Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dick Tracy Statue - $250,000 - WOW!

Wasn't there an article just 2-3 months about the dire financial condition of the Dick Tracy Museum? And about how, if the town didn't ante up with some bucks, the Museum might have to close?

And now they are going to raise $250,000 for an 8' statue to stand guard over the front walk to the Museum?

I wonder just how popular Dick Tracy is these days. Can you just hear the kids exclaiming over a new Dick Tracy two-way wrist watch? Well, when I was a kid, it was thought to be pretty neat.

Now? Kids' comments are likely to be about their new cell phone-camera-text-messaging-GPS locating-clock-alarm-calender-calculator, music downloads, TV reception, movies, books and everything else they get into the grubby little handheld device.

Remembering a cartoon that lasted a long time is great. But what will $250,000 in a hunk of metal really do for the Museum or the town?

But what the heck? If people want to donate their money for it, why not? It's their money, and they can do with it whatever they wish.

Let's keep a sharp eye on the City Council, though, if and when the Museum shows up with its hands out for $50,-100,000 to start or finish the project. The project needs to be totally privately funded. No money from the public trough, please.

Empty Stores on the Square - Why?

I wonder just what the true state of business is on the Woodstock Square.

In a comment posted to a recent article about Angelo's trash on the sidewalk, one reader proposed a reason for the number of vacant stores on the Square - super-high property taxes; in some cases, the taxes being higher than the rent.

Does anyone have an example of this? Do landlords offer rentals at rent plus property taxes? Can any commercial real estate agent explain Triple Net leases?

How about some examples of rents on the Square? And total landlord costs (rent, property taxes, utilities, maintenance, etc.)? When rents (alone) are sky-high, is it any wonder that we don't have very many exciting stores on the Square? Or why prices must be very high (so that a merchant can afford to stay in business)?

What kind of stores do we want on the Square? Are we willing to patronize them and skip Wal-Mart and Kmart? Do you buy your paint at Lloyd's or at Ace Harware or at Menard's?

Is parking really that big of a deal? Are you willing to walk a block for your cup of Starbuck's? Or, if you can't park right in front (legally, please), do you pass it up?

Angelo’s – How Trashy!

Tonight is Ladies Night Out. You’ve heard about it; right? Roses for the ladies; free limo rides; wine-tastings; specials in the stores.

Great idea. Promote visiting the historic Woodstock Square. Enjoy the Opera House. Enjoy the stores. Walk the streets and sidewalks of the Square.

Except for the sidewalk on Dean Street by Angelo’s. You’d have to see the garbage and trash to believe it. Three small wheeled totes (two of them stuffed to overfull). Behind them were four open-top barrels. Rolls of old, ugly, smelly, dirty carpet, standing upright in the small wheeled containers. An old vacuum cleaner. An old coat-tree.

And all this at 5:45PM. Why in the world would Angelo’s put all this trash out at 5:45PM and on the night when, hopefully, the Square will be full of women shoppers?

I’ve been told by long-time residents of Woodstock that this eye-sore has gone on for 20 years. Starting about 3-4 years ago I asked the City to address the issue. About two years ago it appeared it had been solved. The City told me that Angelo had agreed to get large, wheeled containers with covers. Well, that deal fell through and the City has backed away from enforcement.

It’s far past time for the City to make a deal with Angelo and to make it stick. I’m sure they can reach a deal. If they can’t, then the City can force one down his throat.

The Woodstock Downtown Business Association is trying hard to bring life back to the Square. The Chamber may have some interest, too. And the People of Woodstock ought to be interested; otherwise, downtown Woodstock will just go the way of most small downtown areas – more empty stores, more broken windows, more saloons, more drunks.

Is that what Woodstock wants?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Know this plate? ZUM ZQQM

Saturday afternoon I was on Throop approaching the new pedestrian warning sign at the intersection of Cass. Four pedestrians were waiting to cross toward the Square, and I slowed to stop for them. As I did, I watched a small white car (Mitsubishi? or Toyota? coupe) come up pretty fast behind me and stop right on my bumper.

The driver appeared to be so close to my car that I don’t think there was walking distance between his car and mine. That’s close. As I waited for the four to cross, I looked in the mirror and the driver was making one of those hand gestures popular with WWE wrestler John Cena. He had his open hand in front of his face and was moving it side-to-side. You know the gesture? “You can’t see me.” And what follows on TV is one of those violent wrestling moves on a wrestler who is down on the mat.

After the pedestrians crossed, I drove on to the stop sign at Jackson. Again the white car stopped right on my bumper, and again the driver made the same hand gesture.

The vehicle had no front license plate, so I was unable to get the number – until I could pull over approaching Calhoun and let him pass. And there it was. An Illinois vanity plate – ZUM ZQQM

Don’t you just love it when drivers with vanity plates do stupid things? An easy plate to remember. An easy car to describe. An easy face to remember. In spite of the hand gesture, I really could see him.

Well, I guess I really should thank him for not bumping my car when I stopped for the pedestrians. And so I shall. Thanks. And thanks too for no body slam.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Woodstock Property Taxes - Public Meeting

Property Taxes – Too High and Going Higher?

I hear a lot of complaints about the amount of property taxes. Do you know how much you pay? And what it goes for?

Maybe it’s time for each taxpayer to examine his tax bill carefully and understand where the monies collected from him in taxes really go. What part goes to the City of Woodstock and, once there, how is it spent? And what part to the County and how spent? And the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District. Dig out that tax bill, take two aspirin, and get ready…

A Public Notice of a Proposed Property Tax Increase appearing in the November 21st Woodstock Independent informs the public – you! – of a public hearing on Tuesday, December 4, 2007, at 7:00PM in the Council Chambers at Woodstock City Hall, 121 W. Calhoun Street.

If you wish to present testimony at the public hearing, you may contact Roscoe Stelford, the City’s Finance Director, at 815.338.4300

According to the public notice,
II. “The corporate and special purpose property taxes extended or abated for 2006 were $6,844,768.
“The proposed corporate and special purpose property taxes to be levied for 2007 are $7,837.600. This represents a 14.5% increase over the previous year.” (Are the words “or abated” missing here?)
III. (Not copied for this article)
IV. “The total property taxes extended or abated for 2007 were $9,533,120.
“The estimated total property taxes to be levied or abated for 2007 are $10,633,715. This represents a 11.5% increase over the previous year.”

Just what does “… levied or abated…” mean to John Q. Taxpayer?

Come to this meeting and hope to find out… More importantly, be prepared to speak your piece about Woodstock property taxes.

Will Rogers said, “It's a good thing we don't get all the government we pay for.”

Well, around here maybe we do.

Main Street USA

Do you know what a Main Street Community is?

Go to and take this week’s survey (scroll down to the bottom of the homepage), which asks readers whether they intend to support the Main Street Community group. This is not about “Main St.” in Woodstock. This is about designating downtown Woodstock as part of the national Main Street Community program.

And each week go back to The Woodstock Independent and express your opinion in its weekly survey.

While you are surfing, check out, the website of the Woodstock Downtown Business Association.

Remember: Tree-Lighting – Friday, November 23, 6:30PM at the Square.

Day of Thanks

This is one day (not the only day) to pause and really give thanks for what you have. Find a quiet spot today and think about it.

Years ago a friend suggested making Lists of 100.

100 people you'd like to meet.
100 places you'd like to visit.
100 pictures you would like to take.
100 things you would like to learn.
100 foods you'd like to eat.

Today? Write a list of 100 things for which you are thankful.

Driver out of Hospital for 3 Weeks

What are taxpayers supporting, when police agencies cannot investigate accidents and complete reports, so that they can move on to the next accident?

The Haligus Road accident involving four Marian Central High School students happened on Friday, October 26, four weeks ago tomorrow. Seems like ages ago, doesn’t it? Or maybe just yesterday?

On October 27 (the day after the accident) the Northwest Herald reported that Sheriff’s Sgt. Karen Groves said that “toxicology reports revealed that drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the crash.” I immediately questioned how such test results could be available so quickly.

Earlier this week I contacted Northwest Herald Editor Chris Krug to ask if they would be following up on this accident. Imagine my surprise to read in today’s paper that the driver of the vehicle, Eva Grys, was released from the hospital on November 4, THREE weeks ago. And yet there was no follow-up that was reported.

In today’s Northwest Herald article Sheriff’s Sgt. Carolyn Hubbard says that the crash is still under investigation and that no charges have been filed. Why not?

Sgt. Hubbard also indicated that they are waiting for “some” information to come back, including toxicology reports. When will the toxicology reports be available?

Exactly what “toxicology” results were available the next day? The Sheriff's Department needs to be more specific. On what grounds did the Sheriff’s Department, through Sgt. Groves, so quickly inform the public that drugs or alcohol were not a factor?

While I have no reason to suspect drugs or alcohol, or their after-effects, to be a factor in a Friday morning accident of a high school student, they can only be ruled out by thorough tests. My hope is that toxicology test results will be negative.

Still, is there really a good reason that the Sheriff’s Department cannot complete its investigation, issue the requisite ticket(s) and close its file? It probably could have completed it on the day of the accident or the next day. “Driver left roadway onto steep sloping shoulder. Driver apparently over-corrected and returned to road, crossing in front of oncoming truck.” Write a ticket for failure to maintain control of vehicle. End of report.

Let the insurance companies and lawyers fight about it from there.

Is it any wonder that the budget of the Sheriff’s Department is out-of-sight? How many training seminars do accident investigators have to attend (and where?) to drag out reports and keep cases open for weeks and months?

If more information becomes available later on, then supplementary reports and additional tickets can follow.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What's Up at Woodstock PD?

Watch for news soon about what’s happening at the Woodstock Police Department.

An amended agenda for the November 20, 2007, Woodstock City Council meeting included an Executive Session. After conducting the City’s business, the council chambers were cleared of all but Council members, Police Chief Bob Lowen and other official participants.

On the Agenda the purpose of the Executive Session was shown as “Personnel 5ILCS 120/2(c)(1) The appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees of the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee to determine its validity.”

That this item was added after the Agenda was prepared may provide an indication of some urgency or last-minute action. One would think that “…appointment, employment, compensation…” would be planned and addressed as a routine matter, even if in Executive Session; i.e., not added at the last minute.

More news to follow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Traffic Laws to be Enforced on D200 Grounds

Take This Test…

Assuming you are driving a car at one of Woodstock’s D200 schools; i.e., on the school grounds. Can you be ticketed for:

Running a stop sign?
Parking and blocking a sidewalk?
Blocking traffic?
Passing a schoolbus with its flashing red lights on and its Stop arm out?

Right now, tonight and for the next few days, you can break just about any Illinois traffic law on school grounds and not get arrested.

A few of the exceptions are #5 and DUI. I think Reckless Driving (including tire-squealing) may also be an exception.

But this is about to change. At tonight’s Woodstock City Council meeting an Ordinance was passed creating a Vehicular Control Contract between District 200 and the Woodstock Police Department. This means that Woodstock police officers can enforce state traffic laws and local traffic laws on school property.

At the City Council meeting tonight I asked if the Contract contained a requirement that D200 must post its property to inform drivers that the Woodstock Police Department will enforce traffic laws. It doesn’t. So this might be the only warning you’ll get. Pass the word to drivers in your families, neighbors, co-workers, friends, and others. Better yet, just forward the URL for this article to them. To get the URL, click on the title of the article. To get back to all the articles, click on the name The Woodstock Advocate.

I inquired of Mayor Sager, who spoke for the Council, whether a similar Contract exists for Marian Central Catholic High School or any of the schools operated by churches in Woodstock. There is none. Any of them can initiate a request for a Vehicle Control Contract, but the City will not solicit a Contract from them.

Surprised that there wasn’t already such an contract with D200? I was.

It’ll take a few days for the Contract to be filed with the McHenry County Recorder of Deeds, and then it becomes effective three days later, if the Contract follows the form of a similar contract proposed, but never completed, a couple of years ago with the property owners of the Jewel-Osco property.

You’re still safe at Jewel-Osco if you run stop signs, fail to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, park or stand (your car) in the Fire Lane, or park or stand in the Loading Zone. However, don’t park in the handicap parking zones. That one will cost you $250.00. If you get your jollies by running those legal-appearing stop signs, just keep doing it. But one day you may be surprised.

My thanks and appreciation to Councilwoman Maureen Larson, who supported my request for this item on the Consent Agenda to be pulled for discussion.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time to Order Music Boosters Card

The Community Music Boosters discount card for 2008 is available now. It's time to order, folks. Proceeds benefit District 200 Schools.

If you have never had one of these cards, it's a discount card that is valid at 24 local businesses. The cost? One green $10 bill. It's good from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. If you can't save $10 the first month, you aren't trying. Some discounts are 10-15% off, others are $1.00 off, others are Buy One Get One (or something) free.

Even if you never use it, your $10 goes to a good cause.

Send your check ($10 for each card; order several?) to Community Music Boosters, Inc., P.OL. Box 1623, Woodstock, IL 60098. They make great stocking stuffers, little "extra" gifts, and surprises. The sooner you order, the sooner you'll receive it.

Know this plate: BSTSTPR?

There was a great example of bullying on the road by the driver of this white Ford F-250 pick-up truck. Wouldn’t you think that drivers of easily recognized trucks, such as ones with large tires and the body raised high on the frame plus a vanity plate, would know better?

After tailgating me eastbound on Lake Avenue, where the speed limit is 40MPH, and demonstrating his impatience with my poking along at the speed limit, all his hurry and tailgating didn’t help him get far ahead, because the light was red at U.S. 14.

When the light changed for drivers to turn left, he was to my left. He accelerated pretty hard to pass me and then changed lanes to the right without signaling and stepped on it. As he passed through the intersection at Culver’s, there were two cars in the left (through). The driver in the pick-up passed these two cars on the right just at the place where the right lane ends.

Unfortunately, this is really a tough place for the police to set up shop and catch this type of driver. There is no place to hide. So, how about setting up in a truck on the shoulder or even parking on the frontage road on the south side of U.S. 14? The angle might be too great to measure speed accurately, but they could certainly spot the reckless drivers who speed past other cars on the right at the lane-drop. Then a marked patrol car waiting at Turning Point could stop the violators and write the tickets.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Transition Planning, Spec Ed Students

Are you the parent of a student who is a Special Education student and 13-14 years old (or older)?

A critical part of your child’s IEP is the Transition Plan, preparation for which is to start when your child is 14. The purpose of the Transition Plan is to help the student make the transition from high school to whatever is next – college, junior college, trade school, employment or whatever is to follow high school.

Between your child’s ages 14-16, the Transition Plan is to be developed. When your child is 16, the Transition Plan is to be implemented.

Do all parents of Special Education students who are 14-15-16, even 17, years of age know about the transition plan? This plan is required under both Federal and Illinois laws.

The Transitional Youth Work Group of the McHenry County Mental Health Board meets every month. This group is for students, parents, service providers, and educators who want to improve the quality and amount of services available to youths in transition. The group meets at the Mental Health Board, 620 Dakota St., Crystal Lake, on the first Thursday of each month from 5:30PM until 7:00PM.

The December 6th meeting will feature a speaker from the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services who is an expert in transition planning. Kathy Kaniewski will give an overview of transition programs offered by DRS and be able to answer parents’ and teachers’ questions about services, individual rights, etc. Her presentation will follow the Illinois Statewide Transition Conference, Dec. 2-4, in Effingham, Illinois.

2 Worst Left Turns in Woodstock

Where is the one place in Woodstock that has the two worst left turns? McDonald’s!

There is no doubt that traffic has increased horrendously since the McDonald’s opened in Woodstock. How long ago was that? Anyone?

Why does it have the two worst left turns? What are they?

The first is the left turn that northbound drivers on Route 47 make to turn into McDonald’s just north of the traffic light at Country Club Road. Regardless of how heavy traffic flow is in both directions, some drivers just “have to” turn left into McDonald’s for the Big Mac fix.

Some drivers will stop (legally, even if dangerously) in the inside northbound lane and wait until they can make their way across three southbound lanes, including the southbound left turn lane. And some of those drivers don’t even make their turn safely. They seem to figure that, if they can get across one of the lanes, then they can just make a run for the driveway and hope they won’t get hit by cars in the two southbound through lanes.

Other drivers, not wanting to block the inside northbound lane, will pull across the yellow lines and stop in the southbound left-turn lane, facing oncoming traffic. Then they only have to get across two lanes when they make their run for it. This is dangerous and illegal, but I don’t think the Woodstock Police have ever issued any tickets for it.

The other left-turn problem is when drivers exiting McDonald’s from the drive-through lane try to turn left to go north on Route 47. The exit is right at the intersection, and drivers sometimes will try to weave through three lanes of stopped southbound cars. Often they cannot see northbound traffic because of the size of stopped vehicles, and they will just stick the front of the car out into the northbound through lane (and hope for the best).

Other drivers, when traffic is lighter, will begin their turns from the exit and head north on quite an angle. In doing this, they are driving on the wrong side of Route 47, against traffic, while making their way across the three southbound lanes.

I contacted Woodstock Public Works, McDonald’s and IDOT to recommend that left turns be prohibited from northbound Route 47 into McDonald’s and also out of McDonald’s to northbound Route 47. No luck. No one has been killed there, so there is no interest - yet.

Another big problem is with drivers exiting the drive-through lane and striking out across two lanes for the left-turn lane, so that they can go east on Country Club Road toward the Post Office. Common sense would dictate that a driver not do that, but common sense goes out the window when you “must” make that turn and get home with your bag of Big Macs and fries.

Two-four years ago there was a plan to close the current exit from McDonald’s onto Route 47. McDonald’s would have had to create a new turn-around, so that drivers pulling away from the drive-through window would make left turns around the front of the restaurant and exit onto Fair Street. That stalled when the project for the new road behind Jewel down to McConnell Road faltered.

Currently, the City of Woodstock is trying to condemn land for roadway improvements, and McDonald’s is fighting those efforts. For sure, McDonald’s has outgrown that location. But where could it move that it would have room for a larger restaurant, adequate parking, and easy in-out for drivers? Maybe south of the Exxon station?

For now, when you are leaving McDonald’s, it’s necessary to pay very close attention to traffic flow. Remember, if you get in an accident leaving McDonald’s, your food will be very cold when you finally do get home.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Following Left Turns

Have you noticed the increasing problem with drivers who complete their left turns at traffic lights after the light turns yellow and red?

This is a major problem not only in Woodstock, but all over northern Illinois and, I suspect, the country. Drivers are impatient and fill up the intersection on the green light. Then they complete their left turns after oncoming traffic clears. Often this is after the light is red.

If the light is changing from green to red, they must make sure that oncoming traffic is stopping and actually has stopped, before they can complete their turns. Too many times the oncoming driver guns it and goes through the yellow and red light, even though there was plenty of time to stop.

Sometimes they try to sneak between oncoming cars, as one man did this afternoon on Route 47 at Lake Avenue (by 3 Brothers Restaurant). He was turning left from southbound Route 47 and thought he could get through. When he gunned his minivan, the rear tires spun on the wet pavement, instead of gaining traction. Fortunately, he made it. The northbound car didn’t slow down and its driver just blasted his horn.

When vehicles are still in the intersection when their light turns red, they delay cross-traffic that is ready to proceed on its own left-turn arrow.

Some states program their traffic lights to show the left-turn signal after the green. Left-turning traffic faces a red, while through traffic has a green. After the green changes through yellow to red, then the left-turning traffic gets its left-turn arrow. At the end of the left-turn cycle, cross-traffic moves.

If this makes sense to you, contact your State legislator and suggest that IDOT begin testing the feasibility of the change in traffic light sequence. I’ve learned that one call from a citizen to IDOT isn’t enough. Perhaps if I had Rep. or Sen. in front of my name, they might hear me.

Leaves in Gutters Again

Was it really only three months ago that Woodstock experienced the worst flooding in many years, perhaps ever?

And remember all the haranguing then to keep the curbs and gutters clear?

According to the City of Woodstock, leaves are not to be raked into the street. So why, all over town, are leaves raked into gutters and streets?

Should the Leaf Police be out issuing tickets? Should the City issue warnings? Should the City publicize the risks and expense, when gutters and drains fill with leaves and then cannot handle strong water flows?

The City could very easily mail a notice to all residents in September on the reverse side of the water bills: “Don’t rake leaves into the street.” No extra postage. No extra printing cost. No extra addressing. Why not?

And in other months the reverse side of the water bill could provide other advice. Shovel your walks clear of snow (even though there is no law about this). Don’t park your cars across sidewalks. Don’t park overnight on streets. Don’t park cars on your front lawn. Do this. Don’t do that.

Jobs for Students

Are there jobs for students in Woodstock? Where are the jobs? How do students get them?

How many students know about the Career Center at Woodstock High School? And, if they know about it, how many use it?

I contacted WHS and Amanda Harmer, Career Facilitator, provided information about programs to help students with employment. In addition to information from her, I offer some of my own comments (which should not be attributed to her).

At Woodstock High School there is one Career Specialist to serve approximately 450 students each year.

WHS sponsors a work program called Inter-Related Occupations.

A Career Fair is offered once a year for sophomores, and they are required to attend.

A special program for seniors (only) is called Senior Job S.T.E.P.S. In this program a senior can learn interviewing tips and resume-writing, participate in mock interviews and also learn correct meal-time etiquette.

To take advantage of the WHS program, all a student has to do to ask for it. Students should go to the Guidance Office and make an appointment with the career specialist or find out when career classes are scheduled.

Students can “job-shadow”. What this means is that students can go to a job site with a registered local employer and follow an employee around for a day (or part of a day). For example, if a student is considering a career in law enforcement, he could “shadow” at the Woodstock Police Department. For street patrol, the student might have to be at least 18 years of age to ride along in a patrol car on a shift and would have to sign a General Release, absolving the police department and the City of Woodstock from any liability risk related to being with the officer.

Job boards are posted at WHS with employment openings for students. Students interested in jobs should watch these bulletin boards closely for new postings.

Watch for a subsequent article on direct job-finding and job-getting tips.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Forty Tips for Life

Forty tips for an exceptional, superb, and powerful life These are really very powerful. Implement whatever you can.

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.
2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Buy a lock if you have to.
3. Buy a PVR/TIVO, tape your late night shows and get more sleep.
4. When you wake up in the morning, complete the following statement, "My purpose is to ___________ today."
5. Live with the 3 E's: Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy.
6. Watch more movies, play more games and read more books than you did in 2006.
7. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, tai chi, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.
8. Spend more time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.
9. Dream more while you are awake.
10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less foods that are manufactured in plants.
11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.
12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
13. Clear your clutter from your house, your car, your desk, and let new and flowing energy into your life.
14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead, invest your energy in the positive present moment.
15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed-out charge card.
17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the energy vampires away.
18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
22. Make peace with your past, so it won't screw up the present.
23. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
24. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Forgive everyone for everything.
28. What other people think of you is none of your business.
29. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.
30. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
31. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
32. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
33. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
34. The best is yet to come.
35. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
36. Do the right thing!
37. Call your family often.
38. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: "I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________."
39. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.
40. Enjoy the ride. Remember that this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

- Author unknown
Thanks to a friend in Texas who sent this to me.
[#28 is very close to a book title, "What You Think of Me Is None of My Business", by Terry Cole-Whittaker. Published in 1979.]

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blago & FoMoCo Attack Teen Driving Deaths

Look on for the announcement that Illinois government is moving into the attack mode on teen driving deaths.

"Governor Blagojevich and Ford Motor Co. launch statewide campaign to reduce teen crashes and save lives

"Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich was joined by representatives of the Ford Motor Company Fund, Secretary of State Jesse White, and other state officials today in launching a statewide effort designed to reduce teen crashes and fatalities in Illinois. The Operation Teen Safe Driving campaign is the first of its kind in the nation and gets high school students directly involved by engaging them in competition to design community-based driving safety programs targeted at their peers. "

This cannot happen soon enough. Teens and other young drivers - and their passengers - must learn that they are not "bulletproof."

Rule #1. Don't ride with a driver who is not driving with your safety in mind. If you need to get out and walk, do it!
Rule #2. Wear your seatbelt. If the car has separate shoulder and lap restraints, fasten the lap belt, too. (That design never should have made it past the design boards!)
Rule #3. Read Rules 1 & 2 again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

U.S. Flag at Half-Staff - Correction

The following posting has been corrected, in view of information received from the governor's office on November 14.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich has ordered the lowering of the U.S. Flag in memory of M/Sgt. Thomas A. Crowell, 36, who died in Iraq in a roadside bombing on November 1, 2007. U.S. and Illinois flags are to be flown at half-staff on Illinois buildings from sunrise today until sunset on Friday. The Department of Defense lists Sgt. Crowell’s hometown as Neosho, Missouri, and he was assigned to Scott AFB, Illinois.

By the following I intend no disrespect to the late Sgt. Crowell. When the original article was posted, I believed that Governor Blagojevich had violated the U.S. Flag Code by ordering flags lowered in memory and honor of Sgt. Crowell and that he was doing so for an extraordinary and incorrect period of time.

In §175(m) of the U.S. Flag Code the Governor is authorized as follows: “In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the Governor of that State, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff. The flag shall be flown at half-staff thirty days from the death of the President or a former President; ten days from the day of death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress.”

The governor's office informed me today that approximately two months ago President Bush ordered that a State could lower the U.S. Flag after a member of its military unit died. I haven't seen the exact wording, but I believe it may mean following the death in combat of a resident of its state.

I detest this war in Iraq and the waste of lives it is costing us. The United States has been the cause of thousands of unnecessary deaths – U.S. citizens and civilians in Iraq.

Yes, we should honor Sgt. Crowell. I disagree with President Bush and believe we should honor him by flying the U. S. Flag at the top of the mast. Let all the world see that America is proud of its soldiers. Show that pride by keeping the flag high above the ground – at the top of the mast.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Helicopters over Woodstock?

No, this is not the title of a new song… Tonight’s Coffee with the Chief at the Woodstock Police station featured an interesting presentation by Woodstock resident Mike Bitton, who is a Winthrop Harbor police officer and a volunteer member of the Law Enforcement Aviation Coalition (LEAC).

LEAC operates helicopters available to police departments for searches, chases and other official duties. It was established in 2003 and is not a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with nearly 50 volunteer members. The first helicopter was loaned to LEAC by a businessman who believed in the effort; LEAC now gets its helicopters from the U.S. Department of Defense. Helicopters are loaned to LEAC, which then must refurbish and equip them. LEAC provides services to any law enforcement agency (when operating funds are available) and does so without charge.

Winnebago County has donated $100,000 each year in two consecutive years. McHenry County? Zero. Lake County? Zero. Woodstock? Zero. Let’s hope McHenry County Sheriff’s Department and law enforcement agencies in McHenry County find some way to put a donation into their budgets. Even $500-1,000/department would go a long way toward the $850,000/year operating budget of LEAC.

Helicopter operations are conducted by law enforcement officers who are volunteers. At the present time there are six highly-qualified pilots and 30 flight crew members, who operate infrared spotting equipment, radios, and a 30,000,000-candlepower spotlight called a NightSun. This piece of equipment alone costs $40,000.

Mike showed a video of a search for two suspects who were chased by officers and a canine team on the ground. Through the Forward-Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) goggles the non-pilot officer in the helicopter could find the suspects on the ground and direct ground officers in a safe approach that resulted in apprehension.

For information on LEAC, visit

Chief Bob Lowen gave the large audience an update on police activity in Woodstock, including humor about traffic stops involving speeders driving on suspended licenses. Wouldn’t you think a driver without a valid license would obey laws?

Ofc. Josh Fourdyce may be the featured speaker at the December 11th Coffee with the Chief. Ofc. Fourdyce is the School Resource Officer at Woodstock High School. Any citizen is welcome. If you don’t have a driver’s license, catch a ride with your neighbor.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Two More Teens Die …

This morning’s Northwest Herald reports the deaths of two more McHenry County teenagers in a one-car crash. This accident occurred in Dunham Township near Pagels Road and Becks Road, in unincorporated McHenry County. This is west of Harvard and southwest of Chemung.

What “unincorporated McHenry County” means is that this is the jurisdiction of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) - as was the jurisdiction of the recent accident in which two Marian Central Catholic High School students died and two were seriously injured.

What we never seem to learn, after a serious auto accident, is what the circumstances of the accident were. We get the brief “accident occurred” report, but where is the follow-up? The problem is probably at least two-fold.

The sheriff’s dept. (or about any local police department) seldom issues a follow-up, and the local daily newspaper doesn’t seem to follow up because it’s “old news.” Perhaps if the newspaper reporters (and editors) did follow up and report more in-depth about possible contributing factors, then other drivers would have the opportunity to learn and parents would have a greater opportunity to get after their young drivers.

Any driver involved in a serious or fatal accident should probably keep her mouth shut; that's what her attorney will tell her. Talking about it will only get you in more deeply. When you cause an accident and someone else is hurt or dies, you are going to get sued. But the public has some right to know details.

Young drivers often think they are “bullet-proof.” What I mean by this is they think they are such great drivers that they can avoid any serious accident or, if they are involved in one, then they won’t be injured or will survive any serious injury.

What is needed is more in-your-face driving instruction. More visits to auto graveyards. More graphic pictures of car vs. train accidents. Car vs. big truck. Car vs. car. Car vs. bicycle. Car vs. pedestrian. Visits to hospitals. Visits to rehab centers.

In the case of the two Harvard youths in the Saturday morning accident, no ticket will be issued. The police initially don’t know who was driving, and both are dead.

However, in the case of the Marian Central students’ accident, the driver survived. Has she been ticketed yet? I haven’t seen anything in the paper about a ticket.

I believe the MCSD recently announced having received a grant to beef up traffic enforcement in McHenry County. Don’t they have two motorcycles assigned to traffic? Are they used only for parades? Sure, motorcycle patrol time is past for this year. But next year? How about no parades and put the deputies to work writing tickets.

We need more than seatbelt checks at stop signs. McHenry County needs aggressive traffic law enforcement against what the State Police call the Fatal Five. These are the five major causes of fatal accidents.

If you want more traffic enforcement and a reduction in deaths and serious injuries on McHenry County roads and in our towns, call your local law enforcement agency now. Speak to the Chief. Start at the top. Talking to a sergeant is nice, but the message needs to be heard at the top. At the top from the citizen, the resident, the tax-payer. Remember, the Chief tells the sergeant what to do. It’s not the other way around. The sergeant may want to put heat on speeders and reckless drivers, but it will never happen without the support and the direction from the top.

And, if it doesn’t happen, then contact the city manager, mayor and council persons. Back up any telephone calls with email or letters. Put it in writing. Keep your correspondence. Then follow up and see if anything happened. Did they provide increased enforcement. Ask for the proof. How many more tickets were written?

Chronic Excessive Speeding

How concerned are you about chronic excessive speeding? Do you worry about when it will impact (no pun intended) you? Or someone in your family? Or a neighbor or co-worker or friend?

Chronic excessive speeding is the focus of an Illinois organization established by two families after they lost family members to speeders. In one case, the speeder had 62 traffic violations and still had an Illinois license at the time he hit and killed a young woman and her child.

The organization is Families Against Chronic Excessive Speeding, and its website is

Every day you can witness chronic excessive speeding, and you don’t even have to go south to the Tollway to find it. Or, should I say, have it find you. Because, if you are “poking along” at the speed limit on U.S. 14 or U.S. 31 or Ill. Rte. 47, it won’t take this problem long to find you.

Just watch the car behind you coming up fast. Ask yourself: will that driver slow down before hitting me? Are you ready to punch the accelerator and hope to speed up enough before he hits you? Will you head for the shoulder before he hits you?

Now, I’m not picking on the male drivers in McHenry County, although they seem to be the majority of this type of violator. The bigger the pick-up truck or the shinier the new Lexus or GMC SUV, the more testosterone the driver seems to have. But women in their SUVs are just as much a problem. Just check your mirror. You’ll see what I mean.

Or maybe it’s just my small red car that, some days, I think has a bulls-eye painted on the back of it. Years ago a friend in Denver told me that red cars were dangerous because red causes anger. Well, I can believe that. Why didn’t I think of that before I bought this car?

An acquaintance in South Carolina sent me some bumper stickers that read, “BACK OFF! I drive the speed limit.” I’ve been tempted to paste one on my car and to get a bunch of them made, as she did after being harassed on South Carolina highways. Around here, though, I’m afraid such a sticker on the bumper of a small vehicle traveling at the speed limit in the right-hand lane would merely incite aggressive drivers to attack.

Should law-abiding drivers have to worry about being rear-ended or run off the road by an aggressive driver? A cell phone is not enough defense.

Both the Woodstock Police Department and the McHenry County Sheriff’s Dept., along with many other departments, are listed on Contact your own department and ask how they are associated with this organization. The Schaumburg Police Dept. distributes a flier of FACES4 with speeding tickets. Let’s hope the speeder reads it and takes the message to heart.

Waterboarding = Torture?

Did you follow the controversy over the appointment of the new United States Attorney General Michael Mukasey?

This judge, now Attorney General of the U.S., refused to say whether he believed waterboarding is torture.

Now, I’ve never been waterboarded, and no doubt there are a few people in Woodstock who think I ought to be. But, is there any doubt in anyone’s mind, except for Mukasey and some in the White House, that waterboarding is, in fact, torture?

Mukasey skated around the issue of torture by claiming torture has to involve fear.

OK, let’s say you are strapped down on a plank. Let’s say the plank is level, maybe even tilted a little so your feet are above your head. You can’t move. You are restrained fully. You cannot move your arms, legs or body. A rag is placed in your mouth and a towel is placed over your face. Now water is poured into the towel and rag.

Where do you think this water goes? Right. Into your mouth. Into your nose. Can you breathe?

Someone asked me this past week if it involved drip-drip-drip; you know, the Chinese water-torture method? No, I don’t think so. How about by the pitcher or from a running hose?

The idea is to cause you to think you are drowning. Well, in fact, you are drowning. Would you be in fear? Of what? Drowning? Dying? You bet!

What if you didn’t know that the perps (oh, I mean, the interrogators) would stop before you did drown? Drown, as in die? Would you fear for your life?

What if they were trying to extract information from you? What if they think you know what they want to find out? And they are going to keep up with the torture until you tell them the “right” answers? What if you don’t know the “right” answers? What if they know that no one will ever find out that they waterboarded you to death?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to learn how many people have died from waterboarding? Think we’ll ever find out? No way!

Opinions, anyone?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

High School Drum Band

Last month I went to my 50th high school reunion in University City, Missouri (St. Louis area). Following the Saturday night dinner and reunion, many of us gathered on Sunday morning at the high school, where the drum band presented us with about ten minutes of ear-shattering drum music. The students did a great job; the only problem was that we were in the school cafeteria and not out on the football field.

Hello? Do I have any hearing yet??? I see your lips moving and can’t hear your voice… : )

Our applause was not nearly so loud as their drumming but, after they were acknowledged and had left the cafeteria, one class member suggested we take up a collection for uniform improvements. He suggested we mail contributions before the Class of ’57 Men’s Club held its November meeting.

A series of emails began to track donations… Total of $300. Total of $800. (Can we make it to $1,000?) Total of $1,100! And today’s e-mail? $3,300 has been contributed so far, and more might come in before the presentation of the gift on November 19.

All I can say is “Wow!” What great pride in that high school drum band, that high school and that class of 412, of which 200 attended the 50th reunion!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Get the skinny

Every once in a while one of those kazillion e-mails making the rounds provides some really interesting information.

Like to get the skinny on Woodstock?

Go to and enter 60098

50 Years of Dislike – It all started when …

...I was a kid and had a job working Nights.

I was driving around Woodstock this week and had one of those “ah-ha” moments. My stepson and I were talking about over-night jobs like a cashier or stocker at Jewel, and he asked who would want to work at night. I told him a lot of people like working at night.

“Ohhh, now I know when cops first started to dislike me.” The ol’ lightbulb came on.

My first job in police work. Not too glamorous, as I look back on it. I was a night callbox operator in a district station of the St. Louis Police Department. I worked from 11:00PM until 7:00AM. What a job for a kid, eh? I didn’t want to sleep during the day and wanted to date in the evening, and I needed to be awake at work. Right?

Many readers will not have a clue what a police callbox was, so let me explain. Those were the days before the elaborate two-way radios that police now have and definitely before cell phones. You know? Back in the Stone Age?

Officers did not patrol in squad cars, which were reserved for only certain patrol officers, sergeants and other supervisory officers. Officers were foot-patrol officers. They walked their beats. If they came across a crime, they called it in by going to a telephone or to the police callbox on the corner, where there was a dedicated telephone line direct to the district station. All they had to do was lift the telephone receiver, and there I was.

It was also used for dispatching calls. If I needed to contact a beat officer, I could ring his callbox and a red light on top of the callbox would light, signaling the officer to go to the phone and call in.

So, what does all this have to do with “dislike”?

One of my duties was keeping track of the foot-patrol officers. I was required to maintain a log and talk to each officer every hour. When an officer and I talked, I was to enter the time of the conversation on the log.

There was a reason for this. If the officer didn’t call in, then I was to call him; i.e., ring his callbox and turn on the light to signal him. If he didn’t respond within a certain period of time, I was to notify his sergeant, who would set out to find him.

The reason for this was the officer’s safety. If he were hurt or “down”, we had to find him.

Well, a fair number of the foot-patrol officers would find things to do overnight that did not involve walking the streets of their assigned beats, especially when it was cold.

Some lived on the beat and wanted to go home for a few hours and take a nap. Or go to someone else’s home and take a nap. Or maybe visit a girlfriend and “take a nap.” You know how that goes. At any rate, they would tell me over the phone that they’d be “out of touch” for three-four hours and ask me to just mark them on the log as if they had called.

Would I do that? No way. It wasn’t right, and that’s the main reason I refused. But there was a more important reason. What if they got hurt after requesting this “favor” and later were found face-down in an alley or in a hospital. How would I ever explain that the officer had called in every hour, just like my log showed?

So each time, every time, I refused. I told them that one thing, for sure, was not going to happen. I was not going to mark them “in” unless they called.

I guess other night callbox operators granted these favors without question or had done it for years, so they weren’t too happy with me. The job only lasted about six months before I tired of working nights. Some people like working nights; I didn’t - at least, at that time.

Later, I did. When I was a reserve sheriff’s deputy in Colorado, I enjoyed working nights because that’s when the action was. Flying down the road with lights and siren, there is nothing like it!

Hugging – is it a PDA?

The Associated Press reports in today’s Northwest Herald that an 8th Grade girl in the Mascoutah (Illinois) Community Unit School District #19, located southeast of St. Louis, has received two detentions for hugging two friends last Friday.

How absurd a penalty, barring any significant information not reported in the article. The School District claimed that hugging violates a school policy against Public Displays of Affection.

Read the local newspaper’s articles in the Belleville News-Democrat online at and at

And watch "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" on CNN tonight for more information.

We can all imagine PDAs that are improper, disrespectful, in bad taste, etc. But hugging a friend with an arm around a shoulder and a slight squeeze? The school policy against PDAs says they are in poor taste … and bring discredit to the school … I’d say this type of publicity brings far more discredit to the school than a couple of little hugs!

This is almost as absurd as suspending an 8-year-old for drawing a stick figure with a gun and calling it a violation of school policy against weapons. (A different school district was involved in this one.)

What do we teach our children with such reactions by school officials? This obviously was addressed first on the school level by some administrator, and then the superintendent is the one who catches the heat because he’s the top dog in the fight.

If you have an opinion, write to Dr. McGowen at and to Mr. Bob Stone, Principal of Mascoutah Middle School at

Religion and City Emails

Is it appropriate for a City employee to include a religious quotation in the electronic signature of all emails sent from his City email account?

I have been corresponding by email with a command officer at the Woodstock Police Department regarding a City issue. His replies include what is called an electronic signature that contains a quotation from the Bible.

Electronic signatures are used most commonly for a sender’s name, address, phone and other contact information, such as website and perhaps promotional information about his business. A person can include anything he wishes in his signature, when it is his personal email account.

If a sender were an employee of a commercial enterprise, he would probably be cautious about including any personal (non-business) information to which his employer or customers might object.

But what about the sender who is a government employee, whether City, County, Township, State or Federal? What is appropriate data to include in the e-signature?

Such information should be business-related only. It replaces information that would normally be found in a letterhead, had the communication been prepared on business stationery.

Should religious information be written in the e-signature? Because the recipients of a government sender’s messages might be of different faiths or no faith at all, religious messages do not belong in the e-signature. Even if the recipient is of the same faith or general denomination (or different or none), he might feel that, on general business grounds, a religious e-signature does not belong in a message sent on government business.

I wonder what Woodstock City government will have to say on this issue.

War Profiteering

G. Simon Harak, S.J. gave an excellent talk Tuesday evening at McHenry County College to an audience of the McHenry County Peace Group. His visual program was well-designed, and he was an informative speaker who moved around the conference center with a wireless microphone throughout the presentation.

For information about his program and to order a copy of it, go to He spoke about Blackwater and the number of members of a government agency who seemed to gravitate to high positions in war-equipment manufacturing businesses after serving in the agency.

My opinion? U.S. media do not report all the news; they report the news they want us to have.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Disabled-Veteran License Plate

Does an Illinois Disabled Veteran license plate entitle a driver to park in a handicap parking place?

Yesterday afternoon I was at 3 Brothers Restaurant and noticed a car parked in one of the handicap parking spaces. The vehicle did not have a handicap placard hanging from its inside rearview mirror or have a handicap license plate, but it did have an Illinois "Disabled Veteran" license plate – you know, the one with the initials D-over-V following the plate number.

Being a curious person I telephoned the Illinois State Police later to inquire whether a driver with this license plate is permitted to park in a handicap parking space. The trooper quite quickly informed me that the Disabled Veteran plate does not entitle a driver to park in such a spot.

Why is this important? The fine for violating a handicap parking space is $250. If you go to court and fight it (how can you win?), then plan on adding probably $100-200 in court costs to that fine.

So it makes a $10 dinner at 3 Brothers very expensive.

What would probably happen is that a Woodstock police officer would not write a $250 ticket to the vehicle and its driver. The driver might even believe that he is entitled to park there, but believing it doesn’t make it lawful. A State Representative from another District told me that police officers will often not cite a driver for a violation, when they believe the fine is too high (or that a person won’t be able to pay it).

It’s called “discretion.”

How do you educate a person about handicap parking privileges? (And they are a privilege, not a right.) I wonder what would have happened, had I called the State Police on the spot for that information and then politely approached the driver, hoping to save him a $250 fine? I guess there are several possible outcomes.

He could thank me for saving him the risk of a huge fine.
He could ignore me.
He could discuss it and agree to call the State Police himself to learn what the law is.
He could blow up and make me wish I had just sicced the cops on him and insisted on a ticket.

There are times when you see an able-bodied driver just whip into a handicap parking spot and take it because it’s close to his destination. Now, that driver deserves a $250 lesson.

Do the police really have a choice, if they observe a car parked in a handicap parking spot with no placard or special license plate? Can or will they exercise discretion? Should they?

If they give a driver in a Cadillac or Lexus or Lincoln a break, but then they don’t give a guy in an old beater the same break, is that fair? Is it even legal?

Santa’s Hut and Horse Rides

Why is Santa’s Hut already on the Square? And “Santa Claus” at City Hall on November 25???

According to the online newsletter of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, the times for the Hut will be December 9-23, week-nights 5:00-7:30PM and week-ends 2:00-5:30PM.

So why is it there now, a full month ahead of time? Are we joining the commercialism of Christmas and the stores, some of which had Christmas items for sale even before Halloween? Of course. Well, how about dropping out of commercialism this year? Refuse to participate!

And milk and cookies “with Santa Claus” at City Hall on Sunday, November 25? Aren’t children beginning to wonder how “Santa Claus” can be at thousands of locations for weeks before Christmas? Oh, it’s his helper, dressed up like him… Bah, humbug. It’s an imposter. It’s someone trying to suck the dollars out of the family budget so that the stores can “make” their business year profitable.

And how about the “Complimentary Horse & Carriage Rides” offered on the Chamber’s website? When is the last time you saw someone riding a horse around the Square? I’ll be the first in line for a horseback ride around the Square. Think I’ll find a horse with a saddle on it, just waiting for a rider? Not hardly. Obviously, what the writer meant was “Complimentary horse-drawn Carriage Rides.”

Can we strike a blow on the commercialism of the holiday season? It’s too late to do so for this year, but I say, “Remove the Hut and bring it back on December 9.” And let this be the last year that City Hall hosts “Santa Claus.” What do you think, Woodstockers?

Math Skills?

Read today’s article on Page 1C of the Northwest Herald about parent Michael Stich of Crystal Lake, who challenges D47 about whether it is teaching students the basic math skills.

And then ask yourself the question about Woodstock’s D200.

When teachers say “Can’t add? Use a calculator” and “Can’t spell? Use spellcheck” and “Can’t write? Use a keyboard”, you know there is a problem. And this problem must be addressed immediately. Students must learn basic math skills. And spelling. And writing. If they are not learning them, it’s because they are not being taught them. And taught them in an effective method that results in their learning.

It is preposterous that students today do not learn basic math, spelling and writing skills.

Restaurants and stores have struggled with change-making for years. Now, if the clerk can punch the right keys for the purchase and enter the correct amount of money presented by the customer, the cash register will do the math and, hopefully, the clerk can count out the right change. Whatever happened to “counting up” to the money presented by the customer.

When you know basic math, you (the customer) will immediately know how much change to expect. Then, when the clerk hands it to you, you’ll know if you are getting the correct change. And, if you get too much change? Do you give it back? Well, do you?

I was in a Santa Fe McDonald’s several years ago and purchased a two breakfast biscuits and coffee, as I prepared to drive to Denver. The clerk said, “That’ll be $8.69” or some such number. I quickly said, “Not hardly” because the correct amount should have been about $3.00. The clerk didn’t have a clue that the amount was wrong; he was just reading the amount off the register window and didn’t realize he had to have rung up my order incorrectly.

We parents must insist that the schools teach our children the basic skills. Yes, we can reinforce it at home. We may even have to teach it at home, when the schools fail to. But can we undo the harm taught in the classroom when calculators replace mental function? The student is going to have to know if he’s getting the correct answer, at least approximately. If you divide 3 by 6 and get 2, you have to know that’s incorrect, or you’ll just write down the answer from the calculator and not realize the error in inputting the numbers.

When are parents going to wake up? Maybe when the kids move back home (or never leave in the first place)!

IEP Workshop - Night Three

The third of a three-evening workshop titled "IEPS: A Parent/School Partnership" was held last night at MCC. It was sponsored by a local epilepsy group and open to all without a charge, thanks to a grant obtained by the organizer. The main speaker was attorney/advocate Maureen Lowry-Fritz from Naperville, and last night's speaker was Gail Kelley, a parent and 3rd Grade teacher.

The question of the series was, Where Were the Parents?

Sixty-five signed up; about 15 showed up. I told the organizer that the reason was for attendance was that it was free. No money changed hands; no commitment existed for the 50 AWOL parents to show up.

The three-night workshop was extremely valuable. Information was helpful to all the parents who attended, whether they were highly experienced with Special Education and IEPs or new to the world of IEPs. Questions, including some hard-hitting ones, were answered by a panel last night. Panel members were Maureen Lowry-Fritz (attorney/advocate), Gail Kelley (parent and 3rd Grade teacher), Kathy Hinz (Special Ed Director for D47) and Wilhoit (Associate Director at SEDOM).

No, I’m not going to recap six hours of workshop. Next time, be there.

Check out the following websites: and

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Household Junk on Parkway

When is the City of Woodstock going to get serious about the “nuisance” ordinances that prohibit the discarding of junk furniture and household items on the parkway in front of a residence?

At 914 Clay Street and 629 Wheeler Street this week-end were huge amount of trash and household items. These may have been evictions, or else tenants or owners just moved out and abandoned large quantities of junk and items. The “parkway” is the grass portion between the sidewalk and the street.

The City is in a reactive mode only. And slow at that. The City seems to wait until a problem has arisen, instead of being pro-active. Regular notices should appear in newspapers and be posted in public places (library, City Hall, laundromats, etc.) alerting renters and homeowners to be responsible regarding items to be discarded.

The City should know which properties are rentals and be in contact with landlords and tenants about rules they might not otherwise know about.

Water bills would one obvious choice for distributing information. Almost everyone gets a water bill. The reverse side of the water bill could be used for City publicity and promotion of lesser-known ordinances (parking on lawns, accumulations of junk in front and back yards, discarding of household items, storage of inoperable vehicles, etc.).

The Code Enforcement Officer is doing a credible job, but there must be too many repeat calls at residences of violators. How about one warning? Explain the rules. Request compliance. No compliance? Incomplete compliance? Recurring problems? That’s what citations and court are for.

When City Hall is closed (nights, week-ends), residents should be able to complain to the police department when they see neighbors placing junk at the curb, and police should respond, even though their primary responsibility is law enforcement and not code enforcement. Some small towns do utilize police for City Code violations. All that it would take is a directive from the City Manager to the Police Department to do this. Officers are the eyes and ears of the community. At the least, they could notify the dispatcher, who could report to an on-call Code Enforcement officer. Pretty simple stuff, eh?

It’s time to stop pussyfooting around and wasting time and resources to solve problems. One polite request, followed up by a form letter, is adequate. Then issue citations and expect the violator to pay or see him in court.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

$500,000 Waste

I was sitting here this afternoon, thinking about how hot and bothered people (and the newspaper) have been about the expense of candy tossed out during parades by the State's Attorney's Office.

Then I got to thinking about Gov. Blagojevich and his refusal to move to the State Capitol after he was elected. And why the politicians of this State haven't figured out a way to force him to move. No one seems to be paying much attention to the tremendous cost of his "commuting" to Springfield. Not only the state plane ride, but the car to the airport, the security, the duplicated expenses of a Chicago office, all because he refuses to move his wife and his little kiddies to the seat of government for the state.

Or maybe he is in the seat of government. Why would anyone think it's Springfield, just because there is a star at Springfield on every map of Illinois. Maybe Daleyville is really the seat of government in Illinois.

And this got me thinking about those $15,000 signs over the Open Road Tolling lanes on the Illinois Tollway. Do you remember how much each (EACH!) sign cost? $15,000.

We need a law in this state that a politician's name does not go on any government property! And why should it? It's not the personal property of the politician. The property belongs to the People!

Of course, this would mean that Sheriff Nygren couldn't advertise his office on all the McHenry County patrol cars. How many votes would that cost him at the next election?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bullying - In Schools & Elsewhere

Bullying – In Schools & Elsewhere

Is your child a victim of bullying in school? Going to and from school? On the schoolbus?

The last two issues of a valuable online newsletter from contain valuable information and tips for recognizing and combating bullying.

Go to and check it out. The series is in two parts. The first part was for the week of Octoboer 21-27; the second is this week.

If you have a child in Special Education, subscribe to the free weekly e-newsletters right on that website. If you know a parent of a child in Special Education, forward the e-newsletter to him or her. Getting this information out to parents is critical.

Illinois schools are supposed to be safe for all students. The laws are in place. All that is needed is the will to make them so and keep them that way. When students are allowed to name-call, push, shove, spit, topple books from arms, and be grossly disrespectful, those actions must be challenged and corrected.

Bullying should be reported to the principal and to the teachers. If corrective action is not immediately taken, then contact the Superintendent of the School District; if that doesn’t fix it, go to the School Board, the Regional Office of Education and the State Board of Education (ISBE). Document everything. Do not rely only on telephone calls. Confirm telephone reports and calls in writing and save them.

Do you know that bullying is not limited to actions by students? I heard a Technical Consultant from ISBE make a report at a school meeting in which she described actions by school staff as “inappropriate interactions with the student that actually resulted in an increase in undesirable behavior.” She could have used one word to describe it: “bullying”.

Do teachers bully students? What do you think? Were you ever bullied by a teacher?

Questions about bullying? Can’t get it stopped? Post your comments here. If you are concerned about retaliation, email them to me or call me.

Early-Bird Shopping

Did you see the big ad in today's Northwest Herald for tomorrow's Super Saturday sale? I'm not touting Kohl's, although it's a good store, but how in the world do you get employees to show up for work early enough for a 6:00AM opening? Does that mean getting to work at 5:30AM?

Stores must be desperate for the consumers' dollars. The ad says, if you show up between 6:00AM-1:00PM, you get great deals. Even if you show up online during those hours.

OK, so how DO you get employees there for a 6:00AM bell? Is it a "You'll be here or else" situation? Do they pay employees additional compensation (more pay? time off? extra percentage off own purchases)?

Aren't stores open long enough hours already?

And how about the stores that had Christmas sections open BEFORE Halloween? All they do is remind me to write to my relatives with my annual Christmas Wish List. For the past ten years I have asked relatives NOT to send me gifts, just in case they were thinking about it. I suggest that they donate to their favorite charities any money that they might be thinking about spending on a gift and shipping expense for me. I have absolutely everything I need or want.

If my relatives don't have a favorite charity, I do offer suggestions, such as the Salvation Army.

By the way, the Salvation Army can use bellringers in Woodstock (and in every town). If you are in McHenry County, Illinois, as you read this, call (815) 455-2769 today and pick your time and spot. This year I'm going to try to pick a warm day...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Helping Our Challenged Youth

Tonight’s meeting of the Transitional Youth Work Group at the McHenry County Mental Health Board was again fairly lightly attended. This group is composed of students, parents, and representatives of various mental health agencies in the County, and one of its purposes is to aid youth with special challenges in their transition from high school to whatever is next – college, junior college, work or ???

I suspect that many students and parents do not know of this group or its purpose. They are struggling, trying to find resources and solutions to problems the students and other young adults face.

What is so surprising to me is that NO educators attend! A component of every Special Education student in the State of Illinois from Age 16 is a Transition Plan. And the planning for Transition is to start two years before that – at age 14. Wouldn’t you think that educators would want to be part of a team that focuses on this group?

The excuse at tonight’s meeting was that teachers won’t show up at evening meetings. My comment was that, in the 15 months that this group has been meeting, I don’t think there has been even one teacher from any of the school districts in McHenry County.

So of the 10-12 school districts and the 15 meetings, no one from a school district has shown up. Let’s change this by inviting the Superintendent or Associate Superintendent or Director of Special Education or Special Education Coordinator or Transition Specialist from every school district in McHenry County to the next meeting on Thursday, December 6, 2007, at 5:30PM. The meeting is only 90 minutes and includes a light supper.

The speaker in December will be Bob Scanlan, Public Service Administrator, Office of Rehabilitation Services, Illinois Department of Human Services, from the Elgin office. Even though he wasn’t scheduled to speak until the December meeting, Bob was at the group this evening to find out what they might like to hear in December. Now, that’s dedication! Thanks, Bob!

I’ll bet if each Superintendent or his/her designee attended the December meeting, then there would be strong “encouragement” for participation by each district in this worthwhile group.

Plus more parents and more students are needed. The target group of students is those with some form of mental illness. Will you help get the word out? Thanks!

Phishing Email – IRS

When is the last time you got good news from IRS?

If you receive an email from that you have a refund available, think..... if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Is it suspicious? You bet. And not only suspicious, it’s fraudulent and dangerous. Do NOT click on the link in the message. It’s not from the IRS.

When you get junk like that one, the best place to go for information is to the website of the organization, in this case Go there by typing the URL in your internet address window, NOT by clicking on any link in the message.

If you move your cursor over the link in the message WITHOUT clicking on it, you’ll see, for example, a URL ending in .ru - - some crook in Russia is trying to steal your identity.

Don’t open the email. On the IRS’s website, they ask that you forward that email to