Friday, August 31, 2007

Barking Dogs - Grrrrrrr

How much is enough, when a neighbor leaves his dogs at home, windows open, and takes off for the evening?

I have a neighbor who leaves his two dogs in his first-floor apartment. The dogs run from window to window, barking at everything - and at nothing. For hours! The apartment is dark; the windows are open.

What part of being a good neighbor is missing from this picture? If you own dogs and leave them alone, wouldn't you reasonably expect that they would bark? Don't other tenants in the house that was converted to apartments object to the constant barking?

The dogs bark for HOURS. It's not just a little yip here and there.

How do you get the dogs quieted down? While I'd like to think that a neighborly visit would solve the problem, talking to someone about his dogs is worse than complaining about a person's kids. If a kind visit solved the problem, that would be terrific. However, it can escalate and also lead to retaliation, and I am definitely not interested in having to defend my health, life and property against an upset dog owner.

So I guess the best solution is to ask the cops to pay a visit and explain that the dog is creating a nuisance. The police don't enforce dog laws; that's up to the County Animal Control office, even within towns and cities. I think they will make one visit. After that, the offended party must sign a complaint and go to court.

This is really a stupid law. If the dogs are barking and you call the cops, and the cop comes and hears the dogs barking, then he should be able to write the ticket and prosecute it without a citizen's involvement.

Satellite Dish on the Square

Are satellite dishes permitted on the roofs of buildings in the historic Woodstock Square?

This afternoon – late, after City offices had closed for the long week-end - I was surprised to see a satellite dish being installed on the leading edge of a roof on Main Street. It was being installed over the State Farm office at 218 Main Street. There are apartments over the business office.

The dish could have been installed somewhere, anywhere, on the roof where it would not be visible from the sidewalk and street. You know, like 3-5-10 feet back from the edge.

Is there a prohibition in the City ordinances against satellite dishes in the Historic District? If there is, I urge swift action against the property owner. Swift, as in immediate removal. No kidding around.

It’s too bad that City offices are now closed for three days. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that the dish was being installed late on a Friday afternoon preceding a three-day week-end. How convenient that the installers just happened to be available for this job! It certainly saved them from getting stuck in rush-hour traffic and getting a head-start on a busy week-end of (whatever you do on a Friday night of a three-day week-end).

If you know someone on the Historic Woodstock Preservation Committee, how about forwarding this to him or her.

Saturday, 9/1/07 4:00PM
The work on the roof over the State Farm office may be roofing work and not the installation of the satellite dish. Who knows whether the dish was previously installed?

Dashboard Dining – Careless Driving?

This morning I was driving on Algonquin Road and noticed a woman driving in the lane next to mine. When I looked over the first time, while our vehicles were moving at 40-45MPH, she was holding a styrofoam platter (McDonald’s type) with her left hand and a fork in her right hand. Pieces of pancakes were falling from the fork toward her lap.

I’m thinking, “Who is driving the car?” The problem, of course, was what if she needs to steer the car while her hands are full with the platter and fork? Is this careless driving? Is it reckless driving? Probably not “reckless”, but certainly careless.

I was ready to take evasive action if necessary. At least she wasn’t holding a large cup of super-hot coffee from Mickey D’s.

I slowed down to get her license plate (LV PATT 3), hoping we’d come upon a local cop. Luck was with her; we didn’t. She either finished her breakfast and put it down until she either arrived at her destination or was out-of-sight.

Are people really in such a hurry that they must eat while driving to work? This ranks right up there with men who shave, women who apply make-up, drivers who text-message and use handheld cell phones, read newspapers and books while driving. Think I’m kidding?

Several years ago (now that I think of it, it was June 1999, because I know where I was just before it happened), a police officer in a squad car passed me on Route 72 while I driving to my j-o-b at the Sears headquarters in Hoffman Estates. I had seen him coming up behind me in the passing lane. As he went by, he lifted the newspaper from the steering wheel, folded it to the next page, snapped it flat, and placed it back on top of the steering wheel and continued reading. You’d better believe I was on the phone with his chief about five minutes later!

Wayne vs. Viking Dodge - He's Back

After a short absence a familiar sight has returned to the corner of IL 176 and US 14 in Crystal Lake. Wayne is back! Remember Wayne, of previous musings about the Wayne vs. Viking Dodge battle.

For months Wayne has been parking on the shoulder of US 14, catty-corner from Viking Dodge. For a long time he had a large sign on the left side of his vehicle, expressing his disappointment with Viking Dodge and directing passersby to

A couple of weeks ago Viking Dodge parked three trucks in “Wayne’s” spot. Two of them had large advertising signs in the beds of the trucks. This raised the ante and got my attention, and I complained to the Crystal Lake Police Department and to the Community Development Department. The police and the CommDev employee contacted Viking Dodge and the trucks were moved, as were two illegal advertising signs in the right-of-way in front of Viking Dodge.

When I drove by this afternoon, Wayne was back in action. Now he has a handheld sign, rather than the sign on the side of his vehicle. I didn’t stop because I was on the way to an appointment, and an hour later I went back to speak with him.

When I arrived, three Viking Dodge pick-up trucks had him surrounded. One was parked behind him; a second was parked facing the wrong way and in front of him; a third was parked on the street side of Wayne’s vehicle and was partially in the roadway. A fifth vehicle was there, too – a Crystal Lake police car!

I parked (legally) a short distance away and walked back to talk with Wayne. I told him that it appeared to me that Viking Dodge was harassing him by parking their trucks so close to him. The truck behind me was only about 24-30” from his vehicle’s rear bumper, and the truck in front of his vehicle was about 18-24” away.

When I saw that neither Viking Dodge truck had a license plate, I suggested to the officer that he ought to cite each truck. He explained that they needed a plate to be driven from the sales lot to the place where they were parked. I told him that I thought the state law required a plate on a vehicle whenever it was on the highway and the shoulder was part of the highway. The officer deferred to his sergeant and contacted him. Within minutes Viking Dodge employees walked two dealer plates across the street and attached them to their trucks.

I also mentioned to Wayne that the one Viking Dodge truck was parked illegally on the shoulder facing oncoming traffic and that the driver had to violate state law by driving on the wrong side of the road to park facing his vehicle. I should have mentioned this to the officer, but I didn’t.

As Wayne and I talked, I looked across the street and saw an advertising sign in front of Viking Dodge that was placed in the right-of-way. . He said he returned, because Viking Dodge had begun displaying advertising signs up close to the roadway on 176.

I called the Crystal Lake Code Enforcement officer and he told me that Viking Dodge had secured a permit from the City for that sign. I told him that I didn’t think Crystal Lake could authorize a business to advertise in the right-of-way in violation of state law, and he called Viking Dodge. Within a minute or two, two Viking Dodge employees walked out to the sign and moved it back, but only a little. I called the Code Enforcement officer back, and he said the permit allows the sign on “private property.”

On Tuesday I’ll call an engineer with IDOT, because my understanding is that, while the grass in front of a business might be “private property”, it is subject to the easement and right-of-way, and I believe State law prohibits advertising in the right-of-way. I’ll find out from the engineer how many feet of right-of-way exists on the north side of IL 176, east of US 14, in front of Viking Dodge.

Is there “New Management. New Attitude” at Viking Dodge? So far as I know, there has been no change in ownership, and ownership determines what the practices of a business will be.

Valuable car-buying information can be found at and And you might want to visit and read Wayne’s comments and the writings of others. Once you get there, just type Viking Dodge in the search field.

I sold new cars for two months in 1986, and it is an experience I would not want to repeat. The attitude at that particular new car dealership in Denver, Colorado, was that anyone – everyone – who came into the store actually came in to buy a car that day! Even if the person was driving an old, broken-down pick-up, had a flat tire in front of the dealership, and came in only to use the phone.

We were to consider that he really came in to buy a new car and we were to make every effort to sell him one. I refused to play that game, which is one of the reasons I lasted only two months. It could have been a great job, had I been allowed to serve the customer.

Remember – you get only a little experience buying a car. A car salesman gets experience every day selling cars. Who do you think is going to be better at what he does? The buyer with 1-2 hours’ experience every 3-4 years? Or the salesman with hours of experience every week?

Do your homework. Understand the process, the tactics, the pressure, the gimmicks, the financing – everything – before you set foot in any dealership. You are the buyer. Make sure you are dealt with respectfully and honestly. If you are not, walk out. There is no reason to get pressured into making a $20,000 or a $30,000 or a $40,000 purchase immediately. There will ALWAYS be another vehicle exactly like the one at which you are looking.

Have questions about buying a car? Ask me.
Like to share your experience – good or bad – at any dealership? Let’s hear about it.

Flooding Report - Today?

The flooding report by the engineering firm contracted by the City of Woodstock is due to be published on the City's website today. Go to and read it. Let's hope it is really posted today, so that residents can study it over the week-end and be prepared to ask in-depth questions at Tuesday's City Council meeting. You may want to arrive early on Tuesday, September 4, for the 7:00PM City Council meeting.

Has any resident been contacted by the City or its engineering firm? Did YOU receive a questionnaire from the engineering firm or the City? Did they work only with information that they had immediately after the flooding?

You can read it all (don't we all hope so???) in the report.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Recently Moved? Register to Vote!

Did you move recently? Have you re-registered to vote?

If not, now is the time to do this. If you are in McHenry County, call (815) 334-4242 for details. You can change your address online with the Illinois Motor Vehicle Department at for your driver's license, vehicle registration addresses and Photo ID card. If you do it online, why not print and scotch-tape your new address onto your driver's license? You can request Motor Voter forms via the online form, but you'll still need to complete the Voter address change locally.

Be sure to do this in time to vote in the upcoming elections! Every vote counts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shift Change at the P.D.

At this morning’s accident on Route 47 at McConnell Road, one driver commented on the long response time of the Woodstock Police Department. He said it was probably shift change.

And it probably was. I believe that Woodstock Police change shifts at 8:00AM, 4:00PM and 12:00 Midnight. This causes me to wonder if, in a small town, having shifts change for all officers at the same time is an archaic procedure that needs to be adjusted. If all the officers finishing their shifts were at the police station and if all the day officers were in roll call to find out what had happened on the last shift, then all officers are off the street three times a day. For how long?

We know that police officers are very lucky if they work only 40 hours/week. They don’t get to return to the station 30 minutes before the end of shift, so that they can gas up the car, check the oil and tires, do a thorough vehicle inspection so that they won’t be accused of not reporting damage, finish their paperwork and leave right on time.

What plans exist to dispatch an officer without delay, if he is needed, and have him on his way within a minute? The officer going to his patrol vehicle at the beginning of a shift should expect it to be in running condition, all lights working, siren working, radios working, everything right where it should be. Well, maybe this happens at Utopia P.D. It certainly doesn’t happen at very many police departments, anywhere.

Having all cars off the streets at 8:00AM on weekdays? Definitely a plan in need of adjustment. They need to be out on the streets when school children are on the way to school and commuters are speeding and running those red lights.

eBay Store Closes

Do you have any merchandise at the “I’ll Sell It on eBay” store at 805 Lake Avenue?

If you do, you’d better hot-foot it over there and collect it by this Friday, August 31, 2:00PM.

The store has closed, and a sign on the door advises customers to pick up all merchandise by August 31, 2:00PM, or else. The “or else” is that YOUR merchandise will be donated to charity.

Perhaps that condition was stated in the consignment clause of the business and you knew about it when you consigned your merchandise there for sale on eBay. This seems a terrible business practice to me. Presumably the business has made a bonafide attempt to contact every seller. I have no reason to think that it has not.

Still, donating YOUR merchandise to charity is not the right solution for a business that could not sustain itself and went out of business. Merchandise MUST be returned to the seller.

If you have merchandise at this store, pick it up. And let your friends know, if they have merchandise there. Contact the owner, whose name and email address are on the door: Patrick Slocum at

Why not to Tailgate?

Several drivers had “learning experiences” this morning on Route 47 at McConnell Road, when a white tractor-trailer hit a car and pushed it into the car in front of it, which got pushed into the car in front of it!

The truck, which was southbound on Route 47, rear-ended a black Acura Integra hard, and I do mean “hard”. The back end was solidly crunched, and the heavy steel bumper on the truck was bent backwards with the right edge against the right tire of the cab. The Acura was hit so hard that the rear window was broken and a speaker flipped out of the car and was hanging by its cord down the right side of the car. The Acura was pushed into a grey two-door Chrysler, causing major damage to the front of the Acura.

The rear bumper was the Chrysler was punched in, and it was pushed forward into a red car – the newest of the cars damaged. There didn’t appear to be visible damage to the red car, and the driver of the Chrysler commented on only slight front damage to his car.

But – get this! The driver of the Chrysler said that his wife and he have been rear-ended THREE times on Route 47 at McConnell Road in the past five years! He commented that it’s pretty stupid planning on the part of IDOT to give a green light southbound on Route 47 that comes up on a red light at Lake Avenue, and he thought the lights ought to be synchronized.

Hello, IDOT? Anyone home?

It seemed to take the Woodstock police a long time to get to the scene. After standing by for at least five minutes and watching the other drivers on their cell phones, I called the police to ask if they knew about the accident. The dispatcher said they did. It was approximately another five minutes before Woodstock’s unmarked car arrived from the south.

Luckily, there didn’t appear to be any injuries this morning. The driver in the Acura is the one most likely to feel the impact of being struck by the truck. His seatback was broken, and the normal injury is whiplash. The sooner he gets treatment, the less likely is the possible of long-term pain. There are good chiropractors in Woodstock who know how to treat whiplash.

How can you avoid this type of accident? For starters, don’t stop right on the bumper of the car in front. Watch the brake lights of traffic ahead. If it begins slowing, anticipate the need to stop and slow down. Stop a car length back from the car in front.

If the driver behind you is crowding you, slow down even sooner, which will give you time to roll forward a little, if the tailgater behind you needs more room to stop. Who knows what the truck driver was thinking this morning? Was he on his phone? Text-messaging his terminal? Was there a GPS or laptop mounted where he could see the screen?

Watch your mirrors… and Good Luck.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Angelo’s Praise --- a little too soon

Looks like I was a little too quick with praise and thanks to Angelo’s for cleaning up the mess of trash on the Dean Street sidewalk alongside the restaurant. This afternoon (4:30PM) there were bags and boxes of trash discarded on the sidewalk and not a trash container with a lid in sight.

Is the City toothless in this matter? All bark and no bite? A favorite line in an old movie is, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Well, come on, Woodstock. Angelo’s is on the Square, remember? The famous, historic Woodstock Square. The place we’d like hundreds of tourists to drop lots of their cash and keep the merchants in business.

It’s summertime. Even on a Monday in August – in the week before school starts – Woodstock could draw tourists. But, if they come once and walk by that trash, they won’t come back. They’ll tell their friends, all right; they’ll tell them to go to Lake Geneva.

Who wants to park by or walk by smelly trash in bags and boxes alongside a restaurant right across the street from our famous Opera House?

This problem needs to be cleaned up permanently. It’s time for the “talk” to stop and for action to take place. I’m sure the folks at Angelo’s are very nice people. So, what’s up with all the trash in bags and boxes this afternoon, rather than in those nice containers with lids that are used sometimes?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Overnight Street Parking

Why is overnight street parking so vigorously enforced at Mapletree Apartments (subsidized housing; minorities; low-income residents with no strong voice at the City level) and ignored on streets near the Square? The parking ban should be enforced evenly across the City of Woodstock. If and when a resident calls the police department to request permission to park overnight on the street, the dispatcher should inform the caller that he is expected to park his vehicle in the driveway, if there is room in the driveway. If the driveway is out-of-use due to repairs or full because of other vehicles, a dispatcher can grant permission for on-street parking. What happens now? Drivers "call in" and get permission, even though a driveway is empty. When the beat officer passes such a parked vehicle, if the driveway is empty, he should ticket the car. I myself don't like the overnight parking ban; it is an archaic law. It's not like there are high-speed chases every night or snow in August. If the People want on-street parking, enough of them have to show up at the City Council and get the law changed. Until then? Enforce it.

Angelo's Sidewalk Trash Problem - Solved

For 2-3 years I have been ragging on the City of Woodstock to clean up the mess on the Dean St. sidewalk by Angelo's Restaurant, across from the Opera House. The previous ugly situation was stacks of boxes and piles of trash bags on the sidewalk every evening. Looks like it has finally been resolved. There are now lidded trash containers in use, almost two years after the City told me it had struck an agreement with Angelo's that they would be put into use. There is a row of trash containers on the sidewalk next to Angelo's wall, opposite the highly-promoted and expensive-to-attend Opera House. On behalf of other residents and me THANKS to Angelo's for finally addressing the issue and providing the proper trash containers. And thanks to the City for anything it did to help this along.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Minuteman/Peace Group Demonstrations

In Crystal Lake this afternoon two groups met in adjoining corners of McCormick Park along Route 14. Upon arriving at 1:30PM, I parked and was walking into the park behind a canine officer with his dog. As I walked toward the front of the park along Route 14, the dog stopped and squatted. We all know what that means; right?

I was behind the officer and waited while the dog finished. The dog straightened up and the officer and the dog walked away from the fresh feces left on the park grass. As I caught up with the officer, I asked, “Excuse me. You are going to clean up after your dog, aren’t you?”

I was immediately challenged forcefully by a different officer, one standing with two other officers at the center of the park and wearing a white shirt typically associated with command personnel of a police department. He demanded, “What’s your name?”

I said I was addressing the man with the dog and wanted to know if he was going to clean up the feces. The man with the dog was wearing fatigue pants, a blue t-shirt, and I recognized a multi-pouched vest but no visible weapon. Again the command officer challenged me and demanded my name.

I asked if there were anything wrong with asking if he was going to clean up after his dog. The command officer asked if I were with the City; when I said I wasn’t, he told me to move along. When I asked again about the feces left on the grass, he said he’d take care of it and told me to move along. I asked his name and then gave him mine.

There was no reason whatsoever for him to be forceful. I certainly represented no threat to him or to anyone else. Had he been civil, I would have answered differently. First of all, there was no reason for him to interrupt and challenge me, when my question was directed to the man with the dog. He could have let the man answer and then, if necessary, added a comment. \

I am not intimidated by police, and I understand my rights quite well. I can meet any verbal challenge. If I have done nothing illegal, I have nothing to fear and have no fear. And I am not going to be bullied.

The presence of the Crystal Lake Police Department, supported by the Sheriff’s Department and other police agencies, as evidenced by the patrol vehicles parked a block away, was overwhelming and unnecessary. As soon as command personnel saw that there was no danger, they should have pulled back their officers. I didn’t count the number of officers at the time; looking back, I’ll guess that there were 25-30 officers present.

The demonstrations of the Minutemen and other anti-illegal immigration beliefs may have numbered about 40. The Peace Group supporters numbered 50 or so. The many cops were there because they were ordered to be there. It made no sense at all, once it was clear there was no threat of violence. The right decision would have been to pull the officers back from the Park, even back to the Crystal Lake Police Department headquarters or perhaps to a nearby fire station or the parking lot of the lake or of Dole Mansion, but definitely away from McCormick Park.

I’ll bet that, if the officers were polled secretly and without fear of retaliation, they would say that they realized early that they were not needed and would not be needed. Command personnel of the Crystal Lake Police Department were in an overkill mode. There was no need for at least two canine units, the command motorhome which was parked out-of-sight of the Park, or assistance from other departments.

By the way, the feces did get picked up. Why the canine officer did not pick it up before he ever walked away from it in the first place is not known. He certainly wasn’t rushing to provide assistance to anyone. I’ve been wondering if he really would have picked it up, had I not spoken up. Since he had no plastic bag out and did not look back as he walked away from it, one can only guess whether it would have been picked up.

Was anything resolved today? Very few demonstrators moved from one group to the other, either to ask questions or provide opinions. I did learn from a knowledgeable source that there may be approximately 31,000 Hispanic residents in McHenry County and that as many as 40% of them, based on a national average, might be undocumented. This would mean 12,000+ undocumented Hispanics in McHenry County, in addition to undocumented persons of other nationalities.

It is clear that dialogue is needed and that all should make an effort first to understand the problems and then to attempt to resolve them. The Peace Group will hold a meeting at McHenry County College on September 13th. Check its website,, for time and details. The Minutemen are likely to re-schedule today's meeting that was canceled by the Holiday Inn. Find information at The Latino Coalition can be contacted at 815/206-0445.

Were you there? Care to comment?

Post-Spraying Pet Care & Other Issues

Last night, August 24, the City of Woodstock was scheduled to spray the town with an adulticide to control the mosquito population that has been bothering many since the flooding two weeks ago.

The City’s website contained no information about any hazard to people or pets, and this morning the Police Department wasn’t able to advise whether the spraying had been done.

If it was, you may want to empty, wash and refill pet water and food dishes that are outside and also any bird baths. Check with your veterinarian about whether your pet should be washed down, if it rolls in the wet grass this morning. If you have indoor/outdoor dogs and cats, you may want to consider what they drag into the house on their paws, hair and fur before you let them back on furniture or laps or near your children.

How about that porch and yard furniture? Going to scrub it down? And what about those outside dining tables and chairs at Starbuck’s and Square restaurants? Think those were washed down this morning before the first customers arrived?

The website of San Mateo County, Calif., advises “Adulticide materials used (there) pose very little risk to humans or the environment.” And “It is not necessary to wash off outdoor furniture or playground equipment before use.”

The U.S.E.P.A. advises, “Pyrethroids used in mosquito control programs do not pose unreasonable risks to wildlife or the environment. Pyrethroids, when applied at mosquito control rates, are low in toxicity to mammals, and are practically nontoxic to birds. Mosquito control formulations of permethrin break down in the environment, and high temperatures and sunlight accelerate this process. However, pyrethroids are toxic to fish and to bees. For that reason, EPA has established specific precautions on the label to reduce such risks, including restrictions that prohibit the direct application of products to open water or within 100 feet of lakes, streams, rivers or bays.”

Don’t you just love words like “unreasonable” and “practically”? If these chemicals are toxic to some things, don’t you want to know it, so that you can make your own informed decision about exposure?

Photo Radar in Work Zones

Have you been caught on “candid camera” by the Illinois State Police for speeding in a Work Zone on an Illinois highway or on the Tollway?

The 45MPH Work Zone speed limit is in effect 24/7, whether or not workers are present. Does anyone else in this state slow down in the Work Zone, or am I the only one?

I’ve been accused of being a hazard on the highway by driving 45MPH in the right lane of a 45MPH Work Zone. And I am… no doubt about it. You’d better believe I keep a sharp eye on my rear-view mirror for idiots screaming up behind me in Work Zones. While I am ever ready to punch the accelerator (and cross my fingers; no worries about whiplash from fast accelerator in my Beetle) to avoid being rear-ended, I do obey the legal posted 45MPH speed limit in Work Zones. And I obey it to the unnecessary end of the Work Zone, which is at least one-half mile past the end of “visible construction”, as the engineers like to call the last cone or barricade on the highway shoulder.

Requiring drivers to maintain a 45MPH speed limit on an open highway for one-half mile past the last point of construction has got to be one of the dumbest decisions ever made regarding highway speed limits. It must be a “rule” in the Manual of Standards that all traffic engineers keep under their pillows, and heaven help the lowly highway engineer who moves an End Work Zone Speed Limit closer.

But back to PhotoRadar. If you come upon a Work Zone with 45MPH Speed Limit signing, slow down! You’ve seen the “Hit a Worker - $10,000 Fine, 14 Yrs. Jail” signs. Not likely, since the judges in this state won’t even send a DUI offender to jail. On the other hand, you don’t want to chance it. More importantly, you don’t want to injure or kill a highway worker. Or yourself. 85% of the fatalities in Work Zones are drivers, not highway workers, per IDOT’s FAQ webpage on Photo Speed Enforcement. I just hope I won’t be one of them while I am driving at 45MPH in a Work Zone.

If you don’t slow down? A warning sign will indicate that PhotoRadar is in use. According to the FAQs, you will be shown your speed by a speed indicator device connected to a separate radar unit. If you still don’t slow down, your photo is immortalized in digits and you can expect a ticket by Certified Mail and a required appearance in court. The fine? $375 minimum! ($250 fine, plus $125 mandatory extra that goes for more photo enforcement).

Someone asked a State Trooper one day if he had a quota for tickets. “Nah,” he said. “They let me write as many as I want.” That trooper gets an A+ in my book.

They are not writing enough tickets. I have seen only one driver slow down in a Work Zone, and that’s only because I looked in my own mirror. The cops don’t even slow down. Perhaps if the cops slowed down, everyone else would, too.

How about it, Troopers and Officers and Deputies? Will you slow down and obey posted speed limits? Will you obey them on every non-emergency call? If it’s an emergency, use your lights or siren. Otherwise, stick to the speed limit and stop at the stop signs and red lights. Sure, response times will lengthen, but it’s not an emergency. As response times for non-emergencies increase, people will get angry and finally approve additional funding for you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Just Ducky…

Ready for some fun in Woodstock? Attend the opening of “Jenny and Bean vs. The Plan Commission. “

First round…Thursday, September 13, 7:00PM, in the City Council chamber at City Hall.

Who are Jenny and Bean? The Savanna Grove ducks! Not only ducks, but “best friends.” Woodstock City Code prohibits farm animals in residential areas of town. Someone ratted them out. If they were small ducks (ducklings?), perhaps no one would care. But ducklings are like kittens; they grow up.

Perhaps the person complaining is like me. We have the laws; the laws should be followed. If you don’t like the law, then work hard to get it changed; but obey it in the meantime. Wow! If life were only so simple. OK, I confess. I didn’t do it. But I respect the person who did report them, and the City has an obligation to enforce its laws.

Do I hear any wagers on the outcome of the petition to allow the ducks in the City?

The initial hurdle of the Plan Commission is only a small speed bump along this road. If the P.C. gives a thumbs-up, the next step is the City Council. I’ll predict that vote right here: 7-0. The ducks will stay in Kane County.

But suppose the City Council also gives a thumbs-up. The real obstacle will be the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association. The SGHA probably doesn’t have just “rules”; the issue of pet types may be covered in its Restrictive Covenants. If this is the case, there is a huge and very expensive battle ahead. Getting Covenants changed would likely require a vote of the homeowners and a consent by a majority. Then, after all the expensive legal work has been done (and the dues of the SGHA have gone up for all), amended Covenants would need to be filed with the Secretary of State. Do you think the SGHA will incur that expense for a couple of ducks?

By the time all of this gets done, these two ducks will probably be feeding in that great pond in the sky.

Did the owner not ask for the Restrictive Covenants prior to contracting to purchase the house or closing on it? Did the lawyers at the closing see that the purchaser received the Covenants? I’ll venture a guess that the documents were just in the pile of papers put in front of her. When someone said, “Sign here and here and here”, that’s what she did. And one of those pieces of paper said she had received the Covenants, had read and understood them, and agreed to abide by them. So she knew about the restriction…. or she should have.

This raises the importance of never signing anything you haven’t read. Just let the lawyers and closers and real estate agents sit there until you have read everything, asked all your questions and have decided to agree. Better yet, make sure you get all the closing documents before the closing, and I don’t mean just an hour before. This, of course, is a problem because the closing papers are always done at the last minute. But, before you sign on the dotted line and assume a huge liability, be sure you understand what you are signing.

Trash Cans on the Square

Let’s weigh in on the trash receptacles around the Square… What are these for?

For that empty Starbuck’s cup? A used Kleenex? The morning paper after you’ve read it? What else?

Are they for cleaning out your car or truck? Are they for a plastic grocery-type bag absolutely jammed full of drink cups and trash from your car? So full it will hardly fit through the round opening in the cover?

Hardly…. As in, NOT.

When you clean out your car, do it at home. Throw your trash in that blue bag or the herbie-curbie, your own wheeled trash bin that goes out to the curb once a week.

This morning I watched a man walk from his pick-up to the trash receptacle in front of Starbuck’s and jam his completely-filled plastic bag through the round opening. As he did, a woman approached him and asked, “Cleaning out your car?”

In what shape is the interior of your car? If your boss asked for a ride to pick up her car at the service garage, would you be embarrassed?

Mosquito Spraying Hours

According to City Hall, Woodstock will be sprayed to control mosquitoes this Friday, August 24, 2007, from 10:00PM-6:00AM.

The City has issued no warning about the chemical Adulticide that will be used. I urge you to Google it and decide for yourself whether you wish to avoid exposure to the fog that will be sprayed. My recommendation is to close windows and stay away from the chemical. If you have to go out, wear long sleeves and cover your nose and mouth.

No doubt that mosquitoes must be controlled.

If you are aware of any basements that were flooded with sewer back-up that was pumped outside, contact Public Works and/or the County Health Department to learn whether clean-up is needed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WARNING - Mosquito Spraying August 24

Tonight’s City Council meeting, August 21, was Standing Room Only. Many Woodstock residents showed up to express their opinions about the flooding two weeks ago and to make requests of the City.

The first resident to speak asked what the City intended to do about the mosquitos, and the response from the Council included the word, Adulticide. Mosquito spraying was conducted the day before the flooding, and it is scheduled for this Friday, August 24.

BE SURE to read online about Adulticide and make your own decision what to do regarding your own health. There was no mention of any hazard to people or pets, but read up on this and decide for yourself. If you have any health concerns whatsoever, find out effects now and safeguard yourself during the mosquito fogging that will occur on Friday. The Council gave no alert or warning to residents present about any possible adverse health effects.

Residents wanted to know what the real cause of the flooding was, not just that there was a lot of rainfall. The Mayor was very cautious in referring to “mitigating circumstances” and some clogging of sewers by activity of residents.

Residents asked for more information about these “mitigating circumstances.” Limited additional information surfaced. But there must be more to come.

Residents complained of high water in their homes, when neighbors had little or none. Some residents complained about recurring flooding, and one said she was tired of hearing that the City was “trying” to fix the problem. She wants action and results!

The City has contracted an engineering firm, Baxter & Woodman, to report at the City Council meeting on September 4 about the flooding. It is not expected that this will be a full report.

One resident, who bought her home four years ago, had five feet of water in her basement and a lake in her backyard. A building trades professional, who was familiar with her property, mentioned the possibility that neighbors’ wooden fencing had trapped water in her yard. From photographs of her property, it certainly appeared to me that her lake was the result of neighbors’ fencing.

I suggested that the Council report on the total estimated losses of residents, both as a preliminary finding and then refine it as time passes until it is considered accurate. I also suggested that the City mail a questionnaire to every household in Woodstock, asking questions about flooding, believed causes, and losses. The questionnaire should be published in the Woodstock Independent and the Northwest Herald.

Many residents reported sewer back-ups, including a 3’ spout of water out of a basement drain. They want to know what failed. Why did the City’s sewer system allow such back-ups and, just as importantly, what will the City do to prevent back-ups in the future.

An additional flood-damaged items’ pick-up may be scheduled. If you are in need of this, call City Hall immediately and let them know. Mayor Sager did comment that some residents took advantage of the City’s free pick-up to discard items that were not flood-damaged.

One resident commented on the City’s “mitigating circumstances” and mentioned that 12”-tall grass had been cut nearby on the day before the flooding, which his neighbors and he pulled from sewer grates so that the water could drain into sewers.

The City Council listened for over two hours and engaged in conversation with many of the residents who spoke. This is a departure from normal Council rules during the Public Comment portion of the meeting. I believe this meant a lot to residents, and perhaps it has set a precedent for future meetings.

More news in a future article.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Water and Ducks

Tuesday night's Woodstock City Council meeting should be lively. To see your government in action, get there about 6:50PM and get a good seat. Of course, in the small Council chamber, almost any seat is a good seat.

In addition to the flood victims who are likely to show up en masse to complain about years-long flooding issues, the family with the duck problem is expected to attend. You know about this one; right? I will admit when I first read the story in the Northwest Herald (and before I looked at the photo), I thought the issue was about two cute, little duckies. No way! These are full-size ducks. Some would say, about ready for the frying pan. (Sorry.... couldn't pass that one up.)

The City Council is not the right place for the family to submit its request for a zoning variance. There is a procedure (of course there is; Woodstock is a city with a government and a (contracted) city attorney. The family should learn the procedure and follow it. Addressing the City Council is the last stop (well, before court), but it'll be lively and fun for some at Tuesday's meeting.

Will residents really leave their TVs and come to City Hall on Tuesday night and gripe about their flooded basements and sewer back-ups? Let's hope they do. Bring information and documentation and give it to the City in time to be included in the report that is to be ready for the first City Council meeting in September. Bring some evidence, too. You know, those ruined photo albums; smelly, moldy boots; pieces of ruined carpets.

I did that years ago during my first IRS audit. The examiner asked about the smell and what was in the big briefcase I had dragged into his office. "Proof of my flood loss," I replied. I was audited on four points. After the first, he left the office to confer with his supervisor. When he returned, he said there was no problem and that loss would be allowed. On the second point, we discussed it and he left again to confer with his supervisor. Returning quickly, he said again, "No problem."

After we discussed the third point, he said, "I probably don't need to discuss this with my supervisor, but I'll be right back." And he was. Result? Approval. And the fourth? He said, "You've been right on three out of four. I'm not even going to ask my supervisor about this one. Besides, I'm quitting next week!"

Power Outage – Sunday morning

I was visiting a friend on Sunday morning and helping him resolve some landlord-tenant issues, when the power went out in part of Woodstock's north side. When it didn’t come back on within a few minutes and it looked like all the other houses nearby were dark, I telephoned Woodstock Police. The dispatcher was very helpful with information that a power pole and lines had been knocked down near N. Madison St. and Beech St.

And indeed they had been. I drove by and there was a car buried under lines and branches where it had struck a power pole. What was interesting was that the power pole broke off about 10 feet above the ground, not at the point of impact. And a pole across the street snapped off at the ground.

Kind of makes one wonder what quality of poles are being used and how long those poles had been in place? Had termites been at work?

Have you ever considered what you would do, if you were in an accident and power lines were draped over your car? Would you stay put, or would you get out? Is your life insurance paid up?

My guess is your best bet is to stay put, unless you want to give the paramedics and the ER docs some practice. Wait for the rescue people and the power company reps to arrive and tell you what to do. Let’s hope you are conscious and able to follow their instructions.

Maybe this is a good time to have a “fire drill” with your family and discuss what to do in event of such an emergency in your car.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Kudos to Crystal Lake

What’s the next chapter in the David vs. Goliath story in Crystal Lake? Remember Wayne, of Wayne vs. Viking Dodge?

Yesterday, August 16, when I drove by Wayne’s favorite parking spot on U.S. 14, there was no place for Wayne to park! You remember, Wayne; right? The guy with the huge anti-Viking Dodge sign on his vehicle, who parks on U.S. 14, just southeast of IL 176, catty-corner from Viking Dodge? The guy whose sign directs passersby to Wayne, who is expressing his constitutional right to free speech?

Viking Dodge figured out how to keep Wayne from parking there. Yesterday morning there was a new white Dodge pick-up truck with a big sign “New Management. New Experience” in the truck bed and two older pick-up trucks, one with a snowblade (really needed in mid-August!) parked there. The two older trucks had used-vehicle lockboxes on the driver’s door handles. Just in case someone wanted to go for a test-drive; right?

It’s illegal to park vehicles in the right-of-way as advertising, so I called the Crystal Lake P.D. The dispatcher explained they were well aware of the problem and working on it, and there was NO hassle about dispatching an officer to talk with me.

While I was waiting for the officer to arrive, I noticed two large, wooden, A-frame signs in the right-of-way along IL 176 in front of Viking Dodge and called Crystal Lake Community Development, where I left a message for the employee who handles sign enforcement.

The officer arrived promptly and explained that the offices of the City Manager and City Attorney were investigating the problem of the Viking Dodge vehicles so parked and of Wayne’s protest.

Later in the day, when I passed again, imagine my surprise to see that all three Viking Dodge vehicles had been removed AND the two signs were gone from in front of Viking Dodge!

Three cheers – no, five cheers – to the City of Crystal Lake for prompt enforcement of violations. No doubt they realize that Viking Dodge pays a lot of sales tax to Crystal Lake, but Crystal Lake took the high road and deserves appreciation! Thanks, too, to Viking Dodge for removing the vehicles and signs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Some Days are Great, and Others …

…are just absolutely GREAT! Today was one of those absolutely great days.

In the early afternoon I retrieved a voicemail message from a woman who was a long-time Sears customer and whom I had helped with customer service problems in 2002. When I was at the Sears headquarters, I often handled sensitive complaints, and one day her grandson had come to the headquarters in person after she and he had been unable to get the appliance service problem resolved by telephone.

As I often did, I gave him my cell phone number and invited him (and her) to call me, if they ever thought they needed my help. Nine months later their problem recurred and, when she couldn’t reach me through Sears, she called me at home. I was happy to help then, too.

At the time she shared a story with me about her 100-year-old mother, who had been honored at the Mississippi school where she had taught for 40 years. I’ll always remember her remark: “When that principal stood up in the auditorium in front of those kids, it was so quiet you could have heard cotton drop.” Now that’s quiet!

She had saved my phone number and called me today for help. I explained that I hadn’t been with Sears for almost five years, but that I would be happy to help her. I called Sears Customer Service via the home office and spoke with a very helpful customer service agent, who said she would get right on the problem. I asked her to expedite the air-conditioner repair in view of the customer’s long-standing relationship with Sears and the high temperatures and humidity in Chicago and their impact on the elderly.

I was pleased to learn that her grandson had earned his Masters degree and was headed to law school. She invited me to visit her home, and one day soon I’ll head to Chicago to meet her. I’m only sorry that I waited this long and missed meeting her mother, who died when she was 101.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"But I've Got a Good Lawyer"

How important is it to have a Will when you die? And to have a good lawyer who keeps your Will up-to-date?

Next time you are tempted to say, “Everything is in good shape. I have a good lawyer”, better think twice.

I was in the life insurance business for almost 20 years; first in Chicago and last in Denver. I’ve been out of the business since 1984, and in 1986 I cleared the deck and trashed all my memorabilia and certificates. I can still hear the glass breaking in the frame that held my C.L.U. certificate, when I threw it in a dumpster when I was moving from Kansas City back to Colorado. That was so free-ing!!! But I digress…

I met a wonderful couple in Illinois in the mid-1990s. In view of overall circumstances I offered to look over their estate planning to see any attention might be needed by their legal, accounting or financial advisors. “No, thanks. Everything is in order. We have a good lawyer.”

Sometime later the man died, and I offered again to his widow. “No, thanks. Everything is in order. I have a good lawyer.”

Sometime after that, she died. And do you know what? They did have a good lawyer. He had set up a trust for them and named a bank as Trustee.

The only problem was that 15 years earlier, the bank had closed its Trust Department. Now, how does something like that happen and a Will doesn’t get updated?

What happens when a Trustee is not available to serve or doesn’t exist when the time arises? It’s off to court, and we all know what that costs. Lots and lots of money. Lots of unnecessary money.

Today I don’t recall whether a successor trustee was named in the Will, because it took quite a while to get another bank named as Trustee. Closing the estate and winding up the trust took several years. I always thought it should have taken months, not years. The heirs paid huge administration costs that could have been avoided by careful, current planning.

All those costs were money that could have been kept in the family. When you think about reviewing your estate planning, keep this thought in mind. If you were going to have heart surgery, would you go to your family doctor? If you needed brain surgery, would you go to a foot doctor? No, of course not. You’d go to a specialist.

The circumstances of many families do not call for elaborate estate planning. You don’t buy a Ferrari, if the speed limit in your area is 55MPH. Sometimes a “simple” Will will suffice. And sometimes it won’t.

How do you find good advisors? You set about making a plan of action, with the first step being to build a team. Go out and shop for your lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, real estate agent. See if they pass the “Smell Test.” If the words they use are too “big”, keep shopping. If you understand everything they say the first time, you might just have found the right one.

Listen to what they have to say, and ask them what it’s going to cost. Then go home and sleep on it. Then make your choice. And then keep an eye on the choice you have made. Set goals and measure your progress toward them.

A wise, young lawyer in Colorado defined Estate Planning back in the 1970s as, “Getting what you have to those you want to get it, at the time when you want them to get it, and in the form in which you want them to get it. And then, if you can save some taxes, you do that, too.”

Estate planning for many no longer includes elaborate estate tax-based planning, thanks to increases in the threshold before an estate pays a Federal Estate Tax. But don’t forget the Illinois Inheritance Tax. Explore ways to minimize or avoid the Inheritance Tax. Avoiding it is not illegal; evading it is.

Handicapped Parking Zones

When is it okay to park in a handicapped parking zone, if you don’t have a handicap sticker and are not handicapped?

Sometimes? When you are in a hurry? When you are making a delivery?

Never! (Unless you have a handicapped sticker AND are handicapped)

This morning the driver of a pick-up truck was backed up between the first two handicapped parking spaces at the Woodstock Public Library, while he delivered 10-ream boxes of copier paper.

When I mentioned this to a member of the library staff, I was told he was parked there “just for a minute” while he unloaded. It wasn’t just for a “minute” and such parking is illegal, even if just for a minute.

A few minutes later I was at the McHenry County Health Department, in the annex at the back of the property. When I came out of the building, what was parked in exactly the same manner? A vehicle with an M-license plate was parked in between the first two handicapped parking places, while the delivery man ran in and out with a light package he was delivering. There were empty Visitor parking spaces just three spaces away.

Why is it that drivers disregard the handicapped parking signs and the “$250 Fine” warning signs? Is it laziness? Ignorance? Or is a superiority complex that tells them that they can park there if they want to. I wonder how many tickets are written in Woodstock for handicapped parking violations…

If an officer or deputy sees an unattended vehicle in a handicapped parking zone, is this an automatic ticket? No excuses? Or does discretion prevail, if the driver rushes out, screaming, “I didn’t mean to do it”?

More Flood-Damaged Pick-ups?

Marengo Disposal has been around Woodstock one more time (today) and still there is flood-damaged debris on the curbs.

At last night’s Coffee with the Chief (8/13/07) I asked this question, “When officers patrol Woodstock, do they note the addresses of houses in front of which is piled flood-damaged debris and report the addresses to Public Works or City Hall?”

Answer: No

Wouldn’t this be a simple, low-time, customer service that officers could provide? Who is in a better position to see the piles of damaged property? A simple, short radio call to the dispatcher, “Put xxx N. Madison St. on the list” would use less than 30 seconds of air time.

A surprising comment at the Coffee was that officers have caught scavengers stealing flood damaged property, and not just property out at the front curb. But is it stealing?

I’m unsure of the laws about property discarded at the curb. Is there an inherent contract between the property owner and the disposal service that the damaged goods, so placed, belong to the disposal service? Clearly, if a scavenger is in someone’s backyard and picking through trash or flood-damaged goods, that’s illegal.

What is needed is a customer-friendlier method of contacting City Hall and better information to residents about additional pick-up times. The officers at the Coffee didn’t know that Marengo Disposal would make an additional pick up on Tuesday, August 14. Had they known, they could have alerted residents to phone City Hall to arrange for a pick-up. I myself phoned in addresses of three neighbors who didn’t know about today’s pick-up.

So, what happens now? Does the Code Enforcement Officer visit homes with debris out front and threaten them with citations? Or does the City arrange additional pick-up days? How long will neighbors have to look at piles of damaged goods out on the curbs?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Coffee with the Chief - August 13

The August Coffee with the Chief on August 13, 2007, was a sell-out. The meeting room at the Woodstock Police Department headquarters was full with a great turn-out of Woodstock residents. Chief Lowen introduced Officers Josh Rapacz and George Kopulos of Beat 22, and they described their work. Ofc. Rapacz works Midnight-8:00AM and conducts bar checks, on-street parking 2:00-6:00AM, and business checks. Ofc. Kopulos works 4:00PM-Midnight and handles foot patrols on the Square, deters homeless drinkers on the Square and at the Woodstock Depot, and watches for cars parked across sidewalks. The day officer for Beat 22 was on vacation.

Car burglaries are a problem in Woodstock and are more frequent because residents do not lock their cars. Thieves walk down the street and pull door handles. As soon as a door opens, they rifle the car and move on. Most of these would be prevented by the simple act of locking the car doors.

Residents were urged to report suspicious persons to the police department. A burglary suspect was nabbed two hours after breaking a window at a liquor store on Route 47 because a resident spotted a person hanging around another store and alerted police. The suspicious person was found hiding in a dumpster of a second burglarized business and was identified by videotape from the first burglary.

Chief Lowen reported about one vehicle that has been issued 32 parking tickets. Parking fines were recently increased.

My big question here is why the City has not taken aggressive action about prosecuting this parking violator. The police have done their job by writing the tickets. Now it’s up to the City of Woodstock to tell its City Attorney to summon the violator into court. And why hasn’t there been publicity about this? If Woodstock wants to halt recurring parking violations, stiff action should be taken AND there should be media attention.

Residents on the north end of town continue to report problems with roaming teenagers. Several residents attended this month’s Coffee, and one praised the recent police presence in the neighborhood. Problems dry up with the police are visible; as soon as they leave, the problems return. One resident reported children on bicycles playing “chicken” with motorists, causing drivers to stop their vehicles because the kids are blocking streets in the vicinity of the old Clay Street School. I myself encountered three kids on bicycles on Wheeler only two-three days ago. Now that I know it’s a problem, I’ll be contacting the police and will hang around until the cops can arrive and talk to the kids.

If you spot “Junior” on his motorscooter in the street up on Hilltop, give the police a call.

Chief Lowen mentioned a spitball fight at McDonald’s that got out of control when one kid pulled out his knife and cut the other kid. I have noticed in McDonald’s that management does NOT cut out horseplay. One evening some high school students came in, and one guy was carrying a girl on his back and cavorting around the lobby; she was not being quiet about her ride, either. When the manager failed to quiet him down, I went over and spoke to them. They were considerate enough to cut it out, but the question in my mind was why the manager, who was standing right there, did not do anything. Come on, McDonald’s; we are not going to tolerate hooligans around here.

Loud parties were mentioned as problems. If you are disturbed by a loud party, call the police and ask for an officer to go by and quiet things down. You don't have to make a formal complaint, and you don't have to talk to the officer. He doesn't have to come to your house first, and you don't want him to. If the party doesn't quiet down, then you may have to get further involved by signing a complaint and being willing to go to court and testify about how your peace was disturbed.

One resident reported being told it would be necessary to go to the police station and make a report. Not so. If you think your telephone call or request for police services is not being handled correctly, ask for the shift supervisor to call you back. If you still aren't satisfied, contact the Chief by phone, letter or email.

Loud car radios are handled differently. If an officer can hear a car stereo more than 75' from the car, he can write a ticket without your being a witness. But he'll need to hear it himself.

Chief Lowen holds his Coffee with the Chief on the second Monday of the month, from 7:00-8:30PM at the police department. Put it on your calendar. Next month, let’s have Standing Room Only. See you there on Monday, September 10. Check the newspaper or call the PD to see if the meeting date is changed because of Labor Day.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Cut Those Property Taxes

What impact with this week’s flood have on Woodstock’s already-depressed housing market?

This week-end I was helping a friend rip up carpet and padding in her townhome, and she told me that a real estate agent had shown up that morning with a prospective buyer. Great timing, eh?

She had notified her own agent of the water damage on Friday afternoon and had asked that there be no showings on the week-end. Apparently, her agent did not notify the buyer’s agent when that agent scheduled the showing or, if the showing was already scheduled, did not notify the buyer’s agent to postpone the showing.

Every seller knows that the buyer’s agent wants a home empty when the prospective buyer is shown the house. There are many reasons for this. Any agent can explain them.

If I were looking at a house and considering its purchase and, when I toured it, I saw recent water damage, I have one four-letter word for the agent, “N-E-X-T!!!”

So, back to the question. How much will this week’s flooding really cost Woodstock homeowners? My guess is, “A bundle.”

When you get your property tax notice, you’d better hot-foot it over to the right County (or Township) Department and file your property tax assessment protest. If your property value dropped $50,000, you’ll want the reduction in assessment and corresponding reduction in property taxes.

The window for contesting property taxes is small. Find out now exactly what the rules are and start preparing your appeal of the assessment. DO IT NOW…

Reckless Driving Complaint

There is a driver on the Tollway last week who is in for a big surprise one day soon. He'll be opening his mail and finding greetings to appear in court on a reckless driving charge.

Last Tuesday I was driving west on the Tollway from Schaumburg, poking along at my usual 55MPH in the right-hand lane. As I watched a car coming up very fast behind me, I wondered at just what point he was going to slow down, since there was heavy traffic in the center lane and no way for him to move over one lane to the left.

Well, surprise, surprise. He didn’t. Instead, he maintained a speed that I estimated at 80MPH (in the 55MPH zone) and he just drove off onto the right shoulder, passed me on the right and pulled back into the roadway.

I thought he might rear-end me and was preparing to mash down on the gas, not that my seven-year-old Beetle has all that much get-up-and-go. The driver displayed utter and wanton disregard for my safety and never slowed down as he came up behind me.

I got a good look at his face as he passed me on the right. At least, he didn’t have those heavily-tinted front side windows. As he went by, I read off his license plate number into a pocket dictator that I keep in the car.

I called the Illinois State Police, whose number I have programmed in my cell phone. Because of the number of rings, I could tell that the dispatcher was busy. She did take his license plate number and vehicle description and said she would put it out on the radio to the troopers.

I had my fingers crossed (it’s hard to drive that way) that a trooper would nab him. I would have stopped, if I had seen the car stopped by a trooper.

On Thursday morning I met with a trooper and filed a complaint. The next step is for the Cook County State’s Attorney to decide whether it’s worth their time to prosecute. If they take the case, then they’ll put together a photo line-up, and I’ll pick him out. I am willing to go to court. There are a lot of violations on the Tollway that get my goat, but this is one of the most serious.

Unfortunately, the Illinois State Police is undermanned and there are few patrol cars on the Tollway or other roads, unless the Special Enforcement Team (SET) is in action.

Of course, if our legislators, in their infinite wisdom, would permit police to use PhotoRadar, then the camera/computer would do the work and issue tickets to violators like that guy.

Hey, I know the biggest problem with PhotoRadar. It would catch too many legislators beating down the highway to Springfield or heading home from a session. (It won't get the Governor, though; he spends $5,800 to fly from Chicago to Springfield. No wonder there isn't any money for the RTA.) Why, gee, don’t we all know that they obey the speed limits? After all, they are sworn to obey the laws of the State they serve, or are they?

Does anyone know what the Oath of Office is for a state legislator?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Floodwaters – Clean! Don't Just Dry.

The website of McHenry County Government contains valuable information about dealing with floodwaters, including how to properly clean up afterwards. Go to, then click on “Flood Information” in the first section, “Announcements and Events”. Then click on Flood Recovery Information and examine the four links there.

Key is avoiding contaminated water or, after contact, cleaning carefully and completely.

It was interesting to read that sewage should not be pumped out into a yard or street. There may have been no alternative last week, but who has said a word about this? If you have pumped-out sewage in your yard or street, read this information, call the Health Department, and find out what to do about it. Now! Call 815-334-4510.

It is also important to clean thoroughly the flooded areas, not just turn on fans to dry up the water. Clean…. As with warm soapy water AND disinfectants. The information is not repeated here. Read it for yourself on the County's website and print it out.

There is risk to yourself and to others in your home. Don’t skimp on the clean-up.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

City Position on Flooding

The City’s press release (read it at of August 8, 2007, by Public Works Director John Isbell, includes the following statement, “As this is considered an event of nature, damage claims to homes should be directed to an individual’s homeowners insurance.” If you fall for this one, call me right away; I’ve still got a bridge in New York I’d like to sell you.

This statement followed Mayor Pro Tem Webster’s explanation about a transformer outage and a malfunction of a sanitary sewer lift station near Greenwood and Tappan Streets.

I’ll agree that 6-7” of rain in seven hours is an “event of nature.” Ralph Webster explained what happened at the transformer. The back-up generator did not kick in because its wiring scheme did not recognize the primary generator’s failure. Ralph was candid and clear about exactly what happened. He didn’t pussyfoot around about it. There was no smoke-and-mirrors routine. So the important question is, Was this a wiring plan defect? Did no one anticipate the circumstances under which the primary generator could fail and prevent the back-up from kicking in?

I would urge residents to consider that some of the flooding damage was NOT an “event of nature.” I suspect the City is liable for a not-insignificant amount of damage to some homes. Sure, talk to your insurance claims representative, and you might want to get an opinion from your own attorney.

I’m not an attorney and do not give legal advice. Ask your attorney whether the City is responsible for any part (or all) of your specific loss. If you believe the City is liable, file your claim with the City.

There were plenty of irate homeowners at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. There may be many more at the August 21 City Council meeting.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Water, water – everywhere…

Was there a little water in Woodstock today? No. There was a LOT of water!!!

Five-to-seven inches of rain fell in Woodstock in a relatively short period of time, perhaps six hours. And what did this mean? Flooded basements, backed up sewers – like, INSIDE the house. Flooded streets. And lots of damage!

Several families attended this evening’s City Council meeting. Many, many more would have been there, but they were probably pumping out basements and yards, dealing with ruined household furnishings, cars that had been submerged, displaced family members, electricity and gas shut off for safety, spoiled food and hastily arranged substitute lodging.

And lost income, due to time taken off from work at short notice.

Some families have been dealing with flooding in Woodstock for years and are very frustrated with years of empty promises, according to comments made to the City Council this evening.

Sewer back-ups and flooding for years were problems presented by residents on the odd side of the street in the 400 block of West Judd Street and the even side of the street in the 400 block of West Jackson Street. Similar problems were presented by residents on East Todd and Jewett Streets.

Did you see “Lake Woodstock” today, a/k/a Raintree Park. Many may not know that it is a planned retention “pond”; i.e., it collects run-off. The only problem is that it filled today, and high water found a low spot toward the west end of the berm near Lake Street, on the east side of the railroad tracks, and water poured through the low spot into back yards of houses on East Calhoun Street.

The “low spot” was not easily visible to the untrained eye of joggers and park users before the pond filled. Perhaps it wasn’t even visible to residents and property owners on the side of the berm away from Raintree Park. But it was certainly visible early this morning, when the retention pond was full. While water was still a foot from the top of most of the berm, it found the low spot and overflowed through the dip. How did it ever happen that the berm (or dam) was constructed with a low spot, rather than making the top level throughout?

Very soon the City’s website at will contain a statement by the City about today’s disaster. Be sure to read it.

Were you affected by flooding? Have you had ongoing and unresolved problems of flooding over the years? Let’s hear about them.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Paved Parkway - Bad Precedent?

The Woodstock City Council has started down a slippery slope by approving a request from a homeowner to pave the parking area in front of his house that is in the City’s right-of-way. Often referred to as “parkway” this is the section of ground between the street and a sidewalk. The grass thereon is maintained by the homeowner and creates a buffer between the sidewalk and street.

As we all know, and as some are learning after visits from the City’s Code Enforcement Officer, it is illegal to park a vehicle in the parkway. Although it appears to be the homeowner’s private property, it is – sort of. It is subject to the City’s right-of-way, or easement, on the private land of the homeowner. This is why he must cut the grass there but cannot park a vehicle there.

This changed recently for the property at 421 Stewart Street, when the City Council on May 1, 2007, approved an amendment to the City Code at Title 5, Chapter 3, Section 13.E.3.(5)(A), (E) and (G).

The property owner at 421 Stewart Street has paved (with asphalt) the parkway in front of his house, so that he can park two light trucks there. When I drove by this morning, the two trucks were there. No vehicle was parked in the driveway, and the garage door was closed, so I could not see whether there was a vehicle in the garage. Certainly, at least one of the trucks could be parked in the regular driveway, and maybe the other could be parked at the person’s business.

This is a dangerous precedent in Woodstock. Will every property owner who wants almost-street parking overnight now approach the City Council and say, “Well, you let him do it on Stewart Street”?

The new ordinance allows the owner, until June 1, 2009, to park two light trucks there overnight and not to be subject to the 30-minute parking restriction between 2:00-6:00AM. So, what will happen on June 1, 2009? You can bet that the property owner will be back at the City Council early in 2009 to request an extension or a permanent order.

What will happen if the City Council refuses? Nothing is the special ordinance for this property owner requires him to tear up the asphalt and put in grass again. How did they slip up on this one? That would have been an easy condition to impose, and now it’s too late. The neighbors are stuck with the patch of asphalt where there used to be grass.

Joggers in Streets

A growing problem in Woodstock, and perhaps elsewhere, is with joggers who run in City streets and interfere with traffic. Recently I emailed Chief Robert Lowen and he replied that his officers do what they can to address this issue.

Sunday mornings seem to be a popular time for joggers on West South Street. This morning a woman was running west on W. South Street near Throop. She was running in the street against traffic, although there was a full sidewalk to her immediate left.

I watched as a Woodstock police car drove right past her at 8:30AM without stopping.

There are many reasons why an officer might not stop to tell a jogger to get out of the street…

He could have been enroute to a call. (Even so, he could have stopped and called out to her to use the sidewalk.)
He didn’t see her.
He didn’t think it was very important to tell her to get out of the street.
He knew it wouldn’t do any good to tell her to get out of the street; she’d just return to the street after he drove on.
His supervisor might not back him up.
The Department might not back him up.
He might have to write her a Warning.
She might call the P.D. to complain about harassment.

A few minutes later another jogger was running east in South Street with the flow of traffic in front of the high school.

What is needed is enforcement and publicity. Police officers should stop and make contact with the joggers, explain the dangers of their running in the street, and issue them a written Warning. The Police Department should periodically issue public statements on this topic and provide the local media with the numbers of contacts made - perhaps even invite a photographer to ride around on a Sunday morning and let him/her photograph the officer talking a jogger.

I didn't bother to call WPD about this; it seems to me that it should just be handled by the officer who just drives by and sees it. Since the Chief had just told me in July that his officers do address this issue (and I assume that officers at roll call were told to keep an eye out for joggers in the streets), I wondered why the officer drove right by the jogger without slowing.

Do you have a concern that you would like Chief Lowen to know about? Email him at and let him know about problems. Chief Lowen stated at one of his first monthly Coffees with the Chief (2nd Monday of the month, 7:00PM, at police headquarters) that the identity of a resident would not be released when an officer responded to a resident’s complaint. Ex., if a neighbor has a loud party or a late-night loud party, the officer is not to say who complained.