Sunday, August 31, 2008

Let's Be Frank about Rubes

Let the movement spread throughout McHenry County to keep Rubes in the Northwest Herald on a daily basis. You can do your part by

1. contacting the newspaper (see contact information in the earlier article), and
2. spreading the word and asking others to email and phone the paper - now.

To my friends here in this area who like my given name as much as I do, I thought you'd enjoy this cartoon. (Click on the cartoon to enlarge it.)

Thanks to Leigh Rubin for permission to reprint this cartoon!

Rubes Cartoon - Going, going....

I could read the Northwest Herald online (only), but it's my choice to continue my subscription to the print edition, which is delivered faithfully to my door every morning by the same carrier who has brought it for three years. The first cartoon I read is Rubes, by Leigh Rubin. I get a good chuckle every day.

There are other cartoons I read, too, but, if time is limited, I make sure to read Rubes.

Now the Northwest Herald is about to dump Rubes. Chris Krug writes about changes on Page 2 today.

Well, Chris, how about changing back and deciding to keep Rubes. Just make a little more room, or stick it on a news page. We could use the lift. Chris wrote that "reader feedback" helped the Northwest Herald decide which to keep and which to can. What reader feedback was that? I must have missed that issue.

If YOU would like the Northwest Herald to keep Rubes, there are certain folks at the Northwest Herald to contact.

Sr. Managing Editor Dan McCaleb at or at or telephone Dan at (815) 459-4040 ext.4603.

General Manager and Executive Editor Chris Krug: 815-459-4122 or via e-mail at

Write or call today. Don't wait. The sooner they hear, and the more readers who comment, the better the chance that Rubes will still appear in the Northwest Herald.

Viking Dodge vs. Wayne Beto

Yesterday I stopped again to visit with Wayne Beto in "his" parking place on U.S. 14 at IL 176, across the intersection from Viking Dodge in Crystal Lake.

Wayne's next date in court is February 2. How appropriate, right? Groundhog Day. For Wayne, this whole (melo)drama must seem like the movie, Groundhog Day. In a court case that was filed on November 3, 2006 (coming up on two years pretty soon) against him, there have been about 11 continuances. So, every court date it's the same ol', same ol', and back they come another day.

When someone files a half-million dollar lawsuit against someone else, wouldn't you think they'd be pretty anxious to get it in front of the judge and hire Brink's to help them carry the money out of the courtroom?

Having read the Complaint, my guess is about the only thing they'll carry out of the courtroom is a wastebasket full of wet Kleenex from all the tears they'll shed when the judge tells them they don't have a case. I'm not going to dissect Viking Dodge's Complaint and the charges against Wayne. Viking Dodge is suing Wayne for $500,000. Let's see if the fun begins in Circuit Court on February 2. It may be the jury trial of the century.

There are new comments posted to most, if not all, the Viking Dodge articles (below) by "Den". Thanks, Den. He took the time to post his comment to each Viking Dodge article. I guess he is hoping that anyone reading just one of the articles will learn of his experience. He also identifies a different internet complaints website, where there are postings of customers who had dealings with Viking Dodge.

While I was standing on the shoulder of Highway 14 with Wayne yesterday, a man in a red sedan yelled at Wayne and expressed his comments about prior dealings with Viking Dodge. I won't repeat them here, because I don't know his name and couldn't read his license plate number, as he waited to turn left and go west on IL 176.

If you have had dealings with Viking Dodge (good or otherwise), or if you know someone who has, how about posting your comments? Be truthful.

And if you need any help contacting Wayne to support his case, just stop and talk to him; or contact me and I'll be happy to pass along your message.

Wayne was on vacation recently and said the price of gas in Nebraska was $3.25. How come we are getting ripped off so badly here in McHenry County? I was in Springfield a week ago and paid $3.68, and that was before the price dropped here. If you want to know just how badly we are getting ripped off on the price of gasoline here, go to

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin - Who?

Beautiful downtown Wasilla, Alaska, whose former mayor rocketed to national prominence this past week.

Perhaps like many, I cannot name the governors of all 50 states. I couldn't name the governors of 10% of them. In fact, I could probably only name two and spell only one, but that's because I've sent so many communications to him to Springfield (that have been ignored).

So today I googled (should that be Googled?) Sarah Palin. You know.... the Governor of Alaska tapped by John McCain as the VP-hopeful.

Mother of five, including a child born in April with Down Syndrome. I add this only because I am fortunate to know persons with Down Syndrome and parents of some of these persons. If she thought she had a full life before, as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and as Governor, life changed big-time in April.

So, in my search for "Who is Sarah Palin?" I came across Mudflats blog I encourage you to read it. Read it almost as often as you read The Woodstock Advocate. You'll get a slant on Gov. Palin that you may not find in other news.
My thanks and appreciation to AK Muckraker for the photo from his blog. Was that from the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce?

Speed Limit Sign Down

Over a month ago this 40MPH speed limit sign was knocked down. The 4"x4" wooden post was snapped off even with the ground, but the sign appears to be undamaged. As you leave Crystal Lake on U.S. 14 and head for Woodstock, you leave the 35MPH zone just past the traffic light at South Ridgefield Road.

At this point the speed limit changes to 40MPH, and then the speed limit changes to 50MPH after you round the next curve.

No doubt that Crystal Lake Police (or McHenry County Sheriff's Department) reported this to IDOT, assuming the accident was reported. But maybe the driver just ran off the road, hit the signpost, backed up and took off.

How many police officers, deputies, and IDOT maintenance crews have driven by this downed sign? You can see where it was; all the grass is dead under it. I first noticed the sign was gone in mid-July and notified IDOT. They must be busy with potholes, or maybe there isn't any money left after the $1.8 Million spent on the rumble strips between Crystal Lake and Harvard.

Is this sign important?

Creative Speed Enforcement

Just how "creative" should a police department be in catching speeders?

A problem area in Woodstock, Ill. is eastbound Lake Avenue from Route 14 by 3 Brothers Restaurant to U.S. 14 by Farm & Fleet. The first stretch of 40MPH speed zone is two lane; i.e., one lane in each direction. Not much of a problem there, unless some impatient idiot decides to risk life and limb to pass a vehicle that is already traveling at the posted speed limit.

But, when the roadway "opens up" by the west driveway of Wal-Mart to four lanes (two lanes in each direction), watch out. Eastbound drivers in the morning view that extra lane as their pathway to NASCAR stardom.

I tend to remain in the left lane from Wal-Mart's west driveway to the light at Catalpa Lane, when I am planning to turn left onto eastbound U.S. 14. Why move over to the right lane for three blocks and then have to fight my way back into the left lane, so that I can turn left? After all, I'm moving at the speed limit. There shouldn't be anyone trying to pass me; right?

Wrong! Drivers use the right lane for a high-speed passing lane and then cut back into the left lane for the left onto U.S. 14.

Last Thursday morning was no exception. Not just one, but two cars cruised past me in the right lane and got through the changing light at Catalpa, where I stopped on the red.

And what two cars were right in front of me, after I got the green at Catalpa and pulled up at U.S. 14? The same blue Pontiac (License G22 3223) and grey Honda (License G97 6237). And the driver of the blue Pontiac was only going to some business or office on Lake Shore Drive, north of U.S. 14; late for work maybe? (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

And the grey Honda? The driver got stuck in the right lane on U.S. 14 behind a slow-moving tractor-trailer at the red light by Culver's. Karma took care of that one!

Now, how creative could the Woodstock Police Department be in catching speeders? There is no place to "hide". Parking a marked squad car by American Community Bank isn't going to work. But what will work is putting a cop with a radar gun on one of the City's riding lawn mowers and letting him sit facing traffic. With the range of radar guns, he'll easily capture the speed before the driver figures out that it's a cop on the mower, not a City Public Works employee.

Radar guns have an intermittent feature now, so that they are not "on" all the time. A radar detector won't pick up the signal until it's too late. In fact, maybe Woodstock ought to pass a City ordinance prohibiting the use of radar detectors. No one spends $200-300 on a radar detector unless s/he is a perpetual speeder.
How do I know my speed is accurate? I used to think that speedometers were a pretty good measure of speeds. Now I use my GPS for a more accurate indicator of my speed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

WANTED: Used Car

Do you know anyone with a used car s/he would like to part with - free, like to a good home? Or maybe a reliable used car for very little money, and perhaps even that promised?

Recently, another blogger referred a single mom to me for assistance here in Woodstock. One of her biggest needs right now is transportation, so that she can re-secure her employment at a major employer. She needs reliable transportation for her 40-mile daily commute. Due to her evening work schedule she cannot use the van pool.

You might even have a second or third car that is not in use that you could make available to her. You could add her as an Additional Insured on your policy, and she could pay the auto insurance premium.

If you can help or if you know someone who can, please contact me. THANKS!

A Reader's Wise Advice

Dale from Woodstock, Georgia, has just commented on my October, 20, 2007 article. Thanks for the good reminder, Dale, that I should have mentioned that I was writing about Woodstock (Illinois) High School. There is more than one Woodstock in the U.S.A. Does anyone know how many Woodstocks there are?

The original article was at

Her well-written comment is worth publishing here, as a reminder for all of us parents. Thanks, Dale! Here it is:

"There's more than one Woodstock in the nation - it'd be helpful, if you're going to gripe about Woodstock High, to specify which one you're upset with."

"As to the complaints, well . . . My daughter goes to Woodstock High here in Georgia, and she's 16, and obstinacy has never been a problem with her. She's polite and respectful, doing great in school, and her mom and I are terribly proud of her.

"Our secret? We don't get involved in power struggles with her. We're her parents, for goodness' sake - there's no need for us to prove we have either the power or the authority to enforce our will. So we don't fight with her about the inconsequential things, and when we disagree, we don't raise our voices.

"The kids' fashions and taste in music and entertainment is sometimes disappointing, but my generation certainly upset my mom's generation as well - now the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are considered classical music!

"Don't sweat the small stuff - let your children know you love them and always will, and that you're always there for them. It'll be all too soon before you see them rarely, and you'll wish you could get back that time you wasted screaming and yelling at each other, doing something more productive, more loving, with that time . . ."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DMV Customer Service

It's always fun to call the DMV in Springfield for information. Generally, you get right through, and the customer service reps are always friendly. The number, should you ever need to call them, is 800.252.8980. It's also printed on the back cover of the Rules of the Road.

Today was no exception. When I telephoned for information regarding a vehicle licensing matter, the phone was answered on the second ring (after I navigated my way through the voicetree). A cheery person identified herself and asked if I wanted to be an organ donor.

"Not today," I replied.

"How about tomorrow?" she asked.

"Hopefully, not even then," I answered.

We took care of as much business on the phone as we could, and she directed me to the DMV office for the form I would need.

Customer service was good today at the Woodstock DMV, too. After I picked up the form, I renewed my driver's license today - six months early. Didn't want to have to take the motorcycle riding test on a sheet of ice behind their building in February. In fact, I don't ever want to take it there. All I had to do was stare into the eye machine and smile for the camera, and I'm good to go for another five years.

When I taught the AARP Driver Safety Program for three years, I always told the classes that, when I get too old to drive my car, I hope I'd still be able to ride my motorcycle. Lookin' good so far...

WDBA - What Is It?

The Woodstock Downtown Business Association hosted the first of three informational meetings at its Main Street office last evening. If you care about Woodstock and its future, care enough to show up at one or both of the next meetings. They will be September 10 and September 24 at 7:00PM. The office is located at 223 Main Street (you can find that; right?).

Derik Morefield, Woodstock's Deputy City Manager for Community and Economic Development, told the audience of the changes in Woodstock since 1969. His remarks, coupled with the presentation by Nancy Baker at a recent City Council meeting, prompted me to think that a wonderful project would be development of a DVD with the history of Woodstock. With digital video cameras and computers, this could be a knock-down project for a group of interested high school or college students in partnership with the WDBA and the City.

One member of the audience raised the question of recent security on the Square. Apparently, there is a new "beat" in the police department assignments - on the Square. The increased presence of police officers is welcome on the Square, and it has also raised questions in the minds of some about the reasons for their presence.

If you'd like more information, be sure to attend the September Coffee with the Chief. Details can be found on the City's website or by telephoning the Woodstock Police Department.

The Main Street program has required considerable time of the WDBA Interim Executive Director Lucia Matlock and members of the WDBA. For general information about the Main Street program, visit Illinois Main Street is a program of the Office of the Illinois Lieutenant Governor.

OK, for ten points, who is the Illinois Lieutenant Governor? (No fair using Google.)

Find out why Downtown is important in the community. Pick up a brochure from the WDBA. Community involvement and partnership is important and wanted. You (this means you) can join the WDBA for as little as $35.00/year (for a family membership).

Visit the online Visitor Center at, go by the WDBA office with your $35.00 check for your family's membership, or telephone the WDBA at 815.353.5090


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tollway Speed Survey Results

Thanks to all for participating in the Tollway speeding survey.

The question was "How fast do you drive on the Tollway?"

The 46 responses were:

At/below the speed limit: 2 (4%)
1-10MPH over: 12 (26%)
11-19MPH over: 13 (28%)
More than 20MPH over: 19 (41%)

That's about what I observe when I drive on the Tollway. Thanks, all.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gus Philpott for President

Until this evening I have told my friends (both of them) that I would never run for office. However, finally I'm fed up. Now I'm taking matters into my own hands! You have to click on the Channel 3 screen to start my newest political commercial.

Parking Study Is In

My compliments to Kurt Begalka at the Northwest Herald and whoever, if not Kurt, waded through the 99 pages of the parking study. Be sure to read Kurt's article in today's (August 26) Business section of the Northwest Herald.

Let's hope that the City Council chambers are packed on Tuesday evening, Sept. 2, when the Study is presented to the Council. It was probably a pretty smart move to release it early and to post it on the City's website at That way people can read it and get to their doctors for a refill of their blood pressure medication before Tuesday's meeting.

If you can't (or don't) make it Tuesday night, drop by Stage Left Cafe on Wednesday, Sept. 3, at 8:00AM. Or maybe make both of them.

Consultants Rich and Associates will tell you that there are 1,988 parkings spaces within the 25-block area (25 blocks???) that they studied. BUT only 76% of them (1,507) are available to the general public.

Well, Mr. Mayor, Members of the City Council and Mr. Clifton, it's those 1,507 public parking places that customers of the merchants are interested in. That's what this study should have been about!

The consultants considered that peak parking time was 12:00-1:00PM and that there were still more than 400 parking spaces available. I hope they'll have an interactive map Tuesday night and be able to show exactly where those spaces are!

"The development of additional parking is not required at this time." Tell that to Brian Loprino at the Public House, Dick and Bob at the barbershop, Dr. Emmons (the dentist), Home Elements, and any other merchant on the Square.

And get this! If the movie theater expands and brings 100,000 additional people to the Square? Only a minimal impact on parking. Give me a break!

The consultants suggest allowing commercial vehicles to double park for short period as long as they don't interfere with traffic. That's an oxymoron, for sure. Do they mean, like, on Dean Street next to Angelo's (where I have suggested the City create (and enforce) a Loading Zone for trucks to park at the curb while they unload)?

And don't miss the revenue generator - "consider requiring new and/or expanding businesses on the Square (hint, hint - the movie theater) to provide for their parking or pay a fee-in-lieu-of for any spaces they are short of the requirement." (Quoted from the Northwest Herald, although the language is probably buried in the study somewhere.)

Why didn't they just suggest a monorail? After all, doesn't Vision 2020 call for a Disney-like downtown?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Patriot Guard - Saturday

These Patriot Guard motorcycle riders, along with about ten others and two escort vehicles, were in town on Saturday for the ceremony at the Opera House prior to the deployment of Delta Company members who are headed for Afghanistan.

They didn't seem to have any trouble finding a parking place right in front of the Opera House.

After the ceremony, they headed out of town, traveling east on Calhoun. When they got to the stop sign at Madison Street, they turned left. All of them. The escort vehicle stopped. Only the escort vehicle stopped. When it made its left turn, all the motorcycles followed it right through the stop sign, and the following escort vehicle also ran right through the stop sign.

That's one of the reasons I don't go on motorcycle charity rides. The first motorcycle in a pack stops; when the first rider starts up, all the others just sail right through the stop sign on the first biker's stop.

A parade permit may entitle vehicles to proceed through stop signs. Leaving town wasn't a parade. They were just heading out of town. Next time they come to Woodstock, they should be reminded to stop at stop signs.

Luckily, no westbound vehicle on Calhoun popped over the railroad tracks, expecting a clean run right through the intersection at Madison St. Very lucky...

Oh, where to park?

When the City gets rid of handicap parking spaces on the Square during the Farmer's Market, it should create temporary handicap parking spaces, with temporary signs, to accommodate drivers who need these valuable parking spaces.

Will the handicapped drivers complain? Maybe.

Will those of us who see that they need their spaces? Yes.

The covered sign (left photo) was on Johnson St., where Jackson St. dead-ends into the Square. It's appropriately (and, I hope, legally) covered so that the vehicle of one Farmer's Market vendor is not illegally parked.

The blue car (right photo) had a handicap placard hanging from the inside mirror. Unfortunately, the driver could not find a legal place to park, so she just pulled into an open space, even though it was striped as a no-parking zone.

Could the City do a better job of anticipating the needs of its disabled drivers? You bet.

Close Encounter of the Wrong Kind

This morning I was almost hit head-on by this vehicle (Illinois license 68 497H), when the driver made a w-i-d-e right turn from westbound South Street onto northbound Dean Street by the Unitarian Church. (Click on photo to enlarge for a good look at it.)

He must have been thinking about a delicious breakfast at Angelo's Restaurant, because he sure wasn't thinking about his right turn. He crossed completely over the center of the roadway into the southbound lane on Dean Street and then wasn't in any hurry to get back into the northbound lane.

I was taking a non-driving senior citizen home from church, as I do each Sunday morning. I was able to stop and allow room for this pick-up truck driver to get back on his side of the road. After dropping the senior citizen off at her home, I drove back to the Square.

Notice the careful parking job done by the driver, as he parked well back from the vehicle in the space ahead of him. Lucky for him that parking space abuse is not ticketed in Woodstock.

What's This???

In a city with a pretty strict sign code I was surprised to see this banner in front of City Hall today. Was a permit issued for this banner? Who paid the fee?

What's up with this banner? Why is it there? For how long will it be there?

At the Woodstock City Council meeting on May 15, 2007, a resident suggested that a sister city program with a city in Germany would be a better reflection of Woodstock's heritage. According to the Minutes, Mayor Sager responded that this (sister city program with Zacatecas) program " not a matter of immigration. This is an opportunity to partner with a large portion of our population. The City is working toward becoming a 'One' Woodstock."

Zacatecas, by the way, is the capital of Zacatecas, which is one of 31 constituent states of Mexico. Zacatecas has 58 municipalities and the main economic activities are mining, agriculture and tourism. An estimated 800,000-1,000,000 Zacatecanos live in the United States. Source: Wikipedia

Right now there is the English-speaking Woodstock and the Spanish-speaking Woodstock. I'll tell you how we can become a "One" Woodstock. Help the legal newcomers assimilate into America. Become part of Woodstock. I'm sure that Zacatecas is a very nice place, and I'm pretty sure that Woodstock residents are not packing their bags and fleeing Woodstock to become residents of Zacatecas (either the city or the state).

Help them understand that we don't park on front lawns here. We don't over-crowd in housing. We learn traffic laws. We maintain our vehicles and we insure them. We speak English here.

Can you just imagine my moving to Zacateras and expecting them to accommodate my inability to speak Spanish? I can hear the laughter already.

And we welcome all legal immigrants. How this for a vision of "One" Woodstock?

Angelo's Restaurant - Still at it

Sunday evening, 7:30PM
Location: Dean St., alongside Angelo's Restaurant

Why is it that the City of Woodstock appears to be impotent in addressing and resolving this long-time problem outside Angelo's Restaurant on the Square?

One resident told me that this problem has existed for more than 20 years. Can that really be the case? Trust me; I am not questioning this resident's statement. But how can a City tolerate a problem like this for so long and be so ineffective at resolving it?

I think it was about 2 1/2 years ago that the City Manager told me that an agreement with Angelo's Restaurant had been reached and that Angelo's would place all trash in lidded, wheeled containers. An agreement may have been reached, but it has never been honored.

The problem tonight? Three rows of containers/bags wide extend from the restaurant wall toward the curb and block more than 50% of the sidewalk. Notice the number of trash bags. Notice also the cardboard boxes containing trash. Noctural animals shouldn't have any problem having a feast there tonight.
Somewhere in its personnel structure there should be a City employee with the authority to get compliance with that agreement of 2 1/2 years ago or to commence legal action against Angelo's. I've written to the City to ask who that person is.
The time for "talking" has passed. How about a solution by September 30? Actually, how about by August 31, in view of the time and attention that have already been devoted to it?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Mental Health Support Line

The Illinois DHS/Division of Mental Health and the Illinois Mental Health Collaborative for Access and Choice have announced the opening of a Warm Line. The Warm Line is a new opportunity in Illinois for persons with mental health challenges and their families to receive peer support by phone.

Peer and Family Support Specialists are professionals who have experienced mental health recovery in their own lives as an individual or family member. They have been trained in recovery support, mentoring, and advocacy and are ready to listen and help you.

The warm line is not a crisis hotline, but it is a source of support as you recover or help a family member to recover. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm.

Call (866) 359-7953 or TTY: (866) 880-4459
Press 2 for Consumers and Families
Press 5 for the Warm Line (Peer and Family Support by Phone)

A "warm line" is generally understood to be a place to call when you need to connect with someone. Reasons for calling might be needing support, feeling isolated, or learning about some recovery skills. Some call because they are feeling frightened, sad, or had a great day or wanted to share a success. It is not a crisis line (traditionally called a hot line), not a referral line, and not a grievance line, but rather a place to talk and be listened to.

Peer supporters, all of whom have personal experience with mental illness and recovery, answer the calls. Warm Lines have been shown to be effective in helping individuals receive support and empathy from peers and thereby to deter crisis and reduce the use of professional emergency services. The line serves to help others work through difficult situations, as well as share in positive experiences.

For more information, Google "peer support warm line."

Source: Nanette Larson, Director, Recovery Support Services, Division of Mental Health, Illinois Department of Human Services

Could You Survive...

... a Violent Attack?

While most of us will never encounter a violent attack, it is good to be at least alert to the possibility and to take steps automatically to avoid it.

This is like fire safety in the home. You never expect to have a fire at home, but it is wise not only to have a Fire Plan, but to practice it. In other words, get that rope ladder out of the box under the bed and practice hanging it out the window. Even practice getting through the window, onto the ladder and down to the ground. Then practice it at night; practice it blind-folded.

You think a fire will only happen at high noon and give you plenty of time to wait for the fire trucks, ladders and that handsome, agile, physically-fit firefighter to come to your rescue?

Now, about your safety at home and on the streets. Go to and take the quiz there.

When you see your score at the end of the quiz, you can decide what to do next.


Authority Abused? Swimmingly...

This morning's paper reports on a McHenry man who allegedly attempted to flee from Island Lake police last Sunday by jumping into the Fox River, although it was just called "the river." He is drying out in McHenry County Jail while he waits for a $25,000 bond to float his way.

Who'd he think he was? Michael Phelps? Did he jump in before the starting gun?

What attracted me to this story was the 18 (EIGHTEEN, according to the story) traffic citations issued to him. Eighteen! No wonder the Island Lake PD didn't have time to return a call to the Northwest Herald reporter; they were probably trying to find the requisition forms to order more tickets!

This is a classic example of "loading up" a person with tickets, and it's totally unnecessary, unfair and expensive, both to the "system" and to the defendant. Eighteen? Is there a quota in Island Lake? Were the officers behind on ticket-writing for the month?

Look at the list:

1. failure to wear a seatbelt
2. not having a head lamp
3. driving with open alcohol
4. no display of company name on a commercial vehicle
5. non-valid registration for the weight of the vehicle
6. unattended motor vehicle
7. driving in the wrong lane
8. driving off the roadway
9. failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident
10. driving too fast for conditions
11. illegal squealing of tires
12. failure to report an accident to police authority
13. failure to give information
14. failure to give information after striking property
15. uninsured motor vehicle
16. disobeying a stop sign
17. leaving the scene of an accident
18. failure to notify Secretary of State of change of address
19. failure to carry a registration card

WAIT! That's 19!

And this is not even including the more serious charges of aggravated battery of a police officer and two counts each of obstructing a police officer and resisting a police officer.

Why would a police chief tolerate the issuance of 19 traffic tickets for what I assume is one driving incident?

I could have fun dissecting the charges, but I won't. Maybe on another day, in another story.


Police Contract Negotiations - Well?

Last week I wrote about the police union's negotiations with the City of Woodstock, or rather I alluded to the on-going negotiations.

The contract between the City and the officers of the Woodstock P.D. expired about three months ago, and the officers have continued to work without a contract. I have learned that cops cannot strike; i.e., they apparently cannot walk out and leave the City of Woodstock without local police protection.

Just why is there is no new contract? Without the leverage of a strike, what can they do to come to an agreement with the City?

One thing they could do is "slow down." Each officer could stop his squad car to read the in-car computer for call assignments, and only after proceeding (at the speed limit) to a safe stopping place, which at night would mean in a well-lighted, public place such as the Jewel parking lot or the parking lot of a convenience store. Why should he try to read the computer in a moving car or pull over in a nearby dark, secluded place? (The use of "his" here is not meant to disregard Woodstock's female police officer, who is entitled to every respect and privilege granted to the male officers.)

He could also find a safe stopping place before picking up the microphone and responding to the dispatcher's call to advise a need for police services. That ought to add 3-4-5 minutes to response time.

When running "hot", he could come to a full stop at intersections where he must cross against a red light. And remain fully stopped until absolutely, 100% certain that every driver within two blocks has seen his red flashing lights and heard the siren (assuming both are in use, which may be the topic of another story).

And, when he arrives at the "scene of the crime", he could wait at a safe distance until adequate back-up arrived. Of course, in Woodstock, that might mean waiting for additional response by the sheriff's department, Illinois State Police or whatever. "Adequate" is defined in the mind of the arriving officer, as he assessed the danger to himself. There are, no doubt, many times when all other on-duty officers are already on calls, and so the assigned officer must respond alone or make a traffic stop without immediate back-up.

An officer could take all the time he needs to write, and re-write, his report of each and every call until it would satisfy a professor with a Ph.D. in English Composition. That ought to add 2-3 hours to each call.

This type of "slow down" would paralyze police services in Woodstock.

Another option is for the City to engage in meaningful negotiations with the union representatives and get the Contract written and signed.

The cops have to be reasonable, too. If money is a problem, you put the budget on the table and say, "We have this much money. There ain't no more. This is what we have to work with this year." And then the entire City participates in cutbacks or gives up their dream list, certainly including senior departmental personnel and City Hall administrators.

The City's finances will be worse next year and the next, as Assessed Valuations of real estate, and correspondingly property taxes, begin to go down. Hopefully, the City of Woodstock will not operate like State Government in Springfield and the Federal Government, offering and promising everything to everyone with no ability to pay for it.


Impersonation? Fraud?

Getting a new G-mail account at Google is not like opening a bank account, getting a passport or opening a box at the Post Office. You don't need any ID, and you don't have to raise your right hand and swear at your computer.

This means that anyone with access to a computer can establish a G-mail account for any name that is not already registered with Google. Does this lead to abuses?

Recently someone registered "calskinner" and "mchenrycountyblog" as email addresses at G-mail, and that someone wasn't Cal Skinner. For what purpose would someone register an email account in the name of a well-known blogger and former Illinois state representative whose name is widely known?

Use of someone else's name, whether individual or blog name, must be illegal under some State or Federal law. Would such use constitute wrongful impersonation? Fraud? Deceit? Identity Theft?

If you receive an email from or from, save it and report it to Cal. It may be needed for prosecution of an internet crime.

And don't give it any credence. You can count on the fact that it was not sent by "the" Cal Skinner.

If you would more information on internet crimes and the availability of the Illinois State Police to take an interest in such illegal activity, visit, then scroll down and click on the appropriate link. Or you can go there directly by clicking:


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stop Sign Survey

Thanks to all 39 readers who participated in the Stop Sign survey.

The question was, "Do you make a full stop at stop signs?"

The responses were:

All the time: 10 (25%)
Some of the time: 4 (10%)
Only if there is a cop behind me: 25 (64%)

You Made My Day!

Every once in a while, just often enough, someone comes along and says, "Thanks!" In my mail today I received a letter (yes! a real letter!) thanking me for providing on-going information that helps others know what is really going on in a certain situation.

That person, and others, must survive in a closed society where questioning is frowned up. Information is invited from others, and within a few days some focused topics will be aired.

If you have some information to air or vent about, you can email it to me at or you can mail it to me at P.O. Box 1222, Woodstock, IL 60098. Confidentiality is assured, once your communication reaches me. I shall not use your name or any factors that could be used to identify you. You can email, write or telephone me.

To the person who wrote to me this week, thanks! Your letter means a lot to me. And thanks also for tips on stories that you'll begin seeing here in the near future. Your encouragement not to "give up" was appreciated. Don't worry; I missed the class about giving up!

Dodging Dodges Story #2

On my way back to Woodstock this afternoon after following the jerk in the Dodge 4x4 truck south on Route 47, I was heading north on Dean Street past the new schools between Lucas Road and U.S. 14. The speed limit there (at Hercules Road) is 40MPH and, you guessed it, I was right on 40. All to the ire of a guy in a black Dodge pick-up truck (no, not the same one as in Story #1).

This was not my day to be in the way of nuts driving Dodge pick-ups; that's for sure. Just as we arrived at the 50MPH and I began to speed up, the driver of the Dodge Dakota pick-up (Illinois license 64 166F) decided that it was time to get past me, and pass me he did! (Click on the photo to enlarge it and read the license plate number for yourself.)

One of my pet peeves is drivers who simply "must" pass. And where did I catch up with him, even after slowing down to 45MPH and then to 35MPH approaching U.S. 14? Right at the red light at Dean St. and U.S. 14. A lot of time he saved; right?
I recall the words of an insurance client in Denver who told me how other drivers view red cars. He told me that a red car was like a red flag to a bull. Red makes other drivers angry. Think there is anything to that?

Dodging Dodges Story #1

Setting: mid-afternoon in Woodstock. Heavy traffic southbound on Route 47 from Country Club Road. Sunny. Dry roads.

When I stopped in slow-moving traffic to allow a left-turning car to turn in front of me into the old Jewel parking Lot (Taco Bell, DMV, Office Depot, Aldi's), a guy in a large, black, Dodge (Illinois license 18 221D) stopped right on my back bumper. (Click on photo to enlarge it and read the plate clearly.) Then he proceeded to honk his horn and gesture at me, in an effort to make me move up a car length and block the entrance. Traffic was stopped in both southbound lanes ahead. What was the hurry?

All the way past Armanetti's and DeCraene's he tailgated me very closely. As traffic approached the green light at McConnell Road, this jerk swerved out into the left-turn lane and then gunned it to pass me through the intersection and then cut back into the single southbound lane.

I had the fleeting thought to siccing the Woodstock PD on him, but I knew he'd be south of town before an officer would ever be able to respond.
I continued on south to see what other stupid driving stunt he might pull, and I stopped right behind him at the red light at U.S. 14 by Benoy's. I decided to follow him (at a safe distance) a little further, and he tailgated the car he was following out of Woodstock, south on Route 47.

South of Lucas Road there is a no-passing zone, and he swung out to pass just as he reached the yellow, triangular sign on the left shoulder. He passed two cars before cutting back in. It was a good thing there was no northbound traffic, because there would have been a head-on crash or he would have run a car off the road.

I phoned the Huntley PD to alert them to a reckless driver headed their way. I hope they were able to spot one or more violations on their own and ticket him.

If you see this guy, give him a lot of room!

A reader gripes...

ATTENTION Merchants on the Square, WDBA, Chamber of Commerce, City of Woodstock.

Please read the following message, which was emailed to me by a reader of The Woodstock Advocate. I extend my appreciation and thanks to this individual who took the time to express concern about business opportunities lost by Woodstock merchants around the Square. This reader wrote:


"Not sure if you stopped by the McHenry County Youth Service Bureau fund raiser car show last Saturday (8/16) on the Woodstock Square….The car show was from 5PM-9PM and there were over 350 vehicles registered. Factor in the beautiful weather, and it looked like a huge win for the merchants on the Square (SHOPPERS!). Not so...

"My gripe is why were the majority of the merchants closed at 5PM? I walked over to The Thoughtfulness Shop at 5:15PM and the sign read "CLOSED" at 5PM The owner was letting patrons out and I went to step in and he shook his head and pointed to the "closed" sign.

"Call me silly but I would have thought the stores would have stayed open until 6? 7? All the hoopla about "shop local" or "shop the Square" must not mean much to them….

"As a resident of Woodstock, I was both mad and embarrassed…Mad that the stores were closed and embarrassed for the out of towners who came to the show on the quaint Woodstock Square to see many of the stores closed. At least they got to see the plaque from Bill Murray and the Groundhog Day movie (yes, that is angry sarcasm).

"Seems kind of egotistical of the merchants… There, now I feel better…."

Wal-Mart rings up no-sale on liquor

Recently a friend recommended a certain wine after serving it with dinner. I figured it had come off the high-priced shelf of a local liquor mart, but she mentioned having purchased it at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart? Yep! After reading the name of the wine on my shopping list for about three weeks, I finally decided to stop at Wal-Mart, and yesterday I did.

When I asked the greeter where the liquor section was, she pointed me in the right direction but added that they could not sell liquor yesterday or today. She pointed to a sign on the door, which informed me that Wal-Mart was serving a two-day suspension for liquor law violation.

I didn't ask the details, but in many cases merchants are caught when police conduct a sting. The cops send in an under-age person (read, "minor") to buy liquor. I myself object to stings of this type and believe minors should not be used as decoys to help the police in their enforcement efforts.

If the cops want to use a youthful-appearing (but of legal age) police officer, that's okay with me. But sending a kid in with an obviously-altered ID or even with his own ID showing an age too young for purchase of alcohol is, in my opinion, a serious error in judgement. In fact, judges ought to throw out such cases.

One of the problems may be that liquor law violations are often enforced on a local level, where the merchant appears before the local liquor commission. Are all rules of law followed in the local "court"?

Error in Ill. Rules of the Road

Most drivers will rely on information printed in the Illinois Rules of the Road for their knowledge and understanding of Illinois traffic laws. Thanks to a reader's comment yesterday to my article about drivers who stop unnecessarily when meeting oncoming emergency vehicles, I re-read the new (2008) Rules of the Road and found that an error exists in this edition that was not present in previous editions.

Many drivers stop, even in the roadway, when meeting oncoming emergency vehicles for which the roadway for the emergency vehicle is completely clear of traffic. This occurs often in the Woodstock area on Lake Avenue, between IL 47 and US 14, and on US 14 between Culver's and Centegra Hospital - Woodstock, formerly known as Memorial Medical Center.

On Page 27 of the 2008 Rules of the Road it reads in part, "When being approached by an emergency vehicle using audible and visual signals, Illinois law requires motorists to immediately pull to the right side of the road and wait for the emergency vehicle to pass." NOTE: an important phrase in the law itself has been omitted from the Rules of the Road.

The Rules of the Road is not the state law. It is a "guide" and includes the caveat that it is "condensed and paraphrased." Perhaps now Jesse White's office should add to the list that it may be "incomplete" and "wrong".

The Illinois Vehicle Code [625 ILCS 5/11-907], as it exists online this morning, reads:

"Operation of vehicles and streetcars on approach of authorized emergency vehicles. (a) Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of this Code or a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible or visual signal, (1) the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right‑hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection and shall, if necessary (emphasis added) to permit the safe passage of the emergency vehicle, stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, unless otherwise directed by a police officer ..."

Key words here are "...shall, if necessary to permit the safe passage of the emergency vehicle, stop..."

If it is not necessary to stop to permit the safe passage of the emergency vehicle, then you don't have to stop. Pull to the right-hand side of the road, slow down and keep moving, unless you need to stop to permit the emergency vehicle to pass safely.

Certainly, you don't want it to be "close". Emergency vehicle operators need a lot of room to miss drivers who pull out in front of them, stop on the left side or middle of the road, are inattentive, etc. But if an ambulance appears to be heading to the hospital and is fully in its otherwise empty lane, then all you are required to do is pull near the right-hand edge of the highway.

You may have to argue it in court, if you are ticketed for failing to stop. Be very observant to other traffic, so that you can testify clearly before the judge. It won't do much good to keep a copy of the 2008 Rules of the Road in your car to show the officer, because the newest edition is incorrect.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oncoming Emergency Vehicles

Why do drivers pull over and stop for an oncoming emergency vehicle, when that vehicle has a completely clear lane in which to travel?

Again on Lake Avenue this afternoon I noticed drivers pulling over for an ambulance heading toward the hospital. There were no cars in the eastbound lane; the ambulance had a clear shot. It was traveling in its lane, not in the center of the roadway.

I wonder what kind of educational campaign would get the message across to drivers that they only are required to stop if necessary to allow the emergency vehicle to pass safely.

Sure, slow down and pull to the right side of your lane, but you don't need to stop. Get a fresh copy of the Rules of the Road from the DMV right here in Woodstock and actually re-read it.

NOTE: (8/21/08) The 2008 Rules of the Road contains an incomplete explanation about meeting an oncoming emergency vehicle by omitting a phrase that permits you to keep moving unless it is necessary to stop to allow the emergency vehicle to pass safely.

2 Near Misses in 1 Day

During a short motorcycle spin to the library this afternoon, I was almost hit twice. Thank goodness for near misses.

The first time was at the five-way corner of South-Madison-Lake, just west of the tunnel. It was a good thing I had made my usual full stop. As I started up slowly, a driver who had come through the tunnel and was busy driving one-handed so she could keep yakking on her cell phone, started to turn left right in front of me. She saw me in time and then waved me in front of her - I think, with the hand that had been on the steering wheel!

The next time, just about five blocks later, was when a man driving up the hill on Calhoun didn't stop at Hayward before pulling out into the intersection.

I wonder what part of S-T-O-P drivers don't understand.

Gary Gauger's Book

You can now order Gary Gauger's book, In Spite of the System: A Personal Story of Wrongful Conviction & Exoneration, which will be available September 1st.

Many may know Gary's story. Arrested and charged with murdering his parents in Richmond (Illinois) in 1993, Gary spent years in prison, including on death row. He was released after an Illinois appellate court reversed the decision of the McHenry County Court and former State's Attorney Gary Pack had to drop the charges. Gauger was later pardoned by Gov. George Ryan.

And the real murderers were caught and are in prison.

How did this happen? Read In Spite of the System. Order the book at and pay $19.95, including shipping, by PayPal. Indicate whether you want Gary to inscribe the copy to you (and to what name).

I was particularly attracted to Gary's story when I first heard it in 1996, because I had known a man in Denver who was charged and prosecuted for rape. When the police drove the victim by my businessman friend's pick-up truck, she said that was not the truck. When she viewed his picture in a photo line-up, she said he wasn't the rapist. But the police pursued him, anyway. When all was said and done, he won $1,100,000 from two sheriff's departments, two state's attorneys, and one police department.

Order your copy today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How Old Are Your Tires?

Do you know how old the tires are on your vehicles?

Watch this ABC News broadcast that aired on July 24, 2008:

Next, go out to your car and find the code on each of your tires. Write down the numbers and then transcribe the code into the month and year of production. The first two digits indicate the week of the year in which your tires were manufactured. The last two digits indicate the year.
For example, "3605" is stamped on two of my tires. "36" denotes the 36th week of the year; "05" indicates the year, 2005. I bought my tires in December 2005, so I feel okay about the age of the tires. If your tires have only three digits, the third digit indicates the year in the 1990s when your tire was made.

Next, find your receipt for the tires. When did you buy them? Do you consider that the tires were new when you bought them?

Feel as safe on your tires now as you did before you checked? Ask your tire dealer about tire safety of old tires.

My other two tires? No numbers are stamped in the oval area for the manufacturing date on those tires. Hmmmmm.......maybe the numbers are on the sidewall visible from under the car.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Trial Set for June 2 in Salerno Death

The trial for Scott Hirschey, driver of a snowmobile that crashed January 24, is set for June 2, 2009. Randy Salerno was riding behind his friend and was killed in the accident. Hirschey's BAC is reported as .225%.

What kind of justice is the delay in the trial for ten more months? Especially, when seven months have already passed? Obviously, the lawyers have been at work.

There can be little doubt about Hirschey's remorse. Maybe Randy's even sitting on the edge of a cloud "up there", hoping for leniency. If I had been in Randy's place, I would be.

I only met Randy once - at a Northwest Herald/CBS program at MCC. After that, he and I traded a couple of emails.

Hirschey has asked for a jury trial. If I were in Hirschey's shoes, I'd be saying, "Let's get on with this."


New Address for Drunk Driver

Elias Sanchez, 42, of Carpentersville will have a new address for the next ten years, thanks to a judge with guts in Kane County. Sanchez was sentenced to ten years in the state pen following his eighth arrest for DUI.

According to the Northwest Herald on August 16, Sanchez was found passed out in his idling car on December 18 (gee, "only" eight months ago), and holding a bottle of rum between his knees. He was a "guest" at the Kane County Jail since, and he'll get credit for his 242 days there.

Should he get that credit? It's a common practice, but he was considered "not guilty" until his conviction, which might have been a month or two ago. Maybe he should get "credit" only from the date of his conviction?

What's wrong with our "system" that it allows a person out on the roads after six convictions and one term of supervision for DUI?

I was reminded of the drunk driver I heard about in New Mexico in 1989. He had been arrested about sixteen times and kept getting handled with kid gloves. All that changed late one afternoon, after he had been in afternoon court on a DUI charge. Four hours after being let go one more time, he ran into the judge who had released him earlier that afternoon.

Not just "ran into" (as in "encountered") him. He ran into him with his car and was drunk (again). That time he got put away. Even in New Mexico you'd better not be drunk and run into the judge who just let you go.

A teacher - how many arms?

How many arms should a teacher have? Two? Three? How about left, right and Glock?

Did you see the article in Saturday's Northwest Herald (Page 4A) about the school district in Texas that will allow teachers and staff to carry concealed weapons in the school and in the classroom?

Harrold, Texas, some 634 miles south-southwest of Guss, Iowa, is a one-school district of 110 students located just off U.S. 287 about 35 miles west of Wichita Falls. I must have driven past there back in about 1976 when I drove from Denver to visit my brother in Wichita Falls. Maybe it was in that little town where I could buy only five gallons of gas, because of the energy crisis.

The school is 30 minutes from the sheriff's department. While I think it's a stretch to think that the school in that town is a target just because it's sort of out in the middle of nowhere and on a busy highway, I agree with arming teachers and staff. Frankly, it wouldn't matter if the sheriff's department were next door. If shooting starts in a school, someone needs to have the resources (guns!) to stop the shooter, and who better than a trained person right in the school who is willing to act.

Having your gun in the trunk of your car just isn't good enough, if shooting starts. You need it on your hip or under your coat.

Of course, the mindset in rural Texas is different than that of "city folks", who expect someone else to do the protecting.

What if teachers and staff in Chicago schools were trained and allowed to carry guns? What if Chicago residents were allowed to own (which they will be allowed to do soon; actually, the Supreme Court says that they can now, but King Daley still says they cannot) handguns and then to carry them?

Just imagine a different result on the South Side of Chicago... A drive-by shooting starts and, before the car can get to the end of the block, a dozen bystanders are pumping lead into it. How long would it take for the gangbangers and drive-by shooters to get the message that doing drive-bys is not safe in Chicago? 24 hours? 48 hours? Not more than 72 hours, I'd guess.

Three cheers for the school board, the superintendent and the principal of the Harrold Independent School District AND for the parents there!


How Loud is too Loud?

Just how loud is too loud for the racket produced on the Square on a Saturday night?

I presume that there was an event on the Square last night. Perhaps I should have driven or walked there to confirm that the amplified sound of a male voice was emanating from the Square before I write this, but I think I'm safe in my assumption. The amplified voice could be heard all the way to the Woodstock Police Station at 656 Lake Avenue!

If a seven-block radius were swung around the Square, how many people were disturbed by this racket?

If the amplified sound can be heard 6-7 blocks away by these tired old ears that cannot hear the low voices of judges and attorneys in McHenry County courtroom from 25 feet away, was the sound too loud?

About two years ago I queried the City staff and asked who monitored the volume of amplified sound. As I recall, I did get a little sympathy at that time and a reply that "someone" (that proverbial and mysterious - and anonymous - "someone") would look into the situation and take action to keep amplified sound under control.

But solutions don't seem to stick around from year to year in Woodstock. It seems to me that any permit issued on for an event on the Square ought to include standard language pertaining to amplified sound. And someone from the City should be there, or at least drop by, to monitor compliance. Or the police officer(s) assigned to the event should monitor it.

After all, if a car stereo can be heard 75 feet from the car, the driver can be ticketed. Why doesn't the City of Woodstock control the noise from the Square?


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Meet Joe Sabah

Are you looking for a job? Can't find a job? Still reading the newspaper ads, like you really think you are going to find a job there? (Hint... you're not going to.)

My long-time friends in Denver, Joe and Judy Sabah, wrote a book called How to Get the Job You Really Want - and Get Employers to Call You. And I can tell you, first-hand, that their ideas work.

They sold thousands of copies by being on radio talkshows. And then Joe wrote a manual called How to Get on Radio Talkshows. His manual includes a list of over 700 radio talkshows just looking for guests.

Joe is always asking people, "Are you singing the song that you came to sing?" Well, if you aren't, start doing so. Wasting your life singing someone else's song just isn't worth it.

On NPR this week was a story about Jack Weil, a Denver businessman ("the oldest working CEO) who died at age 107. He was famous for the cowboy shirts that he created. You've seen them - the ones with the pocket flaps and multiple cuff fasteners. His grandson said that the advice his grandfather would give young people starting a career, was, "Love your job. If you don't, change jobs - because nothing's worse than the drudgery of a job you don't like."

That's great advice for anyone, young or old.

Check out Joe and his books on

Laugh 'til your sides split

Just received an email from a friend with this clip. I had heard it before, but it was just as funny this time.


This is so funny and his laugh is contagious! Close your eyes and just picture what he is's even better than a video clip!!!

You've got to listen to this! It's a phone call from a man in Texas who witnessed a car accident involving 4 elderly women. It was so popular when they played it on CHUM-FM that they had to put it on their site.

Click here:

Finders, Keepers

Have you ever searched a State database for money that might be owed to you? Think there is no way that you have not claimed any money due you over the years?

Well, think again. Now you can search without ever leaving your home. Recently a friend in Colorado sent me a reminder to check, and it looks like Colorado might be hanging onto $25 of mine. And I haven't lived there in the town (identified) since 1989!

For a few clicks, my claim form is on the way. And just 3-4 years ago I claimed (and received!) over $300 in money due me. I guess I left Colorado too quickly after one of the three times I lived there!

To find out if a State is holding money for you, go to or to

Check for any states in which you have lived in the past 10-15 years.

And, when you get your "found" money? Remember to share some of it with your favorite charity. There are some great ones locally, such as P.E.A.C.E. 4 All.


Apartment for Rent

Nice, modern, two-bedroom apartment for rent at Beverly Gardens Apartments. Adult community. Clean, well-kept. Quiet. Great management. Great neighbors. Attractive courtyard. Laundry on premises.
Drive by 500-508 Lake Avenue. Look for the two 3-story brick buildings.

Fairness in City Operations

Should a city operate under a doctrine of fairness? Or should it operate under a doctrine of "information management" and a program of withholding of important information from its residents? Can it write (or re-write) history by choosing what information to release to its residents (citizens, voters)?

Over the past year the City of Woodstock's Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC, a volunteer board of three civilians, all Woodstock residents) held a series of Special Meetings regarding an attempt by the chief of police (Bob Lowen) to fire a sergeant (Sgt. Steven Gorski) of the police department who was a 19-year employee and who had suffered not one, but two on-the-job back injuries.

Under the Open Meetings Act these Special Meetings should have been announced to the public, including online on the City's website. And Minutes should have been created for each of these meeting.

On February 14, 2008, the Board issued a written Findings and Decision, exonerating Sgt. Gorski and directed the chief and the City to pay his all his back wages. The City has not paid Sgt. Gorski.

On March 7, 2008, the Chief (through his attorney in the office of Woodstock's City Attorney) filed a Complaint for Administrative Review in Circuit Court, claiming that the Board erred by issuing a directed decision. The first hearing was July 18 and a continuance was granted; the second hearing was yesterday, August 15, and a continuance was granted - Chief Lowen's attorney is to file a brief for records; the next hearing is scheduled for October 15 at 9:00AM in Judge McIntyre's court.

Until I addressed the City Council during the summer, no Minutes of these Special Meetings existed. I told the Council that there should be Minutes, even if all they did was report the start of the Special Meeting, the time entering and leaving Executive Session (to consider a personnel issue), and the end of the Special Meeting.

And now those Minutes exist, but an extremely important document is missing from those Minutes.

The Findings and Decision of the Board is a public document, both under the Open Meetings Act and because it was filed in court as part of the chief's Complaint.

When I asked recently for that document to be reported in Minutes of the Board, I was informed that the City Attorney's opinion is that the City need not report that document or record it in Minutes, because the Open Meetings Act does not require that.

Well, folks, I'll bet that the Open Meetings Act does not prohibit it, either. In all fairness to this employee (and to any City employee), the decision of the Board in favor of the employee should be reported and be easily found by anyone looking for it.

As the case is now, one would have to know about the document, in order to know to ask for it. A routine reading of Minutes does not now reveal it. However, now that you know about it, you can go to City Hall and read it. This document is available for public inspection. If you are told to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request, contact me and I'll direct you to the form on the City's website (if it is still there).

The City of Woodstock should quickly remedy this error. The City Attorney is once again incomplete (would some say "wrong") in its opinion, and the City should place this document in the public Minutes of the BOFPC without further delay.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Health Insurance Gaps

Do you know a family with children, whose health insurance plan has some serious gaps in it that prevent necessary health care for the children?

If you do, tell them to visit and learn about the UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation. This charitable organization may be able to assist with funding for medically-necessary treatment.

Too often children go without necessary treatment because the family cannot afford treatment or the family goes far into debt to provide the treatment.

Check out this organization. And, if you so inclined, you can even make a donation.

Police Negotiations with City

Have you been following the police union negotiations with the City of Woodstock? You know, all the newspaper articles that keep the residents informed whether negotiations are proceeding smoothly toward a new contract?


Well, neither have I, because there hasn't been anything in the paper. Rumor has it that negotiations have stalled. Oh, really?

What happens in a town when a police officer union calls a strike? Do the officers cross the picket line and continue to protect and to serve?

Or do the townspeople arm themselves and go out on patrol to keep our town safe?

In many parts of the U.S.A. that would be the case. But in Illinois? If we arm ourselves and go stand guard at the banks and other places where there is a lot of money changing hands (gas stations, Starbuck's, Jewel-Osco, etc.), then the county mounties and the smokey bears will swoop down on us and arrest US!

Illinois has some of the most archaic gun laws in the country. OK, so if you break into my house, I can defend myself. But, if you try to car-jack me, I am defenseless. Or if I'm walking to the Square or out jogging (I'll be the one on the sidewalk), I am defenseless.

Or so the criminal might think. Maybe he should start to wonder if I am defenseless. Maybe I'm not defenseless. Maybe I'll take the odds on jail versus the odds of being dead in an armed robbery or car-jacking.

But no criminal will know ahead of time whether he'll get heads or tails. Only I know.

Courtroom 201 - No surprises

About 20 minutes into this morning's call the case of Lowen vs. Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) (and Sgt. Gorski) was called by Judge Maureen McIntyre. Called pretty loudly, too. And then the volume dropped.

It was possible to hear portions of the statements by Dane Loizzo, attorney for Sgt. Gorski, and Elizabeth Wakeman from Dave McArdle's office (office of the City Attorney), representing Chief Lowen and the City of Woodstock.

On behalf of Chief Lowen Ms. Wakeman asked the judge for more time. Seems that Mr. McArdle wants to review some records. Well, what in the world has been going on since February 14th? Only just now did he decide he needs to review more records?

Sgt. Gorski's attorney argued against these further delays and informed Judge McIntyre that Sgt. Gorski hasn't been paid since October 2007. The judge gave Chief Lowen's attorney 45 days to file a brief and set the next court date for mid-September.

What a joke! Any "records" don't have a thing to do with this Administrative Law Hearing. All Judge McIntyre has to decide is whether the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners erred in granting a directed verdict in Sgt. Gorski's favor in February.

And what if they did? As I have written previously (find below by searching for "Gorski"), all that will happen is that the BOFPC will re-convene. The Chief has completed his testimony; he won't get to add anything new or make further statements. The BOFPC will call Sgt. Gorski, ask him to state his name and then ponder the weighty decision facing them - - just how long should they look serious before re-stating the same decision that they announced in February?

How much money is the City of Woodstock wasting on this (what could I call it? starts with st----) legal action?

And how much financial pain is it heaping on a 19-year employee?

Keep in mind that on February 14 the BOFPC directed Chief Lowen and the City of Woodstock to pay all Sgt. Gorski's back pay to him.




Thursday, August 14, 2008

City vs. BOFPC (and Gorski) - Round 2

Tomorrow morning, Friday, August 15, the City of Woodstock heads back into court against its own Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. Judge Maureen McIntyre should be hearing from the attorneys what they talked about in the past 30 days, when the City's attorney asked for 30 days to "discuss" matters with the attorney for Sgt. Steve Gorski.

Sgt. Gorski is the 19-year employee of the Woodstock Police Department that the chief is trying to fire. Sgt. Gorski is the same 19-year employee that the three-man Board of Fire and Police Commissioners decided on February 14 was not guilty of any major infraction. The Board told the chief and the City to pay him his back wages, which were due since August 2007.

Has the City of Woodstock paid him, as directed by its own civilian Board? NO.

Instead, the police chief filed in Circuit Court claiming that the City's own Board did not make the right decision and did not make it in the right way.

How much is it costing Woodstock for its legal advice in this matter? $250/hour? $300/hour? Or is there a flat rate of $5,-10,000 or more?

Even though the case is against the Board, the Board was not represented at the last court appearance. WHY NOT? Why would the primary defendants not even show up for court? Could it be because this court case is not really against the Board, but against Gorski?

The chief named Sgt. Gorski in his Complaint about the Board's decision-making abilities, forcing Sgt. Gorski to hire legal defense and appear in court. After court, I heard Sgt. Gorski's attorney, Tom Loizzo, tell the woman lawyer from the City Attorney's office to tell Rich Flood to call him. Has Rich Flood called Tom Loizzo? If so, when? Will he call today, the day before the City is expected back in court?

What will happen tomorrow morning?

Will Sgt. Gorski's attorney file a Motion to have Sgt. Gorski dismissed from the City's case against the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners? After all, why was he included in the first place. It was the decision of the Board that the chief didn't like!

Will his attorney file a Motion that Gorski should be paid his back wages?

Or should he file a wage lawsuit against the City and request punitive damages; say, triple the amount of unpaid wages?

Will the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners be represented by legal counsel tomorrow morning?

Will the two sides deal tomorrow with the Scheduling Conference that was the purpose of last month's court date? Why didn't they deal with that then?

Why didn't the Judge put a stop to this nonsense and delay by insisting on scheduling and not allow a 30-day foot-dragging delay? Maybe because she wasn't asked to?

In the chief's Complaint, which was filed in March 2008, he did not ask the Court if the City could withhold paying Sgt. Gorski his back wages. Therefore, by what authority did the City fail to honor the decision and direction of its own Board and decide not to pay Sgt. Gorski his back wages?

What Woodstock needs is more people paying attention to what is going on. If our City Council and Mayor knew that the residents (the Voters) were actually minding the store and that they would be accountable for their actions (and inactions), both during their terms and at the voting booth at the next election, then they would be addressing issues like this and not letting them fester.


Sept. 27 - Parent University

If you are a parent of a child with special needs, save this date: Saturday, September 27, 2008. If you know a parent of a child with special needs, please direct his/her attention to this message. You can forward it by clicking on the small envelope at the bottom of this message.

Parent University is sponsored by the McHenry County Mental Health Board and the Family C.A.R.E. Project here in the County. Its purpose is "Strengthening communications and collaboration among parents, students, and educators to improve educational experiences and outcomes for all."

Parent University will be held at MCC, 9:00AM-3:00PM. Cost for McHenry County parents and professionals is $25.00 ($40.00, if you don't live or work in McHenry County).

Attendees can choose one of five sessions in the morning (after the opening keynote presentation). During lunch the Shut up Sisters will celebrate the strengths of children with disabilities. I heard rave reviews of their program in Edwardsville earlier this year. The afternoon speaker will facilitate discussion aimed at developing more effective communication between parents and teachers.

For information, contact Michelle LaLuz at or 815.788.4386

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

H.S. Runners in the Roadway

Today was really the day for traffic problems. All day I wondered if this was the time of month for a Full Moon, but it's not - well, not quite.

As I drove into Crystal Lake this morning, I met some high school boys (must have been members of a track team) running on Country Club Road. When I say "running on Country Club Road", I mean ON the road. They were running against traffic and in the traffic lane.

Because of oncoming traffic I couldn't move over, so I slowed and eventually had to stop to avoid hitting them. Two-three of them absolutely refused to leave the roadway and run on the shoulder. Beyond them other runners, boys and girls, were running in the roadway, some with traffic and some against traffic.

Last year and the year before, I called the athletic director and the principal of Priaire Ridge Central High School about his students who were running in the traffic lane on Walkup. This morning I wasn't sure which school the kids were from, so I called Crystal Lake South High School. I reached a very polite woman in the administration office who offered to record the information and get it to the right people; she thought the students might be from C.L. Central High School.

Although I left my name and number and requested a call back from the principal or athletic department, neither called. Nor did the Crystal Lake police officer, to whom the call would have been assigned.

The athletic director needs to be aware of the dangerous position in which his students place themselves. He certainly can't see it from the chair in his office, so he ought to get in his car and drive around to watch what is happening.

Maybe if the Crystal Lake PD wrote a dozen tickets one morning, then the word would get around campus. Do you think?

Dangerous Motorcyclists

This afternoon I was driving "the back way" from Crystal Lake to Woodstock and was poking along at 40MPH (in the 40MPH speed zone) on Country Club Road near McConnell Road. I had been keeping an eye on the grey Corvette convertible (license SIXSPD 3) behind me, because the driver was antsy and I expected him to pass me.

Hey, it's not my fault that the County engineer decided on a modest 40MPH speed limit at that point. I think I once counted the number of times that the speed limit changes from Ridgefield (where???) to Woodstock; I think there are nine speed zones in that relatively short stretch of Country Club Road.

Suddenly a crotch rocket flew past me. I heard him coming and checked my mirrors. There he was, across the double yellow no-passing lines and in the oncoming lane of traffic. I estimated his speed at 75MPH as he passed two cars behind me and me. And then a second crotch rocket flew past at about the same speed. And on they went out of sight toward Woodstock.

Wouldn't you know that I was in a weak cell phone area. I speed-dialed the sheriff's department but, while I was talking to the dispatcher, the call got dropped. Realizing that there was no way a deputy would be likely to encounter them, I dialed the Woodstock Police to ask their help.

At least, that call didn't get dropped, although the connection was not good. I was hoping the two motorcyclists would head on into Woodstock and that a Woodstock officer find might a reason to detain them near the Jewel. When I reached Jewel, I pulled into the lot, hoping to see the bikes - no luck.

Just then a Woodstock officer told me he had talked to two motorcyclists in the Walgreen's parking lot on the same type of motorcycles. We headed that way, but I could tell they were different bikes and that the riders were dressed differently.

One of the jerks on Country Club Road wore a white t-shirt with a fluorescent, high-visibility vest over it. Maybe that's so, when he lands in the trees, the rescue squad will be able to find him faster.

There was no chance to get a license plate number or to keep them in sight very long. They were lucky this time. Maybe I'll see the bikes in a parking lot and get the plate numbers. I'll be sure to save them for the next time they pass me like that.

Many thanks to the Woodstock dispatcher and the officer who attempted to find these dangerous motorcyclists!

Feel Safe?

Do you feel safe in McHenry County?

Go to and vote.

Today there is some really good advice there about preparing for your next appointment with your physician. Read Dr. Gorski's advice. Get more value out of your next medical appointment.

Make a photocopy of the notes and your prescription record that you take to the appointment. Start a permanent file at home. Don't forget to date each note and paper you file away.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shhh... Quiet if you are in Joliet

If Joliet can do it, Woodstock can do it. Of course, Woodstock could always have done it, but why hasn't it?

For years Woodstock residents have been annoyed and disturbed by the loud, thumping bass of car stereos. When I lived on the corner of Dean and South Streets in 2002, the noise was horrendous. It could be heard with all the windows closed, and the windows even rattled from the sound of some of the car stereos.

We have two bed-and-breakfast inns in Woodstock, and rumor has it that there is about to be a third. But it's not only visitors who shouldn't be disturbed, we year-round residents deserve some peace and quiet.

Read today's article in the Chicago Tribune about the crackdown by Joliet police. Just click on,0,5829651.story

In recent weeks Joliet police officers have issued 110 tickets. That's ONE HUNDRED TEN! And since January 1st? How about 250?

If a car stereo (sound amplification system) can be heard 75 feet from the vehicle, it's a violation with a $75 fine. Joliet pumps up the cost by towing the vehicle, and that adds $275! Ouch! That'll get a driver's attention.

Woodstock Police could do the same thing. They could set up shop on the Square or on Dean Street or on South Street. An officer could sit on a porch or in a lawn chair at a measured 75 feet from a certain point on the street and, when the loud beast passes by, he could just radio to an officer in a marked car who would stop the violator and issue the ticket.

Would we use the towing tactic here? I'd recommend against it in the beginning.

Woodstock could also create some Quiet Zones and use portable signs to identify them. Quiet Zones could exist around hospitals, schools, hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfast inns, the Square, daycare centers and any place that a resident wanted to call in. The signs could be moved around, just as the radar speed trailer is.

How about it? How's the noise in your neighborhood? Are you bothered by the loud, thumping sound of the bass of a radio in a passing vehicle?


Monday, August 11, 2008

Expectation of Email Delivery

When you get someone's business card with an email address on it, it seems to me that you can hold the expectation that, if you send email to him, he will most likely receive it. Does this seem reasonable and logical to you?

Of course, there are certain circumstances when that person might not receive your message. He might have left the employ of the organization named on his card; it might have changed its entire email server, although there should be a forwarding function that would deliver the mail and give notice of the change in email address; or it might just be returned to the sender, if there was a printing error on the business card.

But - what if the email address is correct and there is no change in the email server? And especially if the recipient is an employee of a large, local government? Let's say, McHenry County Government?

For four months I have been providing information to an employee with a McHenry County Government email address. Where did I get his email address? From his business card that he handed me after we met in his office.

This information was important and pertained to our conversation. It expanded upon our conversation and provided additional examples of information he would need to move forward in resolving the matter we had discussed.

Imagine my surprise (and disgust) to learn that my emails must have gone into the County's spam or junk e-mail black hole, because my own email address was apparently not in this employee's email Address Book.

My question today was, doesn't someone scan the email in the spam file to determine whether it has value and should be delivered to the addressee? Well, apparently, no one does!

And this is something that the public wouldn't realize was happening, because no return email is sent to alert the original sender that his email was not delivered. At the least, there should have been some type of auto-response to warn the Sender - to give him notice that his email was not delivered, so that he could provide it by fax, by U.S. Mail, in person or by calling the intended recipient to ask why email did not reach him.

Instead, the natural reaction is that an unprofessional atmosphere must exist in that office or that the Sender is being ignored.

Certainly, an administrative or secretarial staff employee could skim incoming emails that dead-end in the spam file and make an initial decision about whether each was worthy of attention. She could have three choices: Deliver it; route it elsewhere for a decision; leave it in the trash. It shouldn't take too much training for a person to be able to to do. And it wouldn't take a lot of time to do it. Perhaps 2-3 seconds per email?

I was in a County office 2-3 months ago when, on working time, six employees were standing around at 8:30AM looking at a party-plan brochure and choosing items to order. Could their time be better used?

Our County Board members and County Administrator would do well to jump on this issue and order that it be resolved.

The next time you send an email to a County employee and don't get a reply within 48 hours, call! Don't send a follow-up email.

Honoring Illinois’ Fallen

The State of Illinois honors another soldier who died in military action in Afghanistan. State and U.S. flags are to fly at half-staff from dawn on Monday, August 11, through sunset on Wednesday, August 13. When you see these flags at half-staff, pause and consider the reason and the honor bestowed on our soldier.

Army Pfc. David J. Badie, 23, whose hometown was Rockford, was killed in action on August 1, when the vehicle in which he was riding encountered an improvised explosive device. Pfc. Badie was a member of the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Tex. He had been in Afghanistan only about one month. Three other members of his unit died in the explosion.

For information, figures and graphs on military fatalities in Operation Enduring Freedom, visit The United States forces have suffered 62.5% (571/913) of the fatalities in Afghanistan.

For information, figures and graphs on military fatalities in Operation Iraqi Freedom, visit The United States forces have suffered 92.9% (4138/4452) of the fatalities in Iraq.

THIRTY THOUSAND (30,324) military personnel have been wounded in Iraq!

Whether we agree or disagree with the wars and this administration, let us never forget the price and the cost of these lives being given in service to our country and also the injuries suffered by thousands of others.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Is Spelling Important?

If you can read the following message, tell your friends about it. Only great minds can read this. This is weird, but it's interesting!

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too.

cna yuo raed tihs? olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. the phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. the rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm.

tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

if you can raed tihs, tlel ohrtes aoubt it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Code Enforcement by Police?

Could the City of Woodstock improve code enforcement during times when the Code Enforcement Officer is not working by utilitizing the officers of the Woodstock Police Department?

Code violations frequently occur on week-ends, when the hardworking Donovan Day gets a break from his full-time duties of breathing down the necks of Woodstock residents and property owners who either do not know of their code violations or decide to break the laws, anyway.

Donovan's efforts are supplemented by reports from our officers, who inform him of code violations that they observe while on patrol. Then he follows up the next day or the next week.

But what would it be like if officers acted, instead of merely reporting? Let's say that, at a particular residence, every week-end large vehicles are parked in the front yard. I imagine that officers report this to Donovan, and then he swings by to contact the resident, if he can find him at home during the work hours of a weekday. In any event, his information is second-hand.

If the vehicles are gone by the time Donovan goes by, all he has is the officer's email that a code violation occurred. Unless this is accompanied by a willingness for the police department to allow its officer to serve as a Complainant and perhaps even by a photograph, the complaint is probably not going anywhere. And it will probably recur.

What if officers were authorized to contact the code violator, explain the code and issue a Notice of Violation? Half of Donovan's job would be done. If the violation got cleared up right away, it's no longer an issue. And, looking on the bright side, it's an opportunity for officers to interact with residents, educate them and help them avoid a fine. Win/win; right?

In small communities police officers often work in this capacity. Would it work in Woodstock? Why not?

All it would take is the decision by the City Manager, supported by the City Council, to direct the police chief to broaden slightly the duties of the police officers. Training? Very little would be needed - perhaps an hour's worth. Most of the officers are already skilled at reading and understanding laws.

These problems occur city-wide. I happen to notice many of them in Beat 22, the northwest quadrant of the assigned districts, or "beats", in Woodstock. Many occur right on North Seminary at the houses on the west side of the roadway.

While they are watching those properties, perhaps they could nail the drivers on Route 47 who use the two-way, left-turn lane for a backing lane. The other day I watched a northbound driver stop in the center lane. When southbound traffic was clear, he backed across that lane and into his driveway. A week before that, I watched a driver back out of a driveway on the west side of the roadway into the center lane and then drive north on Seminary. Surely, maneuvers like that must be against the law.

And maybe they could even nail the southbound drivers who turn into the Jewel parking lot by using the exit across from Chase Bank. It is very clearly marked against such a turn, but drivers do it all the time. For those drivers, it appears to be a "Hey, so what?" situation. How about making it a $100 situation for them?