Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jaywalkers Beware

Hebron's got it right. That sleepy little town "uphill" from Woodstock is not waiting for some kid (or adult) to get hurt or killed before taking action.

This morning's Northwest Herald carries an article by Regan Foster on Page 2A about the efforts in Hebron to halt walking in streets where sidewalks are available, disregard for traffic laws by bicyclists and "rabble-rousers."

When do kids learn about walking in streets? Don't parents still teach their kids to walk on sidewalks and not in streets? Maybe not. It has been a long time since I was a kid.

Hebron's problems are all over the county - probably further. Of course, they aren't "Hebron's" problems when they are outside of Hebron. Its problems seem to be with students walking several abreast in the streets, forcing cars to drive around them, slow or stop. What's wrong with this? Figure it out.

If sidewalks are available, pedestrians belong on them. There is even a state traffic law that prohibits walking in streets, when sidewalks are available. Why don't police officers enforce this law?

For many it's a low priority - until the ambulance is called because a pedestrian in the street was hit by a car. Then it's hours of paperwork.

And bicyclists running stop signs? What part of not caring about your own life, let alone the state law requiring a bicyclist to come to a full stop at a stop sign, do these riders, elsewhere and here, not understand? You can watch bicyclists in Woodstock sail down hills and roll right through stop signs at all hours of the day and night. And at night with no lights. How many tickets have Woodstock police officers issued for bicycle violations in the past year?

Hebron is solving the problem the right way. Write some tickets. Publicize the problem and what they are doing about it. Write some more tickets. It doesn't take long for word to circulate through a school that tickets are being issued.

Where does this problem occur in Woodstock? On South Street. On Clay Street. On many residential streets. The jaywalking (crossing in mid-block) in front of Woodstock High School and Dean Street School goes unchallenged.

What's the solution? Tickets, publicity and more tickets. If someone squawks to the police chief, the mayor or a member of the City Council, the only question should be, "Were you walking in the street when a sidewalk was available?" End of discussion.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Don't Ticket the Bigwigs

I was reminded today of an exciting time in Denver, when I lived downtown at Brooks Towers, which was an apartment building right smack downtown. It was quite cool, because my office was catty-corner across the street in the Central Bank building.

Walking home from Larimer Square one night, there were so many Mercedes Benzes, Lincolns, limousines and Cadillacs parked on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant popular with the bigwigs in Denver that it was necessary to walk in the street to pass by. When I got home, I called the Denver PD and requested tickets on the illegally parked cars.

My balcony overlooked the street, and I watched the area patrol car drive by and saw the officers wave at the valet. Ah-ha! That's what I thought.

So the next night I called again. And the next night - a Friday - I called again. This time I had the scanner on and heard one of the officers in the patrol car say, "Is that same guy calling? We can't write tickets there. The captain told us not to write tickets there."

A couple of weeks later, the beat cops were in the building to investigate a burglary and they stopped by to say hello. I invited them in, and one asked if he could step out on the balcony. "See? I told you he could see from here," he said to his partner. The other cop asked if he could look around, and he spotted my scanner. "See? I told you he had a scanner." They also told me that they'd caught a lot of heat about that radio transmission!

They told me that they couldn't write tickets unless I called, so I started calling every night. And every night they wrote tickets.

I must have gotten busy during one week and didn't call. When I was walking on Larimer Square one night, I heard a horn and turned around. The beat car was pulling to the curb, and the driver - smiling - asked where I'd been for a week. "Start calling us again. We need to write some tickets over there."

When I arrived home one afternoon, the doorman asked if I were in some kind of trouble, because two detectives had stopped by to question him about me. The next day I called the district captain and really blistered him about sending the detectives to check out a law-abiding citizen who was only asking the police to do their job. I was ready to sic one of the TV stations on him, but then I moved.

Sometimes people ask me if I don't like cops. I do like cops. I especially like the ones who obey the laws themselves and really live the motto "To protect and to serve."


Police Quotas

Someone asked me recently whether I thought cops had a quota of tickets to write every month.

This is an interesting question and one that pops up fairly often. What do you think?

Do cops really have a quota? Like, do they have to write so many tickets, or else? And you know the "or else". The stock yards on the midnight shift...

My answer? Nahhh, cops don't have quotas. They can write as many tickets as they want!


Stimulus Payment

Did you read today that President Bush says we're not in a recession?

Never mind that economists say we are. Never mind that gasoline has already passed $4.39/gallon in Goleta, California (and is $3.89 in Richton Park, Ill.). Never mind that housing sales are in the toilet, and foreclosures are through the roof.

Do you think Dubya really believes his own words, or is he just holding his breath until January 20, when he can go to Crawford and not have to show his face in Washington, DC again?

OK, about your stimulus payment. You did file a tax return; right? No tax return. No stimulus payment.

Here's the schedule. Notice the advantage to those awaiting their stimulation by direct-deposit!

Social Security number ending in
00-20, in your bank account by May 2;
21-75, in your bank account by May 9;
76-99, in your bank account by May 16.

And, if you expecting your check in the mail, good luck.

How much is this fiasco costing, not counting computer time, mailing, etc.? How much time/expense is involved in distributing 130,000,000 payments???

How much is being distributed? $110 Billion. That's $110,000,000,000!!!

Dumb, just really dumb! Whose money is it, anyway? Where are "they" getting it? It's OUR money, folks! And, if you remember, the U.S. is already running in the red; I mean, really in the red.

George ain't doing us any favors. It's like those "free" months when you don't have to make a payment on your credit card balance! The interest goes on!


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Drivers on the Phone - Bad Idea

Should handheld cell phone conversations be prohibited while you are driving a motor vehicle? Two-three years ago I pitched the Woodstock City Council to establish a ban in Woodstock on the use of handheld cell phones by the driver of a moving vehicle. What reception did I get? I thought I was in a dead cell-phone zone! Silence. Not even a nod of a head from any one of the Council members.

An informal poll on AOL indicates that 65% of those voting are in favor of prohibiting such cell phone use. Admittedly, it’s not an unbiased poll. First you have to find it; then you have to be interested enough to click and vote.

Five states and Washington, D.C. now prohibit handheld cell phone usage by drivers of moving vehicles by State law. In other states certain cities are forbidding drivers' use of handheld cell phones. Many are already familiar with Chicago’s ban, which is being challenged in court began Hizzoner’s troops have not adequately posted signs alerting drivers to the law.

What states already prohibit cell phone use by drivers? California (effective July 2008), Connecticut, New Jersey ($250 fine!), New York, Washington (effective July 2008).

Some states also prohibit text-messaging by drivers. What kind of rocket scientist does it take to realize that a driver sending or receiving a text-message is not paying attention to driving the car? Why should a law prohibiting this even be necessary? Because a growing number of drivers are stupid enough to do it!

Next time you see a driver on the phone, watch out! This driver is distracted. You can judge the degree of distraction by the driver’s posture and involvement in the phone conversation. If the driver is animated, angry, gesturing repeatedly with the hand that is not holding the phone (who is steering the vehicle?!), also smoking, drinking coffee or soda, this is a driver heading toward an accident.

Be sure you are not in the way!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Truck Sales Event Is Illegal

Yesterday The Woodstock Advocate raised questions about the truck sales event being conducted on the property of Farm & Fleet this week-end.

In response to an inquiry this morning, the City informed me that the truck sales event is illegal, because off-premises vehicle sales are not allowed within the city limits. They can't even get a permit to conduct the sales event, because Woodstock laws do not allow such sales.

Who was it, years ago, who used to say, "What a revolting development this is!"? Most of you won't know; it's an "age" thing - before the days of computers in homes and color TV and microwaves and cell phones. Maybe even before black-and-white TV. Remember radio? And I don't mean the ones with the digital tuning. Seems like it might have been associated with the Great Gildersleeve on the Fibber McGee and Molly Show? You had to be around in the 1940s to know that name.

Bull Valley Ford apparently does have some kind of permit from the State of Illinois; perhaps it allows them to move vehicles from one sales lot to another.

Okay, so the sales event is illegal. Now what? Nothing. That's what. Well, nothing effective, that is. The City can do nothing to prevent this illegal activity, thanks to the Uniform Development Ordinance. The UDO allows the City only to issue a Warning when it determines that a business is violating a City law. Then the City must wait seven days before taking further enforcement action.

Where were the citizens when the UDO was discussed and adopted? Didn't anyone consider the possibility that businesses would spot this huge loophole and use it to conduct business illegally, knowing the City could do nothing to stop them?

The City has now issued warnings to Farm & Fleet and to Bull Valley Ford. Sort of like slap, slap - "There, how did that feel?" Oh, you didn't feel it? I guess not.

Will they pull a stunt like this in the future? Not likely, because they could be fined $75 for each vehicle. Now that could add up, since there were 75-100 vehicles there.

The truck sales event will be over late Saturday and, presumably, all the trucks will be removed from the Farm & Fleet parking lot on Saturday night. But how will they be driven on the highway? I don't imagine that Bull Valley Ford has 100 dealer plates, so how do they plan to get the trucks back to their lot on Route 47? Five-six-seven at a time? Run the old shuttle game and carry dealer plates back to Farm & Fleet for the next seven trucks? Or will the Woodstock Police Department be watching for unlicensed trucks running down U.S. 14 and up IL 47 to Bull Valley Ford? Or does the "permit" from the State allow them to run the shortest distance without plates?

I wonder how many of those trucks are owned by the dealership. Is any truck there on consignment? Have the Woodstock Police been over to run the VINs and determine whether any truck is actually owned by an individual and not the dealership? And if it is, where are its license plates? And, heaven forbid, is any truck there "hot" (unbeknownst to Bull Valley Ford, of course)? Only a VIN check will tell.

It's hard for me to imagine that a major-brand car dealership management would not know the exact laws of any community in which they operate. So, did they know it was illegal to set up shop in the Farm & Fleet lot? If they did (because car dealerships spend thousands of dollars every year in legal fees), they knew not ask the City first. When you know the answer you'll get and you don't like it, then you don't ask the question.

And when you know there will be only a slap on the wrist - - well, what's a little slap on the wrist, compared to thousands of dollars in income over a week-end?

I heard a story recently about a carnival that was setting up in Chicago many years ago. The required permit for the carnival would cost $200. The carnival owner found out that the fine for operating without a permit was $75. What did he do? You won't need three guesses for this one. He set up the carnival, was given a ticket and paid the $75 on Monday.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Promotion of Violence

Why is it that if two guys go mano-a-mano behind a bar, it's called Disorderly Conduct and they both go to jail, but if two guys go at it in a ring in front of hundreds who have coughed up $40 to watch them, it's called - well, what is it called? Not entertainment. At least, not here.

This morning's Northwest Herald featured an extreme fighter who will go at it against another man on Friday night in Lakemoor. The article said he won his first fight this year in 1 minute 23 seconds with a "rear naked choke submission." This sounds to me like something where you grab a guy around his neck and choke him until he passes out (or gives up before he passes out).

Entertainment? Sport? Give me a break.

And we wonder why gangs roam the streets of Chicago. We wonder whether TV shows and videogames result in more violence in life.

Well, I wonder why the Lakemoor Police and the McHenry County Sheriff's Department won't be there on Friday night to arrest the contenders as soon as the first punch is thrown!

Truck Sale - OK with City?

Have you noticed all the trucks for sale in the Farm & Fleet parking lot? Has Farm & Fleet gone into the truck sales business?

From the looks of the sign on the service van that used to be parked on the grass at Bull Valley Ford, there is a massive Ford truck sales event planned for today, tomorrow and Saturday.

When I spotted the van earlier this week, before the parking lot was full of trucks, my first thought was about whether the advertising sign was legal. Signs in Woodstock are regulated and require a permit. Was a permit issued? I didn't receive a reply to my inquiry.

"If you sign it, the trucks will come." And come they did! Where did all those trucks come from? It looks like the parking lot at Bull Valley Ford is still full, so where were all these trucks before they showed up in the Farm & Fleet parking lot?
Did BV Ford and Farm & Fleet jump through all the City hoops for this event, or did they just decide on their own that the parking lot would be a great place for a vehicle sales event? Do all these trucks belong to BV Ford? Were they brought in just for this sales event? Are other dealers contributing vehicles, and is BV Ford just managing the sales?

And where will all the unsold trucks go on Saturday night?

Where will the white service van with the signs go? Back to the grassy area just south of the paved parking lot at BV Ford?

On the one hand, the City will benefit from the sales tax on all vehicles sold. And the City is going to need all the money it can scrape up, once property value decreases begin to affect the level of property taxes. What portion, if any, does the City get from the sales (or Use Tax) tax on motor vehicles?
Well, Woodstockers. Spend your money at home. If you need a truck, head on over to Bull Valley Ford or Reichert Chevrolet or Benoy Motors.

Smart Driving - NOT

What's smart about the way this driver stopped in heavy traffic? Not much.

It's a great way to end up with a re-styled front end on your car. As you can see, this driver stopped so close to the car in front that there is barely room to walk between the cars.

Why is this not so smart?

If her foot had slipped off the brake, there would be no time to get back on the brake before she rolled into the car in front of her.

If the car behind her didn't stop in time, the impact to the rear of her car would push her into the car ahead.

If the car ahead stalled, she would not have room to pull around without backing up. And there are other reasons.

When you stop, consider allowing some room between the front of your car and the rear of the vehicle ahead. Watch the rearview mirror. If the driver behind you isn't stopping, you'll have a little room to roll forward and possibly avoid being rear-ended.

Happy driving and safe stopping.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Price of Gas - up, up and away

I read an article today about the $119 price on a barrel of oil. The author's opinion is that oil could go to $180/barrel.

What will this mean to the price of gas at the pump?

If you think it's bad now, get ready for much higher gas prices over the next two years.

There are ways to reduce gasoline consumption! Use them!

When you see the moms in their gas-guzzling SUVs sitting in the drive-thru at the fast food joints, ask them to turn off their engines. Turn off the air. Roll down the windows.

Get serious about car-pooling. Many talk about it; few do anything about it.

When you see all those Hummers and really big SUVs with one lone person, speak up! Do you have a neighbor who commutes "solo" because he likes his peace and quiet? Be nice now. You might find the drivers will tolerate abuse about spouses or children or animals, but attack them on their SUVs?

In the January/February 2003 issue of the Sierra Club magazine appeared an article or ad about an organization whose mission is "...to raise the public’s awareness about the environmental and safety implications of SUV ownership." It's a good thing I'm a "saver"; I still have the website: www.earthonempty.com

It used to be possible to print out your own "ticket", but either the link is broken or, five years later, it's just not operational.

Check out the new Pace RIDESHARE program at www.pacerideshare.com Wouldn't it be nice to be like Dagwood Bumstead (well, on time, I mean) and ride to work with others? What if you could cut your weekly commuting cost 75%? Even just 50%?

This week I started riding my motorcycle to work. What's the difference for me? I get 29mpg with the Beetle. With the motorcycle? On the first tank I got 46mpg. Not only will I enjoy the ride, but I'm going to save money. What can you do?

War Zone - Iraq? No, Chicago

Nine people died in 36 shootings in Chicago over the last week-end.

But, if you listen to Mayor Daley, you're safe. Yeah, sure. I guess we shouldn't take too many shots (figuratively, of course) at the new police chief, Jody Weis. He has only been in office a short time, so what is going on, has been going on for a long time.

It was interesting to watch a broadcast of his press conference, when he reported - with somewhat of a deadpan expression - that this year wasn't all that much worse than either of the past two years.

We don't have to wonder why the U.S. troops in Iraq can't quell the violence there. We can't even get it stopped in Chicago.

What's the solution? First of all, a huge crackdown, which CPD is trying. But that alone will not do it. Education is one key. Family is another. Religion/church may be another. Opportunity and hope - real opportunity - will help. Real employment will help. Squashing the drug trade will help.

All the fat cats sitting in their offices, many with bodyguards, will not be respected by anyone in the trenches who is trying to fix this problem that has been festering and growing for decades.

Massive investment is needed. Without it, the public will continue to pay the price. The State and the people of Illinois are going to have to step in and rescue Chicago. Without massive investment, services will continue to decline. There is still the price to be paid, and it will be paid in one way or another.

Where is the war zone in Chicago? South of downtown? West of Halsted? I'm not talking a few blocks, but miles!

The people know, for the most part, who the shooters are. Somebody knows them. When they are rounded up, there should be zero tolerance. Sure, the lawyers will scream. Well, too bad, unless they want to move into the war zone and be closer to their clients.

I lived on Chicago's southeast side (75th & Yates) when I first moved to Chicago in 1964. I had an office downtown during the riots of 1968. When I left Chicago in 1970, it was good riddance. And I still feel that way.

C.L. Driver Ticketed in Crash

Last Friday’s fatal accident on U.S. 20 near Lena, Illinois, has been covered by the Northwest Herald and the Chicago Tribune.

Three young women from Crystal Lake were driving to Champaign, and the driver missed the turn for southbound I-39 at Rockford. It’s not too tricky there, but the exit off U.S. 20 West to southbound I-39 comes up fairly quickly. It’s well-marked and there is a sweeping left curve on the bridge over U.S. 20. If you miss it, though, then you are westbound on a divided, limited-access, state highway.

The driver apparently continued almost 40 miles to Lena before decided to reverse course. How the accident happened is known to the driver and the surviving passenger. One of the young women, Shannon McCarty, died when the car in which she was riding pulled into the path of a truck.

The Northwest Herald reported that the car’s driver, Laura Okeeffe, attempted to make a U-turn on Highway 20 but did so in front of an eastbound tractor-trailer. The Chicago Tribune reported that Miss Okeeffe had turned onto Highway 73, made a u-turn and pulled out in front of the truck.

Miss Okeeffe was ticketed by the Illinois State Police for failure to yield at an intersection.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Zdravko Iliev, of Mount Prospect, was ticketed by the Illinois State Police for unlawful operation of a commercial vehicle because he did not have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) issued by the State of Illinois and because he was unable to speak English. Although it is not a requirement in Illinois to be able to speak English to obtain a passenger-car driver’s license, it is to get an Illinois CDL.

In comments posted on www.nwherald.com, one person commented that Mr. Iliev does speak English (but apparently was unable to do so at the scene). I can imagine that a person for whom English is not his primary language could be in such a state of shock after an accident of this type that he might be able initially only to speak in his native tongue.

Is this a tragedy that could have been avoided? Perhaps this crash can serve as a starting point for conversations between parents and young drivers about the importance of anticipating unexpected driving conditions and of taking the necessary time to make safe adjustments to route changes. It’s a time to turn off radios, put down cell phones and iPods – even park safely off a main highway to figure out where you are and where you want to go.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Questionable Use of Wdstk. Rec. Center?

On Tuesday, April 22, from 10:00AM-2:00PM, wholesale club Costco will be allowed to give away snacks, offer membership information and sign up new members at the Woodstock Recreation Center.

Does this seem like an appropriate use of property of the City of Woodstock?

It seems to me that City property should not be used for the promotion of one private business. City properties are supported financially by the taxpayers, and their use should be limited to specific purposes.

Even as I write this, I wonder about other areas of our community. How about our parks and ball fields? They should be open to all residents, yet their use is restricted. If you are an official team, then your league and you can use the ball fields. What about the common citizen - the one whose taxes pay the bulk of the operating costs of our parks?

Just what do those warning signs at the ball fields really mean? Can a group of neighborhood kids use those fields for a pick-up ball game? What are the penalties for violating the very stern warning posted at the ball fields?

Who will be next at the Recreation Center after Costco? Will Wal-Mart want a 4-hour show-and-tell period? Sam's Club? Will Jewel or Wisted's?

Maybe The Woodstock Advocate could offer free snacks and an opportunity to sign up for "membership." Think that one will fly? (Don't everyone laugh at once.)

Smoking Law Violations

The new anti-smoking State law is already being ignored in Woodstock - definitely by smokers - maybe by others.

A good example is the bar on the corner of Church and Clay Streets. Customers gather immediately outside the front door to smoke. When 4-5-6 customers are there, they block the sidewalk and they create a smoke "gauntlet" through which pedestrians must pass to use the sidewalk.

The State law is clear. Smokers must be at least 15 feet from the entrance to a business.

It is important for the City of Woodstock (through its government leadership and the police department) to take a firm stand right from the start (well, I guess we already missed that!). Probably warnings have already been given. The time for warnings has passed.

Now it's time for tickets. Ticket every smoker who is violating the new state law. Do you know how long it will take for violations to stop? Twenty-four hours. Maybe less.

The law is crystal clear. There is no "interpretation" needed. The rule is 15 feet. If the smoker is three feet from the door, he knows that he is not 15 feet away. Smokers in Illinois know the law, and they are thumbing their noses at it.

Will it be necessary to chalk or paint 15-foot arcs around each doorway on the Square?

It may be that certain people don't like the new law. If you don't like it, contact your legislators and get it changed.

Frankly, if a bar or restaurant wanted to go "all smoking", then that ought to be allowed. After all, smoking parlors are exempt. Why not exempt a bar or restaurant that chooses to be "all smoking"? Customers would know before ever setting foot inside that it is a smoking establishment. Non-smokers would have no right to complain about the smoke in a "smoking" establishment. They don't like the smoke? So leave!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Haligus Road Accident

It was necessary to file a second Freedom of Information Act request this month to attempt to learn the current status of the investigation by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department into the October 26, 2007, fatal accident on Haligus Road involving four students from Marian Central Catholic High School.

Nearly six months have passed, and yet no charges have been filed against the driver.

When the reporting sergeant did not return a telephone call for an update, I filed another FOIA request. Six months is far too long for this to drag on. What possible reason could there be for not filing at least the very basic traffic charge(s)?

The first FOIA request resulted in a partial copy of the accident report. This month's request resulted in a same-day written response that the requested information is exempt from inspection, copying or disclosure because the "case is pending at this time."

Does anyone else think that the investigation into this accident should have been completed months ago and charges filed?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Donating Your Organs

Have you updated your organ donor registration? If you have not since January 1, 2006, it may be out-of-date.

Go to www.DonateLifeIllinois.org for a quick, 30-second re-registration. Thanks to Scott, who posted this valuable update requirement on the Advance Directive article.

The first thing I did was check the dog-eared, worn-out organ donation card I've carried around in my wallet for - how long? What? 1990? And then I checked the back of my driver's license, and right there was my signature and a 2005 date.

I had to search around on the website to find the line indicating that the Illinois Secretary of State is one of the participating sponsors of the site, but it's there.

OK, now you don't have to hurry to be an organ donor, but you should hurry to that website and register to be one! This thought reminded me of a license plate I saw a while back on a motorcycle in Hoffman Estates: ORG DNR. In some circles that's supposed to be a joke about motorcycle riders. Not this one, though.

So if you really want to be an organ donor (when the time comes), get right on over to that website and register. It's quick and easy. Just have your driver's license number handy.


As I drove out of Woodstock this morning, I thought about buying gas. Hmmm, $3.49/gal. OK, I'll get it tonight. Driving through Crystal Lake, it was $3.56 and I thought, "Tonight for sure - in Woodstock."

And what is tonight's price in Woodstock? $3.67/gallon!

Is anyone else outraged at this prices? Are we doing anything about it?

In his new book, Lee Iacocca asks, "Where the hell is our outrage?" (Where Have All the Leaders Gone? Page 3) Well, where is it? How long are we going to tolerate leadership in this country that results in the price of a gallon of gas going up from $3.49 to $3.67 in one day?

About all I can say is, "Thanks a lot, Dubya!"

Lee Iacocca also says, "Throw the bums out!" In November we'll have just that chance - again! Will we exercise it? Will we continue to elect (and re-elect) people who say all the right words and, when they are elected, hire all the fancy speechwriters who know all the P.C. words for their speeches, and you can't figure out where they stand on anything?

I want someone in Washington who listens! And we don't have that now - that's for sure. Just look at how quickly Melissa Bean became one of "them." Now it's hard to get a straight answer, and you can't even send an email to her without getting jammed in her formatted email system that most Congressmen use. Messages get sorted into "buckets" and counted by the computer. Do they even get read?

I remember one day a few years ago when a staffer for my then-Congressman called early one evening in response to a letter I had written. At first, I thought it was pretty nice that he called. Then I realized he didn't really understand what my letter had been all about. He was trying to persuade me to his point of view and not listening to mine.

Finally, I asked him where he was (Washington, D.C.) and what time it was (two times zones away). And then I asked if he didn't have some other place to be than on the phone with me or anything else to do that evening. Any importance part of our conversation had been over minutes earlier - several minutes earlier.

When I call my Congressman or Senator, I want them to know what I think, and I want to know whether they intend to represent me. Then I'll know how to vote at the next election. When I write in a one-half letter, I don't want a four-page letter back that barely even refers to my question or statement. And I don't want the reply months later.

Should we throw the bums out? Is there a better bum to vote in? The title of Lee Iacocca's book is perfect: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Read it! Buy it! Get others to read it AND talk about it! And let's DO something to gain control over the price of oil!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yet Another Speeder by Wal-Mart

This driver went hot-dogging around me ono the right on Lake Avenue in front of Wal-Mart this afternoon. I had just turned off U.S. 14 and was heading into Woodstock. She was behind me as traffic moved along at the 40MPH speed limit.

The right lane was open, so she moved over and flew by, getting back over into the through lane just before the right lane ended.

Guess who was right in front of me at the red light at Route 47? And guess who was right in front of me at the stop sign at South Street?

Grannie in her grey Saturn saved, let's see... three-four seconds.

Lake Avenue in front of Wal-Mart would be a great place for PhotoRadar. Unfortunately, the legislators in Springfield must view PhotoRadar about the same way they do Concealed Carry.

About the only way Woodstock Police will ever nab any speeders on Lake Avenue will be to disguise themselves as street people and sit on a box on the curb. When a speeder comes along, sit up and aim the radar gun right at him! It worked in Texas; it ought to work here...

Special Parking...

I always wonder what it is that causes a driver to think he is so special that he can park like this. Obviously, he wants to get his vehicle out of the roadway, where it might get sideswiped.

This vehicle was parked in this position on Tuesday late afternoon, April 15. Wednesday morning it was still there. Thursday morning it was still there (or it had been moved and was parked again in the same spot). Did it have a ticket on it? None could be seen.

Parking like this should certainly attract the attention of an officer driving by on at least one of the three shifts. The vehicle is parked in violation of the City Code by being on the parkway. If it was parked overnight, that would have been a second violation. Assuming it wasn't parked overnight and then was parked again on the parkway? Another violation.

Overnight parking permission can be granted by the police dispatcher, but only for one or two reasons. If there is room in the driveway, the vehicle is not to be parked overnight on a Woodstock street.

It would be interesting to see the records of how many parking tickets are issued and where. Are only certain areas targeted? It takes hardly any time at all to write a parking ticket, so an officer is not "out of service" very long.

Here's a thought. Why not send the Community Service Officer out on patrol to ticket illegally parked vehicles, whether like this one on the parkway or blocking a sidewalk, which is a common violation all over Woodstock? It shouldn't be necessary to have an armed, sworn police officer issue a common parking ticket.

The Golden Rule

The Woodstock City Council apparently believes in the Golden Rule. You know what that is; right? “He who has the gold, rules.”

In this case the “gold” was a liquor license. On Tuesday night the City Council granted a liquor license to the Linda Tejeda, new owner of the Courthouse Grill Restaurant, located on the Square near the soon-to-depart Dick Tracy Museum. That’s good. It’s pretty hard to run a full-service restaurant without a liquor license. So, out goes $1,950 for the liquor license.

What’s the rub? The City Council imposed a condition on her that she must assume a debt of the previous owner/operator of the Courthouse Grill for water and sewer services and snow removal. How much is that? $5,630!

Why should they stick it to the new owner of a business? Just because they can is not a good enough reason! Are we trying to attract and retain businesses or drive them away? Wouldn’t you think that the City Council would be delighted that someone was taking over a major restaurant on the Square? I mean, just think of all the sales tax that the City would miss if the restaurant closed!

It is unconscionable that the City Council would impose such a condition, but it’s nothing new. I was reminded of action by the Woodstock City Council just a few years ago, when the owner of a home was seeking permission from the City Council to convert to a bed-and-breakfast. After months of wrangling and a peace-making effort by a Councilman (now the mayor) and about 20 angry neighbors, the homeowner succumbed to the pressure and agreed to three absurd conditions on her right to transfer her property by sale or upon her death.

At the final City Council meeting, when these conditions were presented as an amendment to the ordinance, one councilman asked, “What business owner in her right mind would accept these conditions?” (or something very similar to that)

I’m sure then-Mayor Cornue didn’t know his voice would carry to the audience when he replied, “It’s called extortion, Jim.” I almost laughed aloud and wanted to applaud the mayor’s honest comment. He hit the nail right on the head! He earned my ever-lasting respect, confidence and admiration for his honesty.

So, will someone tell me why Linda Tejeda should have knuckled under to the City Council, except for the very important reason that she needed the liquor license to have any chance of succeeding in the restaurant business on the Square?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All About Advance Directives

A very informative meeting was held at MCC this evening on the subject of advance directives (ADs). Examples of these are living wills, durable powers of attorney for healthcare and for property, Do Not Resuscitate orders, etc.

The panel of five presented very useful information and was able to answer all questions from the audience. The meeting room was filled almost to capacity, which was really great for the panel - and for the audience.

A packet of planning forms was handed out. In it were the Five Wishes pamphlet from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a Durable Medical Power of Attorney, a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, a Decisions pamphlet from the Partners Coalition and information from the Hospice of Northeastern Illinois.

Stressed throughout the evening was the importance of "having the conversation" with family members, your doctor, and especially with the person who will serve as your Agent. Just thinking about this doesn't cut it. Nor does "planning" to do the forms. Do them! And put them where they can be found. And tell people where they are.

One form not included in standard planning is the Declaration for Mental Health Treatment. This form is available on the State of Illinois website, http://www.illinois.gov/

Many are familiar with the organ-donor sticker that you can affix to your driver's license, if your wish to be an organ donor is not recorded by the DMV on the license. What many do not know is that a different sticker is available from the Illinois Secretary of State (ILSOS) that alerts rescuers or paramedics that you have a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. If the Woodstock DMV cannot furnish this to you, contact the ILSOS for this sticker. The phone number is 800.252.8980.

Your Advance Directives need to be where they can be found. I just looked for mine; they were easily to find, but I knew which stack to look in. I keep mine in bright yellow envelopes. But I had allowed them to get buried. Now one envelope is standing up on top of the refrigerator and another is on a bookcase in the living room. Nice conversation starters; right?

An excellent piece of advice that I hadn't come across before is to keep a list of those to whom copies of the Advance Directives are given. When the ADs are revised, be sure to notify all on the list - the agent who holds the Power, the hospital, doctors, lawyer, family members.

By the way, you don't have to hire a lawyer to draw up the ADs. You can get them from the Partners Coalition (http://www.partnerscoalition.org/), from the State of Illinois website, from hospitals. Tonight a chaplain from Centegra offered his availability to discuss this type of planning with anyone who calls - no charge. Contact Patient Services at Memorial Medical Center or NIMC.

If you are really into details and exhausting all options, a multi-page packet is available from the American Bar Association website. I missed the URL at the meeting, but I'll obtain it and post it.

Another good suggestion at the meeting was to enter cell phone numbers on the various ADs. If it's necessary to reach your Agent fast, a cell phone call will surely beat the mail carrier!

Many thanks to the panel for their time tonight and their great contribution to all in the audience!

IRS Got the Shirt ...

You know the rest; right? "IRS got the shirt off my back."

Every April 15 I think of a friend who came to an Income Tax Party I had at the Philadelphia Filly Restaurant in Denver on Monday, April 15, 1985. The restaurant was normally closed on Mondays, but Sally, the owner, agreed to open if I could get a lot of people there. It was a small place that I had found by accident, and it had quickly become a favorite.

About 100 people showed up to eat and drink. When John arrived, he was nicely dressed in a three-piece business suit. After a quick Hello, he headed for the men's room. He was in there a long time, almost to the point that some of us wondered what had happened to him. When he emerged, he had taken off his dress shirt and was wearing his suit pants, vest, tie and suit coat.

You guessed it! And he spend the entire party explaining what had happened to his shirt!

And where did we go when the party was over? We formed a caravan for a trip to the Post Office to mail our tax returns!

So, here's to you, John. I don't know who else remembers that party, but I'll always remember you!

Today's Trivia - Stamps

On what day were stamps first issued in booklets?

April 16, 1900! Today is Postage Stamps in Booklets Day.

How much was a stamp then? Two cents.

Check out the unofficial history of U.S. stamp prices at www.akdart.com/postrate.html

Have stamp prices ever gone down? You'll be surprised at the answer.

It took 47 years for stamps to increase from $0.02 to $0.03. Then it took 43 years to go from $0.03 to $0.10.

What did stamps cost when you were born? Check it out on the above link.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Failure to Communicate

Remember the famous line in Cool Hand Luke, when the prison warden said to Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Well, something is broken in the County's communication link regarding messages from the Governor's office related to lowering the U.S. and Illinois flags in memory of Illinois' Fallen. When a member of the military dies in combat, the Governor announces a three-day period when U.S. and State flags are to be flown at half-staff. The County should be on the email distribution list.

About a week ago, McHenry County lowered its flags upon the Governor's directive but, for some reason, they are not doing so this time. This morning I emailed a high-ranking elected official to alert him to the Governor's directive, but the flags were still flying high at 6:40PM over the McHenry County Vietnam Memorial and in front of the County Government Center.

Is McHenry County just too busy to lower the flags? Is someone on vacation with substitute in charge during his absence? Is McHenry County thumbing its nose at this important directive?

Now, I happen to think that the United States flag should fly high at all times. You never lower the flag for any reason. I think the only time the U.S. flag should come down is if we are invaded and lose. However, the Governor orders the flags lowered following the death of an Illinois serviceman or servicewoman; in this case, for a soldier who died April 6.

I hate to see the flag lowered, because it reminds me of the sacrifice being made by members of the military, who follow orders and engage in mortal combat or are the victims of roadside bombs or other type of combat.

We should be outraged that we have gotten sucked into a war that we never should have started. So, when I see the flags lowered, I am also reminded of the idiots in Washington and the lies upon which they justified the invasion of Iraq.

In the meantime, McHenry County, assign someone to pay attention to the email from the Governor's office and lower the flags. And remember to assign someone to raise them at the end of the period of mourning.

Pro-2A No. 75 - McHenry County

McHenry County became the 75th county in Illinois to adopt a resolution opposing the enactment of any legislation that would infringe upon the right of the People to keep and bear arms and stating that such legislation would be unconstitutional and beyond lawful legislative authority.

This Resolution is aimed directly at Illinois lawmakers who are attempting to restrict the lawful ownership of firearms. This seems to be, but is not limited to, the Cook County contingent of legislators.

Isn't it interesting that Chicago prohibits the ownership of handguns, and yet it has an extremely high murder rate?

Numerous pieces of legislation are pending, and two may come to a vote even tomorrow.

The People of Cook County need to get right in the faces of their elected representatives and question them about the oath of office they took to uphold the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Illinois. Both speak to the right to bear arms. Cook County residents should be swarming the offices of their representatives, demanding the right to own a handgun.

Can you just picture trying to defend yourself in your home with a rifle or a shotgun? By the time you swing it around and find your target, you'd be a strong candidate to wear what was my favorite t-shirt years ago. It had five bullet holes on it, with red stuff (simulating blood) running down, and the legend on the t-shirt was "Slowest Gun in the West."

The County Board voted unanimously in favor of the Resolution tonight. Thanks to all 23 who were present tonight!

Stop Sign Takes a Hit

This stop sign, on Tryon at South Street, looks like it took a hit early Sunday morning. Perhaps a driver coming down South Street either missed the right turn onto Tryon or just climbed the curb and tangled with the stop sign. Or did some rowdy kids just grab it and twist it?

Perhaps it was a wake-up call for the driver who didn't expect the streets to be so slick in April. I wonder ... did he even stop and report the damage? A stop and a new signpost, and the time of a couple of Woodstock's Public Works employees, probably easily adds up to about $200.
What's interesting is the really straight cut across the bottom of one-half of the sign, almost like somebody took a saw to it. (Click on the photo to enlarge it, and look at the bottom of the post.) Did you see it happen?

Wide White Line

I wonder what she was thinking as she rolled up to the red light, coasted right past the solid, wide, white line and stopped with her car completely past the line. The line was red before she ever got there; it's not like she made a late stop.

What's the white line for? It indicates to the driver where to stop; i.e., when stopping on a red light, you stop before you reach the line.

This driver also crept even farther forward before the light changed to green.

Lock Your Airline Luggage

Do you know that you can lock your airline luggage?

If you use a special TSA-approved lock, you can once again lock your checked luggage. TSA staffers have special keys that will unlock your lock, so they can paw through your nighties and socks. If they remember to use the special keys, they will not destroy your TSA-approved lock and will merely re-lock it after searching through your old underwear and books.

Some of the locks (all of them?) are designed to let you know if the TSA folks have been in your stuff. There are probably different styles, different brands and different price ranges.

The lock shown in this picture is available at Menard's for less than $7.00. Dinner at Shaw's Crab House not included.

One of Best-Kept Special Ed Secrets

If you are a parent of a child in Special Education, you know that you need all the help you can get. And it's even better if it's free.

Five years ago then-Director of Special Education for the Illinois State Board of Education Christopher Koch issued a Memorandum to all School District Superintendents, Directors of Special Education and Parent Organizations, titled "Guidance: Appropriate Procedures for Determining Placement in the Least Restrictive Environment and Identifying and Providing Appropriate Special Education and Related Services."

Quite a mouthful; right?

Dr. Koch is no longer Director of Special Education for ISBE. Fortunately for special education students in Illinois, he is now the Superintendent of ISBE! Bravo! Hooray!

On Page 2 of his Memo (where recipients should have still be reading before eyelids drooped), Dr. Koch asked that special education directors "...disseminate copies of this memorandum to all school administrators, teachers, related services personnel, and parents of students with disabilities in their district..." (emphasis added)

Well, I know it has only been five years, but this copies of this memo have never been made available to the parents of the 900 special education students in Woodstock District 200. I have never met a parent of a special education student who knew of this Memo.

Although it is five years old, it contains a considerable amount of useful information - information that will help a parent get necessary services for his or her child. If you are a parent of a child in special education, go now to http://www.isbe.net/spec-ed/pdfs/lre_guidance.pdf and print this Memo. Then make a copies of it. Underline it. Highlight it. Mark it up. Send a copy to the entire IEP Team for your student. (Send them the URL and let them print their own copies.)

Students in special education are entitled to their own Individualized Education Programs. They are not to be jammed into a one-size-fits-all class. Expensive for the school districts? Yes. Required? Yes. And it's more economical than a lifetime of care by State funds.

Pete Wright (http://www.wrightslaw.com/) tells his own story of being a special education student and lost in high school. His parents got him into a residential program. Now he is a lawyer and a national advocate for students with special needs. Pete and Pam's son struggled in high school, and the so-called "professionals" recommended trade school. No way! Their son is now a lawyer, too.

If you need help in getting related services for your child, reach out. Ask questions. Demand answers. Talk to other parents. Never stop asking where you can get help.

There are paid, professional, special education advocates who charge $100/hour. They are certain attorneys who know a lot about special education (and many who don't) who charge $250-400/hour. And there are volunteer advocates who will help you.

Check out http://www.frcd.org/, which is a Chicago-based organization that provide parent training. You can sign up for an introductory Tuesday or Saturday workshop, get hand-outs, information, and have it cost you a whole - What? It's free??? Yes! Go to their website or call 312.939.2913

Honoring Illinois' Fallen

The Office of the Governor of Illinois has directed that U.S. and Illinois flags be lowered to half-staff in memory of the late Army PFC Shane D. Penley of Sauk Village, Illinois, from sunrise, Tuesday, April 15 until sunset, Thursday, April 17, 2008.

Although the Governor's directive applies to United States flags and Illinois flags at all buildings occupied by State of Illinois personnel, many municipalities, counties and businesses also observe the directive.

From the Patriot Guard website, "Pfc. Shane D. Penley, 19, of Sauk Village, Ill., died April 6 at Patrol Base Copper, Iraq, from wounds suffered while on duty at a guard post. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky. "

If you observe the U.S. flag flying at full-staff, consider contacting the municipality, county, school district or business and informing them of the Governor's order.

IEPs and Your Special Ed Student

Do you have a child in Special Education in your school? Do you spend more time at your child's school than he does?

Spring is the season for annual reviews of IEPs. What's an IEP? An Individualized Education Program is the legal document that dictates how your Special Education child's schooling is to be conducted. The keyword here is Individualized. It is to be tailored to your child's needs, as determined by the IEP Team. A parent is an equal member of the IEP Team and the person who knows your child best.

Schools are required by Federal and State Laws to follow the IEPs. But do they?

When we drop our kids off at school, we expect schools to be safe places. We expect our children to be treated with dignity and respect. We do not expect them to be bullied - by either other children or by teachers or staff. We expect a positive learning environment. Our kids in Special Education may learn differently than other students. They are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

Many schools meet their obligations to provide a FAPE in the LRE. Others? Well, that's a topic for another day.

Valuable information for parents of children in Special Education is available, without charge, by reading www.wrightslaw.com and by signing up for the free weekly e-newsletter from that website.

A wealth of information is available from the Illinois State Board of Education at www.isbe.net/spec-ed Scroll down to the tab and click on "Special Education" and then click on "Resources for Parents". The amount of information will seem overwhelming, but it can be managed.

The Family Council of the Family CARE Project is beginning to establish support groups for parents of students with disabilities in McHenry County. The first groups will be in Algonquin and Woodstock. As interest grows, groups will be established in other areas of McHenry County. If you are interested in such a group, call 815.788.4360 or email an expression of your interest to Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com I'll relay your email to the appropriate contact person; if it is about the Woodstock group, I'll respond directly.

Watch for news of the first meeting of the Woodstock group.

Mental Health Awareness

The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. What surprised me is that "Mental Health Month was created more than 50 years ago to raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of mental wellness for all." Source: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may

Do you know someone whose mental health is a little shaky? Are they getting the help that they need? Are you getting the help that you need, if you are the one with issues related to mental health?

Watch for community events coming up that will give people an opportunity to learn more about mental health and the wide range of services available right here in McHenry County. We have a "708 Board" here - the McHenry County Mental Health Board. It's a starting place for many to find out about services for themselves and others. For information, go to http://www.mc708.org/ or call 815.455.2828

We have our own chapter of NAMI - the National Alliance on Mental Illness. For information, go to http://www.namimchenrycounty.org/ or call 815.444.9991 Monthly meetings of the NAMI chapter are held at the offices of the Mental Health Board. There are worthwhile, ongoing programs and courses for family members and friends of those who are experiencing mental illness.

The Family CARE Project is funded by a six-year, $9,000,000 grant received by the Mental Health Board. See www.mchenrycountyfamilycare.org or call 815.788.4360 The Family Council recently formed committees of parents to provide education and training, support groups and outreach activities to help McHenry County residents. The first support groups will be established in the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills and Woodstock areas. Contact Family CARE for information. You can also contact The Woodstock Advocate for information by emailing Gus@WoodstockAdvocate.com

An early focus of the parent support groups of the Family CARE Project will be IEPs and educational issues for students. This topic was the Number 1 area of interest expressed by parents of students with disabilities, on a survey of the Family Council. Watch for announcements of meetings of the support groups, or call 815.788.4360 for contact information. Ask to be put in touch with Lori Kane (Algonquin group) or Gus Philpott (Woodstock group).

There are numerous other organizations with support services, such as SEDOM (http://www.sedom.org/), CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder), Easter Seals, a chapter of the epilepsy foundation.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quiet Wisdom

For all of us who are married, were married, wish you were married, or wish you weren't married, this is something to smile about the next time you see a bottle of wine:

Sally was driving home from one of her business trips in Northern Arizona when she saw an elderly Navajo woman walking on the side of the road. As the trip was a long and quiet one, she stopped the car and asked the Navajo woman if she would like a ride. With a silent nod of thanks, the woman got into the car.

Resuming the journey, Sally tried in vain to make a bit of small talk with the Navajo woman. The old woman just sat silently, looking intently at everything she saw, studying every little detail, until she noticed a brown bag on the seat next to Sally.

"What in bag?" asked the old woman.

Sally looked down at the brown bag and said, "It's a bottle of wine I got it for my husband."

The Navajo woman was silent for another moment or two. Then speaking with the quiet wisdom of an elder, she said: "Good trade....."

Living Wills, etc.

Wednesday, April 16, is National Health Care Decisions Day. There was an interesting program on Y103.9 on Sunday morning, when Stew Cohen interviewed Jim Gould, an instructor in the philosophy department.

This Wednesday, April 16, the Partners Coalition (a grouping of hospitals, hospices, Mc Henry County College and faith communities) will sponsor a panel discussion at MCC about these valuable documents and effective planning. The program will be from 7:00-8:30PM. I don't recall that the location was mentioned; try the Conference Center auditorium.

Stew and Jim discussed the importance of living wills and medical directives on the Northwest Spectrum program, which is aired each week at 6:00AM. Lovely time for an important program; right? There is a move afoot at the radio station to archive the programs so that they can be accessed online.

Many already know about Living Wills and Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property, but apparently only about 30% of the population have completed them. And of that number, many have not discussed them with family members. Will the family be able to find the forms when they are needed?

After you prepare and sign your documents, you might want to get someone like me to shoot holes in them and show you where they will fall apart. They'll look good on paper, but it's important to trouble-shoot them and identify in advance where they will break down and not be honored. Get someone to play the devil's advocate; then re-do and tighten up the forms to raise the possibility that your wishes will actually be carried out.

During the program Jim explained the importance of three issues: 1. Consider your values and goals; do you want to be kept alive in a vegetative state indefinitely? 2. Put in writing. Have the documents prepared and then sign them. You won't even have to go broke getting them done. 3. Talk with your family. Tell them your wishes and ask them to honor them.

Let me add No. 4: put them where they will be found when they are needed!

The timing is great, isn't it? The day after Income Tax Day. Let's hope we survive another April 15th!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Tax Man Cometh

Hear about the man who called the Post Office last year at 11:55PM and asked how late he could mail his return? When told he could mail it up until midnight for the postmark, he said, "Good! Where do I get the forms?"

OK, so how are you doing with your tax returns? This year I did not wait until the last minute. I did them today! Fortunately, I keep up with the bookkeeping throughout the year and even had the totals done. Just a matter of plugging in the numbers on the forms. I did them online one year and hated it. It's much easier for me to do them on paper, make copies and mail them off.

Anyone out there who normally would not file a return? Check to see if you qualify for the Economic Stimulus Payment. Some people are going to miss it. They'll qualify but they won't file a return to get it.

What a joke! Like $300 is going to stimulate the economy. And it's our money, anyway. Where is it coming from? Certainly not from the surplus! What surplus??? Did you read where we are heading to the largest deficit ever in the current budget?

I'll bet it would have just been cheaper for I.R.S. (us!) just to mail $300 to everyone.

What if the I.R.S. just shut down? What do you think the budget of I.R.S. is? Does it cost more to operate I.R.S. that they take in?

I was audited on my 1983 return. The auditor spent eight hours on it. When all was said and done, I owed taxes on $400 of additional income and she waived the extra tax.

I was audited once before that. I.R.S. questioned four items on my return. When I went to their office to discuss it, the auditor asked about the first issue, and I explained why I had deducted the amount. He told me he'd have to check with his supervisor, left the room, came back in five minutes and said everything was okay. On to Item 2.

We discussed that, after which he left the room to check with his supervisor. Upon return, he said all was okay, and we proceeded to Item 3.

After a thorough discussion of Item 3, he said that he probably didn't need to check with his supervisor, but he would, anyway. He left the room; when he returned, he said all was okay and we went on to the last item.

After discussing it, he said he ought to check with his supervisor but he wasn't going to, since I had been right so far on three out of three.

How do I view I.R.S. auditors? They are just people, like everyone else, and there to do their jobs. There are plenty of cheats out there, and they will catch them. And they should. If you have done your homework and prepared your tax returns carefully, kept records, have receipts and believe you understand the law, then you'll have no problems.


If you click on one link this week for a slideshow of inspiration, click here: www.greatquotesmovie.com/ Be sure to turn on your speakers.

It's about three minutes of inspirational quotes from world leaders - terrific reminders of ways to live your life. If you like it, there is a webtool for sharing it with others.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trooper Heroics

Did you know that you can listen to Y103.9 online? Just go to http://www.y1039.com/ and click on "Listen Live!" It's right under the photo of the DJ who is on the air.

And, while you are there, scroll down a little further and read the tributes to the Illinois State Police troopers.

Next time you see a trooper, remember how dangerous his or her job really is.
And slow down in those Work Zones. It'll save you $375.00.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

This morning I was in Judge Prather's courtroom to hear the verdict of a trial held about a month ago. It turns out that I know both the defendant and the victim. I was interested enough to show up for the verdict that was scheduled today.

What's the beef? Visitors to courtrooms in McHenry County cannot hear what is going on between the judge and the attorneys, witness, victims, defendants or anyone else at the bench. Why can't they hear?

Number 1. The judges do not speak up! I have visited traffic court and other criminal court proceedings. In only one courtroom did the judge speak up so that he could be heard.

Courtrooms and trials in America (I think McHenry County is still in America) are open to the public. The public is allowed to attend almost any trial. This is a privilege (and a right, I say) that does not exist worldwide. But it's not enough to just be in the courtroom. It is important to be able to HEAR what is said in the courtroom.

Now, why can't visitors (and others) hear?

Attorneys at the bench are permitted to speak in low voice. In hushed voices. Now they are probably not whispering. But they are facing away from the visitors and speaking to the judge. When the judge permits them to speak in a hushed voice or so low that they cannot be heard in the front row of the courtroom, something is wrong!

The next problem with hearing what is said between the judge and the person (victim or defendant or witness) is the amount of noise and disruption caused by the other attorneys in the courtroom. They move around in front of their tables and impede the view of the proceedings at the bench. They talk to one another, and not always briefly or quietly. They come to the visitor seating to speak to a person seated there, which interferes with the ability of the others to hear what is being said at the bench.

If a "regular" person seated in the courtroom talks aloud, he gets a visit from the courtroom security officer (formerly known as the bailiff).

This morning the victim in one trial was seated in the first row and could not hear what was being said between the judge and the defendant as the judge's basis for her verdict was being announced and the verdict pronounced. When the victim attempted to get the attorneys to quiet down, the security officer approached and motioned him to be quiet.

Did the security officer speak to the attorneys? Absolutely not! And he didn't see one of the attorneys glare at the victim. It's a good thing that looks don't kill; if they did, that attorney would have been guilty of killing the man in the first row.

I too motioned to the attorneys, trying to get their attention. Perhaps they are all near-sighted, or maybe there is a class in law school that trains them to ignore anyone disturbed by their conversations and movements.

How should it be?

The judge is in charge of the courtroom. S/he should direct the courtroom security officer to maintain order, including hushing up the attorneys. If they want to talk during official business, then they quietly leave the courtroom and wait for the doors to close before talking aloud.

Actually, the attorneys shouldn't even need to be told this. The decorum of the courtroom and their respect for the Court and the judge should be enough. After four-five years of visiting courtrooms in McHenry County, it's clear that the attorneys do not respect courtroom decorum. So it's time for the judges to refresh them!

I stopped over at Judge Sullivan's office (again) about this and left a message with his executive assistant. Whether there is any action will remain to be seen.

OK, here's the question. When you are in court, do you think you have a right to hear what is going on between the judge and the attorneys and their clients and witnesses?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Online Personality Test

It's easy. It's fast. It's not complicated. (It's clean.) Check out this personality "test." Follow the instructions. Have paper and pencil ready. Do write down the answers as you go along. If you don't, you might wish you had.


What's in Your Wallet?

Do you know what is in your wallet or purse? Can you list each credit card and each piece of identification? Know how much cash? Know what Gift Certificates or Gift Cards you are carrying around?

Recently, a friend had her purse and wallet stolen from her desk in a nice office building in Hoffman Estates. Her desk is just inside the door on a floor where all other office doors require a key card for access. Her purse and wallet were in the bottom drawer of her desk.

While she was in the restroom, some unknown person entered the office and took her wallet and purse.

Make a list of the contents of your wallet - be fair now; do it without looking. Then compare your list with a list you make by itemizing each credit card, debit card, form of identification and all those Gift Cards you have tucked away in there for a special day of shopping.

Put your list in a safe place - maybe even in a secure online location. If your purse and/or wallet "grows legs", having immediate access to the list without driving home might save you some real headaches.

And make the police report immediately.

If you have trouble remembering just how many credit cards you really have, you can get a free credit report online. The full account numbers used to be shown on the report. It could be that the numbers are shortened now. You won't even have to know the full number; just call your bank or the credit card issuer (Good luck finding their number!). Maybe that's the information that you ought to store in an information file on Yahoo!, even if you don't store the full number. The credit card issuer will find your account through your name, Social Security number and other identifying information you can give them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Be a Blood Donor

Are you a blood donor?

You are? When is the last time you donated? More than eight weeks ago? Okay, it's time to pick up the phone and call to make an appointment for your next donation. Or just go to the donation center and give.

For me, I prefer to drop in. It's easier in my schedule than setting a specific time and day. If I get there and they are very busy, I just go back another time.

My donation center of choice is Heartland Blood Center in Crystal Lake. It's located right off U.S. 14 and just a few doors west of Hobby Lobby. Everyone knows where Hobby Lobby is; right?

Donating blood is easy, fast and painless (well, most of the time...). If you prefer an appointment, call the center scheduling office at 800.786.4483

If you ever need blood, you'll be glad that your hospital finds a ready supply. To keep that supply, it's important to give. It's something that you can do that takes only your time - no other cost. Do it. Do it right now.


C'ville PD: "It's Like a Parking Ticket"

You have probably heard about the woman who called her neighbor's kids "monkeys", when they were climbing in a tree in their front yard. Her position as a Carpentersville's Trustee should never have made it into the news, but it did - and big-time.

When I telephoned the Carpentersville P.D. to ask when her court date would be, the operator (dispatcher?) told me that she had been fined $75.00.

First of all, that's absolutely incorrect. She was issued a Village citation that has a $75.00 fine associated with it. By all reports, she has not paid the ticket. She certainly has not been (already) fined $75.00, unless the officer had his hand out for the fine when he issued the ticket. Not likely.

The operator/dispatcher explained that the ticket was just "like a parking ticket" (her words). As if a parking ticket (and, therefore, this Disorderly Conduct ticket) really was of little consequence.

Now, some people might be inclined to thumb their noses at a parking ticket. Big deal; right? How much is the fine for a parking ticket? $5.00? $10.00? And what happens if you don't pay it? Probably not much.

But is a Disorder Conduct ticket more important? In almost anyone's eyes, it is. The operator explained that the woman was not charged under a State statute, "just" under the City Code.

Will she fight it? Probably. Should she fight it? Absolutely!

Did she commit an act that was "alarming and disturbing"? If all she did was say something, "Hey, stop climbing in that tree like monkeys", what is "alarming and disturbing" about that? That was Hillary Clinton's "it takes a village to raise a child" theme, wasn't it? You know - when Mom isn't minding her kids and the kids are climbing a small tree and risking broken bones if they fall, shouldn't someone step forward and intervene?

Perhaps she should turn the tables on the Mom and file a Disorder Conduct charge against her! Certainly, she has become "alarmed and disturbed" by the actions of the mother of the kids and of the police officer!

She should fight this ticket. Yes, it will cost her more than $75.00. Is it worth it? Yes. Will she win? Well, in court you take your chances. You can mount an excellent defense, and it will still be up to the judge. A local judge will worry that he is showing favors to a Village Trustee, if he finds her not guilty. Will the court have to go outside for a different judge to come in?

With the information being given out by the police department, it's no wonder that newspapers are reporting that she "was fined." The police department needs to educate its employees that the ticket was issued and there is a fine if the recipient pays it or is convicted.

Why is this important? Because it can happen anywhere. It can happen to anyone.

There will be a hearing. When will the hearing be? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

National Debt Clock

Want to see something that will spoil your dinner?

Go to http://brillig.com/debt_clock/

On Tuesday, April 8, 2007, at 5:23PM CDT, the national debt of the United States of America was $9,442,906,233,733.03.

That's $31,085.39 for every citizen of the U.S.A.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $1.68 billion per day since September 29, 2006!

Why aren't we screaming at our Congressmen to get this under control?


By now, many readers know I don't like tailgaters. And I don't like speeders. And I really don't like drivers who tailgate and speed and then pass me in a no-passing zone. Especially on Bull Valley Road!

Who was it this time? A female driver (no, not Danika what's-her-name) in a red Mazda SUV with Illinois license 741 4543. At least, I think that was the license. She was so close to the back end of my car that I had trouble seeing her front license plate beneath the spoiler on the back of my car.

So, what happened this morning? As I drove east on Country Club Road from Route 47, this young woman got right on my bumper in the 30MPH zone in Woodstock, traveling east from the Post Office. Now, I don't like the 30MPH zone here; it's unreasonably low. But the speed limit is the Speed Limit. It's not the "minimum recommended speed"; it's the limit - the Maximum.

She tried to get me to go faster by getting right on my tail. I hit the four-way flashers a couple of times, but she was brave and stuck right there. She did drop back a little when I increased my speed at the 40MPH sign, but then she crawled right up on the back end of my car again. Same at the 45MPH sign as you enter Bull Valley.

It looked like she was going to pass and, sure enough, she did - right at the entrance to The Sanctuary and right in the middle of a long No-Passing Zone. I estimated her speed at 60-65MPH, as she passed me in the 45 zone.

And then? She crawled right up on the back end of the car in front of her that was traveling at 45MPH. She stuck like glue to that car and then turned left to go east on Crystal Springs Road.

I reported her to the McHenry County Sheriff's Department as a "reckless driving" violator (tailgating, speeding, illegal passing); even offered to prosecute, if a deputy could get her stopped. But the S/O never called me back, so I guess no deputy could intercept her.

Also, I later reported her to the Bull Valley P.D. Maybe they'll keep an eye out for her. My guess is that she commutes on that roadway and is a regular just after 7:30AM. A driver like that is going to cause a b-a-d accident one of these days. If you see her coming at you, give her a wide berth. Expect her to pass you and just keep your fingers crossed that there is no one coming.

Hit-and-Run; Threaten the Owner?

Proposed legislation in the Illinois House of Representatives would tighten the noose around the necks of vehicle owners whose vehicles were thought to be involved in hit-and-run accidents.

Is it fair legislation? Is it even Constitutional?

House Bill 5049 "(p)rovides that the owner of any vehicle alleged to have been in a motor vehicle accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle or property, whether driven, attended, or unattended by any person, where the driver of the vehicle did not stop and report the accident, shall, upon appropriate demand by the State's Attorney or other designated person acting in response to a signed complaint, provide a written statement or deposition identifying the operator of the vehicle if such operator was not the owner at the time of the alleged violation. Provides for a 3-month suspension of the vehicle registration for failure to provide the written statement or deposition. Provides that, in the event the owner has assigned control for the use of the vehicle to another, the person to whom control was assigned shall provide a written statement or deposition identifying the operator of the vehicle."

On the face of it, it doesn't seem like such a bad bill. But is it a good bill?

First of all, just how many hit-and-run accidents have there been annually in the past five years where it was suspected that the owner knew who the driver was and refused to identify him? Hundred? One hundred? Fifty? Twenty-five? Even five or ten each year?

So, do our legislators need to be fooling around with this, or should they be solving the financial crisis in which the State of Illinois finds itself, fixing Education or fixing the roads? I can think of many more important issues. This is clearly "low-hanging fruit" and can be confirmed by a vote in the House that passed the bill unanimously.

The more important question is whether it is fair or constitutional. Should an owner of a vehicle not under his control at the time of a hit-and-run be subjected to a threat of loss of his driving privileges for three months?

The proposed bill does not say that he must identify the owner "if he knows who the driver was." It says that the owner "...shall ... provide a written statement or deposition identifying the operator of the vehicle ..." What if the owner doesn't know who the driver was and, therefore, cannot identify the driver? He cannot meet the law, because the law will say that he must do so. If the owner wasn't in the car at the time of the hit-and-run, he cannot know who was driving!

Could there be circumstances where he might, knowingly or unknowingly, have allowed a person without a valid driver's license to use the vehicle? And, if he provides the statement, will the police then arrest him for allowing that unlicensed person to drive his car, even if the owner did not know that the driver did not hold a valid license?

Can you begin to get a feel for the unfairness of this legislation?

Who is going to write the statement that the owner will sign? Will the police officer or deputy provide a statement? "Sign here or else." Will he write his own statement? (If so, he should be sure to answer these questions - What color rope do you want around your neck? On what day do you prefer to be hanged?

Will he first pass it by his attorney (and at what expense?), in order to sure that he doesn't put the noose around his own neck?

Let the legislature spend its time solving real problems and not horsing around with this law any further.

This is Cop Work?

Did you see Sunday's article (Page 8C) in the Northwest Herald about the allegedly intoxicated McHenry venfor who was hit by a schoolbus at Cary-Grove High School on Friday? Cary Police say being an intoxicated pedestrian is a traffic offense. OK, so what's the big deal?

The Big Deal is that Cary Police charged the schoolbus driver for failure to exercise due caution to a pedestrian "only so police could legally test her for drugs and alcohol." The newspaper article said that, according to police, the schoolbus driver did not appear intoxicated.

This intrusive action by a police department is totally unacceptable. People (that's you and me, folks!) must object to this type of police work. Look! If they suspected she was intoxicated, okay, so charge her and test her.

But to cite the driver just so they could test her, this is wrong. Dead wrong!

I read a quote 12 years ago by a well-known Irish judge and politician who said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." We cannot tolerate this type of intrusive police action. It must be stopped right at the curb. No, at the front door of the police station. No, right at the chief's desk.

The Cary Police owe the schoolbus driver an apology. And they owe her a dismissal of the charge. If an intoxicated person is hit by a school bus and there is no other indication that the school bus driver was at fault, only the intoxicated pedestrian gets a ticket.

Where did the accident happen? On school grounds? Is there a Vehicular Control Contract in place between the school district and the Village of Cary? The schoolbus driver needs a good lawyer who will fight and win a dismissal or Not Guilty verdict.

Has the Cary Police Department unfairly smeared the reputation of the schoolbus driver by insisting on testing for alcohol or drugs?

Does the school district have an administrative policy that any driver involved in any accident will be tested for drugs or alcohol? You know, like pilots and train engineers? OK, then that's an administrative issue, not a police issue!

Hey, you monkeys...

Be sure to read this morning's Northwest Herald article on Page 1C about the woman who spoke to children playing in a tree in front of their own house. Not her children, her neighbor's children. Not her tree; her neighbor's tree.

She apparently told the children to "quit playing in the tree like monkeys."

The neighbor and the children complained to Carpentersville Police that they were "alarmed or disturbed", and the woman was cited for disorderly conduct.

Well, I am alarmed and disturbed by reading this!

Should I have Tom Musick and the Northwest Herald cited for disorderly conduct this morning?

Should I have the Carpentersville Police Chief and his officer (s) cited for disorderly conduct for alarming and disturbing me?

Based on the information presented by Tom in the article, this has to be a gross miscarriage of justice and a gross misuse of police power. It serves to squelch free speech and threatens every resident in Carpentersville.

Should I be afraid to drive in Carpentersville because obeying the speed limit might alarm and disturb some idiot behind me who wants to go 60MPH in a 35MPH zone? Will I be arrested for disturbing her peace?

Now I can admit that there might be "some" circumstances when a "like monkeys" comment might be construed as a hate crime. Not very many circumstances, but there might be some. If so, then charge her with a hate crime.

Come to think of it, I get alarmed and disturbed a police car runs a red light at 25MPH. Should I have the driver charged with disorderly conduct? Of course not! He's not breaking the law, which permits him to go through a red light (carefully, which he was). But was I alarmed and disturbed? That would be a pretty stupid assertion, and I would expect the police department to have the guts to stand up and say so. And I believe they would.

But life is different in Carpentersville.

And why would there even be any mention that the woman cited was a Carpentersville Village Trustee? What does that have to do with anything, unless she ran out to the tree and said, "Look! I am a Carpentersville Trustee, and I'm telling you to quit playing in the tree like monkeys."

Is the article correct that this incident occurred last Saturday and she was already fined $75.00? I doubt it. She might have been cited on Saturday. Unless she coughed up the $75.00 and pled guilty or no-contest by signing the ticket and forfeiting any $75.00, she is entitled to a hearing.

I urge her to fight it. When she is found Not Guilty, I hope the Northwest Herald will grant the same amount of space to this "news."

And, the next time the monk - - , errr, children, are playing in the tree, just look the other way when they fall and get hurt. If the mom happens to wonder why the kid is lying on the ground, not moving, not crying, then she can get around to going outside and checking on the kid. Hopefully, the child will only be stunned and will still be breathing.

And then she'll probably charge the (Trustee) neighbor with disorderly conduct for being alarmed and disturbed that the ought-to-be-concerned neighbor wasn't minding the kids up in the tree. And since the neighbor is a Trustee, maybe she'll also charge the Village. After all, there must be a deep pocket somewhere.

By the way, why wasn't the complaining neighbor's name in the article?

To Burn or Not to Burn

That is the question. And I guess it depends whom you ask or which day you call, as to whether it is legal to burn in McHenry County.

On April 3rd there was a controlled burn at The Sanctuary in Bull Valley. A trained fire crew was managing the fire; the foreman said they had a permit and said they had picked a day when the wind was blowing north, away from the expensive homes in The Sanctuary. They had even put out small, temporary warning signs on Country Club Road.

Of course, the heavy, white smoke was blowing across Country Club Road, creating a health hazard for anyone with respiratory disorder who happened to drive by.

When I called the McHenry County Health Department, I was told that burning was not illegal if it was more than 500' from a dwelling. (Is the correct distance 100'?)

And then yesterday the McHenry County Conservation Department had a huge - I mean, HUGE - fire going in a fen on the west side of Pyott Road south of Lake in the Hills Airport, which produced heavy smoke that blew east across Pyott Road. The smoke was so heavy that an MCCD patrol vehicle was stopped on the southbound shoulder of Pyott Road, presumably to halt traffic if smoke became so heavy that drivers could not see the car ahead!

I again called the County Health Department. Although I explained the fire was well off the road and a police officer, which I misidentified as a Lake in the Hills officer, was on the scene, I was met with questions about safety and welfare and the suggestion to call 9-1-1. Why would I call 9-1-1 to report a fire, if law enforcement is already on the scene? I was told the Department has "processes". Man, we'll all be dead if we wait for their "processes!"

And then in this morning's Northwest Herald, reporter Regan Foster wrote a fine article about how there had been no reports of open burning made to the Health Department last week-end. Regan wrote that "Burning is allowed on week-ends between dawn and dusk, during April, May, October and November."

This restricts residents and their burning of landscape waste. What about MCCD and its "controlled" burn in its fen? Is it permissible for a governmental entity to produce health-impairing smoke when it wants to clear out the weeds?

Should MCCD be fined big-time? You bet!

Will there even be an investigation? Not likely, based on my complaint yesterday.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Stay the Course?

"Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicans say, 'Stay the course.'

"Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!"

If you haven't read Lee Iacocca's book Where Have All the Leaders Gone? (Scribner, New York 2007), be sure to pick up a copy. The two paragraphs above are straight from Chapter 1. It's worth the $25.00. Read it. Then read it again. Then carry it around with you, everywhere you go. Put it down right in front of you. When you catch someone's eye, say, "Have you read this book yet?"

Iacocca asks some hard questions. Questions that should be on the lips of every American. It won't take many pages of reading to get his candid impression of the President. Iacocca admits that he voted for him in 2000, because he had known his mother and father.

My thanks to a friend in Georgia for sharing this book with me!

Call your House Representative and your U.S. Senator. Ask if s/he has read this book. If the answer is No, tell them to get it and read it - every page.