Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kudos to Public Works Employee

Late Tuesday afternoon I noticed a large dumpster that had been dropped on South Jefferson Street behind Harris Bank. It was dark brown, and there were no barricades around it to warn drivers after dark.

It was 5:10PM and, as I dialed Public Works at 338-6118, I expected to get a voice mailbox. Imagine my surprise when Jeff answered. He understood the problem immediately and said he'd take care of it. And take care of it, he did. Lighted barricades were placed behind and in front of the dumpster, and hopefully no one will run into them and the dumpster late at night after the downtown bars close.

Thanks, Jeff, for answering the phone "after hours" and for taking care of the problem!

Know this car? BLUE VUE

Every once in a while (well, every day) somebody does something really stupid. And, when they drive cars with personalized or vanity license plates, maybe they really should think first about how identifiable they are.

This afternoon I was driving north on Pyott Road from Algonquin Road. The speed limit up the hill is 40MPH, and then it increases to 50MPH.

And who is behind me? A car I’ve seen before – a blue Saturn Vue with the vanity license plate BLUE VUE. I may even have seen this license plate around Woodstock.

Well, this driver was getting very antsy at my “poking along” at the speed limit. He came up close behind me two-three times and then backed off a little. And then it happened…

Near the bottom of the hill at Industrial Drive, he decided to pass, even though I was traveling exactly at 50MPH on Cruise Control. I was keeping an eye on him and expecting him to do so, but what I didn’t expect is that he would try to intimidate me by passing me so closely that I had to move to the right to avoid being side-swiped. When he passed, the right-side tires on his car were still well on the right side of the center of the roadway.

Did he save a lot of time? Not hardly. When I got to the light at Rakow Road, guess who was right of front of me? You got it! And then at Virginia Road and again at the red light on Main Street at U.S. 14. He was in the through lane, so I pulled up on the left side in the left turn lane and got about ten seconds of clear video of the driver’s face.

Tonight I have emailed a traffic complaint to the Lake in the Hills Police Department, and tomorrow I’ll go by to discuss filing a traffic complaint and having that driver hauled into McHenry County Traffic Court.

That’s the kind of driving that gets people killed, and that driver needs a wake-up call and a good lesson from a tough judge. And about $175 in fines and court costs; hopefully, no court supervision. Just a stiff fine and a conviction reported to the DMV, where it will go on to hit his insurance records and result in an increase in auto insurance premium.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Backing from Driveway in Woodstock

Earlier today I posted, and then deleted, an article about a traffic jam on Route 47. Two readers commented quickly that the two officers on the scene were blocking a lane of traffic to protect a power line that had dropped to possibly interfere with southbound truck traffic.

A third reader commented on a backing maneuver which he believed I had made this afternoon. He seems to think I live somewhere I don’t but, for the sake of discussion, I’ll refer to his issue.

When a driver backs out of a driveway on a residential street in Woodstock, what is the proper way to do it? More importantly, what might be an illegal way to do it?

Let’s assume the driveway is mid-block on a residential street with no moving traffic. You back in the driveway and stop before crossing the sidewalk. Then what?

Depending on which direction of travel you intend, you might back to your right with the right side of your car parallel to the near curb, and then proceed “down” the street without crossing the centerline.

But what if you want to go “up” the street? Can you, or should you, back across the near lane of traffic and back “to your left”, so that when you straighten out, you can go “up” the street? Or can you back out of the driveway and back to your left on the near side of the street, and then, as you start forward, cross the centerline as quickly as possible to get on the right (correct) side of the street and proceed “up” the street?

A phone call tonight to the Woodstock Police Department resulted in one clear answer and one “maybe”. The clear answer was that a driver could back out of his driveway across the near lane and across the center line, and then go “up” the street. The “maybe” was that it might be illegal to back out of the driveway and to the left on the near side of the street, and then promptly and entirely cross the center of the roadway to go “up” the street, because this would cause your vehicle to be facing the wrong way in an oncoming direction of travel.

All of the above assume that there is no moving traffic in the block of your driveway.

Until the question was raised by the reader, whose comment was removed only because I deleted the article about the blocked lane of traffic on Route 47, I thought it seemed safer to back to the left without crossing the centerline and then drive quickly to the right side of the street. Understanding now that might be illegal (and being told tonight that there aren’t many State traffic laws about backing), I’ll drop that maneuver. I myself don’t like the idea of backing across a lane of traffic, even on a residential street, so I’ll just turn so that I can go down the street and use side streets to reverse my direction of travel.

If you are not totally confused by all this, would you like to comment on how you would back out of your driveway, in order to travel away from home using the lane on the opposite side of your street?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Recall Elected Officials?

Right to recall elected officials? YES!

Read today’s (Sunday’s) editorial in the Chicago Tribune and vote online at

Should Illinois voters have the right to recall elected officials? Absolutely! The Trib says that 18 other states permit this. EVERY state should permit it. Once politicians show their true colors, voters should be able to grab the broom and sweep them out.

For my money, Blago deserves the boot because 1) he refused to move to the State Capital, Springfield and 2) he wastes huge amounts of money commuting to Springfield.

Any money spent for commuting (transportation to/from airports, security personnel, State aircraft to/from Springfield, meals, etc.) should be chargeable to him personally and should be taxable income to him. Better yet, it ought to come out of his pay!

And let it apply to all elected officials, including mayors and sheriffs.

Signs Viking Dodge Loves to Hate

Wayne was back in action today on U.S. 14 in Crystal Lake near Viking Dodge, even though Viking Dodge was closed.

During a short conversation with him he told me about a contact with Crystal Lake P.D. which he had recently regarding what they called “signs” on his car. Would you believe that THREE squad cars responded? Lettering on the side windows of Wayne’s Dodge Magnum informs readers to go to Did Viking Dodge sic the PD on him?

First of all, remember that Wayne once was a happy customer of Viking Dodge. He bought a new car from them, had it serviced there and tried to trade it in on another new car from them.

Recently Wayne was accused of violating the sign code of the City of Crystal Lake. Today he showed me a print-out of the “PORTABLE SIGN” and Prohibited Signs sections of Crystal Lake laws.

Decide for yourself whether Wayne was violating this law after you read the following:

“PORTABLE SIGN – A sign, usually of a temporary nature, designed to be moved easily and not permanently affixed to the ground or to a structure or building, including but not limited to signs designed to be transported by means of wheels; menu and sandwich board signs; umbrellas used for advertising; and signs attached to or painted on vehicles or trailers located for the primary purpose of displaying said signs, unless said vehicle is used in the normal day-to-day operations of the business.”

It’s easy to see that lettering on a personal passenger car is not included anywhere in the “Portable Sign” definition. It’s not temporary, not easily moved, not affixed to ground, structure or building, and not designed to be transported by wheels, such as on a trailer. It is not a menu/sandwich board sign or an umbrella.

Now maybe Crystal Lake P.D. thought they’d nab Wayne for a sign “attached to or painted on a vehicle", but consider this: his vehicle is not one for the primary purpose of the display of the lettering, and Wayne’s vehicle is not used in any business, much less one that is used in “normal day-to-day operations of the business.”

The print-out also included "§585-11 Prohibited Signs”, which is a list of signs that are “specifically and expressly prohibited to be placed, structurally or graphically alters, used, maintain, or relocated within the City (of Crystal Lake) unless otherwise provided for in this chapter.

The lettering on his vehicle windows (and even his previous large sign that he hung on the side of his car) does not fall under any of the prohibited signs listed in §585-11. While they might want to call it an “illegal” sign, nothing in the section makes it illegal. It’s interesting that they try to define a “prohibited sign” as an “illegal sign.” Looks like an endless loop to me.

So, was the Crystal Lake P.D. or Community Development right to address him with such force and authority as to intimidate him into covering the sign on the left side of his vehicle visible to passing traffic? The police and city officials must understand their laws and comply with them. The fact is that they don’t have a law that prohibits free speech, which is exactly what Wayne is engaged in.

I think Crystal Lake P.D. owes Wayne an apology. If I were Wayne, I’d put that big sign back up on the left side of his vehicle, because it too does not violate Crystal Lake law.

Furthermore, does the Crystal Lake P.D. enforce violations of the City Code, or is that up to the Code Enforcement Officer, leaving the police free to enforce violations of criminal and traffic codes?

Comments, anyone?

Marian Central students – 7 years, 7 fatalities

What is going on with Marian Central drivers that seven students die in traffic accidents in seven years? What is the quality of the school’s driver education program? Is there one, or do students learn to drive through private driving schools or parental instruction?

This problem, of course, is not restricted to Marian Central. The problem is state-wide, nation-wide, with young drivers believing they are bulletproof when they get behind the wheel.

Now, some kids think they are Richard Petty and set out to prove it. Tires squealing, loud mufflers, muscle cars, dropped chassis, real stand-out cars. Other drivers believe that they can handle any driving situation that comes up. Others just don’t think ahead to what they would do “if”…

Pilots get training in emergency flying situations: loss of engine, radio out, other mechanical failure. What do beginning drivers get? A few minutes on “this is how long it takes you to stop at certain speeds” and “turn your wheels into the skid.”

How many student drivers are put behind the wheel on a closed course with a skid pan? How many student drivers are put behind the wheel and then find the brakes don’t work or they lose the power steering?

The biggest emergency for too many students and new drivers is, where did my cell phone go when I dropped it? Or will my slacks be stained by the ketchup from the burger?

Students and all drivers, including those who have driven for 5-10-20 years and the elderly, should be re-evaluated periodically for driving experience, habits and attitudes. Today it is possible to get a driver’s license and never take another driving test. A driver can speed, run stop signs, even get some tickets and avoid driving re-testing because of good luck or Court Supervision, which is really no supervision at all.

Driving a car is dangerous, but it doesn’t need to be excessively dangerous. Drivers should avoid distractions and not get into lengthy, agitated cell phone conversations or use handheld cell phones. Drivers should avoid those windshield-mounted GPSs. They happen to be illegally-mounted, but has anyone even been stopped and ticketed for one? Ha-ha!

Of course, if you have beads dangling from your mirror and you’re from Harvard, you can plan on getting stopped and being on the receiving end of a $75.00 ticket for driver’s view obstruction.

If the police ticketed more drivers for vehicle infractions (illegally-darkened front windows, including windshield; no front license plates on those big Cadillacs, BMWs, Mercedes, Corvettes, etc.; tinted license plate covers), then drivers would realize that the police are watching.

I was accused by one reader of the Northwest Herald of “…being a person feels that everyone should follow the law.” Well, there’s plenty of evidence for me to be convicted of that, so I’ll just plead Guilty right now.

If more drivers operated their vehicles with a sense of self-preservation, maybe the fatality rate among young, and all, drivers would begin to drop. I hope so.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ducks 1, Law-Abiding Citizens 0

The Minutes of the September 13, 2007, Woodstock Plan Commission meeting have finally been posted on the City’s website. This was the meeting when the Commission considered the duck issue and recommended to the City Council that they consider a Special Use Ordinance allowing the ducks.

There was considerable disagreement among the members of the Commission, which is healthy for a community. It appears that they really considered the request before approving it.

A member of the Commission told me yesterday that the Commission had not approved the contingency involving approval by the homeowners’ association, so I was especially anxious to read the Minutes. On October 19 I had written to a City staff member, asking when the Minutes of the September 13 P.C. meeting would be posted. She replied on October 22 and the Minutes were posted this week (a full month after the P.C. met and well after the City Council approved the Special Use Ordinance).

The Minutes do reflect inclusion of the contingency about the necessary approval of the homeowners’ association.

At the October 2nd City Council meeting the Special Use Ordinance was approved, including three strict contingencies [and specifically the one that does not permit the ducks until (and unless) the homeowners’ association approves them (and legally changes the Covenants)]. The owner of the ducks agreed, and it was revealed before the end of the meeting that the ducks were actually already back on her property.

And then the Mayor had the gall to subvert all that the Plan Commission and the City Council had just enacted by stating that it was the “intent of this Council” to take no further interest in the ducks; meaning no legal enforcement…

This question remains. Since there was no discussion in public during the Council meeting that no further legal action would be taken regarding the ducks, just how did the “intent” of the (entire) Council form? Was there discussion before the City Council met? Did Council members discuss approving the Special Use Ordinance in violation of the Open Meetings Act? Did they decide on their “intent” out of public view and hearing? Just how and when did the City Council, as a Council – a group, arrive at its decision not to enforce the new law it had just passed?

Or did the Mayor, on his own, speak “for” the Council and state it was their intent without first gaining their consent?

If this is the case, why has not one City Council member spoken up to object to the Mayor’s, in effect, ordering the City Manager, Community Development and Code Enforcement Officer not to enforce a new law on the City’s books?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Minuteman Project at MCC

Sheriff Daniel Beck, from Allen County Sheriff’s Department in northwestern Ohio, spoke tonight to a good-sized crowd in the conference center at MCC.

The campus was closed tonight, and campus security officers were stopping vehicles just after drivers turned off U.S. 14. Many drivers turned around without continuing onto the campus. More about this later…

At the entrance to the conference center people were asked for tickets and turned away if they had none. One man offered extra tickets to a couple who arrived without tickets, after being told by a campus telephone operator to buy them upon arriving. I was told that I could not enter with my camera (until I displayed my Press Pass), and then it was “suggested” that I go to the small conference room where a press conference was to be held. Campus security was uncertain whether reporters would be allowed to hear Sheriff Beck’s remarks. I opted to avoid confinement, and it turned out that no press conference was scheduled.

But not to worry, because I also had a ticket, which I had ordered as soon as the meeting was announced.

I wanted to interview the protestors about whom I had heard, but they were nowhere to be found. More about this later, too.

Opening remarks were made by Rosanna Pulido, who had organized both the previous failed meeting at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn and this event. (Thanks for starting on time, Rosanna.) She spoke at length about the Matricula Consular, a document now accepted in Illinois as valid identification. This document, which she said is accepted in Mexico only as identification but not for government services, was approved in 2005 by Illinois legislators and was approved as valid identification for services, which might include airline travel, opening checking accounts and other services requiring valid identification.

According to Wikipedia, “the MatrĂ­cula Consular ("Consular Registration") is an identification card issued by the Government of Mexico through its consulate offices. The official purpose of the card is to demonstrate that the bearer is a Mexican national living outside of Mexico.”

Rosanna said that the FBI considers the matricula consular as a major threat to national security. She was also critical of the offices of the McHenry County Sheriff and the McHenry County State’s Attorney for sending personnel, including judges, to Mexico for sensitivity training.

Dave Gorek, of the Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration and NumbersUSA, also spoke before Sheriff Beck was introduced. He expressed great concern about the number of legal immigrants, citing U.S. Census Bureau estimates of 2,000,000 immigrants/year entering the U.S. and estimating the U.S. population at 460,000,000 by 2050 and as high as 1,000,000,000 (that’s one Billion) by 2100. [The U.S. population at 10:33PM was 303,220,582.]

Gorek expressed his opinion about “anchor babies”; those who automatically gain citizenship by being born in the U.S. He said that the U.S.A. is one of only a few countries in the world “stupid enough to grant citizenship to babies born in the U.S.”

To find out how your elected officials voted on immigration issues, go to

Rosanna said that Illinois legislators will vote in November on HB 1100, which provides for the granting of driver’s certificates to illegal immigrants. Go to to read the House Bill. Then call your legislator and tell him/her how you want him/her to vote. And then check up and find out how your legislator really voted.

Sheriff Beck has been in law enforcement for 35 years and Sheriff for 15 years. He ran as an Independent. After hearing him talk, you can understand why he is independent. His presentation included a series of PowerPoint screens, starting with “We (United States of America) are a national of laws, not of men” and “This is the principle upon which our entire foundation of government and our American Society is built.”

As a former deputy sheriff, I listened in a particular way to his presentation. I’m a law-and-order type of guy. If it’s the law, it is to be followed. Little good can follow, if everything starts with a broken law. So right away, I could be in agreement with him.

Sheriff Beck says he and his Department do not discriminate on enforcement. It felt to me as if many in the audience wanted him to say that he targeted Hispanics, but that is not what I heard. Throughout his presentation, what I heard was, “If your identification is not valid, we are going to spot that.”

At the Allen County Sheriff’s Department resources are devoted to training deputies to identify fraudulent documents. There is a five-week training program through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but they didn’t wait for training space to become available. Sheriff Beck built partnerships with various other agencies, such as the DMV, and he utilizes their training and materials to educate his deputies.

Sheriff Beck said he had little respect for law-enforcement officers who don’t honor their oath. They are to enforce the laws. He said that, if during an investigation they encounter a person who has no valid ID, then they will arrest him, regardless of race, color or anything else – American or not. He said the sheriff is the “quality control” guy in the county – the chief law enforcement officer.

If the residents are not satisfied with the sheriff, then they should get involved and elect someone else.

In response to a question about the number of illegal immigrants in the southwestern United States, Sheriff Beck said, “If they ever get amnesty, they’ll own the Southwest United States, because they’ll have the votes.”

Rosanna Pulido is the former director of Illinois Minuteman Project and is not associated with the Federatoin for American Immigration Reform. For information, visit

Back to the logistics of tonight’s meeting. The lockdown of MCC tonight was uncalled for. A small group of students in Latinos Unidos was planning a protest and they were apparently ordered off the campus. What would have been better would have been to invite them into the conference center to hear Sheriff Beck. If they were disruptive, then they could be escorted out. But why not expose them to the Sheriff’s remarks and provide a forum for conversation and discussion.

Stopping cars on the way in and turning back drivers who weren’t heading to the program was unnecessary, in my opinion. An acquaintance in the parking lot said to me, “We live in a police state.” Well, I, for one, will not live in a police state. The police, including campus security, are there to protect and to serve.

The presence of Crystal Lake police officers was very light before the program. Afterwards? A different story. Why in the world so many uniformed officers were present in the building at the end of the program is anyone’s guess? They were quiet and polite, but they weren’t needed there at all.

Thanks to MCC’s President Walter Packard and Vice-President Jim Gray for their courage to provide meeting space for Sheriff Beck.

Last week I began reading Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders, by Jim Gilchrist, Founder of The Minuteman Project and Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D., Co-author of NYT Bestseller Unfit for Command. Foreword by Congressman Tom Tancredo. © 2006. Readers interested in the costs of illegal immigration might consider reading this book, which is available at the Woodstock Public Library (as soon as I finish it).

Check out for photos and more about tonight’s meeting.

MRSA. What is it?

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas. Got it? Memorize it… well, at least the MRSA (pronounced mer’suh) part.

District 200 sent a notice home with students this week that one case is known at Woodstock High School. Having seen news articles about MRSA before I read that notice, I wasn’t persuaded that MRSA is not serious. It is deadly serious.

It’s not just the flu, as my stepson described it. Where would he get that impression? At no place other than the school.

The Associated Press calls it a “superbug” and reports that it kills nearly 19,000 Americans a year. It is resistant to many commonly-used anti-biotics.

OK, so how many cases are there in McHenry County? I called the McHenry County Health Department this morning and was told that it is not a “reportable disease” and that they do not know the answer.

Let’s see…. A staph infection for which many commonly-used anti-biotics are not effective? They are not counting this???

Now, to me, that’s a pretty dumb approach. Should I file a FOIA request to find out? Perhaps I shall.

The Department minimizes risk, dangers and exposure, saying that people should wash their hands to prevent infection. Well, duh… Wash hands, avoid contact with the skin of others, treat medically all wounds. OK, parents. Whenever you see a scrape or a bruise on your child, haul him off to the doctor’s office. Is that what “treat medically” means? What about First Aid?

I asked about situations when a person has a slight wound (for example, a paper cut or accidental cut in a kitchen) and, if that person contracted MRSA and noticed symptoms after a few days, wouldn’t he be contagious during that time? They don’t know.

Whenever officials say, “Don’t panic”, that worries me. Certainly, panic is not good. Awareness and information ARE good.

Get good information about MRSA. Where do you get it? I wouldn’t count on our County’s Health Department. Ask your doctor. Watch the news. Read about the death in Virginia and the death in New York of a 13-year-old boy whose bruises were noticed two weeks ago. Keep digging for information until you are satisfied.

Dan Ryan - 45MPH. Watch it!

The Dan Ryan is open for business. Read all about it in today’s Chicago Tribune.

And check out the speed limit on the new, modernized, widened roadway between 31st Street and the Chicago Skyway. Hey, how about 45MPH? What rocket scientist decided on 45MPH???

Is this one of the most stupid decisions made by IDOT? 45MPH??? Drivers didn’t even slow down to 45MPH in the Construction Zones or before construction began. With the new lanes, why would they ever drive at 45MPH now?

Capt. Peter Negro of the Illinois State Police told Tribune reporters that troopers will strictly enforce the speed limit. Yeah, sure… When pigs fly… that’s when. Now, it would be nice if that were true. But the two troopers he has for the Dan Ryan don’t stand a chance against the thousands of speeders.

I drove on the Dan Ryan at midnight on October 15, and drivers thought they were at O’Hare and attempting take-off speeds. I drove at the 45MPH speed limit in the Construction Zone. Fortunately, I’m alive to write this and my car is not in the body shop!

One driver roared up behind me and slowed barely in time, as I accelerated to avoid being rear-ended. As he passed me, his passenger and he glared at me. Now, I won’t make any racial slurs or comment on his handicap license plate. I felt lucky that I was not staring down the barrel of an AK-47 or Saturday Night special.

Should I carry a gun in the car (even though it’s illegal in Illinois), just in case someone takes some shots at me for poking along (at the speed limit) in the right-hand lane? I am sorely tempted to break the stupid law in Illinois that prohibits me from defending myself with equal force.

So, I say to Capt. Negro: “Enforce the law. You’ll need the entire State Police force to do so on the Dan Ryan. And, as soon as you break for a meal or gasoline, the speeds will go right back up! When the speed limit is set artificially low, it guarantees violators. Get a 2x4 and knock some sense in the IDOT engineers who dreamed up the stupid 45MPH speed limit and raise it to 55MPH. And then enforce it with zero-tolerance.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lease a Vehicle or Buy – Part I

So now you are off to get a new car. Brace yourself! You’ve heard of “sticker shock”; right?

The best time to shop for a new car is BEFORE you need it. If your old jalopy is on its last legs, you are flirting with the danger zone. Shop before you drop. Spend some time, regularly, shopping for the type of car you might buy.

Remember those key words: “type” and “might”.

What do you need a car for?
What do you want a car for?

Buying (or leasing) a car is often the second largest expenditure an individual or a family makes. And many seem to do in about 2-3 hours. Wow! Big mistake! Car salesman get lots of experience "selling" cars; you get a little experience every 3-4-5 years "buying a car." Whom do you think has the advantage?

Once upon a time I sold new cars in Denver. It was the worst two months of my life. The belief at the new car (Nissan) dealership was, if a car had a flat tire in front of the dealership and the driver came in to use the phone to call for help, that driver really came in to buy a new car. How stupid! I wouldn’t play that game.

This morning I heard an ad on a local radio station for a dealership in Crystal Lake. The pitch was to lease one of their cars, and the excess-mileage rate was mentioned. What was it? $0.15/mile for annual mileage over 10,000! Who drives a car just 10,000 miles/year these days?

Let’s say you leased their car and drove it 15,000 miles each year. Those 5,000 extra miles will cost you $450 (5,000 x $0.15), when your lease is up. If your lease is for three years, you can plan on coughing up $1,350 at the end of the lease. How is a lease sounding now?

I did a little surfing tonight, and I would like to point you at for information on the question of buying vs. leasing.

Why do many people lease? Because they can get more car than they can afford to buy outright. In certain cases, it may make sense to lease a vehicle. I suspect, in most non-business circumstances, that it does not. But check it out.

And watch out for those “deals” that are going to nail you big-time with charges that you’ll love to hate at the end of your lease.

In a car purchase everything is negotiable. Even those advertised "non-negotiable" prices. If you pay them without negotiating, you are just giving away your money. If you have some extra, just give it away in this direction.

Radio Station Contests

Who says that radio station contests aren’t for real? Anyone?

Well, you do have to enter…. so last Friday I went to and entered the National Gas Giveaway Contest for a $125.00 gas card. And then promptly forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise when Jim Shea called me Monday morning. I wasn’t surprised to hear from him, because just last week I had sent him an email about an advertiser whose website wouldn’t open when I (thought I) followed her URL. But Jim was calling to tell me that I was Monday’s Gas Giveway Winner. Yea! Whoopee!!! Huzzah!!!

One hundred twenty-five big bucks to go right down the drain; into my gas tank, that is.

So be sure to enter. And, every bit as importantly, listen to Y103.9. It’s a great station.

I was reminded of a radio contest in Denver 20 years ago, when the announcer said, “Send us a postcard, and we’ll send you to see Neil Diamond. So I did, and they did.

I had mailed in a postcard, and a couple of weeks later I was home on a Friday night when I received four calls to tell me my name had just been read aloud on the radio. I called in time to claim the prize: dinner for two, a limo ride to the concert, and the concert. And I ended up taking the assistant promotions director from the station!

Her instructions were to bring my wife to the radio station on Sunday night at 5:30PM. Sorry, no wife. “Well, bring your girlfriend.” Sorry, no girlfriend. And what did she say? “I’ll go!”

I hemmed and hawed, and she said, “You don’t know what I look like, so you’re not going to take a chance; right?” She invited me to meet her on Saturday at the grocery store where she was a week-end demo hostess. When I told her that I might, she quickly added that, if I didn’t introduce myself, then she’d know I went to the store but didn’t like what I saw. Before we hung up, we talked about an improvisational comedy group in Denver called Chicken Lips, where we both knew cast members.

She was demonstrating Grandma’s Egg Noodles at the store, and I noticed she was very nice looking and was having a great time with the customers. So I walked up and asked what was in the noodles. I noticed a flicker of possible recognition in her eyes, as she wondered whether I was the man whom she expected. She gave me a general answer and I said, “No, what’s in them?” So she named the ingredients. Then I said, “Oh, I remember eating those about two years ago. I got soooooo sick I had to go to the emergency room.”

Well, all the people standing around tasting the noodles were throwing away the samples, so I quickly added, “The only people who would eat Grandma’s Egg Noodles would go to see Chicken Lips.”

She (Debbie) made me explain who I was and then made me stand there for two hours and help her hawk the egg noodles.

When I showed up at the radio station the next day and greeted her, her fellow employees asked where my date was. “Right here,” I said. They told her she couldn’t go, because she was an employee, and she said, “Not tonight…” We had a great time, and 20 years later we are still friends.

So, enter those contests. Right now, go to and Good Luck!

Monday, October 22, 2007

One Contributor's Perspective

An anonymous contributor on October 22, 2007, posted the following to a topic unrelated to its own content. Because it is written sincerely, I have moved it here from the posting about traffic and parking problems on the Square. Please respect the author’s beliefs. If you don’t agree, fine; but please write respectfully.

“Sincere question:

”Does the morality of a city's highest ranking officer matter?

”Specifically: If a man is willing to debase himself, and his "partners", in acts of homosexual sodomy - sinful acts that brought down the severe and devastating wrath of God against the ancient cities of Sodom & Gomorrah, and are strongly condemned in the New Testament as well - should not the citizens of a city under the rule of such a Sodomite have grave cause for concern?

”If a Sodomitic man is willing to defile himmself and mock the Most High God and His commandments, why should I believe that this man will not also mock and defile his citizens as well? Do not such actions and defilement tell us all that such a man believes he is a law unto himself? Accountable to no one? Not even God?

”Just a question for everyone as I was wondering about comments throughout this website to keep public official's "personal" lives "private" - as if charachter schizophrenia was a virue...or even possible?

"(Note: This is not a rant against homosexuals. I concede all sin is equal. This same question could be asked if the official was a thief, philander, child molester, rapist, murderer, etc.)"

I apologize for the quotation marks. I can’t figure out how to over-ride Microsoft Word’s automatic insertion of close-parenthethes, when I wanted “open”.

Please post only thoughtful responses. Comments that promote thinking will not be removed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Traffic Violations on the Square

What kind of traffic violations are you noticing on the Square?

It seems like I’m not the only one who is observing flagrant disregard of traffic laws on the Woodstock Square. When you spot one, post the details here. Include date, time, location, violation, vehicle description including make, model and color, and, most importantly the license plate. We’ll assume it’s Illinois, unless you indicate otherwise.

If you call the PD and the officer arrives while the violator is still there, add what action the officer took. If he sees a car in a handicap zone without a handicap sticker, did he write a ticket? That one is a $250 fine! Parked in a crosswalk? Parked on a corner of the Square where signs say No Parking? Parked in the no-parking striped zones in front of Read Between the Lynes Bookstore and Starbuck’s? In front of the movie theater? Blocking a sidewalk?

I won’t repeat all the details here about the blue Honda parked alongside the Opera House, facing the wrong way on Dean Street. You can read those details at “Well, was she?” a few days ago.

Granted, parking is tight on the Square, but Mayor Sager said last week that there are 1,400 parking spaces within a block of the Square. Of course, that doesn’t mean within “a block” of where you want to go on the Square.

And don’t just spot the violator. Call the PD and sic the beat officer on the violator. And, if the violator takes off before the officer arrives, either call back and cancel the call or meet the officer and explain that the driver just left. Thank him/her for responding and ask him/her to keep an eye on the parking problems.

Maybe we need a few signs around that read, “Violators will be ticketed. No warnings.”

OK, it’s your turn. Let’s hear about the parking and traffic violations on the Square.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Woodstock High School - Parent Observations

Recently a parent of a high school student commented to me about a visit to Woodstock High School. How many parents take the time these days to visit their child’s school and become aware of the atmosphere in and around the school? Those comments included "intimidated; uneasy; gangs; no dress code; bling."

What has been your experience recently at Woodstock High School?

Earlier this week I drove past the high school just before the last bell. On Putnam Street a gang of kids was congregated near one of the doors. When I say a “gang”, that’s just what it appeared to be. There were 10-15 teenagers just hanging around on the steps and sidewalk. Black attire, punk hair styles, scrawny-looking. Bikes on the sidewalks and steps.

I wondered why they were outside looking in, when (from their ages) they should have been on the inside, looking out.

Schools are to be safe, positive learning environments. If you don’t have business on school grounds, you stay off.

There should be no groups (of any nationality) roaming the hallways or blocking the passage of anyone - student, staff, teacher, parent or visitor. Display of respect and good manners should be a given.

Kids today don’t learn these things at home, so the schools are forced to become alter-parents.

A few years ago I talked with a woman whose 100-year-old mother had been a teacher in Mississippi and was honored there for her 40-year teaching career. She said that, when the principal walked onto the stage, the auditorium was so quiet you could hear cotton drop. Now, that's quiet!

What happens at Woodstock High School when the principal walks onto the stage? Does everyone quickly stop talking and pay attention to him?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Well, was she?

This afternoon as I rounded the Square and turned onto Dean Street by the Opera House, there was a shiny, blue Honda FIT with Illinois license X64 0320 parked in the first parking space on Dean. No problem with that, except the car was facing the wrong way on Dean Street.

The driver had to have driven across the center line against the flow of traffic and dangerously near the corner, in order to park with the driver’s door against the curb. This put the front of the car very near the crosswalk.

How would the driver leave? Did the driver think he was in England? Would the driver turn left and go around the Square the wrong way? Would the driver get involved in an accident when pulling away from the curb, if a car turning off the Square rounded the corner? Would the driver make a sweeping right turn to go around the Square in the correct direction? Would the driver stop for the stop sign by Angelo’s?

Having all these questions in mind, I telephoned Woodstock P.D. and asked for an officer to come and ticket the car. At the least, the car was parked in violation of state law by parking with the driver’s door next to the curb on a two-way street.

Within about five minutes Woodstock’s unmarked car rolled up, and the officer stopped and appeared to begin writing a ticket. Shortly after that, a young woman walked to the car and entered. I called to the officer that the driver was entering the car.

She started up, drove out of the parking spot and proceeded to turn right across the oncoming turn lane to head east on Van Buren, in the correct direction of travel around the Square. The officer did not attempt to stop her, and I inquired whether he intended to ticket her, as I had requested of the dispatcher. He replied that she worked in the Opera House.

“Gee, is that supposed to make a difference?” I wondered to myself.

I said that I hoped he would ticket her, while two or three cars pulled around the stopped police car. He pulled away, and I’ve been wondering all evening whether he caught up with her and wrote her a couple of tickets – one for parking unlawfully and the other for driving on the wrong side of the road.

It’s interesting that a young woman employee of the Opera House, who committed two moving violations and a parking violation, didn’t even get stopped before she could drive out of the officer’s sight.

Domestic Violence - Take a Guess

The Woodstock City Council declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Guess how many cases of domestic violence were handled by Turning Point in the past year.....

100? 250? 500? 1,000? 1,500?

How about 1,775 ??????

Movie Theater Expansion - Deal-Killer?

What can kill a deal for expansion of a movie theater as fast as anything? Or of any business on the Square?

Rowdy teenagers loitering. Keyword: rowdy.

How about kids hanging out on the sidewalks, sitting and blocking the entire sidewalk with feet and bikes?

How about kids on bikes tearing down a crowded sidewalk on bikes and skateboards?

How about the heavy kid who ran out in front of a car on Main Street Tuesday afternoon? He obviously knew the driver, because he jumped on the car's hood. Then he ran to a back car door, opened it and got partially into the car before the driver started up and drove on up Main Street with the back door open and the kid hanging out of the car?

Is this the kind of behavior we are willing to tolerate in Woodstock? I say, NO.

We can ask the police to enforce traffic laws. This usually means writing a ticket. A monetary fine may get a kid's attention, whereas a little, polite, sidewalk "counseling" will probably only result in smirks, laughter and a rude gesture as soon as the cop's back is turned.

The Square and the sidewalks need to be places where all are welcome. Kids are welcome, as long as they are polite and respectful to all others. When they move down the sidewalk in a herd and refuse to yield half of the sidewalk to those walking in the opposite direction, they need to be confronted by the police about this. When they ride the bikes and skateboards in the Square itself, same thing. When they jaywalk slowly across Main Street and malinger in front of oncoming cars, they need to be confronted - by the police. That's what we pay the police for - enforcing the laws.

Woodstock Cinema to Expand

Last night the owners of Woodstock Cinema unveiled a plan to expand their movie theater from four screens to seven screens. Mr. and Mrs. Willis Johnson were at the City Council meeting, and Mr. Johnson described the history of his theater chain and the history of the Woodstock Theater.

Three years ago he purchased the property at 223 Main St., just north of the city-owned parking lot next to the theater. That building, which is vacant now, will be demolished. The present theater building will be expanded north to add three new screens, and a narrow lane will remain between the north wall of the new addition and the existing, newly-exposed wall of existing building next door to 223 Main Street. He believes there is no common wall to that next-door building and explained that he will be responsible for the proper removal of his building that he wants to tear down. For the deal to fly, the City would have to sell him the 15-space parking lot now next door to the movie theater.

He expects attendance to increase by 100,000/year, and he provided figures to the City Council on estimated increases sales taxes and property taxes that he expects to pay. The perpetual question of parking arose. The parking problem obviously already exists and is not being solved, and Mr. Johnson offered to help with education about parking, which he has done in the communities of some of his other 11 theaters.

One solution to parking needed by customers of stores on Main Street, where they just drop in for 5-10 minutes, would be short-term parking spaces - spaces with parking for 15-20 minutes only. Then a customer of, say, a framing shop might find a place to park when she drops off a print for framing or stops to pick it up.

Many customers tie up parking spaces for hours while they attend a movie and a meal on the Square. Mayor Sager stated there are 1,400 parking spaces within one block of the Square. Now that's a map I'd like to see!

Three cheers to the Johnson family for their family-friendly movie theater plans.

No Tickets for Ducks - Is That Legal?

At last night’s Woodstock City Council meeting I addressed them on the topic of the infamous ducks, Jenny and Bean, which are believed to be back in residence at 1552 Cord Grass Trail in the Savanna Grove community.

In particular, I requested the Council to direct enforcement of the existing City Code section that prohibits farm animals, including ducks, within the city limits of Woodstock. I am sympathetic to the four-year-old granddaughter of the woman who bought a house in that community without reading the Covenants of the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association, but her property is in violation of the City Code if the ducks are still there.

I explained that City Attorney Richard Flood had stated two weeks ago, as recorded in the Minutes of the October 2, 2007, City Council meeting, “that the purpose of the amendment (Special Use Ordinance) is to remove the City from the process and allow the Homeowners Association to make their [sic] decision.” That statement of Mr. Flood is partially correct. It does remove the City, but only after the Homeowners Association takes positive action to change its Covenants and to permit the ducks at that home. Unless and until the Homeowners Association does so, the existing City Code applies, and this means No Ducks.

It is my understanding that, in the two weeks since the Special Use Ordinance was passed, no citations have been issued against the offending ducks. Since Woodstock has a law on the books prohibiting them, one has to question why there has been no enforcement.

After I spoke, Mayor Sager stated quite emphatically that, reminding me that I had been at the October 2nd City Council meeting and had heard him say then, it was the intent of the City Council that the City would no longer take an interest in the ducks.

The contingency in the Special Use Ordinance provides that the ducks cannot be on the property until the Homeowners Association approves. Or, as the Ordinance reads, “The two ducks, specifically known as Jenny and Bean, shall only be permitted to be kept on the property, pursuant to the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association approval…”

Therefore, until that approval is granted (this might take 2-3 months and there is no guarantee that it will ever be approved), the ducks are not permitted. And, if they are not permitted but are there (and they were there when Mrs. Miller stood before the Council on October 2 and agreed that they would not be there until the Homeowners Association approved), why isn’t the City taking enforcement action?

The BIG question is, can the City Council direct, order, require, or influence a City employee (or department or administrator) to ignore, overlook or otherwise disregard a City Ordinance and avoid enforcement against a violation that surfaced because of a complaint made to the City about the presence of the ducks? Can it?

Obviously, it can and has. BUT, is it legal to do so?

The City Attorney, Richard Flood, was not at the October 16th City Council meeting, but a representative of his office was there.

Is it the obligation of the City Attorney to step forward and inform the City that they cannot avoid enforcing the law? Or must he wait to give his opinion until he is asked for it. Speak, only when spoken to? We learned this as kids or, at least, some of us were told that from time to time.

I asked for fair and firm enforcement; you know, equal justice for all. Gee, what a concept! How can the City pick and choose which laws to enforce? Should it only enforce certain laws? Or only against certain people? Or not against certain people?

A friend this week said, “Isn’t it a shame, with so many U.S. soldiers dying in Iraq, that we are worrying about ducks in someone’s back yard?” That person is absolutely right.

There shouldn’t be any “worry” at all about the ducks. The Code Enforcement Officer should be there every day with his ticket book. Just write the ticket and meet Mrs. Miller in court. There doesn’t have to be any antagonism. She is violating the law, so let her answer for it and pay the fines. When her granddaughter asks why the City is being so mean, she can just say, “They aren’t being mean, honey. We are breaking the law, and so we have to pay for it.”

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cleveland School Shooting

Have you been following the news of the school shooting in Cleveland?

Do you wonder what is going on in Woodstock schools that might result in something like that happening here? And what District 200 is doing to prevent it?

Parents need to become more involved in the school lives of their children and in knowing what the school district is doing to maintain schools that are safe for all students, regardless of age. And safe for teachers and staff.

State law requires schools to be safe. Safety starts with respect. Respect for others; respect for policies and rules.

How much bullying is there really in our schools? Is there zero-tolerance on bullying incidents? Is bullying confined to students on students? Are there circumstances when teachers or staff are engaged in bullying? What is "bullying"?

An inquiry will be made next week about any committee of District 200 that studies safety and security in our schools, and information will follow here. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

City Council Seeks to Condemn Land

As a follow-up to last week's article "It's Too Late Now...", I refer you to Jenn Wiant's article in the Northwest Herald last Friday, Oct. 5, which explains that the Woodstock City Council is seeking to condemn land of four property owners.

So it's not just that the City wants to make some road improvements. It was apparently unsuccessful in negotiating with property owners, so now it is asking for IDOT's muscle to condemn these properties.

Is this what Woodstock residents are willing to tolerate from our City Council - our seven elected representatives, whom we elected to look out for our best interests?

What is so necessary that Woodstock wants to condemn land and take it away from property owners? Does one block of South Street, east from Route 47, need widening? Well, does it? Really? There is hardly any traffic, and what there is can wait. We don't need to blow $2.2 Million on that.

Is there too much traffic? You bet. Can we do something about it? You bet. Let's hear what the changes are that are wanted with the traffic lights. That's IDOT's job and expense. What does Woodstock have to do with it?

I'm in South Carolina this week, but I'll be gathering information upon returning to Woodstock. Stay tuned.

Special Ed Parent?

Coming up soon is a 3-night free workshop at MCC for parents of students in Special Education. What could be better?
Right here at MCC.
Three evenings, Oct. 22, Oct. 29, Nov. 5
Go to for information and to register.
"IEPs: A Parent/School Partnership"
If this were only true.
How many parents of kids in special education would re-title the workshop to "How to Survive the IEP Parent/School Battles"?
Well, it's not supposed to be a battle. It is supposed to be a partnership - a team effort. And parents are to be important members of the IEP Team, as are our students.
Register now; it's free. Attend all three nights. (This is not one seminar presented three times. It's a 3-evening workshop.)
Leave the kids at home, please.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Death of a Friend

A friend in Connecticut is dying. Over a year ago she was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and was treated for it. The treatment was rough, but she made it through it.

Then cancer appeared in another part of her body. Diagnosis was slow, and any relationship to the previous cancer was unclear at first. Treatment again was rough, and this time the prognosis was very poor. She went from the hospital directly to residential hospice.

I've only known her for three years, but she was a big help long-distance with a variety of therapy suggestions. Just ideas, suggestions.... not "therapy". I did some hypnotherapy with her when we met; at the time she was dating a long-time friend of mine, whom I knew from my days in Colorado in the 1980s. And then I did some hypnosis on the phone with her during her first cancer treatment.

I called her last week to tell her how much I appreciated our friendship and the help she had given me. Her voice was weak on the phone, as I suspected it might be. We said what we had to say, and we both were aware that it would be our last conversation. She knows she is at death's door, and I believe she is prepared for the transition from this life.

I've been privileged to be with several people at the ends of their lives. It is, indeed, a privilege to be able to be either directly with them at the moment of death or to connect with them in just a real and quiet way before death occurs.

The tendency might be to avoid the person who is dying, because we might not know the "right" words. Instead, go and be with the person. The "right" words aren't necessary. Real, authentic, caring words - these are the words that count.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I Hate Speeders

Yesterday and today I had the pleasure of driving from St. Louis to Columbia, S.C. I guess it's almost time to stop complaining about speeders on the Illinois Tollway.

Drivers in southern Illinois on I-64 were fast. Drivers in Asheville, N.C. were Fast. Drivers approaching Columbia were FAST. I saw plenty of tailgating, weaving when there appeared to be little safe room for lane changes, and lots of speeding.

No one pays attention to Work Zone speed limits. Well, let me correct that. Only one driver obeyed Work Zone speed limits. Truckers on I-40 in Knoxville are bumper-to-bumper at 55-60MPH. I mean, Bumper-to-Bumper. Less than one car length...

And eastbound on I-26 from Asheville to Columbia? In the 70MPH zone, truckers were running 80-85MPH and cars were passing them!

What is needed is national PhotoRadar. No doubt about it. I saw one pair of state troopers in N.C. and one pair in S.C. Oh, yes; I saw one lone Missouri state trooper on I-40 on Sunday morning, as I drove into St. Louis from the west. Looked he was using LIDAR, which allows the trooper to pick out one car in a pack and measure his speed.

PhotoRadar is the ONLY way that speeders are going to slow down. And none of this funny business, such as required in Illinois, where the State Police must announce its use. Just mounted the cameras, connect them to the computers, and let 'er rip. If a driver received 5-6-10 speeding tickets all at once, like I've heard they do in Europe, and all convictions were reported to the DMV and insurance companies and no Supervision, perhaps then drivers would slow down and obey speed limits.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mayor Said OK, but Read This...

At Tuesday evening's City Council meeting Mayor Sager stated, after a long discussion about two ducks to be permitted at a house in the Savanna Grove community , that the ducks would be permitted there by the special use ordinance and that the City of Woodstock would no longer take an interest or interfere. With one dissenting vote the City Council approved Ordinance 07-O-90 with three contingencies.

The Council hashed and re-hashed Section 2 (A) before voting. Confusion seemed to increase, and Mayor Sager pronounced the matter settled after the vote.

BUT read the first contingency of the Ordinance and decide what YOU think the Council voted.

"Section 2. The special use permit to allow two ducks to be kept on the Property shall be contingent on the following:
A. The two ducks, specifically known as Jenny and Bean, shall only be permitted to be kept on the Property, pursuant to the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association approval of the petitioner's request to allow the two ducks to be kept on the Property or amend the covenants, whichever is applicable."

Mrs. Miller admitted that she moved the ducks back onto the Property before the October 2 City Council meeting. The Savanna Grove Homeowners Association has not approved Mrs. Miller's request or amended the covenants.

Has this contingency been satisfied?

I believe the City should commence citing her daily from October 3 for violating the City Code that prohibits farm animals, until the contingency is met or the ducks are removed. And the Savanna Grove Homeowners Association should begin fining her $25.00/day for violating the Covenants.

There really is no other choice. Either we, as a society, have rules and laws and enforce them, or we don't.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It's Too Late Now

At Tuesday's City Council meeting an innocuous line entry (E 7.) appeared on the Agenda in Manager's Report No. 356. The item was "Calhoun/Fair/South/Country Club Road/Route 47 - Update of Calhoun/Fair/South/Country Club Road/Route 47 Roadway Improvements and authorization for the acquisition of right-of-way and easements."

The Public was asked if it wanted any items removed from the Consent Calendar, and no one spoke up. I should have.

About three-four years ago Public Works held a hearing on this project. Several homeowners showed up. The project discussed at that time was creating a road parallel to Route 47 and running north and south from McConnell Road to Calhoun. The McDonald's exit to Route 47 would be closed and Calhoun St. would no longer intersect with Route 47. Everything went along smoothly. When no one else asked what the project was going to cost, I did. If memory serves me correctly, it was in the area of $6,000,000 PLUS land acquisitions. At the time, Federal and State funds were thought to be available that would pay 90% of the cost. So that makes it all right?

Some time later I inquired about the project and learned it was dead in the water. Well, it looks like it floated back to the surface. The kicker here is that Item 7 was not just an "update"; it was an authorization for the acquisition of right-of-way and easements. OK, at what cost?

Did the City just commit $6,-10,000,000 for a roadway that, 3-4 years ago, was being designed not to relieve Route 47 traffic? Is this the project that was the topic of the hearing 3-4 years ago? The stated purpose of the roadway, at that time, was to provide residents with an access to businesses on Route 47 without fighting traffic ON Route 47.

What businesses? Jewel had moved or was moving. The old Jewel property was virtually vacant, except for the DMV and a few small businesses. Dominick's was out of the picture or soon would be. There was no back entrance to DeCraene's or Vaughan's. Would they pay to extend a driveway far to the west? For a few customers? Probably not.

Are we Woodstockers, including me, so asleep at the switch that we are not watching carefully enough what the Council is doing? Remember that, recently, the Council asked where it would get $10,000,000 for a solution to flooding problems less than two months old?

Why did no City Council person remove this item from the Consent Calendar for discussion with the public, at least to inform the public how much money the Council was about to spend?

IDOT says, "See Motorcycles"

Have you been reading the recent reports of motorcyclists killed when drivers pull in front of them? Yet another cyclist was killed yesterday, when a young driver reportedly pulled in front of him on Queen Anne Road at Charles Road.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is promoting increased driver attention to motorcycles on Illinois roads. Recently, a large yellow banner reading "Start Seeing Motorcycles" was placed on Illinois Route 31 near Virginia Road. I hope the banner is moved around the county and not left in one spot.

The motorcyclist was eastbound on Charles Road, traveling toward McHenry. As a vehicle approaches Charles Road, there is a slight right curve and an intersection warning sign.

The southbound automobile driver, 17, was ticketed for failing to yield at the intersection. In layman's terms, this indicates that he pulled out in front of the motorcycle, resulting in the accident in which the motorcycle struck the passenger side of the car.

What causes an accident like this?

A 17-year-old driver (limited driving experience)?
Two young passengers in the car?
Loud stereo?
Cell phone in use? Texting? Reading or sending? Even just being held in one hand?
Late for school? Last time I checked, a 17-year-old and persons younger than 17 belong in school at the starting bell, which at Woodstock High School is 8:20AM. The accident occurred at 8:30AM and more than 15 minutes from WHS. Or were they Marian Central students? Or even registered students at all?
Did the driver ask a passenger whether the "coast (roadway to the right) was clear"?
Was the driver distracted by the passengers?
Did the driver make a full stop at the stop sign before starting to cross Charles Road?

And there are questions for the motorcyclist that will never be answered.
Was he traveling at or under the 55MPH speed limit?
As he approached the intersection, did he slow a little when he saw the southbound car?
To what extent, if any, did he anticipate that the driver might cross in front of him?
What evasive accident did he have in mind, as he approached the intersection?

Motorcycles, even big ones, can get "lost" (not seen) for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a westbound vehicle (car? truck? semi?) had just passed in front of Anthony Kick and, when he looked to the right, his view of the the motorcycle was blocked by the vehicle traveling west. Maybe the head of a passenger blocked his view.

I've had drivers pull out in front of me on country roads and highways, when I've been riding my motorcycle. I've been surprised by drivers who have changed lanes suddenly in front of me. Fortunately, I've never had a driver make a sudden left turn in front of me.

I'd like to say that I've been a pretty good driver on motorcycles for 40+ years. What I know is, I've been lucky.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Reduce Speed Limit at RR Tracks?

This evening I was almost clobbered by a speeder who was westbound on Calhoun and who came flying across the railroad tracks as I started northbound on Madison Street to cross Calhoun. The intersection is a three-way stop. All cars stop (well, you know what I mean) except for westbound traffic.

The unposted speed limit is 30MPH on Calhoun. The sight distance for Madison Street traffic is short. By the time you look left, right, left and right again, then start up after looking straight again, it's possible to pull in front of a westbound car.

The driver tonight appeared to traveling 35+ MPH. I made it across, but just barely. He didn't seem to brake, perhaps wanting to see just how close to me he could get.

I suggest to the City that the speed limit on westbound Calhoun be lowered to 25MPH. When a speed limit gets changed on one side of a street, it gets changed on the other, too. That won't be so bad here, because then maybe traffic on Seminary will have a chance to cross Calhoun.

I'll suggest this to Public Works. What do you think?

Email or call them at (815) 338-6118.

Point of Order...

In tonight's City Council meeting, the Council considered a motion to reconsider Reserve Deannexation Ordiance 07-O-86. That's zero-seven-(letter) O-eight-six.

Perhaps some indication of how the meeting was really going to go occurred when the motion was called as 07-0-86; that's zero-seven-zero-eighty-six.

So, did the Council really vote on "this" ordinance? The vote failed, due to a 3-3 tie. Councilwoman Larson was absent.

Let's see how the City Clerk reports the Council's action. Will she report the Ordinance Number as said by the Mayor, or will she report it as printed in the Agenda?

Where’s That Meeting Tape?

Recently I wrote about pitching the City Council on keeping the audiotapes that are recorded at each City Council meeting. Note the clever wording on each Agenda:

“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.”

Now, of course, they could be retained, but they are not. Currently, a Petition is circulating in Woodstock to request the City Council to change its position and to retain the audiotapes. Any Council member could request this but, so far, they seem to be standing behind the Mayor’s opinion and position on the tapes.

It didn’t take long for a Councilman to raise an issue that could have easily been resolved by listening to a tape of a previous meeting.

Councilman Ralph Webster said the City was sold a bill of goods, when it approved a liquor license for what was to be a convenience store on the northwest corner of Route 47 and McConnell Road. Ralph believes this is not a convenience store that sells liquor, but a liquor store that sells liquor.

Mayor Sager was ready with a response. First, the business is willing to change its name, which currently indicates, apparently, that the store is associated with its supplier. Secondly, that more than 50% of its sales are (Where’s that tape? What word did he use?) grocery products. He saved everyone a lot of time by already knowing the response to the issue raised by Ralph.

Obviously, if the audiotape still existed, it would take about five minutes to determine just exactly what was said to the City Council by the petitioners for that store’s liquor license.

What will happen now? The Woodstock Liquor Commission will convene and examine the gross receipts of that business and determine what percentage of it is from liquor sales. Care to venture a guess? Bottles of liquor cost more than bottles of water or soda. Do they sell enough cigarettes and junk food (errr, convenience store grocery products) to top the gross sales of liquor?

Time will tell…

Quack, quack…. We’re Back….

Tonight’s City Council meeting was more fun than any of the movies showing at Woodstock Cinema, and $6.00 cheaper. You “shoulda” been there…

Bob Stroh was recognized with a Proclamation for his long-time involvement with Little League. Woodstock Finance Director Roscoe Stelford was presented with a 2007 Ten under 40 Award by the Business Journal of McHenry County. Happy 40th birthday in 22 days, Roscoe.

OK, that’s it for the serious part of the meeting.

The real fun was the Jenny and Bean Show. The Plan Commission had previously approved a recommendation to allow these two ducks to live in Woodstock. Tolerance is alive and well. Tonight’s meeting involved consideration of a Special Use Permit to allow Jenny and Bean to return to Woodstock. They were shipped out recently, after being found in violation of Woodstock City Code against farm animals and also in violation of the Covenants of the Savanna Grove Homeowners’ Association.

No doubt about this being an emotional issue. There was a Resolution to be voted on, and then the slashing and bashing began. The resident and owner of the offending ducks was there and expressed her desire to the Council that it approve the Ordinance. One councilman asked what would be the case if her granddaughter had fallen in love with a calf, instead of the two ducks. The resident answered, “I would have gotten a bigger shovel.” She deserved a round of applause over that one!

Mayor Sager grilled the resident on three contingencies of the Ordinance, and the resident indicated that she would agree to all three. When she said that the ducks had had to leave the farm where they had been, a question popped into my mind.

“Where are the ducks now?” And would you believe that not one Councilperson raised the question???

The Homeowners’ Association property manager explained the position of the homeowners’ association and that the Covenants would have be amended, which would require 2/3 of the 106 property owners to agree. This means that 71 property owners must consent to a change in Covenants.

And then the truth came out… The ducks are already back.

An amendment to the Ordinance was proposed, discussed and then withdrawn. A second amendment was proposed and discussed. Somewhere along in here the format of the City Council meeting imploded. A public comment period was opened, interrupted and never closed.

An attempt was made to create an artificial deadline for the homeowners’ association to make a decision; sort of a drop-dead date. If they didn’t make a decision, then the City Ordinance allowing the ducks would become effective. One councilman objected, saying that the City should not trump the homeowners’ association.

And, indeed, it should not.

When the ordinance was amended and discussed, it was still not clear to some in the audience, including the property manager and me, just what the Council was approving. The property manager informed the Council that she had not received a copy of the proposed Ordinance before the meeting, and this gave the Mayor pause. It was clearly an administrative error not to furnish it to her before the meeting, and it seemed to me like the wheels were turning in the mayor’s head while he decided whether they should really vote on this tonight.

There was considerable discussion about whether the Ordinance should become effective immediately, thereby allowing the ducks to be in the City (and remain where they are now, at the resident’s home) or whether it should become effective only if the homeowners’ association, at some time in the future, approves the change in the Covenants and officially amends them. Making it effective immediately would not mean that the ducks wouldn’t be violating the Covenants of the homeowners’ association; it would just mean that the ducks would not be violating Woodstock City Code.

As I understood Section 2(a) (and I haven’t seen it in writing), there are three contingencies to allowing these two (and only these two) ducks in Woodstock. The first was that the Savanna Grove Homeowners’ Association would have to approve of the ducks. But the Mayor explained that the Ordinance, as amended, and approved, allows the ducks to stay, even before or without the homeowners’ association approval.

Hmmmm, how can it be both ways?

Obviously, the resident wants the ducks there and, I suspect, will refuse to relocate them, pending a decision of the homeowners’ association. This will likely result in a daily fine of $25.00. Nobody needs to get upset. She keeps the ducks, and she pays $25.00/day.

The homeowners’ association will continue to consider the matter, but there is no reason for them to stop the world from spinning while they do so. If the resident wants to save $750/month while the Board is deliberating and preparing to ask the 106 property owners to vote, then she might want to find lodging for them outside the City.

The ducks are pets. No pet should become a love-interest for a child. Sure, the child can like the pet. A child can like a pet a whole lot. But it’s a pet. If you want to keep a farm animal (well, I think it’s a stretch to call a duck a “farm animal”), then you move to a farm.

Oh, the second best quote of the evening? If the resident doesn’t get to keep the ducks, then she is going to sell her house to the biggest, baddest, noisiest, smelliest motorcycle gang she can find. She didn’t use all of these exact words, but that’s what she meant.

OK, neighbors. Ducks or motorcycles…. It’s time to vote!

Flooding Survey - Where is it?

Many thanks to Jenn Wiant and the Northwest Herald for publicizing The Woodstock Advocate's survey on Woodstock flooding today on Page 2C. It's Item 2 under Around the Region.

To find the survey, click on "September" on the right side of any page of and scroll down just a little to September 29. It's the fourth article. Articles appear with the more recent shown first.

Click on the headline to cause the page to become the front page and then print it. After you complete it, make a copy for yourself and send it to City Hall. Be sure to tell your neighbors who had flooding problems to complete the survey, too.

The only way the City of Woodstock will learn the total loss to residents will be if it receives many surveys. The count of flooded homes is surely higher than 345 or 420. So far, I'm not aware of any other effort to determine the dollar-amount of losses suffered by residents.

Thanks once again to the Northwest Herald!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Mental Health Symposium - This Week!

Do you know someone who suffers mental illness, or perhaps do you? Are you a family member of a person with mental illness? The McHenry County Mental Health Board and the Family CARE Project are sponsoring a three-day symposium this week - Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Full details are at

Although fees are shown on the website, parents of children with mental illness should call the Family CARE Project about attending without charge. Call 815/788-4360 for information.

Reporting Traffic Violators

Following the article “Parking Enforcement on the Square” is a comment by an attorney who posted as “crystal lake”. In his comment he wrote, “I'm an attorney and I was shocked to hear about the time you asked the Woodstock Police to ticket someone for passing you on route 14. The officer's wouldn't write a ticket based on your "eyewitness" testimony, so you went to the Chief of police.”

This morning’s Northwest Herald and Chicago Tribune carried stories about the fatal accident Saturday night on Route 62, Algonquin Road, in Barrington Hills. This is the second fatal accident in a month on Route 62. A car with family headed home after a church program was hit almost head-on about 11:20PM by a 22-year-old Crystal Lake man who, according to the Tribune article, “…made multiple passing attempts just before the accident, even though that stretch of road is a no-passing zone.” Two people were killed.

I drive that roadway often, although during the day. It is well-marked and has good sight distances. And it’s a no-passing zone for about four miles, between Highway 68 and Highway 25.

So, should drivers report careless, reckless and possibly drunk drivers? Should safe drivers report drivers who pass in no-passing zones? Should they report drivers who tailgate them at 55MPH?

Yes, yes and yes. Absolutely they should. In many areas of Chicagoland, you can dial *999 on your cell phone and reach an emergency services operator who will connect you with the nearest police department. Tell the operator where you are. If you know the town or city, tell them; if you only know the location (ex., Route 62 going toward Highway 59), tell them that. When you reach the local department, stay on the phone.

Unfortunately, the smaller police departments are stretched thin and may not be able to get a police car to you before you are out of their jurisdiction. Tell the police dispatcher that you want help from the police in the next town. If it’s an emergency, dial 911.

Your call could save a life. You may not be willing to go to court, as I am, but alerting the police may get a dangerous driver off the road. Be ready to provide as much detail as possible, even it is only a partial license plate number. The cops may be able to fall in behind, observe a traffic violation on their own for which they can make a traffic stop, and they’ll take over from there.