Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Palin vs. Biden

You'll watch to set your VCRs (you remember those things, don't you?) early to record Thursday night's Vice-Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

I read yesterday that Sarah is at McCain's Sedona house (one of the seven that he can't remember?) attending Debate Camp.

If you missed the Saturday Night Live skit with the take-off on Sarah Palin, be sure to go to http://www.hulu.com/watch/36863/saturday-night-live-couric--palin-open and watch it. Tina Fey is hilarious!

When you are done laughing at that, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8__aXxXPVc&feature=bz301 and listen to Jack Cafferty comment on Sarah Palin's answer to Katie Couric about the bail-out (before Monday's vote). His opinion? "Pathetic."

Granny Scam

You may want to alert grandpas and grandmas you know (even yourself?) of a telephone scam reported on MSNBC, in which callers pretending to be grandchildren ask for money - and get it.

Just imagine your grandchild (or nephew or niece or ???), with whom you might have had infrequent contact, calling to say that he (she) had been in an accident in Canada. "Dad's going to be really mad, because I'm supposed to be in school in Arizona. I need money for the doctor and to get the car so it will run."

Would you send money? What if he said, "Don't tell Dad. I'll tell him when I get back."

These con artists actually get people to wire money to them.

You can read the article at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26859652/from/ET/

Before you decide no one would fall for such a scam, think about it. Then share this information with some of the older folks you know.

Hang on a minute. My phone is ringing...

Monday, September 29, 2008

McCain - Way, way out of the ballpark!

Here's an excellent reason to take a pass on McCain and Palin; at least, on McCain.

CNN reports this afternoon that "...John McCain's campaign accused Obama and Democrats of putting 'politics ahead of country'." The remark follows the vote by the House of Representatives to deep-six the government's $700,000,000,000 (that's 11 zeroes!) bail-out.

The reason they voted it down is that it is a lousy bill. Yes, rescue is needed. And, if they keep working together toward a good bill, they'll get one that will pass.

The 228 who voted against it are not putting politics ahead of the country. They are putting the country ahead of politics. And that's just the way it is.

Let's look up the votes of our local Representatives Bean and Manzullo. How did they vote? Everybody in the country must be trying to get onto http://www.house.gov/ because the site won't open. Or did they all clear out of town and take the keys with them?

Thanks to the Washington Post:

No: 133 Republicans, 95 Democrats = 228 Against
Yes: 140 Democrats, 65 Republicans = 205 For (corrected 9:20PM)
One (1) Congressman not voting

Manzullo? No
Bean? Yes

9 Representatives voted Yes
9 Representatives voted No
And Illinois' own Rep. Jerry Weller was the sole Congressman not voting.

Once I was asked if I had trouble making decisions. I said, "Yes and No." Was that Jerry's problem today?

Near Miss in Crystal Lake

This morning I was almost hit head-on by a driver in a black Jeep Cherokee-type vehicle on U.S. 14 east of MCC. Traffic was heavy, and the driver was the first car in a string of westbound vehicles.

I noticed the left front of his car nearing the center of the road and looked at the driver. He had both hands above the steering wheel and was holding some type of communicator - a large GPS or PDA, and it looked like he was going at it with his thumbs.

He was doing a lousy job of steering with his wrists, and I headed for the shoulder. I flashed my headlights at him and sounded the horn, too.

I thought about turning around to follow him and siccing the Crystal Lake Police, McHenry County Sheriff or Woodstock Police on him. I know how to do that.

I ask the police to enforce RIGIDLY all traffic violations that occur when a driver is distracted, whether by cell phone, text messaging, PDA, GameBoys, PDAs, TVs, DVDs, newspapers, books, office reports - you name it. Don't wait for head-on accidents or rear-enders to give this serious problem your attention.

And I ask the judges to protect us citizens from these distracted drivers. Sock them with big fines, which will also mean large court costs, NO Supervision, and let them build up the points on their licenses. Order traffic school for them, and prohibit the online traffic school. Make them go and sit in a stuffy, dirty classroom for four or eight hours. And make them come back to court and report whether they have learned their lesson.

When the word gets around that McHenry County means business regarding safe driving, we'll all be a lot safer.

Getting Carded...

Recently I wrote about Wal-Mart's run-in with the liquor enforcement people and how the Woodstock Wal-Mart was out-of-business for two days' worth of liquor sales.

Today I was there and got carded! Imagine that!!! Now I must say that it has been many moons since I was last carded and many more, since I was younger than 21.

But the nice, young checker was just doing her job. In fact, she couldn't not do it, because the cash register prompted her to ask for my ID and enter some portion of my driver's license information before it would let her continue ringing up my purchases.

Well, Big Brother now knows that I purchased two bottles of wine. I could almost imagine the satellites turning in their orbits to zoom in on Woodstock.

I was reminded of a woman in a Loop bar whom I watched being carded 40 years ago. The experience is as clear today as it was then. After emptying her purse on the table for all to see and hear, and then emptying her wallet card by card, the woman let the waitress check her ID.

When the waitress asked what she would like to drink, the woman asked, "NOW may I have a coke, please?" Which promptly a loud round of applause from all the other customers in the bar.

File is Damaged

When I tried to open the text of the government's bail-out program, my computer gave me an error message: "The file is damaged and cannot be repaired." I think that has quite a ring of truth to it!

$700,000,000,000! And they want Congress to hurry up and vote? Radio commentators weren't very kind this morning to the Treasury Secretary's initial three-page plan that blew up last week.

What? The President wants a hurry-up vote before people find out what really is in the Bill?

Excuse me, your gun is showing..."

This is the headline of an email I received about an article from the July 2006 United States Concealed Carry Association magazine. The article discussed the importance of carrying a concealed weapon properly, so that it is always out-of-sight.

Of course, in Illinois there is no way for a law-abiding, non-law-enforcement, citizen to carry a concealed weapon "properly." Maybe that day will be here soon.

I especially enjoyed the article, because I recalled a day in Colorado when I was enroute to a hardware store for a small purchase. Spotting a car on the shoulder of the roadway, I stopped to inquire whether I could be of help. I was off-duty that day and was packing a .38 Chief Special on my right hip, under my windbreaker.

The elderly driver had run out of gas, and I offered to drive him to a gas station. He entered my car and off we went to the gas station. Upon returning to his car, I offered to pour the gas into his gas tank. After doing so, I straightened up and turned around to find him standing behind me, his face as white as a sheet.

"I-I-I-I s-s-s-sure h-h-hope you're a c-c-c-cop," he said.

While I was pouring in the gas, my jacket had ridden up over my gun, and the driver had become alarmed. I quickly explained that I was with the sheriff's department and showed him my ID.

That calmed him down somewhat, but I'm sure he never forgot that day. I certainly never did, either.

If you'd like to read the article, from the July 2006 Concealed Carry Magazine, it's at http://usconcealedcarry.org/free/bigtrouble.html And, if you have an interest in membership in that organization, you'll find membership information on the website.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Upheaval at the Sheriff's Department?

What's up at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department?

Rumor has it that the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Rights are nosing around. And that there is a shake-up in the Detective Division, with some changes taking place in the pecking order.

Why, you mean it's not all squeaky clean up there on North Seminary?

Comments from current and former employees are invited. Your privacy is assured. Those who have been contacting me know that I do not reveal anything that might be used to identify you.

You can call me at 815.338.2666 (no CallerID - or just block your number) - if you get the answering machine, just leave your message or call again; by email; or you can continue to mail me at Gus Philpott, P.O. Box 1222, Woodstock 60098. Use my name on the envelope to the P.O. Box. Or you can mail me at home - some of you already are doing that - Thanks!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

DUI Tonight?

"Oshifer, I'm not as drunk as thinkle peep I am. I'ved only had tee martoonies. I had to drive; I was in no condition to walk."

I received a call yesterday about a big party at the Washington Street Station tonight. You know, that joint way, way out on Washington Street, almost to U.S. 14. The one that used to be a biker bar with all the crashed motorcycles in a pile out back. The caller said that there would be many deputies from the McHenry County Sheriff's Department there tonight.

By mid-evening there were 40-50 cars there.

How many will leave the party impaired and drive away? How many would blow 0.08% or higher and be Driving Under the Influence?

Any guesses?

Letters from Teddy Stallard

Like to see the movie "Make a Difference - The Teddy Stallard Story"? You can watch this move - free - at www.makeadifference.com

From the homepage, click on the tab Movies. Scroll down a little to "Make a Difference Move - the Teddy Stallard Story."

Click on the button for "View Full Movie."

Go on, I dare you not to reach for the Kleenex!

Today's Parent University

Today's Parent University at MCC was excellent. Sponsored by the Family CARE Project of the McHenry County Mental Health Board, the day's events included a continental breakfast spread out by the MCC food service staff.

The kick-off at 9:00AM brought tears to the eyes of most, if not all, in the audience. The "Teddy Stallard" story that many have read via e-mail is now on DVD. Check it out at www.MakeADifference.com

The opening presentation was by Lorraine Plum, a highly-experienced consultant in social and emotional learning who now works with school districts, and then morning break-out sessions, including one in Spanish and translated to English (for some of us), ran until noon.

Lunch was set out by the MCC staff and followed by an entertaining presentation by the Shut Up Sisters. Whether you are a parent of a child with special needs or "just a parent", I think you'll enjoy their website at www.ShutUpAbout.com You might even want to go shopping there.

The afternoon program was excellent, too, and included a get-up-and-move-around, participatory portion. It was presented to Merle Siefken and Yvonne Janvrin of the Illinois Statewide Technical Assistance Center for Parents. I had met them last month in Springfield, when I went there for ther Parent Mentor training.

About all I can say is that it was too bad that the MCC conference center wasn't packed! How many parents of children with special needs are there in McHenry County? How many special ed teachers and administrators are there in McHenry County? One (1) [that's O-N-E) Special Education director was there. There were other school staff members and some parents.

Parents are crying out for help and then a program is offered and they don't know about it. Something needs to change in McHenry County, and parents can make it happen. Parents are going to have to insist that their school districts begin educating them and informing them of training, seminars, workshops and conferences like the one today at MCC.

If you would like to be informed of future programs of this type, email Michelle LaLuz at mlaluz@mc708.org and let her know you would like to be added to the email distribution list for future Parent University events. She is at the Mental Health Board. Your email address will be used for that purpose only.

Friday, September 26, 2008

PBS Poll on Sarah Palin

Quick! Go to www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html and vote. Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be V.P.?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Banned Books - see them in Woodstock!

Be sure to head down to the Square and check out the front windows of Read Between the Lynes bookstore. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.) You know where it is; right? The store, I mean...

Plan to spend some time on the sidewalk in front of the store.
Then wander in and spend some more time. On your way out, be sure to pay for the 3-4 books you picked up.
Like having a good bookstore in our own town? The best way to keep them here is to buy your books locally like, right here in Woodstock. Right downtown on the Square. Sure, you might save $3-4-5 buying elsewhere; is it really worth it? Certainly not, if you have to drive to Crystal Lake or Randall Road. And maybe not even if you have to wait 7-10 days for that book you are just dying to read.
If you don't see the book you are looking for, just ask. They will be glad to order it for you. Even if it was on the list of banned books!

One Lively Horse!

Intense pressure from the Woodstock Police Department has resulted in a Square and downtown sidewalks that are pleasant for a stroll on an almost-summer-like evening.

There was a fundraiser on the Square tonight, the Opera House was open, and a carriage ride was available. Proprietors Eric and Sherry of Baltic Hills Farm brought their 9-year-old Clydesdale and carriage to the Square, and they had many takers for rides around the Square.

We've seen different horses on the Square in years past, and this one was ALIVE! When Eric started him from his seat at the front of the carriage, the horse stepped off quite smartly, and passengers enjoyed a lively ride around the Square.
For information about local Clydesdales and carriages for your very special event, visit http://www.baltichillsfarm.com/

Plan Commission Approves B&B

The Woodstock Plan Commission held a meeting and public hearing tonight for a special use permit for the proposed Royal Victorian Manor bed-and-breakfast at 344 Fremont Street, popularly known locally as the Groundhog Day House (or the Cherry Street Inn from the movie, Groundhog Day).

Woodstock attorney Michael McNerney presented the plan to the Commission and introduced future innkeepers Everton Martin and Karla Stewart-Martin, a wonderful couple currently residing in River Falls, Wisconsin. They will be resident innkeepers in this owner-occupied B&B.

Extensive renovations will be made, along with rebuilding of chimneys. Thanks to positive changes made in the City Code after the last B&B was approved, the Martins will not be required to install a commercial-grade fire suppression system. A sprinkler system will be installed, but it will operate off the domestic water supply to the house.

Other questions of the Commissioners pertained to food to be served (breakfast prepared in-house; other meals to be catered in, in compliance with State Health Codes); parking [five spaces (one for each guest room) and screened so as to be hardly noticeable]; occasional other use; and estimated opening date.

The Martins were originally hoping to open in time for the 2009 Groundhog Day festivities, but the likely opening will be summer or fall, 2009. Three residents of the immediate neighborhood spoke in favor of granting the special use permit, and the Commission voted unanimously to approve the permit and forward its recommendation to the City Council.

Welcome to Woodstock, Mr. and Mrs. Martin!

The Birk Economic Recovery PLan

T.J. Birkenmeier got it right. He says,

Hi Pals, I’m against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG. Instead, I’m in favor of giving $85,000,000,000 to America in a We Deserve It Dividend.

To make the math simple, let’s assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child. So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up. So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billon that equals $425,000.00.

My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a We Deserve It Dividend. Of course, it would NOT be tax free. So let’s assume a tax rate of 30%. Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends $25,500,000,000 right back to Uncle Sam. But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket. A husband and wife has $595,000.00.

What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?

Pay off your mortgage – housing crisis solved.
Repay college loans – what a great boost to new grads.
Put away money for college – it’ll be there.
Save in a bank – create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
Buy a new car – create jobs.
Invest in the market – capital drives growth.
Pay for your parent’s medical insurance – health care improves.
Enable Deadbeat Dads to come clean – or else.

Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+, including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And, of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces.

If we’re going to re-distribute wealth, let’s really do it...instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 (“vote buy”) economic incentive that is being proposed by one of our candidates for President.

If we’re going to do an $85 billion bailout, let’s bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!

As for AIG – liquidate it. Sell off its parts. Let American General go back to being American General. Sell off the real estate. Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up. Here’s my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn’t. Sure it’s a crazy idea that can “never work.” But can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast Block Party! How do you spell Economic Boom?

I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion We Deserve It Dividend more than I do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC. And remember, The Birk Plan only really costs $59.5 Billion, because $25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam.

Ahhh...I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

Kindest personal regards,
T. J. Birkenmeier,
A Creative Guy & Citizen of the Republic
PS: Feel free to pass this along to your pals as it’s either good for a laugh or a tear or a very sobering thought on how to best use $85 Billion!!

Comments - should I re-post them?

When a person posts a comment and then removes it, should I re-post it?

I have in mind a comment posted to the article about Soccer Mom and her Wedding Ring yesterday at 8:57PM. This comment showed a definite bias against one class of individuals in this country.

Certainly, there are people in town who know the person who is posting under the nomme de guerre he has chosen. Was he embarrassed about his posting? Did he have second thoughts about how it reflected on him? Could it have repercussions on his employment?

The particular individual hasn't been too kind to me with a wide variety of his previous comments. Would it be retaliation for me to re-publish his comment, including the name under which he submitted it?


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Property Taxes Too High?

The following message is from Bob Anderson, who is making a lot of noise all over McHenry County on your behalf! Read this carefully. Take action to get your assessed valuation, and your property taxes, lowered. Let Bob know how you are doing - how much did you save as a result of squawking? And you might consider kicking in some money toward his efforts.

Also, be sure to read the excellent article in the September 24, 2008, The Woodstock Independent, Page 3.






(second page)

THIS GUIDE IS MADE AVAILABLE TO YOU BY “Citizens for Fair Assessments”.

· APPEAL YEAR: You will be appealing assessments for the year 2008. You may not appeal prior tax years.
· COMPLAINT FORMS: Forms are available from McHenry County Board of Review Administration Building Suite 106 McHenry County Government Center, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock. You can pick them up, hour’s 8:00AM to 4:30PM or call 815-334-4276 or 815-334-4282 to have forms mailed to you. Forms are also available from the County web site www.co.mchenry.il.us. Go to departments, then assessments, then forms. You will need forms for each property protested.
· SUBMISSION OF EVIDENCE: You must have evidence to support complaints. An opinion of fair cash market value must be submitted at the time of complaint filing. You will need four (4) copies of evidence documents.
1. Recent bank or other appraisal.
2. Market value analysis by a real estate agent.
3. Comparable neighborhood properties (three are needed).
· INTERNET USE FOR COMPARABLE ASSESSMENTS: The Treasurer’s Office has a web site www.mchenrytreasurer.org. It can be used by you to look up any Real Estate Tax, which is public record. There are three ways to do this, by someone’s name, address, or PIN number. County Treasurer Bill Lefew is willing to help. Just call him at: 815-334-4260.
· HEARINGS/MEETING: Hearings will be held at McHenry County Board of Review Administration Building Suite 106 McHenry County Government Center, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock. You will be notified. Hearings last about 15 minutes.
· FILING DEADLINE: Fully completed complaint forms must be filed with the clerk of Appeal Board 30 days after publication in the newspaper or mailing of assessment cards.
· WHERE TO FILE COMPLAINT FORMS: Forms are filed at the McHenry County Administrative building with the Office of Assessments either in person or by mail. If you need further information, call the Office of Assessments at 815-334-4290.
· ATTORNEY REPRESENTATION: You can hire an attorney to represent you. In most cases, this is not necessary.
· HELP US OUT: Please pass this information on to your neighbors and others!!!
· MAILING LIST: We are gathering a postal and E-Mail list.
Please E-Mail to Ed2mar68@yahoo.com




Skateboarding Ticket Cost

What will a ticket for skateboarding on a sidewalk in the vicinity of the Square cost? Or for riding a bicycle on a sidewalk in the area of the Square?

The fine for a ticket for either of these can range from $5.00 to $500.00. It's up to the judge. If the kid shows up in a clean shirt and no holes in his jeans, the fine might be $5.00. If he shows up with an attitude, the fine might be $500.00.

And then you have to add the court costs. A clerk at the traffic court told me today that the minimum court costs would be $85.00-$100.00. And she couldn't tell me exactly how much the court costs will be (I've run into that answer before). When I asked if the court costs for a $5.00 fine and the court costs for a $500.00 fine are different, she said they are different. What? It costs more money to accept more cash or a check in a larger amount???

The police department has informed me that a judge sets the fine. This means that a court appearance will be required. And that means court costs.

Is this what our City Council figured out in advance?

You can get a speeding ticket (or a headlight ticket) and mail in the fine. No court appearance is necessary. And no court costs have to be paid.

Is riding a bike on a sidewalk on the Square more serious than a speeding ticket?

And will the police be less likely to ticket bicyclists and skateboarders on sidewalks on and around the Square, knowing that it's going to cost the kid and his parents over $100 to settle it?

Only time (and a FOIA Request) will tell.

White Privilege in the U.S.A.

“White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.”

This quote is from This is Your Nation on White Privilege, by Tim Wise. The entire piece can be read at

To watch and hear “Tim Wise: On White Privilege”, go to

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Square Beat

When a police beat is created and manned for the Woodstock Square (during a hiring freeze), where does the manpower come from to staff the new beat.

The community policing approach to law enforcement has resulted in the establishment of four beats (or districts) of police patrols. The City is divided into four quadrants, and a map is available from the police department. Maybe even it will be online one of these days. Scanning it and posting it online would probably take all of about three minutes but, so far as I know, it hasn't happened yet.

But now there seems to be a fifth beat. At least, it seems so from the presence of an officer and a marked squad car on the Square for many hours of the day. Does Woodstock now have five beats? If so, where did the fifth officer come from?

Diversity is good.
Difference is good.
Contrasts are good.

But I'm quite unsure what I am going to learn from the kids sauntering around the downtown area with their caps worn sideways (most now recognize this as a "gang" sign) or bodies fouled with numerous piercings and covered with tattoos.

Sometimes I'm tempted to ask what gang they belong to. The 13ers? The 14ers? How about the chain gang? I, for one, am unwilling to see this town go down the drain because of gangs and other miscreants.

I invite everyone to stand for your right to enjoy our town - at any time, any hour, any minute of the day.

If you call the police in the middle of the night and they are slow to arrive or disinterested once they do arrive, post your comments here. Remember the police motto on the patrol cars? "To protect and to serve." We expect this. We require this. And we'll get this.

Tapes of City Council Meetings

I heard from a Prairie Ridge resident tonight that Mayor Sager told him that he could go to City Hall and listen to tapes from the City Council meeting on September 2.

That was a really good meeting, where Prairie Ridge residents spoke emphatically and factually about problems in their neighborhood. It's nice to learn that the tape of the meeting is available for public listening.

This contradicts, of course, information given to me previously that the tapes of City Council meetings are the property of the City Clerk and are used only for the preparation of the City Council meeting "Minutes". The tapes are not "transcribed"; i.e., Minutes are not verbatim reporting of meeting issues.

Has the City decided to preserve the tapes of meetings?

Prairie Ridge Residents Meet at the P.D.

Just heard about tonight's meeting of the Prairie Ridge residents at the Woodstock Police Department. Will be gathering more details from a number of the residents who were there.

Attn. Please inform me of meetings like this. I'll be glad to be there to collect the "news" and publish it right away. No need to wait for your puppy to drag the Northwest Herald to your door in the morning. Read tomorrow's news tonight!

Earlier today I wrote about the dearth of police news on the City's P.D. website. You can read those comments on www.WoodstockCrimeLog.info

I'll tell you this. You'd better read the crime news, if any, during the first few days on the P.D.'s Crime Alert webpage. They don't leave bad news up very long.

Soccer Mom Wears Wedding Ring Now

When Soccer Mom was introduced to the world, I noticed that she was not wearing a wedding ring. Well, lots of married women don't wear wedding rings. Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with not wearing a ring, but I was at least curious. I don't even think she was wearing one in her first national interview with Charles Gibson.

But the McCain camp must have gotten through to her. In this week's news photos of Soccer Mom meeting with world leaders (so they say), guess who is wearing a wedding band? Yep! Sarah.

Anyone else notice this?

"Where is a cop when ...

... you need one?"

How many times have you said that? Well, tonight he was right behind me.

I was in McHenry and was driving on a side street past a park on the south side of Route 120. As I approached a crosswalk, I spotted a kid on a bicycle who was pedaling hard for the crosswalk. It was obvious he had no intention of stopping or even slowing, and I slammed on the brakes.

Fortunately, I was able to stop without hitting him as he tore across the street in front of me. I gave him a blast on the horn, and he flipped me off as he rode away from the street. I thought to myself, "I'd like to chase him down and get him ticketed." But how does a man in a VW keep up with a kid on a bike?

About one block further on I stopped at the stop sign at 120. Guess who was right behind me? A McHenry Police car! Yea!!!

The kid had ridden up to 120 and then back to the east, so he was riding right into the cop's arms. As the officer crossed the street to meet the kid, I offered to witness, but he said he'd take care of it. I'm sure he did.

I'll bet it will cost the kid $100 in court for that little act. I'm glad I didn't hit him (and that he didn't hit me), and I hope he learns his lesson.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Advertise in the NWH - Not!

Where is the most expensive real estate in McHenry County?

Bull Valley? Barrington? Johnsburg?

How about in the Classified section of the Northwest Herald? My stepson is going to have a garage sale this week-end, and he wants to run an ad in the paper to attract customers.

I figured that a 2-3-line ad might be $7-8 to run 2-3 days.

He called today and, when he reported the pricing to me, I questioned him and told him it couldn't cost that much. When I called, the operators were so busy placing ads that I kept hearing the "hold" message, which finally told me I could place the ad online.

Going to the website, I found the pricing. Try this on for size: 10-15 lines, $34.00

First of all, who wants a garage sale ad with 10-15 lines? And, secondly, who wants to spend $34 for a garage sale ad???

I can appreciate that newspapers are starving for revenues; at those rates, they'll just keep on starving.

Sarah Palin Survey

The votes are in. Thanks to all 58 who took time to vote.

The question was, "Is Sarah Palin qualified to run the U.S.A.?"

Yes? 26 (44%)

No? 32 (55%)

Second Chance?

Do you know anyone with financial problems and whose home may be in, or approaching, foreclosure? Warn them about the mortgage rescue schemes. One attorney I know described the schemes as "That's where they steal your house and rent it back to you, then kick you out."

There is a lengthy article today at http://redtape.msnbc.com/2008/09/post.html

Second Chance is the company spotlighted in the article. It operates in Illinois and right here in McHenry County.

Even if you think you cannot afford an attorney, do not sign anything from any of the mortgage rescue companies without consulting an attorney. Do not trust what you are told. Not even sure you can trust what you read, but you'll wish you had read and understood the contract, if you don't fully understand it before you sign.

Kind of like buying a car from certain dealerships. Do not sign anything with blank spaces "to be filled in later." Take the proposed Purchase Agreement or Sales Contract to your lawyer.

3rd WDBA Open House - Wed. 7PM

The third open house of the Woodstock Downtown Business Association will be this Wednesday at 7:00PM. That's September 24. This is an opportunity to learn what the WDBA is doing and what it wants to do.

The public is invited. In fact, for there to be a strong partnership between the Association, the downtown business community, and the People of Woodstock, the WDBA wants the People - that's you and me - to be there. Ask questions about the application for the Illinois Main Street program.

Individuals and families can join the WDBA, not just businesses. And the fees are low. So, come on down...

The WDBA offices are located on Main Street, just north of the parking lot from the movie theater.

The sidewalks ought to be safer for pedestrians, now that Woodstock has a new ordinance that prohibits bicycle riding and skateboards on the sidewalks of the streets around the Square and leading to the Square. If the signs aren't up yet, they should be up soon.

Chicago Cops Slow Down

There is quite an interesting Associated Press article in this morning's Northwest Herald, Page 5A. The headline is "Officers say they are rebelling against chief."

The cops don't like new CPD Chief Jody Weis, a former FBI agent who reportedly earns $320,000/year. Three hundred twenty THOUSAND? No wonder they are rebelling.

But his pay may not be what they are mad about.

They don't feel backed up. OK, check out one officer's comment. A 25-year cop is quoted as saying, "But I don't go out of my way to stop someone on a hunch or if they look suspicious." No wonder he fears retaliation.

Doesn't a cop need "probable cause" to stop someone in Chicago? Cops learn that in Police 101. Is this what the Chicago cops are mad about? That they can't just grab someone on the street because he looks guilty?

Cops need a police chief who will back them up, and they need one who will rap them on their knuckles when they don't follow the laws that they are supposed to know so well.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why Is Grace Hall Important to Woodstock?

As time passes, I learn a little more each day about Grace Hall and the Todd School. Others here in Woodstock know far more than I, and I invite their participation here to educate Woodstock residents about the importance of both.

During a visit this afternoon with one Woodstock resident of more than ten years, I learned not just that Todd School was an early educational home to Orson Welles, but why the School was so important.

Just imagine a school that created a learning partnership between the faculty and the students. Imagine that students had not only responsibility, but also authority. And were taught to use it wisely.

Is that how it was at Todd School?

I invite Woodstock residents, and others around the country who might learn of this request, to comment.

How many teachers in Woodstock and McHenry County know the history of Todd School and Grace Hall?

What if the learning environment of that day spread to today's students? What if they didn't ask, "Who was Orsin Wells?" (His name was George Orson Welles.) Do Woodstock students today even know the significance of his 1938 broadcast of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds? Do they even know of it?

What if District 200 decided that beginning this year, and for the following years, it will educate students in ways that stimulate their curiosity and interest? Teach them to want to learn! Teach them how to learn!

Most have heard of No Child Left Behind. Well, let's make sure that NO child is left behind!

Exorbitant Traffic Court Costs

Have you been to traffic court recently in McHenry County?

If you have, you know to take your high blood pressure medication before you ever go back. And, if you haven't, you'd better get a line-of-credit set up at your bank before you go.

The judges warn those in the court room as court starts that court costs are high AND that they are not set by the judges. Court costs are set by the State legislature and by the McHenry County Board. So, if you have a gripe, you know whom to call. And it won't be Ghostbusters!

Just try to find out how much your court costs will be, before you go to court. Right... just try. Unless policies have changed recently, the traffic court clerks will not tell you how much court costs will be. They'll have lots of excuses, like "It depends" and "We don't know" and "The computer calculates them" and ya-da-ya-da-ya-da.

Well, they should know, and they should be able to tell you. Of course, then they'd have to deal with the screams and gnashing of teeth over the phone (oh, the verbal abuse, you mean...).

I watched one person's case - no front license plate (hadn't replaced it after an accident) and a cover over the rear plate. I suspect the judge went easy on the guy, knowing how much the court costs were going to be. The driver probably felt some relief when the judge fined him $10 on each charge. But I'll bet the driver found out that the court costs would be $125 on each of the two tickets, thus costing him $270 to get out of the courthouse, not $20 and change.

Pick up a copy of the schedule of court costs at the traffic clerk's payment window. You'll have to insist on it. The first time I asked for a schedule, the clerk looked at me like there wasn't any such form. However, I could see it, right on the counter on her side of the window.

Is that bulletproof glass? Maybe so. You never know when a clerk might go postal and start shooting people trying to pay their fines. I wonder if employees are checked as carefully as visitors for contraband and weapons. Can we really feel safe in our courthouse?

I guess we can, because I inadvertently had a pocket dictator with me when I headed to court recently. I tried to check it with the guard at the door, but he told me in no uncertain terms that, if he took it from me, I would not get it back.

Of course, I was ready to argue that point with him, because NO court employee is going to confiscate a person's private property, voluntarily surrendered, and then going to keep it. His "take it back to your car or lose it" offer will be taken up another day with the person in charge of court security.

But back to the court costs. There should be an easy-to-use, court-cost calculator online right on the McHenry County Courthouse website. Even if it gave only a rough estimate of court costs, it would be helpful.

It would also help those with tickets decide whether to plead guilty or fight it. If you knew your court costs would be $125-150 on top of a $75 fine, would you fight it? Especially if you thought you were not guilty?

It's a shame that sometimes people plead guilty, because it's cheaper to pay a $75 fine than to go to court and risk a total cost of $225 ($75 fine + $150 court costs).

Many think the judge will automatically believe the cop, more so than believing the driver who got the ticket. I don't think so. It's just that most drivers don't know the law or don't know how to defend themselves. Knowing the law is critical; you have to know whether or not you did violate it. Defending yourself (whether with a lawyer or on your own) is important, if you are not guilty or if you believe the officer cannot prove you are guilty.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First Dude Snubs Subpoena

Should the First Dude, Sarah Palin's husband, ignore a subpoena issued by the Alaskan body investigating Troopergate? That's just what he did.

What were his reasons? Among his reasons, according to an Associated Press article, were
1. jurisdiction questions
2. separation of power issues and
3. an inconvenient travel schedule.

I like #3. I'll have to remember that one, the next time I receive a subpoena.

"Gee, your honor, (whine, whine, sniffle, cough), it just won't be convenient for me to be there at that time."

Troopergate is a State issue and McCain and his buddies ought to keep their paws out of it. But they won't, because Soccer Mom is studying up on Bush tactics.

It's not like the First Dude is charged with any crime. So why is he clamming up?

Lights & Siren....

When law enforcement is responding "hot" (lights & siren), it is incumbent on the driver of the vehicle to operate it safely. Officers are allowed under State traffic laws to "speed", to proceed through red lights and past stop signs, and they are required to do so safely.

About 5:43PM today a McHenry County Sheriff's Dept. squad car, No. 541, was barreling south on Route 47 past the Citgo gas station and Taco Bell at an estimated 60MPH. From the sound of the engine the driver was hard on the accelerator. He was blasting right down the center of the roadway in the two-way left-turn lane, although the inside southbound lane was mostly clear, because drivers had pulled to the right.

Once he got to Tommy's, he had to slow down, because the roadway narrowed and traffic was more congested.

Because of cars north- and southbound, 60MPH was too fast for safe conditions.

A call was placed to the sheriff's department, and I'm waiting for the shift sergeant to call me back.

The only way for supervisors to know of unsafe driving by their deputies is for the public to call and inform them.

Many officer-involved traffic crashes never get reported to the media. Two years ago I uncovered four of them in three months, and that didn't include the deputy who crashed his patrol car off-duty in an early morning DUI wreck.

Yes, we want quick response times. The call this afternoon might have been an alarm. Many alarms are false, so no one wants or needs an officer-involved wreck enroute to a false alarm. And certainly no one wants an officer-involved wreck enroute, if there is an actual alarm. The responding officer will never make it, if he wrecks his squad car enroute.

A quick response with the emphasis on safety is what citizens want.

Edited at 7:48PM. I appreciated the courteous call from the sheriff's dept. sergeant on duty. He responded professionally and courteously, and he was forthright about wanting his deputies to respond quickly, but safely.

The deputies often have a long way to travel to calls. I remember an end-of-shift call one summer night in Colorado. I was on the motorcycle and only three blocks from the lot, when a call of a barn fire was broadcast. I was the only unit still out, and off I went for the 25 miles to the fire. Lights & siren, too.

Distracted by Cell Phone; hits semi-

Did you catch the article in this morning's Northwest Herald about the teen who wrecked her car after reportedly being distracted by use of her cell phone? Thanks to Sarah Sutschek for providing a good accounting of how that accident occurred.

According to Lake in the Hills PD Sgt. Mark Smith, the driver ran off Hwy. 47 near Ackman Road (most would think that to be Huntley, but it must be in Lake in the Hills) because she was "doing something with her phone". After she drove onto the shoulder, the driver over-corrected and hit a southbound tractor-tractor.

Good timing, eh? Wrecked her car, hit the semi-, and damaged another car.

Just how long will it take our legislators (state, county or local) to create a law prohibiting cell phone usage by a driver of a moving car?

The girl had probably paid attention in Driver's Ed to the law that a driver under 18 is not to use a cell phone. Too bad she didn't learn "why". The rules changed when she hit 18.

Every day I see drivers who cannot drive safely and talk on phones at the same time. It is possible to use a cell phone and drive safely. Most don't. That's why you see cars coming at you on Route 14 creeping over the center line, see drivers stop late at stop signs, cruise through red lights, turn right on red, etc.

Researchers say that the brain cannot do two things at the same time. For most, this will mean drive OR talk on the cell phone.

Driving defensively becomes all the more important as cell phone use behind-the-wheel continues to increase.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Needed: One DashCam

Is this the full-moon time of month?

When you are driving north past McDonald's and have to slam on your brakes to avoid a driver who makes a sudden, and otherwise illegal, left turn right in front of you, what do you do? Besides miss the other car, I mean?

More and more frequently, drivers are turning left into the Jewel shopping center across from Chase Bank and McDonald's, in spite of the clear No Left Turn sign. Or is it so clear? Remembering that this is Woodstock, maybe what's needed there is a "NO LEFT TURN' sign, instead of the international symbol prohibiting a left turn.

If the sign doesn't provide enough advice, then the raised island for the right-in, right-out for northbound traffic ought to provide a pretty clear indication that you are not supposed to turn left there.

I wouldn't say that I came "close" to making a big red imprint on the passenger side of that car, but it was only because I was watching. Glad I wasn't on the phone, drinking a Pepsi, turning up Y103.9, reading a text message, or otherwise distracted. (Hey, I'm leaving myself wide open here; right?) Since he was in the left-turn lane, I did expect he would be turning left - just not right there!

I circled through the parking lot and spotted the driver walking away from his car. The vehicle is a sort-of gold-colored Ford Taurus four-door sedan; license A63 3669. If you see this one coming at you, give him a lot of leeway, because he'll take it.

It was about all I could do to keep from summoning a Woodstock officer to write him a ticket.

Have you ever tried to make a traffic complaint to the Woodstock Police Department, been clear on the facts and been willing to testify in court? What was your experience? Were you successful?

One More at Jewel

As I was leaving the Jewel-Osco this afternoon, I spotted a vehicle parked at the curb 1) parked the wrong way with the driver's door nearest the curb; 2) more than a foot from the curb; 3) part-way in the pedestrian crosswalk; and 4) parked right in front of a No Parking Fire Lane sign; and 5) unoccupied.

When I drove by, three young men were standing on the sidewalk about 30 feet away. Couldn't be their car; right?

I parked and, when I walked over with my camera, the three were getting into the car, and a woman asked why I was taking pictures of her car. "It's parked facing the wrong way right under a No Parking sign." She informed me that her uncle is a cop. Well, fine; maybe he'll explain why the car should have been parked in the parking lot.

If Woodstock would get on the ball and implement the Vehicular Control Agreement (VCA) such as in use in many other communities, then the police could enforce traffic laws on the Jewel-Osco property.

As it is, today, none of the above is a violation of traffic laws, because traffic laws (with a couple of notable exceptions) cannot be enforced on private property.

The three property owners are willing to consider a VCA. The City, however, has a four-page form that would scare a Philadelphia lawyer. One of the three property owners read the four-page Agreement carefully and refused to sign it. The City won't contract with Jewel (anchor business and business with the most employees and customers) or with the property manager of the strip of stores that includes Papa Murphy's, because the third property owner wouldn't, at that time, sign on.

If the City Attorney presented to Woodstock the same VCA as it gave to Algonquin, we'd have a one-page Agreement with a lot of white space. Instead, for some reason, the City Attorney gave Woodstock a four-pager. Perhaps fees are higher for a four-page document?

A VCA on the Jewel-Osco corner would make the parking lot and driveways safer for thousands of people a week. Did somebody drop the ball, when Jewel moved two blocks to the new location?

If the third (reluctant) property owner were offered a reasonable legal agreement, I'll bet he would sign. I'm sure he is interested in doing everything to lower his liability.

Do you know when the VCA will be done? It'll be done right after someone is killed or seriously injured by a driver who doesn't stop at a stop sign or who parks along the curb and obstructs the view of another driver!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Oh, but Officer, he's leaning ...

... against our mailbox."

This afternoon I visited with Wayne (remember Wayne?). Wayne's the man in Crystal Lake who is being sued for $500,000 by Viking Dodge. And the man who is picketing Viking Dodge and informing the public of how he was treated and letting passersby know where they can read more complaints about Viking Dodge. (www.RipOffReport.com)

Wayne has documented several acts against him with reports and complaints to the Crystal Lake Police Department. In one case an employee of Viking Dodge stole signs off his vehicle. That employee was prosecuted and convicted. And now that employee is a former employee.

On another day Wayne's Magnum station wagon was boxed in by three Viking Dodge vehicles until an officer of the Crystal Lake Police Department arrived.

Wayne and I walked over to the front grass area along the curb, because Wayne wanted to measure the width of the right-of-way and determine whether any of the cars for sale were intruding on the right-of-way. We knew the right-of-way was 22 feet from a zoning map on file with the City of Crystal Lake.

At no time did Wayne or I encroach on the private property of Viking Dodge. We remained at all time in the right-of-way easement, to which the public has access. Wayne knows this. I know this. The officers of the Crystal Lake Police Department know this.

After Wayne and I crossed U.S. 14 back to his car, two Crystal Lake PD squad cars rolled onto Viking Dodge property. And then the officers came over to talk to Wayne, because some Viking Dodge employee had complained that Wayne was leaning against their mailbox, the post of which is fully in the right-of-way.

Can you imagine that? A Viking Dodge employee (OK, who was it? a mechanic? janitor; lot boy? salesman? sales manager? general manager?) called the police department about Wayne leaning against the mailbox post?

The officers were polite and knew that no crime had been committed. I asked one of the officers what it would take to get them to file criminal charges against the Viking Dodge employee for a false report or harassment.

Viking Dodge must love the publicity that Wayne is getting for them. Many, many people honk horns and wave at Wayne. Many give him the thumbs-up and call out encouragement.

After two years of picketing, you'd think that the management of Viking Dodge would wise up. Oh, wait; they are car dealers.

What if someone had run out with a lawnchair and a beach umbrella for shade, brought Wayne a bottle of cold water or a can of lemonade, and said, "Wayne, you look a little tired; here, have a seat."

What if Jim Samaris approached Wayne and offered a genuine apology for the shabby treatment of Wayne, who had tried to buy a brand new car and trade in a car he had been perfectly happy with.

As I told one of the officers today, "Wayne's parking space" was covered with nails one day. And I don't mean just a few. How about a couple of boxes of nails? IDOT sent over a crew to sweep up the shoulder of the state highway. I'm sure no Viking Dodge employee had anything to do with that. The boxes of nails probably just fell over the side of a carpenter's truck, took a couple of good bounces and then split open, spreading nails evenly from the curb about five feet into the shoulder and for about 15 feet. Just a small mishap, of course...

I Pledge Allegiance ...

Imagine my surprise yesterday when visiting a courtroom in the McHenry County Government Center, when Judge Robert K. Beaderstadt entered and asked all to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance before being seated.

How many of the "younger generations" can say the Pledge of Allegiance? How many just mumble the words without thinking of what they really mean?

If you would like a quick refresher on the real meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance, watch Red Skelton's explanation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZBTyTWOZCM

The late Mr. Skelton (1913-1997) presented this very personal explanation of the Pledge of Allegiance on January 14, 1969, on CBS-TV. Watch it; bookmark it; share it.

Voter Registration Deadline

Is there a deadline for voter registration in McHenry County? How about the Lawyer's Answer? It depends.

If you would like to vote sometime in the future, there is no deadline.

If you would like to vote in the November 4, 2008, General Election for President of the United States, then there most definitely is a deadline, and it is October 7.

How do I know this - definitely not from the County Clerk's office (shame on them). I learned of it from the billboard sign on U.S. 14 between Woodstock and Crystal Lake. Thanks to Sen. Pam Althoff and Rep. Mike Tryon!

You have 15 days remaining (as of, and including, September 17) to register. If you have moved, you must re-register.

Election officials forecast a large number of first-time voters.

If you know someone who is at least 18 and who is not a registered voter, persuade him to register. A person cannot vote, if he is not registered. He can always decide whether to vote, come Election Day. If he is not registered, then he has no choice - he cannot vote.

You would never know of the registration deadline, if you read only the Voter Registration information on the McHenry County website. How easy it would be to inform voters that they must register (or re-register) by a certain date.

The County webpage also fails to inform those wishing to register to vote of the many places where registration can be completed. You don't have to go to the office of the County Clerk at the courthouse.

For information about where you can register, call 815.334.4242

Do not wait until the last moment. And, if you register at some place other than the County Clerk's office, be sure to save your copy of your registration form. If you get to the voting place on Election Day and are told that you are not registered, present your copy of your registration form and insist (politely) that the voting judge do whatever is necessary to allow you to vote.

Voting in the USA is not a privilege. It is your Right!

Can't wait for November 4th to get here. Vote early. The phrase, "Vote Early and Vote Often", comes to mind. I'll be sporting my Voting button on Election Day. As I leave the voting place, I always say, "See you later." Keep in mind that the County Clerk probably won't want to see your shining face more than once.
Early voting starts October 14. You can find that information about Early Voting on the McHenry County website at co.mchenry.il.us
Of course, you can't vote early, if you are not registered!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Bikes, Skateboards on the Square

Heads up, kids. You'll be finding new rules soon on the Square for riding your bikes and skateboards.

Tonight's City Council meeting included passage, without discussion or any notice other than mention as an Agenda item, of an expanded ordinance that prohibits skateboarding and riding bicycles on the sidewalks of the Square, including streets leading into the Square.

Celebrating with a ride past City Hall tonight were two boys, having a joy ride right down the middle of Calhoun Street in front of City Hall. Think they had any concern about the action to be taken by the City Council just yard away?

Think they care?

The ordinance itself doesn't mention any specific fine. Is it the "usual" $75.00 fine? Can the fine be paid at City Hall or do you have to go to McHenry County Courthouse? That's a long skateboard ride from the Square.

First, the City will have to install signs to warn bicyclists and skateboarders to stay off the sidewalks. Then there will probably be a warning period - maybe 30 days when the police will only issue warnings.

Let's hope their policy is one warning per kid and not 30 days' worth of warning. It won't take long for the word to get around town.

Grace Hall - down but not out

An item on tonight's Agenda for the Woodstock City Council meeting was "Woodstock Christian Life Campus - Adoption of an Ordinance issuing a Special use Permit for the Woodstock Christian Life Services (WCLS) Campus."

My guess is that the bulk of tonight's audience was there tonight to hear about, and to discuss, the proposal to tear down Grace Hall, currently the operations headquarters of the WCLS. Attorney Mark Gummerson represented WCLS and wanted the City Council to split up the issue tonight into two parts: 1) the North and Central portions of the plan and 2) the South portion, which includes Grace Hall. Gummerson asked that the South portion be tabled.

Heck, with all those people in the room to speak against demolition of Grace Hall, we could have been there until noon tomorrow.

The Council didn't really want to do that, so the Mayor asked Gummerson (or Gummerson asked the City Council) about postponing the whole deal. And that's what they did.

There is jargon for that which probably came from some mayoral retreat or conference or seminar - "postpone to time indefinite..." What's wrong with just saying, "postpone at this time"?

It was clear that the City Council favors the plan and wants to move forward on it. Some of them might even be in favor of working hard to preserve the building known as Grace Hall. The Mayor spoke about upholding private property rights. Two councilmen said specifically that they are looking to "make this happen."

When one man spoke against postponement, the mayor was offended and was clearly defensive about any suggestion that the request of WCLS was, in view of a packed City Council chamber, a ploy to move the item to another date, which would require everyone who came out tonight to return on another night.

My thoughts? That resident hit the nail smack on the head. And, if I had been the lawyer for WCLS, that's exactly what I would have done. Buy some time. Move it off a few weeks, like maybe to the night of an early, heavy snow.

The Outcry That Wasn't

Tonight's City Council meeting was definitely not the shot heard 'round the world! The chamber was packed. SRO! Standing room only. Many in the audience were there for the Woodstock Christian Life Services proposal to expand, while demolishing Grace Hall as part of the grand plan.

Others, and not a few, were there about the 200 block of Fremont man-with-a-gun call and the police response. Chief Lowen was there, and quite a number of Woodstock police officers in casual clothing. I suspect they were all there to hear the residents' clamor over how the call was handled.

And who spoke? Two residents. Two. Only two. Shocking! Perhaps they were intimidated by being in the presence of the City Council. Or were they pre-empted by Mayor Sager, who made a lengthy preamble to the Public Comment portion of the meeting.

Here's what should have happened. When the Public Comment period was opened, Mayor Sager should have stopped speaking. Instead, he spoke about how "saddened" he was by the increase in criminal and inappropriate activity. And how residents have an expectation of safety and security. And how intensive the dialogue has been between the Police Department and the school district.

Ho-hum. I guess it would have been pretty rude and unprofessional to stand up and say, "For crying out loud, let's hear from the Public." But I'll say it right here. At future City Council meetings, let the public comment!

After all the public comments have been made, then, and only then, should the Mayor and members of the City Council speak. Suck it up, guys (and ladies). Have the guts to take it, when it's dished out.

Had Mayor Sager not stolen the thunder of those who showed up to speak their minds, perhaps they would have braved the path to the microphone, introduced themselves, and spoken their pieces. By making such lengthy, sweeping comments Mayor Sager took the wind out of the sails of those who came tonight, not to hear what he had to say, but to tell him and the Council what they had to say.

One who did speak is the father of children at Dean St. School. Containing his anger pretty well, he questioned the lack of decisive leadership on the Fremont Street call. He told the Council that he thought they were unaware of the problems near the center of the City. I think he meant the neighborhoods around the center of the downtown area, not only "the" downtown area. "Rental properties are the breeding grounds for trouble," he said. He urged the City Council and Mayor to get more involved with people.

A second speaker complained that the city administration and the police department were not forthcoming about crime issues. And she asked for better communication from the Police Department. She wants action, not just "feeling bad", referring to the Mayor's earlier words. She commented that a beat officer had told a neighbor that no gun was involved in the crime in the 200 block of Fremont.

I wished I had been able to write quickly enough to jot down word-for-word the Mayor's response. It was to the tune of "If that's true, then..." What did he mean - "if that's true"? She had just told him what she had heard!

I heard a couple of days ago that two residents were told that "nothing had happened" on Fremont Street. In other words, there was no man with a gun. Well, one resident calling the police to report a man with a gun crouched down by her back door (no, he wasn't out in the backyard (away from the house) by a woodpile] is good enough for me.

I believe her, and every cop there and every cop in the police department should have believed her.

If the cops think such a report is "funny", let's just hope that something similar does not happen to their wives!

I'll be interested in learning why no others there tonight spoke up. If you are reading this and you were there and didn't speak up, why didn't you?

TONIGHT! Woodstock City Council - 7:00PM

If you have never been to a Woodstock City Council meeting, tonight will be one not to miss.

City Council chambers are expected to be packed tonight, due to the number of issues that have attracted public attention.

1. Police response to a man-with-a-gun incident near Dean St. School on Sept. 4.
2. Demolition plans for Grace Hall of the former Todd School, now Woodstock Christian Life Services.
3. Expansion of bicycle and skateboard restrictions on sidewalks of the Square.

Don't miss the Public Hearing on the return of property to Mr. Rosati, now that a street program has been abandoned. The City will try once again to "get it right." Let's hope there is no expense to Mr. Rosati and no more expense to the City. Glad I'm not paying 100% of the legal fees on that transfer of property back to the property owner.

Should Teachers Strike?

As most know by now, the teachers in the Huntley School District have gone on strike. The strike started Monday morning, Sept. 15.

Should teachers strike? No. NO! And NOOOOO!

Students belong in school, getting educated with the huge taxpayer dollars that are extracted from property owners.

The disruption in the lives of children, parents, teachers, and the businesses of employers is too great to permit strikes by teachers.

An agreement should have been reached long before now.

There is only a certain amount of money in the pot for education. One solution might be to tell the teachers' union: "This is how much money there is for teachers' salaries and benefits. You split it up. We expect teachers to be in the classroom, prepared and teaching. If they are not, we will replace them - permanently."

And then let the teachers duke it out with their union leaders.

When a mother (or father) must take time off from work to care for children who would otherwise be in school, why should an employer take it on the cuff? Employees not showing up for work should, at a minimum, be docked for the hours they miss. Then we'll see what kind of pressure gets put on the teachers and the school district to settle.

Parents should be demanding that BOTH sides sit down and resolve the issues. No breaks. Put them in a meeting room and lock the door. Send in food. Clean the purple potties. Tell them to wind it up.

And if they can't or won't. Bring in substitutes. There are hundreds of unemployed, qualified teachers anxious to work.

Survey - Ryders Woods, Safe?

The votes are in. The question: Is Ryders Woods safe for children?

Number of votes: 34
Yes 21 (61%)
No 13 (39%)

With almost 40% of respondents indicating that they feel Ryders Woods is NOT safe for children, this informal survey should indicate to the City and to the Police Department that work is needed to improve the safety of children in Ryders Woods.

It's pretty neat to have a wooded area in a town, an area where kids of all ages can go on foot and on their bikes. Where they can walk their dogs. When they can enjoy a pond and fish.

But it must be safe. Police alone cannot make it safe. Residents must help.

If you are in Ryders Woods (or anywhere) and see bullying, intimidation or any other suspected illegal acts, call the police immediately. Today almost everyone carries a cell phone. And, even you don't have one, there will probably be several within shouting distance.

Thanks to all for your participation!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sarah Palin - The Right VP Candidate?

Come on now, folks. Let's be serious. Is Sarah Palin the right VP candidate for John McCain? For the United States?

All things considered, is she? Is she your pick to run the country, if John McCain can't (or doesn't) make it through a four-year term? I mean, I wish him good health, safety, soundness of mind and a healthy next four years.

But, and it's a huge "But", what if the VP has to step in? What if some wacko with a pitbull and a tube of lipstick decides that it's time that this country had a woman president.

Do her qualifications as soccer mom, mayor of a town smaller than Woodstock, governor of the largest State by size but the 47th state by population (670,053 in 2006, per the U.S. Census Bureau) for less than two years (December 4, 2006) place her in the line of people competent to lead the United States?

Vote in this week's poll.

Photo Radar is Here!

On August 8, 2008, Gov. Blagojevich announced that photo radar will be used on Illinois highways! He didn't call it that when he announced the joint State Police and IDOT program to nab speeders, but Photo Speed Enforcement (PSE) is good enough for me.

Lest you think this will generate only a small but tidy sum of money for State coffers, the State of Illinois expects to be able to hire 500 new troopers over the next three years with the revenues generated. Heck, they could do that with fines of the speeders on the Northwest Tollway alone!

The program will target motorists who drive at excessively high and dangerous speeds. There are lots of those out there. About three years ago I rode with the Special Enforcement Team (SET) on I-90 in near IL 59. On that day there had air support. A trooper in a plane overhead clocked speeders and radioed to the troopers on the ground.

In three hours they never had time to stop anyone driving under 88MPH in the 55MPH zone! As soon as each trooper in the team of five finished writing one ticket, the "bear-in-the-air" had another one for him traveling at least 88MPH.

This is no Big Brother scare tactic. If you drive at the speed limit, you won't have a thing to worry about. At least, not from the speed camera. You might have to worry about being rear-ended, but not about a speeding ticket in the mail.

Watch These Tax Notices

Watch for the heavy black-line-bordered Notices appearing in the Northwest Herald and other papers. Hang onto your wallets. Do you think these Notices are good news? NOT.

The little kingdom of the McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD) has filed its legal notice that it will increase the amount of extended or abated corporate and special purpose property taxes and that it will increase the amount of property taxes for debt service and public building commission leases.

What in the world does this mean? Does it take a Philadelphia lawyer to understand and explain these increases and the impact they have on your property taxes? No doubt that these Notices follow required statutory language. Guess who figured that out. The Philadelphia lawyers who own the cash registers!

You can't watch every line on your tax bill. You can't fight every increase. But can you even figure out what is happening? When a corporate or special purpose property tax is extended or abated, what does this really mean? Fly now, pay later? Could it be the case that you and I pay now; they pay later.

Do I think that the people running the many taxing bodies in McHenry County don't know that the People can't get a handle on what's really happening?

Who really knows how much land MCCD owns and why they own it? (Besides MCCD, I mean)

Price-Shopping for Gas

Before you buy gas in Woodstock, be sure to check the prices up and down Route 47.

Yesterday Shell ($4.39/gal.) and Jewel Express were over $.20/gal. higher than bp ($4.11 - Surprise!) and the Marathon at 47 and Lake Ave.

Some oil know-it-all on TV news said that stations had to raise their prices in order to pay expected higher prices from refineries (meaning distributors). What a lie! Did he think they would lower their prices in anticipation of lower prices from wholesalers?

They can recover higher costs to purchase gasoline WHEN the higher-cost gas has been delivered and is in the ground, ready to be pumped into vehicles.

Anything else is price-gouging!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Don't Dare Park Here

The City just paid good money for a parking study, and one of the findings was that there was insufficient handicapped parking on the Square.

So there was probably a very good reason that one of the few handicapped parking places was blocked on Sunday morning. I don't know when this, along with numerous other parking places, was blocked; perhaps Saturday night; perhaps for some event on Sunday?
Wouldn't it be nice if the City included some notice regarding the reason for the parking restriction and the hours of the restriction?
Granted, at the time I took this picture on Sunday morning, you could have fired the cannon that used to be by the memorial in the Square and not had to worry very much about hitting any cars. But, since there were practically no cars, why were the parking spaces blocked? Okay, I already know that, if they needed to be blocked later in the day, it's necessary to do it early. And I'll grant that for the non-handicap parking spaces.
But why block the handicap space?
Attention: City officials. Information, please. This is what we want.

Bikes/Skateboards on the Square

This Tuesday will be a "hot time in the ol' town tonight" at the Woodstock City Council meeting.

What's up?

You can plan on angry neighbors from Fremont Street and the Dean St. School areas.

Count on opponents to the razing of Grace Hall on the former Todd School property, now the home of Woodstock Christian Life Services.

And the City Council chamber will probably be filled with kids and skateboards, because the City Council will most likely vote to expand prohibitions against bicycles and skateboards on sidewalks around the Square. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

From today's Northwest Herald, Page 1B. "Bikes and skateboards have not been allowed on the sidewalks of the Square for 31 years, a city official said." Oh, really? Which City official said this? Why not name him?

Thirty-one years? You don't say. I guess you wouldn't really know that from the number of bicycles ridden on sidewalks around the Square.

There might be some tolerance of 7-8-9 year-olds on bikes on the Square. But how about the 15-16-17-18-19-year-old ruffians who think they own the sidewalk? Who force pedestrians to step aside as they ride by?

Currently, bicycles are only prohibited on the sidewalks immediately surrounding the Square and not on the side streets or the extensions of the streets. How will this change?

If the ordinance is approved as proposed, skateboarding and riding bicycles on the sidewalks will be illegal on all sidewalks of the four main streets around the Square; i.e., Throop, Church, Jefferson and Calhoun Streets. But not the sidewalks of those four streets. The shaded streets shown existing bicycle restrictions on sidewalks. Solid black lines show the proposed expansion of bicycle restrictions and addition of skateboarding prohibition to all - solid lined streets and shaded streets - the sidewalks thereof.

This means that bicyclists will have to ride in the street and obey traffic laws (keep to the right; stop at stop signs; signal turns; have lights at night; yield to pedestrians.

How many tickets has the police department written on the Square for sidewalk violations? Any? Or does the police department's Community Service (non-sworn, non-armed) Officer write these tickets? Or is it a City Code violation that is not enforced by police, but instead by the Code Enforcement Officer?

The kicker in the whole deal (aside from the spelling of "activies" in the second WHEREAS) may be one phrase in the second WHEREAS paragraph, which reads in its entirety:

"WHEREAS, the City of Woodstock has previously determined that it is reasonable and appropriate to prohibit the riding of skateboards and the riding of bicycles, as well as other activies (sic), at certain locations in the Park in the Square as well as adjoining streets and public sidewalks"

Could this phrase - "as well as other activies (sic)" - be enough to cause the entire ordinance to be constitutionally vague and therefore unenforceable?

City to Return Unneeded Property

On September 16 the City Council will vote to return property to Anthony Rosati - property acquired from Mr. Rosati for the South/Rt. 47/Fair/Calhoun Project. The property located at 808 East South Street.

Presumably, the City paid Mr. Rosati for the property. Now that the Project has fallen off the City's radar, the City wants to transfer it back to him.

The City passed an ordinance in March 2008 authorizing execution of a warranty deed for the conveyance of the property back to Mr. Rosati. The deed was executed and delivered for recording with the McHenry County Recorder of Deeds. The Recorder's office found the deed to be insufficient and that the "proper" way to return the property was by way of a street "vacation".

The City Attorney prepared an ordinance vacating the property. But a public hearing has to be held. Notice of the public hearing has been given, and the hearing will be held on Tuesday, September 16, 7:00PM in the City Council chambers.

Chalk up one more item for Tuesday night's meeting.

How much did all this legal wrangling cost the City of Woodstock?

I certainly hope that Mr. Rosati recovered all his expenses and legal fees, plus recording fees and taxes.

Child Safety Seat Inspection

On Saturday, Sept. 20, from 9AM-12Noon at the Woodstock Wal-Mart, an officer of the Woodstock PD will be available to check for proper installation of the child safety seats in your vehicle. This event will be one of more than 90 checkpoints offered in Illinois.

Seems like I read somewhere that about 70% of the child safety seats are NOT properly installed. Go by for a free inspection and tips on proper installation.

In August Fire Chief Ralph Webster directed me to Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Brinkman for information. When I contacted Mike, he referred me to Woodstock PD Officer Schmidtke. On September 5 I emailed the police department and asked if Ofc. Schmidtke would give me more information so that I could publicize it.

No response... whatever happened to public relations? Email still works 24/7. Could be that Ofc. Schmidtke never got the message.

Then I found the press release on the City's PD website. You can read all the details by going through the City's website at www.woodstockil.gov Place your mouse on "City Departments" and then roll (without clicking) to Police and continuing rolling (without clicking) to "Crime Stopper Cases/Press Releases/Crime Alerts". Click on "Safety Seat Event".

Or click on:

Pilati, Volstad; Cops Again?

Remember the Hallett beating case at KC Cabin in Fox Lake? How off-duty cops and former cops allegedly beat a handcuffed man? And got convicted? And appealed?

And how McHenry County Judge Joseph Condon sealed court records, so that We the People are barred from getting information that the public is entitled to have?

And now McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi says it is "extremely unusual" for a judge to seal records in a case like that but that Judge Condon's "order could not be appealed."

Oh, really? Since when can a lower court's judge's order not be appealed to a higher court? Aren't there at least two courts of higher authority than Judge Condon's court?

Of course, as I say often, "I am not a lawyer." But, when something doesn't smell right, those who are lawyers ought to get busy and figure out how to use the law to get something to happen.

Pilati now stands convicted only of a misdemeanor. This means that, if he can find a police department to hire him, he can go back to work as a cop.

Now, what police department is not going to Google an applicant and learn what a former employer probably will not reveal. Pesky "HR" laws now make Human Resources personnel extremely wary of reporting anything other than "Your applicant was hired by us on (date) and left our employment on (date)."

Big deal, eh? In Denver I met a young man who was an HR manager of a law firm. He was really sharp! When he called an applicant's reference, he asked, "Was there a great sigh of relief when this person left your employ?"

What would the former employers of Pilati, Volstad and Quilici say?

Are Pilati and Volstad working again as police officers? Where?

Cherry Street Inn Returns?

Let's welcome to Woodstock the new owners of the movie-made-famous Cherry Street Inn, the bed-and-breakfast of the movie, Groundhog Day. Rumors have been flying around Woodstock (Ill.) of a new B&B there, and this morning I passed the Special Use Permit sign in the front yard.

On Thursday, September 25, 2008, at 7:00PM at Woodstock City Hall there will be a public hearing for a permit for a bed-and-breakfast at the "Groundhog Day" house on Fremont Street where South Madison Street ends.

Let's also hope that they do not encounter the grief given to the owner of another B&B in town by neighbors and by the City. In that case neighbors seemed not to realize that a B&B is not a brothel.

One neighbor (kind of a scruffy guy himself) complained of the perverts that stay at a B&B. Another said he didn't want "that type" in Woodstock; you know the "types" that stay at a B&B; right? A couple spending the night at a B&B for $125, dining on the Square, driving a new BMW and attending a performance at the Opera House. Nah... who'd want that "type" in a residential neighborhood?!

The owner had a very difficult time passing the inspection by the City. She'd get a punch list with five items and, when the inspector returned to pass on them, he'd add five more.

The owner was required to install a very expensive commercial fire alarm system - a requirement which I understand the City has now abandoned. I told her she ought to sue the City and recover the $25,000 that she was forced to spend on a completely unreasonable requirement.

The final straw was when the inspector demanded a $5,000 fire-resistant glass window to replace her dining room window. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. She fought the City on that one and won.

When the tribe of angry neighbors presented their list of 50 questions to be answered at a public meeting at the library moderated by a councilman, now our mayor, I helped her craft initial answers.

One of the questions was, "How will the City (and we, the angry neighbors) know if you go out of business?"

I rather liked the answer I suggested (but she censored it - probably wisely). My answer was, "The ashes will be cold, and the firetrucks will be gone."

Good luck to the new owners and the future innkeepers of "Cherry Street Inn". May your course be smooth through the procedures at City Hall.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wipers? Headlights!

Why do so many drivers ignore the state law that requires use of headlights, when wipers are in use?

"On a dark and gloomy morning..." - you know how that starts... Why do drivers of grey or other dark-colored cars refuse to turn on the headlights when the wipers are in use, particular in early-morning hours or in heavy rain or in foggy conditions? Don't they realize their cars are nearly invisible?

It's the "headlights" that are required, not daytime running lamps; not fog lamps; not parking lights. Headlights!

So, folks, there's that little switch on the dashboard that needs pulling or turning. Head on over to Gold's Gym and work out for two hours, so that you'll have the strength to move that little knob. Or you might hit Starbuck's and tell them extra caffeine.

Turning on the headlights also lights up the back of your car. Good safety function. Give the driver behind you a little extra warning.

Try it. You'll like it.

Parent University - Sept. 27

In just two weeks the first Parent University program of the Family Care Project, a part of the McHenry County Mental Health Board, will be held at McHenry County College.

That's Saturday, September 27, 2008.

The purpose? "Strengthening communication and collaboration among parents, students, and educators to improve educational experiences and outcomes for all."

Are you the parent of a child with special needs? You can count on getting your money's worth! The cost? $25.00, and that includes lunch!

Registration, light breakfast and resource tables are available at 8:00AM in the MCC Conference Center, Crystal Lake, Ill. Advance registration is strongly recommended and will be appreciated for an accurate meal count.

Program starts at 9:00AM. You have a choice of morning sessions; pick from one of five.

Lunch at 12:05 with an entertaining presentation by the Shut up Sisters. Those who have seen/heard the Shut Up Sisters say they are not to be missed! http://www.shutupabout.com/

The afternoon session (1:15-2:45) will be a facilitated discussion among parents and educators to develop more effective communication.

To register, email Michelle LaLuz at mlaluz@mc708.org or call her at 815.788.4386

Viking Dodge – at it again

Here we go again. Viking Dodge just doesn’t get it. Is there really someone there who is running the place and who can control his employees?

Earlier this month someone called the Crystal Lake Police from Viking Dodge and made a complaint about the signs on Wayne Beto’s car, which was parked in “his” spot on U.S. 14 with those now all-too-familiar signs.

You know, if those guys just told the truth, I wouldn’t even be writing this. But one of the signs on Wayne’s car reads, “Viking Dodge Lies”. Judge for yourself.

Those guys are getting pretty foxy. This time they complained that Wayne is promoting www.RipOffReport.com by having the sign on his car. What? They think RipOffReport is paying Wayne to park there and air his gripes about Viking Dodge? They think that Wayne is running a business and that the RipOffReport.com sign is advertising his business???

You do know what I’m talking about, don’t you? The Wayne Beto who is being sued by Viking Dodge for $500,000. The same lawsuit that was filed in November 2006 and for which there have been 11-13 continuances.

The Crystal Lake cops know that the City Attorney dropped previous charges that were filed against Wayne about the signs, admitting that the First Amendment right to free speech is alive and well in Crystal Lake.

If you go to www.RipOffReport.com and search for “Viking Dodge”, you’ll have plenty to read, and not only from Wayne.

Remember: if you do business with Viking Dodge (or any car dealership), do not sign anything with any lines or spaces left blank. Get a photocopy of everything you sign. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Better yet, take the unsigned Purchase Contract with you and have your lawyer look at it before you sign it.

Outdoor Swimming at the Rec Center

Check out the sidewalk and parking lot at the Woodstock Recreation Center on Lake Avenue at Kimball Street. Almost looks like an outdoor swimming hole, doesn't it?

The sidewalk here floods regularly during hard rains, giving pedestrians no place to go but into the street.

One pedestrian this afternoon chose to attempt a safe route around the water by staying close to the rec center building and trying to cross the guardrail onto the Clark gas station property by the air pump. Unfortunately, the water there was deep, and it appeared he had stepped into mud as well. The man, perhaps a resident of Walden Oaks and without automobile transportation, had, he thought, wisely avoided the street. He stepped into water and mud that was well above ankle height and was having an extremely difficult time climbing over the guardrail.

Could the City re-do the sidewalk so that it isn't buried in high water during rains? Should it? Or provide adequate drainage that it would require of any private party?

The City is correcting the sidewalk farther east on Lake Avenue toward Wal-Mart. Here's another project. When the City bought the recreational center, it apparently did not know of the drainage problem that would flood the sidewalk. Or did it?

Gas Price-Gouging Already

Gas price-gouging had begun around the country before Hurricane Ike ever landed. And today gas prices for regular-grade fuel are almost $.50/gal. higher than recently. And the fuel to be delivered after Ike hasn't even reached us yet.

Locally, the Clark station was slow to increase its price, and I slipped in yesterday about 5:45PM and purchased gas at $3.999/gallon. An hour later, the price was $4.09. Even later, the price was still $3.999 at the Marathon at Route 47 and Lake Avenue.

And today? Check out the prices.

If the price went up because of increased costs or shortages (supply vs. demand), that would be one thing. For stations to jack up the prices on fuel already in the ground is price-gouging.

This type of predatory pricing could probably be addressed by the Attorney General. Will she have the guts to take on the gasoline distributors and the retailers?

Contacting Beat Officers

The Woodstock Police Department has created new, joint email addresses for the police officers assigned to the four beats in Woodstock. Now, finally, it is possible to address an email communication to the "beat" and expect all three officers, along with sergeants and other command personnel, to see your message.

For Beat 21, use pbo21@woodstockil.gov
For Beat 22, use pbo22@woodstockil.gov
For Beat 23, use pbo23@woodstockil.gov
For Beat 24, use pbo24@woodstockil.gov

You can still write to officers individually by using the first initial of the first name following by the full last name, followed by "@woodstockil.gov"

The problem with that, in the past, was an officer might have changed assignments, been on vacation or sick leave or a day off, or even have moved on to greener pastures.

If you want to provide information to the P.D. about a "situation" in your neighborhood and you want all officers on the beat to know about it, then use the permanent beat officer (pbo) email address. Be sure to include the beat number.

If you want to send a general email to the police department and let them figure out who should get it, send it to policedept@woodstockil.gov

If you have a preference for contact with you, such as "reply by email" or "call me at (phone no.)" or "do not come to my house without calling first", be sure to include that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gary Lang Sales Event

Gary Lang Auto, of McHenry, is having another big blow-out, peddling lots of used cars on the McHenry County Fairgrounds this week-end and Monday.
Do you know how much of the sales tax collected goes to the City of Woodstock? Nothing. Zilch. Nada. None.
Why? Because the McHenry County Fairgrounds is located in the County, not in the City of Woodstock.
Yet Gary Lang comes to town, sucks up a lot of local money and carries it all back to Route 31 in McHenry.
Is it legal? Yes. Is it right? Well, you decide.
Remember when Bull Valley Ford wanted to have a "blow-out" at Farm & Fleet, and they found out that Woodstock City Code doesn't allow it?
According to the McHenry County Planning and Zoning Department, all Gary Lang needs (or, probably, all that the McHenry County Fairgrounds organization needs) is a Temporary Use Permit. And that can be issued with no regard whatsoever for Zoning. Nice deal, eh?
Who issues such a Permit? The County's Code Enforcement Officer.
There apparently is no public input to Temporary Use Permits. A business just deals directly with the Code Enforcement Officer. One man decides.
The recourse is to contact the County Board member(s) in your District and ask their influence on the use of this property in the County. No doubt the Fairgrounds is scratching for every possible source of income.
Is anyone else tired of these auto sales events?