Sunday, September 30, 2007
Divorce – DIY?
He said that all they needed was a lawyer to write up what they have already decided on. Nothing complicated. He has complained over the past two years that the lawyers want to complicate matters, not just record them.
His wife and he have been separated for several years, and he has been working hard to pay off all the credit card bills. This task is almost complete. Any idea what it really takes to pay off a slew of credit card bills? Like about $30,000 worth?
They know exactly what they want in the divorce agreement. The children are adults. They don’t own a home.
Both his wife and he have legal “insurance” plans through their respective employers. That ought to keep the cost down; right? Wrong! What are the best quotes for legal costs so far, over and above their legal plans at work? $1,200 and $1,600.
On the McHenry County Government website (co.mchenry.il.us) the fee for Dissolution of Marriage is shown as $236.00. Let’s say that these estimates of total cost for the divorce include that fee. That leaves $1,000-1,400 in legal fees for the couple who, after several years, have now decided to finalize their separation and divorce.
We all know that lawyers use “boilerplate” for standard matters. It’s a simple, low-time procedure for a paralegal to enter names and press “Enter” on the computer’s keyboard. The printer then spits out ten sheets of divorce papers. In the past, yes, it was time-consuming for a legal secretary to type original copies of multi-page documents. Then word-processors were invented, and that time shortened because the standard language could be programmed into the typewriter. Now, it’s even easier and faster with computers (and people who know how to use them).
While it’s true that a lawyer is responsible for the document he creates (and will charge for that responsibility), the new client shouldn’t have to pay excessively for documents that have been set up and used for years.
If the client just wants to buy a lawyer’s time and doesn’t need or want hours of education, why should he have to pay for them?
If it’s a simple matter of “This is what we want. Here are the names and a list of assets and liabilities. I’ll carry it to the courthouse and file it”, then probably only 1-2 hours of a lawyer’s low-expertise time is needed. What’s that worth? $300? $400? Definitely not $1,000-1,200.
I suggested to this friend that he buy a good book at Barnes & Noble or at another bookstore and do some homework. He might even find forms in the book that can be re-typed and used.
Or go to a large office supply or stationery store and look for standard forms.
Or go to the courthouse and examine copies of divorce forms that can be viewed, because they are public records. The courthouse probably won’t let him photocopy the forms or purchase a copy of them, but he could sit in a booth and copy them by hand.
A while back there was a local business that provided legal forms. They used to advertise heavily, and I suspect the lawyers ganged up on them and shut them down. They claimed not to provide legal “advice”, but they certainly had a lot of “information.”
Find others who have done their own divorces. Look for a two-hour, non-credit class at MCC or another educational institution.
Even with do-it-yourself forms, it’s probably a good idea to have a lawyer make a final review.
I belong to Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. and often utilize the member service of Contract Review. As part of my membership they will, without additional charge, review up to ten pages of a contract that I fax to them. I wrote my own Life Insurance Trust, but I had years of experience as a life insurance agent, and I worked with estate-planning attorneys, CPAs and trust officers with mutual clients. I knew what I wanted in it, and I wrote it that way. When I sent it to Pre-Paid Legal for review, they asked where I had gotten the document and did not recommend one change in it.
I also represent Pre-Paid Legal as an Independent Representative and sell their memberships, which start at $17.00/month for a family. If you would like membership information, please get in touch with me.
State's Attorney Petty Cash - WOW!
See the list of expenses at http://dailyherald.com/special/07/bianchi/mackclm09.htm Better find the Tylenol first…
On September 23, the Daily Herald carried Mr. Bianchi’s rebuttal to the articles, which included the following statement about use of the office petty cash account.
“It was reported that since I took office approximately $60,000 was spent from those accounts. What was not reported was that of that figure, $43,000 was used for expert witnesses, transportation for witnesses, travel expenses at required seminars, vehicle registration fees, etc. These are routine expenses necessary for the daily operations of any prosecutor's office.”
I’ve been hanging around the business world for 43 years, and in my experience “petty cash” has always been used for minor, non-recurring expenses. You know, a can of coffee for the lunch room, photocopies at Kinko’s when the office copier was broken, a buck for a parking meter for a client.
$43,000 from petty cash for expert witnesses, witness transportation, travel at seminars (does this mean ground transportation from the hotel to the conference site?), vehicle registration fees?
What vehicles? County vehicles’ registration should be handled by the County’s vehicle fund. Whose license plates are being renewed? But this is a drop in the bucket.
Expenses should be paid by County check and only after presentation of an invoice or statement that gets signed management approval by a department employee authorized to approve such payments. Are such controls really not already in place?
Does the State’s Attorney really have $60,000 in the petty cash drawer? Petty cash – those are the $1, $5 and $10 bills and some change in a little box in a secretary’s bottom drawer. Well, at least that how most businesses are run.
If you would like to see some of the other expenses, take an aspirin and check out http://dailyherald.com/special/07/bianchi/mackclm09.htm You’d better take two aspirins.
What business owner/auditor would ever reimburse or allow such expenses as $321.54 at Portillo’s (2/2/05) without an explanation, including business purpose, names of attendees? $95.83 for mirrors at the office (2/2/05)? $206.04 for more mirrors at the office (2/7/05)? $100.00 meeting expense (3/21/05) - OK, what expense comes out exactly at $100.00??? $183.21 for Verizon??? Look at all the recorders he bought! $3.99 at McDonald’s sounds like lunch to me. $463.79 at Sam’s Club for shelves??? $50.31 at Biaggi’s with Algonquin PD Chief Laine? Chief Laine doesn’t have an office or can’t go to Bianchi’s office? $143.32 at Pirro’s??? $882.54 at Sam’s Club???
At the line for 12/12/05 I could feel my blood pressure going through the roof and I stopped there. No wonder County Auditor Pam Palmer reportedly left the office in tears one day!
Saturday, September 29, 2007
More on Viking Dodge
Wayne has had a beef with Viking Dodge for over a year. He had been a customer of Viking Dodge and placed an order for a new car in about August, 2006. The whole story may be on http://www.ripoffreport.com/ but, basically, it appears that Viking Dodge never ordered the car for him. When he attempted to find out what happened to his order, things turned nasty.
Wayne walked up and down the shoulder of IL 176 in front of Viking Dodge for over an hour late this afternoon. Although the Viking Dodge property begins 30 feet from the roadway, Wayne stayed within five feet of the curb. Recently, a Crystal Lake officer told him to stay within that short distance of the curb. Although the order may have been reasonable, it was not within the law. On a site plan of Viking Dodge on file with the City, its property line is 30' from the curb. That's why their cars are parked well back from the street and why they had to move their temporary back to the 30' mark.
After about 30 minutes two Crystal Lake P.D. squad cars pulled up. Both officers were polite and respectful toward Wayne and explained that he was not breaking any law by walking up and down the shoulder with his sign. Pretty quickly they left, but it wasn't long before an unmarked police car pulled into the Shell station across the street, and two officers sat for about 20 minutes and watched the goings-on.
Frankly, I was glad they were there. They seemed to be there for Wayne's protection. Numerous employees of Viking Dodge congregated near their property line, which is well in front of the sales building. There seemed to be little traffic from customers.
At one point a new blue Dodge RAM 2500 4-door king-cab pick-up truck with Dealer License 428N roared off the lot, squealing its tires and tearing up to the red light at U.S. 14. When the left-turn light came on, the driver made a fast left turn, slowed, and then drove up over the curb onto the right shoulder and pulled in closely behind Wayne's car - a nice Dodge Magnum that he had purchased at Viking and wanted to trade in last year on the new car he thought he had ordered.
The driver of the pick-up truck got so close to Wayne's car that I started to walk back that way to see if he had come in contact with Wayne's car. The driver pulled forward, backed up, pulled forward, and backed up until he could pull straight out and across U.S. 14 and drive back to the sales lot of Viking Dodge.
The Viking Dodge "mascot", a person dressed in a costume, was out front this afternoon, and a person who appeared to be a manager came to the curb near Wayne and directed the person in the costume with these words, "When he walks, you walk right in front of him." The face of the person in the costume could not be seen, but he kept his distance from Wayne. The order to walk in front of Wayne (to block people from seeing Wayne) was absolutely inappropriate and could have, if Wayne had stumbled, resulted in the costumed person's being accidentally pushed into the street in front of traffic.
Let me tell you about Wayne. Wayne is from Marengo and is in his early 70's. Wayne is not a confrontational person. Wayne carefully walked around the person in the costume and gave him wide berth. Quickly, the person in the costume must have realized that the manager's order was wrong, if not indeed legally wrong. Had Wayne felt alarmed or disturbed by the person in the costume, he could have had him arrested for Disorderly Conduct. Wayne felt no alarm or disturbance, because the costumed person wisely kept some distance and made no effort whatsoever to block Wayne's path.
Soon thereafter, a young salesman was walked to the curb, probably by a manager, and told to walk up and down in front of Wayne, carrying a hand-lettered sign, "New Management, New Attitude." Yeah, sure... The sign was poorly made. The young man was pleasant enough and obviously was doing just what he had been ordered to do. Perhaps he'll be looking for a new job soon. Let's hope...
The actual presence of the young man with the cheaply-made sign constituted advertising in the public right-of-way, because he walked up and down in the street between the curb and the solid white lane line. Had the police been aggressive about laws this afternoon, he might have been at risk for arrest, although it should have been the manager arrested - the manager who ordered him to walk with the advertising sign.
So, what's the big deal at Viking Dodge? If you buy a car there - or anywhere - make very sure that every line on the purchase contract and finance contract is filled in. Leave no line blank. If a line is blank, draw a line through the blank space. Initial it and make the Finance Manager (closer) initial it, too. NO EXCEPTIONS. Do not rely on any oral promises about terms, financing, interest rates, payments, accessories to be included in the car, delivery date, etc. Get EVERYTHING in writing, and in ink!
Take a copy of ALL paperwork with you when you leave. Do not leave your car as a trade-in unless the deal is done, completed, financing approved. Anything promised, but not written into the Contract, is nothing but hot air. Do not drive the car off the lot, based on a promise that financing will be approved "soon" or "Monday" or "when the Finance Manager gets back." If it doesn't get approved as you expected, you might find yourself liable for a very high mileage cost for driving the car until you return it.
If you don't do your homework before making a deal, you will regret it. You can count on that.
Flood Survey - Print; Fill out; Send to City
August 6-7, 2007 Flooding
Address: ______________________________________________, Woodstock, Illinois
In the August 6-7, 2007, rainfall:
ڤ Did your property suffer damage? ___ No (Stop here and return survey)
___ Yes (Proceed)
ڤ What type of damage? ___ Sewer back-up
___ Other (describe) _______________
ڤ What was damaged?
___ Basement ___ Living Quarters
___ Furniture ___ Household items
___ Yard, driveway ___ Personal property (photos, etc.)
___ Outside storage ___ Vehicle(s)
ڤ Estimate total loss: $__________________
Include damage to house, property, vehicle(s), possessions, loss of use, lost wages, clean-up expenses, reduction in property/home value, medical expense, etc.
ڤ Did you report your damage to the City of Woodstock? ___ Yes ___ No
If no, report it now by telephone (815-338-6118) and in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or to 121 W. Calhoun St., Woodstock, IL 60098.
Send Survey (keep a copy for your records) to
Tim Clifton, City Manager, City of Woodstock
121 W. Calhoun St., Woodstock, IL 60098
Notify The Woodstock Advocate that you have returned the survey to the City of Woodstock.
Email to Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com
Watch www.WoodstockAdvocate.com for further news.
DUI? No, just Reckess Driving
I heard about it on Monday, when a tipster called me. The Northwest Herald published the first print story on Friday, after having to file a Freedom-of-Information Act request to pry the information out of the sheriff’s department. Oh, the excuses that flew around, trying to explain the “reason” for withholding this news. I certainly wish I had been publishing The Woodstock Advocate then!
As the story went, deputies were drinking in a Randall Road restaurant after work. They weren’t even hanging out at a “cop bar (where things can really get messy and the cops never get called)”. Somehow (it was never explained), the deputy and his car got to his Huntley residence. Then he drove to Crystal Lake to a party and wrecked his car after leaving that party.
His BAC? 0.142. OK, solid enough for a DUI conviction. Not just a little over the 0.08; right? Almost twice. Certainly, higher than after just a “couple of beers.”
And what happened in court? Another treat… Thanks to sloppy police work, he skated on the DUI charge last week and agreed to plead out on Reckless Driving. Not a bad deal, all things considered. Expensive? Yes. But no DUI conviction.
As part of the “deal” the judge granted Supervision. This means his conviction stays on the quiet side. Of course, except for the newspaper reporting. If he keeps his nose clean of traffic charges for a year, only police officers and judges will ever know of his Reckless Driving conviction, according to a Hearing Examiner of the Illinois Secretary of State’s Motor Vehicle Department. His conviction doesn’t become part of the public record and is not available to his insurance company.
What does this really mean? He’ll likely get a job somewhere as a police officer again.
Now, he has probably really learned his lesson. This experience may provide him with the basis for a solid, future career in law enforcement. If that’s the case, so be it. Everyone makes mistakes. You pay the price; you go on. Perhaps he might commit himself to a rule of never drinking before driving. And drinking responsibly, when he does drink. He’ll decide whatever he decides. I wish him good luck in restoring his integrity.
We’ll never know why the responding Crystal Lake police officer did not charge him with DUI. I have a strong suspicion, based on a tip from an insider at the sheriff’s department. But the Crystal Lake officer did not administer a roadside sobriety test and, according to news reports then and now, other deputies smelled alcohol and took him to the hospital, where his Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC) was determined to be 0.142.
Crystal Lake PD never should have let him out of their control. If they did allow deputies to transport him to the hospital, then it should have been an official transfer of custody and transport. The chain-of-custody was broken. As a result, the attorney for the City of Crystal Lake apparently thought he could not use the BAC in a DUI trial. All this, according to published accounts in the Northwest Herald.
How does something this sloppy occur? With whom did the Crystal Lake officer confer, when he reportedly discussed the situation with his superior(s)? Did someone tell him not to administer roadside sobriety tests? Did a supervisor agree with him that he would not administer roadside sobriety tests? If so, who are these supervisors? Perhaps a new FOIA Request, now that the case is closed, will reveal these facts.
One would think that simple steps of arresting and prosecuting a drunk driver ought to be pretty well known by now. All officers should be well-trained in recognizing drunk drivers and taking the necessary steps that lead to a successful prosecution.
I was in a DUI refresher training class at a sheriff’s department in Colorado, when the sergeant gave the example of a traffic stop involving an officer from a neighboring jurisdiction, who was very drunk. He asked, “What do you do?”
I was the first to raise my hand and the last to be called on. Every excuse (except arrest) was given. Call his supervisor. Call his wife. Take him home. Take him for coffee. Call your supervisor. Let him sleep it off.
When the sergeant finally called on me, I said, “By the book. Disarm him. Roadside sobriety test. Advise of rights. Arrest. Handcuff. Tow his car. Transport to jail. Book him.”
I can still hear the chairs sliding away from me across the wooden floor in that classroom, until I was sitting alone in the middle of the room. What a lovely sound...
“Okay, Sergeant. What would you do?” I asked.
The sergeant answered, “Exactly the same thing.”
Twenty years later I was laughing about this class with a friend, who also had been a deputy there. He said, “Yeah, sure…. He would have let him go.”
Survey of Flooding Damage
Why are we doing this?
The Woodstock City Council is uninformed as to the TOTAL losses incurred by residents as a result of the August 6-7 rainfall. Until it knows the total losses AND the reasons for these losses, it cannot move forward on a decision to spend money for any liability associated with these losses and to incur expense to avoid similar problems in the future.
The City of Woodstock refused my request to address the total losses by residents. Beginning two weeks after the flooding, I asked the City Council to send a letter to all residents, asking about damage and loss.
I believe the number of damaged properties was far under-reported in the Baxter & Woodman engineering report. Only “known” addresses were reported. Because the City so quickly announced that it had no liability for losses, I believe many who suffered losses did not report their damage to the City.
Pick up a survey from one of The Woodstock Advocate news boxes of in front of Read Between the Lynes Bookstore and Angelo’s. Photocopy it for your neighbors and friends who suffered losses. Fill it out, photocopy it and see that the City Manager, Tim Clifton, receives it. If no surveys are in the boxes, email me at Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com and I’ll email one to you as a Word attachment.
And let me know that you have submitted it.
And show up at City Council meetings and voice your opinions. This is NOT old news. As of the October 2 City Council meeting, this rain and its flooding are only two months past. Keep this on the front burner…
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Request - Stay on Topic
Obscene, overly-rude, inappropriate, defamatory, libelous postings will be deleted, when I find them. If you spot one before I do, please email me to review it. Email to Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com
Special License Plate - 14 LE
I was already in my favorite lane (the right one; well, make that the right-hand lane) and as I passed the black car, the first thing I noticed was the license plate: 14 LE. You know, L-over-E. This plate is a special Illinois plate for Law Enforcement Memorial. No doubt that many cops order these plates as protection against getting stopped in the first place or, if they do get stopped, just enjoying a friendly conversation on the side of the road and probably not even a driver's license check. Just another brother going down the road, don't you know?
As I passed the car, I noticed that the driver was multi-tasking, not including trying to drive his car. He had his cell phone tucked between his ear and his shoulder, and he was turned sideways toward the center of the car and it looked like he was trying to write something, maybe on a pad on the center seat.
I went on by, but pretty soon he passed me. I noted that my speed was still 45MPH, so he had to be over the speed limit. Then he slowed down again, apparently distracted by his multi-tasking. And then he sped up. For the next four miles on two-lane 55MPH road, he tailgated the car in front of him, constantly having to tap the brakes to avoid hitting that car. Even when he was on an upgrade, he would tap his brakes.
Now, most of us who find ourselves rolling up on the car in front on an upgrade would just take our foot off the gas pedal, right? The combination of driving 10MPH below the speed limit, then speeding and tailgating would get most drivers a Careless Driving citation.
We did see one local police officer. That one had a driver stopped, and the guy in the Cadillac slowed down in the 45MPH zone to eyeball the traffic stop and then returned to his phone call and note-making.
Somebody around here knows this guy. With the license plate 14 L/E, he had to get in line pretty fast when those plates came out. How about mailing this to him and asking him to pay a little more attention to his driving? Like, get a hands-free cell phone connection for his high-end Cadillac and a $30 tape recorder for his note-taking. It'll be a lot safer for everyone.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Feet on Dashboard?
Have you ever been in a car when the airbag exploded? Have you ever seen a demonstration of airbags?
The Crystal Lake Fire Department popped three of them one afternoon during a demonstration of fire trucks and equipment. Thank goodness we were outside. The explosions were LOUD - somewhat like what it must be to be in a closet when a 12-gauge shotgun is fired.
But noise probably won't hurt you - permanently. The force of an airbag will hurt you, and permanently. If something had caused that airbag to explode under that girl's feet, her legs would have been forced up into the air and back toward her shoulders. The injury to her legs, hips and back probably would have crippled her.
Think about warning your children, grandchildren and friends of this danger. While it might be true that airbags seldom explode under normal driving conditions, why risk it?
Challenge to All Drivers
For the next 30 days, don't violate any t raffic laws. You might want to pick up a Rules of the Road at the DMV next to Aldi's (you know, the old Jewel) and refresh yourself.
1. Drive at the posted speed limit (be nice now; use the right lane). No cheating. Not even 1-2MPH over. Definitely not 5-10MPH over.
2. When the light turns yellow, stop if you can. You do know when it's legal to keep going. CAUTION: Watch the idiot behind you who expects you to run the yellow. I don't want to be responsible for getting the back end of your car re-styled.
3. Wait on the green light before filling up the intersection to turn left. Be sure you can get through before the light turns red. (This is more courtesy than the law.)
4. Obey crosswalk signs and let pedestrians cross. (Don't wave them in front of you. If they get hit by someone who doesn't stop, you'll find yourself smack dab in the middle of a lawsuit.)
5. Don't tailgate.
6. Don't block intersections and driveways.
Anybody willing to try this? Nah, don't "try" it. DO it. I dare you. Let me know what happens. Write to Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com
Monday, September 24, 2007
Reaction to License Plate!
As we left our cars, he spotted my Virginia license plate: MR HYPNO
He asked, “You do that?”
“Yep, sure do.”
“Well, don’t hypnotize me,” he said.
“I already did,” I replied. “You’re going into that restaurant and will buy some food.”
Bumper Sticker - BACK OFF
I had just walked out a Wal-Mart with my daughter, and we passed a woman who was placing groceries in her car. On the rear bumper was this sticker:
"BACK OFF! I Drive the Speed Limit."
I said to my daughter, “Watch this.”
Walking over to the woman, I asked, “Are you one of those people who drives the speed limit?”
She turned around, and I swear steam started to come out of her nostrils.
“Whoa! Wait a minute! So am I!” We had a great conversation and she mailed me some of the bumper stickers, which she had had made after being tailgated so many times in South Carolina.
It’s a different story here in Illinois. I’ve thought about pasting one on my car, but my red car is already enough of a target. With such a bumper sticker, it would be like having a bulls-eye on my trunk.
Tough as Nails …
This morning I stopped in Crystal Lake along U.S. 14, just east of IL 176. You know the corner; right? Where Wayne – of David vs. Goliath – has been known to park and hold a sign directing passersby to www.ripoffreport.com
A little voice told me not to drive onto the shoulder, so I parked nearby and walked to the open spot on the shoulder – Wayne’s Territory, don’t you know?
Imagine my surprise to see hundreds of nails on the ground, spread for 60 feet along the shoulder of the highway. I’m not talking about one pile or a little spill. These nails were spread from one end of the dirt shoulder to the other, and from the curbline to the field. I measured it – about 720 sq. ft. (60 x 12), give or take a little.
Now you might be wondering how so many nails would get there, and not one nail in the roadway.
I called the Crystal Lake Police Department and requested an officer to come and take a report, telling the dispatcher to warn the officer not to drive onto the shoulder unless he wanted four flat tires on his squad car. Within a few minutes the dispatcher called back to inform me that an officer would not respond, because the police already had a report.
She added that they have a suspect and he doesn’t match the description of the man who parks there. That would be Wayne, of course. I told that, of course, the description didn’t match Wayne. Wayne is certainly not going to dump a box of nails in the place where he parks to protest a previous sales experience with Viking Dodge, is he?
Then I called Crystal Lake Public Works to ask if they would send a street crew to clean up the nails. They advised that they would not, because it’s a state highway and up to IDOT. I asked if they could at least send a truck to put out some traffic cones to keep drivers off the shoulder, and they said they would.
Then I called the Woodstock IDOT yard and gave them the information about the nails, even though Crystal Lake had said they would make that call. The IDOT employee didn’t know about the nails and said they would take care of them.
When I went by again about 2:00PM, the nails were gone. I mean, the area was clean! The IDOT crew had done a great job and swept the area clean.
If you know of anyone with knowledge about this crime (dumping nails on a highway or shoulder IS a crime), please call the Crystal Lake Police Department and provide the information. The phone number is 815-459-2020, Ext. 1.
This dispute has taken on a nasty tone, when “someone” dumps a box of nails in the public right-of-way. I hope the police are diligent about investigating this. To many it will seem “small potatoes”, but it constituents Disorderly Conduct, Attempted Vandalism, and probably a whole list of other crimes, including attempted endangerment of the elderly.
No one will doubt for a minute that this nail-dumping is directed at Wayne.
I’ve got news for the culprit(s). It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. You have picked on the wrong dog.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Parking Enforcement on the Square
If not, why should anyone park legally on the Square? If there is to be no penalty, why doesn't everyone just park wherever he wishes?
A red Ford two-door (183 2595) was parked in the small striped no-parking zone in front of Read Between the Lynes Bookstore.
Just before that a Harley-Davidson motorcycle was backed into the same striped, no-parking zone for over an hour.
A yellow VW Beetle convertible (904 1449) was parked in the striped no-parking zone in front of Mardi Gras, while the driver ran into Starbuck's for coffee. "Just for a minute", don't you know?
And a red Dodge pick-up (38 726F) parked in the handicapped parking zone in front of Home State Bank. The driver looked around, as if checking to see if anyone was watching, then crossed the street to mail letters and back to enter the bank about 11:45AM. No handicapped license plate; no handicapped placard. The fine is $250.00 plus court costs for this violation.
Our police officers should patrol the Square on Farmer's Market days, because of the increased traffic and pedestrian flow. Illegal parking is a willful violation for which tickets should be issued. This is only way to stop it. Fair but firm enforcement. You're parked there when the cop comes by? You get a ticket.
SO WHO IS DOING THE WORK?
There are 85 million in school. Which leaves 55 million to do the work.
Of this there are 35 million employed by the federal government. Leaving 20 million to do the work.
2.8 million are in the armed forces preoccupied with killing Osama Bin-Laden. Which leaves 17.2 million to do the work.
Take from that total the 10.8 million people who work for state and city governments. And that leaves 6.4 million to do the work.
At any given time there are 5,188,000 people in hospitals. Leaving 1,212,000 to do the work.
Now, there are 1,211,998 people in prisons. That leaves just two people to do the work.
You and me. And there you are, at your computer, reading The Woodstock Advocate.
Nice. Real nice!!!
I’d be glad to give credit to the person who created this (except for the last part), if I just knew who he or she was. And, if it copyrighted, I’ll remove it.
Hercules Road is 30MPH
The orange 20MPH Speed Limit signs are not legal speed limit signs, and the City quickly ordered the developer to remove the one (the only one) on Hercules Road. As of last week, the two orange (meaningless) 20MPH speed limit signs on Bloomfield Drive were still up.
Now, here is the interesting part. The officer said that he had made a half-dozen traffic stops in that area. Because the speed limit signs were not legal signs, I filed a FOIA Request with the Woodstock Police Department to learn how many speeding tickets and citations were issued on Hercules Road and how many traffic stops were made where tickets were not issued.
When I received a prompt reply from the PD, I realized that I had not been careful enough with my wording in my request. The answer?
On Hercules Road east of Dean Street - 2
On Bloomfield Drive between Dean Street and Braeburn Way - 0
Number of traffic stops without tickets or warnings - Not answered
What I wanted to know was how many tickets and how many warnings, but I didn't word my request specifically that way. I did get the answer to the question I asked which was read as the combined number of tickets and warnings. Well, at least I got a partial answer. It was my error not to ask the question I intended to ask.
Regardless of that, only two tickets (or warnings) are not a "half-dozen". So, maybe there were traffic stops without warnings or tickets. Only the officer knows whether he stopped a driver and did not issue a warning or ticket. The dispatcher ought to know, too, because all traffic stops should be reported by radio.
With respect to Hizzoner's request that I only take up the City's time with requests that are reasonable, responsible or legitimate, I'll back off this time (probably only this time) and not re-submit my FOIA request for the more specific and omitted information.
I'm sure it would be considered unreasonable for me to ask why I did not get an answer to how many traffic stops there were without tickets or warnings being issued. Has the City given up on its racial-profiling record-keeping that required an officer to give me a written Warning four years ago, after he stopped me for a turn that I proved on the spot was not unlawful?
Accident on U.S. 14; no D/L, no ins.
Four people were injured, and eastbound U.S. 14 was closed for an hour. Can you imagine the confusion and loss of time and money there, in addition to the cost to law enforcement and rescue services?
One of the drivers was charged with driving without a driver’s license and without insurance. Basically, what this means is that he could not produce a driver’s license or proof of insurance for the deputy’s inspection, and the deputy correctly issued tickets for these violations.
It’s possible that the driver has both a driver’s license and insurance. On the other hand, he may be one of 13,-14,000 Hispanic people in McHenry County who are here illegally. Where does this number come from? According to a well-placed person at the McHenry County Latino Coalition, there are about 40,000 Hispanics in McHenry County. Nationwide figures indicate that 30-40% of Hispanics are in the USA illegally.
Was the driver in the USA legally? If not, what action will the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department or the Harvard Police Department, where that driver lives, be taking?
If the other driver ran the stop sign and drove into the path of the truck that hit him, there is probably no liability on the part of the truck driver. Then it’s a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In that case, having a driver’s license and insurance has nothing to do with the safe operation of the truck. However, you still have to have them, and that’s what caught this driver.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Parking Violations at Courthouse
I wonder whether he has been ticketing vehicles parked in the striped no-parking area in front of the jail entrance, where probably it’s mostly employees who park. Today a blue Chrysler minivan with Illinois license NVP 384 was there, and recently 2-3 motorcycles were parked in the same striped, no-parking area.
One day I was in the courthouse on business and asked one of the security guards about a car parking in a handicapped parking space near the back door. First, the guard wanted to know who I was. Like it mattered…
When I pointed out the vehicle, which was not displaying any handicapped parking placard or license plate, the guard said, “Oh, that’s (someone’s) car.” He knew the car and the employee. Apparently, the car belonged to an employee with a physical handicap, and the guard finally said he would call him.
I don’t really object to that, if the guard calls him without delay and the employee comes quickly either to move his vehicle or display the handicap permit. The problem was the guard’s nose got out of joint at being asked to address the parking violation. Why would it matter who I was?!
Next time, should I just summon the Woodstock Police Department and ask them to hang a $250 ticket on the car?
What if the guard had answered, “I recognize that car, and it belongs to a handicapped employee. He must have forgotten to display his placard. I’ll call him right now and he’ll come immediately and take care of it. Would that be okay?”
That would have been terrific, but the “I’m the law here” attitude is what bugged me.
Class Action vs. Woodstock
What’s it all about? Sewer water overflows in the homes of certain named plaintiffs. Paperwork indicates there is a reasonable belief that more than 200 households in Woodstock suffered water invasions between August 6-8.
The filing alleges that the Defendant (City of Woodstock) is responsible for inspection, cleaning, maintenance, operation, upkeep, repair, design, engineering and/or control of the sewage system. That about covers it; right?
Was your home damaged? If you suffered losses of any type, notify the Woodstock Public Works Department at email@example.com or (815) 338-6118 or by U.S. Mail c/o City Hall, 121 West Calhoun Street. If you notify by telephone, be sure to confirm in writing.
Often it is hard for the citizen who is not familiar with the legal process to uncover information about Class Actions. To help you save time, here is the contact information:
Contact the law firm of Sneckenberg, Thompson and Brody, L.L.P., 161 North Clark Street, Suite 3575, Chicago, IL 60601. Phone: (312) 782-9320.
Why is all this important to me? I personally believe the City was too hasty in so quickly denying liability and directing homeowners and other residents to their insurance companies. Because the engineering report included only 345 addresses, I believe that many residents initially accepted the City’s denial of liability and did not report losses and damages.
On August 21 I addressed the City Council and asked them to send a questionnaire to all City residents, inquiring about damage. I also asked the City to create a running total of losses by residents. On September 4 I heard Mayor Sager say that a letter would be sent to “everyone.” (Of course, the audiotapes of those City Council meetinsg no longer exist.)
Now, I don’t know that the City is liable. But I do know from years of experience that, if someone says too quickly “I didn’t shoot that guy in the lower back with a steel-blue .38 six-shot revolver at 10:34PM”, a whole lot of questions ought to be asked.
And now they will be asked.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Lawsuit Filed Just Before 4:30PM
I have it on good authority that a major lawsuit was filed against the City of Woodstock this afternoon, just before closing time at the courthouse. I am expecting a copy of the Complaint yet tonight and will expand on this after reading it.
As you may have read, the Woodstock City Council huddled in Executive Session last night. I suspect they had received word that it would be filed, and they were getting the ducks in order. I wonder if anyone was at the Plan Commission to locate Jenny and Bean...
Televised Council Meetings?
Just think... bring the City Council right into every home in Woodstock. With VCRs and whatever all these other fancy recording methods are, residents (Voters) could watch proceedings at their leisure, and they wouldn't have to give up a Tuesday night twice a month to keep up with the goings-on at 121 West Calhoun Street.
And it would reduce the need for preserving audiotapes of City Council meetings, because many people around town might just keep their copies of videotapes. This would definitely insure that the City would keep its own copy.
If a resident wondered whether a pattern in voting existed, how easy it would be to check. Not too much to worry about on that score. Isn't it interesting how almost all votes are 7-0? Somebody ought to object, at least some of the time, just to keep votes from behing unanimous all the time.
Which reminds me of a cult movie I saw several years ago, Putney Swope. The story is about a man who was elected Chairman of the Board, to succeed a chairman who had died in office. Nobody wanted him to be chairman, but many of the Board members thought he ought to get at least one vote, and so they voted for him. Result? He got enough of the "only one" votes to win.
Someone advised him not to rock the boat. He said he wasn't going to rock the boat; he was going to SINK the boat!
So, how about it? Public Access TV for Woodstock City Council meetings? What do YOU think?
Sign the Petition...
The City of Woodstock conducts important business at the semi-monthly meetings of the City Council. These meetings are tape-recorded.
What does the City do with the tapes? After the City Clerk (a part-time position) prepares the Minutes, she destroys the tape. Really? So there is no longer any accurate audio record of exactly what was said at the City Council meeting.
A Petition will be circulated in Woodstock, beginning this week, asking the City Council to immediately implement a procedure for preserving the tape-recordings.
Why am I hot about this? Because the City of Woodstock has failed to ascertain just how great the flooding and sewer back-up problems of the August 6-7 flooding were. Some (perhaps many?) think that over 1,000 properties might have been affected. The engineering report carried the number at 345, although the number known to the City might now be 420+. I heard Mayor Sager say on September 4th that a letter would go to “everyone.” Another reporter heard it, too.
But the tape is gone, and the September 4th Minutes contain NO reference to his remark. The tape has been erased or destroyed. (This destruction of the tape is allowed by City Council and the City's administrative rules.) Now there is no proof as to what Mayor Sager said. He either said “everyone” or he said something else in regard to the distribution of the Notice from Public Works about the availability of the hired engineer from Baxter & Woodman who is temporarily posted to Public Works.
Watch for the Petition and sign it if you believe the tapes of the City Council meetings should be preserved. If hundreds sign the Petition, it will no longer be my sole voice asking the City Council to do something they should have been doing for years.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
City Council – Litigation Expected?
The Agenda for tonight’s meeting included
G. EXECUTIVE SESSION:
(Open Meetings Act: 120/2 (c)(11)
Litigation, when an action against, affecting or on behalf of the particular public
body has been filed and is pending before a court or administrative tribunal, or
when the public body finds that an action is probable or imminent, in which case the
basis for the finding shall be recorded and entered into the minutes of the closed
Let’s see… Woodstock experienced major flooding and sewer back-ups a month ago. The City has not contacted all property owners to ascertain the full extent of damage incurred by residents. No estimate has been publicized for the total losses of residents.
What possible litigation could be “probable or imminent”? Anyone?
Mayor Sager gave a lengthy explanation of the purpose of the tapes. He almost lost me when he said the tapes don’t belong to the City but instead to the City Clerk. Wait just a minute! Doesn’t she work for the City Council? Isn’t she an employee? Or, even if she is an independent contractor, the tapes do belong to the City.
The explanation was that the tapes are for the sole purpose of aiding the City Clerk in preparation of the Minutes. She is a trusted employee. Did I infer otherwise? I mean, just because she didn’t reply to my email asking about availability of the tapes for listening…
There are only certain things that must be included in the Minutes, but the City Clerk can include more, which is exactly what she does and what she should be required to do, even when it exceeds the bare-bones minimum requirements.
As soon as the City Clerk has prepared the Minutes, she destroys the tape. Of course, the Council could decide otherwise. But will it? Mayor Sager spoke at length, expressing his opinion as if he were speaking for the entire Council. Perhaps he was, since they all knew what I was going to ask tonight.
There is no reason not to preserve the tapes, unless the Council doesn’t want an audio record of the meeting preserved. After all, such a tape would prove what was really said.
After the lengthy explanation, the Mayor thanked me for my interest in the City and said that he, the Council and the staff all knew that I had Woodstock’s best interests in mind, or some words to that effect. Thank you, thank you, but I didn’t feel any glow.
And then came the sucker punch. Mayor Sager pointedly – respectfully, he emphasized – requested me to make requests that were reasonable, responsible and legitimate.
When you say that to someone, what you are really saying is, “Your requests have been unreasonable, irresponsible and not legitimate.”
I thought about asking for an additional comment period to inquire whether that was, in fact, what he was really saying. But what was the point?
The City may feel nagged by my requests, many of which I have begun filing under the Freedom of Information Act. And I shall continue to file FOIA requests, whenever appropriate, to uncover information and facts of suspected misdeeds by the City.
I filed one this morning, asking how many tickets and warnings were issued in the new Apple Creek area to drivers for violating the (illegal) 20MPH speed limit. This wasn’t a school speed zone, and it wasn’t a legally-posted construction zone. The developer had put up some signs that were not legal signs, and the police were stopping drivers for speeding. One of the signs was quickly removed; two were still up. I asked (non-FOIA) the Police Department for the information about the number of tickets and warnings and was told to file a FOIA request; and so I did. They could have saved some money by just running the report and informing me of the numbers, but they said I’d have to make a FOIA request. Does this make my request unreasonable, irresponsible and not legitimate?
Every request I’ve made of the City has been reasonable, responsible and legitimate. If someone in the City thinks otherwise, then fill me in. Details, please. And your name and title. I won’t be holding my breath…
School Crossing Guard Takes Some Heat
Shhhh, hey! Quiet down out there!
Several parents have provided information to The Woodstock Advocate about a very unfortunate incident that occurred in front of Dean Street School one morning last week. Children walking to school were treated to an angry outburst from a resident on Dean Street, when she yelled at the school crossing guard at Dean and Tryon Streets.
The neighbor’s outburst was so upsetting to some of the children that they cried in school. Would that constitute disorderly conduct? The neighbor must have called the Woodstock Police, because the school crossing guard supervisor, Sgt. Lieb, reportedly told the crossing guard that he must not talk to the children.
All of this information has been provided to The Woodstock Advocate by parents of children who attend Dean Street School. When I contacted the crossing guard, Bill Pfeiffer, who along with his wife, Sharon, owns and operates Woodstock Hobbies on the Square, he said he wants to be very happy as a crossing guard and declined to comment for this article.
So what happened? As one mother explained it, Bill greets children in the morning in a friendly and somewhat boisterous manner. As one mother said, “Sort of like in that movie Good Morning, Vietnam.” Get the picture? (No pun intended.)
And what could help start a child’s day off in a better way? Would you rather be greeted in a happy, friendly, warm manner or like the schoolbus driver in that comic strip, Crankshaft, or the principal in the movie, Matilda? How wonderful it is that a crossing guard makes a child feel welcome and glad that he or she is on the way to school! A child is much more likely to arrive in the school building in a happy mood, as a result of such a greeting.
Apparently, Bill’s greetings annoyed that woman resident, and she must have complained to the police department.
I went to Dean Street School on Monday morning to introduce myself to Bill. He was busy with his duties, and I did not wish to be a distraction with conversation, so I offered to stop by his place of business on the Square. I had been in his store last April and met his wife, and I had intended to get back to meet him but never did. I have missed out on knowing a caring and concerned man, and that’s definitely my loss.
It was clear to me that Bill was feeling constrained on Monday morning. He wanted to interact with the children, to greet them, ask how they were and to wish them a happy day. And it was also clear that he realized he had better obey the directions of the school crossing guard supervisor, who had told him not to talk to the kids.
Is this like telling a teacher that he cannot talk to the kids outside of class? What do you do, when a child says “Good morning” to you? Ignore him? Just look away? Absolutely not!
One mom told me she was so mad at what had happened that she called Sgt. Lieb. Then she called Tim Clifton, Woodstock’s City Manager. And, after that, she called Chief of Police Bob Lowen. They talked on Friday and again today, and Chief Lowen told her that it was “all taken care of.”
I respect Bill for not wanting to air his side of what happened. It shows his deep caring for the children and his professionalism as a crossing guard and as a business owner. Bill is a quiet and sincere man, although I guess the neighbor would argue with me about the “quiet” part.
Maybe she’ll get up on the right side of the bed tomorrow morning and show up on the corner with coffee and donuts for Bill. And maybe later in the fall and during the winter, she’ll show up with a cup of steaming hot chocolate for him.
Everybody has a bad day every once in a while. Maybe she is not really a mean, nasty person. So let’s all send some positive energy to that corner, so that Bill can once again enjoy his crossing guard duties and that woman will be a little happier. Those kids need Bill and his careful attention to making certain that they are safe when they cross Dean Street and Tryon.
Thanks, Bill, for being one of Woodstock’s fine school crossing guards. And thanks, too, for operating a store that every kid in Woodstock (and we big kids, too) should know about and visit as customers. Woodstock Hobbies has a great slotcar track and reasonable rates for its use. Woodstock Hobbies carries a tremendous assortment of model trains, which could be the start of a lifetime hobby.
By the way, why must children cross Dean Street AND Tryon? Why doesn’t the City move the crosswalk just a few feet south, so that the kids would have to cross only Dean Street? This might also ease the jaywalking problem that exists in front of Dean Street School, when teachers and staff cross mid-block from the parking lot. Perhaps all the parents need to sign a petition and ask the City to move the crosswalk this fall.
What? No Traffic Stop?
As luck would have it, a Woodstock Police car was coming around the Square – in the right direction of travel. They met at Jackson Street, and the officer flagged down the driver. They stopped, driver’s door to driver’s door.
Wouldn’t this have been a perfect occasion to check a driver’s license? Insurance card? Vehicle registration? Driver’s ability to perceive direction? Did any of that happen?
After a short time and without leaving his patrol car, the officer let the driver proceed. I’m sure he must have told him to turn left immediately and drive off the Square on Jackson Street, because that’s what the driver did.
Even if the officer didn’t write him a ticket, he should have issued a written Warning. Driving the wrong way on the Square is a fairly significant traffic violation.
Why didn’t the driver pay attention to the No Left Turn sign, if he had come onto the Square from Dean Street? Why didn’t the driver notice that all the parked cars were facing against his direction of travel and that he couldn’t have parked, had he wanted to? Was the driver “confused”?
These are all good reasons to conduct a traffic stop. Getting the driver out of his car is a good way to evaluate his ability to operate a motor vehicle. Did the driver need to be re-examined at the DMV for his ability to operate a motor vehicle?
Should he have gotten a ticket or just a written Warning? If either event, the officer should have gotten out of his vehicle and inspected the driver’s paperwork and then issued a Warning.
Why does this bug me? Because in January I was stopped right in front of my driveway and given a $75 ticket for a headlight that had been out for 20 minutes!
Monday, September 17, 2007
Gee (sweat, sweat), there have been “many” complaints? I filed a Freedom-of-Information Act Request with the City, and today I went to City Hall to examine the City’s response. A member of the Historic Preservation Commission had told me there had been “many complaints”, and the City had confirmed that there had been “complaints.”
How many? Well, I found out. OK, care to guess? Twenty? How about fifteen? Ten? Try for five? OK, how about three? Two? Still here? Care to go for one?
The HPC member reportedly was told by one storeowner on the Square, whose name I found in the FOIA response, that she was upset by the chartreuse green, plastic, house-style news boxes. Where is my color chart? I’d better head on by Lloyd’s Paints for some swatches and check again on the color of my boxes.
So there was apparently one – only ONE – complaint, and it was not even in written form. So, does it count? Or was it just a comment or an aside? Frankly, my green news boxes seem in better taste than the ugly, metal, rectangular news box next to mine; you know, the one you put money in to get your daily paper out?
The HPC member threw in his 2¢ worth and claimed also to be concerned, so I guess that makes two complaints. Let’s see; 7,600 properties in Woodstock; one business owner complains; one Commission member agrees. 21,298 people don’t complain. Should I be worried?
The concern actually was back in November-December, 2006, when the boxes were not in use by their previous owner. It appeared to the storeowner and the HPC member that the boxes were abandoned, and they were correct about that. However, I purchased them in May and have put them back in limited use. It is my understanding that they are protected under the First Amendment, and their use will be increased.
What’s interesting is that, when I contacted the HPC about the satellite dish on Main Street that is visible from the sidewalk and street, I was informed to attend a Commission meeting to voice my concern. Just telling the Commission member wasn’t enough. Yet it was last fall, when the storeowner complained to him about the green news boxes.
Well, anyway, the City now knows who owns the boxes. Be sure to begin checking them soon for free (Hello? FREE) headlines and snippets from articles.
More on Viking Dodge
OK, so Viking Dodge got their permit from the City. The permit allows them to place their temporary wooden sign on their property. That means, on their own property – on their own private property.
Today I visited the Crystal Lake City Hall to view a large-scale architectural drawing of Viking Dodge’s land. Around their property is a solid black line on the drawing. When I asked what that meant, the clerk said it “usually” meant the boundary of the owner’s property; i.e., that private property.
I was interested in the State’s right-of-way, or easement, along Route 176. That is hallowed ground, from the State’s perspective. You are not supposed to advertise in the right-of-way. More importantly, Crystal Lake issued a permit for Viking Dodge to advertise on their own property. A couple of weeks ago I had asked a Crystal Lake employee why the City’s permit apparently allowed Viking Dodge to advertise in the State right-of-way.
The property line is about 32’ from the curb along Route 176, according to the solid black line on the drawing. The distance measures about 13/16” on the drawing, which is on the scale of 1’=40’.
This means that their sign should be 32’ back from the street. So why is their temporary wooden advertising sign only about six feet from the curb?
Because the City of Crystal Lake is not going to go out to Viking Dodge and look for the surveying markers. After all, Viking Dodge says the sign is on their property, and so it must be. Yeah, right…. Like the disgruntled buyers posting on http://www.ripoffreport.com/ are all blowing hot air.
Now it appears to me that not only must Viking Dodge move its sign back to the 32’ boundary, but it’s going to have to be sure that none of its cars parked out front is closer than 32’ to the curb. The sign needs to be back where the cars are. The cars look like they could be 32’ back, and they are there because Viking Dodge knows exactly where its property line is. Of course, the line is back where the cars are. Viking Dodge would not risk having the City or the State tow a whole row of cars away some night.
Hmm, whom would the City hire? Maybe those guys that prowl apartment parking lots in the middle of the night, looking for cars that have no parking stickers. You know the companies. The ones with their warning signs at entrances to apartment complexes and shopping centers. But that’s a story for another day.
Come on, Crystal Lake. Get some backbone. Go tell Viking Dodge to move that illegal sign! Or cancel the permit, since they are violating its terms.
Legal Work on Flooding
I didn’t stay for the entire meeting because issues that would be privileged communications between a lawyer and his clients were going to be discussed. I explained that I was there to gather information but that I myself had not suffered a loss. Even though I did not intend to use names or addresses of anyone attending, I offered to leave the meeting, and Mr. Bazzo accepted my offer.
He and I met later, and I learned more about his work. He has been active in Rockford, where very serious flooding occurred. In Rockford 100 homes were condemned as a result of flooding. At least we didn’t have a problem of that magnitude here, which is not to diminish the problems that Woodstock residents did have.
So far, I do not know of any effort of the City of Woodstock to learn the extent of damage in Woodstock. Over 420 addresses of affected properties may now be known to the City. This is a 20% increase in the original number reported (345). That 345 was touted as “less than 5%”. And it is; it’s 4.54%.
But 420 properties is 5.53% of that 7,600 properties. What is the number of affected properties is 1,000 (13.16%)?. Or what if it ultimately is 2,000 properties (26.32%)?
The only way to know the true devastation that occurred is to count ALL the affected properties. And the only way to do that is to ask EVERY property owner or tenant whether there was damage from flooding or sewer back-up at his property.
The first step to determining what happened is to investigate and find out exactly what did happen – and why? If the City does not know what happened – specifically – and why it happened, how can the City Council make a decision about what to do and how much money to spend, and on what projects first?
I was impressed by Mr. Bazzo’s approach. If you wish to reach him to discuss his legal services, call him at (248) 321-8600 (Eastern time zone).
Tapes Quickly Destroyed
At the September 4th City Council meeting, I heard Mayor Sager say that a letter would be sent to “everyone.” The topic was the flooding, and the letter would inform residents that an (Baxter & Woodman) engineer had been hired by the City and assigned to Public Works. His job is to respond to residents’ requests and give them information.
A notice posted September 5 on the City’s website by John Isbell, Director of Public Works, indicates that the letter is going by direct mail “to know [sic] address with flooding or sewer problem” (whatever that means). Does that mean the City will send direct mail to every resident to know (learn of a) flooding or sewer problem? Or does that mean the City will send direct mail to the know(n) address with flooding or sewer problem? In that case, only 345 residents will know of the engineer’s availability. (The number is up to 421 now; maybe higher.)
On September 6 I wrote to Tim Clifton and asked him to check the tape for Mayor Sager’s remark. There is a big difference between “everyone”(7,600 properties) and 345 known properties (in the Baxter & Woodman report). Did he do it?
On September 10th I emailed City Clerk Meaghan Haak to ask what the arrangements were for listening to the tape. At that time, only six days after the City Council meeting, the Minutes had not been posted yet on the City’s website. Who else would know better about the tape? The City Clerk, right? It’s an official and very responsible, although part-time, position with the City. The City Clerk did not reply to me.
When I had not received her reply by yesterday, I emailed Tim Clifton.
I went to City Hall late this afternoon to read a FOIA response on a different topic. While I was there, I asked what the procedure was to listen to the tape. I learned then that tapes are destroyed after they are transcribed. It was pointed out to me that on the Agenda for a City Council meeting is the following statement: “The proceedings of the City Council meeting are being audio-recorded only to aid in the preparations of the Minutes and are not retained as part of the permanent records of the City.”
The tape of the September 4th meeting may have already been destroyed, since the Minutes were transcribed and posted on the City’s website by Friday, September 14. But the Minutes have not yet been approved by the Council! What if there is a question tomorrow night, September 18, at the City Council meeting? What if a Member of the City Council, or even the Mayor himself, disagrees with a statement in the Minutes? Where is the proof? Gone! Poof! Vanished! Erased!
Why is this important?
The Minutes of the September 4th do not contain Mayor Sager’s remark that a letter would be sent to everyone. They don’t contain any reference to his remark about the letter to be sent. This is a very important omission, since I raised the question before the Minutes had even been transcribed.
When I arrived at home, I read Tim Clifton’s email, sent at 1:41PM, that tapes are not maintained after the City Clerk transcribes the Minutes.
Let’s see, why wouldn’t the City maintain the tapes? Too costly? They could be kept 1-2-3 months and then recycled. Or longer, before they are recycled. Why the haste to get rid of them? The tapes are summarized by the City Clerk and are not transcribed verbatim. This is all the more reason to preserve the tapes of the meetings.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Parenting Teen-Age Boys - Workshop Sept. 20
Gale Dreas, LCSW, author of Toolbox Parenting: The Most Practical Guide to Raising Teenage Boys You'll Ever Read, will be at MCC on Thursday, Sept. 20, 7:00-9:00PM. The workshop will be conducted in the Employee Dining Room, B-177.
To register. Call MCC at (815) 455-8588. Register for Course # NCC S02 001 and pay $18.00 by credit card. Then be there.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Save the Date – August 28th???
All you have to do is check out the Events page of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce. Go to www.woodstockilchamber.com On September 14 the webpage still alerts members to save August 28 for a networking meeting!
This isn’t anything new, of course. The Artwalk on the Square (August 25) is still posted as an “upcoming event.”
Why do Chamber members tolerate such an approach to the Chamber’s electronic newsletter? And why do they tolerate the absence of meaningful networking events and other events of value to the business members, who pay dues to support the organization?
What do they really get for their dues? Do they get strong representation and advocacy before the City Council? You’d never know it from the news reaching the Woodstock Independent or the Northwest Herald! Or maybe that’s the reason nothing reaches the press. You have to do something first.
Have you noticed the amount of newspaper space given to the Crystal Lake and McHenry Chambers of Commerce? As a former Chamber of Commerce vice-president of membership services (in an 1,100-member chamber), I recognize chambers that deliver value to members, and those two chambers do just that.
I remember telling one chamber prospect 20 years ago that the greatest benefit of membership should NOT be a canceled check from his bank within 30 days of his dues payment!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The schoolbus driver was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. That charge certainly seems reasonable and appropriate to me.
But get this... The charge was amended in August to having no valid registration. Registration in the Illinois Vehicle Code refers to the licensing of the vehicle, not a driver's license in the driver's pocket. What happened to the moving violation?
What were the circumstances that led the unnamed judge to accept this plea-bargain? Obviously, a defense lawyer got involved, and the State decided not to waste its time prosecuting the serious charge; not that rear-ending someone appears to be that serious of a charge in McHenry County. This charge is used all the time (unless a deputy sheriff rear-ends a car). When I was writing tickets In Iowa (or was it in Colorado), we called it "failure to stop in the assured clear distance ahead."
The law enforcement agency whose officer wrote the original ticket isn't mentioned in the article. What is their opinion about the plea-bargain? The ticket was issued by the Spring Grove P.D., according to the original May 26 report in the Northwest Herald. Is the investigation of the accident being evaluated at the P.D. to determine how a defense attorney was able to persuade the State's Attorney to amend the charge?
Si, se puede?
OK, so why wasn't the kid in Chicago in school? Authorities should charge his guardian with truancy and look into contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Does he have a guardian? Who is s/he? Sure, protesting is a right, done within legal bounds and not crossing the line of disorderly conduct. Saul was reported as looking "distracted." Whatever would you expect of an 8-year-old who is being strongly influenced by those around him.
Adults can push the line on protesting, if they understand the risks involved and accept the consequences. The authorities are not always right. You must know your rights, or you don't have any.
The only outrageous part of Elvira's deportation was that it took so many years for the Federal government to kick her out. Had the government acted when the judge ordered her deported, Saul would not have been born in the United States. She wasn't even pregnant with him, when the judge ordered her out.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Shhhh - It's a Secret
I called the listing agent and left a message, asking if there had been flooding or sewer back-up. Now, this is a pretty simple question, and it is definitely one to which a listing agent should know the answer. Every real estate agent in the area, before showing any house, is going to ask (or had better ask) whether there was flooding.
Imagine my surprise, when the listing agent did not even extend the courtesy of returning my call. I had identified myself fully and also indicated that I was not a prospective buyer. Maybe this agent is just too busy with all the many back-to-back showings that every real estate agent is experiencing in Woodstock's red-hot housing market. Yeah, sure.....
Then I called that listing agent's managing broker. Think she would admit to knowing the answer? Absolutely not. In fact, she would not even agree to finding out. She said there was nothing in the listing file to indicate the answer. When I asked if that meant there had been no flooding in the house, she said it did not mean that. I was reminded of the not-so-popular "Don't ask. Don't Tell" policy. She said there was nothing in the file to indicate whether or not there had been flooding at that address. Then she (in the Crystal Lake office) had the gall to tell me to call a couple of Woodstock real estate agents and ask them. Well, who would they call to find out? The very same real estate office of the manager to whom I was speaking!!!
Then I called a in Woodstock. When he called me back, I asked if he knew about any flooding at the property in question and he didn't. When I asked whether a listing agent was obligated to find out whether there had been any flooding or resulting damage, he said the requirement to find out was really loose in the real estate code.
Apparently, once a listing is written, an agent isn't required to keep it up-to-date. If the property is damaged after it is listed, the Seller will eventually have to disclose it and the agent doesn't have any liability to inquire about it. I find that really hard to believe.
It is, however, one more very good reminder of Caveat Emptor - buyer beware!
Oh, yes; the answer about the property in question? I asked a neighbor about that property on September 11. She said there had been some very serious pumping of water out of the basement of that house. So, yes; there was flooding. And the house is not on the City of Woodstock report.
Hercules 20MPH - Unenforceable?
This afternoon I drove on Hercules east from Dean St. My first observation was, where is the 20MPH speed limit sign? And then I came to it. Just before Braeburn there is one 20MPH speed limit sign, eastbound. And it is orange, not a white sign with black lettering. How strange!
According to the Illinois Rules of the Road, speed limit signs are black lettering on white background. We're all familiar with these. All the speed limit signs that we see - all over Woodstock (except on Hercules and Bloomfield Dr.), McHenry County, the State of Illinois, the U.S.A. - are black on white. It's called a "standard".
Now, why is this sign orange? Does anyone know? Is it to get attention?
Again according to the Illinois Rules of the Road (page 61 in the version that has the sports car with the license plate "Donate" on the front cover; Jesse White has figured out yet that there ought to be a Print Date in each version) "Orange signs alert you to construction and maintenance areas ahead."
There is no construction or maintenance on Hercules (is it Street? - I forgot to look). The roadway is finished. It does end about 1/4-mile farther, at the turn-in for the schools.
The orange signs are Warning signs; they are not regulatory speed limit signs. Orange signs "warn" you to slow down, but you don't have to. Just like the little speed signs under warning signs preceding curves. The speed is suggested or recommended, but the law doesn't require you to slow down to that speed through a curve.
Should police officers be stopping drivers who exceed the 20MPH speed limit on the orange sign? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Should a driver be ticketed for driving in excess of 20MPH. NO. The speed limit on Hercules in the state unposted speed limit in residential areas of 30MPH.
By the way, there is NO speed limit sign posted anywhere on westbound Hercules between the schools and Dean Street.
Same on Bloomfield Drive! The 20MPH orange signs are unenforceable as a posted speed limit. At least there is a 20MPH sign in both directions on Bloomfield Drive, but they are both the wrong signs.
If attention to a speed limit sign is wanted, then the method followed in the City of McHenry should be followed. McHenry "flags" speed limit signs that are new or changed. To help the public recognize a change in speed limit, orange flags are affixed to speed limit signs for a period of time. This ia great time!
If the Woodstock City Council has approved a 20MPH speed limit on Hercules and on Bloomfield, then the correct signs need to be posted and frequently enough that drivers know the speed limit.
Does anyone agree with this?
Where Were You on 9/11?
Almost all will remember exactly where they were, when they learned of the horrific events of 9/11. I was on a plane, flying from Austin, Texas, to O'Hare. Being in the air and locked away from communications, we had no idea what was going on. As the plane landed, my seat mate turned on her cell phone. Her phone beeped with its warm-up tones about the time the nose wheel of the plane touched the runway.
I was just about to comment about leaving the phone off until we reached the terminal, when her phone rang with an incoming call.
"How many planes?"
"Oh my God!"
By that time every passenger with a cell phone was turning it on. The pilot taxied to a holding area, where we remained stopped for about 20 minutes. Then the pilot announced, "Well, since most of you know what it going on..." and he proceeded to give us an explanation of what he knew.
Soon thereafter, we taxied to a gate and deplaned. The terminal was virtually empty. The roads were empty as I drove from O'Hare to Woodstock. The shock was settling in.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Bicycle Auction - Sept. 22
If you would like to inspect the bikes before the auction begins, come at 8:30AM. Check the City's website (www.woodstockil.gov) for more information or call the police station at (815) 338-2131. Bring cash. If you plan to pay by check, call the PD first to ask if a check will be accepted.
Recently a stolen bicycle was recovered. It had been stolen in Hoffman Estates in October. Because the owner had filed a police report with the serial number of the bike, the owner could be identified and got her $300 bicycle back.
Woodstock Police may rekindle its bicycle registration program. This shouldn't be hard at all. A simple Excel spreadsheet would contain all the necessary information for local bike thefts. You'll need the make, model, serial number, color, equipment, condition, etc. Watch for more details in the media about this program.
September Coffee with the Chief
Questions were raised about joggers running in the street where sidewalks are available and loose dogs on streets and in City parks.
One officer commented on some of the excuses given to him as to why runners used the street; last month (August) one runner told him that she ran in the street because she didn't want to run in snow on the sidewalk! Other runners blamed cracks in sidewalks, and one man said the sidewalk was too hard. Duhhh..... Harder than the street?
The Illinois Vehicle Code covers this exact problem. "625 ILCS 5/11-1007. 'Pedestrian walking on highways. (a) Where a sidewalk is provided and its use is practicable, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along or upon an adjacent roadway.'" The officer mentioned this law, and I would like to suggest it be applied. Have a reporter ride with an officer on a Sunday morning and write a story about the runners and joggers. Photograph them. Report their names. Watch the officer issue the tickets. Follow the story to the courthouse and report the fines and court costs.
OK, so give one written warning to a runner. Only one. Next time? He gets a ticket. And the next time, too. Every time.
One man asked about loose dogs with runners and in parks. Woodstock has a City ordinance that covers this nicely. Chapter 3 of the City Ordinances, Animal Control, reads in §4.3.3. Restraint & Confinement. "B.Any dog, while on a street, sidewalk, public way or in any park, or other public space, or upon any private property without the consent of the owner, shall be secured by a leash or chain of sufficient tensile strength to restrain the particular dog or shall be at heel."
Another person present complained about loud auto stereos. The Illinois Vehicle Code covers this in 625 ILCS 5/12-611 Sound Amplification Systems. “No driver of any motor vehicle within this State shall operate or permit operation of any sound amplification system which can be heard outside the vehicle from 75 or more feet when the vehicle is being operated upon a highway, unless such system is being operated to request assistance or warn of a hazardous situation.” The police can cite a driver of such a vehicle without the requirement that a person sign a complaint and go to court. The officer can be the complaining witness.
If an officer were stationed at the corner of Dean and South Streets from 4:00-6:00PM or on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, he could probably write 25-50 tickets. If he went to the Square, he could probably write 15-25 tickets in a couple of hours. All he has to do is chalk off the 75' distance and wait with his ticket book at the ready. Of course, a few signs would help, too.
Maybe we could get some Quiet Zones established in Woodstock? Like, near the two bed-and-breakfasts and around the Square. Put up some signs, like "Shhhhh.... Quiet Zone. $75 Fine."
Have you seen the new 20MPH speed limit signs in Apple Creek? They MEAN 20MPH, and they are NOT school zone speed limit signs. The speed limit is 20MPH - 24/7. Who is the world thought that one up? The job of the police is to enforce the law, no matter how stupid it is; so they get caught in the middle. But We the People can change stupid laws. And a 20MPH speed limit, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is a pretty stupid law. A State legislator (not from Woodstock) told me that police often do not write tickets for absurd laws, so what is the point of such laws? A speed limit should be reasonable, and then it should be enforced.
Special Education Workshop on IEPs
I’ve heard it said that no child with an IEP should fail. Of course, I never heard that in a school
A very special, three-evening workshop will be presented on October 22, October 29 and November 5 at MCC, right here in our own backyard. Maureen Lowry-Fritz is an attorney and mother of four children, two of whom have received special education services. She knows first-hand what we are going through.
This workshop is a series – all three nights. It is not the same program presented on three different evenings. Register soon (by October 15) and make arrangements now to attend all three evenings. Plan some extra time to socialize and meet other parents with similar problems.
Perhaps some parent support groups will come out of this workshop. They are sorely needed in McHenry County.
Children should not be brought to the workshop, as no child care will be provided.
Register at www.epilepsyheartland.org on the bottom of the homepage.
Questions? Contact Nancy Monica in Lake in the Hills at (847) 791-4797 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawyers to Host Flood Rights Meetings
How true this is. In every area of the law it is true.
A downtown Chicago law firm will host seven informational, 45-minute meetings on Home Water Invasion in Woodstock. Did you have storm water or sewer water back-up in your home? Do you know someone who did? If so, or even if you didn’t but are just interested, you might want to attend one of these meetings. There is no charge. (And, no, I don’t work for the law firm that will conduct them.) All meetings will be at the Woodstock Public Library.
If you live north of South Street,
Sunday, September 16, 1:00PM
Monday, September 17, 9:00AM
If you live south of South Street,
Sunday, September 16, 2:00PM
Monday, September 17, 10:00AM
If you want to come to a meeting open to all residents (or if you just don’t know whether you live north or south of South Street : )
Sunday, September 16, 3:00PM
Monday, September 17, 11:00AM and 12:00PM.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Noise Disturbance on the Square
Here's my question: Why should the amplified music be allowed at such a high level that it can be heard four blocks from the Square?
An Illinois Motor Vehicle law prohibits amplified music from a sound system that can be heard more than 75 feet from the vehicle. There is a meager fine, although the court costs are probably 2-3 times the fine. But how many tickets are even written for the violation?
When I inquired last year about amplified sound levels during programs from the Square, I was told by a city official that sound levels would be monitored and, I mistakenly assumed, controlled so that sound did not create a disturbance for the surrounding area.
I don't care whether it's mariachis, fiddles, drums or a symphony orchestra. I'm an equal opportunity listener, and I'm an equal opportunity opponent of extremely loud and annoying music. I guess one could always file a Disturbing the Peace complaint, but against whom should it be filed? The City Manager? The City Council? The Mayor? Against the department head of the City who issued the permit for the festival?
If all the City officials lived within 3-4 blocks of the Square and had to put up with the intrusion, this nuisance (loud volume) would have been stopped a long time ago. I couldn't even find out online what the event was. There is no mention on the City's website or on the Chamber's website.
10 + 4 More Houses = 359
One man ventured a guess that there were over 1,000 homes affected by the flooding and back-ups. Another man knew a lot about the Olson Park lift station outage and questioned reports that one pump was out only for 45 minutes. He questioned how any of the pumps operated after lightning knocked out the power to the station.
A comment was made to me that the repaving of Tappan Street raised the elevation, trapping water in yards of houses on the west side of the street. The resident said a drain is needed, so that water can reach the Olson Park retention area and be drained away there.
To what extent has the City forestalled complaints by so quickly claiming that it had no liability? How many residents did not bother to report flooding or sewer back-ups, once they heard the City’s disclaimer (whether it’s true or not)? What if it turns out that the City is liable for certain damages?
At the City Council meeting in mid-August I suggested that the City send a questionnaire out to all residents, asking if they had flooding, sewer back-ups or any other damage from the rainfall. More than a few in the audience applauded my request. (Thank you; you know who you are.) But the City didn’t do it. No questionnaire in the newspaper(s); no letter to all residents. Posting flood information on the City’s website is good, but how many people drop in at www.woodstockil.gov every morning after they finish reading the Northwest Herald? I suspect you could count them on two hands.
The City needs to step up and be pro-active in determining how many houses were damaged. If you agree, contact City Manager Tim Clifton at (815) 338-4300 or, better, by email at email@example.com Come to a City Council meeting (schedule is on the City’s website).
Do you know of homes not on the City’s flood report? Ask the owners to contact the City now and report their damage. This is the only way the City will know the true extent of the damage.
Flooding Losses - How Much?
In the absence of the City’s stepping forward and assembling the estimated losses, The Woodstock Advocate will provide that service.
Email the estimate of your total loss to Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com and it will be included in the total.
Watch for regular updates at www.WoodstockAdvocate.com
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Coffee at the PD - - This Monday, 7:00PM
It’s an opportunity to meet Chief Lowen and the officers of the beat that is basically west of Lake Avenue and the railroad track, west of IL 47, and south of South Street and Kishwaukee Valley Road west of Hill St.. If you still have your Fall 2007 City Scene, turn to Page 48.
I’ve lived here 11 years, and I still have to look at map to figure out the directionals of main streets in Woodstock.
You can email the Beat 23 officers (their names are in the City Scene) with issues or concerns; use the initial of his first name and spell out his last name PLUS @woodstockil.gov If your concern is immediate, call (815) 338-2131. If it’s an emergency, dial that number or 9-1-1.
I have suggested to the PD that it should create email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org, so that residents wouldn’t have to keep track of officers’ names and whether they are still assigned to the beat in which the resident lives. Seems logical to me, but it must be too complicated to figure out at the City level. Such an email address would eliminate factors such as turn-over, re-assignment, promotion, vacation, training leave, medical leave, etc.
Looking ahead a month, Beat 24 (basically, south of Country Club Road and east of IL 47 and including the wedge from Raintree Park to the corner by McDonald's) will be in the spotlight at the October 8th Coffee with the Chief.
Refreshments include coffee, pop and Mrs. Lowen’s baking treats. These are not to be missed! Thanks, Mrs. Lowen!
What type of information? At-fault traffic accidents in which the deputy who caused the accident was not ticketed and no information ever appeared in the newspapers.
An assault on one deputy by another also never made the papers. This one followed an evening of drinking at a local pub in Woodstock. There was some light internal discipline that was doled out following that incident, but it was all shielded from the public by so-called privacy laws involving personnel matters. Now, isn’t that just nice?
All of the information passed along to me so far has been accurate, so the credibility of the tipsters is very high. If you’ve got some dirt that the public ought to know about, you can contact me at Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com and you can be certain that your identity will not be revealed. I am careful in my writings not to even mention whether it was a man or woman who called me. I don’t mention a department, division or working hours. Confidentiality is critical here, because I do not want you to lose your jobs.
I went to the County Board one night to recommend an Internal Affairs Division for the sheriff’s department. To quote an acquaintance from the South, it was so quiet that night you could have heard cotton drop in that meeting. Were they interested or asleep? One thing is for sure; I’ll long remember the expression of disgust on the face of one Board member.
Some people around here accuse me of not liking cops. I do like cops. I like the ones who are citizens first, cops second. Ones who are not bullies. Ones who believe the laws are for them, too.
Want to call me at (815) 308-7647? Block your phone number, if you don’t want it to show up on the built-in CallerID. Or use a Calling Card. Or set up a free, discrete email account to correspond with me.
Gas – Up 14¢ in one day???
We all talk about cutting back, but how many of us do it? I ride my motorcycle (48mpg) as many days as I can, since my Beetle gets only 28mpg. I attempt to consolidate shopping trips. I try to avoid unnecessary trips. I’d like to carpool, but that is next to impossible. And public transportation in McHenry County? Don’t get me started on that one!
And I don’t wait in drive-through lanes with the engine running.
Just check out the drive-through lanes at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts. Absolutely stupid that drivers sit there with the engines running in their huge SUVs and pick-ups. But they do. Gotta stay cool; right? What's wrong with running the windows down?
It doesn’t do any good to complain to the clerk at the convenience store. However, what you can do is contact the person at the headquarters. Recently I complained to Jewel Express management at Albertson's about gas prices being substantially higher in Woodstock than in Crystal Lake and Algonquin. The explanation? Higher delivery charges. What a load of (I’ll be polite here….). And today? Prices are lower than Crystal Lake – or at least they were until this recent jump. Now there are about the same. I do want to add that the response from the Albertson's manager was prompt and polite, and he was just telling me what I'm sure he was told to tell complainers.
Were others calling and complaining? I hope so!