Thursday, December 31, 2009

47 leaks in Woodstock

If you read the Minutes of the December 1, 2009 meeting of the Woodstock City Council, you'll see that resident Elva Shafer, 514 Desmond Drive, showed up to address the Council about newspaper coverage of stormwater management. She wanted to know if her house is one of the 47 houses with pipes that are leaking.

The Minutes do not reflect whether her house is one of them, but wouldn't you think that she would know by now if it is?

Council Minutes reflect a statement by Mayor Sager that a program is currently being organized to accommodate those (homeowners) who cannot afford to fix the leaks. The Minutes state that there is "also" a program that benefits those who sign up for the program early.

Does this mean two programs? Or different levels of "benefits" for homeowners?

This morning's Northwest Herald carries a headline on Page C-1 that reads, "City confirms 47 leaks." The article reports that the leaks are in the sanitary sewer lines that are on private property. "Technically, the leaks are the responsibility of private homeowners." So says the newspaper.

OK, so if the leaks are on private property, why is the City going to chip in on repair costs? Or could the case be that "technically" it's the City that is responsible, since the lines are "sanitary sewer" lines feeding into the City's system and which must be protected by the City.

Mayor Sager apparently told the reporter that the city "would consider financial hardship (of homeowners) and be willing to work out a payment plan for residents." He also supposedly said that the City "would not place liens on the homes of residents unable to pay for the fix."

I'm more than a little concerned about the mayor's hands in the City's checkbook. How can he so readily promise any homeowner financial relief by the City of Woodstock? Won't it actually be a decision of the City Council to grant any financial relief to individual homeowners?

Should the homeowners participate in a cost-sharing deal, or should they be determining whether it's the City that is on the hook for the total cost of stormwater management, even if the pipes are on private property?

What is the status of the class-action lawsuit against the City of Woodstock that was filed after the 2007 flooding?

Now that's Gun Control....

Received this by email today, and I didn't bother to uncapitalize the words. Also, I didn't check Enjoy!

Unfortunately, in Illinois she probably would have been convicted and imprisoned.

MARCH 5th, 2009

"Last Thursday Night Around Midnight, A Woman From Houston, Texas Was Arrested,
Jailed, And Charged With Manslaughter For Shooting A Man 6 Times In The Back As He Was Running Away With Her Purse.

"The Following Monday Morning, The Woman Was Called In Front Of The Arraignment Judge, Sworn In, And Asked To Explain Her Actions.

"The Woman Replied, "I Was Standing At The Corner Bus Stop For About 15 Minutes, Waiting For The Bus To Take Me Home After Work. I Am A Waitress At A Local Cafe...
I Was There Alone, So I Had My Right Hand On My Pistol, That Was In My Purse, That Was Hung Over My Left Shoulder.

"All Of A Sudden I Was Being Spun Around Hard To My Left. As I Caught My Balance, I Saw A Man Running Away From Me With My Purse. I Looked Down At My Right Hand And I Saw That My Fingers Were Wrapped Tightly Around My Pistol. The Next Thing I Remember Is Saying Out Loud, "No Way Punk! Your Not Stealing My Pay Check And Tips." I Raised My Right Hand, Pointed My Pistol At The Man Running Away From Me With My Purse, And Squeezed The Trigger Of My Pistol 6 Times!

"When Asked By The Arraignment Judge, "Why Did You Shoot The Man 6 Times?

The Woman Replied Under Oath, "Because, When I Pulled The Trigger The 7th Time, It Only Went Click."

"The Woman Was Acquitted Of All Charges. She Was Back At Work, At The Cafe, The Next Day!"

Supervisory ratio at MCSD

In a recent article command and supervisory salaries were analyzed (generally) from names and numbers published on

What will be of interest to McHenry County is whether these are all the command and supervisory personnel of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department.

How many deputies and civilian employees are there at the Sheriff's Department? One number that has been thrown around is 425. OK, so what is the breakdown?

How many deputies are there assigned to Canine? Detectives? Fugitive Apprehension Unit? Gang Taskforce? Marine Unit? Narcotics? Patrol? (Motorcycle? Gator? Snowmobile?) Range Program?

How many civilians are employed in administration, records, maintenance, computer maintenance (Information Technology, or I.T.), vehicle maintenance, courthouse security?

How many corrections officers are employed in the jail? (Number of command and supervisory officers (are any of these sworn deputies?) and number of non-sworn corrections officers)

If you'd like proof that "big-business" has arrived at the sheriff's department, just check out the organizational chart at

Count the number of Bureaus, Divisions, Sections, Units. What would be really interesting would be to see names placed in all those categories, along with supervisors identified.

Don't miss the seven-point star at the top left of the org chart.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Comment on MCSD pay article

I frequently receive comments from readers who do not wish their names associated with their comments and whose UserIDs would be recognized. The following was received and offers a perspective on pay ranges of law enforcement around here.

"Why not do a fair comparison. What about Lake County SO and their pay? To answer the squad question, NO a MCSO deputy can not live outside the county and take the squad home. LAKE, COOK, BOONE, DeKALB, and KANE all allow their deputies to take the cars OUTSIDE of the County. Usually a mileage limit of 12 miles except for Cook. They have some living in WISC. Notice there is a Lake CO Squad on Bull Valley Rd near Curran Rd, Several COOK Cty Squads are in LITH and Algonquin. There is a Kane CO Squad parked in his home in Sycamore which is DeKalb Cty. AS for take home squads. I don't know of a Sheriff Dept in Northern Illinois W/O take home cars. Study after study has proven the cost effectiveness of it. Cars last longer, have less maintenance, and as the primary law enforcement agency, they can field cars quickly in emergencies. I believe they get twice the odometer mileage as do city cars and the cars last 3-4 years.

"Illinois State Police. ( also take home cars) A trooper living in Harvard may drive 50 miles to their patrol. Check pay. You'll see that an ISP Trooper chasing tail lights (no rank)has a base TOP pay around $100,000 without OT. I know one trooper on the tollway (Dist 15) that worked as many available OT details as possible and made over $140,000 last year. Toll evasion details, ( sitting by toll booths looking for people that blow through w/o paying) Shift coverage details, hiring back on holidays. ISP Sgt's make more than MCSO Captains. Also consider this. To be a Sergeant or LT you should be paid higher than the rank that is being supervised. These are SENIOR OFFICERS to have been promoted. Most have BA degrees and several have MA degrees. Eight ( or more) are FBI Academy graduates.

"Check the NWH for their pay comparison of Chiefs. See what Linder at CLPD makes. Wales at LITH collects over $100k as the retired CHIEF and then they hired him back as the Director of Public Safety at over $100K. So he is well over $200,000 as Chief (or should I say Director) of LITH.

"I personally don't have a dog in this fight as I only live up there PT. I still stay in close touch and have many friends in the area. but none the less, this seems an unfair shot at hard working deputies that have NOTHING to do with the politics of the county."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Smoke-free Illinois

The Chicago Tribune reports today that there have been more than 8,000 smoking-related complaints filed with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) since Illinois went smoke-free on January 1, 2008. I thought I might find more detail on the IDPH website, but no such luck.

The Trib reported that there were 5,500 complaints to the IDPH in 2008 and about 2,600 this year.

I wonder if that means "only" complaints filed with IDPH and not any smoking citations issued locally. Woodstock alone could have accounted for 2,600 this year, if there were any police ticketing of smoking-law violators.

Has there been even one smoking-law (disregarding under-age smoking) ticket in Woodstock?

You can drive by about any public place, especially the bars in beautiful downtown Woodstock, Illinois, and count more than ten smokers in a day who are huddled around the entrance to a bar or store and creating a gray haze through which pedestrians must pass.

The bar on the corner of Church and Clay is a good spot for smokers. Right on the corner. Right at the front door. Smokers are visible from all directions.

This is not a problem that the bar owner should be expected to correct. It's a State law, and the smokers are outside on the public sidewalk.

Last week I walked on Main Street, across from the movie theater. You know, in front of Pirro's and D.C. Cobbs and other establishments. What a mess! Cigarette butts all over the place.

OK, so it's a State law. Does that mean it's the City's responsibility to put butt cans out for the smokers? Why should a business foot the cost? Maybe smokers ought to learn how to field-strip their cigarettes and put the filters in their pockets. Then just let the tobacco blow away.

Maybe there could be a creative art contest for the fanciest butt can in town? Last summer it was horses. Butt cans, anyone?

Old drugs - how to part with them

Sen. Pam Althoff wrote a good Letter to the Editor that was published today in the Northwest Herald. The topic? Disposing of medications that are no longer used.

Just last week I read somewhere that some police departments collect old prescription drugs and then (hopefully) dispose of them in a way that does not contaminate the planet.

What do you do with old medications? How many bottles of stale meds are in your medicine cabinet or under the counter in the bathroom?

How many folks just flush them? You know ... open the bottles of old meds and dump them in the "big white porcelain bus." Hit the handle a couple of times and put the lid down, so that the family dog doesn't go into orbit? Or even just skip that step and just toss them in the trash and send them off to the dump? (Do kids of today even know what a "dump" is? Just where do those MDC trucks go at the end of the day?)

What police agencies around McHenry County collect old drugs? Any? And what do they do with them? How are they safeguarded before disposal? How are they disposed of?

Does anyone know?

Dear Abby advice - Poor? Very poor!

Does "Abby" (Dear Abby, syndicated column by Jeanne Phillips) always provide good advice to readers? Either her own or by publishing letters purportedly written by readers?

Recently "Abby" published a letter from a woman who was worried about her adult daughter's cell phone use and texting while driving with her (the daughter's) children in the car.
The mother or "Abby" referred to it as "multi-tasking." "Abby" comparing texting-while-driving to drunk driving. Now there is a stretch for you...

Few will disagree that the daughter's actions could be dangerous.

For me, I draw a thick line between cell phone use and texting while driving. Often, cell phones can be used safely while driving. The driver must, of course, give primary attention to the operation of the vehicle and not allow himself to be distracted by the intensity of the conversation or the operation of the phone.

Texting is a different story.

Today's "Dear Abby" from "N.H.T.S.A. Mom" urged the grandmother to report her daughter "to the authorities for child endangerment."

Does that woman live on this planet? Does she have a clue what ball she will start rolling downhill, if she sics Child Protective Services (CPS) on her daughter? Hopefully, no one will follow that advice without first carefully investigating just what does happen when you sic CPS on someone.

I don't recall reading that the daughter seemed to be operating her vehicle in an unsafe manner. I didn't read that she had run off the road or sailed through red lights. Not that she couldn't, of course, while texting or phoning.

Some schools teach students to "Stop. Think. Act." That will work for adults, too.

Heroin user survey

Recently the following question was asked and reader response was invited. The question?

“Do you know someone who uses heroin?"

Thanks for the 45 readers who responded. The responses?

Yes – 16 (36%)
No – 29 (64%)

My opinion? When 36% of readers know someone who uses a dangerous drug, this is a huge problem. The problems are the users, the dealers and those with knowledge of what is occurring.
As you might guess, I have zero tolerance for illegal drugs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

MCSD Wage Analysis

Take a look at the following numbers, taken from figures posted today on You might want to take your blood pressure first, and then take it a second time. The following are taken from the 2008 gross wages paid to supervisory deputies of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department.

The gross wages paid to the sheriff ($144,218) and the undersheriff ($126,234) total $270,452.
Two captains earned $212,923. Average: $106,461
Four lieutenants earned $407,883. Average: 101,970
Fifteen sergeants earned $1,350,232. Average: $103,864
One civilian EEO employee earned $92,366

The total? $2,333,857

It might be really interesting to see the breakdown of the gross wages; i.e., what part was base salary and what made up the rest. Does anyone earn overtime and, if so, at what rate?

If overtime is paid, why? What efforts are made to control overtime and prevent it by hiring more employee at base salaries, rather than paying overtime?

What do benefits cost McHenry County taxpayers?

Then toss in a vehicle. Does a supervisor get a county squad car to drive home, or do only patrol deputies drive take-home cars?

Do any deputies with take-home cars live outside McHenry County (like in Wisconsin?)?

Are any records kept as to how many times a deputy has needed to respond to a car from home, making the take-home car a good deal for the County? Do deputies reimburse the County for the cost of commuting to and from the Department?

Does the sheriff ever drive his Tahoe to Minocqua, Wisconsin? At what rate does he reimburse the County for personal use of the Tahoe?

Who drives the sheriff to the airport, when he heads off to his $620,000 home in Cape Coral? Does he take a limo or service car for $65.00 at his personal expense, or does a highly-paid employee drive him there?

New blog posts deputies' wages

A new blog has hit McHenry County, and one of the first postings is the wage listing of 23 supervisory deputies at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department.

Take a look at

No explanation is given, other than they are gross wages for the year 2008.

There may be some rhyme or reason to the order, but I'm not sure what it is. The sort seems to be by ranking, perhaps within assignments. Let's build a quick Excel spreadsheet and do a little analyzing.

Farm Bureau board supports concealed carry

You probably didn't read this in the Northwest Herald or anywhere else in McHenry County, but it was reported on the website of the Illinois State Rifle Association, on December 10.

"Delegates approved resolutions dealing with election reform, animal welfare and identification and concealed carry at the Illinois Farm Bureau's 95th annual meeting Dec. 5-8 in Chicago.

"Language was approved to support concealed carry legislation in Illinois. The Farm Bureau supports requirements that the State of Illinois issue permits for carrying concealed firearms and that gun owners complete an application process.

"Read the whole story in The Carmi Times."

The Illinois Sheriffs Association was on the fence in 2005 about concealed carry, but it seems to me that it got off the fence in 2009 and now supports concealed carry in Illinois.

I haven't heard anything lately about the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and whether it has modified its stand against concealed carry in the past 3-4 years. In 2005 its position was that only law enforcement ought to be able to carry concealed.

The Importance of Knowledge

There are some things you need to know in advance. These include...

what to do if fire breaks out in your home;
what to do if a health problem or injury occurs;
what to do if your car skids on snow or ice; and

what to do (and what NOT to do) if you shoot someone in your home!

Local news includes reports of a shooting in Wauconda last week-end. The details can be read in the local papers.

How many residents are ready to defend themselves, should the need arise? If you own firearms that are going to be available to you if your home is invaded, you had better decide several things in advance, including whether you are willing to use one of them, whether your family expects you to use one of them, and exactly what you are going to do after you use one of them.

There are several things you do want to do. Primary among these is protecting your rights. The police will want to know what happened, and you are going to have to decide quickly what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. The tendency is to believe that you had the right to defend yourself and that the police will agree with you.

OK, what color jail suit do you want (orange is the preferred color) and do you want an odd- or even-numbered cell?

You'd better be thinking of the attorney you will want on your side, and you had better refresh yourself on your Miranda Rights.

#1 "You have the right to remain silent."

As hard as that is going to be, you may want to keep your mouth shut, saying only that you believed your life was in danger. You will probably want to tell the cops what happened. Later you may wish you had kept your mouth shut. Since there is no taking back what was said, you had better decided in advance how you will say whatever you do decide to say.

#2 "Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law."

Say this out loud: "Anything I say, can and will be used against me in a court of law." Now, read #1 again.

It may be that the very best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut until you talk to your attorney. Don't have an attorney? If you own a gun, you should know what attorney you will call.

On Saturday two bad guys got shot inside a Wauconda residence. They were in the front yard when the cops arrived. "Police confiscated the gun, which was registered."

Well, probably not. What does "registered" mean? If this had happened in Chicago, that sentence could be correct. And perhaps in a handful of suburbs that haven't given up yet and realized they can't prevent law-abiding citizens from owning handguns.

I hadn't heard that Wauconda required registration of handguns, so what did the reporter mean by "registered"?

Check out

IDOT says 67% are DUI

According to a letter to the editor in this morning's Northwest Herald, midnight-to-3:00AM is the most dangerous time to be on Illinois roads. An IDOT regional occupant protection coordinator, Robert Brasky, wrote that 67% of the fatalities occurring during those hours involved 1) an impaired driver and 2) low use of seatbelts.

Law enforcement agencies all over the County, including Woodstock and the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, pester drivers on mornings and afternoons during daylight hours when they conduct seatbelt checks. Instead of focusing on the most important four of the Fatal Five violations, they pick the "low-hanging fruit." Recently five Woodstock police officers were detailed on Route 47 just north of McConnell Road during the day, where two officers in the road watched passing vehicles and the second directed violators into a parking area for ticketing.

Such a detail is not the "fault" of the officers who were assigned, so don't blame them. They are doing what they are told to do, not that they are necessarily against it. Some of them might even be asking why they aren't working such a detail when they are most likely to catch violators.

Instead of arresting drivers traveling 25-35MPH in a congested area, why not set up a similar checkpoint at 2:00AM? Just imagine how many drunk drivers they'd nab who aren't wearing seatbelts. Would the bar owners (and lawyers for the drivers who were arrested) be screaming bloody murder?

Of course, each DUI arrest might take an officer off the road for 2-3 hours, unless departments staffed up to handle the rush. Streamline the processing, coordinate with other departments including the sheriff's department and the Illinois State Police, and get serious about getting drunks off the roads.

What the heck? Just set up the checkpoint down the road from bars where serious drinking takes place. We have a few of those places right here in Woodstock. And just outside Woodstock City Limits, too.

By the way, treat all violators the same. When your eyes are bloodshot, your speech is slurred and there is a strong odor of alcohol on your breath, away you go - cuffed and in the back seat of the patrol car. No matter your name or for whom you work.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Slick roads - near-miss

I waited until the end of the day to venture out on Woodstock's slick streets and roads. For an ex-Colorado driver, they weren't all that bad. As you start out, you check your stopping distance, tire grip, turning actions, accelerating actions.

When I was on the way back and only about three blocks from home, a jerk in a pick-up truck came out of the Citgo station on Lake Avenue fast. Although he had his front wheels turned to the right, the push from his back tires sent him through the slush into the middle of the street. Then the back end of the pick-up fishtailed to the left, over into my lane. He didn't get off the gas, and the back end swung to the right. And then back to the left again and into my lane.

I guess I did an okay job of timing his fishtailing through slowing down, braking, and heading for the right shoulder, because I got by him during one of the times when his truck was all the way in his lane. It was close, though.

I thought about turning around and siccing the Woodstock Police on him. His driving was much more than just sliding in his turn out of the gas station. It was certainly careless and bordered on reckless, because he didn't get his foot off the gas and allow time to get the truck back under control.

That's three times in the past two weeks that I have almost been hit within three blocks of home. The other two times were on Lake Avenue, too, and involved oncoming drivers who crossed the centerline. Were they on the cell phone or texting?

With so many inattentive drivers on the roads, I sure hope that officers of the Woodstock Police Department will be ticketing them and not wait for accidents to happen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

More complaints to be aired

A comment to the Northwest Herald article about the judge's ruling in Zane Seipler's federal case was (JKL wrote on December 23, 2009 12:17 p.m.) "Problem is no one really knows how 'business' is conducted within MCSD unless you work there..."

Bingo! JKL hit the nail squarely on the head.

Many thanks to the postman (actually, postwoman) for being so kind to me this week and bringing greetings to me in the form of a Dec. 20 message and seven typewritten pages about conditions at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department.

In due respect to the holidays and readers probably not wanting to read very direct comments about operations, articles addressing those conditions will be held until Monday, December 28.

The complaints about operations are exactly those that should have been satisfactorily addressed internally. Had they been so addressed, employees would not be reaching out.

I remember being in a position with a Denver firm and offering suggestions for change. The suggestions seemed quite reasonable to me, but they fell on deaf ears with management. One day a consultant was in the office and came to talk with me. His comment? "Unless you are one of the top producers around here, they aren't going to listen to you. You have good ideas, but they are not listening."

Those who are complaining are not malcontents. The fact that they are complaining about specific incidents and patterns shows that they care about their jobs, their fellow deputies, the Department and the people they serve.

Those who put them down remind me of those in federal offices who said, "If you're not with us, then you're against us." That is a very, very dangerous statement.

Attn. Last-minute shoppers

If you have been procrastinating on your Christmas shopping, your time is almost up.

I remember one Christmas Eve when I was in Marshall Field's in the Loop. How do I erase that memory?

It's too late for last-minute online orders. Some of those companies are fast shippers, but your order will never make it now.

And, if you step outside this morning and can make it to your car without donning your ice skates, good luck. Allow some extra time to chip the ice off the windows. Don't cheat and just do the windshield. Clear your windows all the way around.

Maybe my best buy last week was the can of Prestone De-Icer!

Of course, you could beat the rush and order next year's gifts now. Oh, wait; there are those after-Christmas sales. They weren't in this morning's Northwest Herald, but pity the poor paperboy tomorrow, when he has to slug around with all the ads for Saturday's sales.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is there an official badge at Sheriff's Dept.?

Is there an "official" badge at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department?

And, if there is, should its likeness be used in all official communications and references, such as on business cards?

From another blog comes the photograph of Sheriff Keith Nygren in uniform. Note the badge on his uniform. It has five (5) points.

Compare that with the badge on the business card of Sgt. John Koziol, which shows seven (7) points on a badge that is identified as of the McHenry County Sheriff's Police.

Notice that the seven-point star has a single point at the bottom, whereas the badge worn by Sheriff Nygren has the point at the top. The badge on Sgt. Koziol's official business card from the Sheriff's Department is the same design as appears on Sheriff Nygren's political literature. The seven-point star was used on the flier for the sheriff's 13th Annual Fundraiser on September 10, 2009, and on the drawing of the arm patch (or was it a decal?) for the Sheriff Nygren 2010 Posse.

Personally, I believe that the badge of office or any likeness of it should NOT be used in political literature. The badge belongs to the Office of Sheriff, not to the officeholder or the candidate for office.
And there should be one and only one official style for business cards of deputies.

Uninsured driver survey

Following a recent article about a Garden Prairie man who was struck by an uninsured motorist, I asked the following question, “Do you know someone who drives without auto liability insurance?”

Thanks for the 36 readers who participated in this survey. The results?

Yes 11 (31%)
No 25 (69%)

If you are forking out the big bucks for auto insurance and believe that every vehicle on the roads should be insured, contact your State legislators and Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State.

One reader told me that his vehicle was totaled when he had only three payments remaining. The other driver? No driver’s license, no insurance and not in the USA legally.

All I want for Christmas ...

... is a concealed weapons permit in Illinois. Well, cross that item off my list. Guess I'll be getting a lump of coal, instead.

Wyoming has the right idea. Open carry. And I don't mean alcohol in the car.

"Open carry" of handguns will be allowed in Wyoming after January 1, according to information provided by one reader. A few other states allow open carry, too. In other words, just strap on the ol' six-shooter and ride into town.

Not to make light of a serious situation, of course. "Packing heat" carries with it a very serious responsibility. And it won't keep you from being hassled by some law enforcement officers.

In Illinois you'll not only get hassled; you can count on being arrested if you are not a cop and you get caught carrying a gun.

There was a court case in Illinois in the past year or so involving a man who had a gun in the console of his car. The court decision was in his favor, but you can bet he spent a fortune defending himself. Like the man in DuPage County who had a gun in a fanny pack; he won his case, but it too had to cost a fortune in defense fees.

Why the console or the fanny pack? The guns were in a "container." Illinois state law says you can carry a gun in a container, and it doesn't define container.

When you have a concealed carry permit, you must be informed about the laws in your own state and about the laws of other states, where you might be able to carry because of reciprocity. As you cross each state line, you may have cover your weapon, if you are carrying it in the open, or remove it from your belt or other holster and place it, unloaded, in the trunk of your vehicle.

Assuming, of course, that you have a trunk. What if you are traveling by motorcycle? I wonder whether placing it in luggage that you can't reach from the rider's position qualifies.

What it boils down to is knowing your rights and knowing in advance to what extent you will stand up for them. For example, if an officer asks if he can search you, do you refuse (because it is your right) or do you agree because you know he won't find any illegal item and you'll be on your way sooner?

I say, "Know your rights and stand up for them, even if you are delayed."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

$1 Christmas present - best ever

Ever since 1951 my sister and I have been exchanging one of those little money gift envelopes - you know the ones... the ones you put the dollar in and the president's face shows through a oval cut-off window?

Way, way back in 1951 my older sister gave the envelope to me. For whatever reason, I saved it, and I gave it back to her the next year. With that little exchange, we started a tradition. And we've not missed a year - ever.

For the first couple of years she wrote the year on the back and who gave it to whom. From that time on, the one who gave it wrote his (or her) name and the year. By 1987 we had filled the back of the little envelope with names and years. Then we started writing them on the inside flap. We're now halfway through the second column.

The same dollar has not made the trip every year. She started it out with a silver certificate, and somewhere along the way a $1 bill was traded out for a $2 or a $5. Then that disappeared, and a silver certificate appeared again.

Anybody else have a gift that you have exchanged with a relative year after year?

Lockport PD officer in fatal crash

The Daily Herald carries an article today about an officer of the Lockport, Illinois, Police Department, who was involved in a fatal crash on the Stevenson Expressway on Sunday and who has been charged by the Illinois State Police with drunken driving and reckless homicide.

You can read the nitty-gritty at

What interested me about this is that the Lockport Police Department placed information promptly on its website This represents the type of transparency that police departments should have with their citizenry.

You'll have to click on "Community Bulletins" to find the article by Police Chief William Kendziora, but it's there.

More importantly, check out the homepage of the Lockport P.D. There is a letter from Chief Kendziora. Right on the homepage, he submits to Lockport residents (and the world) the 2008 Annual Report of the Police Department. He puts this information right up front, announced on the homepage and with a link to the Annual Report.

And check out the Mission Statement of the Lockport Police Department: "... to maintain social order and provide professional law enforcement services to citizens in the community within prescribed ethical, budgetary and constitutional restraints."

Take a little time to browse through Lockport PD's 2008 Annual Report. It's easy to get a picture of what is going on in Lockport.

Do we have reports like this in Woodstock? Sure do, but you have to make the trip to the library or City Hall to read them. The Woodstock Police Department reports to the City Council on every month's activity. The City Council gets a report; it goes into a file, and the public never hears about it.

But there is always hope...

Hogging the limelight - just a photo op

Did you notice who took the credit for the marijuana drug bust in the Huntley area?

The Northwest Herald published an unattributed photograph on Page 5C, showing Sheriff Keith Nygren posed behind stacks of wrapped "evidence." Because no Northwest Herald's photographer's name was published with the photo, it most likely was provided by the sheriff's department.

Obviously, the evidence was not in an evidence locker. It was in some kind of meeting room, complete with a large, expensive sign for the Narcotics Division.

How was the chain of custody preserved? Were the packages under direct observation of a designated deputy the entire time? The load appears to be too large to be transported within a building in one movement or on one elevator. Were extra personnel utilized to maintain the chain of custody? Did each person who handled the evidence, such as moving a dolly or stacking the wrapped packages on the floor, have to write a report to state his participation and contact with the evidence?

A photo op, during election season; nothing else!

Why wasn't it just logged in as evidence and stored in a secure area? Is a judge likely to frown on this arrangement for a photo op? Will the defense get an undeserved foothold here?

Why was such a set-up created, if not for the photo? Was Nygren actually in on the raid? Did he orchestra it, or was the coordination between the Feds and the sheriff's department handled by deputies?

The article says that sheriff's "police" (are they police or deputies?) and federal drug agents "tracked" a semi-trailer to a barn outside Huntley. Tracked; as in followed? But later in the article Nygren told the reporter that the drug organization may have had vehicles following the semi-trailer as look-outs.

Shades of the wild, wild west. Don't look-outs ride out in front? And, if the "look-outs" were following the semi-trailer, why didn't the Feds and the deputies scoop them up, too?

The sheriff's department's previous high bust was 300 pounds of processed marijuana - 12 years ago.

Why was Nygren's the only name mentioned in the article? Why not give credit to the deputies who actually did the work?

Things are going to change on December 1, 2010. Those who do the work are those who are going to get recognized. Deputies at the sheriff's department who perform in an exemplary way are going to get the press. They are going to lead the press conferences.

But it's election season, and the Northwest Herald is showing its colors early by giving heavy press to the incumbent sheriff. Not a very subtle way of providing election support, is it?

I wonder if the sheriff must report this type of press coverage and its value in his report to the State Board of Elections.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Eliminate the stigma

The following message was contained in an email from The Arc, the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Do You Want the Term "Mental Retardation" Removed from Federal Laws? Take Action! A new federal bill would replace this stigmatizing term with "intellectual disability."

On November 17, Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) introduced "Rosa's Law" (S. 2781), a bipartisan bill to substitute outdated, stigmatizing terms in federal health, education and labor laws. The terms "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" would be substituted with the terms "intellectual disability" and "individual with an intellectual disability."

This bill is very important for people with intellectual disabilities who understand that language plays a crucial role in how they are perceived and treated in society and are actively advocating for terminology changes in federal and state laws. "Mentally retarded," once an accepted medical term, is now often used to demean and insult people. Changing how we talk about people with intellectual disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting basic civil and human rights.

As of December 21, Rosa's Law has 15 cosponsors in the Senate and the support of more than 30 national organizations.

Take Action

If your Senators are already cosponsors, please send a quick email thanking them. If your Senators are not yet cosponsors, please ask them to cosponsor Rosa's Law.

Sample messages are provided, based on whether your Senators are cosponsors or not, when you click on the "Take Action" link (below) and enter your zip code. Please add any information about yourself and why this issue is so important to you.

What Are the Next Steps?

In early 2010, we will launch a campaign to get a companion bill introduced in the House of Representatives.

If grassroots advocates continue to let let their Senators and Representatives know that Rosa's law is a priority, the bills will be much more likely to make their way through the lengthy legislative process and become law.

Editor's comment: Take Action!

You can read about the Senate Bill and take action to send a comment to your Senators through this link:[capwiz:queue_id]

Drug Trade in Hebron

From time to time allegations of drug trade and wanted persons in Hebron will surface. Hebron? Where's Hebron?

Hebron is a small town in northern McHenry County, Illinois. It's due north of Woodstock and the last town on Route 47 before you hit Wisconsin.

For a little history of goings-on in Hebron, check out the current postings on

And keep an eye on it all week. I believe you can expect stories to be updated and changed during the week, and a big story is promised for noon on Thursday, December 24.

Added 12/22/09 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Off to the Academy?

This afternoon a friend asked me if an Illinois Sheriff had to be a law enforcement officer.

The answer is, of course, "No." Then he asked why I didn't just go to the Academy and get certified.

His suggestion was that, on December 1, 2010, right after being sworn in as the next Sheriff of McHenry County, my first official act should be to send me to the State Police Academy for training.

That'll go over really well, won't it? A 12-week, paid, "$4,000 vacation" during my first three months of office.

How much vacation should I take in my first year in office? A month? Eight-ten weeks? Should I follow the pattern that has been set? Perhaps have an audit made of the number of days spent out of the office by my predecessor?

I wouldn't have a clue what to do with so much time not at work, but it probably wouldn't be hard to figure out how to fill the time. Maybe a little "side trip" to Maricopa County, Arizona, to meet Sheriff Joe Arpaio and see how he runs his jail at such low expense. I like his response to prisoners who complain about the food or limited TV: "If you don't like it here, don't come back."

For sure, I won't be in Florida or Wisconsin.

And staff will be able to reach me on my cell phone for any important decisions to be made.

Oh, about the vacation time. It will be scheduled ahead of time, just as vacations by all other employees should be, and whatever time I do take off will be public information and marked right on a calendar for all employees and the public to see.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How FRG red light camera works

Maybe they all work this way, but I learned something about red-light cameras late this afternoon.

I was in Fox River Grove and traveling west on Route 22. As I approached U.S. 14, the light was red, and I made a full stop before reaching the stop bar. The stop bar was hard to see on the wet pavement, thanks to the cheap paint that IDOT uses. But I saw it and stopped before I reached it.

Having seen the Photo Enforcement sign on the right shoulder and the similar sign across the intersection, I made certain that I made a complete stop. One thousand one, one thousand two. You know the type of stop. Four wheels stopped. Vehicle stopped. The kind of stop that sometimes results in a remodeling job on your back bumper by the guy behind who doesn't expect you to stop.

When westbound U.S. 14 was clear, I turned right. Flash! Darn! Why did the red-light camera photograph my car?

I circled back around to see whether I had missed a "No Right Turn on Red" sign. No, there is no such sign.

So I telephoned the Fox River Grove P.D. to register my complaint. The dispatcher did not want to dispatch an officer and told me not to worry and that not everybody gets tickets.

The last time I heard "Don't worry about it", it cost me $656, so I did worry about it. I left a message for Sgt. Domagala, who is the red-light enforcement go-to guy at the Fox River Grove Police Department.

Within a few minutes he called me back. I obviously wasn't the only driver who has ever called him about this, and he gave me a clear explanation of how the ticketing program works.

The camera photographs any car that crosses the stop bar when the light is red. He told me that three employees of the camera company view the films and, if I had stopped before crossing the stop bar, the Fox River Grove PD will never see a violation notice.

This is probably the first time that I have ever turned right on a red at the photo-enforced intersection. Believe me, when I say that I'll never do it again. Not even after I make a full stop.

DH wins headline prize

Ladies and gentlemen, it took almost all year, but we have a winner!

The Daily Herald took First Prize in the headline contest with today's online headline, "Streamwood man charged with battery." The headline appeared exactly this way on the homepage in the Community News section.

Too bad the paper didn't have the guts to carry it through that way in the article.

Now see this

Heading east on Route 176 through Crystal Lake today, look what greeted me at Route 31. You know that "crazy" intersection?

From the light look toward the left just a little, or watch on your right as you continue east on Route 176.

The size is huge! Good going, Zane! (To enlarge the image, click on it; then click on the Back button on your browser to come back here.)

Politicking will probably slow down a little during the holidays, but the clock keeps ticking. January will be an incredibly busy month as votes are rounded up for the February Republican primary.

It is my sense that many pro-Zane voters may be reluctant to speak up. Well, folks, screw up your courage and speak out! Zane will need thousands of your votes on February 2. When you walk into the polls, ask for a Republican ballot and vote for Zane for Sheriff.

The real race for Sheriff starts February 3, after the Republican Primary is settled. This year, make that race between Mike Mahon, Zane Seipler and me, Gus Philpott.

Friday, December 18, 2009

$13.00/hour minimum wage?

Be sure to check out this morning's article about Walmart and minimum wage in the Chicago Sun-Times at

Walmart says it will agree to a higher minimum wage (not $13.00/hour) for stores to be built in Chicago, IF the Chicago minimum-wage law applies to all businesses.

In 2006 the Chicago City Council tried to pass a City minimum-wage law that would have required big-box retailers, including Walmart, to pay $13.00/hour in wages and benefits. Man! Talk about a law that would kill business.

That the Chicago City Council even considered such a high - and stupid - minimum wage showed a total lack of comprehension about what it means to be in business. Even if they were only trying to stick it to the big-box stores.

I recall a sign in an office in 1966, when my office was at Monroe and LaSalle in the Loop. It read, "Your raise becomes effective when you do." The meaning would be lost on most employees today, because they think they are entitled to their jobs.

When I worked for NFIB in northern Colorado, I called on owners of small businesses on behalf of a national lobbying organization that represented small business in Washington, D.C. and in each state. When Pat Schroeder was trying to cram a healthcare bill through Congress, one woman supporter of Schroeder and businesswoman told me that she would provide health insurance, if required, even if she couldn't afford it.

Her annual profit from her computer store was $40,000.
The healthcare bill was going to cost her $50,000/year.

It just didn't compute for her that she would soon go out of business, if she lost $10,000/year. And then her 12 employees and she would be jobless.

Give me your 2-cents' worth

What I'd like to learn from you is what you want the next sheriff of McHenry Count to do for you.

This is your chance. You know how most political candidates tell you what they are going to do for you? You know it's time to grab your wallet. What I want to know is, what kind of law enforcement do you want from your County Sheriff?

In 1986 Buck Rodgers' book, The IBM Way, was published. It contained a process he used at IBM and that was to ask employees what they'd do, if they were President of the Data Processing Division of IBM. When he assumed control of that division in 1967, he asked the thousands of employees in it to tell him what they'd do to make things better.

He geared up to respond to every suggestion, and he established incentives and recognition for his employees.

So here is what I'd like you to tell me: "If I were Sheriff of McHenry County, I would ______."

You can put your name on it or not. Tell me how it is. What's working? What's not working? And, if it's not working, what changes need to be made, so that it will work?

Here's how you get your ideas to me:

1. Post here as a comment; or
2. Email to me at; or
3. Mail to Gus Philpott, 500 Lake Ave. - 1, Woodstock, IL 60098; or
4. Fax to 815-338-2666

If you are an employee of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department or the Jail, I am especially interested in your advice. If you include your name, it will remain confidential.

Elect me as your next Sheriff and on December 1, 2010, retribution against whistleblowers will cease.

A good health care plan question

This one came my way today....

... accompanied by this line: "Fight organized crime; re-elect no one."
If your eyes are old and tired, click on the image to enlarge it. Then click on the Back button on your browser.

Heroin in McHenry County

The Daily Herald ( has an important article today about efforts of a mother whose 19-year-old son died in 2007 from heroin use. She has had a large billboard installed on Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling that features her efforts to identify and halt heroin use.

What is the incidence of heroin use in McHenry County?
By teens?
By adults?

Do you know someone who uses heroin? Where does s/he get it?

Do you suspect that someone you know is using heroin? What are you doing about it? Just waiting for the funeral?

Go to and click through the pictures. As you do so, think about your own kids and the kids you know. This week-end, today, now, you could make a difference in a kid's life by asking him or her about heroin use, either by him or by someone he knows.

Thomson Prison - how much?

How much will the Feds pay for Thomson Prison?

The Northwest Herald thinks that Illinois ought to be "fully reimbursed for its construction and borrowing costs..."

I'm sure that will happen. In a pig's eye.

Why should the Feds bail out what has turned out to be a boondoggle for the State Legislature and the Illinois Department of Corrections. IDOC built a $140,000,000 state-of-the-art prison but apparently forgot to arrange for funds to operate it. Duhhh...

Thomson has a Fair Market Value. That's what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller. Well, there is only one possible buyer. A fourth-grader could tell you what that will mean to the selling price. When you've got a pig to sell and no one is eating pork, who thinks you'll be able to muscle a prospective buyer into paying more than it's worth?

And will the Federal hire Sheriff Joe Arpaio to run Thomson? If they do, what will happen to the McHenry County Hotel on North Seminary Avenue? Sheriff Joe could certainly house detainees for a lot less than $90.00/day!

End legislative pork?

Check out HB 4720. It's a start; maybe... or just ink wasted on paper.

Woodstock's State Rep. Jack Franks filed a bill yesterday to eliminate pensions for newly-elected Illinois State representatives and senators. Think it has a snowball's chance in that hot place of passing?

But read the whole article in this morning's Northwest Herald. Take your blood pressure medication first.

State lawmakers can retire at age 62 with four years of service. WHAT? Many Illinois residents are working past age 65, just to try to make ends meet. And I use the word "try" advisedly, because that's what they are doing. They are "trying" to make ends meet - trying as hard as they can, and not making it.

No wonder people run for office at age 56! Scarf up some pork by age 62. And just how much is the representative's retirement pay, if he retires at age 62 with four years of service? That part was conveniently left out of the article. No use inciting riots during the week before Christmas.

And the lawbreaker (err, lawmaker) who can get in eight years? He can retire at age 55 AND get health insurance.

Well, maybe there will be a riot this week.

In Illinois we have CUB - the Citizens Utility Board.

Maybe we now need the Citizens' Legislative Usefulness Board. Oh, wait. We have that. We just don't use it. It's also called the ballot!

Did Jack just buy his own hangman's rope? According to the NWH, he hopes teachers and other government employees will follow suit.

Right! And I hope Santa will bring me a winning Lottery ticket. Actually, I've got the better chance.

Seipler beats motions in Federal court

This morning's Northwest Herald announces that Zane Seipler, Republican candidate for Sheriff in the February 2 Primary election, won on two preliminary motions in Federal Court in his case against the McHenry County Sheriff's Department and incumbent Sheriff Keith Nygren.

On what did Judge Frederick Kapala rule? The print edition of the Northwest Herald indicated that Judge Kapala's decision can be read online; only at 7:00AM it can't. So I cannot read the exact ruling. Also, I cannot determine whether McHenry County is a party to Zane's lawsuit, as well as the Sheriff's Department. Or what other defendants are named.

The Sheriff's Department was trying to get Zane's case dismissed. It failed.

So which attorney gets the first shot? James Sotos. He is identified in the article as the attorney "for the county." Is he the attorney for McHenry County or just for the Sheriff's Department?

Sotos explained the judge's decision. "He's basically saying that there's enough alleged to move forward with the case," as he told the NWH reporter.

Sotos also got the last shot in the article, when he told the reporter, "...the notion that this (racial profiling) is going on the McHenry County's Sheriff's Office is ridiculous." (Yes, that's how the article read.)

Well, what else would a defense attorney say? Let's see if he has to eat those words, when Judge Kapala finally conducts the trial years from now and renders his decision.

I wondered a couple of things after I read the NWH article.

The NWH quoted the attorney whose side lost in the decision. Where was the quote from the successful attorney, Zane's attorney?

The headline above the continuation of the article on Page 4B read, "Nygren plans to appeal arbitrator's ruling in McHenry County Circuit Court." Nygren is getting a lot of press about what he is "planning" to do.

If Nygren is going to appeal the arbitrator's ruling, why doesn't he just do it? "Planning" is not "doing." Will he wait until January 19, less than two weeks before the February 2 Primary Election, to "decide"?

Is this the fair treatment that employees of the Sheriff's Department (or McHenry County) can expect, when their jobs (and their lives) hang in limbo because an elected official can't (won't!) make a decision?

In the meantime, Zane is accruing pay and is not having to work for it. I'll bet he'd rather be working for it.

McHenry County deserves better.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FOIA gets new set of teeth on Jan. 1

The public gains additional power in securing information through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on January 1, 2010. For the past several years there has been a Public Access Counselor (PAC) in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, but the Counselor could be viewed as temporary; i.e., the Counselor served at the pleasure of the Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

On January 1 this office becomes permanent and will continue beyond the term of the current Attorney General.

What does the Public Access Counselor do?

This Counselor, a lawyer in the Attorney General's office, stands ready to, among other things, help a member of the public who is having difficulty in getting a FOIA response out of a public body.

Public bodies often deny information based on an exclusion in the law that to provide the information would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. I have encountered this reason for denial of a FOIA request more than once, including within the past week from the City of Woodstock. In the recent case almost the entire second page was redacted. Certainly, no invasion of privacy occurs when the statements of a person are disclosed, and in this case no invasion occurs even if his identity is revealed.

Under the new law, effective January 1, if the City is going to deny a response based on that reason, it must provide written notice to the Public Access Counselor.

And I'll bet dollars-to-donuts that the PAC will be counting the number of times that each public body denies for that reason. Of course, those numbers, once collected, will be subject to FOIA Requests, and you can bet that media will be seeking those numbers.

Other areas of new help to the general public will include:

1. to work to resolve or mediate disputes between members of the public and public bodies over FOIA and OMA (the Open Meetings Act), and
2. to investigate and issue opinions in response to Requests for Review submitted by members of the public when a FOIA request is denied by a public body, or when it is alleged that a public body has violated the OMA.

Another aspect of the new law is that the PAC is to provide electronic training to all FOIA officers and all persons designated by public bodies to receive OMA training.

This may be why the City of Woodstock has dragged its heels on forcing the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners to sit for OMA training. Back in May the City Manager ordered this training, but it never happened. It is to happen in the new year, and maybe they'll get to sit in front of computer screens instead of getting in-person training by someone in the City Attorney's office.

Chuck Schumer vs. Flight Attendant

Sometimes, U.S. Senators can think they are pretty special people. And above the law.

Be sure to read about Schumer (I'll leave the "Mr." out) and a US Airways flight over the week-end.

Maybe the captain should have called the tower and taxied back to the terminal. Then he could have announced to all the passengers that he was doing so, because a United States Senator was making a telephone call and refused to hang up. Upon arrival at the terminal, he could have summoned a U.S. Marshal and directed him to arrest Schumer for refusing to comply with directions of a flight attendant. Schumer could have been detained, arrested, taken off the plane in handcuffs, charged, allowed to bond out and then he could have caught another flight.

I mean, why argue? Schumer understands English. He understood the flight attendant's request.

Of course, the captain and the flight attendant might be figuring out where they want to work next. Would US Airways have stood up to the heat that would have been directed at it?

An apology from Schumer's "spokesperson" is not good enough.

I recall a time when I worked at the Sears headquarters and a Senator's office called for personnel records of a retired employee. The woman (more like, girl) got pushy, when I told her no records would be released upon a telephoned request. She was quite impressed with herself and her own employment as an "aide to the Senator". The pushier she got, the more I laughed to myself.

I did tell her that, if she sent a written request accompanied by the former employee's legal release for the records, we'd be happy to comply. Whew! Did she get mad???!!! Too bad, so sad.

It was a good thing that my boss wasn't nearby. He'd probably have had a heart attack at the firm stance I took against the pushy aide. The answer to her request was "No", and it wasn't going to change. I never heard from her again.

Traffic signal alert

In April a driver in Oswego, Ill. ran a red light that he couldn't see because snow had blown and stuck against the red lens of the traffic signal.

An Oswego police detective reportedly said that the snow over the red light "caused" a driver to run the red light and hit a vehicle turning left, killing the other driver. (The photo to the right illustrates the problem. It does not necessarily portray the light at the time of the crash.)

Well, I disagree. The obscured traffic light did not "cause" the driver to run the red light. If that driver couldn't see a green light (or any light on the traffic signal), then he needed to treat it as a four-way stop and come to a complete stop before entering the intersection.

The energy-efficient LED lights in use in many traffic signals do not generate sufficient (any?) heat to melt snow. I wonder if the traffic-light folks or the engineers at IDOT considered that, when they chose the LED light. Think so? When somebody sues the traffic light manufacturer, a city or IDOT and collects $10-20 million, was there a savings with LED lights?

Don't count on the oncoming vehicle to yield, when you turn left in front of it. It's too easy to assume, just because you see your light changing, that the oncoming driver will see you, slow and stop so that you can turn in front of him.

How many people pull into an intersection on the green and wait to complete their left turn?

After following a Woodstock police officer one day in a left-turn lane and watching him stop at the stop bar on the green light to wait for oncoming traffic to clear, I re-thought my own driving habit of pulling into the intersection to wait.

While it's not illegal to pull into the intersection on the green light if there is heavy oncoming traffic, is it smart? Not at all. So what, if it costs me 60 seconds to wait through a traffic-light cycle. That's a small price to pay, if I avoid an accident and all the delay, time and money that would cost.

So this winter, watch for those snow-filled traffic light covers. If you can't see the light, think. How do you know the light is not red?

Permission to use the above photo has been requested from the Associated Press (AP).

Warning issued to gravel pit operator

At Tuesday night's Woodstock City Council session a stop-work order was threatened, if the gravel pit operator doesn't come up with a solid plan for developing the site along U.S. 14 that is to be the home of a baseball stadium and the County fairgrounds.

The Woodstock City Council is frustrated with the slow progress on the rest of the site, after they rushed to approve the gravel extraction request of Merryman Aggregate a year ago. The Council acknowledged that it had altered its usual approval plan by granting the extraction approval with 51 conditions, rather than requiring that the conditions be met before approving Merryman's request.

Now the Council is finding out why it shouldn't have done that, and perhaps the lesson has been learned. I don't think I was the only one who questioned the rush.

On Tuesday night the phrase "gravel pit" was used. This should create a huge yellow flag at City Hall. The extraction operation there is not supposed to be a "pit."

But when you look at the new "mountains" east of Woodstock, don't you have to wonder just where all that dirt is coming from? Is it really coming just from scraping the ground down to the rock that Merryman wants? And just when will those "mountains" be leveled? Or will they?

They seem to be about where Merryman would like to move the stadium and fairgrounds. They will have to be leveled, unless ball players are going to get a lot of exercise chasing flyballs downhill and then running back up to throw out a runner. And will a hill climb replace the demolition derby at the County Fair?

The City Council established deadlines for specific development actions by Merryman. One Councilman (Dick Ahrens, I believe) suggested that the City might issue a stop-work order on the extraction business, if Merryman doesn't get cracking with progress. That's Progress, not just Talk.

The threat of a stop-work order did not go un-noticed by Merryman's representative, and I'm sure the Councilmen didn't miss his response that I picked up on as, "Oh, yeah? See you in court, if you try to stop us."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Veterans treatment center possible for Woodstock

At tonight's City Council meeting the possibility of a long-term care poly-trauma center for veterans was proposed to the City Council. If eventually approved, it would be built on the west end of the stadium-gravel mining operation on U.S. 14.

Wetlands' issues are forcing a site re-design and relocation of the stadium to a point on the north side of U.S. 14 and east of Doty Road.

The veterans' facility would be designed to serve seriously-wounded veterans and to care for the veterans who have no place to go after they are released from the hospital. Termed a Wounded Warrior Transitional Living facility, it would be a licensed nursing home and serve veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), multiple limb loss, vision, speech, mobility, cognitive and other injuries.

It would be a supportive living facility, perhaps easily compared with an assisted living facility that serves geriatric patients.

Alan Belcher, Executive Director of Transitional Living Services in Hebron, has been active for years in serving veterans, and Alan has been working with government agencies to bring such a facility into existence.

Stadium update

And now the news that Woodstock has been waiting for!

Will Woodstock have a baseball stadium in the lifetime of anyone now living in Woodstock?

Rick Zirk, representing Merryman Aggregate, presented a revised plan to the City Council tonight as "information" for them. (To enlarge the drawing, click on it; then click the "Back" button on your browser to return here.)
Zirk said that Merryman had two letters from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the wetlands were not under their jurisdiction. And then the Corps changed its mind and decided that it did have jurisdiction. Merryman has appealed, Zirk said, but the problem is not resolved yet.
Zirk said that the stadium group had its financing lined up and could build this summer, if Merryman could get the pad constructed in time. Later in the meeting Mark Houser, representing the baseball group, said they didn't have the funding in place and that he cannot guarantee that the construction will be finished in 2011.
Merryman proposes to move the stadium from the northwest portion of the property (well back from U.S. 14 off Lake Shore Drive) to a point close to U.S. 14 and east of Doty Road, where Centegra Hospital-Woodstock is located.
There is also discussion of a possible Metra station. Metra is expected to present to the Woodstock City Council in either January or February. Watch the agendas that are published prior to meetings; the agendas can be viewed online through a line at the bottom of the City's website homepage on the Friday before a City Council meeting.
Alan Belcher, Executive Director of Transitional Living Services, Hebron, was present to explain a new proposed veterans' facility in Woodstock. See the separate article about the Wounded Warriors facility.
The City Council made it plain to Merryman Aggregate that it wants to see a detailed timetable for this project, and the Council re-stated its position that it gave Merryman a real break by approving its project with 51 conditions to be met after approval, instead of holding up the project until the conditions were complied with. There are now deadlines of March 1 and April 1 for various portions of the project.
Kim Willis, of the McHenry County Defenders, spoke in defense of the wetlands on the property. She asked about any on-site expert delineation of the wetlands, whether the letters from the Army Corps of Engineers were out-of-date, the absence of identification of detention basins and the potential for contamination (of groundwater?), because aggregate has been removed.

City to tighten control over keggers?

Tonight the City Council began consideration of a proposal to tighten up controls on under-age drinking by a new ordinance that will place added responsibility (and liability) on anyone who buys beer by the keg.

Lori Kane addressed the City Council on behalf of the Community Partnership Coalition and told the Council that 45% of 8th Graders and 82% of seniors have consumed alcoholic beverages.

In Illinois it is a felony to serve a minor, but that doesn't seem to keep minors from getting the alcohol.

An ordinance being proposed for study by the Council would require a Woodstock liquor retailer to place an ID tag on each keg he delivers. The purpose would be to give law enforcement a way to track who purchased the keg (and tell them whom to ticket, if they suspect a law was broken involving alcohol and minors.).

A retailer would have to confirm the legal age of the purchaser, fill out an affidavit and affix an ID tag to the keg before delivering it. A purchaser has to affirm that he will not provide beer to minors or remove the key ID tag. Woodstock would provide the forms and the tags to the retailer.

Apparently, a customer who returned a keg without the ID tag would not get his deposit back. What else? Will the retailer be required to notify police that a keg was returned without the ID tag? Wait 'til that word gets around town.

The Liquor Commission is preparing to recommend to the City Council that liquor licensees not accept a U.S. Military ID card as valid identification for the purchase of alcohol. The reason? It is not "secure" identification and is too easily forged. Now that makes me feel really safe.

According to statements made tonight, the military favors such non-recognition of its ID cards for liquor purchases.

The City Council will consider changes to Woodstock's liquor laws on January 19.
Councilman Turner asked about the situation where the keg is purchased in, say, Crystal Lake. As initially written, it would be illegal to have that keg in Woodstock. Staff and the City Attorney agreed to re-work the proposed ordinance.

I had not intended to speak tonight, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to tell our City Council that a keg ID tag is not going to stop minors from consuming alcohol in Woodstock. They just drink from bottles or cans or sneak in a keg without a tag.

Woodstock to be bicycle-friendly

At tonight's City Council meeting the Master Bicycle Plan for the City of Woodstock was presented by Transportation Commission Chair Dallas Larson.

The process got underway about 18 months ago and included participation by the Woodstock Key Club, which is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club here in Woodstock. Council members and Mayor Sager complimented the Transportation Commission on the educational and informative nature of their report.

Two other Illinois cities were mentioned regarding their good bicycle plans - Aurora and Sterling. Dallas mentioned that he had lived in Sterling. Councilman Ahrens expressed a frustration shared by many drivers; i.e., drivers are willing to share the road with bicyclists, but bicyclists frequently do not obey the Rules of the Road. Amen!

The Transportation Commission submitted a bicycle map with its comprehensive bicycle plan, and this map can be added to the City's website.

After the Council and City staff study and re-work the recommendations of the Transportation Commission, the Council will make a decision as to whether Woodstock wants to become a bicycle-friendly community and join into the network of surrounding towns' bicycle paths and planning.

City Council meeting co-chaired by 8th Grader

Tonight's Woodstock City Council meeting was competently co-chaired by Graham Ellinghausen, an 8th Grade student from Creekside Middle School. Mayor Sager introduced him and explained that Graham has been studying state and local government, including the county and townships.
Graham kept the Council and audience on track and read quickly and clearly the rules by which this meeting would be conducted, and he also assisted with other segments of the meeting.
Mayor Sager is safe in his role as Mayor. After the meeting, I spoke with City Manager Tim Clifton and City Attorney Rich Flood to ask the minimum age for Mayor. I thought it might be 21, but they told me it's 18.
Let's see, if Graham is in 8th Grade, that would make him about 14.
When is the next election for Mayor? I think you're still safe, Mayor.

Thomson Penitentiary

Care to throw in your 2-cents' worth on the Thomson Penitentiary sale to the Feds?

Illinois State Senator Dan Rutherford is conducting a survey through his Senate website to give you the opportunity to voice your opinion on this proposal.

To participate in the survey, go to

No Woodstock Dial-a-Ride on Dec. 24

This afternoon a Woodstock business person called to express his dismay that the PACE Dial-a-Ride bus service will offer only limited service before and after Christmas Day.

Woodstock Dial-a-Ride will not operate on December 24. Woodstock Dial-a-Ride will operate on Saturday, December 26, but you must call in advance to schedule it. This means calling 815-338-5240 on Wednesday, December 23, or sooner, to schedule a ride on December 26.

I suspect those days of service were considered when Dial-a-Ride contracted with the City of Woodstock, and that's why buses will operate as they will. He was told by a PACE employee that there will be no bus service on Thursday, December 24, because Woodstock City Hall is closed.

If you have ideas for improvements in PACE service in Woodstock, contact Roscoe Stelford and tell him exactly what you want and how often you'll use it.

Find out when the next round of negotiations with PACE or Dial-a-Ride will be for its service in Woodstock. Ask when public hearings will be held and how the City will learn what the residents want.

There is a new, expanded County transportation plan heading for implementation in February. A long article in the Northwest Herald within the past week explained the plan.

But, if you want more or different, you will have to speak up. You can reach Roscoe at Woodstock City Hall, 815-338-4300. Or you can email him at

Pet Peeve #38 - Dealer Plates

Fairly high up on my list of 300 pet peeves is mis-use of dealer license plates. This afternoon I spotted a good case of mis-use in Crystal Lake. As I rolled to a stop alongside a Chevrolet HHR, I noticed the dealer plate from Gary Lang Automotive.

But what really got my eye was the signing on the vehicle for Richmond Township Senior Transportation. Signs on the left side and the rear of the vehicle indicated that the Richmond Township has the transportation service, and I'm certain it is a good and valuable service for Township residents.

The problem is the illegal use of a dealer plate on a vehicle that is used to transport passengers. The license plate violation was confirmed by both the Secretary of State/Motor Vehicle Division office in Springfield and the Secretary of State Police office in Rockford.

Gary Lang could loan the vehicle to the Township as a demo for 24-48 hours; you know, "Would you like to buy this vehicle?"

Dealer plates are, in my opinion, too often abused. They should be on dealer-owned vehicles that are driven for demonstration purposes. A dealer's wife or girlfriend shouldn't be driving a dealer's car around on dealer plates. Salesmen shouldn't be driving cars around with dealer plates, unless the car is clearly for sale and evidenced by magnetic signs with the name of the dealership and its location and phone number thereon. The dealer's children shouldn't be driving cars at school with dealer plates, unless they are hustling their friends and their parents to buy the car or visit the dealership.

We all pay the price of higher-cost license plates, when dealers are allowed to slide under the wire on the cost of license plates on vehicles that are not used directly in the dealer's business to promote sales.

I called the Township and alerted them to the license plate problem. It would certainly be a unfortunate situation, if the woman driving the vehicle got stopped by an alert State Police officer and ticketed for operating a vehicle with an illegal plate.

The whole insurance question is another issue. Is the Township counting on Gary Lang Automotive's liability insurance policy to cover the vehicle? Is Gary Lang Automotive counting on the Township to provide liability insurance? Are the proper Certificates of Insurance in effect to make the insurance coverage certain?

What does "cell phone sheriff" mean?

Lately, the phrase "cell phone sheriff" is being bandied around in political circles in McHenry County. What does it really mean?

I first heard the phrase over a year ago - long before I had any serious thoughts of running for Sheriff. The phrase intrigued me. After all, doesn't almost everyone carry a cell phone now?

So I began nosing around, and what I heard was disturbing. Apparently, what it meant was that the McHenry County Sheriff was out of the county a great deal of the time. It wasn't just that he was away from his office and performing some duty of his office elsewhere in the area. It was that he was not only out of the county; he was out-of-state. And not on County business.

Rumor was that, if an important decision needed to be made by the sheriff, somebody from his office was going to have to call him on his cell phone.

By now, most people who are following the February primary election in McHenry County have heard the reference to "cell phone sheriff". Democratic candidate Mike Mahon has used it; it was used in the Northwest Herald's candidates' interview last week; I'm using it.

What would clear the air would be an analysis of the monthly records of Sheriff Nygren's cell phones. That's cell phone - s. Plural, as in more than one. So the first question is, how many cell phones does he have?

There are probably at least three.

One personal cell phone.
One official (Sheriff's Dept.) cell phone for law-enforcement use.
One cell phone for his political campaign.

An analysis of phone records would help clear the air on how much time he was away from his office - meaning, out-of-state at his Minocqua, Wisconsin, vacation home (286 miles north of Hebron, Ill.), at his Cape Coral, Florida "second home" (only it's not his "second" home; 1,366 south of Hebron, Ill.) and for other non-business reasons. Plane reservations to/from Florida would be a good indicator of time spent there.

Mileage records on any personal vehicle owned by the sheriff in Illinois would be a good record of time spent in Wisconsin. Is there a personal vehicle, or does he use the County white Tahoe (with the regular passenger plates on it) for all driving? Does he park it at the sheriff's department or at his Hebron home, when he heads "up north" to Minocqua? A mileage log of the white Tahoe would disclose weekly and monthly mileage. Those 600-mile roundtrips would still out like a sore thumb.

How many days of vacation per year is a 12-year elected official entitled to? Is the sheriff entitled to more than a commercial standard of, say, four weeks vacation after ten years of service?

Being sheriff of a large department is not a 9-5 job. I'll agree with him on that. But it's a 9-5 PLUS job. You put in your 40-45-50-55 hours a week, and then you put in extra hours, as required, whenever there is a serious incident. That's what $140,000/year, plus benefits and expenses, ought to get for McHenry County residents.

Oh, and time off for political campaigning on County time? Let's not forget that last week's Northwest Herald candidates' interview was scheduled on a workday during working hours. He could have told the Northwest Herald that he was not available "during the day", unless they scheduled it for 7:00AM or 6:00PM.

At least, his cell phone didn't ring during the interview.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pilgrim injury accident investigation still open

On November 21 Garden Prairie resident Don Pilgrim was working in his front yard along Route 20, when an eastbound car ran off the road and struck him. Pilgrim remains in a Rockford hospital, where he is paralyzed from the waist down.

The driver of the car, 22-year-old James L. Taylor, II, of Marengo, was driving without insurance and has a court date this Thursday at 8:30AM in Boone County. So far, he has been issued only the one ticket.

The investigation of the accident by the Boone County State's Attorney's Office is still open.

Will they see that Taylor is cited for additional traffic violations?

A benefit for Don Pilgrim is planned for January 30 at the Belvidere American Legion. For information, contact Janet Brown at (815) 979-3459.

Handwriting 101 grade - F

Should police officers be required to sign police reports legibly, so that anyone requesting a report could read the name of the officer who wrote it and of his supervisor who approved it? Apparently, they are not so required; at least, not in Woodstock.

Having examined a number of reports over the past couple of years, I have found it impossible to discern who wrote the reports, even when I knew who had written it. Signatures are nothing but a scrawl, following by a number. Well, at least the number is clear.

If I wanted to call the P.D., I'm sure they would identify the officer by his badge number. But should that be necessary?

Should the City publish a list online of WPD officers, listed by their badge numbers? Wouldn't that be nice?

But, then, so would publication of beat boundaries and assignments, so that residents would know to whom to address issues and complaints.

So as not to pick only on police officers, the same is true for judges and attorneys. When you look at many orders prepared by attorneys in court for a judge's signature, often the judge's name cannot be read. This then requires going back to the court's computer system to learn what judge made the decision.

How much nice it would be if they just wrote their names clearly.

Lock up the wardens, your honor

An Associated Press article carried in this morning's Northwest Herald, Page 5A, reveals a "secret" change in policy in the Illinois prison system. According to the Northwest Herald, Gov. "Quinn suspended the program Sunday after seeing the AP report."

Perhaps the Illinois State Police or the U. S. Department of Justice should open an investigation into what laws were broken and who implemented such a "secret" change.

The article gives examples of criminals released: Jorge Bogas gets out after only 13 days in prison, following his conviction for driving the wrong way on I-57 and causing a serious-injury accident while DUI; James Walker-Bey for a probation violation (carrying a .25 cal. pistol) - he was sentenced to one year but served only 14 days in state prison.

DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett expressed outrage that 22 people convicted by his office have been released early since September.

An open question to the Office of the McHenry County State's Attorney:

How many people convicted in McHenry County courts have been released significantly early (not just for good-conduct credits)? With examples, please.

The following message was emailed to Sen. Althoff and Reps. Franks and Tryon:

"Please read the article on Page 5A of the Northwest Herald about early releases from state prisons.
"Heads should roll in the Illinois prison system. These releases outrage me. Administrators at the Illinois prison system, who were responsible for these releases and what AP called a 'secret' change in policy, should be fired and prosecuted. Cancellation of the change is not enough."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

ISRA alert re Ryan and guns

Check out this message from the Illinois State Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund about Republican candidate for Governor Jim Ryan. Ryan's position is scary!



"In an Associated Press wire story released yesterday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan pledged to sign a ban on “Assault Weapons” and promised to veto any “Concealed Carry” legislation that reaches his desk.

"In making these pronouncements, Jim Ryan was very clear that he would wholeheartedly support legislation that would result in the ban and confiscation of most of the guns in your safe. You would have two choices – either surrender your banned firearms to the police, or the police will be kicking down your door to take them. Ryan could not have made the point any clearer.

"Ryan was equally clear about your right to defend yourself. By pledging to veto concealed carry legislation, Ryan is telling you that he would rather see you unarmed, being beaten and humiliated by a gang of hooligans than to see you with a gun in your hand. Ryan also has a message for your wife, your mother, your daughter, your girlfriend. That message is that he would rather see her laying dead in an alley with her pantyhose knotted around her neck than to see her with a gun in her hand. Ryan could not have made the point any clearer.

"Just as he did in the 2002 gubernatorial race, Jim Ryan has proven himself to be cut from the same cloth as Chicago Democrats such as Richie Daley, Barack Obama, and Rod Blagojevich.

"Any gun owner who would vote for Jim Ryan has to be out of his or her mind.

"Please forward this alert to all your gun owning friends.

"Please post this alert to any and all blogs or bulletin boards to which you belong.

"Please make a promise to yourself, right now, this moment, that you will not let yourself be pushed around and lied to by guys like Jim Ryan."

Meditation - could it work?

Recently, I received an e-mail from an acquaintance with an attached message that the escalation of the war in Afghanistan will cost us $1,000,000 per soldier per year. It asked me to get involved... to work together for Peace. It also suggested attention to the Brave New Foundation

The e-mail mentioned Wayne Dyer's book, There is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. The sender of the email believes there is enough knowledge about compassionate communication (non-violent communication) that enables peace to be a reality and, with the ability to achieve solutions through meditation, there is no excuse.

It ended with the request to create create Win/Win solutions. Where the mind is at, the body will follow.

This was a thought-provoking message, not to be easily dispatched with a click of the Delete key (which I almost did).

My first thought? I was reminded of a joke I heard a few years ago, before the word "terrorist" was so prominent in our language. The joke?

Q. What's the difference between a woman with PMS and a terrorist?
A. You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Only you cannot negotiate with Osama bin Laden. You cannot negotiate with a religious fanatic whose only goal is to remove a scourge from the earth by killing you. How do you negotiate with a suicide bomber?

And so, is the solution to send 30,000 additional soldiers in Afghanistan (at $1,000,000 each, if that figure is correct or even anywhere close)? Probably not. Well, how about 50,000? Or 100,000? No, that won't work, either.

When Osama bin Laden meets his Maker and gets his 27 virgin brides, or whatever he believes awaits him, 50 or 100 radicals will step forward to replace him. And then we'll need 200,000 soldiers over there.

And more over here, protecting our buildings, bridges, subways, elevated trains, planes, highways and people.

So what is the solution?

Maybe, instead of blowing off Wayne Dyer's book, we need to seriously consider just how powerful the Mind is. What if Meditation would work? I mean, would work to bring about Peace.

In 1982 I heard a story about Amway distributors in Chico, California, who had won a trip that included a ride on Amway's LearJet. They were to be picked up in Chico; the only problem was that in July, the plane could land but would not be able to take off. The high temperatures at Chico (100+ degrees F.) and the length of the runway meant the trip would be delayed.

The couple told Amway headquarters to go ahead and send the plane. They said to tell the pilots that the temperature would drop to 88 degrees, so that the plane could take off. Yeah, sure...

All the distributors in that group set to work and focused on the temperature in Chico for that afternoon. The plane flew in and landed and the prize-winning distributors boarded. It was time to leave.

And the temperature dropped to 88, so that the plane could take off!!!

Even groups in the United States have caused crime rates to drop in cities by meditating - focusing their minds - on peaceful co-existence, calm, safety.

Would the terrorists change their ways, if enough people on the planet focused on peace? There is only one way to find out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Survey Results - DMV Hours

Recently the Woodstock DMV announced Winter Hours. Supposedly to provide better service. So the question was asked of readers, "Do you like the new Woodstock DMV winter hours?"

Thanks to the 33 readers who responded. As to the new hours, here are the results:

Like them - 2 (6%)
Don't like them - 7 (21%)
Don't Care - 24 (73%)

Trading one problem for another

Is the McDonald's (or the City) about to trade one traffic problem for another?

The Woodstock Independent carried an expansive article this week about the coming re-design of the Woodstock McDonald's, including a diagram of the new building and parking lot.

The big problem with the "McLeft" will be eliminated; actually, there are two McLeft's that will be eliminated.

The first is the exit from McDonald's onto Route 47 immediately at the traffic light. Drivers heading out with their orders turn left across three lanes of southbound traffic to go north. Often, they cannot see oncoming, northbound traffic, and then they stop in the southbound, left-turn lane (meeting southbound traffic head-on) and wait for a gap in northbound traffic.

Other traffic, heading for Bull Valley or the apartments just east of the Post Office, turns out of McDonald's and makes a wide right to get to the southbound left-turn lane. That creates its own set of problems.

OK, so that exit will be closed in the new plan, and drivers will have to find another way out.

McDonald's new plan shows a new entrance/exit on South Street. The big problem with this street cut is that it is too close to Route 47 and will create its own set of problems.

One problem will be that exiting drivers from the drive-through lanes may not be able to turn left promptly to go east a short distance to the light. Westbound traffic may not yield (Woodstock drivers are becoming famous for not yielding), and the eastbound lanes may be full with cars waiting at the light. The South Street exit from McDonald's appears to be right across the street from the exit from the bp station, which will cause conflicting traffic movements.

Also, drivers intending turn into McDonald's from South Street will encounter cars leaving the drive-through windows. This will cause entering drivers to slow or stop. When they slow, the risk of a rear-end accident on South Street will increase.

Should there be a rear-end accident on South Street, this will cause a huge traffic tie-up that will extend back to and into the signalized intersection.

A better arrangement would be to eliminate the South Street entrance/exit and from the new plan and route traffic into the restaurant on Fair Street.

The second "McLeft" is the entrance on Route 47 that will be re-designed into a "right-in/right-out" opening. This should, but probably won't, eliminate left turns by northbound drivers. No doubt that it will be properly signed. But drivers will ignore the signs, just as they do for the left turn into the Jewel lot across from CHASE Bank.

Now is the time to anticipate and fix these problems - before construction begins.