Friday, February 29, 2008

Haligus Road Accident Update

Back on December 13, 2007, about six weeks after an accident on Haligus Road claimed the lives of two Marian Catholic Central High School students, the McHenry County Sheriff's Police had not issued any tickets to the driver of the car involved in the single-car accident. The Department was reportedly awaiting lab tests (toxicology reports) before deciding on charges.

This is a position with which I do not agree. The accident happened. No other vehicle was involved. Certainly, the sheriff's department could issue appropriate initial tickets. Later, after receiving toxicology reports, they could add charges, if warranted. The reason given to me for not doing so was "double jeopardy."

I was told then that the Illinois State Police was running about three months behind on toxicology tests.

On February 14 I telephoned Sheriff's Sgt. Carolyn Hubbard and left a message for her with a male deputy who answered her phone and told me that she would return my call the next day.

After waiting two weeks, this morning I telephoned Sgt. Hubbard and left a message for her directly in her own voice mailbox. In the absence of a return call from February 14 and no return call today, it is beginning to appear that the sheriff's department does not want to release information.

The next logical step is to file a Freedom of Information Request with the Sheriff's Department for this information. Failure to return phone calls seems like an unnecessary and unprofessional roadblock but, if they want to play the game that way, it's okay with me. FOIA Requests are expensive and time-consuming for a law enforcement agency to handle. How much simpler it would have been for the officer in charge of the case just to return the call.

The accident was four months ago. Far, far too much time has elapsed without charges being filed for that accident. What could possibly be the reason for such a delay?

Unreturned phone calls are nothing new to me when dealing with the Sheriff's Dept. Two calls have been placed to Det. Cruz for information on the ICE Unit, and neither call has been returned. Guess I'll be sending two FOIA Requests, not one.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

To Beat 24 Officers

Will you please increase your patrol presence on Lake Avenue in the vicinity of the Woodstock Wal-Mart?

During all hours of the day and night drivers use the curb lanes in both directions for high-speed passing lanes. The speed limit there is 40MPH. Speeds of 55-60 are not uncommon to pass us slowpokes who are moseying along at the 40MPH speed limit.

And how about ticketing drivers leaving Wal-Mart at the west exit who fail to stop at the stop sign? They roll down the driveway, glance (sometimes) toward the east to see if there might be room before an oncoming vehicle enters the intersection, and then coast right through the stop sign and turn right. Westbound drivers have to reduce speed to avoid rear-ending the driver who just ran the stop sign and turned out in front of them.

Morning rush-hour is a good time to catch eastbound drivers, and about any time after 3:30PM is a good time to grab westbound drivers.

Another common violation is made by westbound drivers on Lake Avenue who want to turn left to go south on Route 47. When westbound traffic is heavy and backed up on Lake Avenue, drivers cut into the center of the roadway and use it unlawfully to reach the left-turn lane at Route 47.

Many thanks in advance for your attention to these too-frequent violations. No warnings, please; just write the tickets.

To you drivers who like these maneuvers, a ticket will cost you $75-150, and the court costs will add about $160 to the fine. Is it worth it?

Raze Cole Hall?

Gov. Blagojevich is seeking $40,000,000 in emergency state money to raze Cole Hall on the NIU campus. What do you think of tearing down this building and building a new hall on the NIU campus?

First of all, there is no “emergency.” Is anyone else sick and tired of politicians and bureaucrats crying wolf and insisting on immediate action by labeling a funding request as an “emergency”?

Cole Hall should remain in use on the NIU campus. No knee-jerk reaction, tugging on peoples’ heartstrings and emotions, should be the reason for a decision to replace a sound building on a public campus.

A plaque in a common hallway could be mounted in memory of the five students who were killed and in respect to those students who were injured. The others who were traumatized by the event should not be overlooked.

But to demolish the building?

Illinois residents must contact their legislators and the governor’s office immediately to voice their disapproval.

If you are in favor of tearing down this building, just make out your check for $10,000 and mail it to NIU President John Peters.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Watch Those Intersections

This morning’s Northwest Herald carries an article about a lawsuit filed by the family of a 14-year-old girl killed in an automobile accident last October 5th. The lawsuit was filed against the driver of the second vehicle in the accident and a farmer whose sign advertising a haunted house was supposedly erected in a place where it obstructed the view of oncoming traffic.

Noticeably absent from the lawsuit, at least as reported in the paper, was legal action against the 16-year-old driver who allegedly caused the accident by running a stop sign. And who did not ensure that all his passengers were buckled up. The girl who died was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle.

The tragedy of losing a young daughter in a senseless automobile accident is lessened in no way by how it happened. Did two 14-year-old girls belong in a vehicle with a young driver at 11:44PM on a Friday night?

According to the newspaper the lawsuit “cites” the driver who had the right-of-way with “speeding, failure to slow down or sound his horn.”

Actually, it is the police who “cite” a driver. What this lawsuit does is allege that the driver operated his vehicle in that manner. When someone runs a stop sign right in front of you, there often is not a lot you can do about it.

The second driver, the one with the right-of-way and who did not run the stop sign, was charged and convicted of operating a motor vehicle without insurance, and he was fined $500.

The lessons here? Keep your vehicle insured. Watch for cross-traffic at all intersections.

I remember - - way back when I was a young man investigating auto accident claims for an independent agency - - that my boss always told me to ask a driver who had hit one of our insureds (who had run a stop sign or red light), “Did you look for cross-traffic as you approached the intersection on the green light?” “Did you look to be sure that the driver on a cross-street was going to stop at his stop sign, before you entered the intersection?”

The point was to uncover that the other driver had NOT looked and, therefore, was careless when he crossed the intersection on a green light. Unfair?

Sure, we expect the other driver to stop for his stop sign or stop for his red light. Beware if you hit someone who doesn’t stop there. There might just be a lawyer waiting to clean out your wallet.

Cop’s Gun Goes Off…

Did you read the article on page 4C of this morning’s Northwest Herald about the Gilberts PD’s cop whose gun discharged in the bathroom of a bar in St. Charles? Gilberts, you say? Where’s that? Gilberts is the wide spot in the road on Route 72, west of Randall Road.

According to the article, the gun was in a holster. The cop was off-duty, so let’s guess that he was not in uniform. Thus, he was carrying a concealed weapon, which police officers may be allowed to do.

In any event, it probably was in some type of holster, since the article says that is was. Where was the bullet hole in the holster? In the bottom of the holster, where it would be if the gun were actually fully holstered when it discharged? What type of handgun was it and in what type of holster was it? If it was an automatic [meaning the type of handgun (vs. revolver), which is actually a semi-automatic], was the hammer fully back in the cocked position (as many automatics are carried)? Was the safety on? Was there a safety strap on the holster?

Or was he sitting in a bathroom stall and toying with the pistol? He is one lucky guy, for sure, that the bullet only grazed his leg. And very lucky that no one else was in the bathroom!

Obviously, there is a lot more to this story than was reported.

Holstered weapons don’t “just” fire. Something causes them to fire.

Was it correct for the St. Charles Police not to cite the officer? Was it correct for the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office to so quickly determine that no laws were broken?

Is carrying a gun in a bar unlawful? By a police officer who is out of his jurisdiction? I mean, far out of his jurisdiction? Where he is a civilian (that’s what an off-duty police officer is – a civilian)?

Did he just stop in for a bottled water or a soft drink? Or was he consuming alcoholic beverages while armed? The St. Charles Police and Kane County State’s Attorney see nothing wrong with this?

How closely did St. Charles and Kane County law enforcement officials look into this? Were laws broken? Is it unlawful to discharge a gun in the City Limits of St. Charles? In Kane County? Is failure to exercise due care when handling a gun unlawful?

Gilberts PD Chief Joswick will conduct an internal investigation into Departmental policies. That's good. Maybe it will take a FOIA request to learn what changes in department policies result. But it doesn’t have any bearing on what happened in The Filling Station in St. Charles on Sunday evening.

The carrying of a concealed weapon by an off-duty police officer out of his jurisdiction is an interesting question. Is this really lawful? Illinois is one of two states that prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons (guns). Is there an exemption for police officers who are off-duty?

Because State law prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons, can a local police department authorize any officer to carry a concealed weapon off-duty? Or even carry an unconcealed weapon off-duty?

Laws permit “retired” police officers to carry guns off-duty, but are non-retired, off-duty officers allowed to do so? What section of Illinois law allows this? Does anyone know?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Parking Space Hogs

There was a great tip on NPR's Talk of the Nation this afternoon. A listener had written in to suggest a way to get the point across to those "special" people who feel entitled to park their cars across 2-3 parking spaces in crowded parking lots.

His idea? He leaves a note under the windshield that reads, "Sorry about the scratch." He thinks they'll go nuts trying to find the scratch.

Should commercial office buildings or shopping centers take action against those "special" drivers? They probably won't; they won't want to make them mad. Well, what about the rest of us?

Who was that guy in Texas with the bumper stickers, "I'm mad, too, Eddie." Remember him? Eddie Chiles (1910-1993) was a radio commentator and also owned the Texas Rangers, until he sold the team to a group of investors that included George W. Bush.

Hoffman Estates is Next...

Did you hear the news this morning that Hoffman Estates will join the ranks of towns utilizing red-light cameras? This summer cameras will be installed at five intersections.

Red-light running is a huge problem - not only in Illinois, but nation-wide. For the law-abiding drivers it is the right decision.

When drivers approach signalized intersections carefully and watch the light, there won't be any problem with stopping if the light changes.

The drivers who run the red lights? They deserve the tickets, whether the tickets are issued by officers or through the red-light camera program.

Kind of makes you wonder why the powers-that-be can't figure out what's wrong on Randall Road. Rigid enforcement is needed at IL 72, Algonquin Road, Miller Road, Acorn Lane. At just about every light on Randall Road.

What can you do to protect yourself?

If you are being tail-gated, slow down as you approach a light that has been green a long time. Increase your distance behind the car ahead. Watch the driver behind you. If the green light changes to yellow, expect him to accelerate, thinking that you are going to run the light. Watch for him to change lanes suddenly and try to pass you while you are slowing to stop. It's called "defensive driving."

If you are stopped at a red light, when it changes to green, look both ways; then look both ways again!

If there is a large truck to your left and you can't see cross-traffic, wait until that driver starts up. If someone runs the red light from your left, let the truck take the brunt of the crash, not you.

Auto Ins. Premium Going Up?

Let’s assume you have been a good driver – no tickets, no accidents, and you have enjoyed discounts on your automobile insurance premiums for your good driving record.

Now let’s assume that your policy anniversary is approaching. The envelope with your premium notice arrives and you open it, expecting to see the familiar premium you have been paying, or perhaps just a small increase to cover inflation.

Then your heart almost stops, when you see that your premium has increased a whopping 30%!

It’s probably after-hours for your insurance agent, so you get to steam all night, and by the next morning you are more than ready to tear a leg off your agent.

You call your agent and what do you hear? “Everybody’s premium is going up.” “You can’t do anything about it.” “It won’t do any good to fight it.”

Wanna bet?

Try this the next time. Write a polite, but very stern, letter to the President of the insurance company. Don’t waste your time calling the customer service department; you’ll get someone with no authority whatsoever. Go right to the top.

Send copies of your letter to several Insurance Commissioners. Send one to the Insurance Commissioner of your own state (for example, Illinois), of the state in which the headquarters of the insurance company is located, and to the insurance commissioners of 2-3 nearby states.

Perhaps you’ll have the same good luck that I did. Within a week I received a telephone call from the administrative assistant to the President of the insurance company. She was very pleasant and quickly identified herself, spelled her name and gave me her direct-dial telephone number. She told me that a policy analyst would review my letter and file and would contact me within a week.

In less than a week the analyst did call me. The decision? He lowered my premium back to its previous level, and it has been there ever since.

Does it pay to complain? You bet! Do so politely and respectfully. State your case. I had written up-front that I would not object to a small increase in rates, but not 30%. The insurance company was very fair and didn’t even raise the premium at all.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Age 65? Ride Free...

Blago is certainly milking his transit give-away for all it’s worth. You’d think he was planning to run for Gov again. There is a term-limit, isn’t there? I sure hope so!

I can’t begin to count the number of letters and postcards from him, praising his give-away. What is this going to mean to me? I mean, with all the public transportation in McHenry County to take me all the places I want to go, how much will I save?

Probably not so much as he has spent to tell me I can save money! What am I going to do? Ride Metra to Crystal Lake to go shopping? Yeah, sure…. and then hoof it to Northwest Highway from downtown Crystal Lake. Or worse…. What if I miss the "Crystal Lake" stop and leave the Metra train at the Pingree station? I'll be stuck in the middle of nowhere until another train comes along (in about two hours).

Why would Blago even be wasting State dollars to tout this give-away? The newspapers have covered it. When I slide my RTA pass into the machine, it will recognize me and not charge me; right?

So I do NOT need the Gov to keep telling me about this “great” benefit. I think it might be worth $5 to me in 2008. Thanks, Guv.

The most recent letter from the Gov tells me that he hopes I will take advantage of this new program. “You’ve earned it.”

How stupid! Just how did I “earn” it? By living long enough to reach a certain age? That’s all it takes. Listen, Blago, that’s not “earning” anything.

There is even a website where seniors can pre-register for their free rides. The only problem is that many seniors don’t use computers and don’t have email addresses. I tried to register one senior (with her permission). Although there were asterisks for mandatory information and the email field was not mandatory, the State webpage could not be submitted because no email address was entered! What kind of genius set up that page and didn’t test it?

Energy-efficient Bulbs – Dangers? Disposal?

You’ve heard the ads for the new energy-efficient light bulbs; right? You know, save big money at _________. Up to $56 in energy savings “over the life of the bulb.” Nice words, too. “Up to…” Caveat emptor.

But what happens if a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb breaks in your home? Do you know what to do? Just grab the broom and dustpan, sweep it up, throw it in the trash can? Right? WRONG!

And how do you dispose of a bulb? Just throw it out? NO (unless Illinois law so permits).

To find out how to dispose of CFL bulbs, I went to the ComEd website and read this: “ComEd is partnering with Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Ace Hardware to conduct a pilot CFL recycling program where 148 participating local Ace Hardware stores in northern Illinois will accept used CFLs from ComEd customers through June 2008 and properly dispose of them in IEPA-approved recycling facilities.

Aha, okay, let’s call Bohn ACE Hardware in Woodstock. Perhaps I should have known better than to call early on Sunday afternoon, but I did call and asked to speak with someone who knew about disposal of CFL bulbs. After waiting on hold, a young man answered. When I asked him if they accept bulbs for recycling, first he told me they sell bulbs. Glad to know that.

When I asked my question again, he said, “We throw ours away in a bin.” Oh, great. Poor old Mr. Bohn is probably rolling over in his grave!

So then I called Menard’s, where I was told that they don’t recycle CFL bulbs. The employee thought there might be a place in Woodstock where these bulbs are recycled, but she didn’t know.

If Illinois law did permit the throwing out of CFL bulbs, they should be double-bagged in plastic bags and placed in outside trash. Although not mentioned on the website, I’m pretty sure that they should be not “compacted” inside. And, from the ComEd statement above about IEPA-approved recycling facilities, my guess is that bulbs should be recycled and not just thrown out in the trash.

According to these bulbs contain small amounts of Mercury and broken CFL bulbs should be cleaned up properly and disposed up properly. For complete information, go to that website. For a summary, read on…

If a CFL bulbs breaks inside,

Open a window and go outside for at least 15 minutes.
Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up broken pieces on a hard surface.
Wear disposable gloves. Scoop up fragments with cardboard or stiff paper.
Wipe area clean with damp paper towel.
Place broken pieces and clean-up materials in a sealable plastic bag.
Place first bag in second bag, seal it and place in outside trash, IF state law permits; otherwise, dispose of it at recycling center.

If a CFL bulb breaks on a carpet, clean up first as best possible without using a vacuum cleaner.
Use duct tape to pick up smaller pieces and powder.
Place in sealable plastic bag.
Vacuum. Empty the vacuum bag and clean vacuum.
Dispose of contents and cleaning materials in sealable bag; then double-bag and place outside.

Teach these rules to your children, family members and housemates.

Armed Teachers?

Should college professors be armed? Should school teachers be armed?

Read the full article and some (or all) of the comments here:

Think about the situation of your child (or you!) sitting in an auditorium or classroom when a shooter shows up. Do you want them to be sitting ducks? How far away will the School Resource Officer be? Will he even be there, or will the shooter pick a time when the SRO's marked police car is not parked in its reserved parking spot? (Is this a reason to avoid the parking of a marked police car in front of a school and to remove its reserved parking placard?)

What if certain trained, interested, shooting-range-qualified, concealed-carry and properly permitted teachers and other staff were carrying concealed handguns - and knew how to use them?

Would our schools be safer? You bet!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saving Money on your Phone Bill

When you open your utility bill or a notice from the DMV and out falls that little flyer from the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), what do you think? Advertising? Nuisance? Junk mail? For years I thought, “What a bother!” and wondered why the sender was being required to send me what looked like promotional material for CUB.

Next time, read it carefully. And then (or sooner) go to the CUB website at and take a look at how CUB can help you.

Recently, a reader alerted me to CUB. Her husband and she had just switched their long-distance service to Pioneer Telephone. Not only will they get low long-distance rates, but they will also get a $20.00 credit for signing up for Pioneer’s “Rate Buster” long-distance plan. (AT&T might nick you $9.00 for changing your long-distance carrier.) These readers also were able to cut the local-call portion of their basic telephone bill by $15.00/month by switching to the Consumer Choice Plus plan.

For free phone-bill analysis by CUB, call CUB at 866-688-4282

And check out the $10.00/month DSL plan of AT&T. Know about this? Probably not. Read about it on the CUB website.

Pioneer’s inter-state rates are $0.027/minute, and intra-state rates are $0.019/minute. Compare these with whatever you are currently paying. Can you save some money? A lot of money? There is no monthly billing fee if you allow them to email the monthly statement to you.

You can sign up at Pioneer at or you can call Pioneer at 877-292-6878

Pioneer also offers a referral bonus to persons who recommend new customers. Have the name and phone number handy of the person who told you about Pioneer. It won’t cost you anything, and it’ll be a nice thank-you to the person who told you about it.

Many thanks to the reader who sent me this information and asked me to share it here.

Online Price-Match at BestBuy

Do you ever shop online to get an idea of your next purchase and then head on over to Crystal Lake to buy it?

Next time you are shopping online at, be sure to print your results and take them with you. I was able to save 20% on an in-store purchase last week, just because I had printed the online description and pricing for the item I intended to buy and took it with me. When I got to the cashier, I asked for a price-match and, without hesitation, the cashier re-directed me to the Customer Service counter, where a second cashier knew exactly how to ring it up for the savings.

Another good option with BestBuy is to order online for in-store pick-up. You can place your order online, indicate at what store you will pick it up, and then print the confirmation you’ll receive and take it with you. Go directly to the Customer Service counter, where your merchandise will be awaiting your pick-up. As indicated on the confirmation, be sure to take the credit card you used for the purchase.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What Teachers Make

I received this from a teacher in Texas...

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." To stress his point he said to another guest, "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness, replied, "You want to know what I make? She paused for a second, then began... "Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental. You want to know what I make?"

She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table. ''I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

"I teach them to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn't everything.

"I make them read, read, read.

“I make them show all their work in math. They use their God-given brain, not the man-made calculator.

"I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

"I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

"I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America.

"Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life."

Bonnie paused one last time and then continued. "Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant... You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make, Mr. CEO?"

His jaw dropped, he went silent.

- - - Author Unknown

Why Certain Postings are Removed

From time to time commenters here will question why certain posts have been removed. Generally, I believe they already know why the posts were removed. They wrote them; they know what they wrote; they know what's wrong with what they wrote.

Posts that are irrelevant or that make unfair references to persons having nothing to do with the article will be removed. Postings of opinions that differ from mine will be allowed to remain, so long as they are not crude.

If you wonder whether your posting is crude, show it to your mother. If she washes your mouth out with soap, don't post it.

If you wonder whether it is defamatory or libelous, show it to your lawyer. If he says you can post it, take your chances.

Left Turns out of McDonald's

What kind of rocket scientist does it take to try to turn left from the exit at the McDonald's drive-thru? You know the corner; right?

The exit driveway is just at the intersection of Route 47 and South St. (most of us call it Country Club Road). I mean, just AT the corner. Anyone with half a brain would realize that it is extremely dangerous to turn left when leaving McDonald's. You have to cross three southbound lanes and then try to figure out how to miss traffic in the inside northbound lane.

Site distances are not good, yet drivers do this every day. Will the City of Woodstock take an interest in this dangerous driving action? No way. The police department will not. Public Works will not. And IDOT won't, either.

Another dangerous maneuver is leaving the McDonald's drive-thru and forging your way over to the southbound left-turn lane, so that you can head toward Bull Valley with your sack of burgers and fries. This means you have to drive straight across two southbound lanes on Route 47 and then try to get your car into what's left of the left-turn lane. This is another fancy turn of Woodstock drivers on a daily basis.

Oh, yes.... one more... Northbound drivers on Route 47 who want to turn left into McDonald's without using South Street or Calhoun Street. Often, these drivers are so considerate of other northbound drivers that they will drive into the oncoming left-turn lane and stop there to wait for a break in traffic.

Be on your toes the next time you are southbound on Route 47 and hoping to make it to the light at Country Club Road to turn left and go to the Post Office or Walgreen's.

If you think Woodstock Police ought to enforce these violations, email

Traffic Charge Dismissed!

You may have read a Letter to the Editor in the Northwest Herald back on January 14, when the niece of a man in McHenry wrote to complain about her elderly uncle’s being ticketed wrongfully, in her opinion, in Woodstock. Her letter provoked over 100 comments, many of which were accusatory and fault-finding. A few were written by people (officers?) who might have been in a position to know just a little more about it.

What happened? The driver committed a traffic violation and was stopped on January 4. Although he presented his driver’s license with January 7 expiration date, he was ticketed for No Valid Driver’s License, as well as for the turning violation.

The driver believed his license to be valid and had just been at the Woodstock DMV to take his written exam, where he narrowly missed a passing grade. Not passing a written test does not invalidate a driver’s license. No one at the DMV told him that his license was not valid. He walked out of the DMV with his driver’s license with the January 7 expiration date.

He was stopped shortly after leaving the DMV. The officer apparently learned from a computer check that the driver’s license was not valid, placed the elderly driver under arrest, had his vehicle towed and took the driver away in the patrol car, after which the driver had to post a $100 bond against $1,000 bail to be released.

I learned of this through the Letter to the Editor and contacted the letter-writer. I’m not an attorney, but I understand traffic laws pretty well. I was able to offer some education to the niece of the driver, and she commenced her own efforts to assist her uncle.

The niece was able to speak with the prosecuting attorney for Woodstock before court started on January 23 and explained that the driver believed his driver’s license was valid. He had it in his pocket when stopped by the Woodstock officer and presented it. He had no knowledge of its not being valid. The prosecuting attorney asked the judge for a 30-day continuance, so that she could look further into the matter.

After leaving court that day, the niece and the driver went to the DMV, where they learned that the driver’s license had been suspended. They quickly informed the prosecuting attorney of this new information. The driver had been involved in a minor fender-bender on private property in McHenry, and the officer there ordered the driver to be re-examined for driving privileges, even though no ticket was issued. This is a not-too-well-known law that allows an officer to request the DMV to summon a driver and re-test him.

The DMV is supposed to write to the driver and instruct him to appear for testing. Perhaps they did. The driver never received the letter, because he had moved. He had changed his address for his vehicle registration but h adoverlooked changing his driver’s license. Because he didn’t know he was supposed to go in and be tested, he didn’t go. After he didn’t show up, the DMV suspended his license. Presumably, the DMV wrote to him and informed him of the suspension. Perhaps they did. He never got the letter. So he kept driving.

When he was at the DMV on January 4 for his written test (because his license was due for renewal), he tried to change his address then, but they told him to wait until he passed the test.

Was it lawful for the McHenry officer to cite the driver for re-examination, since the fender-bender had occurred on private property?

Last Wednesday, February 20, the driver returned to McHenry County Traffic Court, where the No Valid Driver’s License charge was, what most of would call, “dismissed”; nolle prosequi, they call it. Technically, legally, it is not a dismissal of the charge; rather, it is an “entry made on the record, by which the prosecutor … declares that (s)he will proceed no further.” (Source: In other words, the prosecutor will not proceed with that case against the driver.

The driver did pay a $150 fine plus court costs for the turning violation. Court costs? How much were they for a $150 fine? How about $166.00?!!! So the turn ticket cost him $316!!! The charge was "wrong way around a traffic island." Do we have traffic islands in Woodstock? Anywhere near Route 47 and Country Club Road. Not that I've seen, and I've lived here 12 years.

In traffic court the judge is quick to inform all that he is not responsible for the amount of court costs. And, indeed, he is not. Some of these costs are set by the State of Illinois and others are set by the County Board. That’s “our” County Board. The McHenry County Board. The people you and I elect every once in a while.

The level of court costs is ridiculous. $166 court costs for a $150 fine? That’s over 100%!

If you wonder about the amount of court costs, if you are headed to court to pay a ticket, you probably will not be able to find out in advance. This is a huge injustice to drivers. When you call the court clerk, they tell you that it’s a complicated formula and they “don’t know.” Baloney! Of course, they know.

The administrative judge of the County should order her employees not to vague or misleading, when people try to find out how much money to take to court with them. The cashiers have a printed sheet showing the breakdown of court costs; of course, it is still tricky trying to learn just exactly how much you’ll get stuck for. That nonsense needs to stop right now!

The prosecuting attorney for Woodstock on this case handled the matter quite fairly for all parties.

Red-Light Cameras – Woodstock?

After watching the driver of a large, clean, red Dodge pick-up (license 49161 FireFighter) blow the red light a few minutes ago (6:33PM, to be exact) on westbound Lake Avenue at Route 47, I began wondering whether Woodstock should join the parade of towns and villages in northern Illinois to install red-light cameras at traffic lights.

I was stopped in the right-turn lane on southbound 47 at Lake Avenue, waiting on a red light for westbound traffic to clear. It’s possible to see the light for westbound traffic, and I watched it change from green to yellow. Now, in some places that’s a warning to drivers that the red light will soon follow and, again, in some places, drivers begin to slow and stop.

Not the guy in the red truck! When the light changed to yellow, he was the third vehicle from the light. The first vehicle proceeded, the second vehicle sped up, and doggone if the (couldn’t be a firefighter, could it?) tailgated the second vehicle v-e-r-y closely through the red light. Now, maybe he knew him; maybe he knew he wouldn’t stop on the yellow. Maybe he never does.

It’s a good thing the second vehicle didn’t stop; maybe he was afraid to stop. He saved himself a significant rear-end collision by not stopping. A big red Dodge Ram pick-up truck will do a lot of damage to a smaller vehicle in front of it.

The Dodge driver was, I guess, in a big hurry to get to Fremont Street, where he had to stop and wait for oncoming traffic before turning left. That gave me a chance to catch up and read his plate.

Writing red light tickets is hard for cops. They’ve got to be where they can see the violator and not be seen by him. They’ve got to be where they can give chase. It’s usually a 2- or 3-man operation to be successful, and Woodstock PD just doesn’t have that kind of manpower.

I did read recently that Woodstock PD will be cracking down on traffic violators. Good! Maybe they can nail 49161 F/F and put some points on this dangerous driver’s record in Springfield. No Court Supervision, please! And no pass for the F/F plate!

Illinois Concealed-Carry Legislation

Thanks to a Letter to the Editor in the Northwest Herald this morning, I became aware of legislation in Illinois (once again) to allow the carrying of concealed weapons. Illinois and Wisconsin are the ONLY two states to prohibit law-abiding citizens from some form of Right-to-Carry.

I invite you to read a summary of the bills in the House and the Senate.

Go to
On the left side, click on Government
On the right side, click on Legislature
In the center, click on Bill and Resolution Search
In the field for Search by Bill Number, enter HB4544; click on Go.

Read a summary of the Family & Personal Protection Act.

Call Rep. Jack Franks (815-334-0063) and tell you that you are in favor of this bill, that you want him to support it, that you want him to sign on as a co-sponsor; and ask him exactly where he stands on an individual's right to defend himself.

No need to call Rep. Mike Tryon. He supports it.

The Senate version is SB0348 (SB-zero-348).

Your voice counts.

For you law enforcement types who are reading this, check with your State law enforcement agency and find out where it stands. The chiefs up this way hate the idea of a trained, qualified, law-abiding citizenry carrying guns. The rest of the state? You'll be surprised.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Guns Legally at Universities?

See today’s article at about students’ carrying guns at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City. The student featured in the article is a conceal-weapon permitholder who began “packing” after the Virginia Tech shooting. He decided that he is not going to be a victim.

Does this make sense? To me, and I’ll bet to many law-abiding citizens who want the right to carry a concealed weapon, it does make a lot of sense. If we see a person in harm’s way, or find ourselves in harm’s way, then we are likely to take action. But no one wants to go up against a gun or knife with a fountain pen. We must have equal force.

I’ve not yet investigated training classes that would probably meet a requirement under a new state law. A range in McHenry may be offering a training class. The problem with taking the class now is that, if and when our esteemed legislators get around to finally passing a concealed-carry law in Illinois, that class may not fill the bill, or a time interval might have passed and one would be required to take the class again, not that that might not be a good idea.

Can a weapon be carried concealed in Illinois now? Some would say “Yes” to this question. When you read the law closely, you see that a weapon “must be unloaded and enclosed in a case, firearm carrying box, shipping box, or other container” - - and container is not defined. This could be a box or a bag or a fanny-pack or perhaps even a zippered weekly planner designed to carry your monthly DayTimer pages and your side-arm.

I can hear the howls now. Illegal! Illegal! Except it’s not illegal. The law of the State of Illinois allows just this. Unfortunately, it will be very expensive to prove that you are not guilty; read, innocent. If the cops catch you with your handgun in “your” container, you can bet they will charge you with a felony, and then you’d better have deep pockets for the best lawyer in the territory.

Just such an arrest occurred in, I think it was, DuPage County. The alleged “criminal” was eventually found Not Guilty, but at what cost? Should law enforcement be financially responsible for the unjustified and malicious prosecution of a person who has not violated a law but whom they charge, anyway?

Citizens and police officers have nothing to fear from the law-abiding citizen who is carrying a gun. In fact, I think that the in-car computers ought to identify drivers who are FOID cardholders and, in the future when we do have a good concealed-carry law in Illinois, who are such cardholders. Then, if an officer happens to spot a weapon in the car, he might be slightly less concerned, knowing the registered owner of the car (and probably the driver) is legally entitled to have the weapon.

Of course, we have to be able to depend on government not to try to confiscate our weapons. Can we trust government that far?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

City Condemns Land of Two – Oops

Another fascinating maneuver at tonight’s City Council meeting involved the South/Route 47/Fair/Calhoun Project. You know this one; right?

This started out as the side road from South Street to McConnell Road behind the old Jewel, DeCraene’s, Vaughan’s and on down to Larry Piekos’ Cycle Craft. I remember the show-and-tell by Public Works about four-six years ago. No one asked how much the project was going to cost until the end of the meeting, when I asked the question about the “elephant in the room.” The cost? $5.5 Million. PLUS the cost of land acquisition! For what? For a ¾-mile road with a center lane and sidewalks. Whatta dream!

The topic tonight was the repriortization of the Project. The owners of the buildings that house Harmony Falls Massage Therapy and Swanky Spa were there to complain about condemnation notices they had received.

The project is now dead in the water. Not totally dead – the Woodstock City Council doesn’t want to kill off anything. All it will take is lots of money to bring it back to life, and lots of money is something the City of Woodstock doesn’t have.

Both owners were assured that condemnation proceedings would be halted tomorrow by City staff and the City Attorney.

Should property owners be entitled to compensation for their expenses to protect their property rights? You bet! Will they have to fight for it? You bet!

Sheila St. Residents Escape the Hammer

Is something news when nothing happens? You bet!

At tonight’s City Council meeting there was a significant item on the Agenda – a proposal to create no-parking zones on both sides of Sheila Street from Route 47 east to Central Parkway. And not only a no parking zone on both sides of the street, but also a tow-away zone. And 24/7, not just during the 2:00-6:00AM overnight parking ban. The only street in Woodstock when a parking violation would result in towing!

This item was on the Consent Agenda, meaning that it would get swept up and passed by the City Council along with all other items on the Consent Agenda, unless a Council member or a member of the public, with the consent of a Council member, had the item removed from the Consent Agenda for discussion before a vote.

Indeed, the proposal was pulled for discussion by Councilwoman Larson, and shortly thereafter discussion began. A local property owner reminded the Council that this topic had come up in about 2000 and had been voted down then. Then a young woman who lives in the area spoke about the importance of parking for guests during a family party.

I addressed the Council on the complete unfairness of the proposed ordinance, as it struck at the segment of Woodstock population unable to represent itself before the political powers. I spoke about the financial harm to a vehicle owner or driver who parked, for example, to run groceries into the apartment or take the kids inside from the bitter cold, and who might return to find a police officer issuing a ticket for the parking violation and having the car towed ($135.00) and then stored ($35.00/day) until the owner could accumulate the funds to bail out the car. To some, a simple parking violation might result in loss of the car (for lack of funds to get it out of the impound lot), loss of job (no transportation), loss of housing (no money to pay rent), etc., etc.

After I completed my remarks, the Mayor duly cautioned me about my collective remarks about a segment of the population not having a “voice” with which to represent itself. Hizzoner has “cautioned” me on previous occasions after I’ve left the microphone; perhaps next time I’ll stay at the microphone and reserve the right to speak in rebuttal to his comments about my comments.

When it came time to vote, the Mayor explained to the Council that there would be a motion to take action. Is this like, getting ready to get ready? That’s what it sounded like to me. So I expected that they’d first vote to take action on the vote, and then they’d vote on the ordinance. Not how it happened. With one vote, the Council wisely voted down the proposal – unanimously.

One man asked if just one person could stir up such a hornet’s nest (my words). Yes, indeed, said the mayor. Well, it all depends who that one person is. Many have approached the City Council with requests, only to be met with silence or lengthy explanations by the Mayor as to why something is not going to happen.

How it happened that one resident was able to get the mayor’s ear and cause the City to expend funds to send letters to 34 area property owners, and then get a two-page letter from Public Works to the City Manager and a proposed ordinance drafted, only to have it die without support when it was time to vote, is truly amazing. Why didn’t this get shot down right in the beginning?

We can’t get a sidewalk-shoveling ordinance started here. We can’t get a Vehicle Control Agreement in effect at Jewel to protect hundreds of shoppers and employees from errant drivers who have learned they can blow off stop signs and park in Fire Lanes and Loading Zones. But we can threaten low-income residents with having their cars towed in the middle of the afternoon for parking in front of their homes?

FireFighter License Plate – Free Pass?

Should vehicles with Illinois FireFighter Memorial (F/F) license plates get a free pass on parking violations? Do their drivers expect free passes?

Frequently I wonder whether police officers routinely ticket such vehicles when parking violations are observed, just as the same as they would with any other vehicle.

About 4:50PM a white Chevrolet Blazer-type vehicle was parked on Sheila Street in front of 1948 Sheila, on the south side of the street where No Parking This Side of Street signs are posted every few driveways. There can be no doubt in any driver’s mind that parking on that side of the street is illegal. The license plate: WATR (Firefighter Memorial special plate). Let’s see; could that possibly be a firefighter’s Chevrolet?

I was in the neighborhood to talk to residents about tonight’s City Council meeting and a proposed ordinance to make Sheila Street no-parking in both directions AND a tow-away zone. In fact, the only street in Woodstock from which illegally parked cars would be towed.

Thirty minutes later the vehicle was still there, and about five minutes after that the driver came out of the house and drove away.

Why do firemen and cops ante up the extra bucks for these plates? I’m sure it’s out of the goodness of their hearts that they want to donate funds to the respective memorials, and they don’t ever expect a break from an officer. Or do they? Of course, they do!

One of the breaks is they probably won’t even get stopped in the first place. Another break occurs when they are told to ease up on the pedal, and their license, registration and insurance might not even get checked. Or they get a Warning, not a Citation.

And the poor guy across the street on Sheila? Whammo! Sock it to ‘em! Big-time!

NIU Scenario – What If...?

Illinois is one of the last states to refuse the right of self-defense to its residents by granting law-abiding citizens the right to carry a concealed weapon. What if – just what if – Illinois legislators didn’t have their heads stuck so far in the sand that they cannot see what legislators in almost every other state have recognized – that a citizenry with the right to carry arms is a citizenry that can defend and protect itself.

What if Illinois law allowed carrying of concealed weapons, including in public places – government offices, parks, schools, stores, buildings? What if 10-15-20 students in that hall on the campus of NIU had been armed last Thursday? When the shooter stepped out on the stage with his shotgun and pumped it, how many armed students would have readied themselves to defend the safety and peace of all in the hall?

Yes, the shooter might have gotten off a few rounds, but by then he would have been cut down by a fusillade of bullets. Trained, qualified, skilled, law-abiding, permit-holding citizens know when to shoot and when not to. They know if they can hit the target. They know when not to shoot. They understand their personal liability if they do shoot.

Law-abiding, armed citizens are going to be very careful when they do shoot, because their entire financial well-being is at risk. And they’d better be right to shoot. Just defending themselves or others could bankrupt them.

What’s holding Illinois back? Several years ago this State was only a few votes away from enacting a concealed-carry law. And now? Far, far away. State lawmakers from Chicago have a huge impact in Springfield. You’d think they would WANT concealed carry laws. Why not give their own residents a fighting chance against the gangbangers and other criminals? But no… they want the police to handle it. I guess that’s why we read of killings in Chicago almost every day.

And some of the close-in northern ‘burbs? Skokie? Wilmette? What’s wrong with those folks?

I feel pretty safe out here in Woodstock. I’ve only lived in one city – Richmond, Virginia – where I felt so unsafe that I carried a gun in the car where I could reach it. Richmond was the murder capital of the U.S. at the time, with many carjackings and ATM robberies. My mind was made-up in advance that I was not going to get murdered by a robber or a carjacker.

I’ve been robbed at gunpoint once in my life; I was lucky – all they took was my money and my watch. I had just left a restaurant and got hit in the parking lot. When they only got $6.00, they were not very happy. When I made the report to the cops, I told them I had almost said to the robbers, “Look, I’ve already been robbed once tonight. You’ve got to rob people before they go in restaurants!” The cops said it was good I didn’t say that, because the same two robbers had just robbed a woman a block away, and they only got $5 from her. Two robberies - $11.00 net. They weren’t having a good night. The cops grabbed them 20 minutes later, when they made a U-turn in front of a police car.

When people learn that they do not have to feel unsafe when law-abiding, armed citizens are walking the streets or driving their cars, they will realize that they are better protected as well. When the criminals don’t know who is armed and who isn’t, the criminals are less likely to take the risk that the next victim might be armed and ready to defend himself or herself.

Many police officers and many police chiefs throughout the country support concealed carry laws. They know that law-abiding citizens are not the problem. It's the criminals with guns who are the problem!

Contact your state legislators now. Demand the right to defend yourself. Take a firearms training class. Buy a gun. Buy a good gun; it won’t be cheap. Only buy a cheap gun if your life isn’t worth much. Learn how to use it. And practice often! Know at what distance you can hit the target (and beyond what distance you can’t). Practice in low-light conditions. Find a range where you can practice with lights out. Fire a few rounds without ear protection, so the sound of gunshots won’t panic you.

McHenry County State Rep. Jack Franks said on Monday, “I’m certainly willing to listen to all the potential solutions to avoid any tragedy like this occurring again in the future. I wish I had the solution, but I don’t.” (Northwest Herald, 2/19/08, Page 1)

Yes, Jack, you do have the solution. Concealed-carry in Illinois. Now, will you finally support it?

Another One Bites the Dust

The Woodstock Square is losing another store. The Northwest Herald carried an article last week that English Rose Clothes Boutique, 106 N. Benton Street, is closing. In an interview with the Herald’s Kurt Begalka, English Rose owner Mrs. Dahl explained the reason for the closing is a planned move to Florida for her husband’s health. That, “and a pending rent increase…”

And there is the death knell for the Square. High (and ever-increasing) rents, super-high property taxes in McHenry County, high utility expenses, high maintenance and repair costs on old buildings, inconvenient (and little) parking, and low motivation of customers to walk a block or two (or three) from available parking, little attraction for customers to come to the Square and, more importantly, to return often after a first visit, all combine to present grave threats to the viability of the Square.

Advertising Woodstock as a “destination” doesn’t make it so. Just as advertising Pike’s Peak as the highest mountain in Colorado doesn’t make it so. There are quite a number of “fourteeners” that are higher than Pike’s Peak (but not so well advertised!).

Are the problems reversible? Yes. In the time to save current store owners? Maybe.

The Woodstock Downtown Business Association is going to try. It has a solid core of concerned merchants and residents. It will take more than that. It will take the interest of everyone in Woodstock. There is no time to stand back and wait.

It will take investment by all. By merchants. By property owners. By customers. By the City. When you are shopping on the Square or in Woodstock and not finding what you want to buy, don’t just truck off to Crystal Lake or Randall Road. Contact the WDBA and tell them what you wanted to buy in Woodstock and that you didn’t find it (or find it at a reasonable price).

Will you pay $1 more, $5 more, to buy in Woodstock? What’s the cost (time, mileage, wear-and-tear on your car, dings and dents from huge shopping center parking lots) to go out-of-town to buy? Is it worth it?

In the past I have complimented downtown Naperville. The WDBA ought to plan a visit to Naperville on a summer evening. Sidewalks are crowded; stores are open; stores are full of shoppers and browsers. And visit other revived small-town centers. Find out what they did to create a vibrant, thriving business community.

Township Trustee Arrested

Did you read last week that McHenry Township Trustee Vince Nett was arrested in the McHenry Township offices just before the February 14th township meeting was to start? Credit Johnsburg PD with great investigation skills and timing. Yeah, sure… Happy Valentine’s Day, Vince.

According to the Northwest Herald a warrant for Nett was issued on December 11 (almost TWO months before) for resisting a police officer in Grundy County.

Now, the huge question is, Just exactly why did it take Johnsburg PD two months to “discover” this warrant??? Is resisting a police office not a pretty serious crime in Illinois? Even in Grundy County? Why would Grundy County authorities not notify Johnsburg PD immediately of the outstanding warrant? Or did they?

And why would Johnsburg PD select a township meeting as the place to pick up Nett and take him away in handcuffs? This action, on its surface, appears rife with political meanness. Did they not know Neff? Hardly! Of course, they know him. Didn’t they know where he lived? Even know his phone number? Was he a flight risk? Probably a phone call and, “Vince, come on down to the station; we’ve got a warrant here for you from Grundy County.” That probably would have taken care of that.

And as for Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Christopher Thompson’s being able to confirm a outstanding warrant but having no other details? What a laugh! Of course, he had further details! Or was his computer out-of-order? If he doesn’t know the details, then he doesn’t have a warrant.

If the police show up at my door and say, “We think there is a warrant out for you, so come with us,” I’ve got some news for them. I hope they aren’t in the way when I slam the door. If they can’t show me the warrant (or know the date issued, by whom and the exact charge), then they don’t have one!

I don’t know Vince Nett. Is he really a bad apple in the barrel, or are folks just out to get him?

Take, for example, the way in which an April 2006 complaint was reported by the Northwest Herald:

“Police also investigated Nett in April 2006 when a township employee said Nett painted awnings outside her McHenry wine shop without permission.” This short sentence opens a panorama of questions.

What McHenry County Township employee is running a wine shop on Township time? We’d all better hope that no such employee is doing that. It is more likely that the Township employee owns or manages the wine shop completely outside the scope of her Township duties and devotes NO time during normal township operating hours to the business of her wineshop. This means no phone calls, no consultations with employees, no deliveries, no orders to suppliers, no visits to the store during daytime business hours to do the books or make bank deposits. Zilch, nada, zero, nothing. The Township pays for her time and gets all of her day time.

Why did the article state that police investigated a complaint by a “township employee”, instead of referring to her as the owner or manager of the McHenry wine shop and omitting reference to her township employment? What did her township employment have to do with the wine shop or the alleged painting of an awning?

Why did Neff paint the awning, or did he?

What was the result of the investigation? By what police department? McHenry Police Department? Since no charges are reported, one must assume that no crime was committed. So why was this even mentioned in the article?

And just who is the wine shop owner/manager who is also a township employee?

Unsafe Food Recycling

A reader has alerted me to unsafe food handling at a long-time restaurant in Woodstock. Let’s hear what you think.

You know those popular baskets of rolls, crackers and bread that are served with salad and a meal? Usually there are 2-3 rolls, in addition to the pre-packaged crackers.

What do you think happens to the rolls that are not eaten?

Let’s bet that every reader here believes the uneaten rolls are thrown away, when the bread basket is taken from the table by the server. Right?

Last week a reader emailed me that she had noticed a customer with a runny nose at another table who reached into the bread basket on his table, after he had wiped his nose with his hand. Think there were any germs on his hand?

When the waitress came to her table, she asked what happened to uneaten rolls. To her surprise the waitress told her that uneaten rolls are not discarded; instead, they are just added back to the rolls that will be served to other customers.

Shocked? You bet! I have wondered about this in restaurants, and I had always assumed that a restaurant would safeguard the health of customers by discarding unwrapped bread items when the basket was removed from the table.

What would you do, if you learned of such a practice in a restaurant? Would you continue to eat there? Would you recommend it to your friends?

Or would you recommend that your friends avoid that restaurant?

And, if you were an employee of that restaurant, would you discard them, anyway, even at the risk of your job?

Friday, February 15, 2008

WPD Senior Citizen Call-in Program

Do you know a senior citizen who lives alone in Woodstock? If so, you might want to inform him or her of a program provided by the Woodstock Police Department called the Senior Citizen Call-in Program.

An “eligible” (not defined) senior (not defined) citizen who lives alone in Woodstock can register with the P.D. and know that aid will come, if he or she falls and cannot get to a phone. It might be a while, but within a day (which is better than not at all).

When the application (available at the P.D. or online at is accepted, the senior calls a designated number every day between 6:00-10:00AM to “check in.” If he doesn’t call, the police dispatcher will call the resident. If there is no answer, an officer will take the resident’s key (on file with the PD) and go to the resident’s home to check on the welfare of the resident.

The City’s website does not define “eligible” or “senior”, and I have suggested both definitions be added to the webpage. Is the program open to a disabled resident who lives alone but is not a senior?

Where is the webpage? Go to the City’s website, then click on Departments, then Police, then Programs.

Telling a senior friend, acquaintance or neighbor about this could save his life. Don’t just think about it. Tell him now. And help him register.

County’s Music-on-Hold

Have you called the County Government offices recently? Try it: 815.334.4000 Be prepared to hold the phone away from your ear, when the recorded music is played, while you count the minutes you are on-hold.

I called yesterday to reach Environment Health. After listening to the options and not hearing a choice that would lead me to the right department, I headed for the live operator. Usually, I punch Zero fast and skip all the recorded directions but, for a rare time, I decided to slug it out with the voice tree.

I had a long wait for the operator. She connected me to the Health Department, where I encountered another electronic menu. I had to use the department’s operator to reach the desired section. While she said she would transfer me to Environmental Health, she actually transferred me to Judge Sullivan’s office. OK, so back to Square One.

I dialed back and asked the operator to connect with a supervisor, so I could complain about the loud, obnoxious music-on-hold. I’ll admit to a generation gap and a preference for a different kind of music, but whoever set up the music must have been deaf or assumed that all callers are deaf. The supervisor told me she could address the length of delay before an operator answers (there was a temporary operator on duty that day; thus, answering was slower than usual. I suggested the operator should not attempt to help a caller at length; only by promptly transferring that caller to a department correctly).

The I.T. department at the County apparently controls the music volume and choice of music. Having known many I.T. people, I know from experience that isn’t how business ought to work. Someone else makes the decision about choice of music and volume, and then the I.T. people implement the decisions. That’s how it should work! And then someone needs to check that the system is working as designed.

What a novel concept in County government; right?

Who Killed the Electric Car?

This movie, not a box office hit and perhaps one that few have even heard of, is a movie worth watching. It’s a documentary about the electric car developed by GM and marketed by Saturn.

A reader informed me of this movie after seeing it at Stage Left recently. Netflix has it, in case you are wondering where you can obtain it. Not sure whether Hollywood Video might have it in the Woodstock store.

See the movie. Then make up your own mind about who killed the Electric Car?

Street Deterioration in Woodstock

Why are there so many streets in Woodstock that are deteriorating? And why are deteriorating conditions allowed to continue for so long?

There is a barricade this week on the brick paving right on the Square. Check out the corner of Cass and Benton, in front of Gallery 100. At least, the City has put a barricade at this street problem.

Check out the “dip” in front as 218 N. Madison, as you roll to a stop northbound at Church Street. What is happening beneath the surface of the pavement? Has the City investigated that dip? Does it know (yet) what is going on below the pavement that is causing the surface to sink? Will, someday, a car or truck punch on through the surface and fall into a sink hole?

And how about the “dips” on Judd Street as you drive toward the Library from the Square? Is anything serious going on there? Or, rather, has anything serious been developing over the past few months that will create a sudden danger for a motorist, if a sink hole opens up?

And on Lake Avenue just east of Eastwood (Route 47). This is a newly paved roadway that should have remained in great condition for years. Within a year the pavement is cracking and deteriorating, especially around manhole covers. Will the City hold the contractor liable and cause the contract to make full and permanent repairs as soon as weather permits?
Why are there so many streets in Woodstock that are deteriorating? And why are deteriorating conditions allowed to continue for so long?

If you know of a potentially-serious street problem (rut, deep chuckhole, etc.), report it to and post it here.

Press Conference - NIU Shooting

Obviously, no college or university has experience in handling news of the tragic nature of yesterday’s shooting at NIU, unless it has already happened there. If you watched this morning's press conference, did you notice not one tear was shed?

The press conference conducted by NIU this morning was so staged that any genuine or authentic grief was absent. Even the remarks of the University president were carefully crafted and quite scripted.

How much better it would have been, if he had just stepped up to the microphone and expressed the grief that must be felt on campus.

Campus Police Chief Don Grady apparently got stuck with the duty to praise the “marvelous” and “magnificient” efforts and response of area law enforcement. His choice of words were way off the mark. And that chestful of ribbons? He wore more service ribbons than most Army generals with 30 years of service. What in the world were all those ribbons for? Battle duty at NIU?

Very little of the press conference was devoted to the effect of the tragedy; rather it was a “wave the flag” session and a sickening display of rallying the troops and circling the wagons.

The decision of the University to withhold the shooter’s name until the press conference was ill-founded. And the failure of the press to release the name, which they surely must have had by late yesterday afternoon, was inexcusable. His age was known, enrollment in 2007 and subject studied, that he had earned some type of award. So why withhold his name? Only grandstanding by the news “managers.” And as to the shooter's being "revered"? I doubt it.

Chief Grady said they “don’t need to repeat the number that died or were injured.” Oh, really? Well, exactly why not?

And then the Press Officer had the gall to say, “We need to wrap this up.” Why? Many reporters were gathered, and officials were there who could answer (or not answer) questions. Why waste the time of the reporters? If she wants a new job, she should contact The White Office. She’d be a front-runner for a job as Bush’s mouthpiece in Washington.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Getting Strong – the WFRD Way

Just how smart is it to try to run up 31 flights of stairs in less than six minutes, wearing 50 pounds of firefighting gear? Not very!

Today’s Northwest Herald carries a story about three employees of the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District who are training to compete against other firefighters by running up the stairs in a tall office building.

Just how tall? Try 31 stories. This ought to be great preparation for protecting the skyscrapers in Woodstock? What? No skyscrapers? Maybe they are on the way.

Firefighter competitions are good for morale. Preparation for contests is good for physical health.

Last year, when I inquired by WFRD fire trucks and ambulances were parked in the Fire Lane at the Woodstock Rec Center, I learned that WFRD employees participate in a physical fitness program designed to reduce the risk of heart attacks while fighting fires. Now, if you are in Chicago or L.A. and must haul hose up 10-15-20 flights of stairs, yes, being strong is good. Even hauling hose up 4-5-6 flights requires high exertion.

Now the company-paid, strength training is about to pay off. Or is it?

What are the risks of running up 31 flights? What are the added risks when wearing 50 pounds of gear? Heart attack? Muscle strain or other injury? Slip and fall?

Who will pay for medical care and time off, if the employee is injured while participating in this Fire Department competition? Will WFRD bear the costs of medical treatment and lost time? Will the employee compete on his own time, providing his own transportation to and from the competition? Do contestants sign Releases, absolving WFRD from all liability for medical care, income or disability income? Who paid the Rec Center trainers to accompany contestants to the Opera House and train them? WFRD? Or did they volunteer their time?

Are the stairs at the Woodstock Opera House open to any resident of Woodstock for exercise? Can we all just head down to the Opera House, in good weather or bad, and use the stairs for recreational walking or “strength training”? I doubt it. But maybe they are and we can. Let's don our walking shoes and gather there every morning to exercise, instead of driving to Spring Hill Mall to walk the halls.

Poor Puppy – Off to the Shrink

Who hasn’t heard about the 10-week-old Boston terrier that was stolen from a Crystal Lake pet store recently? It was pretty quickly returned. I mean, who could miss the publicity?

But now the pet store owner has had to take the $1,100 puppy out of the display window so that it could “de-stress”. Give me a break!

Maybe pets need shrinks because they are held on display in pet stores, not because they might have ended up, even temporarily, in a home where someone played with them, fed them, held them, exercised them, and did NOT put them back in a wire cage for many hours each day.

Do pets suffer PTSD? Is there anyone who thinks that a pet understands that it is being stolen and held captive away from its lawful owner?

Requiring that a customer fork over ID before “socializing” with a pet (read, holding a pet while you are getting a sales talk) is not mainly for the safety and the concern of the pets, as the pet store owner in the story is quoted; it’s for the financial security of the pet store. If someone steals a $500 or an $1,100 pet, the store is out its “cost” of the pet and the lodging and pet food during the time the pet was for sale and, of course, its potential profit on the sale.

I don’t question the need for a store owner to protect his store against thieves. No problem with requiring ID and even allowing the store to hold the ID temporarily, as long as it is held securely and not available for ID Theft. But let’s call it what it is. It is done, so that the owner can give the ID to the cops, if the person runs off with the pet.

(800) 827-SAFE

Have you ever noticed the sticker on the back of a truck or tractor-trailer with this phone number, (800) 827-SAFE? Have you ever called to complain about a driver (or to compliment the safe driving of the driver)?

On Friday as I drove into Algonquin from the east, I was passed a second time by the same truck. The first pass had been about six miles back, when he passed me at a good clip, hitting an estimated 60MPH in a 45MPH zone on Route 62. As he approached Highway 59, he stayed in the inside lane and got stuck in a long line of vehicles at the red light. I had been poking along at the speed limit in the right lane and I passed him and several other vehicles as I rolled to a stop at the red light.

The roadway narrows to one lane in each direction just west of Route 68, and he and others were stuck behind me in the long 55MPH zone to Route 25. When the roadway opened up again to two westbound lanes, he tore past me in the 45MPH and then stopped right in front of me on a red light near the Jewel-Osco on Route 62 in Algonquin. I had already noted the license plate (42 631F), the company name, and the phone number of (847) 229-0220. At this traffic light I was able to read the safety sticker and ID number, although it was covered almost entirely by dirt.

I thought about calling the safety manager directly, and then I decided to give them their money’s worth for the sticker, and I called (800) 827-SAFE. The customer service operators are good. It’s sort of like Dragnet; “just the facts, ma’am.” Or in my case, sir.

I reported the sticker number (976AX), license plate, company name, and description of the truck. Also, the location, direction of travel and weather conditions; all in response to questions from the operator.

Before the call ended, the operator reminded me to report good drivers, too, because they earn rewards for compliments. So, next time you see a truck driver doing well (or not), call the number on the sticker. You’ll be asked to provide as much detail as possible, including the ID number on the sticker.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thanks to Snow Crews

Many thanks to all the hard-working snow crews from Woodstock, the County and the State. They put in long hours to clear the roads. They probably worked all night, and this morning's crew on Jefferson near the Square not only was working hard to remove the huge pile of snow in the intersection by Harris Bank, they were being careful of cars passing by.

Thanks, drivers, for looking behind the large front-end loaders before you backed up.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Osco Pharmacy Drive-Through

Have you had delays at the Woodstock Osco Pharmacy drive-through lane? You know, when you get stuck behind a customer whose order or questions are taking 5-10 minutes (or more)?

Monday night I went to Osco to pick up prescriptions and pulled up behind a woman in a minivan. OK, so I’m not picking on women and I’m not picking on minivans. Mid-evening is not exactly rush-hour at the pharmacy, but I could tell that the vehicle had not just pulled up.

After 2-3 minutes I heard the Osco pharmacy employee tell the driver that she (the employee) would have to call the doctor to clarify the dosage of the prescription. Bad news! How long will that take?

Fortunately, I could back out of the drive-through lane, and then I parked in the parking lot, walked into the store, walked back to the pharmacy and purchased the prescriptions. Before I left, I suggested to the employees on duty that they should tell customers with long delays to pull forward, park and come into the store. An employee told me that they had tried that but customers got mad. I said, “Well, I’m mad.” So they still have a mad customer, one way or the other.

I returned to my car and drove to where I could see the drive-through lane. Guess what? That same car was still there!

Tuesday morning I called Jewel-Osco headquarters and registered a complaint with the customer service rep. I suggested this is probably a global problem with all Osco drive-throughs and that an officer of the company should consider a policy to be followed by all pharmacies.

Then I called the Woodstock Osco Pharmacy and spoke with the pharmacy manager. When I explained my experience, she immediately agreed and said their employees are supposed to tell customers with delays to pull forward, so that other customers can be waited on!

Gee, imagine that! Osco already has that policy! Maybe there will be an improvement. What do I suggest? When you are unnecessarily delayed at the Osco pharmacy, tell the Manager about it. If the Manager doesn’t know, she can’t do anything about it.

Sometimes the Manager can’t do anything about it, even when he or she knows about it. Previously I have complained (for years) about the way in which pharmacy employees ignore waiting customers. They do a great job of keeping their heads down and not looking up to see how long the line of waiting customers is.

Banks train tellers to a “heads-up” policy; i.e., tellers are to look up and acknowledge waiting customers. Don’t ignore them. Work quickly to serve the customer in front of you, and then move that customer on. Don’t waste time chit-chatting or making plans for Sunday’s dinner with that customer.

I’m willing to wait patiently if the employees are working quickly to serve customers. What often happens? Another employee comes to help when there is a problem, and then there are TWO employees tied up with one customer. At that point, the first employee should move to a different window and begin helping other customers. There is no need for two employees to wait on one customer, when there are 2-3-4-5 customers waiting in line.

Slow Service at the Post Office

Friendly customer service is always appreciated, and service at the windows at the Woodstock Post Office is generally good. Slow, but good.

On Tuesday I stopped at the Post Office in mid-afternoon to mail a small envelope containing a dog tag I had made for a friend who is sailing from Connecticut to Florida with only his dog as “crew.” I was aboard “Dust in the Wind” in December and noticed that the lettering on Chubby’s tag was worn out and that the tag had the owner’s previous address on it but no phone number.

What does a dog tag weigh? And what does a dog tag in a small, padded mailer weigh? Less than an ounce.

I wanted to use the automated postage equipment in the lobby, but I wasn’t sure whether the size of the mailer might require the second ounce of postage ($0.17), for a total of $0.58, so I waited in line as the fourth or fifth customer.

And waited and waited and waited. Two postal clerks were working, and both had slow customers.

Why is it that customers step up to the counter without money out and ready? Do they think postage or mailing will be free? (Of course, I wonder the same thing at Jewel. Do customers expect groceries to be free, if they don’t get out cash, credit card or check?)

At the window I was surprised to learn that $1.13 postage was required, because my small, light, padded mailer was a “package.” But the long delay there was due to the equipment that totaled up my postage charge. The excuse? “The Post Office went with the low bidder.”

Great, just great. How much is labor expense is wasted, waiting for slow postal equipment? Where were the time-efficiency experts when the purchasing decision was made?

Should postal clerks be paid salaries, by the hour, or by the number of customers waited on? If there is no one waiting, sure, be friendly and take some extra time. When there are customers waiting, be friendly, but also be efficient. Move the customer aside while she puts everything back in her purse and gathers up her keys. Call the next customer, in order to help move the just-helped customer aside. The chatty customer is oblivious to the long line of customers waiting behind her.

All? (Always? Never?)

Is there any member of the law enforcement community who has spoken to Sheriff Keith Nygren who does NOT support Dan Regna?

Local radio aired paid political announcements on February 2 at 7:57AM and again at 8:20AM (and later) in which the sheriff stated that “all the men and women in the police community that I have spoken to” support Dan Regna. “All” is a pretty big word. Has not even one person told the sheriff that he supports Lou Bianchi?

Words like “all”, “always” and “never” are suspect in many statements, because the case is likely that, by nature, what follows is probably not to be true.

Should cop organizations and heads of law enforcement agencies come out for one candidate or another? Is it desperation that has resulted in their level of support in this year’s primary race? Just what is the desperation all about?

It’s all over today but the shouting. Bianchi got more votes in the primary than Regna. What kind of working relationship with the sheriff’s department now have with the state’s attorney’s office? Have bridges been burned?

If it had been a fair fight, there probably wouldn’t be hard feelings. Everybody has an opinion; right? But in an ugly contest, there will be lingering hard feelings.

County Offices to be Closed???

What in the world do we have for County Government officials? This morning’s Northwest Herald carried an article that a decision was made yesterday to close County offices today (Wednesday) because of the weather forecast. Whatever happened to employees leaving early to arrive at work on time, or making whatever effort was necessary to get to work, even if late?

People who live in areas that normally experience winter weather need to be prepared physically and mentally to drive their cars in inclement weather and to have their vehicles equipped and serviced, so that they can be operated safely in snow. Is that asking too much? Well, maybe it is.

When I don’t work, I don’t get paid.

Maybe all employees should be treated the same way. If an employee wants to take a Snow Day, then s/he can do so – without pay. Then we’d see how many employees make it in to work!

What will employees do on their weather-related day off? How many will head to Wilmot for skiing? Oh, the roads were really bad. Really?

And how many will make it out to Bennigan’s on the far side of Crystal Lake for lunch? Or to the mall for shopping?

February Coffee with the Chief

Go Directly to Jail . . .

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. OK, just kidding.

On February 11 you can go directly to jail – in the company of a Woodstock Police officer, AND you can leave when you are ready. And you can have coffee with Chief of Police Robert Lowen – and enjoy some treats prepared by Mrs. Lowen.

February’s Coffee with the Chief will feature a unique opportunity to tour the Woodstock Police Department. See the Communications Center (you heard about this in January, if you attended last month’s Coffee), the Records Department, second floor administration offices and, conditions permitting, the jail.

This monthly event will be held on Monday, February 11th, from 7:00-8:30PM.

In addition to the tour of the Department, you’ll have an opportunity to express your concerns about any matters that you’d like the police to know about – traffic problems, noise from neighbors, students loitering in your neighborhood on school days, bad checks in your business, etc.

Questions before Monday? Call the Chief’s administrative assistant, Tamara Reed at 815-338-6787.

County Roads Closing

An announcement was just made at the Woodstock Library that the County is closing County highways. What in the world is going on around here???

If a vehicle is not equipped for inclement weather, it should not be on the roads. If the driver can't handle snow, he shouldn't be on the roads.

But for the County to close the highways? No. NO. Triple-NO!!!

Sure, the roads are slick. So what? It's winter in northern Illinois. This is not Palm Beach!

If you are irate about the decision to close County highways at 12:23PM, call the County Administrator Peter Austin. Oh, wait. You can't do that. County offices are closed today.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Early Spring is the Forecast

The crowd gathered in the Woodstock Square this morning seemed smaller than usual, and they were quieter than in previous years. In past years they have almost approached raucous, but today they were more subdued. Snow had been cleared from the sidewalks in the Square, and the crowd overflowed the cleared areas and moved closer for a better look, as Woodstock Willie emerged, “reluctantly” as the proclamation reads, and did not see his shadow – forecasting an early spring in our area. Don’t we just hope?

Willie did almost make his escape, while his handler was showing him to the crowd after the prognostication. During one photo op the handler leaned over the railing from the gazebo and held Willie close to a family group posed for a picture. That was about the best, up-close look the crowd got of Willie.

As in previous years the media totally disregarded the public at the moment of the prognostication and surrounded Willie, standing between Willie and the crowd gathered for the event, so that the “common folks” gathered for the event got only a good look at the backsides of the photographers. Somebody on the Groundhog Committee needs to explain to the photogs that the event is for the people who are gathered, not for them. They should be welcome to get their shots for the news, but not at the expense of the crowd gathered.

I’ve observed this in past years, and it has gone unchecked by the Committee. Do they notice? Do they care?

Several years ago I founded the Woodstock Chapter of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The original idea was to create a social organization in Woodstock that would meet at various times during the year for networking opportunities, whether business or social. One year the banner of the Chapter was on display at Studio 2015 and another year at Tip Top Bistro. A few gatherings were announced, including at Sub-Zero. Heck, maybe I’m bad luck for businesses. Two of them have closed, and the third has moved off the Square.