. It's not that far down the hall, but maybe it's on some mail delivery person's cart and he already took off for Christmas vacation. Hopefully, it didn't get mailed to the office down the hall.

In cases like this, somebody wins, somebody loses. Will the loser be a "good loser"? Only time will tell.

Stadium - Any taxes?

What are the tax ramifications of the proposed multi-purpose event venue (MPEV) and baseball stadium?

As a mining operation, the land is clearly taxable as real property. How few acres will be mined?

Will a MPEV and baseball stadium go for tax-exempt status?

At the Deember 16 City Council meeting the attorney for Merryman said the project was "privately funded" and "no tax dollars" would be involved.

Three speakers later, Bill Lee, Frontier League Commissioner, said "with tax dollars involved" and (oops!) quickly followed that with "privately funded".

Anyone else catch that? No one on the City Council did. That night would have been the time to ask questions about that!

The writer of a comment (realisticoptimism) on (12/17/08 1:09PM) quoted Councilman Dick Ahrens as having said, "... I'm just not sure that I want a 120 acres of what could potentially be a strong commercial or industrial corridor in Woodstock taken up with a nonprofit organization, something that doesn't have the ability to generate potentially high-paying jobs [or] strong property taxes to contribute to our tax base."

As for the jobs that will be created, if they are construction jobs, will McHenry County laborers be employed? Or will Chicago-area or even out-of-state construction workers build it? And the jobs at the MPEV? We're talking most minimum-wage jobs. How much skill does it take to hold an electronic ticket-counter or serve hot dogs?

The City Council sniffed around the edge of a ticket tax. You can count on this one. The mayor said, cleverly, that the City wouldn't aim a ticket tax just at the baseball stadium. You have to read between the lines here.

No, the City will tax all sales of tickets for any professional or semi-professional baseball games played within the corporate limits of City of Woodstock. Is that broad enough for you?

Schlenkert's case - over or still next week?

Rumor has it that Judge McIntyre had ruled in favor of McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Bob Schlenkert in his case against the Sheriff's Department Merit Commission. But when I called the courthouse later in the day, a court clerk told me the case is still scheduled for next week.

I thought it strange that Judge McIntyre would have ruled early and issued a decision on a case that was continued from last Monday, Dec. 15, until next Tuesday, Dec. 23. If she did, that deprived the press of an opportunity to be present when the case was heard again (as scheduled) and to hear her decision in her own words. Is this what happened?

Certainly, this is an interesting twist of events. When more is available, you can read it here.

Sgt. Gorski's Case - Delayed Once More

At 9:00AM Judge McIntyre was to issue her written opinion in the case of Woodstock Police Chief Robert Lowen against the City's own 3-man Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. Yesterday I learned that the decision will not be rendered today; the case has been continued.

I call this the "Gorski Case" - not because Chief Lowen's case is against Sgt. Gorski, a 19-year veteran of the Woodstock Police Department who suffered two on-the-job disabling back injuries, but because he is the one being harmed by this case and the continual delays. His pay stopped a year ago. Although the BOFPC directed the Chief and the City to pay him all his back pay on February 14, 2009 (the Findings and Decision are public record, although not published anywhere by the City), the City has not done so. Can't they find the checkbook?

Now, there could be many reasons for the delay. Perhaps Gorski told his attorneys to delay it because he didn't want any taxable income this year.

Maybe he told his attorneys to delay it because he didn't want to spoil his childrens' holiday celebration. He may have already told them there won't be any gifts and, if the City pays him now, his kids will say he lied to them.

Maybe he'd have to settle up with any creditors who have been waiting patiently for the City to pay him the money so ordered ten (that's TEN) months ago.

Maybe his attorney took pity on the financial plight of the City of Woodstock, which might be running short on paper to print his check and asked the judge to hold off on the decision to give the City time to restock its paper supply.

Psst. He'll take cash and he'll even pick it up to save the City the $.42 to mail it to him.

Did the Grinch visit the McHenry County Courthouse?

Wrong Date - Too Late

When the Woodstock City Council set May 1, 2014, for the date by which the baseball stadium is to be built on the Merryman mining project land, it picked the wrong date.

This project was rushed through the Plan Commission and the City Council to accommodate Tom Merryman's position that he wouldn't do the deal if the City Council didn't approve it on December 16. When that statement was made, had I been mayor, I'd have said, "Too bad; so sad. Let's go home."

The pitch was that the site for the baseball stadium needed to be "pad-ready" in the Spring of 2009 to allow time for building the stadium in time for opening day of the 2010 baseball season.

So why the 2014 date? Does anyone doubt that mining activity will commence right away? Could Merryman mine gravel for five years and walk away, just saying, "Well, the stadium guys didn't do their part; not my fault."

This is not likely, if the baseball guys are to be believed. It appears that they are anxious to bring the Frontier League (who???) to Woodstock.

Let's hope they do. For me, the question remains. Why 2014? Why five years down the road? Why did the Council not, instead, create a progress schedule for construction and condition the mining on that?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Theater buys 215 Main St.

At the December 16 City Council meeting the sole bid for 215 Main Street was opened, and the purchase of 215 Main Street was awarded to the operating group of Classic Cinemas for its bid of $178,400. This will allow its desired expansion of the Woodstock movie theater.

During the open comment period one resident voiced concern about the sale of the property to the theater group, saying that acceptance of the bid was "tacit approval" of the theater’s expansion plans. He commented further that three-quarters of the block would be owned by one business entity and, if they went out of business in ten years, Woodstock would have a large white elephant right downtown.

This man, and others who spoke last night, are to be commended for their interest and concerns about the security and future of our City and for their willingness to approach the City Council and speak up.

City Council member RB Thompson asked about the assessed valuation of the property that was to be sold and whether staff had compared the bid with amount of the bid.

The one-word answer, “Yes”, was totally inadequate for the audience but apparently satisfied RB, because he did not ask the further and obvious question as to just what the assessed valuation was. So we were left wondering whether the bid was somewhat close to Fair Market Value (which might not be anywhere close to the appraised value) or above or below Fair Market Value and by what amount.

The property is not found on the McHenry County Treasurer’s rolls, probably because it is owned by the City of Woodstock and not taxable. As soon as the assessed valuation (and any other valuation) is found, I’ll report it below.

Watch for a Comment below or a future article about the value of the property.

Police Discretion - Abused?

Back on September 26, 2008, the Northwest Herald reported an accident the previous day on Route 47 involving a van and a motorcycle. An Illinois State Police trooper was northbound on Route 47 on his police motorcycle and failed to slow before hitting a vehicle near Route 176.

There was no mention of citations in the article. Knowing that often citations are not issued to law enforcement officers who are involved in accidents and who are at fault in the accident, I called the press officer at the State Police district in Elgin for information. I had to call twice to reach her, only to find that she had no information about the accident.

On October 20 I contacted the trooper in charge of the motorcycle enforcement bureau, and he hadn't seen the accident report yet. He had requested the report a few earlier after receiving a message from me, and he told me he'd call me back after receiving it.

When he didn't call me back, I filed a Freedom of Information request with the State Police on November 11. On December 13 I received the response - a two-page, standard crash report.

The cause? "Failing to reduce speed to avoid crash."

The report does not indicate that any ticket was issued. Had a civilian run into the rear of a vehicle stopped in the highway and waiting to turn left, would he have been ticketed? Of course!

Should the trooper have been ticketed? Yes.

A ticket to a driver, even a trooper, is not a life-changing event. You just pay it and go on with your life. Many drivers, including troopers, drive a lot of miles in a year or in a career. For a trooper (or other law enforcement officer) not to be ticketed in an at-fault accident is a glaring error that indicates, to me, favoritism and abuse of the discretion granted to officers as to whether or not they should issue a ticket.

How does a trooper explain ticketing a civilian driver but not a fellow trooper? Would any defense attorney make hay on that one in court, if he were defending a driver cited by the investigating trooper?

When operating a motorcycle or driving a patrol car on patrol (not in pursuit), the driver is just like anyone else who is driving a motor vehicle as part of his employment. He is expected to obey all traffic rules. And he ought to experience same consequences as any other driver.

I'm once again reminded of the story of a rookie, black police officer in the South who got into an accident while enroute to a call. It was his fault, so he wrote himself a ticket. Where did he end up in police work? Chief of the Charleston (S.C.) Police Department!

Mining/Stadium Plan - only one No

Councilman Dick Ahrens was the lone wolf last night. After asking questions that revealed his consideration of and sensitivity to the pleas by residents and other interested parties for the City Council to delay its decision on the Merryman mining project, Dick voted "No", standing alone while the mayor and the other five Council members voted in favor of the special use permit with 50 (I think that was the final number) Conditions.

Dick's vote was the right vote. Most present last night were not against the project. What many were against was the rush to approve it without full consideration.
Click on the image to enlarge it. Look at the size of the project. See that "little" area at the bottom that is the Memorial Medical Center campus? Then click on the Back button on your browser to return to The Woodstock Advocate.

It was 1:00AM, and I didn't stick around to ask Dick his reason(s) for voting against approval.

Thanks, Dick. Whatever your reasons were, your decision is noted.

Gravel Truck Traffic

Woodstock City Council member RB Thompson raised important issues at last night's marathon City Council meeting about the gravel-hauling truck traffic to be generated by the Merryman mining project.

Tom Merryman expects to mine 1,000,000 tons over a seven-year period. Someone's calculator worked, and that came out to 142,000 tons/year - on the average. How many trucks loaded with gravel will pull out on U.S. Highway 14 in a year? 6,500 trucks per year. On the average.

OK, so 6,500 trucks/year = "only" 22 trucks a day, assuming 300 working days with mining hours of 7AM-9PM Monday-Saturday, as approved. On the average.

Of course, averages don't really mean anything. They are just numbers.

RB was on the right track with his questions, but he didn't push hard enough. Any driver who has ever pulled up to the stop sign on Lily Pond Road at Route 14 (by the closed LaTejanita Restaurant (which is becoming a used vehicle lot (it's in the County, not the City))) knows it is almost impossible to turn left to go to Crystal Lake. And most of the trucks will be turning left, according to statements last night. Turning right (toward Woodstock) is hard enough; turning left - safely - is next to impossible.

Now imagine that you are the driver of a gravel truck hauling 22 tons of aggravate just loaded. You wait and wait, and then you wait some more. Finally, you see a little opening and you start across the westbound lane, hoping eastbound drivers will slow (probably sharply). Gravel trucks are not known for rapid acceleration; right?

What the heck! If they hit you, there will be far greater damage to their shiny SUVs than to your gravel truck.

Will Woodstock have to annex the LaTejanita property and buy the restaurant for a police sub-station to handle all the accidents? Will Woodstock Fire & Rescue partner with the P.D.? Fire trucks and paramedics will certainly be needed at the accident scenes.

Can Lily Pond Road handle 6,500 trucks at 22 tons each?

Thanks, RB, for raising your important questions. Too bad the full answers didn't show up.

Wha' Happened?

What really happened at last night's Woodstock City Council meeting?

The bottom line - on the table was a request for special use permit to begin mining gravel in Woodstock on the north side of U.S. Route 14, west of Lily Pond Road.

I suspect a lot of people in Woodstock thought the City Council was voting on a multi-purpose event venue, including a minor league baseball stadium and a new home for the McHenry County Fairgrounds.

One speaker asked if the City Council would rush through the permit process if the request were ONLY for a mining project. If the Council had an answer for that one, I didn't hear it.

The Petitioner claimed, through his attorney, that he would abandon the entire project if the City Council didn't approve it last night.

Whoa! Did Woodstock slide on the ice into Chicago last night?

No one (no City Council member, including the Mayor) asked just what the rush was to get the permit approved last night. Words slid around about timing, urgency, intimations that the seller wasn't going to sell the land (at the same price?) if the Council didn't approve it at that meeting.

Another speaker asked the Council to delay its decision and take time to study an important environment report that was delivered to the City only the day before. He referred to "transparency" in dealings and said, "If the proposal can't stand a one-month delay, then there is something wrong with the proposal."

The Council and the Petitioner continued to skate around on the ice on one final sticking point. Everybody was tired by 12:30AM, and confusion was mounting over word-smithing of a final condition at the last minute. Had sufficient time been taken to work out details before the Council meeting, the meeting would have been 2-3 hours, not 6 hours. That's SIX hours. (Maybe I'll re-think my position on Council pay. At least, they don't get paid by the hour.)

The deal started out with 48 Conditions attached to the Plan Commission's recommendation for approval. Will we ever know why the Plan Commission voted (unanimously, which is unexplainable) to clear the request with a record-setting 48 Conditions?

The last condition? (unless I closed my eyes (and ears) too many times between midnight and 1:00AM) If the stadium doesn't get started by May 2014, then no further mining can occur. If anyone thought Woodstock was voting on a baseball stadium and not a mining project, he should have stayed to the end of the meeting.

Merryman's claim is that the construction of the stadium must start in the Spring of 2009 in order to be ready for the first game in 2010. Can a ballpark be built in a year? Stadiums, buildings, parking. Wetlands protected. Environment studies. Stormwater management studies.

One thing is for sure. The mining will start.

Ticket Quotas - Yea or Nay?

The question was, Should cops have ticket quotas?. The results of this survey?

No 26 (46%)
Yes 31 (54%)

Thanks to the 57 readers for participating in this survey.

Early in the week-long survey, the Yes's ran ahead in the voting. Then the No's pulled even, and at the end the Yes's moved ahead again.

Having performance standards is one thing; having quotas is another. With my bent toward traffic violations, I see a lot of them. So writing traffic tickets often seems to me to be a no-brainer. And yet I remember the days when I had time to "hide behind billboards" (that sort of "dates" me, doesn't it?), just waiting for a speeder or a driver to roll through a stop sign or a driver to pass illegally in a no-passing zone.

Where did they all go? Was there a spotlight on my car? Was some kid standing down the block with a sign reading "Cop ahead"?

Seeing traffic violations and not taking action is a "performance" problem and can be corrected through supervision and training.

Coming up to the end of the month 4-5-6 tickets short of your quota is a problem, because it means the cop or deputy then has to write tickets to stay out of his supervisor's crosshairs. And that's where the quota requirement goes awry.

Sometimes a little "roadside counseling" gets the job done, and the cop knows it. The driver understands and acknowledges the error, the cop doesn't believe it to be a "habit", and a Warning will suffice. Then there are times when a driver "cops" an attitude and a situation that might have resulted in a Warning becomes one in which a ticket is issued.

Discretion should be just that. Not favoritism (because the driver flashes his badge at the deputy or because he has an LE or FF license plate or a "police association donation" decal in the back window or because the driver says "my wife (or husband or brother or sister-in-law or best friend's niece's father-in-law's second wife) is a cop in (name the local town).

And discretion must not be taken away from the officer, just because it's the end of the month and he "has to" make his numbers.

Mining Plan Gets Green Light - 6-1

As one man put it, "Why rush to judgement?" Because it works.

In spite of an incomplete application to the Woodstock Plan Commission for a special use permit and in spite of solidly-based requests for delay in decision, late Tuesday night the Woodstock City Council voted 6-0 and gave a green light to the Merryman group for a special use permit to mine the east end of a tract roughly across the road from Memorial Medical Center and toward Lily Pond Road.

Many who spoke urged the City Council not to rush into its decision, and they gave good reasons for delaying. One important environmental report was not received by the City until yesterday. When one speaker asked for the report to be summarized by a staff member, the mayor refused to allow it. It may have been one of the reports which should have been submitted to the Plan Commission before a decision was made there. Points of law were raised and ... well, more about this another time.

More later today...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoo, Bush!

One has to wonder whether Dubya got the "message", when Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi threw his shoes at him in Baghdad.

al-Zeidi reportedly shouted, "This is a farewell kiss, you dog. This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

A courageous man, that journalist.

According to Associated Press reporter, Robert Reid, "Shoes hold a special place in the Arab lexicon of insults as a show of contempt - effectively saying, you're lower than the dirt on my shoes. Even sitting with the sole of a shoe pointed at another person is seen as disrespectful." (AP, December 16, 2008)

U.S. news has never continually reported the number of deaths and injuries of Iraqi citizens resulting from the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Opinion Research Business survey (2003-2007) places the number of violent deaths in Iraq at 1,033,000 as a result of the "conflict." OVER ONE MILLION. And that doesn't include 2008.

Bush's actions and "leadership" (a word I hesitate to associate with him) have resulted in the United States being hated in Iraqi.

Maybe it's time to re-read The Ugly American.

Stadium - What's the rush???

The Woodstock City Council meets tonight. Number 1 on the agenda is the proposal for a gravel pit near Memorial Medical Center. They don't call it a "gravel pit"; it's "excavation" to prepare the lot for a multi-purpose event venue. A Northwest Herald says the developer will "mine gravel." I'll bet she hit the name on the head.

The Plan Commission approved the plan earlier this month with 48 conditions. That's FORTY-EIGHT conditions. How many have been met so far? Ten? Five? One?

How did this thing get greased up so well that it slid onto the Agenda on such short notice?

A search on the Northwest Herald website last year revealed the article after the December Plan Commission meeting. This morning it cannot be found. Good thing I printed it last night.

PC Member Carlos Acosta, according to the Northwest Herald said "voting against it (the plan) was futile because of the political climate." PC Member Doreen Paluch also questioned the proposed plan; "How can we proceed with an incomplete application?"

And then the PC passed it unanimously. That's how. So much for dissent... Why didn't at least those two have the guts to stand up and vote against it?

Crystal Lake just rejected such a plan. Go to and search for "Woodstock stadium". You can read articles about the rejection in Crystal Lake.

What about environmental studies? Where is IDOT in this project? U.S. Highway 14 is one lane in each direction. Does anyone in his right mind think IDOT is going to widen Highway 14 to four-six lanes for sufficient distance to accommodate an entertainment venue and do it in 2009? Give me a break! Make that, give me a brake...

There is something else going on here, for this thing to move so fast.

Why did the Plan Commission approve the project with 48 conditions, rather than establishing the conditions and telling the developer to come back after he has accomplished most of them?

What consequences (penalties!) will be placed on the developer, should he not complete the project? We're in a recession, and a project like this floats onto the table?

The project hasn't even reached the City Council yet, and Councilman Webster is all for it. Seems to me that he ought to be withholding eager approval until he has heard the scoop AT the City Council meeting AND has heard from the public.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sheriff's Dept. Legal Fees

Just how much is it costing McHenry County taxpayers for legal fees being paid on behalf of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department? Whether the State's Attorney's office is representing the sheriff's department or a private law firm, what is the cost? Most of it is probably money that could be better spent on law enforcement activities.

A case in court this morning is a good example. Deputy Bob Schlenkert's case against the McHenry County Sheriff's Department Merit Commission was scheduled in Judge McIntyre's courtroom this morning. They'll be back in court on December 23rd at 9:00AM. Judge McIntyre's courtroom is 201, if you're not busy that morning.

As I understand it from information provided to me, Deputy Schlenkert fought successfully to get his job back and then he was required to attend the 12-week academy - even though he was an experienced deputy for quite a few years. Schlenkert missed one small portion of the physical agility/strength testing and, based on that, the sheriff's department declared him unfit for duty.

Now I ask you. If you miss one small portion of that testing, should you be tossed to the wolves?

Next time you are up at 2200 N. Seminary, look around you. Check out the beer bellys (or is it bellies); anyway, guts! Size up the deputies from toes to head. Are they fit? Many - most - are, and many of them work hard at their physical conditioning, because they never know when they will need all the physical strength they can muster. Include the supervisors and the command personnel. Are they in good physical condition?

Are there age-appropriate standards? Does a man 50 years old have to meet the same physical standards as a man 25 years old? If you can't walk up half a flight of steps without huffing and puffing, you should get a certain period of time to improve your stamina or find a new job - if that's what the standard is. It should apply to all - evenly.

And the requirements should be applied across the board without discrimination against any one or a few. How many deputies have been out of service for over a year but, when they came back, they did not have to participate in re-training or go through the Academy before returning to duty?

The sheriff's department must be spending a bundle on defense in the Gauger case. That one is written about elsewhere. I knew a man in Colorado who was falsely accused of rape. The victim told police that his wasn't the truck involved and that he wasn't the rapist. Yet they kept after him. He eventually won $1,100,000 from two sheriff's departments, two District Attorneys and one police department.

School Bus Delays

This morning I got stuck behind a school bus in Woodstock on northbound Seminary Avenue at Jackson, which was stopped for a long time with its red lights flashing. When I pulled up behind it, I could see no students boarding, but there were 4-5 women (parents?) milling around the front door of the bus.

After a minute of two the parents walked away. It was bitter cold and the wind was blowing, making the windchill factor about -10 degrees F. And still the bus did not move. I missed the class on Patience, and I honked the horn to let the driver know that cars were waiting behind the bus.

And still the bus didn't move. And the red lights continued to flash. Not being one who wanted to be the recipient of a $250 ticket for passing a stopped school bus (and the court costs and the 90-day loss of license), I waited. Then I honked again.

Finally the driver turned off the red lights, and oncoming traffic passed. And still the bus didn't move. Perhaps the driver was being passive-aggressive and making me wait longer, as retaliation for my impatience. So be it. There was no opportunity to pass, because the bus was stopped in the traffic lane, out from the curb, and right at the intersection with East Jackson Street.

I suspected that a disabled or wheelchair-bound student had boarded this bus. In a call to the D200 Transportation Department I was told that the bus must remain stopped until the disabled student's wheelchair has been secured, because the State says so. Also, that the red lights must continue to flash until the student's wheelchair has been secured.

The bus could remain stopped, as the driver is probably the only person on board to secure the student. But the red lights could be turned off and the yellow lights activated, which would allow motorists to pass the stopped bus. Apparently, the State Board of Education doesn't like that, but it makes sense to me.

Huge traffic delays also occur on Route 47, when a bus stops for a disabled student to board or get off. There is no reason in the world to halt traffic while a student in a wheelchair is assisted off the bus. The student is not going to run out in traffic and get hit by a passing car!

I shall be first to want the student and the bus driver to be safe. But common sense needs to prevail. Bus routes should be slightly adjusted to accommodate not only students, but also motorists. The bus for the student on Route 47 could pull around the corner on Grove Street. Or, at the least, shut off the red lights after the student is on the bus, and leave the yellow lights flashing for the time it takes to secure the wheelchair. If the student is leaving the bus, turn on the red lights only during the time that the student is leaving the bus.

Any thoughts on this?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Woodstock Police - Still no contract

I wonder how many Woodstock residents realize that the officers of the Woodstock Police Department continue to work their shifts and perform their duties, in spite of having no contract with the City. The officers "organized" a while back; that is, they formed a union and hoped to benefit from collective bargaining.

Their contract expired about a year ago, and no agreement has been reached on a new one. Apparently, police officers cannot strike, so we still see police cars around town and occasionally hear their sirens and see the overhead lights in operation.

What if we had a Republic Windows & Doors sit-in right here in Woodstock? Just picture this. Officers show up in uniform for their shifts, go to roll call, sit and listen to the non-union sergeant drone on and on about responsibility and duty and obligation and shutting off the engines (even though it's 10 degrees outside) and so on. Then the sergeant tells them to go out, check the equipment in their cars, test the lights and sirens, and get to work.

But this day the officers just sit there. They'd like to go to work, but there is no contract. The dispatchers get swamped with calls, and the sergeants are running all over town, trying to handle all the calls themselves. What if they get hurt on the job? What if there is a disagreement with a supervisor? What if they are threatened with discipline while merely doing their jobs? Will the union's lawyer represent them, if there is no contract? What are they paying their dues for, if there is no contract?

"You know, sarge, if we had a contract, we'd all be happy as clams and be glad to go out on the streets of Woodstock and chase jewelry store robbers, speeders, break up fights, investigate accidents involving cops and let them go - why, we'll do our duty. We'll protect and serve. All we need is the contract, sarge..."

No one even takes Brinx outside. He sits in the rollcall room for eight hours with the rest of his officers. Kind of hard on the kidneys, but life is tough.

So, where is the contract? Why hasn't it been completed, accepted and put away for another 1-2-3 years? Where is the good-faith bargaining?

Cops are reasonable employees, just like the rest of the City employees. If there really is no money for pay increases and benefits (and no other employees are getting pay increases or benefits), I'll bet they will accept that and wait for better times.

OK, officers, weigh in here. Post your comments. What do you think are the reasons that no new contract has been signed? How long will you continue to work without a contract?

ISP Website - Misleading

On September 15 I wrote with excitement about G-Rod's August 8th announcement related to Photo Speed Enforcement (PSE or "PhotoRadar") on Illinois highways. I thought that all my emails, faxes, letters and prayers over the years had done some good.

Well, thinking doesn't make it so. I got to wondering when the State legislators had put one past the public by enacting the new law to allow PSEs. It turns out they haven't.

So, G-Rod was tooting his horn, and Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent was holding the music. From the looks and smell of the big announcement on the homepage of the Illinois State Police (, it looked like a done-deal. Half-baked, is more like it. Now I wonder why the State Police are misleading the public by keeping this announcement on their website.

In the words of one legislator, "The ISP website is misleading."

For the life of me, I can't figure out what the legislators are really waiting for. The technology exists. Troopers, prosecutors and judges can be educated. And the defense lawyers will be happy with the boost to their income from all the speeders who flock to their doors.

Speeding in Illinois will never be stopped or even slowed by troopers' writing one ticket at a time. While the trooper is writing that one ticket, hundreds of speeders fly by undisturbed.

If Photo Speed Enforcement cameras were mounted over each lane of traffic on Illinois highways and placed at five-mile intervals around Chicago on interstates, other limited access highways (such as the Elgin-O'Hare Speedway) and the Illinois Tollway, it wouldn't take too long for speeders to catch on and slow down.

Just imagine a speeder from Wisconsin entering Illinois near Beloit and heading for Indiana. At $100/ticket, he'd probably get nailed 6-10 times! Talk about a revenue-generator! Illinois would come sailing out of red ink and head right on into a balanced budget and big pay-offs of State debt.

Drivers today ignore the "Speed Enforced by Radar" signs, but maybe that would change.

And once again Illinois highways would become safe for the three of us today who already obey speed limits.

At What Cost?

Today's papers reveal George Bush's secret "vacation" to Iraq - just a little week-end jaunt, don't ya know? What a joke!

What is this trip costing taxpayers? How many planes? How much fuel? Planning. Secret Service. Security.

That guy and Gov. Rod must be out of the same mold. Total insensitivity to the world around them. Is he trying to boost his ratings?

Where's the countdown meter on Bush? How many more days until January 20?

And what will a Presidential Library cost? Let it be filled with all the books Bush has read. One room ought to do it.

How Times Do Change

Remember when, and it wasn't all that long ago, that fireworks broke out on the Square (well, near the Square), when Fat Tony's Comics put an A-frame advertising sign out on its sidewalk to attract business? Tony's was on Washington (or is it Church St. there?), just west of the train tracks.

As I recall, it was a small sign - just something to alert passersby that his store was there. Oh, all the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands - and threats of fines.

Well, apparently times have changed. I'm not sure who the sponsor of this sign is (and another sign just like it over at the top of Main Street). From the looks of the logo the sign could belong to the Chamber of Commerce.

Now I don't oppose tasteful, professionally-created, small A-frame signs. They can compliment a business and draw attention not only to the business that is advertising, but to other merchants.

So thanks to the City for relaxing its sign ordinance and realizing that merchants who stay in business pay sales taxes. Well, actually it's the customers who pay the taxes; the merchant just collects and forwards them.

Resign or Be Impeached?

This is not the question.

If Blago conducted himself in an impeachable manner, then impeachment proceedings should commence. Now! What are our elected reps waiting for?

This might hasten his resignation. The threat of impeachment will not faze him. Action is what will get his attention.

And if he resigns? Should that halt impeachment? What are the consequences of impeachment and then a finding of guilt, should such a finding result? Only loss of office?

Or is there something more severe?

Elected Representatives, stop posturing and blowing hot air. Act!

Thursday = Gorski Decision?

On Thursday, December 18, Judge Maureen McIntyre is to rule on the what might be popularly called "the Gorski case" in Woodstock. It's not really the "Gorski" case, but there is one man who is affected most by this decision - Sgt. Steve Gorski, a 19-year veteran of the Woodstock Police Department.

The case is really the City of Police (its Police Department) vs. the City's Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (the City's 3-man civilian advisory board related to fire and police services). In other words, the City is getting hammered two ways by legal expenses. It's paying for BOTH the Plaintiff's expenses and the Defendants' expenses, except it isn't paying for one employee's defense expenses - yet.

Ten months ago Woodstock's Board of Fire and Police Commissioners dismissed all charges against Sgt. Gorski and directed the police department and the City to pay Sgt. Gorski all of his back wages. Unfortunately, instead of reaching for the checkbook, it sent the City Attorney to court to allege that the BOFPC had not made the right decision and had not made its decision in the right way.

The Board had accepted Gorski's attorney's request for a directed verdict in favor of Gorski, which meant that, in spite of 4 1/2 months of wrangling, statements, testimony, TIME, LEGAL FEES, the Board did not need to hear anything from Gorski before ruling in his favor. In other words, Chief Lowen had not proved his case and could not fire Sgt. Gorski. For more information about this case, search on this site for "Gorski".

A month later the Chief filed for an Administrative Hearing in Circuit Court. And there the matter has dragged on and on. Could the judge have ruled in April? Probably.

Prediction 1: Judge McIntyre will rule against the Chief and uphold the decision of the BOFPC. If she does, how fast with the City pay Gorski?

Prediction 2: If Judge McIntyre rules in favor of the Chief, the case goes back to the BOFPC.

If that happens, a Special Meeting of the BOFPC will have to be called, unless the Board malingers and delays to its March 2009 meeting. What will happen at this meeting? The Chief has already completed his testimony, so he shouldn't be allowed any opportunity to speak further. The Board will hear from Gorski. What will they ask? His name, rank and badge number. Will they need to hear anything else? Not at all.

The Board has already ruled that the Chief didn't make his case. The problem was that the City Attorney apparently believed that the Board did not have the right to grant the request for a "directed verdict." So the Board will need to hear from Gorski.

The Board doesn't need to hear much from Gorski, since it has already decided that the chief did not make his case for firing Gorski. So the Board might ask this question of Sgt. Gorski. "Is there anything you would like to say to further destroy the chief's case?" He'll be polite and professional and answer, "No."

He could tell the 3-man Board what he thinks is the real reason for being in the crosshairs of the chief's sights. So that all is clear here, the only conversation I've had with Steve since becoming aware of his case is to ask about his health. You know, the ol' "How are you?" Steve has good legal representation, and he has done what every good law client should do. Talk only to his attorney.

Thursday, December 18, 2009. 9:00AM, according to the court clerk. Room 201. But I've also heard 8:30AM, so that's when I'll be there.

A request to the Court and to the attorneys and all who will testify. Please speak up so that you can be heard in the courtroom. Too often judges permit testimony in hushed tones that cannot be heard.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Good Ol' Days

In the early 1970s, when I was in the life insurance business in Denver, a client gave me his last copy of the gimmick Annual Report that his company had purchased. I was slow to return it, although I always reminded him that I had it. I figured he might give it to someone else, who wouldn't return it. Years later, he found more copies of it and told me I could keep the copy I had.

I always intended to make a slide show (hey, I know that concept is out-dated now) out of it and get 35mm slides to show the report at meetings.

A few years ago I made a copy of it but still never got it into a PowerPoint presentation.

And, then, this week I received an email with a link to Take a look at its Annual Report. It's a kick.

Frucall - a new pricing service

When you head out to shop for a certain item, do you ever wonder if you are getting a good price? or the lowest price?

A new online service, also available from your cell phone or PDA, is Frucall. For complete information, go to

When you are in a store and looking at an item that is screaming your name and "Buy me. Buy me", just check the price by dialing 888-DO-FRUCALL and entering the UPC. You'll need to sign up (free) for the service first, and then be ready to shop. Frucall will check prices from online services for you.

There are excellent reasons to buy from the retailer in whose store you are standing. You may get great customer service. You can ask questions and get your answers on the spot. You can take the item home with you right then.

We do not want a town with a bunch of kiosks with computer ordering stations and no retail stores, so be sure to support your local merchants. If there is a wide disparity in pricing between the item's price and pricing via the Frucall service, you might ask the retailer for a discount for immediate purchase.

Watch Those Rail Crossings

Woodstock installed warning signs at many of our railroad crossings earlier this year, alerting motorists and pedestrians to a $250 fine for crossing while the gates, lights and/or bells were in operation. Trains have been kind of hard on cars during the past two weeks in Illinois, and perhaps a reminder will help some who are tempted to make a run for it.

Thursday I watched a driver "gun" it as the gates started down, passing under the gate just before it reached the roof of his SUV. He wasn't in immediate danger of getting hit by the train, because gates go down before the train crosses the roadway. Had a police officer been stopped on the roadway beyond, that dumb trick would have cost him $250.

In Fox River Grove they are even more serious about railroad crossings. A similar sign at railroad crossings there warns drivers of a $500 fine. (Click on photo to enlarge it; then hit the Back button on your browser.)

An additional word of caution. After the train passes, wait for the gates to go all the way up and the lights and bells to stop. Sometimes a train coming in the opposite direction will trigger the gates to go back down. The law is - don't cross when the signals are operating.

It won't be just the fine. If you go to McHenry County Traffic Court, you can probably count on about $200 for court costs, in addition to the fine.