Monday, November 30, 2009

MHB presents building plans

The McHenry County Mental Health Board (MHB) presented its plan for expansion to the public this evening. The program was held in the conference center of the McHenry County College and was attended by approximately 75 persons, including staff of the MHB.

A brief history of the MHB and the building plan were presented by Sandy Lewis, Executive Director of the MHB for the past 4 1/2 years. The McHenry County MHB was established in 1967 after a voter referendum. The McHenry County MHB is one of 66 mental health authorities in Illinois (for some of the 1,400+ townships in 103 counties (Correction: 102)). The role of the MHB is to coordinate the various mental health systems in McHenry County, and it operates with several mandates (see image, top right. Click on the image to enlarge it; then click on the Back button on your browser to return here).

Peter Austin, County Administrator, was on hand to provide information about the low-interest bonding money available, and he also facilitated the Q&A session. Stimulus funds through the Recovery Zone Bond Financing can only be used for "bricks and mortar"; i.e., buildings, not for services. Building the additional space at 620 Dakota Street, Crystal Lake, will not result in an increase in property taxes.

During the Q&A some speakers favored the MHB's decision; others did not or thought this is not the right time.

The next step is for the plan to go to the County's Finance Committee at its December 8th meeting.

Information is available on the MHB website at Questions may be emailed to

Four officers killed

On Sunday morning four officers of the Lakewood, Washington, Police Department were shot and killed in a Parkland coffee shop south of Tacoma.

This is a grim reminder of the danger of work in law enforcement. The officers were reportedly in the coffee shop before the beginning of their shifts and working on laptops - a place where officers would not expect to be attacked.

Maurice Clemmons (photo), 37, a repeat offender, is wanted in the murders of the four officers. His photo is buried in the online articles of The News Tribune and not even shown on the homepage of the online paper.

The story can be followed in an area newspaper, The News Tribune, at

Poems from Guantanamo - Thurs., Dec. 3

The MCC Student Peace Action Network, Pax Christi and the McHenry County Peace Coalition will sponsor a program this week, featuring Marc Falkoff, professor of criminal law at Northern Illinois University. The program will be Thursday, December 3rd, 7:00PM, at the MCC Conference Center.

POEMS FROM GUANTANAMO: "Where is the world to save us from torture?"

SPEAKER: MARC D. FALKOFF, Ph.D., Brandeis University, American Literature; J.D., Columbia Law School

Professor Falkoff teaches criminal law at NIU. Since 2004 he has been a principal lawyer in the habeas representation of seventeen prisoners being held by the U.S. military at Guantánamo Bay on suspicion of involvement with terrorism. For this work, he was named the Charles F. C. Ruff Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 2005. He received the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award in 2007 from the Southern Center for Human Rights and in 2008 was the recipient of the Bill of Rights in Action Award from the Constitutional Rights Foundation in Chicago.

Dr. Falkoff writes and speaks frequently about the rule of law in the context of the war on terror. The book of prisoner poetry he edited, "Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak", was a bestselling anthology translated into a dozen languages. Abused, desperate and isolated, Guantánamo prisoners turned to writing poetry as a way to preserve their humanity. Despite the Pentagon's efforts to suppress the poems, Marc Falkoff and a dedicated group of pro bono lawyers succeeded in giving the detainees a voice. He will discuss the torture the prisoners suffered, the false information elicited, the disarray of evidentiary files, and the telling resignations of key military prosecutors. According to Dr. Falkoff, a very real problem exists, "politics rather than principle reigns at Guantánamo." As concerned American citizens, we can learn what action we can take to demand accountability and redress of grievances. Following the program, he will be available to sign books.

For further information contact Molly at or at 815.943.7611

Student needs work

A high student I know needs a part-time, short-term job to pay off a debt he incurred.

He recently began living independently, and he is working at learning to live right and within his means. He needs immediate work to pay off a debt he incurred here in town. Work hours can be after school, week-ends or evenings. He does not have his own transportation and needs work within walking distance of near the Square or on the Pace or Metra line with hours that can allow him to meet the bus/train schedule.

If you have 30-35 hours' work in December at minimum wage for a part-time employee, with taxes withheld, please let me know at, and I'll put him in touch with you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

WA refuses to pay for interview

It is the policy of the Woodstock Advocate to refuse to pay for interviews, and I hereby give notice to Tareq and Michaele Salahi and their representatives that it will do no good to approach me regarding interviews.

In fact, the Woodstock Advocate questions the use of the word "socialites", as The Washington Post described you. Don't true socialites usually shun publicity and have enough money to meet their obligations, so they do not try to milk a system like the D.C. party circuit?

Now, on the other hand, if you wish to inquire about space on the Woodstock Advocate for furtherance of your publicity stunt, you may directly your inquiries to

Please allow the usual seven-day period for a response.

Seipler schedules fundraiser

Republican candidate for sheriff of McHenry County, Zane Seipler, has scheduled a reception, dinner and fundraiser in about two weeks. Your holiday party calendar may be filling quickly but, before you know it, the February 2 Primary Election Day will be here.

Zane's campaign committee, Citizens for Zane Seipler, will hold a dinner and reception for Zane at the Waverly Ballroom in Woodstock on Wednesday, December 16, from 5:00-8:00PM. Tickets are $40.00 and will include a buffet dinner and beverages. The Waverly Ballroom is located at 214 Main Street, just across the street Woodstock's movie theater.

RSVP by December 12 to 847.561.1180 or by email to Or mail your reservation and your check for $40.00/person (make checks payable to "Citizens for Zane Seipler") to the committee at P.O. Box 1672, Woodstock, IL 60098.

If you can't make it but want to make a contribution to Zane's race for sheriff, mail your check, payable to the committee, to the same P.O. Box.

Zane's success in the February 2nd Republican Primary Election is important for McHenry County residents. You can view Zane's website at

Expanded Agreements

Several years ago (whew! has it really been 30 years? seems like yesterday) I participated in an intensive two-week-end course in Denver, and I have always remembered the segment on "expanded agreements."

When you have a deal with someone and then that person tries to change/expand it unilaterally, that was called an expanded agreement. I have always resisted them. They serve to increase the authority or power or rule or domination of one person over another without discussion or the making of a new agreement.

Let's say you are hired to work 40 hours/week for a certain combination of compensation, and then your boss comes to you and tells you that he "needs" you to work 45 hours/week or different days or different hours, but he will not compensate you for it. Should you object?

This morning the editors of the Northwest Herald ganged up on certain senior police officers of the Woodstock Police Department, who recently won an arbitration over a broken contract. I've already written about it here (below, November 22), and you can read the editorial at

The editors erred inexcusably when they wrote that the attorney for the cops "recognizes the grievances as nitpicky." That is not what the quote of that attorney, just above their statement, said. What the attorney said, as quoted, was, "I can see how someone could see this as nitpicky."

I suggest that the officers argued their case based on principle, not on the small monetary gain to each.

Further, the headline of the editorial is very poorly worded. "Unearned OT should go to charity."

It wasn't "unearned"; it was unpaid. And who is the editorial board to say how an employee should spend his income?

How would the editors feel if the readers began picketing in front of the NWH headquarters and demanded that the editors donate $500 each to charity?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

BOFPC ignores City direction

The Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners BOFPC has stiffed the City over an Open Meetings Act violation and a direction to schedule training by the City Attorney's office.

Back in May 2009 the BOFPC violated the Open Meetings Act, when it went into Executive Session and failed to make an audio recording of that closed session. Public bodies such as the BOFPC are permitted to meet in private, but a State law requires that such meetings must be audio-recorded. The operative word is "must". It is not optional. And verbatim recordings must be preserved for a minimum of 18 months. According to the City Attorney, "there are no exceptions to this requirement."

The City sent a very sternly worded letter to the three members of the Commission and its attorney, stating "Transparency in government is a core value of the City of Woodstock."

In the May 19, 2009, letter to the BOFPC and its attorney, the City Attorney informed the Commission that "the City" (read, the City Manager and the City Council) had asked the City Attorney's office to make a presentation to the Commission on the requirements of and compliance with the Open Meetings Act at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

Since the date of that letter, the BOFPC has held meetings on June 1, June 11, July 9, July 21, August 19, September 8 and December 7. Some of these were "special" meetings.

If they are going to get hung up on "regularly" scheduled meetings, then that list of meetings can be cut down to June 1, September 8 and December 7. The BOFPC has canceled the December 7 Regular Meeting.

Why is a City Commission allowed to ignore a direction by the City Manager and City Council to schedule a critical training session on an important Illinois law? When the City Attorney wrote to them that the City had "asked" him to make a presentation, it wasn't like they had an option of refusing. "Ask" was a polite word that they should have understood as "told" or "ordered" or "directed".

In a recent follow-up about this in October, I was told that the City would "remind them to try and schedule it" (the training).

Apparently, that reminder wasn't clear enough for them. What happened after the BOFPC was reminded? It canceled its next regular scheduled meeting.

As the wise Yoda said, "Try not! Do or do not. There is no try." Too often, nothing happens when you "try".

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mahon-for-Sheriff Press Release

The following press release was received from the Friends of Mike Mahon. Mike is the Democratic Party candidate for Sheriff of McHenry County. The press release reads:

"On my own initiative and under no requirement to do so, but in the interest of full disclosure to the voters of McHenry County, I am disclosing an 18-year-old incident with a timely lesson as the holiday season approaches.

"In December of 1991 I was charged with driving under the influence in Cook County. At the time of the incident, I was in my personal vehicle and off duty. There was no one with me in the car, no collision and no one was injured in any manner. No breathalyzer was deployed.

"I pleaded 'no contest' to the charge and was sentenced to six months of a suspended license. I maintained my employment with Cook County throughout.

"This incident changed my life for the better. Assisted by family and friends, I came to the conclusion that my life would be greatly improved if I stopped drinking alcohol, and did so. I have maintained that abstinence ever since and have assisted others in finding help for similar problems.

"Especially at this time of year, with its many holiday parties and get-togethers, it's important for all of us to be aware of the temptation to drink and drive both in ourselves and our friends and family.

"Thank you and let's all have a safe and happy holiday season."

Auto insurance - got it?

Do you carry liability coverage on auto insurance? Most likely, you do. Sure, it costs you a premium every year, but it’s worth it, if you are ever involved in an accident.

If you get caught in Illinois without auto insurance, your smallest worry might be the $500 ticket (plus maybe $250 in court costs) that it will cost you. And I think the fine for the second offense might be $1,000. You can probably buy a lot of auto insurance for that.

Your bigger worry ought to be the legal expense of defending yourself against a claim, should you be in an at-fault accident. It won’t take long to run up a large bill for legal expenses. Most good attorneys will charge you $300-400/hour. And you probably won’t want just a “good” attorney; you’ll want a “very good” attorney (translate to higher cost per hour).

After you spend a sizable chunk of money on legal fees to defend yourself in an at-fault accident, then you’ll have to cough up the money for property damage, medical care, pain and suffering. That’ll cost you tens of thousands of dollars. No money? There go your house and car.

A short Associated Press article in today’s Northwest Herald indicates that “thousands” of drivers don’t carry auto insurance. That, I suspect, severely understates the problem. How about thousands of drivers in each state don’t carry auto insurance.

When I lived in New Mexico, one insurance agent estimated that 40% of the drivers did not carry auto insurance. One reason is that you could stand right under the sign at the DMV that said you must have and prove you had insurance to get your license plates. Except that twice I stood right under the sign and got my plates without having to show the insurance proof (that I had in my pocket).

I laughed at the cop-outs by two people quoted in the short article.

Scott Harrington, a professor of health care management and risk management at the University of Pennsylvania, was quoted as saying, “The auto insurance mandate is almost everywhere. But it’s not rigorously enforceable.”

Professor Harrington either used the wrong word or he was misquoted. The correct word would be “unenforced.” The law is absolutely enforceable, and easily so. A tie-in between insurance company computers and a state’s motor vehicle records could inform the DMV whenever an Insured allowed his auto insurance policy to lapse. Notice could be electronically transferred ten days after a policy lapsed.

Some drivers purchase auto insurance, arrange to pay for it monthly, receive the Auto ID card and then drop the insurance. Then they can drive around with “evidence” of a policy, even though the policy is not in force. A cop looks at the insurance ID card, believes he is looking at proof of insurance and hands it back to the driver. Does the cop ever ask, “Is your auto insurance in force today?”

Computers could inform the DMV of a policy lapse. State laws could authorize DMV computers to notify State Police and local police that insurance had lapsed. Police could be authorized to remove license plates from uninsured vehicles. Think a driver would pay the premium pretty fast to get his plates back and be able to drive his car?

David Sampson, president and CEO of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of American, was quoted as saying that drivers’ personal financial situations, not state rules, were a better indicator of whether they carry insurance.

Again, not so. Drivers willfully disregard state laws about auto insurance because they are not rigorously enforced. Drivers might say they cannot afford auto insurance. If they cannot, then they should not be driving a car.

If all drivers carried insurance, would auto insurance rates go down? Many think so.

What can you do? Contact your State legislator and insist that mandated auto insurance laws be enforced. Ask your legislator to contact Director Jonathan Moncken of the Illinois State Police and direct him to enforce auto insurance laws.

Contact your local police department and your sheriff’s department and ask that officers and deputies inquire about the validity of the insurance ID card presented on every traffic stop. Should it later turn out that the insurance was not in effect, officers can deal with drivers who lied to them.

What percent of vehicles with Illinois license plates are uninsured?

No line at Post Office

You won't find any line at the Woodstock Post Office today, if you go there to make a photocopy of some important document before mailing it.

The photocopy machine in the lobby has been broken for weeks. Don't you wonder why it hasn't been repaired or removed?

There is probably some kind of fancy contract that requires the Post Office to maintain this equipment in the lobby, whether or not it works. But doesn't that same contract require the vendor, assuming that it is leased and not owned by the USPS, to maintain it in working condition?

As I recall, the price per copy was $0.25, which probably kept some people away from it.

Need to make photocopies in Woodstock? Go to Office Depot (by the DMV and Aldi) for $0.09/copy (take your credit or debit card in with you) or to the library ($0.10/copy).

Lights. Camera. Action

Woodstock's Christmas tree in front of City Hall was lighted on Wednesday night, jumping the gun on the annual lighting of the Square that will occur tonight at 7:00PM.

It was raining a little on Wednesday night, before Woodstock's first snow of the season hit the ground overnight.

Drive by City Hall at night and check out the tree! And check out the extensive calendar of events on the Square posted at{8B5B1137-4525-40ED-ABB2-A735373AEFCE}

Carriage rides begin today. Lighting of the Square is tonight at 7:00PM. A few of the other events include

Sunday, Nov. 29 2:00PM Woodstock's annual Christmas parade around the Square.
Thursday, Dec. 3 Ladies' Night Out
Thursday, Dec. 10 7:00-10:30PM Waverly Holiday Fizz (music, dancing, food)
Saturday, Dec 12 2:30-3:30PM Ice sculpting on the Square

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 2009

In the good ol' U.S.A. we have much to be thankful for.

Today, pause for a few minutes and make a list of ten things you are thankful for. Really. Get paper and pen and write them down.

Go on. Do it. And sit there until you've written all ten.

How long did it take?

Mass Notification System - signed up?

Have you signed up yet for the City of Woodstock One-Click Mass Notification System (MNS)?

If you would like to read information about the notification system and then to sign up to receive these notifications, you can do so through the link on the City website homepage. Go to and click on the link there.

Information on the City's website indicates that this system will be used for messages "with specific information about time-sensitive or common-interest issues such as emergencies and local community matters." I recall one City Council member's asking if non-emergency messages about (was it leaf pick-up or Christmas tree pick-up?) would be broadcast.

I don't remember that "local community matters" were approved by the City Council for the MNS. Will we get phone messages about the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and Groundhog Day? Let's hope not.

When the MNS was discussed at a City Council meeting, it was mentioned that residents' published phone numbers would be entered into the system. The System's announcement on the City website indicates that the City will create a database of published phone numbers. When I registered today, I wondered how to locate that entry and then edit or supplement any existing information. There may be a way to do that, but I didn't find it.

So I proceeded with my registration, hoping that my own entry will be combined with any existing entry automatically created by the City with its vendor for the system and that I won't receive duplicate calls.

After entering all my contact information, I wanted to return to the City's homepage and looked for a link on the final page to do so. Nothing there provides an easy one-click return, not even the City's logo at the top of the page.

It would be nice if the final page contained a link back to the City's homepage.

Would the crime spree on East Calhoun Street on November 17-18 have qualified for the System? Can you just picture residents, sitting in their homes and watching TV, armed to the teeth?

Pass the AK-47, Mom, and the popcorn, too.

Woodstock home invasion kept quiet

This morning's Northwest Herald carries an article on Page 3C that should alarm every resident in Woodstock. And not only because of the crimes on two consecutive days that occurred a few blocks east of City Hall, but because the crimes weren't reported in the newspaper for a whole WEEK.

A street robbery and battery (physical harm) occurred in the 500 block of East Calhoun Street on November 17 at about 3:00AM. The individuals were known to the victims, although that fact was not reported in the newspaper article.

The next day, the three suspects invaded a home in the same block and beat a resident in relation to a child custody issue. That was November 18 about 5:40PM.

Seven (s-e-v-e-n!!!) days later the public learns about it, after the P.D. issues a "press release" and the newspaper picks it up. Because it is in .pdf form it cannot be easily copied and pasted here. The press release reports that on "Tuesday, November 25, 2009," Woodstock police investigators obtained arrest warrants for three men. (Tuesday was November 24th.)

Question: What took so long???

A crime alert (press release) was finally posted on the Woodstock Police Department website on Wednesday, November 25, at 4:10PM. You can read it there:

Joshua R. Ury, 21, of Lakemoor, is in jail (unless he has bonded out already).
Kenneth L. Nolting, 36, of Wonder Lake, is on the loose and wanted.
Brian J. Adams, 39, of Lakemoor, is on the loose and wanted.

Why did the public go uninformed for seven days? OK, so the suspects had targeted one couple in the same block where they returned the next day to beat a resident.

Where are photos of the men who are wanted? Why can't the police post those pictures right on their website? Why aren't the photos in the Northwest Herald?

Why doesn't the City of Woodstock post links for fresh Crime Alerts right on its homepage?

Doesn't the police department want the assistance of the public in locating wanted criminals?

Friday 4:00AM

I am blown away by the advertising onslaught and the store openings announced for 4:00AM on "Black Friday". How do retailers get employees to come in for an opening bell at 4:00AM?

What time must employees arrive, in order to be at the ready, smiling, greeting customers with "Ka-ching, ka-ching, it's time to make our registers ring!"

Do retailers pay employees extra for coming in to work hours before the crack of dawn?

And what about the pajama party at the Huntley Outlet Mall? Shoppers in pajamas? I never thought of myself as a prude, but isn't it more than a little ridiculous to incentivize customers to go outside their homes in pajamas?

What would happen if all the retailers just agreed among themselves to open at 9:00AM? Would the anti-trust people jump into the fray?

But then you'd have the blackguards who would nod their heads in agreement and open at 4:00AM, anyway, smirking and whispering (or shouting), "Fooled you!"

Even better, what if the customers just stayed away until 9:00AM?

Time to buy a scale

After hauling in this morning's newspaper, I decided it's time to buy a scale.

I think today's paper in Woodstock set a record for the number and size of advertising supplements and weight. I don't recall a year when the paper contained so many desperate pleas for my spending dollars. Don't the merchants know that I am turned off by their attempts to out-do one another with the lowest-ever pricing and the "Limit 1" restrictions?

Right in the middle was a slick paper ad for Sam's Club, which was the first Sam's Club ad I've seen in the newspaper. Admittedly, I don't look for ads, either the ones that are there or the ones that aren't.

I noticed "two" papers at my door this morning and felt sorry for the Northwest Herald carrier. It wasn't bad enough that he delivered the paper itself at 4:55AM, but he also had to drop the bundled sack of advertising circulars, which was larger and heavier than the paper itself.

I wonder ... do carriers get paid extra for the added work?

Next year I'll leave a sign out with an arrow pointing to the dumpster. He can just put the advertising in there and save me a trip.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

U. of Ill. a "target"?

As I read this morning's Northwest Herald, I wasn't sure what to think of the title of a short article, "U. of Ill. a top target for foreign students".

I thought immediately of 9/11 and the flight schools selected by the terrorists for their flight training. "Target" and "foreign" jumped out at me.

What the title meant was that the U. of Ill. was a top choice of foreign students, attracting "more foreign students last year than any other public university and more than all but three private schools."

Does "target" seem like the right word to you in this context?

Beat the high cost of dying

Depending on where you are going for turkey dinner, you may (or may not) need the following information. Hopefully, not.

Many complain about the high cost of funerals but have little knowledge about what to do about it. Too often deaths occur at inconvenient times or suddenly, and there is no time to do your homework. You just call your local funeral home and go in to make arrangements at the worst possible time, when you not prepared to make intelligent, unemotional decisions about funeral and burial.

My second wife was always after me to wade into the subject, but I kept putting it off, even though I was in the life insurance business and should have been interested in how arrangements would get made and, very importantly, what they would cost. It was just easier to say, "Hey, there is plenty of life insurance. Don't sweat it."

What does a nice funeral cost in McHenry County? I've not gone shopping, but I'll guess $7,000 or $10,000 or $15,000. An article in the AARP Bulletin (October 2009) titled "The High Cost of Dying" estimated $7,323, PLUS cemetery plot, burial, grave marker and other items. And that was with a "cheap" metal casket costing $2,255. Included in the cost was a "non-declinable basic services fee" of $1,595 which, according to the article, might be negotiable but not declinable. Kind of like the "doc" fee when you buy a car?

Earlier this year I wrote about home funerals and green burials. Look them up on the internet.

A Letter to the Editor in the November AARP Bulletin mentioned Willed Body Programs, through which you can donate your body to science. How would you like to save $10,-15,000?

Contact the Anatomical Gifts Association of Illinois at 312/733-5283 or read up on their program at Basically, you donate your body to medical science and escape with only the transportation fee to the Chicago intake location. They will even connect you with a transportation service that, for $695, will take your body there from McHenry County. Possibly, a local funeral home would do it for the same amount or less.

You can print a Donor Enrollment Form on the AGAI website.

Shop with a cop

“Shop with a cop” has been in the news recently, after Republican candidate for McHenry County Sheriff Zane Seipler questioned the use of McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies, vehicles and County fuel in the program.

In yesterday’s article in the Northwest Herald (“Challenger files claims”), reporter Jill Duchnowski wrote that Shop with a Cop is organized by the McHenry County Police Charities, Inc.

Are any departments this year participating in Shop with a Cop? If so, they might want to have their lawyers contact McHenry County Police Charities, Inc. and find out why it is not in good standing with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office. My understanding is that, in order to conduct business legally in Illinois, a corporation is to be in good standing.

The remedy could be as simple as filing its Annual Report and paying the required fee, now plus a late-filing penalty. The Annual Report lists the names and addresses of officers of a corporation and also the name and address of the Registered Agent for the corporation. The Registered Agent is important for any subpoenas or for legal service of notices of legal action against the corporation.

Expanded Transportation soon a reality

Woodstock-area residents can look forward to an expansion in transportation services in the near future. The County and several municipalities and townships have been working together to assemble a transportation program that will widen services.

Transportation services will be offered between communities and will involve a shared-cost arrangement, with passengers paying a small portion of the total cost of the ride. It won't be free, but it will be substantially less than taxi service or owning your own vehicle.

Expect an announcement in the next few weeks and service possibly starting in February.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dial-a-Ride in Woodstock

Today my attention was called to the Dial-a-Ride service in Woodstock, when a caller commented that on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, no Dial-a-Ride transportation service is available in Woodstock. This particular caller does not drive and must use public transportation to work in Woodstock. He also lamented the limited service in Woodstock, which ends at 5:00PM, and asked how an employee could work until 5:00PM and then get home, when the bus service ends at 5:00PM.

I had previously been told that Woodstock Dial-a-Ride requires a 24-hour reservation notice, whereas service in McHenry is available on the same day as you call, as long as you call early enough. In a conversation with Roscoe Stelford, Finance Director of the City of Woodstock, I learned that same-day service might be available in Woodstock, if a bus is available.

So, if you do want same-day service, go ahead and call. But be understanding if you are told that no space is available. However, if you get told that NO same-day service is available, then email Roscoe at and tell him what happened.

What does the City of Woodstock pay to support Dial-a-Ride? How many riders/day does Dial-a-Ride serve?

If you have suggestions for improvements or changes in Dial-a-Ride service, email Roscoe and let him know. The contract with Dial-a-Ride gets renewed from time-to-time, and citizen input will help the City create an agreement that continues to meet the needs of residents.

Is the RTA SmartCard accepted on Dial-a-Ride?
Can transfers from Metra or PACE be used on Dial-a-Ride?

Integrating Dial-a-Ride with PACE and Metra shouldn't be all that hard. All it takes is someone with a big enough stick to make it happen.

If you have questions about Dial-a-Ride or want to use the service, call 815.338.5240 (let it ring until they answer) or 800.671.6717 and ask for Woodstock; then let it ring until they answer. Call before 5:00PM; call well before 5PM.

I was surprised to learn that many students use Dial-a-Ride. Read more about the Dial-a-Ride service in Woodstock at

Woodstock police car vs. UPS van

A crash occurred this morning in the 1600 block of South Eastwood Drive (Route 47) between a Woodstock Police car and a UPS delivery van.

I passed by shortly after the crash occurred, and the front of the police car was still against the right rear of the UPS van. The police car was stopped in the southbound lane on Route 47, in the traffic lane and near the curb with its emergency lights activated, and the officer was standing outside the vehicle, looking north and anticipating, no doubt, the arrival of the shift supervisor. The UPS van was mostly in the driveway, facing west, but with the rear of the truck still in the roadway, as if it had been turning left from the northbound lanes.

Damage was visible on the left front of the squad car, which was later towed to the police department parking lot on a rollback tow truck.

About an hour after the crash, a McHenry County Sheriff's Department car was still there, and the deputy was most likely taking statements from the drivers and writing his report.

Monday, November 23, 2009

BOFPC cancels Dec. 7 meeting

The City has posted a cancellation of the December 7th quarterly Regular Meeting of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

This would likely mean there are no disciplinary issues (five days or more), terminations, hirings or legal actions involving police officers or the department.

According to the website information about this Board, it is to meet quarterly. Last year a problem arose because the Board apparently did not submit its 2009 calendar of meetings to the City Manager's office. As I recall, there was a delay in approving Minutes that contained the meeting schedule.

This year they won't have that problem, because they haven't had a meeting to approve the 2010 schedule. But that presents another problem, because their meetings are to be included in the annual calendar of meetings to be announced by the City.

This problem could be solved by establishing a regular meeting schedule that would survive year-end, such as deciding that the BOFPC would meet on the first Monday of March, June, September and December, if it's preferable to state the months.

The BOFPC does not meet only "as needed". Since the website information informs the public that it meets quarterly, then it needs to announce its meeting schedule. Let's hope it avoids repeating last year's problem.

Complaints Filed Against Sheriff Keith Nygren

The following press release was received from Citizens for Zane Seipler, which can be contacted by email at and by telephone at (847) 561-1180.

Press Release

Complaints Filed Against Sheriff Keith Nygren

November 23, 2009- This release is to inform members of the media that I have filed complaints with the McHenry County State’s Attorney, Attorney General, and the Illinois State Board of Election regarding Sheriff Keith Nygren’s campaign tactics. I had a meeting with the State’s Attorney’s office earlier this month. Beginning in August and continuing through November, I have spoken at length with investigators from the Attorney General’s Office and the State Board of Elections. The following incidents and events were of primary concern:
1) Sheriff Nygren is using his official letterhead and star logo on campaign letters and flyers.
2) On October 11th, 2007, I was a candidate for promotion and while on duty attending a SWAT training session, I was approached and encouraged to attend a fundraiser for State’s Attorney candidate, Dan Regna, by Detective Greg Pyle. Detective Pyle told me “It would be good for my career” if I attended the event. He then handed me a flyer for the fundraiser. Detective Pyle made this statement to several other deputies; Detective Pyle was promoted shortly thereafter.
3) On August 31, 2009, a McHenry County citizen, Keith Simpson, was harassed and humiliated at the McHenry County Courthouse by deputies. Mr. Simpson’s personal belongings were seized unjustly. The belongings in question were political business cards with my contact information on them. Mr. Simpson was told by deputies that the cards were “paraphernalia” and that the building was “Keith Nygren’s Courthouse”. Mr. Simpson was attending a court hearing and just happened to have the cards in his possession at the time.
4) Sheriff Nygren utilized his taxpayer funded county office for a photo shoot to support Dan Regna’s campaign. These photos were then used for Regna’s political-campaign website and campaign newspaper ads.
5) Sheriff Nygren’s deputy and security guard, Michael Cooper, was in possession of documents stolen from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office. According to the records, a second deputy was also in control of said documents and the evidence was lost during the course of events. (Please refer to the Amy Dalby criminal proceedings) To the best of my knowledge, Sheriff Nygren never conducted an internal investigation to determine whether there was evidence to facilitate “Theft and Official Misconduct” charges. At no time did Sheriff Nygren request the assistance of an outside agency in regards to these events.
6) Sheriff Nygren assigned deputies/other personnel to deliver items auctioned off at his political fundraisers while being paid by taxpayers and while using official county owned vehicles.
7) Sheriff Nygren paid deputies/other personnel overtime to participate in a parade promoting himself and his office. He has been quoted as referring to parades as political. Sheriff Nygren paid departmental personnel over-time to chauffer and escort him during these parades.
8) Sheriff Nygren integrated his campaign with the “Shop with a Cop” charity event. Deputies drive county vehicles and use county fuel while Nygren’s political supporters organize the event. In December of 2006, I was told by Lieutenant Anton Cundiff that it would help my career if I participated in the event.
9) During the State’s Attorney’s race of 2008, Regna flyers were circulated around the patrol room during working hours. More recently, Captain Anton Cundiff has been seen with Nygren flyers and campaign paperwork at his desk during working hours.
10) In the past, Sheriff Nygren has auctioned off a golf cart that he alters to resemble a McHenry County squad car. There is a question as to whether the decals used are provided by the department and not his campaign organization.
I have evidence, photos, memos, and witnesses that verify my allegations. That information has been provided to the above listed agencies. Attached with this release are copies of complaint letters that verify my assertions. I am currently speaking with legal counsel. We may find it necessary to formally request a special prosecutor to examine the evidence.

Zane Seipler
Republican Candidate for Sheriff

Tollway to correct speed limit sign

Last week I wrote about the 55MPH speed limit posted on the Illinois Tollway I-90 westbound from Randall Road. I had been surprised by the 55MPH sign where there had been a 65MPH sign in the recent past.

I wrote to the Tollway and today received this reply:

"Thank you for your e-mail. The Maintenance and Traffic Operations division investigated your concern and the signage will be updated to reflect the speed limit to be 65 mph. We appreciate your interest and concern and again thank you for your e-mail."

I was reminded of an eastbound 55MPH speed limit from IL 47 when I first began using the Tollway in 1997. I entered the Tollway from IL 47 and, shortly after, was passed by a long string of cars, including an Illinois State Police trooper, all of whom appeared to be traveling at least 65MPH.

Being a stickler for police obeying the speed limits, I called the ISP district office. They informed me that the speed limit there was 65MPH. "Not when there is a big regulatory 55MPH sign," was my response. They did some checking and learned that the 55MPH sign had been posted during prior roadwork and had never been removed.

So, when you see signs that don't appear to be correct, take action. Phone or email and request that someone check it out.

My thanks to the Tollway for its prompt reply and action to correct the signing error.

Laura Lorenz manner of death determined

According to the Office of the Coroner of McHenry County today, the manner of death of Laura Lorenz on November 3, 2009, has been determined.

Under the new law the Coroner's office can conduct a private hearing in its office and determine the manner of death by a meeting of three persons connected with the office. Attendees will be the Coroner and two deputy coroners, one of whom is to be the deputy coroner who handled the case. No witnesses or police appear at the hearing, which is not an inquest.

The determination by the three persons in this hearing was that the manner of death was suicide. This determination confirms information provided to me on November 7. I had been unable to confirm the cause of death prior to the information today from the Coroner's Office and so did not publish an unconfirmed cause.

When the cause of a person's death is suicide, it seems to me that it should be mentioned in the press. For me, there are at least two important reasons.

One is the emotional support that can be extended to survivors by friends and the community.

The other important reason, to me, is that it serves as a reminder to all of us to be on the alert for symptoms that might lead to suicide. When we recognize those symptoms, then we can step forward and attempt to help another person through support, encouragement and, if necessary, intervention.

For information on suicide prevention, visit for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

For information or for urgent assistance in dealing with a potential suicide, call the McHenry County Crisis Line at 800.892.8900. You can call the Crisis Line for information; you need not wait for a "crisis".

Obviously, in an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

When are you under arrest?

At what point is a person under arrest when having a conversation with a police officer or deputy sheriff? Do the words "You are under arrest" have to be spoken?

Let's say you are walking on a public street. Say, in the middle of the night. You're an adult. An officer hails you and says, "Come over here." Add in here that you are homeless and that you are known to the police in that town (and other towns).

Do you have to walk over to him? Is it enough to stop and wait for him to approach you? Are you under arrest at that point? Perhaps many would say not, although your freedom to leave is probably restricted somewhat by his direction/order/comment/command.

Then he asks what you are doing - why are you walking around in the middle of the night? Since we enjoy freedom of movement in the United States, do you have to give a reason? It is not unlawful to walk on a public sidewalk in the middle of the night.

Then he wants to search you. Let's say you are female, and you tell him that he can pat you down for weapons; that's all. After that, he wants to look in (search) your purse (not just for weapons), and you refuse the search. So he searches your purse, anyway. Is that legal?

Then he wants to look in your backpack, and you refuse permission. So he looks, anyway, and finds a computer, which he accuses you of stealing and takes into his possession. Can he look through your notebooks and copy entries from your notebook, without your permission?

You are handcuffed and transported to the police station, where you are read the Miranda rights and sign a statement that they have been read to you.

Are you under arrest at that point?

You explain why the computer is in your possession, and it is not reported as stolen.

Then you are told that you can leave. You are not charged with any crime. But they won't return the computer, and they won't issue an evidence receipt for it. And what about the handcuffing and trip to the P.D.?

Is this an "Ooops, we made a mistake" situation? And then what happens?

Red Light Camera Example

A letter to the editor in yesterday's Northwest Herald provides convincing proof that red-light cameras do work and that they do identify violators.

Ajjanpur Balachandra of Algonquin wrote to complain about a $100 ticket issued to him in West Dundee. In his long protest, I failed to read where he indicated that he had stopped for the red light. He was kind enough to provide the place where you can watch the video of his violation.

Notice Number: 1702200058948056
License Plate: 8917128

Watch his vehicle in the right lane as he rolls up to a traffic light that had been red for more than 10 seconds. He slows and then rolls through his right turn without stopping. He didn't even come close to stopping, unless you count rolling at 10-15MPH as "stopping"!

Maybe fines should be doubled for drivers who clearly violated the law and then go to court to protest their tickets!

If you want to watch this video, you'd better hurry. It might be removed after his payment is credited or the November 25 respond-by date passes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Police union wins against City (and WPD)

An arbitrator’s decision was announced last week in a case brought by the Woodstock police officers’ union against the City of Woodstock. The decision by arbitrator Marvin Hill, Jr. was favorable to the Union and against the City; i.e., against the position held by the Chief and the Police Department.

The case involved a challenge by the union, on behalf of certain officers, regarding the involvement of Permanent Beat Officers (PBOs) in the monthly Coffee with the Chief programs that were started when Chief Robert Lowen came to Woodstock.

Originally, PBOs were to create direct relationships with residents in their own neighborhoods, becoming the face on the street. It was thought that building personal relationships with residents through smaller (in-home or at businesses) meetings would increase police effectiveness and efficiency.

Apparently, officers were not successful quickly enough at establishing meetings within their Beats (Woodstock is divided into four police “beats”, plus the Square during the summer), and the chief made a decision to incorporate the “beat” officers into the monthly Coffee meetings (second Monday of the month, 7:00PM, at the police station).

And, to quote a well-known phrase, “therein lies the rub.”

In order to get all three officers from the same beat at a Monday evening Coffee with the Chief meeting, two of them would have to come in on overtime pay. However, the overtime agreement (negotiated contract) between the police union and the Police Department requires overtime to go to the most senior, qualified officer.

The rub? More-senior officers were available than the assigned beat officers, and so the police union, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, #191, cranked up its engines.

The union claimed that Chief Lowen had circumvented an agreement with the union that overtime would be scheduled by seniority, and the arbitrator agreed. The arbitrator awarded overtime to the senior officers who would have been called for duty to attend the monthly Coffee meetings, except for the Chief’s decision to call in the less-senior PBOs.

The City will now pay those senior officers and, of course, it will pay the attorney who represented the City, John Kelly, of the Naperville law firm of Ottosen Britz Kelly Cooper & Gilbert, Ltd. Mr. Kelly is also the attorney for the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

There was obviously a cost involved in resolving this disagreement – payroll, legal fees and, most importantly, morale.

What happened to Brian Carrick?

Residents' attention to the seven-year-old disappearance and suspected murder of Brian Carrick was attracted again by the death this week of Carrick's mother, Johnsburg resident Terry Carrick, 65.

An August 20th article in the Northwest Herald reported the outcome of a trial in Judge Prather's court and also carried, in the final sentence, information to the reporter from Nichole Owens, chief of the criminal division in the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office, that the trial of Robert Render, was scheduled to start November 2. Render is, according to that article, "accused of concealing Carrick’s homicide."

A search of the Northwest Herald's website today reveals nothing about either the start or the re-scheduling of this trial. Trials are frequently, unfortunately, not held when scheduled.

Does anyone know when Render's trial will begin?

Restaurant on Calhoun closes

I was sorry to see that the Herban Fare, a new restaurant on Calhoun Street, has closed already. It was in the location where the Super Starz Lounge had been, between Dean Street and Jefferson.

Whether it was the economy, the location or the desired customer base that did it in, or a combination of those factors, the owner had a great idea. He had said he would use local produce (e.g., from the Farmers' Market) and meats from Jones Country Meats.

Woodstock residents are invited to seek out the local restaurants and support them with your eating-out dollars. And keeping that in mind, restaurateurs are invited to consider their meal sizes and menu prices. Couples and families have to be able to afford to eat out. If your prices are out of reach for the too many Woodstock families, you may just find yourselves with fewer and fewer diners, and we all know where that road leads.

No stadium on wetlands

In today's Northwest Herald there is a column by Don Peasley that includes information about the proposed baseball stadium east of Woodstock. You know the one... the one for which ground was supposed to be broken last spring, so that the stadium would be up and running for the 2010 baseball season?

Don wrote, "A major change concerning development of the proposed baseball stadium-county fairground site along Route 14 across from Wells Fargo and north of Centegra on Doty Road is necessary. McHenry County Community Foundation is scheduled to present the City Council with a proposal Dec. 1 to move the stadium south and east from the original plan. The original site, a wetland, will be preserved."

And further in the article, "Access from Route 14 under this new proposal would be a major concern."

I was concerned from the beginning with the fast track through the City Council. It seemed to me that the Council was blinded by the bright lights from the new field. They rushed the project through with 50 Conditions, which left major decision-making to paid staffers of the City, rather than before the Council.

Didn't anyone check that there were wetlands there when the proposal was pitched to the City even before it got to the Council? Wouldn't it have been reasonable to see the opinion from the governmental authority over wetlands before giving a green light for that project?

But there wasn't any delay in the gravel mining, was there? Just drive east on U.S. 14 from Woodstock and check out the new "mountains". I mean, there is a LOT of dirt being moved there.

Let's hope that the City engineers are there regularly to inspect the mining and to be certain that the depth of scraping (remember... there aren't supposed to be any gravel "pits" there) and protection of the water table are in compliance with the Conditions.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sarah Palin and Fort Hood

Sarah Palin is going to Fort Hood on December 4, according to the Associated Press.

It's nothing but a publicity stunt, and Fort Hood should bar her at the gate. If she wants to donate money to survivors of the Fort Hood massacre, then she can do it without going there.
If you are looking for one book not to buy for a Christmas gift, make it this one!

I-90 Speed Limit

For the first time in four months, yesterday I drove on I-90 west from Elgin. I was surprised to find that the speed limit is now posted as 55MPH well past Randall Road and wondered why.

The speed limit used to be 55MPH until about 1/2-mile west of Randall Road, and then it changed to 65MPH. Now the 55MPH speed zone has been extended to about Milepost 29 1/4, which is really stupid.

Drivers pass under the Open Road Tolling,, very posh, worker overpass (what in the world did that creation cost???) and take off. Three lanes westbound crush into two lanes, with the right two lanes being for the Randall Road exit.

Speeds of 65-75MPH westbound from the Elgin cashbox are not uncommon. Lane-weaving is not uncommon, as drivers jockey for position to either continue west toward Rockford or exit at Randall Road.

What possible reason could there be for extending the 55MPH speed limit for another mile westbound from Randall Road? Did traffic engineers have any conceivable reason to believe that drivers would obey the lonely 55MPH sign?

If engineers and the Illinois State Police expect drivers to obey unreasonable speed limits, they should first post the speed limit adequately. That means enough signs and on both sides of the westbound roadway; i.e., not only on the outside shoulder, but on the inside shoulder.

Further, these speed limit signs should be "flagged" with orange flags installed atop the signs to draw a driver's attention to the speed limit signs.

And then the Illinois State Police should spend enough time there to attract attention and force drivers to slow down until the new habit is established.

PhotoRadar would be invaluable there, because it will work 24/7, rain-or-shine, and doesn't rely on an officer to run down a violator. Just mail the tickets!

Of course, a better solution would be to raise the speed limit back to 65MPH (and then enforce it with PhotoRadar).

SOS establishes emergency contact database

The Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White, has established an emergency contact database that can be used by law enforcement personnel to contact relatives or other people, should a person be unable to communicate directly.

Read the following from the Secretary of State website (

"This database allows Illinois instruction permit, driver's license and identification card holders to enter their emergency contact information into a voluntary, secure database. Starting in August 2009, in the event of a motor vehicle crash or other emergency situation where a person is unable to communicate directly, law enforcement may access this database to help them reach the person's designated emergency contacts.

"If a person holds both an Illinois driver's license or permit and an Illinois identification card, the emergency contact information can be entered for both cards in one transaction. The information will only be associated with the record(s) selected by the participant.

"Participants can add, modify, or delete their emergency contact information at any time by visiting this web page. Any modifications or deletions will overwrite all previously entered information. Previously entered emergency contact information will not be displayed, in order to ensure the privacy and security of the information. Participants can print the page containing their emergency contact information upon completion for their records.

"Participants may select one or two persons as their emergency contacts, and are encouraged to share their participation with the emergency contacts they have chosen.

"It is the responsibility of the holder of the driver's license, instruction permit, temporary visitor's driver's license and/or identification card to enter accurate data into the required fields, as well as to update contact data should any data change after initial enrollment in the emergency contact database. The Secretary of State assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the data entered by the holder of a driver's license (including commercial driver's license), instruction permit, temporary visitor's driver's license and/or identification card and disclaims any liability for damages, costs, and/or expenses, including, without limitation, consequential damages, arising or resulting from any inaccurate data or failure to update contact data.

To register your emergency contacts, go to or At the bottom of the homepage, click on the icon for "Emergency Contact Database".

Dem Mike Mahon runs for Sheriff

Yesterday's Northwest Herald carried an article about Mike Mahon's entry into the race for McHenry County Sheriff. Mike filed his petitions as the Democratic candidate for Sheriff and he, as I, will be on the ballot in November 2010.

Mike and his family live in Lake in the Hills. According to the article, Mike is the first Democrat to run for Sheriff since 1998. His website is at You can read the article online at If your computer is like mine, you won't be able to find it by searching on the NWH website.

Several people have been wondering how many votes it will take to beat Keith Nygren out of his job. According to the article, in 1998 Nygren beat Arlie Page 47,904-14,619. That equates to 76.6% of the vote.

The next General Election will be a different story. I forecast that the Republic candidate in November 2010 will not get 76% of the vote and that the backlash against Republican control of the sheriff's office in McHenry County will result in a very close race.

Too much money is being wasted on lawsuits by the sheriff's department. Many of those lawsuits have occurred because of decisions made by the sheriff that are being challenged, such as unreasonable terminations and refusals to accept court and arbitrator decisions to put fired employees back to work.

It's interesting that Mahon would refer to "Nygren's reputation as a 'cell phone sheriff '." I first heard that one over a year ago.

The article said that "Nygren dismissed innuendo that he was excessively away from the sheriff's office as meaningless political grandstanding."

I say, let's see travel records (airline ticket records, political campaign expense receipts in Florida restaurants and liquor stores, etc.) and mileage logs for his Tahoe and any other County vehicles at his disposal and his personal vehicle. Maybe his secretary has a log of days when Nygren was out of the office, not directly on County business. The whole issue of time-in-the-office will be explored in detail in January.

On the gang issue, I recall that there used to be a McHenry County Anti-Gang Task Force. When I tried to get information from the sheriff's department about it 2-3 years ago, nobody knew anything about it. It was like it had never existed. I knew that people knew about it, but they weren't talking.

Yet the sheriff told the reporter that his office participated in a "longstanding" countywide task force.

Christmas Wish List

Each year for the past several years I have sent my Christmas Wish List to my daughter and siblings.

My List?

Rather than spending money and shipping costs to send a gift to me, I have asked them to make a donation to their favorite charity and to help someone who is in real need to have a little happier time during the holidays.

Soon it will be bell-ringing season for the Salvation Army. I consider the Army worthy of all donations, large and small. As you pass the bell-ringers this year, put some money in. Put some in each time you pass a bell-ringer, even if it is only $5 or $1 or some change. Every little bit counts.

And it also helps to make your contribution now and not wait until the last minute.
Hello? Hear that bell a-ringing? No standing in line at the bell. No taking off your mittens on a freezing cold day. No saying, "I'll give on the way out (and then ducking out the other door)."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Guilty plea in Joey T's fire


NOVEMBER 20, 2009



Louis A. Bianchi, McHenry County State’s Attorney is pleased to announce that Kasimer Sowa pled guilty today to the Class 2 offense of Arson and was sentenced to four and one-half years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Pursuant to a negotiated plea, prosecutors dismissed the remaining charges of theft and burglary. Sowa was charged with setting fire to Joey T’s restaurant which was located on Riverside Drive in McHenry. As a result of the fire, the restaurant closed and the Eighty-year old building was demolished. The McHenry Police Department, with the assistance of the Illinois State Fire Marshall’s Office and the McHenry Fire Department, investigated the fire. Assistant State’s Attorney, Phil Hiscock, of the recently formed Arson Prosecutions Unit, prosecuted the matter.

Seatbelt checks - important or irritant?

Do seatbelt checks along a state highway in town help lower fatalities, or are they just a major pain in the rear and irritant to drivers?

This morning Woodstock PD had three police cars and five officers assigned to a seatbelt detail on Route 47, north of McConnell Road.

The stated purpose of this "initiative" is driver education.

Wouldn't an electronic sign on the roadway shoulder reading, "Fasten your seatbelt NOW" have much the same driver educational value? And it would be a whole lot cheaper for the police department and for the drivers.

How much is a seatbelt ticket these days? $50? $75?
What do you think? Should seatbelt violations be a Primary Enforcement law?

Traffic light malfunctions, state roads

It used to be that IDOT would accept requests for traffic light maintenance on state-maintained roads from citizens. Now? Now you must call your local law enforcement agency and hope they will send an officer out to watch the light and confirm the malfunction, and that he will then report it and request repair.

What a waste, just because somebody at IDOT decided he can't trust citizens to report problems!

So, when you notice a malfunction like the traffic light on IL 47 (Seminary) at Russel Court that shows a very long red for Seminary Avenue traffic when there is NO traffic on Russel Court (e.g., Thursday, 6:19PM), then notify the Woodstock Police Department.

Their procedure is to dispatch an officer to observe the malfunction. Then he will either report it to his supervisor (probably) or report it directly (hopefully) to IDOT's Central Communications hotline.

Or maybe he won't consider it a malfunction and won't report it at all. It's probably a "smart" light there, meaning that traffic on Russel Court is supposed to trigger the light to change and give Russel Court traffic a chance to turn left. These "smart" lights have a built-in activator, though, in case the roadway sensor is not working; that activator will cause the light to change, whether or not a car is waiting at a red light.

Would a "smarter" light be a flashing yellow on Seminary and a flashing red on Russel Court, when the government center is closed?

Jackpot! FBI letterhead, too!

The spammers and the phishers are getting braver and braver, or dumber and dumber.

"Official Mail" showed up in my inbox this morning from the FBI. That's right; the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Nice to know that they are emailing me that I have won US$800,000.00. And all I have to do is fork over $300.00. Yippee!

Now where is that penny jar? I should have enough pennies. I've been saving up for this day!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A modest increase

I don't get much mail, and I like every letter that comes my way, especially the ones with the juicy tidbits for me to chase, investigate and write about. So keep 'em coming.

And then there are the letters like the one today from the Northwest Herald. I had sort of hoped they were writing to invite me to participate in the upcoming elections voter guides, as did the Chicago Tribune and The Woodstock Independent.

Or maybe writing to explain why the Monday paper has gotten so skinny. Or why the Jewel-Osco ads are no longer delivered to me.

But, no. It was just a letter to let me know that my privilege of a paper delivered to me every day is going to cost me more. The reasons were there - rising costs of printing and distribution. I hope the paperboy gets a share; somehow, I'm afraid he may not. Anyway, paperboys are a thing of the past. Paper-man must be today's word.

But, back to the reason for the letter. The monthly rate on the EZ Pay auto-debit plan is going up. I was delighted to read that there will be only a "very modest" rate increase.

Very modest? The monthly rate of $11.27 will increase to $13.39. That's modest? It's an 18.8% increase!

They must use a different dictionary than I do!

It's probably still a good deal, because I do get the paper on time, at my door, almost never late or missing. And the women in the customer service department are friendly and do answer the phones quickly, if I call for a missing paper or vacation hold. And I pretty much break even by clipping the coupons that come with the Sunday edition.

But I'd rather they hadn't termed an 18.8% increase as "very modest". Egads! What would a small or moderate increase have been???

TWI calls sale "essential"

"Sale of chamber building essential"

That's the headline of the editorial on Page 4 of this week's The Woodstock Independent.

The weekly editorial is the consensus of the editorial staff of the paper. That's why it's not signed.

Do I agree? What do you think?

No. Definitely not. Absolutely not. ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Now is the time to string up the members of past Boards of Directors for being so derelict in their duty that they permitted the Chamber's finances to head so far south into Disaster Land. Instead of paying off a large percentage of the chamber's headquarters over the past 20 years, they borrowed six times and added $100,000 to the mortgage to fund operations.

Did it not occur to them to solve the operational problem instead of borrowing time after time? Apparently not. It wasn't "their" money; it was someone else's money, so just borrow...

In a small town, people want to be nice. They want to "talk nice." They want to smile at their buddies, particularly the ones they see at the country club or the golf club or the service clubs' weekly breakfasts and lunches.

No one wants to point a finger and shout, "You rat. How could you be so blind?"

I know that the Board struggled over the past 4-5 years with the finances. Everyone kept his mouth shut (or almost), but they knew how bad it was. Did they communicate to members?

Why do I think not? I certainly didn't hear anything about the terrible shape of finances during the year I was a member. And I knew another member couldn't get financial statements of the Chamber and so could not learn how bad the finances were.

What should be done now?

The first thing would be to survey the members and the business community and ask, should a business community the size of Woodstock have a chamber of commerce?

The answer should be "Yes" but might not be, because many answers might be "Yes, if..." or "Yes, but..."

Why can Crystal Lake, McHenry and Huntley have great chambers of commerce, but Woodstock cannot?

The answer is easy and short. "Commitment."

Can the remaining few members on the Board rescue the Chamber?

Sir Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up."

Has the Woodstock business community given up?

The Woodstock Tax Man Cometh

Here's the news that you all have been awaiting! Will your taxes go up in Woodstock?

That black-bordered notice of doom appears this week in The Woodstock Independent. You know the one. "Notice of Proposed Property Tax Increase". That one.

If you want to get your two-cents' worth in, you'll want to keep Monday night, December 1st, free. "Free" is probably not the right word to use, but you know what I mean.

The standard, passion-less, annual, fill-in-the-blank, boiler-plate announcement can be read on Page 14 of the November 18, 2009, Independent. The public hearing will be December 1st at 7:00PM in City Council Chambers.

Read how innocuous and bland the second paragraph is... "Any person desiring to appear at the public hearing and present testimony to the taxing district may contact Finance Director, (sic) Roscoe Stelford between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., weekdays at 815/338-4300."

If I were writing notices for the City, I'd invite "Any person wishing to raise hell about a property tax increase during a depression and vent his anger at the City Council for even considering such a move should notify Finance Director Roscoe Stelford that he'll show up and tell it like it is."

The City is proposing to increase the amount of corporate and special purpose property taxes to be extended or abated by 10.8%.

What does "extend or abate" really mean? Does this mean it goes on the books as property taxes unpaid that will be collected in the future? Or does "abate" mean forgiven? If it is to be collected in the future, when will that magical future date be? And what will the economy be at that time?

Isn't this a time to freeze tax levels or even lower them?

The problem with that is the City has all of its expenses locked in and its employees want raises. Well, so do the rest of the folks. And they aren't getting raises. Some of them aren't even getting to keep their jobs!

Will anyone show up on Monday, December 1? I'll bet there won't be five residents there to complain!

McLeft coming off the menu

The week's The Woodstock Independent reports McDonald's plan to improve its Woodstock restaurant and to close the exit from the restaurant onto Route 47 right at the traffic light at South St./Country Club Rd.

That exit has been a danger for years, and McDonald's, IDOT and the City's Public Works Department have not been willing to put their noggins together for a solution. Actually, I think that McDonald's would have, but the City wouldn't get behind the effort.

Some drivers, who are too busy and rushed in their lives to park and walk into the restaurant, will wait minutes longer in the drive-thru line (using up gas and polluting the air), and then roll up to the corner, look both ways (maybe), and then turn left out of McDonald's!

To do that they must cross three lanes of southbound traffic. And, often, they have a huge blind spot in the form of a stopped truck or car in the southbound left-turn lane, and they cannot see northbound traffic; so they stop and impede southbound traffic while waiting for a gap in northbound traffic. Or they pull into the southbound left-turn lane and stop, meeting left-turn traffic head-on until they can move over.

Other drivers pull out of McDonald's, make a wide right and try to enter the southbound left-turn lane, so that they can go east on Country Club Road.

In 13 years I have never seen a driver stopped for either maneuver. Pleas to the Woodstock Police Department have not resulted in any enforcement that I know of.

McDonald's could have installed No Left Turn signs at the exit to discourage those turns, even if they had no legal effect, but they wouldn't. Perhaps their lawyers warned them off that idea, because a driver getting into a crash would then go for McDonald's deep pockets and claim Mickey Dee was at fault for not having a bigger sign!

The new McDonald's building and driveway configuration for double drive-thru lanes will solve this problem, because the exit will be closed. Hopefully, the new driveway design will alter the entrance on Route 47, so that northbound traffic cannot turn left into McDonald's. I've lost track of the number of times I have been in the southbound left-turn lane on Route 47 and have had to stop for a vehicle facing me head-on, waiting to turn left into McDonald's.

The Woodstock Zoning Board of Appeals has already approved parking setback variations, according to the TWI article this week. I'm not a frequent customer of McDonald's, but I don't recall seeing any Hearing Notices. Were they there?

McDonald's claims that 70% of its customers use the drive-thru, instead of eating in. The article was unclear whether that is a national, regional or Woodstock figure.

The current building will be closed and demolished, and redevelopment on that corner may take 3-4 months. Better get your fry fix before March.

Save another date - March 27

There is a new organization in McHenry County, set up to serve family members of persons who are incarcerated. Participants include employees from Family Services, FamiliesETC, AmeriCorps, Family CARE and others. The group is called KIF (Kids with Incarcerated Family Members) Support Group.

KIF organizers would like you to know about a Restorative Justice Event being planned for March 27, 2010, by the Joliet Diocese Peace and Social Justice Ministry and the Restorative Justice Committee.

The subject for the event will be CHILDREN: How They Are Affected by the Criminal Justice System.

Initial details are
Date: Saturday, March 27, 2010
Registration: 9:00AM
Program: 9:30AM until 2:30PM
Lunch included

Location: Sacred Heart Parish Hall, 337 S. Ottawa St., Joliet, IL 60436

The program will feature a panel of speakers, break-out sessions, and will include lunch. Suggested donation is $15 for adults. $10 for students. All teachers, catechists, youth ministers, those working with prisoners, advocates for restorative justice, family members of people incarcerated, persons formerly incarcerated, and those interested in learning more, are invited.

RSVP deadline: March 18, 2010

by phone: 815-834-4028
by e-mail:
by mail: Peace & Social Justice Ministry, Diocese of Joliet, 402 S. Independence Blvd., Romeoville, IL 60446-2264

Save the date - Jan. 30

Just a heads-up about the People in Need Forum, planned for Saturday, January 30, 2010, from 8:00AM-12:30PM at MCC.

To learn more about the People in Need Forum, monitor

Watch for more information in January.

Catch a greyhound (not the bus)

Dairyland Greyhound Racetrack in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will be closing on December 31, 2009.

About 500-600 greyhounds will need to be adopted; otherwise, they will be euthanized. Now is a great time to consider adopting a greyhound.
They are very loving and laid back. They don't need the space people think they need. They are great for an active family because they have been crated almost all their lives and they sleep about 18 out of the 24 hours a day. They are just looking for someone to love them and supply them with a warm bed!!!!
They test the dogs to see if they are cat friendly and or small dog friendly. They also know if a dog should be a single dog or if they would be great in a 2, 3, or 4 dog house!!!
Please help get the word out; there are only 6 weeks to get this task done!!
For information about adopting a greyhound, call (262) 612-8256

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Deputy Seipler - back to work?

I think it was about a month ago that an arbitrator ruled that Zane Seipler should not have been fired by Sheriff Keith Nygren and that, instead, three days off without pay would have been the appropriate discipline.

There is considerable difference between getting canned and being told to stay home for three days! The arbitrator ruled that Zane should get his job back and receive all his back pay.

That's over a year's back pay, and now plus a month's more pay.

Is Zane back on duty yet? Is he now working for his pay? Are the County residents (taxpayers) now getting value for the compensation owed to Zane?

When I was looking around for a full-time cop job in Colorado, a year's pay was only $23,000. I think it's a little more now.

I had applied to the Littleton (Colo.) P.D., and I took the written test. I was #3 on the written test, and they refused to process me further. Their reason (excuse)? I earned too much as a life insurance salesman, and they didn't think I'd be happy on a cop's pay.

I should have sued them, but I figured that if I won, they'd have me washing police cars instead of driving them!

Cops racing? Two dead

Speculation in the New York Post is that two Milford, Conn. police cars were racing on June 13, when one of them hit a car turning left in front of it, killing the two 19-year-olds in that car.

The police car involved in the crash was traveling at 94MPH, according to an article in the New Haven Register. The speed limit on the four-lane divided roadway in front of a Target store was 40MPH, according to the same newspaper.

The in-car videocamera in a second police car, Car 22, was operating, and it showed a police car passing it on the right and accelerating away from it.

See the New York Post article and the in-car video, which was obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request. Watch the video; it's chilling.
The Milford police chief said, "State law requires police officers traveling without lights and sirens, and not dispatched on a call, to obey prevailing speed limits."

We have the virtually the same law in Illinois, although it is regularly disobeyed by officers of most, if not all, jurisdictions.

See this article in the Connecticut Post:

The display on the video shows Car 22 accelerating from 51MPH to 72MPH. Both police cars were returning from a call and were enroute to headquarters.

Does this ever happen around here? Have you ever seen two police cars engaged in a speed contest (racing)? Or operating at what appears to be excessive speed for the conditions present?

Sheriff's race on the move

Yes, Virginia, there really will be a race for Sheriff in McHenry County!

Democratic candidate Mike Mahon has his website up and running. You can view it at

Friends of Mike Mahon will hold two fundraisers this week. The first will be in Huntley tomorrow, Thursday, November 19, and the other will be in Chicago on Tuesday, November 24.

For information regarding those events or to support Mike Mahon for Sheriff, visit, e-mail or call Mike's campaign phone number: 847.515.4772

Republican candidate for McHenry County Sheriff Zane Seipler is busy, too. For information about Zane and his campaign, visit, e-mail Zane at or call him at 847.561.1180

Green Party candidate for Sheriff is Gus Philpott (yours truly). My starter website is at You can e-mail me at or call me at 815.338.2666

The important race in the February 2nd Primary Election is the Republican challenge by Zane Seipler to the incumbent Republican sheriff.

If voters elect me on November 2, 2010, I can assure you that you will not have to chase me down by cell phone in Wisconsin or Florida. I promise not to charge taxpayers for vacation mileage in my Beetle, even though I still get 30MPG after 175,000 miles. I won't even charge ANY mileage, and I certainly won't expect you to provide a big SUV for me to drive around.

And, if I go to the airport for a vacation trip, I'll take a cab or hire a limo service at my own expense. I shall not ask a Department employee to drive me to the airport or allow one to do so. Any staffer needs to be at his place of business in McHenry County, not playing taxi driver to O'Hare. If we have business to discuss while I'm on the way to the airport, we can do it by phone.
But we won't have any business to discuss then, because I'll be on vacation. And, while I'm on vacation, I'll have competent staffers in place to run the Department in my absence. I will not be your "Cell Phone Sheriff."

What if you enter another country illegally?

Got this one by e-mail today. It caused me to think of the hikers who got off the trail recently in (where was it?).

"Let me see if I understand all this....









"I guess I still don't understand...maybe we need to VOTE OUR LAWMAKERS OUT."

Even if it is partially inaccurate, the U.S. handling of illegal aliens is abominable.

Customer wins - churners lose

Check out this morning's article in the Daily Herald about the 90-year-old Inverness (Ill.) woman who won $1.1 million in her legal action against two brokers and a Chicago stock brokerage firm involved in churning her account.

Her lawyer discovered that a Yahoo! account had been set up, to which stock transactions and account records could be emailed. The customer had not set up the email address! Through that account the brokerage firm could meet the requirement to send out confirmation notices. The problem? The customer never received them!

You can read the story here:

I was a stockbroker in 1981 in Denver when the penny stock market was hot. Do you know why it was called the Penny Stock market? It's where you could turn dollars into pennies!

It took me a while to figure out the market, and I got out. Customers would call and tell me that they wanted to invest. I wasn't too popular in the office, because I would caution customers that they weren't "investing"; they were speculating. Often I would discourage customers from buying stocks.

Managers would make statements like "The market is firming up", and I would ask if we were making Jello or something.

I remember asking one day if penny stocks could be sold short. It felt like the temperature in the room dropped about 30 degrees.

Good for Josephine DesParte, 90, of Inverness and her lawyer, Andrew Stoltmann, of Barrington Hills! According to the Daily Herald article, an arbitration panel awarded DesParte "her stock losses of $655,146, all capital gains taxes paid by the liquidation of long-held stocks of $380,000, and the return of $82,719 in fees that the brokers had charged."

FOUND: Husky pup

If you live on the north side of Woodstock near Clay and Bagley Streets and lost a Husky pup yesterday, call the Woodstock Police Dept. or the McHenry County Animal Control. Your dog was found last evening and taken in for the night.

Or email me at or call me at 815.338.2666

The dog is currently confined in a neighbor's backyard. They recognized the husky's habit to roam and didn't want it to get hit by a car. So call right away, and I'll connect you with the family who rescued your dog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"YOU LIE, driver of 39 759H!"

Remember last week's summary of a traffic incident on McHenry Avenue and Raffel Road? And the driver of a blue Toyota pick-up with Illinois license 39 759H?

I requested Woodstock Police Department to contact the driver, since he had reported, anonymously, to WPD that I was speeding north on Raffel Road.

Just had a visit from Ofc. L. Vasquez to fill me in on his contact with that driver. Get this!

According to Ofc. Vasquez, that driver told him that I had been tailgating him eastbound on McHenry Avenue from Irving and that I had passed him in the no-passing zone at Broadway. Then at Raffel Road that I made a left turn first and started north on Raffel Road. He said that he was behind me and pulled over to write down my license plate number, after which he followed me north on Raffel Road and then turned right on Banford.

Somebody has got to know who that clown is and who he works for. That guy has a serious problem with lying to police officers. I still wonder how he is connected.

This makes two times that I should have had my camera out and ready on the seat of the car. I'd make a lousy Boy Scout; right? Never prepared. Wouldn't it be nice to have a video of a driver passing me in a no-passing zone? Guess there wouldn't be any question about who passed whom!

I was glad to know that Woodstock P.D. has identified that other driver and that his name will appear in WPD records, even if he did lie and provide false information directly to a police officer. One of these days I'll probably come across somebody that that guy bragged to before Ofc. Vasquez showed up and who will testify that that driver had told a different story until the cop showed up.

And then he'll get charged with two incidents of lying to police: 1) when he phoned in an false report last Thursday and 2) when he lied directly to Ofc. Vasquez today.

The way it's done in Iowa

Check out how business is done in Iowa.

City cop follows driver at unsafe distance with bright lights on.
Driver speeds up a little.
Cop stops driver, issues tickets, cites driver for OWI (Operating While Intoxicated).
Driver refuses breathalyzer, because he's not drunk.
DMV revokes driver's license for refusal to take breathalyzer.
Driver can't afford attorney and gets court-appointed attorney. Attorney doesn't show up in court and forges driver's signature. Driver gets second court-appointed attorney.
Attorney #2 tells him to plead guilty. Driver gets third court-appointed attorney.
Attorney #3 tells him to plead guilty.
Driver is able to borrow $5,000 and gets private attorney.
Jury trial is conducted. Driver is found NOT Guilty on all charges.

I have written about this, but here's what's new.

The driver cannot get his driver's license back until October 2011, says the DMV, because the alleged DUI was his second and he refused the breathalyzer. It's an administrative action by the DMV, not a legal action in court. So says the DMV.

And the Not Guilty verdict? "Doesn't matter," says the DMV.

Well, the DMV is dead wrong. When you are not guilty, you are Not guilty. The cop's charge didn't stand, and all go back to Square 1. Like, when the driver had his license.

In this case I am helping the driver, who will get his license back. The revocation needs to be lifted, and without payment of any fees or costs, since he was found Not Guilty. And, as I always tell those I help, I am not a lawyer. Anything I say or tell you to do is not legal advice. I'm just your advocate.

How long will it take the Iowa DMV to get this picture right and return this driver's license?

It turns out that this practice by local police in Bettendorf, Iowa, may not be uncommon. So, be warned if you are driving at night in Bettendorf. Do not get "pushed" to speed up by a car behind you with its bright lights on.

Woodstock's website needs CPR

I've commented on our City's website before, and I'll sling another arrow today, after reading dated information about the Transportation Committee that is almost a month out-of-date. Our website is stagnant and boring.

Surely, there are resources, even volunteer opportunities, to put some LIFE in our website. When information on websites grows stale, readers stop visiting them. And even when they do, if nothing causes an item to leap out, a visitor will move right along and click away to something more interesting. Attention spans are short.

The City's website could use more photos and fresh photos. City employees could be featured, such as on the Police Department webpages. Officers' photos and short bios could be published. Geographic outlines for beat assignments could be shown. The City could recognize career employees and compliment (or commiserate with) those who have been employed by the City of Woodstock for 20-25-30 years.

Check out the photos of the Divisions on the PD's webpage, in particular the poster on the wall behind the officer speaking to students in a classroom. It reads, "WHOO'S (sic) DOING GOOD WORK?" This was (hopefully) on the wall when the officer arrived; then only the school and the teacher should be embarrassed. Even so, once the background was checked, should the photo have been used without explanation of the misspelled word?

I'll bet there is plenty of brainpower right on the PD staff to liven up the webpages, like maybe with a video of Brinx or of one of the motorcycle officers. The K-9 unit isn't even shown on the Patrol Division webpage. Does Woodstock still have the dog? Show the dog snuggling with kids and then attacking in a training set-up.

Several years ago I suggested (several times) that the patrol "beats" be shown on the City's police web pages. Make it easy for residents to ascertain the "beat" in which their home or office is located.

Beat assignments and officers' names and email addresses could also be shown online, making it very easy for residents to communicate about crime problems. What would be so hard about that? Has it happened? If so, I can't find the pages. If the public wishes to email all the officers of a particular beat, notice of the "group" email address could be published.

For your information, the Permanent Beat Officer "group" email address is ""; ex., will get your email to all three beat officers for Beat 21 and their supervisors.

I remember a billboard in Albuquerque with the flashing lights of a police car behind a violation and the message, "Don't let there be bright lights in your future." No reason we couldn't have something clever like that around here, at least on our website.

Take a look at the Community Calendar at the bottom of the homepage. "Letters to Santa?" From November 16 on? Was it there earlier? Can't tell, because the City wipes out events on all days past. What is the "community" value of that?

If you have an opinion or suggestion for improvements in the City's website, post your comment here and also email it to