Friday, October 31, 2008

Driver Flees Accident Scene

Yesterday morning's serious accident on Route 176 near Haligus Road (east of Route 47) is adequately reported in today's Northwest Herald on Page 3B, although the police agency handling it is not mentioned. From the phone number in the article, the Crystal Lake Police Department probably handled it.

For the 12 years I have been back in Illinois I have pursued what feels like a one-man crusade against reckless and dangerous drivers. The driver who caused yesterday's accident certainly fits in this category. On many occasions I have reported dangerous drivers to area police agencies, including McHenry, Lake and Kane County Sheriff's Departments.

Most of the time my calls have been professionally received and dispatched. When an officer or deputy has been able to stop the violator, I have requested that a ticket be issued and I have gone to court to testify. In 12 years one driver got off in Kane County and one driver got off in McHenry. In both cases the drivers lied about passing me in no-passing zones.

Yesterday's accident was reportedly caused by a driver who passed a car, even though there was oncoming traffic. The police will sort out all the details.

The driver caused the accident and kept going. His car is described as a red 2001 or 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier. That's pretty close, but it could be anything similar. My guess is that this driver was on the way to work and travels that route on a daily basis. He might avoid it for a while, but soon he'll return to the familiar route. He could live in Marengo or south Woodstock. Somebody knows who he is. My guess? White male, single, age 19-24, works in a plant or industrial setting.

When you see any vehicle of a similar description heading from west to east in that vicinity at 6:00AM, report it to 815-356-3620 and let them check it out.

And when a reckless or aggressive driver comes to your attention, report it! These drivers are killers, and we can work together to get them off the road.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Save $200 on your phone bill?

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Illinois’ premier utility watchdog group, is holding a free phone-bill clinic at the Woodstock Public Library. Bring your phone bill!

Our experts will sit with you one-on-one and provide money-saving tips, including how to get a $20 credit on your long-distance bill. Last year, we showed consumers how to cut their annual calling costs by an average of $200!

Concerned about your wireless bill? We’ll also provide the latest on CUB’s Cellphone Saver, a free online tool that is showing consumers how to save hundreds on their wireless bills.

Phone-bill Clinic
Thursday, November 6
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Woodstock Public Library
414 W. Judd St.
Woodstock, Ill.

Do you know a senior citizen who is still leasing his phone from AT&T. Yes! There are still some who are doing that.

Do you know a senior citizen or disabled person who seldom uses his phone and who would like to cut his phone bill sharply by taking advantage of little-known, low, special rates?

Know anyone who is still pay $.07-.10/min. for long-distance or paying a monthly minimum?

The phone companies count on customers who just get stuck in the routine and get used to paying - and paying and paying. Take advantage of this free clinic. And then, how about commenting here on how much you save because of the clinic.

Open Letter to Jack Franks

Dear Jack,

I regret that you did not call back with a statement regarding your position on concealed carry in Illinois, after I left a message on your political office phone number in Woodstock recently.

Although your seat in the Illinois House of Representatives is uncontested again this year, on behalf of the many law-abiding citizens who would like to see Illinois leave the Dark Ages and join the other 48 States that permit at least some form of "carry", I ask you to reconsider your opposition to concealed-carry and to vote in favor of legislation in the next session that will bring concealed-carry to a vote.

The facts are that a society is safer when law-abiding, qualified, trained, educated (in the "carry" laws), permit-holding citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons. Many police officers and law enforcement leaders do not object, although northern Illinois and Cook County are strongholds of negative opinion. Police officers have nothing to fear from the honest, law-abiding citizen who "carries."

What we have up here is law enforcement leadership with the mindset, "Don't confuse me with the facts. I'm against it."

When criminals don't know "whether" a citizen might be armed, crime rates go down. It's a fact.

Can we law-abiding citizens count on you not to oppose concealed-carry in the next session, Jack?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Woodstock is not Denver

Got a phone call today and the caller told me that she had heard my name on Y103.9 last week. You know – one of those “Call back in 10 minutes and 39 seconds, and you win” deals? I’ll never know what I didn’t win; perhaps it was just “qualifying” to win.

I was reminded of a day in Denver about 20 years ago when my name was announced on a radio station there. I had entered a contest to win dinner for two, a limo ride and two Neil Diamond tickets. As I recall the contest promotion, it was, “Send us a postcard and we’ll send you to see Neil Diamond." So I did, and they did.

As luck would have it, a week or two later I had the radio on but wasn’t paying attention to it. Four people called me to say they had heard my name; one man even took an exit off the Boulder Turnpike to a pay phone to call me. I called the radio station in time to claim the prize, and the assistant producer told me to bring my wife and be at the radio station on Sunday at 5:00PM.

Problem #1. “No wife,” I told her.

Then she said to bring my girlfriend and be there at 5.

Problem #2. “No girlfriend,” I said.

She quickly said that she would go with me, and she did! So, whenever I think of radio contests, I still think of Debbie W. in Denver. Thanks again, Debbie!

New Blagojevich Website

Check out the "new" Blagojevich website. This website proudly announces the accomplishments of the Guv for all to see. In the seven headlines in bold, enlarged font "Blagojevich" is either the first or second word. Headlines include action words such as "signs", "dedicates", "hosts", "proclaims", etc.

Beginning to get the message? What is this - an election year for the Guv?

The only problem for me on this website is that it is not the governor's website; it is the website of the Illinois State Police. In other words, it is the Peoples' website, not Blago's.

Why he presumes to attach his name to everything going on is beyond me. Well, I guess not. Did I forget this is really still Illinois?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who Goes on SWAT Call-outs?

When the SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team is called out, you know it's serious. These are the guys who can show up with MARV, machine guns, armor-piercing bullets, etc. You know - the heavy-weight stuff. The "fun" stuff, some would say. Who's MARV? That's MARV, just to the right.

And when the team rolls, who is on the team? Only the qualified, certified, trained, experienced SWAT members. Right? Really?

Rumor has it that certain Corrections (that's "jail" to you and me) officers are allowed to accompany the SWAT team. So, apparently, someone who works in the jail and who is not a certified law enforcement officer (not a "deputy") and who perhaps hasn't even qualified with a firearm at Department minimums gets to go along.

If this rumor is true, why would the Sheriff, the Law & Justice Committee, and the County Board approve the risk involved?

It seems to me that there is tremendous financial exposure and risk to McHenry County, if this is the case. What if a corrections officer is hurt while participating in an activity for which he has not been trained?

What if a corrections officer causes some harm to another person while on a SWAT call-out? How many tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars will pour out of the County coffers to defend the County and then to pay off the person(s) harmed?

The dividing line between SWAT-qualified and not qualified shouldn't be in the sand. It should be painted with a wide, solid, black line right across the hallway ion front of the door to the SWAT shed. If you are not SWAT-certified, Keep Out!

And this should apply to anyone on the SWAT team who isn't certified and currently qualified. Period.

So, are all the rules of "good business" being followed at McHenry County Sheriff's Department?
Is the rumor true, or is it just a rumor?

Is everyone on the SWAT team certified? Everyone?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sheriff's Dept. SWAT Team

What do we know about the SWAT team at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department?

I haven't called over for information yet, but I do wonder if I'll get the same response as I did when I tried to get information about the ICE program. That response is an easy one to write about in one word. Nothing. Or with two words: No response. Or three words: Calls not returned. (That's calls, not call.)

So, about SWAT. There is considerable general information available on the web about SWAT teams. When you read it, you learn that SWAT teams are special operations. Now, not "black operations" but, instead, carefully selected, psychologically qualified, highly trained, problem free law enforcement officers. Officers "with a clean noses"; i.e., no history of problems and no problems with unauthorized or improper use of force. There should be no room on a SWAT team for a bully.

These team members have to be cool and maintain cool in very delicate, often dangerous circumstances. Therefore, we can expect that they will be carefully screened, thoroughly "vetted" (the popular buzz word of the decade), properly and completely trained, certified by any State-level professional law enforcement agencies that certifies SWAT team members, such as the Illinois State Police, (if there is such State certified (and, if there isn't, there should be))and properly authorized and designated by their own agency.

Those agencies don't need braggadocios out on the street, flexing their muscles, wearing their tight black t-shirts, running around with shaved heads with an "I Dare You" attitude.

They should be the coolest of the cool, and I don't mean "cool". For one reason they have awesome weapons that are not available to the "routine" officer, deputy or trooper.

They must be keenly aware of the Constitutional rights of citizens and operate strictly within the law. In other words, if they have the correct legal authority to enter private property, they have that authority (warrant) BEFORE they enter the property. No one calls the judge for a warrant while the SWAT team is standing in the living room with guns drawn.

The team must respect one another, including all the commanders. They must operate as a "team". There is no room for a hot head, a loose cannon, a solo operator; those guys endanger themselves, and they endanger the team.

So, what do we have in McHenry County?

Members of the County SWAT team and of local law enforcement agencies are invited to post your comments, information, advice right here. Pick a screen name that completely hides your identity and agency, and tell us, the public, what we need to know.

Or you can email it to me for careful editing (not of content, but to further preserve your identity) and publication.

The Beat(ing) Goes On

Recently one of McHenry County's most persistent protestors, Wayne Beto of Marengo, was contacted yet one more time by Crystal Lake Police officers, while he was parked in his favorite parking spot on U.S. 14, just south of IL 176, diagonally across from Viking Dodge.

As you may have read here before, Wayne is the man who tried to buy a new vehicle from Viking Dodge, didn't like the way he was treated, and began to exercise his First Amendment right to free speech by plastering the sides and back of his vehicle with signs urging readers to go to

Wayne is also the man being sued by Viking Dodge for $500,000; that's right, half a Million dollars! That case has been gathering dust in the McHenry County Court system for two years, only occasionally dusted off for one more continuance. Next court date? February 2. Groundhog Day. Catch the irony of the date?

Wayne recently submitted a FOIA Request to the Crystal Lake PD for a report in which, Wayne says, a Viking Dodge employee frivolously accused him of leaning against the post in the right-of-way where Viking Dodge's mailbox is placed. You know there must a law somewhere in the Compiled Statutes or the Federal Postal Regulations that reads, "It shall be unlawful, especially if you are 73 years old and short of breath, to lean against a U.S. Mailbox for more than two seconds, even if no damage is caused to the mailbox or the post on which it is placed."

Two police officers responded to Viking Dodge and then talked to Wayne. As it happened, I was there that day and can attest that Wayne violated no law. And the police officers agreed.

Wayne has been trying to file a complaint with the Crystal Lake Police Department about the false report. Wayne has been harassed on several occasions by Viking Dodge employees, some of which I have also witnessed. The Crystal Lake Police will not pursue Wayne's complaint.

Last Friday Wayne met with a man who, Wayne said, identified himself as the police chief. Wayne reports that the man said he had not read the police report, but "it" (the complaint) wasn't going anywhere. Wayne understood that to mean that the police department was not going to investigate the possibility that its time and resources had been wasted by a person making a false report.

I know Chief David Linder to be a good police officer, and he and his officers (with one notable exception) have already treated me respectfully. Because of the number of times the police have been called to Viking Dodge to hear whining about Wayne, I would think that the police would eventually explain to the employees there that Wayne is not breaking any law and that they will be prosecuted if they continue to make groundless complaints.

The City Attorney for Crystal Lake has issued a letter to Wayne confirming that the signs on his vehicle are not unlawful and that Wayne's signs fall within his First Amendment rights to free speech.

Maybe Wayne's supporters will all be in court on February 2. Wear your favorite Groundhog Day sweatshirt with Punxsutawney Phil on the back and "You go, Wayne" on the front.

Should Police Just Ticket?

I believe it was in the summer of 2007 that Woodstock officers were quite aggressive, appropriately, about ticketing drivers who parked across sidewalks in the new housing development off Hercules Road east of Dean Street.

Almost every day throughout Woodstock one can see vehicles that are parked across sidewalks, blocking them for pedestrians and children on bicycles.

The vehicle at the upper right, parked at 358 Lake Avenue, just three blocks from the Woodstock Police Department, is the last vehicle in the driveway. If the other vehicles had pulled farther in, the driver would not have had to park across the sidewalk. Pedestrians were forced to walk into Lake Avenue, a busy thoroughfare, to pass this vehicle.

Drivers know not to block sidewalks, yet they do it, anyway. When there is no enforcement, drivers learn that they can park in this manner.

Another example is this vehicle, parked on Fremont St., one house east of 437. Every week vehicles park across this sidewalk, because the first drivers don't feel any need to pull forward in the driveway. This neighborhood is home to many small children who would otherwise use the sidewalk, except for the way in which this vehicle is parked.

Because of the general lack of enforcement in Woodstock for many years, I would favor a "gentle" campaign to alert drivers to the legal parking of their vehicles. One (only one) friendly warning notice from a police officer, without any direct contact, would take about 30 seconds. Place the warning under the windshield wiper, record its placement in the daily log, and move on. If the problem persists, issue tickets.

Gas $2.14/gal.

How come we are being ripped off on gas prices to such a great extent in northern Illinois?

If we lived in Salem, Illinois, we'd be paying $2.14/gallon for regular unleaded gas.

Just what does it take to knock some sense into the heads of the distributors of gas in McHenry County and get their attention? Do anyone know whether it's just greed (and taxes) that accounts for a $.70/gas price difference?

Where is Salem? On I-57, east of St. Louis. Check out for good prices in our area. If you are going to Rockford, fill up for $2.66/gal. Not so good as $2.14, but better than $2.85.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Early Voting Count

Does early voting work in McHenry County? As of yesterday at the courthouse voting place at 2:30PM, 11,795 voters had already taken advantage of the early voting opportunity.

Why vote early?

Avoid lines on November 4.
Avoid system glitches that might result in delays.
Avoid possible bad weather.
Don't miss voting, if an emergency arises.

And, since we are close to Chicago, it gives us all the chance to vote more than once, to drag dead relatives off to the polls and more time to stuff the ballot boxes.

Remember: Vote Early & Vote Often.

Do You Believe?

Check out this speech by a young student in Dallas at a Back-to-School convocation! Listen to Dalton Sherman, 5th Grade. Wow! This young man is going places!

Make a Difference Day

Today is USA WEEKEND's Make a Difference Day.


Is there something you can do today to make a difference in someone's life?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Autism Seminar - Nov. 1

Know someone with an interest in Autism? Perhaps a parent of a child with autism or an educator who would like more information?

A valuable seminar will be presented on November 1 in Crystal Lake by a newly-established chapter of TACA (Talk About Curing Autism).

See complete information on

Can Honest Feedback Endanger Employment?

When I worked at the Sears, Roebuck headquarters in Hoffman Estates, corporate human resources procedures included periodic "360-degree evaluations."

Periodically, all employees at the home office participated in a survey of employment conditions. Survey forms were distributed by an outside consulting firm to all employees, from senior executives on down. Each employee was asked to rate the people in his circle of employment, whether subordinate or superior.

In many organizations, ratings are only made by superiors of their subordinates. These are often called "Performance Reviews". If you are a "good boy", then you get good ratings. If you take orders well and if you follow orders well (meaning, you don't question too much) and, of course, if you perform the duties of your position, then you get high marks. And, if there is any money to be spread around, you'll get some.

Now, what about overall conditions or the opportunity to review the performance of your superior? This is always tricky, especially in small departments or units. If you blast (errr, tell the truth about) your boss, it's always likely that he'll be able to pinpoint just who gave him a "bad" review.

An attempt to avoid this is made by asking all employees to return their evaluations anonymously and directly to the consulting firm. This protection is provided, so that responses and comments cannot be directly attributed to any one employee. A boss might guess who squawked, but he wouldn't know for sure.

The consulting firm would then summarize the responses and provide its reports. Imagine being one of the top dogs and getting zinged by your employees. A boss's feeling might get hurt. Of course, he would never be "small" enough to retaliate against his subordinates or assume he knew who had bashed him. Right?

I was in a small unit. We had followers, and we had those who would check the right boxes, regardless of later fall-out. I was quite surprised when the results were made available. It seemed that most in the department had provided honest, accurate feedback on our fearless leader, and not all of it was favorable.

To the credit of the department's manager, he shared the feedback and did not try to soft-pedal it. He was a tough guy, and he had a tough job to do. Sometimes the only way to get it done was to be tough.

Would 360-degree evaluations be useful in McHenry County? Say, at the Sheriff's Department or at the Woodstock Police Department?

I'm curious what the line employees (officers, deputies) would have to say, for example, about the departments' efforts to what might be considered by some (many?) as the railroading of an employee. But what happens when employees stand up, open their mouths, and speak out? Worst case scenario? Too often, it is called being unemployed!

The story of two police officers in Denver is still fresh in my mind. They told me they wanted to enforce certain laws against political bigwigs but had been ordered not to do so. They asked me not to get them in "trouble", because they liked their current patrol duties and did not wish to be assigned to walk a beat at the stockyards at midnight on Sunday!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Keeping Good People Good

I dropped by MCC this morning on other business and happened across a seminar in progress in the Conference Center. Jack Harris, from Tucson, was there to present what looked like a really good program.

I scanned the list of registered names and commented to a person at the registration table, "Somebody should be here from every law enforcement agency in the County, starting with the County's Sheriff's Department." Maybe somebody was there from the Sheriff's Department but, at the time I looked at the list, I recognized only one name and he hadn't arrived!

I was pleased to see the name of Sgt. Dennis Leard from the Woodstock Police Department on the list and signed in. Dennis was just recognized at the City Council meeting this week for 20 years of employment. And Tuesday night he looked genuinely happy. Glad to see you smiling, Dennis!

Jack's hand-out included this slide: "In The Beginning, Good People Are Open-minded; 'Whatever it takes'; Eager to learn; Having fun; Unprepared for 'reality' "

Yep. That about sizes it up. And the reality sets in.

I won't relate all of Jack's hand-out, but many know what happens to the good employee when faces with unreasonable, sometimes unlawful, directions and demands; with orders to do something one way, when it should really be done the right way; when cover-ups take place and are directed by superiors.

And what happens to the whistleblower?

Why, everyone knows the answer to that one. He is celebrated, rewarded, promoted, given a raise, and praised loudly as a positive example to more recent hires.


For information about what you missed, visit

Palin Sports "Vote Dem" Scarf

You have to see this one!

$150,000 for wardrobe and accessories, and someone buys Sarah a scarf with "Vote" and a bunch of donkeys on it? I'd love to put the photo here but the folks at Getty Images might be a little unhappy. Click on the link to see the photo!

Put it on eBay and sell it for $150,000.

Tired of RoboCalls

Residents of Illinois may not be battered by "robocalls", but you may have friends in other states who are tired of them.

Politicians and charities are exceptions to the Do Not Call list. BUT, you can put your telephone number on a list to stop political robocalls.

Go to and register your number. It's free.

Of course, if your phone never rings and you don't mind politicians bending your ear with recorded calls, don't sign up.

"Police Face Cuts as Economy Falters"

That's the headline of an article today on Check it out.

And here we are in a state that leads the way in preventing citizens from protecting themselves!

Survey Results – Concealed Carry

Thanks for the 71 readers who voted on the question, Should the Illinois General Assembly enact legislation to permit the carrying of concealed weapons?

29 (41%) voted Yes
42 (59%) voted No

It was interesting that the Yes’s outnumbered the No’s early in the survey.

The criminals already carry concealed weapons. Why not let law-abiding, permit-issued, trained, educated, honest civilians carry if they wish to?

The law would not require you to get a license and carry. Evidence indicates that everyone (except the criminal) is safer, when citizens are carrying concealed weapons.

If you voted No, what was your reason? Please comment.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's A Sign, Already!

Mercedes Jamka wrote a nice Letter to the Editor in this week's The Woodstock Independent about Jack Franks' law office's sign in Marengo. Inaccurate, but nice.

She wrote that the County's sign ordinances are unconstitutional, because Jack Franks says so. Nice try.

The County is not prosecuting the law firm of Franks, Gerkin & McKenna because of a "religious statement" on the front of its building on Route 20 east of Marengo. It's prosecuting them because they have an illegal sign on the front of the building! It's a sign. Sign. SIGN. And what does the sign say? "Justice, justice, shalt thou pursue"

This wording, on the front of a law office, is clearly a sign. Does anyone, other than a Bible scholar or a lawyer wanting to put the words on an advertising sign, even know where that passage is in the Bible? I doubt it.

Just because Jack jumps up and waves the Constitutional flag in front of the County does not make any change in direction by them a victory for Jack and a win for constitutional rights. A court decides whether a law is constitutional or not.

Should the County spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting Jack and his dad's law firm? Probably not. Should the law firm just pay the $75 for the sign? Probably.

Remember when Jack was touting the Governor's import-prescription-drugs-from-Canada deal? No matter that it was unlawful - it was in violation of Federal law. What did Jack have to say about that? According to his legislative office, it was a State's Rights issue. Well, okay, in his "opinion" it was. It was still illegal, according to the law!

A lowly citizen barking at Jack to obey Federal law had no influence whatsoever. It was not until a complaint was filed with the Legislative Inspector General that Jack removed the imported-prescription-drug deal from his website. And then it took only a day. The LIG was the guy with the sharper teeth.

If Jack really wanted to do something for the County, pay the lousy $75. But lawyers don't do that.

All right, why is this a big deal for me? Because we are coming right up to an important election, and I called Jack last week for a statement about his position on concealed carry in Illinois. I didn't even ask his legislative office. I called his campaign office. And did he call back? Not at all.

But why should he call back? He is running unopposed. NO candidate for an elected office in a county should run unopposed. What's wrong with the Republicans? Can't they find someone who would run against Jack?

$150,000 Wardrobe!

Did you see/hear the news today?

Sarah Palin got an extreme make-over to the tune of $150,000 worth of clothing and accessories, paid for by the Republican National Committee! What? They didn't like her moose-hunting clothes?

Now we know why she looked so sharp at the convention and since; right? And her family, too? I wonder - did they pay for Levi's suit, too?

Just how does one person spend $75,000 at Neiman Marcus in one shopping spree? Guess you need a parade of people running through the store with the RNC credit cards and just grabbing blouses and skirts off the rack. Did they all fit? Was she even there?

And $49,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue stores in St. Louis and New York. And $4,700 on hair and make-up?

Does anyone believe for two seconds that the clothes were to be donated on November 5? Or even on January 21? Yeah, sure... And she'll be back in Alaska in her jeans?

Hadn 't thought of the taxable-income angle until I read about the griping of big-dollar donors to the RNC. And what's the value of "used" clothes at the Goodwill?

Oh, wait! Worn by a wanna-be vice-president? Maybe they appreciated in value! Then Sarah and family will have taxable income on the clothing AND on the gain in their value. Guess the RNC will have to kick in for the taxes. And that will generate more taxable income... And then they'll have to kick in more for taxes. And that will ...

Anybody sick yet?

City Still Refuses to Pay

On February 14 the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners ended 4 1/2 months of hearings into an attempt by the police chief to fire a 19-year sergeant. The Board issued its Findings and Decision, five pages that clear Sgt. Gorski of charges that he improperly used medications prescribed by his doctors for treatment of two on-the-job back injuries. The Board dismissed the charges and ordered the City to pay Sgt. Gorski all his back wages.

Now, eight months later, the City has not paid one penny. Not the back wages; not the wages since February 14. Instead, the City is wasting thousands of dollars in court, claiming that the Board made the wrong decision and in the wrong way.

Should the City have gotten an opinion from a different law firm before hiring the City Attorney's office to run off to the courthouse? Just how much is being spent in legal fees in this silly legal maneuvering? The City is paying the City Attorney to handle the Chief's case; the City must be paying the attorney for the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

And the City will end up paying the legal fees for Sgt. Gorski, when he ultimately is successful in getting what is due him! That's three sets of legal fees - all unnecessary!

The City has put every employee on notice. Be good. Do what you are told, even if it's not right. Or else.

Four of the City Council members need to correct the City's path and DIRECT the City Manager and Human Resources to follow the order of its 3-man Commission and pay Sgt. Gorski within seven days.

The Findings and Decision are public record. They should have been included in Minutes of the Commission's first meeting after February 14.

Why aren't they? Because the City Attorney says that they don't have to be there. He says they are public; anyone can read them at City Hall.

Of course, you have to be a mind reader to know that they are there at City Hall to be read.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sheriff's Dept. Merit Commission

This afternoon I headed over to the Government Center's Annex Building at 3:00PM for the meeting of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department Merit Commission. Billed as a (well, not actually billed as anything) meeting, an Agenda was published and could be viewed online and printed. The day, date and time were correct. The Agenda should have carried Special Meeting on it.

Upon arrival the guard directed me to Room 210. As I hit the first step, he called across the lobby and told me to go to Room 204. At 204 a woman told me to go to 210. Good thing I'm used to being told where to go!

Imagine my surprise when only a secretary was in the meeting room, awaiting a telephone connection. She explained that today's meeting was to be a teleconference. Three o'clock came and went, while the administrative assistant to the Commission struggled in her office to transfer the call from her phone to the speaker phone in the small conference room.

Those on the phone were informed that a visitor was present, and the attorney for the Commission explained that the Commission would go into Executive Session to discuss a personnel issue, which I knew would be the case from the agenda. And I was informed that I would have to step out of the meeting during the Executive Session, which I knew.

The Commission almost didn't have a quorum. Maybe it really did not have a legal quorum. Commissioner Gloria Urch was attending remotely; really remotely. She couldn't get onto the conference call, so she was on another phone line from which she could presumably hear the proceedings and relay her questions and votes via a person who was on the conference call.

Is this legal?

But surprise! A motion was called for to enter Executive Session. What happened to the items on the Agenda for today's meeting? The Minutes from Previous Meetings? Payment of Bills? Public Participation? New Business?

The Executive Session almost didn't happen, but no one was quick to second the motion to go into it. That was, to me, unusual. Perhaps had they all been sitting in one room, staring at one another, no one would have seconded it, and it would have died right there. But finally a man did second the motion and a rollcall vote was taken.

Did the Commissioners know in advance whose personnel issue was to be discussed in Executive Session? Is it appropriate to reveal to them outside of a meeting what is going on? Or should that juicy information be held until it drops on them when they are gathered?

Should Commission meetings be held by telephone conference? Is it even legal to do so? Has the Commission ever acted legally to approve meeting by telephone? I mean, ALL of them meeting by telephone and no one showing up in the meeting place?

An exception might be made for one to attend by telephone upon advance notice, such as an out-of-town business trip, but it seems to me that the Commission would have to decide in advance to allow attendance by telephone. Has it done so?

One of the main reasons for them to meeting in person is that each can see all the others. Facial expressions are important, as is body language.

And meeting by telephone? I wonder how many emails, instant messages and text-messages were sent among Commissioners, when they heard I was there. Well, maybe none, since only the Chairman may have known my name before the meeting.

I was asked who I was before the meeting started. Was anyone else attending by telephone? No one else was introduced. Was the deputy and/or his attorney on the phone when the call was transferred into the conference room?

When the Executive Session adjourned, a voice over the telephone stated that the "officer" (deputy) had been represented by counsel and the counsel had filed an Appearance. Read, legalese. A Special Limited Appearance was filed and the case was continued to February 18, 2009, 10:30AM at the Regular Meeting of the Merit Commission.

Stay tuned for more information about the matter that was continued to February 18. It's only four months from now...

Oh, by the way, when I asked the recording secretary to whom I might address questions, she suggested addressing them to Susan Connor, the attorney for the Commission. I gave her my card and she said Susan would call me. I'm still waiting...

Parents of Special Education Students

Hello, parents of students in Special Education in Woodstock (or anywhere in McHenry County):

Would you like a support group in Woodstock? A support group that actually supported you?

If you would like a group formed that allowed you to participate in person, online, by email, by phone - a group that is convenient for you - let me know.

There are parents in Woodstock who would like this type of group. For those interested in a meeting, a meeting place can be arranged. There are several locations available close to the Square.

Tired? Burned out? Frustrated? Feel there is no sense trying to change something that doesn't want to change?

Let me know that you are interested, and I'll let you know when the group will meet. Plus I'll announce it here.

Email: N.B., one "t" (although my last name has two t's)

Visit the new website:

What Gun Control Means

A friend forwarded the following to me. Not sure who wrote it or where or if it was published.

A Little Gun History Lesson

In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.

China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million ' educated ' people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced by new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by their own government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars.

The first year results are now in:

Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 percent
Australia-wide, assaults are up 8.6 percent
Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent)!

In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent. Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not, and criminals still possess their guns!

It will never happen here? I bet the Aussies said that too!

While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this has changed drastically upward in the past 12 months, since criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed.

I'll add: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." John Philpot Curran, Irish judge and politician - 200 years ago!

There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the ELDERLY. Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in successfully ridding Australian society of guns.

The Australian experience and the other historical facts above prove it.

You won' t see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information.

Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens.

Take note my fellow Americans, before it ' s too late!

The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind him of this history lesson.

With Guns...........We Are 'Citizens'.
Without Them........We Are 'Subjects'.

If you value your freedom, please spread this anti-gun control message to all your friends!

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Special Education - New Blog

In order to separate Special Education topics from other articles, I have created a new blog at

There will be information there of interest to parents of special education students, resources, articles on advocacy, Illinois State Board of Education, parent support groups, announcements of meetings, workshops and seminars, and much more.

Please inform all parents with children in special education. Your help in spreading the word will be much appreciated.


Colin Powell Endorses Obama

On Meet the Press this morning, Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) has endorsed Barack Obama.

I have not been a regular viewer of Meet the Press, only because I seldom turn on my television. It was good to watch Gen. Powell and Tom Brokaw this morning. Gen. Powell is articulate, smart, thoughtful, and he presented his reasoning well. I commend the interview to all.

Meet the Press will be re-broadcast today (October 19) at 5:00PM CDT. In Chicago on Channel 5.

Gas $2.45/gal.

Of course, you have to drive to Salem, Ill. for it.

Why are we being ripped off in McHenry County??? Check out

NOW Against Palin

Watch this press conference of women's organizations following their announcement for Obama/Biden.

The National Organization of Women does not usually endorse a candidate for president of the U.S.

When you realize that Sarah Palin, aside from other reasons not to vote for her, has very strict opinions about women's rights, is one heartbeat of a 72-year-old man from the big chair in the Oval Office, I believe the rational person will vote for Obama/Biden.

Bikes on the Square

Is anyone else holding his breath and just waiting for the new signs to be erected around the Square, announcing No Bike-Riding or Skateboarding on Sidewalks? How bad will the sign pollution be (how many signs?) and how large will the signs have to be, in order to warn adequately all those who might dare to ride or skateboard on those sidewalks?

And what will the cost to the City of Woodstock be to purchase the signs and install them?

Early this morning I watched a mom out for her run around the Square with her Boston terrier on a leash and her young daughter on her bicycle with the training wheels. Off they went around the Square, with the daughter enjoying her ride down the pedestrian-free sidewalk in front of Cobblestone's and around to Harris Bank and down past the bakeries.

Just imagine the traumatic experience for the youngster, if a Woodstock police officer had stopped them to warn them about the new ordinance. I can just imagine the mother's thoughts and words about such a "stop."

Now, don't get me wrong. The officer would have been doing his duty - enforcing the law. And he probably would go home at the end of his shift and begin searching the internet for a new job with a town that doesn't have senseless ordinances like this one.

After all, if the police will not keep sidewalks in neighborhoods clear of cars parked across them, why should they enforce this new ordinance? What's worse? A car parked on a sidewalk or a kid on a bicycle or a skateboard on a sidewalk?

S.W.A.T. Teams

When a law enforcement agency has extraordinary power available to it, does it tend to use it more often, whether really needed or not, just because it has it and wants to use it?

I was thinking the other day of a stand-off not too long ago in McHenry County on Lamb Road near Charles Road. Anyone remember that one? Deputies surrounded the house for hours and then took a man into custody and hauled him off to the South Street psychiatric facility.

Does anyone remember any criminal charge ever filed against him? Maybe that’s because none ever was.

Then I got to thinking about the sheriff’s department response in the Wonder Lake area to the residence of David Maxson in September 2006. In only 46 minutes the situation escalated to the point where deputies were threatened and Maxson was fatally shot. After reading the police reports and attending the coroner’s inquest, I wondered how different the outcome would have been, if deputies had taken a more reasoned approach and created less confrontation with a person who presented symptoms of mental illness and/or intoxication.

And this got me to thinking about why the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department would have such a unit. Who’s in it? What are the qualifications and training for deputies assigned to it? How does it function?

First, what is “Special Weapons and Tactics” (S.W.A.T.)?

S.W.A.T. is commonly an elite special operations tactical unit in American police departments. It is trained to perform high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular patrol officers, including serving high-risk arrest warrants, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, and engaging heavily-armed criminals.

SWAT teams are often equipped with specialized firearms including assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, carbines, riot control agents, stun grenades, and high-powered rifles for snipers. They have specialized equipment including heavy body armor, entry tools, armored vehicles, advanced night vision optics, and motion detectors for covertly determining the positions of hostages or hostage takers inside of an enclosed structure.

Watch for a follow-up article about the McHenry County SWAT team.

The source of a portion of the above information is Wikipedia, which allows copying of its content.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Parking Lot Litter

Check out the trash littering the parking lot of the Office Depot and Aldi parking lot just west of Woodstock's Taco Bell. At 8:00AM today this is what the parking lot looked like, thanks to some unruly customers of Taco Bell, probably late last night or early this morning.

This parking lot is a frequent gathering place for groups of young adults and their cars. Do the police swing through when they see a bunch of cars there and check out plates and occupants?

When Jewel was the anchor tenant before moving up the street, there was a Vehicular Control Agreement in effect for this property. This Agreement allowed Woodstock Police to enforce traffic laws on this private property. If its terms are the usual terms, it's good for 20 years, and the police could take action when they see drivers congregated on the parking lot. It may still be in effect, because the Agreement is between the police department and the property owner or property manager.

When the first piece of paper flutters to the driveway, a police officer has probable cause to ID all drivers and passengers. Or maybe there is a taillight out or a license plate light out. There's the "PC". Swoop in and make contact cards - a record of who was there at that time.

When the kids know that the cops know who was there, they will be less likely to litter the parking lot. And who knows what else the police will find during an ID check? Probably a few with warrants out - why not make some easy arrests?

I stopped to visit with the Taco Bell employee on duty first thing this morning. While she said she would "try" to get someone to sweep up the trash, it was still there at 3:30PM.

When you see someone littering, note the car description and license plate. Email it to The chief's secretary will pass it along. When an officer spots the car and observes a violation, he'll have reason to make the traffic stop.

Following the chief's "broken window" theory and applying it to littering, are kids starting down a slippery slope when they toss litter like they did last night? Maybe a kid might just change his path through life, if he encounters a polite police officer early enough (or late enough).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mental Health Court

At last night's NAMI monthly meeting the focus was on the McHenry County Mental Health Court. Judge Charles Weech and First Assistant State's Attorney Tom Carroll explained the establishment and the purpose of the Court to the audience attending the October meeting at the Mental Health Board offices in Crystal Lake. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi and others were instrumental in forming the Court, which is designed to handle certain cases of persons with mental illness who are charged with a criminal offense. The Court was formed about 18 months ago.

Also attending last night's meeting were Ed Rickert of Family Service & Community Mental Health Center for McHenry County and the professional court staff of the Mental Health Court. I apologize, ladies, for not getting your complete names, but they were Desiree, Jennifer and Susan. Another staff member was not there.

Judge Weech is the perfect judge for the Mental Health Court. He initially worked as a probation officer in McHenry County. After working in another position, he went to law school and then worked in the State's Attorney's office. He carries a full general court load, plus the Mental Health Court, and he said his work week is usually about 60 hours.

His passion and compassion come through very clearly. The goal of the Mental Health Court is rehabilitation, rather than retribution. Defendants can be referred by police officers, hospitals, public defenders, private attorneys, Family Service and judges. There are 26 defendants currently in the program and 13 under consideration.

Not everyone who is referred makes it into the program. Some don't qualify; some don't want it. The program provides intensive monitoring and supervision and can last 18-24 months. When a defendant is referred to the program, an assessment takes place. Determination is made as to his "fit".

Participation in the Mental Health Court is voluntary, and a defendant can leave at any time; if he does, he probably returns to the regular court system. The benefits of completing the program of the Mental Health Court are that the charge is dropped and a person has probably changed his lifestyle for the better.

While there is a cost to the State and County for the program, the saving are real. Jail time is down and the cost of drugs to the County is greatly reduced. The program was described as "giving people a second chance." The cost/benefit ratio is positive, not negative.

A strong partnership between the Mental Health Court and the community is essential for its success. Recognition of a defendant's mental illness might often make the difference between his returning often to court or building the independence to stay out of trouble.

The Mental Health Court will soon offer its first "graduation" ceremony. The plan is for those completing the program to participate in the future as mentors to those entering the program. Someone who has "been there" and who knows that the program works can be a great influence on a person new to the program.

As police officers become better educated about mental illness, they may realize sooner that a person needs mental health treatment, not arrest and confinement. If appropriate, they might be able to route them into the mental healthcare system, rather than taking them to jail.

The goal is to help these special citizens to succeed and avoid unfavorable contact in the future with law enforcement agencies.

To find out more about the Mental Health Court, watch for announcements of additional public presentations by members of the Court. The Mental Health Court is open to the public, and it is in session on the first Friday of each month at 1:30PM at the McHenry County Government Center, 2200 North Seminary, Woodstock.

Renters Beware

If you are thinking about renting a house, get ready for the third degree by your prospective landlord.

And you'd better be ready to give the landlord the same third degree, because you will be asked for plenty of money right up front. The usual is a deposit equal to the first month's rent, the first month's rent and, sometimes, the last month's rent. So that adds up to three months' rent, probably well in excess of $3,000.

Now, what if the house is headed into foreclosure? You fork over your money and make plans to move in. Maybe you even get in. And then one day you open the front door and there hangs an Eviction Notice. Think you'll ever see your money again?

We are probably not lucky enough to have a sheriff who will stand up as Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is doing. He is refusing to evict renters of properties whose owners are being foreclosed upon. A good guy. The sheriff with the white hat.

Unfortunately, Sheriff Dart will probably end up explaining to some unsympathetic judge why he is not carrying out the court's order to evict the tenants. And then Sheriff Dart may be a guest in his own jail; only he won't be able to say, "OK, let me out," as the Lake County Sheriff was able to do recently during his own voluntary stay.

Run a credit check on your landlord, whether it's an individual or a business. Whoa! Here's a brand-new business for an entrepreneur. Credit checks on landlords.

Might as well throw Employers in there, too. Is your employer going to be able to make payroll? If not, you want to know that ASAP.

The Awesome Power of DCFS

If you ever expect an encounter with DCFS, you'd better know your rights and you'd better have a killer-shark of an attorney - whether you can afford him or not. If you don't have both, you might as well just lie down and wait for the train to run over you.

The power of DCFS starts with "We have the right to take your kids." OK, so that sets the stage for a good working relationship with a parent; right? Yeah, sure... "We're your friend. You can trust us." Sure, you betcha!

Talk about a level playing field.

Let's take a situation where a single parent is struggling - not just to make ends meet, but just to find where the ends are. If you are going to make ends meet, you have to at least know where they are.

Throw in non-payment of child support by the ex-spouse, house being foreclosed, theft of personal property, nosy neighbors, transportation problems, drivers license problems, multiple tickets stretching back a year, job problems - not a problem of having a job; getting TO the job.

Enough problems to cause just a little stress? Think a parent might be just a little angry? Now throw in huge legal bills at $250/hour and little real representation in court.

Now here comes DCFS. What's their advice?

Take a bus to work. Hello? Do you know anything about McHenry County? Maybe DCFS workers should have to rely on bus transportation for a week in McHenry County to make their rounds. They'd get the point in the first two hours!

Take a cab to work. Hello? Ever check cab fares to go 25 miles to work? And home at 2:30AM after an 8-hour shift? Probably a day's pay right there for the round trip.

A nosy neighbor who makes a complaint to DCFS. DCFS investigates and writes a letter that the complaint is unfounded. Unfounded. UNFOUNDED. But does DCFS go away?

Do you think if the ex-spouse had paid the child support as ordered by the court, then the financial struggles of the family might not be so great? Where are the courts when you need them?

There they are. Right on N. Seminary. Behind the seven guards checking bags and cell phones at the front door of the courthouse.

And when DCFS makes a non-sensical recommendation to a judge and the parent balks, what does the judge do? Move the kids to the ex-spouse for a month to give her time to think it over.

Where is the GAL in all this? What's a GAL? Guardian ad Litem for the kids. Think he has had any contact with the kids, so that he can tell the judge what will be in the best interest of the kids? The GAL is supposed to be independent and looking out for the kids.

So, if you ever go into court and DCFS tells the judge that something needs to be done (regardless of any fact that the kids are not in need - not abused, not neglected, not malnourished, not unhappy, going to school, making friends, getting along), well, you had better just say "Yes, your honor. Whatever you say, your honor. Yes, indeed, your honor. Right away, your honor."

Especially if your lawyer is not standing up and truly representing you and arguing your case, on your behalf, in front of the judge!

Speed Limits - Who Really Cares???

Recently I was driving on McConnell Road and got to wondering about the speed limits there. The speed limit is posted as 40MPH between Applewood Lane and Greenview Drive, and I thought at one time I had seen a 40MPH speed limit sign eastbound on McConnell Road somewhere between Lily Pond Road and the entrance to the Sanctuary.

I contacted the City Manager's office and learned that the actual speed limit east of Applewood Lane (Drive?) is 45MPH, even though it is posted as 40MPH. Hmmmm.....

Then I got to wondering if the City of Woodstock actually extends now east of Greenview, and I called Community Development, where they have a large wall map with the boundaries of Woodstock. Jim Kastner was very helpful and explained that Woodstock City Limits now are almost to Lily Pond Road. A close-enough reference for me is that the City Limit is at about 150 feet west of Lily Pond. And, when the City annexs land, they annex to the far side of the right-of-way (i.e., including the roadway).

Since the first speed limit sign for traffic westbound on McConnell Road from Country Club Road is the 40MPH sign at Greenview, it would be possible for a driver to think he was legal at 55MPH as he blew past Lily Pond Road and Sanctuary Drive. Taking the "usual" 5-10MPH over the limit, he might even be clipping along at 60-65. Much too fast for conditions, but within what he might think to be the legal speed limit for "open road" or rural roadway.

Imagine his surprise if he got pulled over and told he was violating an unposted 30MPH speed limit on a Woodstock street. That would put him at 30 over the unposted limit and in hot, hot, hot water at court time.

So, on behalf of all you hot dogs out there, I'll ask the City to post correct speed limit signs to and from the east City Limit on McConnell Road. Maybe the Streets Department will even put up an "End City Limit" sign on eastbound McConnell Road.

How does it happen that a lower speed limit sign gets posted, instead of the speed limit approved in a City ordinance? Did someone just decide "45 is too fast there" and pull a 40MPH sign off the rack?

The police are very active on McConnell Road, and it's only fair that the correct speed limit be posted - and posted often enough for drivers to be aware of it.

After that? You are fair game.

Be brave. Drive the speed limit. I dare you.

Medical Helicopter Crash - Opinion

Let me save the FAA investigators a lot of time and money in regard to the crash of the medical helicopter in our area this week.

Pilot error. The pilot was flying too low.

Aeronautical charts show locations of all obstacles to flight. I haven't looked at one for that area, but I'll bet the 734-foot tower is on it. It matters less whether the tower lights were on or not. A pilot is to inspect a chart for obstacles along his flight path.

The pilot should have been higher. He still had 50 miles to go.

Seven hundred feet is pattern altitude around airports. That's the distance above ground that a pilot flies in a small plane to approach an airport for landing.

Prudent flying means you keep enough distance between your plane and the ground that, if some mechanical problem occurs, you have a fighting chance of finding an open spot to land.

I can't imagine any reason for a pilot of a medical helicopter to be flying at 700 feet AGL (above ground level) with still 50 miles to go to his hospital destination.

McCain's Little Two-Step

Did you notice John McCain's little two-step at the end of the debate, when it was time to walk around from behind the table at which Barack Obama and he had been seated? He couldn't even make up his mind which way to go.

I stand by my previously-stated position that he is too old to take office as President. Did you notice he either couldn't remember Mrs. Obama's first name or wasn't willing to say it?

And the whole deal with Joe the Plumber? According to news reports, Joe Wurzelbacher (McCain didn't even get the last name right) isn't licensed to plumb. And he definitely doesn't have to worry about earning more than $250,000/year!

McCain, like Palin, was just repeating what he was told. That should be a huge worry for the U.S., if he does get elected.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Woodstock PD vs. Sgt. Gorski

Remember the saga of Sgt. Gorski, who suffered two on-the-job back injuries and whom the Chief is trying to fire? You can read the latest update on

Back in February the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners ("Board"), a three-man board of civilians that just happens to include a Woodstock resident who is Police Chief of a nearby village, determined, after four months of hearings, that Chief Lowen had not made his case to fire Sgt. Gorski successfully to the Board. The Board ordered that the Police Department and the City of Woodstock should pay Sgt. Gorski all his back pay - many months' worth of back pay. That was in February.

Has he been paid? No. Make that, NO.

Not a penny in eight months. Just how long does it take for a City to carry out a directive of one of its appointed Boards?

Instead, Chief Lowen filed an action in McHenry County Circuit Court to declare that the Board had not made its decision in the right way and it did not have the legal authority to make it in the manner in which it did?

Wouldn't it be interesting to know the total of legal fees expended by the City first in trying to fire Sgt. Gorski and, secondly, with the court case it filed? Probably as much as the City will end up paying for all his back pay, interest, legal fees to collect it, etc.

Maybe the City Attorney should have just told the City, "Hey, you (we) lost. Get over it. Pay him and be done with it. If you don't like the job we are doing for you, fire us."

And what was that manner in which the Board acted? The Board heard a motion by Sgt. Gorski's attorney for a directed verdict in Sgt. Gorski's favor. This motion was made at the conclusion of 4 1/2 month of hearings and when the Police Department had finally finished offering up everything it could think of.

Granting this motion would mean that the Board did not have to hear any testimony from Sgt. Gorski. In other words, if the Board granted the motion for a "directed verdict," then it would be saying that, after hearing everything that the P.D. had to say - all its witnesses, records, charts, evidence, etc. - then the Board did not have to hear from Sgt. Gorski. In other words, no defense would be necessary.

And that's exactly what the Board did. It granted the Motion for a directed verdict and told the Chief to pay Sgt. Gorski all his back pay. Did the Chief "give up"? No way! By filing his case in court, he apparently has found a way to stall the payment of all the back pay.

Last Wednesday they were all in Judge McIntyre's court for yet one more court date. When the good judge was asked back in March to make an administrative review of the Board's decision-making ability, it should have taken about two weeks. Certainly, a decision could have been rendered by mid-April. Did it happen?

Last Wednesday Attorney McArdle from the office of the City Attorney (an independent law firm contracted by the City of Woodstock) dragged in his tripod and charts and launched into a presentation to the judge. What was that all about? Apparently, nine reasons were given as to why Sgt. Gorski shouldn't be a Woodstock cop any longer.

Why would the City reveal information from the confidential medical records of an employee in open court? Maybe for the same reason it did so at the first meeting of the Board, before they went into Executive Session.

Wish I had been there, but earlier I was in a different courtroom with a friend whose case was set for the same day and time. What did that judge say to her? That he was conducting a criminal court, not traffic court. So she needs to go back another time. I heard the snide remark of the prosecuting attorney, which went unchallenged by the defendant. Too bad the judge let it pass without slapping that attorney on the wrist.

Judge McIntyre is to issue her decision on December 18 in the Gorski case. This will be ten months after the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners told the City to pay up. Ten months! TEN months. I wonder what the next step of stalling will be. A further appeal?

And what will she decide? Either that the Board made its decision in the right manner or it didn't. If it did, will the City pay up promptly?

And if it didn't? The matter goes back to the Board for a new decision. That ought to take all of about three minutes, since the Police Chief completed his testimony. He shouldn't get any further chance to prove his case. And, since it hadn't been proved it up to that point, it still won't be proved.

What do you suppose is the real reason that the police department is fighting so hard to can Sgt. Gorski?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Allow Concealed Carry?

Do you know that 14 Illinois counties will carry a question about concealed-carry on their November ballots?

The question?

"Shall the General Assembly enact legislation to permit the carrying of concealed firearms?
[ ] Yes [ ] No"

The counties? Crawford, Effingham, Franklin, Greene, Jasper, Jefferson, Kendall, LaSalle, McDonough, Ogle, Saline, Union, Woodford, and Winnebago.

Wouldn't it be nice to see "McHenry" snuggled right in there between McDonough and Ogle?

How would you vote?

Traffic Stop While Packing

... and I don't mean luggage. I just read a terrific article by a police officer with advice on how to respond/act, if stopped for a traffic violation while carrying a concealed weapon and authorizing permit. His advice applies in 48 states - not in Illinois or Wisconsin. Well, I guess part of it could apply in Illinois.

His advice was that the driver should inform the officer immediately that he is a holder of a concealed weapons permit and that he has the weapon with him, and hand the officer the concealed weapons permit with the driver's license, registration and proof of insurance.

In Michigan, where the author lives, it is a violation not to so inform the officer.

The author wrote that he does not fear the person who holds a concealed weapons permit and is armed. Nor should he.

We who would be legally armed are not the problem.

Let's elect some legislators this time around who will give us here in Illinois the right to carry concealed weapons. All are safer when the citizenry is armed. OK, well, not all. The crooks won't be safer.

Are you going to vote for a State Representative or State Senator in November? Call him or her (or them) and ask where s/he stands on concealed carry. Listen carefully. Will they vote FOR this legislation? It is assumed that such legislation will be written to eliminate felons, mentally unstable, persons under-age, and limited other classes of people who should properly be ineligible to carry.

Don't fall for an evasive answer, as I did for three years when the answer was, "Well, I'm a member of the NRA." So what? Anybody can be a member of the NRA for $35/year. Get a Yes or a No for a response. And if you get a No, then lobby that candidate for office, whether incumbent or challenger, and ask him/her directly to support concealed carry legislation in this next term.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stop the Slaughter

When will the City of Chicago stop the slaughter of its children by hoodlums packing heat?

The answer? Never!

There will never be enough cops to stop a man from walking up to a couple of kids and shooting and killing one of them. Or shooting into a house and killing a kid doing his homework.

The City of Chicago should stop prohibiting people from defending themselves, and the State of Illinois should stop blocking the right of law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons.

Look at a map of the murder zone in Chicago - the southeast quadrant near Lake Michigan, although the danger zone exists throughout the City. Just because a person is disadvantaged, poor, unemployed, of color - whatever - does not mean he should not have the right to defend himself and others.

When people feel safe, they can have hope. When kids can go to school, when moms can go to work and not worry about the safety of their kids at home, whether inside the house or outside, then life begins to improve.

Right now there is a lawless society in Chicago. Mayor Daley perpetuates it. He and the Chicago politicians should immediately cease their efforts to prevent the concealed carrying of handguns.

When shooters have to worry about whether somebody might shoot back (or even shoot first!), then the assaults and killings will slow dramatically.

I call on Mayor Daley to give up his armed bodyguards and re-assign them to protect the People. Put them back on the streets, walking beats in the southeast part of his City. The Ward bosses and other Chicago politicians should give up their weapons. Rumor has it that some of them have figured out a way to carry a concealed weapon - presently illegal in Illinois, but they seem to get away with it.

Maybe the Patriot Riders or the Guardian Angels ( or the Minutemen need to start patrolling the streets of Chicago. Heck, I'll go and help, but I'm not going unarmed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fooling Around with Credit Cards

Recently I received a new Citi bankcard and a letter informing me that my previous card was being replaced. I figure out why, since I had not used the card for two years. I didn't really want the replacement card, but I put it in a stack of to-be-handled-later mail and came across it earlier today.

I recalled reading that online account management was not available when I received the card, and this morning I telephone CitiBank to inquire whether online account management was now available. I was pleased to learn that it is, and all I needed to do was go to

Well, maybe it was at 8:00AM, but it wasn't when I tried to set up the account this evening. After a short struggle online, I telephoned the Help number on the website and learned I would have to call the number on the back on my card.

Upon calling that number tonight, I learned that the vendor for CitiBank has been fooling around since 2004 and hasn't yet set up online account management. This card is a private-label card (which I suspect means different (and less favorable) terms for me, the cardholder). No, thanks! I have no interest in mailing in card payments!

Tonight's account rep was friendly, helpful, honest and apologetic. What a combination. I almost asked if she were single!

OK, Citi, you've got 60 days. I don't really need or want this card but, if you get online account management set up and working within 60 days, I'll give your card a shot. Otherwise, where are the scissors?

Winter's Coming

It's hard to believe that winter could be right around the corner. I finally caught up with car care this week-end and washed and waxed both the bug and the motorcycle.

If you have been putting off buying the new tires or thinking that you might be lucky and just get through "one more" winter on the old set, may I urge you to re-think that idea? Get out there and check the tread depth. Look for wear on the edges - an indication of need for an alignment.

Proper air pressure in the tires and good alignment will help you with gas mileage on the ol' buggy. Don't let yourself be lulled by the gas price at $3.29/gal. Certainly, it's a whole lot better than the $3.99/gal. of just a month ago.

And don't forget that tune-up that you have been putting off. Or the radiator flush and refill. Or the new windshield wipers.

Or maybe just stop over at the dealer and trade the ol' buggy in?

But would you believe $2.62/gal. in Mattoon, Ill.? What??? Or $2.75/gal. in Peoria. Well, we are still getting ripped off here in northern Illinois!

Often, I wonder just what it would take to get "good" gas prices here in northern Illinois. Obviously, we can't drive down to Mattoon to fill up. And it certainly doesn't cost "more" to haul the gas up here to McHenry County. Is the whole difference local taxes? Or just price gouging?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New 8GB Flash Drive. $19.99

I saw a great ad on for an 8GB Sandisk flash drive. $19.99 ea., including shipping. Online only, not in the stores.

Price good until October 17, 2008.

"Palin Withdraws from VP Slot"

Is this the headline we'll read in the next day or two?

Does John McCain have any other choice than to ask Mrs. Pitbull to take her lipstick and go back to shoo the Russians back on their side of the border the next time they take a wrong turn?

Sarah Pitbull had said she would cooperate with the investigators in Alaska. She didn't. Her husband refused to testify in person. It's impossible, of course, to cross-examine a sworn affidavit; that paper just won't talk back. The investigators determined that she had abused the powers of her office as Governor. Is that what this country wants for an elected official one heartbeat away from the big chair in the Oval Office?

Someone pass the Tums, please. McCain & Company must have been having serious heartburn over the past week, as it became clear that the investigators would present their report to the legislative commission on Friday and not be stymied by maneuvering by the McCain crowd. Three cheers for the commission that didn't run and hide on Friday.

Why didn't Sarah testify? Why didn't First Dude testify? They didn't even step up and take the Fifth, and I don't mean Jim Beam.

Sarah probably won't even be welcome when she rides the snowmobile back to Wasilla, except by the "Say it ain't so, Joe" crowd, who won't believe a word in the report. It's too bad that the 1,000-page Confidential portion of the report won't reach the public (until someone leaks it or it gets challenged). What's in it?

Sort of looks to me like Sarah won't be just another pretty face in Washington.

Okay, John, now get busy and pick a qualified person to be your running mate. No doubt that your team has given you a short list of replacements. Except you might save your time and money. Your error in picking The Barracuda has probably done you irreparable harm.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Area Gas - $3.369/gal. - Where?

Check out the Marathon station in Marengo - on Ill. Route 23 at Route 176. This afternoon regular unleaded fuel was $3.369/gal.

And a bp station in Rockford was $3.299/gal.

Check out for lowest prices. You can help by posting prices you observe at gas stations.

There is also a handy fuel logbook you can use to monitor your gas mileage.

Saving Grace Hall

I didn't live in Woodstock when the movement got underway to demolish the Opera House and create a parking lot on the same corner. I heard about it, though, and my late mother-in-law was on the committee that saved it. People Power. And it can still work.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting the ravages of inflation occurred in just over 10 minutes. Panic should have set in. How could this happen???

The planner for WCLS informed the Council that it would take $500,000 to upgrade Grace Hall. Then, about ten minutes later, Mr. Egan told the Council that it would take $700,000 to upgrade Grace Hall. I didn't recognize any expressions on faces of Council members that they had heard "$500,000" on minutes before. Hopefully, the City Clerk will record the numbers for posterity.

Gee, too bad they didn't lock in the upgrade contract earlier. That was a 40% increase in costs to upgrade, and only one resident commented on it. Did the Council believe either number?

The whiners beat on the Council repeatedly about Grace Hall's becoming a museum. I haven't heard much talk about that one, but several dragged it up. Come on, folks. If the Dick Tracy Museum can't stay in business on the Square, how could a Todd Hall or Orson Welles Museum stay in business on Route 47?

Here's my suggestion for Grace Hall. Maybe others have already thought of it, but I haven't heard it mentioned.

Grant Landmark status to Grace Hall. Turn Grace Hall into a showplace on Route 47. Create 4-6-8 residence units. Utilize the brainpower of Landmark-status advocates to find the funding to help poor ol' Woodstock Christian Life Services out of its $9,000,000 annual revenues dilemma.

Just because an organization is non-profit doesn't mean it's poor. Sure, they spend all they rake it. That's what non-profits do. All "non-profit" status means is they don't pay taxes on their surplus earnings (profit). With everyone else having to cut back, maybe their executives have to take it on the chin a little.

The price tag on the duplexes in the current plan is $200,-250,000 EACH. Gasp! Is there a waiting line in Woodstock for quarter-million dollar housing? Really? No, wait; that's not the "price tag"; it's not the purchase price. It's the "entry fee." And then the resident pays a monthly fee after that.

By approving the special use permit on Tuesday night, the City has sounded the death knell for Grace Hall. Only the People will save it. The Government of the People gave it away.

Now is the time for all good ...

... men (and women) to come to the aid of Grace Hall.

Folks (and I don't mean just the handful who have shown direct interest so far), you've got seven months. You've got until the second meeting of the Woodstock City Council in April. That's April 2009.

You'll have to put the economy, the recession, the depression, the lousy local and national real estate markets, the stock market, employment, the election, the holidays - yes, even Groundhog Day - aside and move Save Grace Hall up to the top of your To Do List.

Seven months will pass in the bat of an eyelid. It's going to take organization, time and money to put together a plan.

Document everything. Every phone call. Every letter. Every email. Every fax. Every conversation.

One employee asked Tuesday night where everyone interested in Grace Hall and Orson Welles had been over the past years. Well, no one was threatening Grace Hall with the wrecking ball.

I would urge a website or a blog (free at to put this in front of the community and keep it there. The excellent remarks of Kathy Spaltro and Dan Lemanski (and others) could be posted for all to read - and to re-read.

As I drove up Highway 47 yesterday, I glanced over at Grace Hall. It is a grand building. It deserves to stand.

On September 16, 2008, Mayor Sager said he "would like to see all options to preserve Grace Hall exhausted before they make any decisions." Even at the City Council meeting on October 7, he and they acknowledged that all options had not been exhausted. And then they voted - and approved the special use permit that includes demolition of Grace Hall.

Seven months, folks. April 21, 2009. Organize!

EEOC and Ill. Dept. of Human Rights

A reader asked what the EEOC and the "Human Rights Department" investigates.

It's always easy to google these, but these are good questions.

EEOC is the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Visit The EEOC enforces federal employment discrimination laws. Rights against discrimination in places of employment include age, disability, equal pay, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, retaliation, sex, sexual harassment.

From the EEOC website:

"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin, and religion. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

"It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of his/her sex in regard to hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment. Title VII also prohibits employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals on the basis of sex. Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination and neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude individuals on the basis of sex and that are not job related."

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (visit "...administers the Illinois Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, citizenship status (with regard to employment), familial status (with regard to real estate transactions), age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, unfavorable military discharge, and sexual orientation."

For more information, go to each website.

If you know of cases involving illegal discrimination, please let me know. When you post a comment here, your UserID will appear. If you prefer to remain anonymous, email me directly and I'll ponder the wisdom of posting your comment under my own name.

If you have a complaint, you'll have to make it in your own name, but others and I will be happy to support you in doing so.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Create a Calm Home

No, this is not Feng Shui.

It's about a workshop next (not this) Saturday in Woodstock called "Strategies to create a calm home for intense children."

This workshop is for teachers, parents and families affected by anxiety, sensory issues, Asperger syndrome, autism, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and AD/HD.

October 18
To be held at the Congregational Unitarian Church, 221 Dean St., Woodstock

The workshop will be presented by Kirk Martin, founder and director of "Celebrate Calm". For

(For more information, visit or call 815/338-0731.

Added 10/23/08: See a fine article about Celebrate Calm at

October Coffee with the Chief

Woodstock Police Chief Bob Lowen will host this month's Coffee with the Chief on Monday, October 13, 2008, at 7:00-8:30PM at the Woodstock Police Department, 656 Lake Avenue.

This month's featured speaker will be Catherine Martin of McHenry County Home Inventory, Inc. Ms. Martin will address the importance of having a current home inventory - you know, "just in case..."

What would you do if a major fire struck your home? Or if a thief got in and grabbed your valuables? What would be missing? How would you determine their value?

Do you have photographs of your valuables? A videotape of the rooms of your home? Photographs or a videotape of opened drawers and closet doors? A written inventory of your "stuff"? And dated? Serial numbers of important possessions?

The monthly Coffees are also an opportunity for you to get what's on your mind off of it. Are you having problems in your neighborhood? Drugs? Loud radios? Tire-squealing? Cars blocking sidewalks?

Junk in yards or on the parkway? Junk cars stored for months? Donovan Day, Woodstock's Code Enforcement Officer, attends many of the Coffees and can receive your complaints about Code matters, which are not handled by the police department.

October 13, 2008
Police headquarters (tell the person behind the glass window that you are there for the meeting)

New Stop Sign Coming

At last night's City Council meeting, a new stop sign at Raffel Road and Hayden Street was approved. This will become a four-way stop.

"High" pedestrian volume was cited in determining the "need" for a stop sign, but no numbers were available. Was that because no study was done?

Students, joggers and park users cross Raffel Road, and drivers don't slow down or yield at the crosswalk. So now everyone gets to stop. Every time. Every day. No matter what the time of day (or night), whether weekday, school day or week-end or holiday.

OK. So all drivers now must stop. Let's see if the police will now ticket jaywalkers and drivers who don't stop.

I suggested that the City first try additional signing to alert drivers that they were approaching a crosswalk. Or place one of those markers like the ones in use on Throop Street and South Street.

I dunno. Seemed like a reasonable suggestion to try the least intrusive, least restrictive measures first. What does a center-of-street marker cost? $100?

Better stop, folks. And Stop means a full stop. All four wheels stopped. By the way, the vehicle, too. It doesn't count if you slam on the brakes, lock the wheels to stop them from turning (all four wheels "stopped", eh?) and then roll through it.

Now THAT was a meeting

Last night's City Council meeting? Whew! Talk about a marathon. At least, it didn't go to midnight.

But almost... The Woodstock Christian Life Services request for a special use permit - or as its able attorney pointed out, a modification to an existing special use permit - ran until about 11:20PM.

It was all too much to report in one article or even briefly, but here are the highlights.

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the special use permit for the entire project, including the demolition of Grace Hall, but subject to certain conditions. Somewhere, somebody is typing up the demolition permit application, probably at this moment. Or perhaps they typed it up earlier this morning.

The conditions basically provide a seven-month period, until the second City Council meeting in April, 2009, for WCLS and the rescuers of Grace Hall to come up with a plan. OK, don't laugh. It could happen. And Sarah Palin could become President. In fact, there is probably a better chance that we'll be seeing President Hockey Mom than see anything but a pile of rubble and lots of dust at 318 Christian Way in 2009.

The shocker of the evening for me was when City Attorney Rich Flood told me, during the City Council meeting and recorded by the City Clerk, that he had sent his young colleague to the Historic Preservation Commission with instructions to counsel the HPC to continue its public meeting the night before. In other words, to postpone testimony by those wishing to address the HPC about a Landmark status application until after last night's City Council meeting.

A letter in the City Council packet for last night's meeting from the WCLS attorney, Mark Gummerson, indicated clearly to the City that any vote on Landmark status by the HPC after approval by the City Council might make the Landmark status application moot.

Well, duh.... And that's exactly what happened. I could see that one coming the night before. It was clever lawyering, which was suggested at the City Council - and bashed down by the Mayor.

Mayor Sager said on September 16 that all avenues to save Grace Hall should be explored. Several Council members spoke about the importance of exploring all avenues and how they felt that all avenues had not been explored.

And then they voted 7-0 to issue the special use permit.

Note to Ralph Webster: you might want to order extra water tankers to control the dust when the wrecking ball starts swinging on May 1st.

Who, me? A pessimist?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Best Bumper Sticker?

Just got this via email, with the Subject Line "Best Bumper Sticker". You know? I kind of like it. Might just have to trade in the bug on a big pick-'em-up truck...
Want a good look at it? Just click on the photo.

City Council vs. Presidential Debate

You've got a choice tonight. Attend the City Council meeting at 7:00PM or watch the debate on TV at 8:00PM.

Tape it. Set your VCR to tape the debate. Be at the City Council meeting. Your voice right here in Woodstock matters a whole more than your eyes on your TV tonight.

Woodstock City Council - Tonight!

Will we see government by the City Council tonight? Or will we see what one attendee at last night's Historic Preservation Commission called "Government by Gummerson"?

The City Council will consider the special use ordinance desired by Woodstock Christian Life Services, which originally included demolition of the building still known by many as Grace Hall. Will tonight's request on the Agenda still include that demolition?

Residents and other interested parties should show up tonight and plan to say whatever they have to say.

If you have something to say during the Public Comment period that is not exactly about the special use permit, then say it! Regardless of any preamble by the mayor designed to take the wind out of your sails, say it. Hopefully, the mayor never again will preface a Public Comment period with extended excuses and explanations that result in residents and citizens not speaking up.

If he does, just wait him out, disregard his remarks and stand up and say what you intend to say and at whatever length you intend to say it.

And then, during the public comment period on the Agenda item, say what is on your mind. And tell the City Council what you want them to do. Every one of the parties interested in preserving Grace Hall and its history should speak up tonight. Even if your neighbors have just said the same thing, stand up and speak for yourself. The City Council - all of them - need to hear from you! In public! Writing them, calling them, or speaking to them one-on-one is not the same as telling them in public at a City Council meeting what your opinion is and what you want them to do.

And if the Mayor attempts to limit comments by asking that you not re-state a position already stated by a previous speaker, just smile at him and proceed to say what you have to say.

The picture is entirely different when 100 people stand up and say 100 times what they want, than when one person speaks and 99 sit there and nod their heads.

Remember Abraham Lincoln's words: "...government of the people, by the people, for the people..." Do not let this type of government perish in Woodstock!


Monday, October 6, 2008

The Public Hearing - - - that wasn't

Wish I'd been a fly on the wall just before the beginning of the Historic Preservation Commission meeting today. The commissioners were huddled at the front of the city council chambers for 10-15 minutes, during which time the attorney from the City Attorney's office joined them. Almost looked like a "meeting", but the meeting had not yet been called to order.

When the meeting did start, it quickly moved to the Grace Hall issue. Quite a number of Woodstock residents were gathered for the announced Public Hearing, so no one commented during the Public Comment portion of the meeting, because any comments on an agenda item are to be held for the comment period for that item.

The Petitioner for the Landmark status of Grace Hall is Caryl Lemanski. The Objector is Woodstock Christian Life Services, which is the owner of Grace Hall and which is represented by attorney Mark Gummerson.

Commission Chairman Tim Art attempted to explain how the public hearing would be conducted. He had some difficulty in gathering the right words and spoke them hesitantly and unsurely.

When he was about ready to open the Public Hearing on the Grace Hall property, attorney Gummerson asked to address the Commission before the Public Hearing was opened, and he was allowed to do so.

Gummerson stated that the owner of the property objected to the request for Landmark status and would fight it. To make a long story short, he waved Constitutional Law flags in front of the faces of the Commissioners; the clear inference was that, if the Commission proceeded, they could expect to get sued on Constitutional grounds.

He said firmly and forcefully that the Commisssion was (only) authorized by City ordinance, but his position was supported by State and Federal laws. Sort of, if they dared to go forward, look out!

Gummerson claimed he hadn't had time to prepare to cross-examine anyone who testified before the Commission. I was going to laugh out loud. The day that Mark Gummerson is not ready to cross-examine someone hasn't yet arrived. He could wake up from a sound sleep and be ready for cross-examination. He is a first-class attorney, with the skill, knowledge and experience to tear anyone to shreds on a moment's notice. In court, of course.

I have said for the 12 years I've lived in Woodstock, "If you ever need a killer-shark attorney, get Mark Gummerson (if you can afford him)."

Gummerson stood at the podium after making his forceful statements, almost daring the Commission not to agree with him. The Chairman never thanked him for his comments or directed him to take his seat. It was almost like Gummerson took over the meeting.

And it worked.
Commissioner Merida Woods spoke directly to Gummerson and stated a position against his. Commissioner Stebbins concurred with Merida. I could not believe that the Commissioners did not understand or challenge his gambit. And then vote down or pass on his Motion.

When I attempted to speak to the issue of delaying the public hearing, the Chairman would not recognize me, because I was not the Petitioner.
Gummerson served his clients well, which is exactly what a good attorney should do. The Commission agreed to postpone the public hearing for a month.

When the City first received Gummerson's objection to the Petition, it should have lined up the "heaviest", most-experienced attorney from the City Attorney's office. The City Manager should have seen that the Historic Preservation Commission would have strong legal representation. Gummerson basically provided the legal advice for the Commission and the Commission, not knowing whether it was the the right advice for them, accepted it.

The fly in the ointment? The City Council's Agenda for tomorrow night includes the Special Use Permit that Woodstock Christian Life Services wants.

My guess is that the City Council will wither under Mark Gummerson's attack tomorrow night and approve the Special Use Permit, including the demolition of Grace Hall.

And a month from now, when the public hearing is held? Woodstock Christian Life Services and Mark Gummerson won't even bother to show up.