Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Eye-Opening Morning

The 2009 People in Need Forum was held this morning at MCC, and it was an eye-opener. Attended mainly by volunteers and agency employees who wanted to know more about the resources available in McHenry County, more than 200 people braved the cold to show up.

Several organizations pulled together to create an invaluable Resource Directory, and it was printed in both English and Spanish. The 2009 directory will be available online at

The Forum was well-organized and offered ten workshops split into two time-periods. I attended the presentations by the McHenry County Housing Authority and by PADS and gained considerable new knowledge about the programs of each.

It was truly impressive to see the number of people wanting to help those in need. In McHenry County there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in need. Often they suspect assistance might be available, but they don't know where to get it. In other cases, they don't even know assistance is available.

It's not too late for a New Year's Resolution that your family and you will find at least one way to volunteer and make a difference in someone's family or life. There are many, many opportunities to help. Most will cost only your time. In other cases, you might make a financial contribution or provide unreimbursed transportation for someone in need. There are also volunteer opportunities that could involve reimbursed transportation.

For example, you might contact the United Way. Visit

Or contact Faith in Action at 815-455-3120

Or contact Senior Services Associates, Inc. at 815-344-3555

Or the Salvation Army at 815-455-ARMY (-2769)

Or PADS at or 815-338-5231

Or any of the many others. Get involved. Get excited.

Announcing Three Programs

Watch for the announcement tomorrow of three programs in the Parent University Series, sponsored by Families ETC.

Dates are February 11 (Dr. Kristy Chambers, speaker), February 28 (Dr. Craig Minor, speaker), and April 8 (Dawn Melchiorre, speaker)

These programs will be of interest to parents of children in Special Education.

Check on February 1 for times and locations.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Get those red-light runners!

An open letter to the Woodstock and Crystal Lake Police Departments:

Please write tickets to red-light runners.

Woodstock: eastbound U.S. 14 at Doty Road, in front of Centegra Hospital. Drivers just roll through the red light at 10-15MPH during morning rush-hour to turn right and then enter the hospital parking lot.

Crystal Lake: drivers leaving MCC at the light on U.S. 14, turning right to westbound U.S. 14.

Where and when did drivers learn that they could just carelessly disregard red lights? This has happened because of reductions in traffic enforcement over many years. The lack of dedicated traffic enforcement units has contributed to the increase in drivers' increased disobedience to traffic signs.

Even departments with police motorcycles don't use them exclusively for traffic enforcement. Too often they are used for parades and not for enforcement. Or a supervisory officer gets the privilege of the motorcycle, rather than a traffic-oriented officer who will focus on ticket-writing.

Bull Valley enjoys a "reputation" for traffic enforcement. And what happens on the roads in Bull Valley? Drivers obey speed limits! It's not just a coincidence.

Maybe Woodstock and Crystal Lake need some new signs: "Traffic laws strictly enforced. Be safe and enjoy your visit"

Woodstock PD Contract Yet?

Has the City completed its labor negotiations with the officers of the Woodstock Police Department yet?

It's my understanding that the officers have been working without a contract for over a year. Longer? Is there an officer of the department who would like to comment here on what it feels like to work in a department that cannot (will not) complete union negotiations for over a year?

What is the cost to have negotiators/mediators involved? Is the City actually paying $250.00 per hour for a mediator to try to move things off dead-center? How many hours have been paid for, so far? And will the rate increase when a different category of negotiations is reached?

What is the hourly rate for an arbitrator?

In the early 1980s in Denver I met John Marks, founder of Search for Common Ground, a Washington, D.C.-based international mediation firm.

From its website I read today, "We began in 1982 at the height of the Cold War, and we focused on building bridges between East and West. Back then, we had two employees, a handful of supporters, and a minuscule budget. And we had the audacity to think we could change the world - from a win-lose, you-or-me environment, to a win-win, you-and-me place.

"Today, that audacity still shapes our work. "

I recall one of John's comments about establishing a relationship between parties who were never going to agree. He said that the first thing you do is to find something on which they can agree. It might be that they cannot agree. So there actually is something on which they can agree, and you build from there.

We need some of that around here!

Blago's Pension: $64,000/year?

I almost missed the short article at the bottom right of page 6A of this morning's Northwest Herald.

"State records show that Rod Blagojevich could qualify for a pension of about $64,000."


Blago was a State representative from 1993 to 1996 and was Governor from 2003 until yesterday. Three years from now, when he is 55, he could, in eligible then, starting receiving an annual pension of $64,000.

In most businesss, retirement income starts at Age 65, not at Age 55. An male employee might, based on actuarial tables, live an average of 13 years. Benefits are substantially reduced when an employee begins receiving his pension early, because he is going to live a lot longer and receive his pension for more years.

Now, $64,000 at Age 55?????????????

No wonder Illinois is bankrupt!

Of course, the State Employee Retirement System might deny his request for pension. Who appoints them?

Illinois State Senators

From time to time during yesterday's let's-pile-on-Blago, I would flip from the impeachment proceedings on my computer to the webpage of the particular Illinois Senator who was pounding on his chest and producing the sound bytes for his next campaign.

Where did some of those photographs on the Senator's webpages come from? From their high school yearbook?

Even for some of them who were recently elected for the first time, the photographs did not appear current. In the photographs they looked years younger and, in some cases, tens of pounds lighter. On the other hand, maybe the first two weeks in office has already taken a heavy toll on them, aging them and causing rapid weight gain!

I was reminded of a question by the president of Herbalife when he was testifying before Congress, when it was investigating the company's claims about its weight-loss products. I don't recall his name, but I'll never forget his question. "Why are all these guys so fat?"

Some of these Illinois Senators obviously had never given a five-minute statement in their lives, and yesterday wasn't about to be the first time. They were playing to their audiences and letting their constituents know that they are working hard for their votes at the next election.

The 59 Senators are to represent the People of Illinois, not just the people of their southside Chicago district. They missed that part as they rocketed to their Senate chairs.

"So long as the people like you, and you have enough campaign funds, it doesn't make any difference what the politicans think of you." (Source: GateHouse News Service (what???) in this morning's Northwest Herald, quoting Patti Blagojevich's quote in Chicago magazine of Blago's response to a question from her in 2003.)

Is this statement still alive and well in Illinois politics?

Illinois Chief Justice Fitzgerald

During the impeachment proceedings I visited the website of the Illinois Supreme Court to read about the Chief Justice. On the day I was on that website I could not find any webpage with the names of the justices on the Court, and I thought that quite strange.

When I went to that website this morning, the first link was to the members of the Court. Did I miss it a couple of days ago, or was that webpage taken down during the impeachment tribunal?

I wanted to learn more about Chief Justice Fitzgerald, because it seemed to me that he was moving slowly during the proceedings and seemed to be "managed" by those close at hand. Did anyone else find this strange?

While I can understand the need to move through an impeachment process carefully and take each step at the right time, there were awkward moments and delays. Yes, words and phrases are carefully scripted, but they seemed devoid of the human element most of the time.

I agree with a Court's being neutral while the body of the Senate was fulfilling its role and duties.

I was unable to determine from the Supreme Court's website what the age of the Chief Justice is. Reference to his attendance at Loyola University (the website doesn't say that he was graduated from Loyola) is omitted, as is his graduation date from the John Marshall Law School.

In 1976 he was first elected to the bench, but his age at that time is not determinable from the contents of the website. Now, 33 years later, how old is he?

And then I found a May 19, 2008, Illinois Supreme Court press release, announcing his election as Chief Justice, and placing his age last year at 66. Frankly, this surprises me. I would have guessed his age to be in the late 70s, from his slow and deliberate speech during the tribunal.

You're Fired!

57-0-0 was good enough yesterday, but does anyone know the reason for the second vote that resulted in the 59-0 count? Who were the two Senators who were recorded on the first vote as Not Voting? On the first action, I mean, to throw Blago out? Why was there a re-vote?

No doubt that Blago's fall from office will be the topic of the news, talk shows and the late-night TV shows for some time, as people continue to try to figure him out. Was it a case of the best defense is a good offense?

Blago had expressed financial difficulties; now both his wife and he are unemployed. Did she lose her job because of the economy, RIFs occurring at many organizations and businesses, her productivity as a fund-raising (certainly made more difficult by the economy) or because she was Mrs. Blagojevich and that name was carrying too much baggage and she was soon to be the ex-First Lady of Illinois?

We shouldn't forget the two kids caught up in this mess. Blago tried to play the Kid card, and he was as unsuccessful there as he was on the floor of the Senate yesterday.

But there are still two kids in this picture. We should remember them, as well as remembering all the kids who are suffering when parents lose their jobs. In Blago's case, the humiliation that goes along with a very public firing could have a lifelong impact on them.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Electronic Voting

If you watched the ending of the impeachment tribunal in the Illinois Senate today, you saw the electronic vote tabulation board. What if we had that at the Woodstock City Council?

There could be consideration, deliberation, debate, pondering ... all that stuff and, when it was time to vote, what if the members of the City Council had to press a button and record their votes, and the vote wouldn't be shown until all had voted?

Each member would record his or her vote, based on individual belief in the merits (or lack thereof) of the Motion. There wouldn't be any "Let's see how the others vote." Of course, the first one or two to vote don't have a herd to follow.

I've wondered on many nights why the votes so often are 7-0, even after vigorous discussion and a fair number of "I don't think I can support this" comments. And then 100% of the City Council supports it with a 7-0 vote.

If you aren't in favor of it, vote No.

February 2 Trial Date

On February 2 a jury trial may be set to get underway in McHenry County. Local county newspapers never printed information about the arrests of an elderly couple in March, so I can only assume they never learned of the arrests from the McHenry County Sheriff's Department.

In March 2008 McHenry County deputies holding an arrest warrant for a man in a cold domestic dispute went to the house of the wanted man's parents and alleged broke the glass at the front door and barged into the house.

In some places this would be called a No-Knock Warrant. Police execute such warrants when they have been able to persuade a judge that it's necessary to prevent evidence from being destroyed when the cops knock on the door. This was not the case. It is very difficult for law enforcement to get a no-knock warrant.

I got a tip about this case and was able to find the neighborhood, located in McHenry County just outside Crystal Lake's east city limit. The first time by the location, I was on my motorcycle. Seeing that it was a neighborhood of $600,000 houses, I opted to delay knocking on doors (and finding police surrounding me with drawn guns and hearing SWAT roaring toward me in its tank) and returned another day in my car.

By that time, thanks to a little super-sleuthing on my own, I had uncovered the actual address of the house, not just the neighborhood. When I knocked on the door and introduced myself, the owner welcomed me right in.

I explained the reason for my visit and that I had heard that deputies had broken into his house, and that there had been arrests. When he began to tell me what happened, I asked if he had an attorney and suggested that, before we talked, he might want to check with his attorney. What I did learn was that this man's wife, in her late 70s, was injured after the deputies broke in! His attorney requested that he not talk with me until the case is resolved, and I respect that advice.

How is it that deputies can break into a house, effect more arrests than are listed in the arrest warrant, and then the newspapers don't find out about it? How much "news" like this is managed in McHenry County?

A jury trial has been requested, and it has been on the calendar for February 2. Will the trial begin that day?

The deputies, experienced and new, are to be expected to testify truthfully about the execution of that warrant and also in their actions once they had left the scene.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Dorr Township Assessment Challenges

Yesterday I collected information from Dorr Township Assessor Kelli Myers, so imagine my surprise to see this morning's front-page headline in the Northwest Herald: "Assessment challenges stun county."

In response to questions, Kelli informed me that there are 9,421 properties assessed in Dorr Township. How many appeals were there this past time around? 104.

One hundred four. Only 104? Out of 9,421. Slightly over 1% of the property owners challenged their assessments? When I expressed my surprise that only 104 property owners had appealed their assessments, I learned that this is four times the previous number of appeals. So, in a past year only about 25 (out of 9,421) appealed?

Does this reflect the ignorance of property owners on the process? Procrastination? Or just sheer hopelessness for any chance of success in an appeal?

Because sales of real estate have plummeted and fair market value has dropped substantially, why didn't more property owners appeal their assessments?

What comes back to Dorr Township in terms of property taxes collected by the McHenry County Treasurer? Unofficially, approximately $1,040,000 for roads and bridges and another $573,000 for operation of the Township programs and services.

$573,000 spread out among 9,421 properties in Dorr Township means an average of $61.00/property for operations, excluding roads and highways.

In the grand scheme of business, $1,600,000 is nothing. A mile of roadway would quickly soak up the the entire year's tax allocation for roads and highways.

If you are wondering what you really get for your Township tax dollars, you might want to study the issue and become informed. There are vocal opponents to the continuation of township entities in Illinois. Study their material. Get the budget for your own township and study how it spends its money. Then make up your own mind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stanard Loses Round 2

If you want to read something that will get your blood boiling, be sure to read the Daily Herald article about Mike Stanard's losing Round 2 in U.S. District Court in Waukegan. Here's the whole story:

Some time back (Summer 2007?) the McHenry County Sheriff's Department told Stanard that he must -- that's m-u-s-t -- use deputies for security at the preposterous hourly rate of $40.00! No matter that a business can hire a rent-a-cop for $15.00/hour. As I recall from reading local newspapers at the time, the sheriff threatened to shut down Greenwood Road, if Stanard tried to hold a concert at Galt Airport without hiring deputies.

The newspaper used the word "shakedown" in its article today; at the time this all happened, a different word came to mind. The Stanards used another word: extortion.

U.S. District Court Judge Kapala didn't like the case last August, but he gave Stanard and his attorney time to clarify their claims and refile the case. According to the Daily Herald article today, "Several attempts to do so, Kapala states in his ruling, failed to make the claims any more clear or came in too late or too sloppy to consider."

Not clear enough??? Came in too late??? "too sloppy to consider"??? Who was Stanard's lawyer? Will I have to drive to Waukegan to find out?

I didn't like the smell of the Sheriff's actions when I first heard about them. And I don't like his comments now about this case.

Apparently, Sheriff Nygren is considering a a lawsuit against Stanard to recover the county's defense costs, saying that he (the sheriff) would even use his own money to pursue that lawsuit, according to the Daily Herald.

I for one do not agree that Stanard "made a public spectacle out of this to discredit this department and the people who work here..." He protested a serious - a very serious - and improper demand made by the sheriff's department. Stanard's lawsuit is almost in the public interest to make even more public what had happened and to get it in front of the people of McHenry County.

And now, for the sheriff to threaten a lawsuit and say he'll even use his own money to pursue it, illustrates an abuse of power and of the office he holds. No wonder deputies are complaining about retaliation and retribution!

Illinois needs a law allowing the recall of elected officials. We're seeing enough of a spectacle in Springfield this week. We certainly do not need or want this bullying in McHenry County. The job of law enforcement is to protect and to serve. Has this been forgotten in McHenry County?

Jack Franks not to testify?

One of the governor's most vocal, local critics has been McHenry County's own Rep. Jack Franks (D-63rd). And for good reason.

However, this morning's Northwest Herald carries, in my opinion, an inaccurate explanation of the reason he will most likely not testify.

Reporter Amber Krosel wrote a short sidebar that got a front-page position. Jack is reported as saying his decision to testify will now depend on the length of the trial. Like it's his decision. Jack is quoted as saying that his testimony might not be necessary "seeing as the governor isn't showing up."

I didn't watch the entire opening day's proceedings, but I did see the part when House prosecutor David Ellis said he would present numerous motions to the Senate and, if they were accepted, then the testimony of many would not be needed. And the testimony of Jack Franks was named as one that would not be needed.

So, my question is, is Jack's explanation accurate? What is his reason for phrasing it as he did? And why didn't an editor catch it? Surely editors must have been glued to the online video streaming of the proceedings.

When will Blago resign?

My guess? The proceedings against Gov. Blagojevich will run their course, providing a spectacle, a hysterical (errr, historical) event and entertainment for the State and the Nation, and then Blago will resign about three seconds before the gavel drops on a Guilty finding.

Will he beat the "fix" that he claims is in?

Is his Illinois State Police security detail traipsing around the country with him? Who is paying for that?

If Blago tries to resign in the imminent finding of Guilty, the legislature should refuse to accept his resignation and force him to take his medicine.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kurtis the Stock Boy

By now you've probably received the "Kurtis the Stock Boy" story from a fair number of friends and others. It's about NFL quarterback Kurt Warner.

It starts out like this: "In a supermarket, Kurtis the stock boy, was busily working when a new voice came over the loud speaker asking for a carry out at register 4. "

It's worth reading, even if only partially true. You can read the whole version of the email that is circulating and then the "rest of the story" on at

When does day end?

At tonight's Liquor Commission an interesting problem came to mind. Just when does a day end?

The discussion centered around the termination of one liquor license and the establishment of a new license to replace it.

It was easy for the Commission to establish the date of the new license for Mr. Patel's application: 12:01AM on Tuesday, February 3.

And it was easy for the Commission to settle on the termination date for the license to be terminated, but it didn't seem so easy for me. What do you think?

The Commission decided that the existing license of the Shop n Save will expire at 12:00AM on Monday, February 2.

Now, is that one minute before 12:01AM on Tuesday, February 3, or is it 24 hours earlier? What do you think?

Look at it this way.
12:01AM February 3

It's pretty clear to me that 11:59PM would be two minutes earlier and fall on February 2. Wouldn't 12:00AM be one minute before 12:01AM on February 3, and therefore also be on February 3?

What really do AM and PM mean? AM: ante meridian, or occurring before noon. PM: post meridian, or occurring after noon. So, if a time is 6:00AM, everyone would agree that this mean 6:00 o'clock in the morning. 3:00AM? 1:00AM? 12:01AM? 12:00AM? Same thing; morning of the day.

Fortunately for the seller of Shop n Save, the Commission discussed this and clearly expressed its intention that it really meant for Shop n Save to have its liquor license for the business day and evening of Monday, February 2. Had they not elaborated and then made their position clear, I think there would have been plenty of room for the Woodstock Police Department to swoop in on Shop n Save and wreak havoc for alleged liquor sales without a valid local liquor license.

Even so, legally, on paper, does the liquor license for Shop n Save expire on the day to be written down in the Minutes of the Liquor Commission as Monday, February 2, 2009, 12:00AM? Of course, any violation would be heard by the Woodstock Liquor Commission...

So, what do you think? When does a day end? 11:59PM? 12:00AM? Vote in this week's survey.

Liquor License Changes

Tonight’s Liquor Commission meeting was short and sweet. Two items were on the agenda, and the three Commissioners – Mayor Brian Sager, Shirley Schiller and Ray Durbin – quickly approved the requests for Henry Patel and Tom Burns.

Henry Patel, the owner of Armanetti’s and the Country Cupboard, will be purchasing Shop n Save/Miska’s Liquors, at Route 47 and McConnell Road. His license will be the same class as that of Shop n Save and, in fact, the same as Armanetti’s. This will mean that both (all) the Class B-1 licenses in Woodstock will be held by the same business entity, a point not discussed at the last City Council meeting or at tonight’s Liquor Commission meeting.

The City of Woodstock allows one B-1 license for each 12,000 of population, and Mr. Patel’s business will have both of them. Does this matter? Probably not. Mr. Patel's reputation was praised at the last City Council meeting. And there is already plenty of competition in the sale of beer, wine and spirits.

There was some discussion about the expiration date of the Shop n Save liquor license and the effective date of the new license, which will be issued to Woodstock Beverage Corporation, d/b/a Quick Beverage Mart at 997 McConnell Road. Its new license will be effective at 12:01AM on February 3.

When the Commission discussed that the existing license of Shop n Save would end at 12:00AM on February 2, I asked whether that would mean that the existing business would be without a liquor license during business hours on February 2. The Commission intends that Shop n Save will operate under its existing license on Monday, February 2 and that its license will terminate at midnight after that Monday or business. No action by the City Council to approve the B-1 license is necessary, since the City has authorized two B-1 liquor licenses in Woodstock.

So, just when does one day end and the next begin? Does a day end at 11:59PM and the next day start at 12:00AM? Or does a day end at 12:00AM and the next day begin at 12:01AM? State your druthers in the survey.

The second applicant tonight was Tom Burns, who will operate Herban Fare at 125 East Calhoun Street. Tom described his restaurant as a small boutique, fine dining restaurant. Tom has 15 years’ experience in the restaurant business. His pastries and breads will come from a local Woodstock bakery, and his meats will come from Jones Meats right here in Woodstock. Tom’s A-6 liquor license will be on the February 3 City Council agenda. The Liquor Commission will be recommending approval.

Courthouse Grill closes

Another one bites the dust.

I was sorry to learn this evening that the Courthouse Grill has closed.

I had great hopes for it as the new worldwide headquarters of the Woodstock Chapter of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. I did retrieve the Groundhog Club banner from the front window where it was proudly displayed for the few days between Linda’s accepting it and the closing.

You may remember that Linda’s arm got a $5,000 twist, when the Liquor Commission socked her last year with the water bill for the time between the closing of the previous business and her purchase of the restaurant. What can a liquor license applicant do but accept whatever a Liquor Commission says will be the way it’s going to be? It’s pretty hard to operate a restaurant without a liquor license.

But that wasn’t the downfall. And the weakening economy doesn't seem to be responsible for the closing. I don’t have the whole story yet, but it seems there may have been a $290,000 loan on assets of the restaurant of which she was unaware at the time she purchased the business. After eight months of wrangling with that lender, the end arrived.

This causes me to wonder about the due diligence done at the time of the sale. A purchaser expects to know the complete financial picture, but who does the checking? Some wise wag once said, “Trust but verify.”

Sort of makes that $5,000 look like only a pin prick, doesn’t it?

Good luck to Linda, wherever she lands. And to all the employees who stuck with her.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Inauguration Photos

An amazing set of photographs taken all over the world on January 20, 2009, can be viewed here:

Telemarketers to call your cell phone

Don't want telemarketers calling your cell phone?

It's bad enough when they call you on your home phone at dinner time or just as that exciting program is ending at 8:57PM. But now they can call you on your cell phone.

Want to put a stop to those calls? Call (888) 382-1222 from your cell phone. It's easy and fast (and free) to register.

Telemarketers, by law, must stop calling you after 31 days after you register. If they still call, you can file a complaint at or by calling the above number.

You must have the telemarketer's company name and its phone number; get the individual's name, too.

Some people make a business out of filing complaints and collecting some or all of the penalty. I don't know how it works. Do your homework, if you are interested.

Moving Sale

A friend in Elgin is moving and offers the following items for sale:

Oak pedestal dining room table and 6 chairs
Wood and glass shelving/entertainment center (94" x 16" x 71" high)
Full set of china
Compact rotisserie
Rival food steamer
Fax machine
Sony CD/DVD player (new and still in box)
Comforter and bedding
Rocking chair
Precious Moments, Lladro, Lalique owl, Waterford crystal
Misc. pictures, small tables, and stuff

Also, as listed on (1/24/09):

Picture: Terry Redlin, "Flying Free", Limited Edition, signed and numbered, #10,313 of 14,500, certificate of authenticity, beautifully framed and triple matted. Print dimensions: 31-1/2" x 18-1/2". Framed dimensions: 48-1/2" x 28-1/2". Asking $550 (others for sale on Ebay for $900)

French Oak Buffet: 86" x 21" x 38" high, 2 drawers, 4 doors with keys, beautiful carvings on doors and legs. Asking $1100.00
Walnut Bed: Full size, curved footboard. Both headboard and footboard have beautiful carvings and basket with flowers.
Dresser: Dark wood, heavy, 3 drawers, carved legs and moldings, 48" x 22-1/2" x 36" high. Asking 250.00
Dresser: Medium sized oak clawfoot dresser with 4 drawers, 40" x 20" x 33" high. Asking $200.00
Radio Cabinet: Beautiful dark wood with curved legs and molding, 2-door, 26" x 15" x 40". Asking $150.00

If interested in any or all, call (630) 440-7370

Customer Service Waste

Last Friday I had occasion to contact USBank when I was helping with the transfer of a title and license plates for a car that had been purchased at the end of a lease. All should have been straight forward and correct; right? After all, banks must handle thousands of similar transactions.

Instead of just trotting off to the DMV with money and papers in hand to get the new title and have the license plates transferred, I examined the forms from the bank. The title clerk must have left for lunch between starting on the forms and finishing them, because the Title Number on the forms was correct but the VIN wasn't anywhere close. There weren't just a few typos; she had typed someone else's VIN on two forms!

When I called the bank, I understood they could not talk to me because of customer confidentiality, but I finally got a manager to look at the file and see the error. She agreed to fax the vehicle purchaser/owner a copy of the sales agreement for the end-of-lease sale.

Then I noticed that one of the forms was an Illinois DMV form that allowed for the transfer of the existing license plates, which could be done for a $3.00 fee, instead of the normal $65.00 license plate cost. This meant that the plates on the car could stay on the car.

And so I called back. This time I ran into a stone wall at the bank. I needed to talk to the department that prepared the Bill of Sale and DMV form incorrectly, but they are shielded from customer contact. That's great customer service, USBank!

The customer service rep was polite but firm. He refused all help, because the purchaser of the vehicle was not available to approve his talking with me. I pointed out that he didn't to talk to me; all he needed to do was listen. He could see the errors that USBank had made. All he had to do was get them fixed and mail them to the purchaser (not to me) at the address in their file. The supervisor must have breathing down his neck. The outcome?

USBank will overnight an Overnight envelope to me. I am to return the incorrect forms. Then they will overnight corrected forms to me. That makes THREE (3) Overnight Delivery expenses. Since it was a Friday, I could have just mailed the incorrect forms, and they would have been delivered in Wisconsin for $0.42. Instead, USBank will spend $30 to save me $0.42.

Next time you are selecting a bank that promises to keep your banking expenses low, be sure to remember this story.

Official City Calendar Needed

Wouldn't it be nice to look in one place and be able to find the dates and times of official meetings held by Woodstock City government?

An official calendar of City meetings would not be all that hard to generate. Most meetings are conducted as Regular Meetings and held on the same weekday of the month, at the same time and in the same location. For example, City Council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 7:00PM at City Hall.

Many of the Commissions and Boards meet at regularly-scheduled times; these are called Regular Meetings. But you have to be a cyber-gymnast to find their schedules.

Other Commissions, such as the Liquor Commission and the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, do not meet at regularly-schedules times. These two meet only "as needed"; these irregularly-scheduled meetings are referred to as Special Meetings. They can be called on as little as 48 hours' notice.

Notice is given to the members of the commission or board and is posted at City Hall. Notice is also faxed only to the mainstream media. So you need not only be a cyber-gymnast to learn of these meetings, you'd better by a cyber-acrobat. If you don't wish to go to City Hall every 24-48 hours to inspect the bulletin board, then it is necessary to find the right City webpage in time to learn of these Special Meetings.

The meetings of City Commissions and Boards are public meetings. Attendance by the public might increase, if the public had half a chance of learning easily when such meetings are held. Even the regular meetings should be easily visible on the City's website.

Coming up?

Tomorrow - Monday, Jan. 26. 7:00PM City Hall. Liquor Commission meets to decide the fate of Mr. Patel's interest in purchasing Shop n Save/Miska's Liquors and a liquor license for the new business taking the location where SuperStarz operated.

Honest Abe said...

"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure."

I came across this quote while searching earlier for a quote to the effect that a man who doesn't read is no better than the man who can't read.

Too bad our wonderful Congress didn't study its history lessons a little harder.

Love-to-Read Week in D200 Schools

Abraham Lincoln: "The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read."

Mark Twain: "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read."

Woodstock District 200 will sponsor its Love to Read Week during February 9-13, and more than 100 reading volunteers are needed.

This is the 18th annual Love to Read Week. The purpose of the program, which is held every year to coincide with Valentine’s Day, is to show students the importance of reading as a lifelong skill by having adults share how they enjoy and use reading in their daily lives.

A volunteer form is available on the District's homepage at or you can pick one up at the Library, D200 headquarters or at any elementary or middle school.

Good additional places for volunteer sign-up forms would be City Hall and Read Between the Lynes Bookstore on the Square.

My only question about the program is why are volunteers reading to middle school students, who are in 6th, 7th and 8th grades? Don't they know how to read yet? Haven't they learned the importance of reading? If they haven't, what's missing in the first years of a student's school life?

Party with A. Lincoln?

Honest Abe's birthday will be celebrated in Woodstock not on February 12, but on February 21. Check out the big, black-tie fling at the Dole Mansion. You, too, can be there. McHenry County - in a recession? No way.

Read about it at

It'll cost you $100 (hey, what the heck? Costs to party these days are high; right?), and that's $100 each. Throw in $100 for a tux and $300 for the little woman's new party digs, and set aside $400-500 to buy frivolous, unneeded, unwanted "items" at the auction and a few bottles of private-label wine and you're looking at a $1,000 evening.

Kinda rules out the little guy, doesn't it? I wonder what Abe would think of all this?

And I wonder how many of the politicians and prominent business people and executives will dig into their own pockets for this party and NOT chalk it up as a business expense to some political or business account. How about it, you elected officials and business people, you? How do you plan to pay for your tickets to the party? Will you be there, if your business can't write it off and cough up the money for you?

Or you can go to one of the libraries for one of the free readings.

Blago calls Gus

Early this morning - about 2:45AM, I think it was - my telephone rang. Naturally, I wondered who would be calling me at such an hour. An emergency? Ed McMahon, looking for directions to my place for the TV crew and the big check?

The conversation went like this, best as I can remember...

Gus: "Hul-lo?"
Blago: "Gus, this is Rod. You know, the Governor."
Gus (yawn): "Good morning, Governor. What can I do for you?"
Blago: "Well, Patti and I are going to be on ABC's The View tomorrow, and I'm calling to ask for any suggestions you have. You were on The View about ten years ago; right?"
Gus: "Right, it was about ten years ago. How quickly time passes and people forget."
Blago: "It does? They do? Thank goodness. Now, about The View."
Gus: "First off, leave a little early to catch the right CTA to O'Hare."
Blago: "That's okay. We have a ride."
Gus: "Then in New York take a cab..."
Blago: "They are going to meet us at the airport."
Gus: "They are? They didn't meet me."
Blago: "I mean, what should we expect on the program itself."
Gus: "Plan to spend some time in the Green Room. The bathroom is down the hall to the right."
Blago: "How long will we have to wait?"
Gus: "If your "five minutes of fame" is like mine, you'll wait about 50 minutes and then will be the show's Hot Topic in the 3-5 minutes at the end."
Blago: "I think we are going to get more time than that."
Gus: "Remember that this is a family show, in the daytime. Don't drop any of the f-bombs."
Blago: "Anything else?"
Gus: "Well, Barbara Walters might be there to thank you just before you leave."
Blago: "Thanks for the advice. You really were on the show, weren't you?"
Gus: "I sure was, Governor. And I was even recognized in a restaurant in Huntley later that day. The show is live, so check your back when you get back to Chicago."
Blago: "Thanks, Gus. Sorry to call you so early, but I know you're busy." (click)

And then the neighbor's dog barked, and I woke up.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Opera House Alumni

I was checking out the schedule of events at Stage Left Cafe tonight and browsed the alumni of the Woodstock Opera House. Check them out at

You'll recognize some well-known names: Arlo Guthrie, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Murray, Glenn Miller, Paul Newman, Orson Welles and many more.

What's missing in their brief biographical sketches is the connection to the Opera House. Wouldn't that be a fine addition?

There is probably a local college or high school student who could be put to work as an intern to dig into the records and then re-write the bios with some truly, meaningful, local information.

Anyone agree?

Police Shift-Change - Change it

Read today's article by Cal Skinner on about the girl whose vehicle hit a house on Village Road in Crystal Lake at shift-change time for the Crystal Lake Police Department.

The homeowner called the police, but no officers were available because it was "shift change." That's the time when officers completing their shifts head back to the station, gas up their cars, finish their reports, get chewed out, warm up and go home. And the time when the officers going on duty hear from the shift commander about the importance of catching drunks and making arrests and writing their reports correctly and not using up too much gas, and who then go out to the patrol cars, warm them up, test the sirens and emergency lights, and leave the parking lot.

So the homeowner, upon learning no officer was available, took matters into his own hands, chased down the culprit and told her to return to the "scene of the crime", which she did. And, after that, the Crystal Lake police showed up.

It's time for police chiefs in this area, and nationwide, to figure out a way to keep some officers on the street. Shift-change times could be staggered. Other steps could be taken so that all officers are not off the street at the same time. They get paid the big bucks to figure out manpower needs and how to do this. The public should insist on protection during shift change.

Several times I have experienced this in the jurisdiction of the Woodstock Police Department. Now I don't even bother to call, if it's 4:00PM, 12:00AM, or 8:00AM.

Have you ever needed a police officer and been told there would be a delay because it was shift change? If so, how about posting a comment with your experience? How did it turn out?

Hustle up the Hancock

Could you do it? Run up the stairs in the Hancock Building in the Chicago Loop? How about halfway up? Five floors? Two floors?

Well, maybe not; but Mark Barden plans to. Mark is Stacy's brother. You know Stacy - Harmony Falls, a Therapeutic Oasis? Right here in Woodstock?

On February 22 thousands will raise funds for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to promote healthy lungs and to fight lung disease. You can support this non-profit organization and Mark's run by visiting his secure fund-raising page and helping him run right past his personal goal by making an online donation today.

Just go to

You can send Mark some encouragement at

"Everything's okay so far." How many times have you heard someone say that?

Every time I hear it, I am reminded of a story I heard when the Hancock building was under construction in the late 1960s. "Everything's okay so far" was the favorite phrase of one of the steelworkers. Whenever anyone asked him how he was, he'd say, "Everything's okay so far."

One day he was working on the 99th floor, and a strong gust of wind blew him off the beam on which he was standing.

As he sailed past his friend, Larry, who was on the 2nd floor, Larry called out, "How are you doing?"

The worker shouted back, "Everything's okay so far."

NO TOLLS, Inc. - Resuscitated

Did you receive the January 12th letter from NO TOLLS, Inc. (NTI)? This is the group that folded in 2004 because of lack of interest in getting rid of tolls on the Illinois Tollway. Remember the reason for the tolls in the first place? Probably not.

What happens is that bureaucracy grows, original plans are cast aside, and what started out as a good idea grew out of control.

Contrast this with what happened in the Denver area with the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. The DBT opened January 19, 1952. Traffic use ballooned beyond expectations. Original estimates were that the roadway would not pay for itself in 30 years but, on September 14, 1967, the DBT became a free highway! It was paid off 15 years early!

The NTI letter reminds readers of "another" big theft by a toll employee. And the 95% salary increases for some executives of the Tollway. And that in two years the director received a 58% increase in pay. Anyone else around here get a 58% pay raise?

And have you heard about the outrageous fines for those owing money to the Tollway. They aren't just outrageous. They should be unlawful. The Tollway exerts extraordinary pressure on people to pay up by imposing surreal escalation of fines over short periods of time.

And now there is strong suspicion of a new toll/tax road announcement. And of plans to create a "free-flow lane/car pool" plan. Will the Tollway designate an existing lane that we all pay for to be used by those willing to pay even more?

And be sure not to forget the $450,000 spent by the Tollway to proclaim indicted-Gov. Blago's name above the Open-Road Tolling lanes. Yes, that's right, $450,000 for 30 signs. $15,000 per sign. Those were your toll dollars - hard at work. Yeah, sure!!!

Get your Member Information form by emailing NO TOLLS, Inc. at Provide a fax number, so that the USPS can be avoided. Or maybe the organization will just email it to you as an attachment.

Friday, January 23, 2009

BOFPC/Sgt. Gorski Decision - Feb. 17

It now looks like it will be one year and three days after the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) ruled, that Judge Maureen McIntyre will issue her Decision in this case.

All the details don't need to be re-hashed. In summary, the BOFPC ruled on February 14, 2008, that the police chief had not proven his case against Sgt. Steve Gorski and it directed the City to pay Sgt. Gorski all his back pay. The Findings and Decision of the BOFPC is a public record and can be viewed at City Hall, if you are interested.

If you are bashful (or prudent) and prefer not to ask the City to show you a copy, contact me and I'll be happy to share my copy with you. If I had a little more computer savvy, I'd figure out how to post it here. Basically, the report exonerates Sgt. Gorski.

The case in Circuit Court is not really against Sgt. Gorski, although he is named as a Defendant. In fact, it is curious to me why Sgt. Gorski is even named as a Defendant, because nothing in the Complaint is aimed at Gorski. Naming him as a Defendant only serves to drive up his legal expenses.


From the use of capitals in the naming of the case, the defendants are 1) the Board, 2) the three individual members of the Board, and 3) the City employee in whose favor the Board ruled. It seems to me that there are five (5) defendants in this case.

Does each Board member have his own attorney? There is a lawyer representing the BOFPC - John Broihier of Naperville. I wonder if he represents only the Board or if he also represents the three commissioners.

On the Order issued on January 13, setting February 17 for the Decision, only the City's lawyer and Sgt. Gorski's lawyer are noted on the Distribution list. I wonder why counsel for the BOFPC isn't being given Notice of the date for Decision. The Board is the real Defendant in this case.

Hopefully, Judge McIntyre will have recovered sufficiently to hold court on February 17. Last year the BOFPC met quarterly. If it follows the same schedule as in 2008, there will be a meeting in March. However, this year the BOFPC will meet only in Special Meetings on a minimum of 48 hours' notice, as no Regular Meetings appear on the 2009 Boards and Commissions Schedule of Meetings.

This means that concerned residents are going to have to lurk around the Agenda webpages of the various Commissions and Boards, in order to learn of Special Meetings. Or you can keep reading the Woodstock Advocate, because I'll keep you informed of Special Meetings, at least of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners and the Liquor Commission.

Liquor Stings - worse than bee stings

When you can't get to sleep one of these nights in Woodstock, go to the City's website and read the transcript of the September 10, 2008, Liquor Commission Special Meeting. Right, that's "transcript"; not Minutes.

Thanks to a lot of nagging from me, the City finally posted the Minutes (and transcript) of that meeting and also of the November 17, 2008, Special Meeting on its website today. To find these documents, go to and then scroll down to Boards and Commissions. Wait! Don't click yet!

Roll your mouse over Boards and Commissions, then over either Agendas or Minutes and then continuing rolling to the Liquor Commission. Save some clicks and some time.

Then pick the date for which you would like to look at the Minutes.

If you view the July 30, 2008 Minutes, you'll see the traditional format of Minutes as prepared by Cindy Smiley, the City's Chief Deputy Clerk. This meeting involved hearings on several alleged liquor violations and resulted in substantial total fines and business closing penalties, plus costs.

And if you view the November 17, 2008 Minutes, you'll again see the traditional format of Minutes, also prepared by Cindy Smiley. No hearings on violations were held at this meeting.

But then go to the September 10, 2008 Minutes. You may want to get the peanuts and a six-pack before you start reading. At this meeting was a court reporter to record verbatim testimony for two hearings on violations.

The attorney for one licensee stated, "...I had gotten into this for other reasons pretty heavily with other licensees to try to determine some facts because there were some things going on elsewhere with some stings that were very questionable..."

Liquor licensees are in a very delicate position in a city such as Woodstock. If they look cross-eyed at the wrong people, they can quickly end up on the short end of the stick - if you know what I mean.

Liquor licensees are business people. They understand their obligations to comply with liquor laws. And they understand the penalties for violating the liquor laws.

They don't need to be raked over the coals, if a violation occurs. Agreements are usually worked out between the lawyers, and the meetings of a Liquor Commission are merely a formality to "seal the deal."

But not in Woodstock, according to my reading of a number of sets of Minutes and the transcript of the September 10, 2008 Special Meeting.

Somebody is going to have to stand up for the liquor licensees. It is very difficult for them to stand up for themselves, because they have to worry about the thumb of the Liquor Commission squashing them. But We the People can help assure them fair dealings, consideration and respect.

And it's time for the People of Woodstock to step forward and examine carefully how the Liquor Commission operates. Maybe it's not so bad as presented on paper. But maybe it is.

One way to find out is to attend this Monday's Special Meeting (there are all Special Meetings; none is scheduled regularly each month) at 7:00PM at City Hall. That's this Monday, January 26, 2009.

Will you be there?

More Court Waste

Remember Wayne - of Viking Dodge v. Wayne Beto fame?

I was at the McHenry County courthouse this week and looked up the number of entries in the computer system at the courthouse! Count them for yourself.

1. 11/3/06 Case No. 06LA000351 was filed by Viking Dodge against Wayne Beto
2. 3/2/07 Continued
3. 5/22/07 Continued on motion by Viking Dodge
4. 6/19/07 Status check - continued
5. 7/17/07 Case re-assigned
6. 8/2/07 Motion to Dismiss - set for hearing
7. 8/30/07 Motion to Dismiss - allowed
8. 11/1/07 Status check - continued
9. 1/10/08 Status check - continued
10. 1/25/08 Motion to Compel - allowed
11. 2/8/08 Status check - continued
12. 3/2/08 Status check - continued
13. 4/18/08 Status check - continued
14. 6/13/08 Status check - continued by Viking Dodge's Motion
15. 6/27/08 Status check - continue
16. 8/18/08 Status check - set date for jury trial
17. 1/14/09 Motion to Dismiss by Viking Dodge - granted

Is it any wonder that our court system is clogged to the gills? I wonder whether anyone at the courthouse is looking at cases like this one and trying to figure out how to put a stop to this kind of nonsense.

Why didn't the court put its foot down, set a trial date and tell both sides to be ready or forget it. This case could have - and should have - been over in 4-6 months.

Plan Commission OKs Assisted Living Project

Last night the Woodstock Plan Commission unanimously approved the project of The Woodstock Senior Living Project Tryon Street for a new assisted-living senior residence project on the southwest corner of South Tryon and West Calhoun Streets. (For a larger view, click on the image; then click on the Back button to return here.)

Questions centered on height, appearance and access to the downtown area. Although the project's attorney had informed the Commission members that prospective residents would be in their late 70s and 80s, the development will discourage the ownership of private vehicles by residents and provide courtesy vans for their transportation.

Commission members seemed overly focused on residents' being able to go to the Square and whether they might have difficulty rolling wheelchairs up and curbs curbs at corners. In other words, would they be able to get themselves to the Square and back in their wheelchairs?

Without any disrespect meant to those who might use wheelchairs, I couldn't help but find such attention more than a little amusing.

Just picture an 80-year-old resident of an assisted-living facility venturing off from his new home and heading for the Square. OK, so it's all downhill. And a pretty good grade, too. He can coast all the way there; however, once in motion, would he be able to get his wheeled chair stopped when he reached an intersection?

And the bigger issue would be the return trip. Would an 80-year-old, perhaps somewhat frail, person who must use a wheelchair ever be able to get himself home from the Square? It's all uphill, and that same "pretty good" grade would present an ominous challenge.

The developer has thought this through and has planned the use of courtesy vans to provide transportation for the residents.

The project is not designed as a nursing home. Residents will not routinely need on-site medical care.

Other questions focused on fire department and paramedic access from the single entrance on Calhoun Street and on the height of the structure. While the overall height is designed as approximately ten feet lower than the existing buildings on the site, the west walls will present quite a different exterior than exists at this time.

Only one neighbor attended the Plan Commission meeting. That was really surprising to me. She did not particularly oppose the project, but she expressed genuine concerns for the residents of the two apartment buildings that will be demolished to make way for the new building. The developer has arranged for a local real estate agent to assist those residents to find new housing and will make a U-Haul-type vehicle available to them for moving.

Next step? Back to the Historic Preservation Commission, because the project falls within the boundaries of the Historic District, although well off the Square. Based on the last appearance before the HPC, I suspect the development might face stiff opposition at the HPC. Watch the City's website for an Agenda for the HPC. It could come up as quickly as February 2nd.

Gotta love Illinois politics

The Associated Press reports our very own Blago, the one governor who didn't show up in Washington for the President's inauguration, as saying, "And if it means I have to sacrifice myself to a higher cause, for the people of Illinois and for the principle of due process and the right to call witnesses, then so be it."

I'm glad that was on Page 3A of this morning's Northwest Herald. I was in a hurry, and I didn't have to search for the comics to get a good laugh.

I wish I'd studied drawing cartoons and caricatures. I'd be drawing one right now of Blago, down on his knees, head on the chopping block of the guillotine, own hand on the rope and saying, "And if it means I have to sacrifice myself to a higher cause..."

Come on, come on... just pull the damned rope!

No wonder Illinois is bankrupt!

Be sure to read the short article ("Appointee gets $40K boost") on Page 3A of this morning's Northwest Herald. Then grab the barf bag or run for the toilet.

Who's the new director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources? Kurt Granberg. Who's Kurt Granberg? He was an Illinois State Representative for 22 years, during which he accumulated enough "points" to be eligible for a $73,000 annual pension. And he is just 55 years old.

Let's say he lives for 30 years. How much will he suck out of the Illinois treasury at that paltry rate? $2,190,000! And that's without the 3% annual increase after he hits 60.

What's the rub here?

Blago appointed him to chief of the IDNR and raised his pay. According to the paper, that sweet little gift "likely will boost his eventual retirement pension by $40,000 a year." What???

What gimmickry exists in actuarial calculations in Springfield that could possibly boost annual retirement pay by $40,000/year for a man who might work only a very short time in his new position? His new payrate is $133,273/year, and pension rules allow him to base retirement pay on that, not on the "measly" $73,000/year he had previously earned for so many years.

Who makes the rules in Illinois? Why, Illinois legislators, of course! Nice, huge pay-off for a guy who resigned from the State legislature before it voted to impeach Blago!

Look, we can either sit here and carp about the injustices in State government or we can all start running for office of State Representative or Senator. And then we can either change the rules or we can just sit back, pull the handle on the State slot machine one more time, and watch those silver dollars roll out into our own pockets!

Poster Child for Minutemen

This morning's Northwest Hurrah carries the news about Eulalio Haro, convicted yesterday of three felonies in a DUI accident on June 24, 2006, when he hit a motorcyclist on U.S 14 near the hospital at Doty Road.

There are frequent DUI convictions in McHenry County, Why is this one different?

According to the newspaper article, Haro was deported to Mexico in 1995 after he spent 19 months in prison following a DUI accident that killed his brother.

In addition to being stopped at the border at least one time when he tried to re-enter the U.S., Haro was deported a second time.

But he got back in (now, just how did that happen?) and was convicted TWICE in 1998 for drunken driving. Where? Right here in McHenry County!!!

Just what is it going to take in Illinois to get some coordination and cooperation between the Secretary of State's office, courtroom activity and law enforcement to put a stop to such carnage on our roads?

Not mentioned in the article is that alcohol is involved in about 40% of the accidents state-wide and in McHenry County. Maybe this is just in fatal accidents. I haven't seen my notes on alcohol-related accidents for a couple of years.

So you can be a law-abiding motorist and be hit by a drunk head-on. Or rear-ended while you are stopped at a red light or stop sign. Or at an intersection where a drunk runs a red light or stop sign.

MADD has been mad for years - perhaps so many years that now MADD's outrage is just another news item and lost in the shuffle.

Why did Haro even have a driver's license?

The bigger question is, how many "Haro's" are there out on our roads every day???

Sentencing will be March 18 in Judge Condon's courtroom.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What a Waste of Court Time!!!

I was in Judge Robert Beaderstadt's courtroom this morning to observe the trial of a 15-year-old Crystal Lake girl who was accused of littering by her neighbor in November 2007.

This case has been a great concern to the girl and to her mother, and it has also cost them anxiety and money.

So, what happened in court today? The case was dismissed.

Why? The complaining witness didn't show up.

No surprise. This is not an isolated occurrence. Somebody's nose gets bent out of shape and they call the police. The police take a report. The person wants to file charges. The police ask if the person is willing to appear in court and testify. The person indicates that she will.

And then she doesn't.

If I were the judge, I'd be putting out a warrant for the arrest of the Complainant, who should have received a Summons to appear in court for the trial. After all, the Defendant was there and ready to defend herself. And, from the looks of things, the Crystal Lake Police Department was pretty well represented in the courtroom this morning. Those guys didn't show up for free. Were they on over-time?

In this case, the Complainant alleged something occurred at a time when the young girl wasn't even in the neighborhood. She wasn't home. She was visiting elsewhere, out of the neighborhood. And she had a strong alibi. The mother in whose house the accused girl was visiting was at the courthouse, ready to testify for the defense.

And so the Complainant chickened out. She had to know that she didn't have a case and she'd just make a fool out of herself in front of the judge. She would have been sworn in - sworn to tell the truth. Had she stood there and lied to Judge Beaderstadt, what action might he have taken?

Now let's back up a little to that fall evening in 2007. There had been a running feud between neighbors. Did the police investigate at all in any effort to learn whether a malicious and untrue complaint was being filed? Did they check out the alibi? And why did the Crystal Lake City Attorney even bring a petty case to trial, instead of realizing he didn't have a case and moving to dismiss it?

Should there be a penalty for the person who makes a complaint and tells the cop that she'll be in court and then doesn't show up? You bet!

Liquor License Changes in Woodstock

Once Tuesday night's City Council meeting quieted down, one topic on the agenda was discussed almost ad nauseum.

The owner of Armanetti's Liquors and the Country Cupboard would like to buy the Shop n Save (Miska's Liquors) on the corner of Route 47 and McConnell Road. This is the place that slid by the Liquor Commission and the City Council by announcing its plans to be a convenience store, not a liquor store. Ha!

As early as about last March, Councilman Webster asked at a City Council meeting about the ratio of revenues at that store, and Mayor Sager stated, as I recall, that its alcoholic beverage sales were less than 50% of total revenues. The next day I visited Miska's and estimated that 90-95% of its sales were likely to be alcohol-related.

In June I asked Ralph if any more information had surfaced (like, did the Liquor Commission request financial statements from Miska's Liquors?), and he replied that he'd check on it.

Later in the year I sent an email to the City, requesting that it be forwarded to the Liquor Commission, which is headed up by the Mayor, asking if Miska's is a liquor store or a convenience store (or some wording like that). No reply was ever received.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Councilman Ahrens (I think it was he who did) explained that the Liquor Commission and the City had never imposed any restriction on Shop n Save (Miska's) when the liquor license was issued; thus, its high volume of liquor sales were not outside the scope of its liquor license. Although Shop n Save had "said" they would be a convenience store (not a liquor store), it didn't turn out that way.

Quite a bit of time was used up Tuesday night with two members of the City Council who expressed deep concerns about Mr. Patel's plan to buy Shop n Save/Miska's Liquors, "because then there would be two liquor stores within blocks of one another."

Hello? Right now there are already two liquor stores within blocks of one another! Too much time was spent worrying about competition. There is plenty of competition for the consumer's liquor purchases. Who worries about a little store down the street?

Mr. Patel has an strong and positive business reputation in Woodstock. He was praised several times for the way he conducts his businesses in Woodstock.

After a lot of back and forth and at least two council members saying that they didn't feel they could be in favor of allowing Mr. Patel to approach the Liquor Commission, the City Council then voted on the Motion. The vote? 7-0.

Why is it that many times there is vigorous dissent during the discussion phase of a Motion but, when it comes time to vote, the votes are almost always 7-0?

All the Council really needed to do was approve the Motion and pass the buck to the Liquor Commission. They would get a second crack at it, anyway, when any recommendation from the Liquor Commission showed up on a future City Council agenda!

Woodstock Liquor Commission

It took some nagging, but the City has finally published the Minutes of the November 17, 2008, Liquor Commission Special Meeting.

Earlier this month I contacted the City and asked where the Minutes were for the September 10, 2008, meeting (actually Special Meeting). I also asked about any subsequent meeting of the Liquor Commission at which the topic of the Benton Street door of D.C. Cobbs was discussed.

When no Minutes were forthcoming, I addressed the City Council on January 20 and asked these same questions. Apparently in response to my making a very public request, Minutes of the November 17 Special Meeting of the Liquor Commission were published.

I had been under the impression that D.C. Cobbs wanted the Benton Street door to remain open to its patrons for entrance and exit and for smoking off Main Street; however, the Minutes reflect that owner Dan Hart "would like to have one entrance on the Main Street side."

The elusive Minutes of the September 10 Special Meeting remain MIA, and the City's website contains no announcement on the Agenda webpage for the November 17 Special Meeting. Website announcement of a meeting of a Commission is required under the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

President Obama has promised that the nation's business will be conducted "in the light of day", and we need the same right here in Woodstock.

At the City Council meeting I also asked that the Liquor Commission hold Regular Meetings; i.e., regularly-scheduled meetings so that the public could know about them and attend, if desired. Finding out about Special Meetings depends on reading the announcement on the bulletin board at City Hall in time or crossing your fingers that the Northwest Herald will publish an announcement that the Liquor Commission is to meet. Special Meetings can be held on as little as 48 hours' notice.

On the City's website today is an announcement that the Liquor Commission will hold a Special Meeting on Monday, January 26, 7:00PM at City Hall. This announcement meets the 48-hour Notice requirement. You can read the Agenda on the City's website. More about the scheduled topics in a separate article.

Request to the City: Please publish the Minutes of the September 10, 2007 Special Meeting.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dangerous Intersection Near MCC

Just last week I wrote to the City of Crystal Lake and to IDOT to suggest attention to the intersection of U.S. 14 and Lucas Road, at the west end of the MCC campus. I suggested that a "right-turn only" restriction be imposed on Lucas Road traffic to deter drivers from darting across U.S. 14. Impatience must grow rapidly when a driver cannot find a break in traffic to cross the highway with a 50MPH speed limit in both directions.

About 3:30PM three vehicles tangled there today. You can see the front end ripped off the red sedan, and up the road about 50 yards was a pick-up truck that had to have spun around before it ran off the highway backwards while the driver was getting it stopped.

Crystal Lake PD was on the scene, taking names and numbers. It looked relatively minor, all things considered. Certainly it could have been a lot worse.

When you are heading for Crystal Lake, watch that intersection - it's just one long block west of the traffic light at MCC.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Finally ticketed for expired registration

If your license plate expired in May 2008, how soon do you think you'd get stopped?

Read the article on

Photo Op at Stage Left Cafe

Four years ago (only four years ago?), when Barack Obama was at the Opera House, I missed getting my picture taken with him. Actually, I didn't "miss" it until tonight. Should I have stuck around that day, even though he was running late and the local pols made no explanation for his tardiness?

So I wasn't about to miss the photo op tonight, after the City Council meeting ended. Knowing of the local bash at Stage Left Cafe to celebrate his inauguration as the 44th POTUS, I headed over to see who and what was to be seen.

And there, right off the entry way .... there was the chance of a lifetime. And I didn't even have to fight the crowds! (Sorry about the reflection from the glasses he was holding in his hands.)

Kyle Morgan - Captured!!!

From the Woodstock PD website:

"At approximately 2:30 P.M. on this date the Woodstock Police Department was notified by authorities in Nashville, Tennessee that they had Kyle W. Morgan, in custody. Nashville authorities report that a Tennessee State Trooper pulled up behind the wanted subject at a traffic signal in downtown Nashville. The suspect fled the area attempting to elude the Trooper by use of a public sidewalk due to heavy vehicular traffic in the area. Nashville authorities report that two pedestrians were struck during this action and that the suspect’s vehicle also struck a concrete barrier and a tree. Suspect Morgan was taken into custody at the accident scene."

Barack Obama, 44th President

It was a fine speech, Mr. President.

Best wishes to your family and you!!!

Wanted for Homicide

At 6:30AM today the Woodstock Police Department posted this Crime Alert on its website (where it won't be found by hardly anyone).

Earlier, at 3:00AM, the Woodstock Police Department issued a press release to announce that Kyle Morgan, age 24 (born 10/11/1984), 5'10", 180 lbs., brown hair, blue eyes, is wanted for homicide in the Prairie View Apartments at 300 Leah Lane, Woodstock.

Morgan may be driving a 1997 black Toyota Camry four-door with Illinois license plate(s) 926 2743. Morgan should be considered extremely dangerous and may be armed.

Yesterday at approximately 4:44PM police and rescue were dispatched to the Prairie View Apartment Complex, after a maintenance worker found a body in an apartment.

If you see Morgan or his vehicle, immediately contact the Woodstock Police Department at (815) 338-2131.

Monday, January 19, 2009

SAO Outsources Collections

A recent news article reported that the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office has contracted with an out-of-state firm to collect $300,000 in unpaid fines.

Usually, collection agents take their cut out of the money collected. According to the Northwest Herald article on January 15, the firm, of Gig Harbor, Washington, will be allowed to add up to 30% to the amount owed for their efforts.

No one should think for five minutes that it will collect 100%. I wonder if the SAO analyzed the accounts and determined what percent was likely to be collected - also, why its own collection efforts had not been successful.

Does it know where all the culprits are? How many are without funds? Does the phrase, "You can't get blood out of a turnip" apply here?

In a recent hearing at the courthouse, a man showed up for the final stage in his court case, which ended two years ago this month. Last week the representative from the SAO told the judge that this man still owed his $2,700 fine.

After a short delay, the SAO realized that there had been a "bookkeeping error" and acknowledged that this man's fine had been paid in full!!!

What kind of carelessness loses track of a $2,700 fine? And why didn't they take action within the past two years, if they thought he hadn't paid his fine. They knew exactly where he was - only a letter or a phone call away. Was this $2,700 in the $300,000 that the collection agency thought it could collect?

How much of the $300,000 was handled in the same way as this $2,700?

Another question for the SAO is, "Why didn't you hire a northern Illinois business to collect this money?" There are certainly collection agencies in McHenry and Lake County that might have wanted the business. Or maybe they looked at it and didn't want it.

Why did you contract with an out-of-state firm? Were bids solicited for this contract? Were you guaranteed a minimum collection amount?

Let's hope the public is kept apprised of the results of this contract and also of the results of its collection attempts. Debt collection agents are bound by tight rules. How many will they find who have declared bankruptcy or who are incarcerated or who just are absolutely unable to pay?

Hearing/Seeing MLK, Jr.

Do you remember where you were on October 15, 1962?

I do. I was sitting in the front row of King Chapel on the campus of Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and the speaker was Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wish I could say that I remember his speech, but I'll re-read it today. And if you would like to read it, go to
Scroll to the bottom right and click on Full Speech.

He concluded his speech with these words (from the Cornell College website): “ ... I am convinced that men hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other, and they don’t know each other because they don’t communicate with each other, and they don’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other.”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coming up in Woodstock

What's happening in Woodstock this week?

Tuesday, Jan. 20. 7:00PM Woodstock City Council. You may want to be there to hear about a possible ownership change for Shop & Save/ Miska's Liquors on McConnell Road at Route 47. The owner of Armanetti's plans to buy it and needs to beg the City Council and the Liquor Commission for a liquor license so that he can provide "quick in-and-out" liquor purchases to customers.

Woodstock's provincial liquor license laws do not allow a liquor license to be transferred upon the sale of a business. The license of the former owner ends; the new owner has to get a new license. Tuesday night's action will not be to approve the license, but to send the owner to the Liquor Commission.

Watch for the scheduling of the Liquor Commission meeting. It may be a Regular Meeting (first Monday of the month, unless not scheduled or canceled) or it may be a Special Meeting. If it's a Special Meeting, only 48 hours' notice is required, which really means that the public is quite likely not to know about it.

Also, Tuesday, 7:00PM. A big bash at Stage Left Cafe following Barack Obama's inauguration.

Thursday, January 22, 7:00PM. The Woodstock Plan Commission will conduct a Public Hearing (vs. a public meeting) on a request for property on the southwest corner of West Calhoun and South Tryon Streets. Plans for a 56-unit assisted living project will be discussed.

Notice the Notice (photo above right), which is required prior to a Public Hearing. This Notice is posted prominently on the property. Methinks that the Plan Commission knows how to conduct a Public Hearing. We'll see on Thursday evening. The sign reads "Special Use Permit", but what will happen is these two buildings and the garages will have to be demolished and a new structure built.

Nice house for rent

There is a nice house for rent in Woodstock.

Walking distance to the Square.
Right on the parade route.
Close to Woodstock High School (the real one) and Olson Elementary School
Two bedrooms
Living room with wood-burning fireplace that works
Dining room, kitchen
Nice bath
Large basement
Two-car garage with garage door opener

Drive by 516 West Jackson St., Woodstock

If interested, call (815) 334-0512

WANTED - One ear trumpet

Am I going deaf?

When I was in a courtroom last week at the McHenry County Government Center, once again it was impossible to hear what was being said between the judge, lawyers and others standing before the judge.

It's interesting, though. My hearing comes and goes. It seems to be good, when a judge calls a case. He speaks loudly; perhaps this is so the person whose case is being called hears his name and can step forward.

But what about after that person and the lawyers step up? Something happens to my hearing. I keep feeling my ears and wondering where the Volume Controls are. I see lips moving, heads nodding and hands gesturing. The judge looks at the people whose lips are moving, and they seem to be looking at him.

But what happened to their voices? Did they all suddenly develop laryngitis? Am I sitting in an area of the courtroom that is surrounding by sound-deadening wall and ceiling panels that are designed to keep visitors and spectators from hearing what is said?

Judges announce that everything is recorded. So, why aren't the same microphones used to amplify the sound inside the courtroom?

Actually, amplified sound is not really needed in the courtroom. All that needs to happen is that the judge and others speak up. Just speak in the same normal conversational tone that is used to call a case.

I did compliment one attorney last week as he prepared to leave the courtroom. I handed him my card with a note on the back: "Thank you for speaking loudly and clearly." That got a smile out of him, too.

Speaking to the bailiff does no good; they don't even quiet the attorneys who talk among themselves or who confer with clients while court is being conducted. But heaven help the spectator who forgets and tries to carry on a quiet conversation.

I guess it would be impolite to show up with a four-foot ear trumpet or a 3' x 3' sign to flash at the judge: "CAN'T HEAR." Maybe a t-shirt? (Freedom of speech, don't you know?) I wonder if I could get either through Security. Perhaps all I'd have to do is claim, truthfully, that I am disabled (sporatic hearing loss, usually in courtroom settings) and then let them try to keep me out. They have probably heard of A.D.A.

I have forgotten whom I contacted a while back (someone at the County with Esq. behind his name), when I was told that the public has no right to hear what is said in a courtroom. I don't think so! Maybe in Iran or Afghanistan. But, in America, we absolutely have the right to hear what is said. What do judges need? A court case on this issue?

Please, McHenry County Judges, speak up, and also require the attorneys, defendants and witnesses to speak up. You'll get some clues from those of us seated in the courtroom with our hands cupped to our ears, staring at the moving lips.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Groundhog Day - just around the corner

Did you know that Woodstock has its very own chapter of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club? This has got to be one of Woodstock's little secrets that only pops to the surface in mid-January of each year. And who else could be the Grand Stump Master of the Woodstock Chapter?

Originally started as a social networking group, that fizzled pretty quickly. Woodstock is just not a social networking hub of the universe. But this could change. The local chapter can come back to life more often than just on February 2, if there is interest.

Check out the official Chapter banner, which will be on display at the Courthouse Grill, 101 N. Johnson Street - right on the Square. And ask Linda if she has any specials for you Groundhog Day lovers. Mention my name and order anything you want on the menu. Linda will charge you only the menu price, plus tax and a nice tip.

And if you are really having a slow day, check out the festivities at Also, check out the new bronzed Punxsutawney Phil at Cast your vote there and enter the drawing to win a bronzed Phil.

Punxsutawney Phil's imposter, Woodstock Willie, is scheduled to make his appearance at 7:07AM on February 2, 2009, at the Woodstock Square in the Park. Check out all the activities for the biggest event in Woodstock in February on the City's website at Scroll down to the calendar, click on Groundhog Days and then go to the .pdf view of the Calendar of Events for Groundhog Days.

Watch for a survey to be posted here on January 25 about whether Willie will see his shadow on February 2. And, no, you won't win a bronzed Willie if you are right.

November Crime in Woodstock

Like to have an idea of just how much crime there really is (or isn't) in Woodstock?

The monthly report of the police department for November 2008 is now available. There were 537 criminal and traffic arrests in Woodstock in November.

For a breakdown, visit the sister-site to the Woodstock Advocate at Just click on the link or click on the link on the right side-bar.

Woodstock Library Email

Today I picked up a notice at the Woodstock Public Library that advised me to place the Library's new email address in my e-mail Address Book, so that I would receive e-mail from the Library.

These notices are helpful reminders about impending due dates and, if you blow off the due date, late notices and maybe even fine notices. Also, pick-up notices for books you have reserved.

Put in your Address Book, if you want to be sure to receive email from the Library.

And note that the new URL for the Woodstock Public Library is

Run for D200 School Board?

Although it's too late to throw your hat in the ring for the Woodstock City Council, there is still time for you to influence the direction and operation of the Woodstock District 200 school board.

Five of seven seats are open and to be filled at the April 7 election. This means there could be a major shift in direction from the Board to Superintendent Ellyn Wrzeski.

To be eligible, you must be 18 years of age (or older), a U.S. citizen, an Illinois resident, a resident within District 200 boundaries for one year and a registered voter.

A petition must be filed at D200 administrative headquarters by 5:00PM on Monday, January 26. You'll need signatures of 50 registered voters to get in the door.

There is no income tax, either Federal or State, to cause you worries. That's because you don't get paid for attending meetings twice a month, taking on other duties, receiving phone calls and emails (if you are brave enough to make your email address public) from District residents and possibly having to take an unpopular stand for the benefit of students.

Interested? Hotfoot it over to 227 West Judd Street, Woodstock, on Tuesday morning and pick up your petition!

People in Need Forum - Jan. 31

MCC's Center For Non-profit Leadership will host a People in Need Forum at the end of this month. The flyer for the Forum describes it as an opportunity to discover resources available in McHenry County to help individuals in need. Services available will be showcased during general sessions, panel discussions and workshops. Representatives from 20 human services organizations will be present.

What can you learn?

How to use the Crisis Center
Food stamps and Medicaid
Healthcare for the under-insured
Behavior health services
Housing and energy assistance
Resources to help individuals get out of debt
How to handle landlord-tenant problems
Accessing government programs
How to access pharmaceutical assistance
Types of emergency assistance available
How to respond to cultural differences

The program is free and registration is not required, although advance registration helps meeting planners to provide for adequate hand-outs.

When? Saturday, January 31.
Time? 8:00-8:30AM Registration and check-in
-------8:30AM-12:30PM Learning opportunities
Where? MCC Conference Center, 8900 U.S. Route 14, Crystal Lake, Ill.

Other sponsors are United Way, McHenry County Department of Health and McHenry County PADS.

For more information, visit

Three Great Skills

Check out today's Letter to the Editor in the Northwest Herald by recently-retired educator Ray Mathis of McHenry.

Ray's advice? "Teach students 1) to have an internal locus of control, 2) to recognize and correct irrational thinking, and 3) to have effective emotional management."

He hits the nail right on the head. We need to be teaching our kids how to cope, not merely how to behave. Ray's credentials are impressive; check out his bio.

His website is

Grace Hall Survey

Thanks to the 32 readers who participated in the last survey. The question was, “Should Grace Hall be saved from the wrecking ball?”

Yes - 15 (47%)
No --17 (53%)

Watch for a public showing of Calendar Girls of Farmland and a discussion of the history and value to Woodstock of Grace Hall.

Why No Tax Revolution?

I was off and running on one of my favorite crusades this week - abandoned vehicles on residential properties in Woodstock. For weeks (months?) I have driven by a black four-door sedan pulled up close to the street at 1915 N. Seminary. Naturally, it has recently been covered (and I do mean "covered") with snow, as further proof that it is unused, stored, probably inoperable. This vehicle has a For Sale sign on it which, of course, is not visible when snow covers the car.

Another contact with Code Enforcement in Woodstock elicited the information that the property owner plans to have the stored vehicles (there are also three trucks there) towed, starting on Monday.

This prompted me to wonder about the amount of property taxes there and whether they might contribute to any rapid turn-over of tenants. Tax bills are public record and a quick search on uncovered the 2007 Tax Bill: a whopping $8,565.20!!!! In other words, of whatever rent the landlord might collect, he parts with $714/month of it just for taxes!

And, if he doesn't collect any rent because the tenant skips out or has to be evicted, the property owner still parts with $714/month!

Taxes pay for services. Are you over-serviced? Dig out your tax bill and run the numbers.

Over $4,600/year goes to District 200. Woodstock Fire/Rescue District gets almost half as much as the entire City of Woodstock.

Did you contest your tax bill this past year?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Monday's Candle Lighting

From a friend in Iowa came this e-mail:

"Dear Friend,

"We invite you to join with us in lighting a candle on the evening of January 19th, 2009, the eve of the United States presidential inauguration. Our intent is to create a global web of light in support of the well-being of the Obama family and the wisdom of President Obama's leadership.

"We encourage you to share this invitation with others."

This sounds like a winning idea to me.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Grace Hall Update

An as-yet unnamed developer, who was taking a look at purchasing, moving and renovating Grace Hall, has apparently decided that he cannot make the deal work to his financial advantage.
How many of us could have told him that the cost of ground on which to place it and the exorbitant cost of moving a huge brick building would sink that project?

Architects from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency apparently talked with him about moving and preserving Grace Hall, but it all seems to be part of some secretive group that works without involving the general public, even though a City Commission is somewhat involved.

Check out this sentence: "Efforts are being made to place Grace Hall on Landmark Illinois' 2009 Ten Most Endangered Sites List in the hope someone or some organization may step forward to prevent its imminent demolition in April."

Haven't I been writing about the "imminent" demolition??? Nice, finally, to see someone else using that word! And the demolition is imminent, but it doesn't have to be.

People - more than three or four - are going to have to come out of the woodwork, put on their heated mittens, and get busy. Otherwise, the City Council is going to drop a demolition permit for the project on April 21, unless they surprise us with an end-run and try to do it sooner.

Then about the only thing that will stop the wrecking ball will be a circle of townspeople around Grace Hall or a few people chained to the building or who have taken up residency in the building. Well, you know what I mean. Gone to the "administration building" of Woodstock Christian Life Services legal business.

Caryl Roskie Lemanski (the daughter of Todd School Coach Tony Roskie, referenced in The Stranger), has applied for Grace Hall to be listed on Landmarks Illinois's Ten Most Endangered Sites list for 2009.

In the past, this listing has gotten widespread publicity across the state and nation within the preservation community and mainstream media. Your help is needed to support this application, because demonstrated public concern is crucial to the application.

See for the 2008 list. Send your thoughts to Landmarks Illinois by going through its website at

Don't just "think" about sending your message to Landmarks. Do it. Do it now.