Sunday, May 31, 2009

No Guns for Negroes

Watch this powerful 20-minute video.

If you think that gun control is good for the U.S.A., watch this video and see if it changes your mind. This video is well-done and is thought-provoking.

Where is "unincorporated" Woodstock?

This morning's Northwest Herald reported on a Friday afternoon car-motorcycle match-up that, of course, ended unfavorably for the motorcyclist on Route 176 west of Dean Street.

Two things got my attention. First, the accident was described as occurring in "unincorporated" Woodstock. What's that? Any area in Woodstock is in incorporated Woodstock. If it's not in incorporated Woodstock, it's not in Woodstock. But it must have been in unincorporated McHenry County, which is why the McHenry County Sheriff's Department responded and is handling the investigation.

Woodstock P.D. must have "assisted", even though the accident was outside the City Limits.

The motorcyclist was reported as being westbound on Route 176 and "trying" to pass multiple westbound vehicles. OK, so we've all seen bikers like that. The article went on to explain that the motorcyclist then struck an eastbound minivan "whose driver was making a legal left-hand turn into a private driveway." This information apparently came from a McHenry County Sheriff's Department press release; there is no press release on the Woodstock PD website, and WPD would not have had primary responsibility for reporting on this accident.

Notice the use of the word "legal" with the left-hand turn being made by the driver of the minivan. While the left turn might have been legal (meaning not prohibited by sign at that location), was it being made in a legal manner?

The article leaves a lot to the imagination. Was there a line of traffic westbound? Did the minivan's driver turn in front of oncoming vehicles? Was the motorcyclist passing vehicles when he hit the minivan turning left in front of him? Did he hit the eastbound minivan while it was stopped waiting to make its left turn? Was he at the front of the westbound line of traffic after passing some vehicles? Was he speeding? Had he passed other westbound vehicles in a no-passing zone? Were the other westbound vehicles traveling at the speed limit?

Maybe I am interested in answers to these questions, because I ride a motorcycle. Maybe because I know drivers turn in front of motorcycles. Maybe because I know there are dangerous motorcyclists on the road who do stupid things and pay a big price for them. Maybe because I think there might be a whole lot more to this accident.

Stop - or else

On May 28 the Woodstock Police Department announced its June Traffic Initiative. June's focus will be on stop sign violators and those who fail to yield the right-of-way. Read the press release of the Police Department's web section on

This would be a good time to review the Illinois Rules of the Road regarding stop signs and yielding.

Actually, the Stop sign part is pretty easy. When you roll up to a stop sign, you are supposed to stop. Stop means s-t-o-p. That's a four-wheel stop. Complete stop. Not what we, when I was a kid, called a "St. Louis Stop", which was slowing down to about 20, shifting into second and going.

And you'd better stop at the right place. Here's why, although it might not be much clearer after you read it.

From the WPD press release: "As part of this initiative, all Woodstock police officers will be paying special attention to such violations. Also, certain officers will be specially assigned for limited periods to write citations for such dangerous driving behaviors as failure to come to a full stop and/or to yield the right-of-way. ...

"Officers that are detailed to perform during this special enforcement initiative shall adopt a zero tolerance for stop sign related violation while the outcome of the stop will remain at the officer's discretion."

The first "dangerous" behavior of a full stop in Woodstock is that you are going to get rear-ended. The driver behind you might be texting, chatting on her cellphone, reading, painting her nails or whatever and will be surprised when you make a full stop at the point specified in the Illinois Traffic Code and the Rules of the Road.

But this isn't the "dangerous" behavior that will be ticketed. You probably will not get a ticket for making a full stop; in fact, I'll go so far as to say that you will not get such a ticket.

But here's where you might get a ticket. Coming to a full stop means not only stopping (full stop), but also stopping at the right point in the roadway. Where's the right point?

As you approach an intersection with a stop line (the wide, solid, white bar painted in the roadway), you "...shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection."

So you could make a full stop, but not make it at the right point in the roadway, and find yourself the unhappy recipient of a moving violation that will cost you at least $75.00.

"Zero tolerance" in many departments means that, if you get stopped, you get a ticket. Notice the disclaimer in the press release. It appears that every observed violator (and there will be thousands) is to be stopped, but the officer will have discretion for the "outcome." So the officer will have a choice whether to issue you a ticket or a written warning.

Will there be certain drivers who will get a ticket if stopped? For example, the driver who is going to get a ticket and toward whom the officers have been told to exercise no discretion?

As for right-of-way? Read the Rules of the Road. And remember; you never have the right-of-way. The law is for a certain driver to yield the right-of-way. There is a difference. Don't find out "by accident."

NWH FAQs re Police Blotters

I was very interested in Northwest Herald Editor Chris Krug's editorial this morning about the Police Blotters printed in the Northwest Herald (NWH).

A few months ago I inquired of the NWH about the Police Blotter for Woodstock, and I learned that the paper prints the Woodstock crime information about once a month. I haven't kept a score sheet on the other community's Blotters in the NWH, but it seems to me that once a month just doesn't cover everything happening in Woodstock.

For example, in February the Woodstock Police Department reported that there was $152,000 in Stolen Property Value, which was a huge jump. Was this covered by the NWH? I don't remember seeing anything about it. Even the City Council didn't know about it until May, unless it got the information separately from the February 2009 Police Department Report to the City.

Chris Krug wrote, "We publish the information provided to us by the police as we receive it and do not make deletions from it."

The Woodstock Independent (TWI) publishes a Police Blotter weekly so, if you want to know what is really going on crime-wise in Woodstock, that's the paper to read.

When I set up, I asked the Woodstock Police Department to provide me with the same information that it was providing to the NWH and TWI. After several weeks of delay, I received a letter from the City Attorney that my blog did not qualify as "news media" because it wasn't published at regular intervals.

Well, you need information to publish regularly. If you can't get crime reports, there is little to write about on a blog dedicated to crime reports.

Another reason for denying the "news media" classification was low readership, referring to only 2,000 hits in a year which, of course, had to be gleaned from the, not the new

Since even I did not know how many were reading, I put a counter on the blog. The total page views are now running about 9,000 - per month. If this keeps up, that'll be 84,000 in a year. Maybe it's time to submit another request.

Lastly, the City noted that the Local Records Act doesn't refer to blogs as "news media." Section 3 (c) of that Act reads, "For the purposes of this Section the term "news media" means personnel of a newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals whether in print or electronic format, a news service whether in print or electronic format, a radio station, a television station, a television network, a community antenna television service, or a person or corporation engaged in making news reels or other motion picture news for public showing."

True; "blog" or "weblog" is not specifically mentioned. I wonder what "electronic media" is, if it is not a blog.

Is the Act a little out-dated? "News reels"? "Motion picture news"? OK, let's see if Senator Althoff and Rep. Tryon can get their buddies to throw "blog" into the Act.

Of course, I could file a FOIA Request every week or every month with the Woodstock Police Department and just go in to review the crime reports.

As Chris Krug wrote, "The information we receive from police is available to anyone, as it is public information. We publish it as a service to the community, as it is their right to know what is going on in the community and how the police are responding."

Thank you, Chris!

D-165 to get newer buses

This morning's article in the Northwest Herald may some welcome news to parents of D-165 (Marengo-Union) students and raises more than a few questions.

Superintendent Lea Damisch informed the reporter that the District would replace seven of its 14 buses "by the next school year." Many readers will read the article and believe that the seven buses will arrive by August and be on the road when school opens this fall. A few readers might question when the "next" school year starts. Will it start in September (or August?) 2009 or in 2010?

When I was in college, I was riding the "L" with a German friend. As we approached a station, he asked where we would get off the train. I said, "At the next stop" and I stood up. He remained seated and said that the stop coming up was "this" stop and that the stop after this one would be the "next" one. So, did Supt. Damisch mean "this" school year (starting in the fall of 2009) or the "next" year; i.e., 2010-11?

She is quoting as having said, "Basically, what happened was the state of Illinois came out and made a surprise visit ... determining the buses - from the standpoint of rust on the bodies and rust on the roof - were not to be used on the road."

Was "rust" really the reason that the State of Illinois ordered seven buses off the road? Or were there other reasons - safety or mechanic reasons? Frankly (and I could be wrong), I seriously doubt that the State of Illinois is going to tell a school district to take seven buses off the road because of rust. Now, the State might order the buses off the road because of brakes, suspension, steering, and other serious mechanical defects, but I doubt the State will order a District to take 50% of its buses off the road because of rust.

The article said that D-165 will buy seven buses "within the first year" (last time I checked, a "year" was 12 months) and that the buses will be "used" 2009 buses. Notice that the article did not say that the District would buy the buses within the next two months.

Where do you find a used 2009 bus?

Parents in Marengo should ban together and one of them should submit a FOIA request to the correct State of Illinois Department or Division for the correspondence about bus safety and maintenance issues within the past two years by and between the Department and District 165 and get the whole story. Parents could also make FOIA Requests for the bus maintenance records from District 165. There is no need to guess at how serious the problems are; find out!

And the final statement attributed to Supt. Damisch in the article? "We're going to continue working on replacing the buses as appropriate."

She could have saved her breath on that one. It says absolutely nothing.

"We're going to continue working on replacing..."? What does that mean? The parents don't want school district administrators to "continue working on replacing". Parents want results, not activity. They want safe buses, and they want them now! They want the District to REPLACE its buses, not "continue working on replacing" them.

And the kicker? "as appropriate". That's why they weren't repaired or replaced before the "surprise" visit. Who decides what "appropriate" is? The Superintendent does, and she answers to the School Board. And the School Board answers to the public. More of the "public" in Marengo needs to get involved.

Was this bus replacement plan discussed and announced at last Tuesday's school board meeting or did the information surface afterwards?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

W. South St. Speed Limits

Earlier this year residents of the Serenity Creek subdivision approached the City of Woodstock to request that the speed limit be lowered on South Street, because they were having difficulty exiting Serenity Creek. The posted speed limit is currently 45MPH.

Changing a speed limit on a City street is no easy task. First you have to wave a flag and get the City's attention. That done, then the City begins its "process" for determining whether a speed limit ought to be changed.

According to a report going to the City Council on June 2, the Illinois Vehicle Code requires that a "speed and traffic study" be conducted. The Police Department conducted "speed studies" (more on this later) on six dates in March and April, and Public Works received a copy of all reported accidents along South Street for the past three years, although the report doesn't mention the number of accidents.

Based on that study, Public Works recommends no change in the 45MPH speed limit.

However, it was discovered that, when jurisdiction over West South Street from Tara Drive to the west City Limit was transferred a few years ago from the McHenry County Highway Department to the City, the City Code was never changed to include the segment of South Street west of Tara Drive. On June 2 the City Council will remedy that by voting on an ordinance to establish a 45MPH speed limit on West South Street from the westerly intersection of South Street and Duvall Drive west to Serenity Drive.

So, what does all this mean?

You won't see any new 45MPH speed limit signs; they are already there. And the residents in Serenity Creek will still take their lives in their hands, when they try to get out of their subdivision onto South Street.

As I understand a "speed study", it is not to determine what a speed limit ought to be. A speed study measures the speeds of traffic. So, if everyone is flying along, even at unsafe speeds and possibly in excess of posted limits, that becomes the "norm" and the speed limit gets set at the 85th percentile of speeds measured during the "study".

And this raises another question. Did you get a ticket for speeding on West South Street out near the City Limit? If you did get a ticket after the date when Woodstock received jurisdiction (date not mentioned in the Public Works report but available from City Hall), then was that ticket valid? Probably not.

The whole issue of enforcement probably becomes quite murky. If the City had never established a speed limit for a section of roadway in the City, what would the speed limit really be there? It could be worse for the speeder, because perhaps the statutory speed limit (30MPH) could apply, making the violation worse. Or, if it looked like "open road" there, then the statute for 55MPH could apply. But it's within City Limits, so it might not.

Are there other roads in Woodstock with this same situation? Possibly the eastern stretch of McConnell Road near Lily Pond Road, where there is no posting of speed limits in either direction?

Worried father of runaway arrested

Yesterday afternoon a 16-year-old Woodstock girl ran away with her 17-year-old male friend, after getting "found out" - being in the unoccupied family home without permission to have her "friend" inside the house in the absence of her parents.

Woodstock Police were notified of the runaway about 10:00PM. The kids were found by the sheriff's department at a farmhouse in the County after midnight (hello? curfew, anyone?) and the girl was transported to the Woodstock Police Department.

At the police station the father confronted the girl and allegedly poked her forehead with his finger, telling her that she was in trouble. And the result of that?

The father was arrested for domestic battery!

Then the police took the girl out of the mother's presence to question her and reportedly tried for 5-10 minutes to get her to say that her father had choked her! I mean, the girl was surrounded by people who saw nothing that approached such a claim. The girl reportedly refused to cooperate in making such a false statement. The mother was having a hard time getting access to her daughter, until the mother got advice by telephone to tell the police that they needed to get DCFS there immediately and before further questioning. And then, miraculously and within one minute, the girl was back with her mother.

All this happened about 3:00-3:30AM and the police reportedly told the man's wife that he was going to be in jail all week-end, because they were not going to take him to the McHenry County Jail in time for Bond Court, which is usually held about 7:00-8:00AM.

Now, obviously I know only one side of it, but enough to run up the flag. Watch for more information, including court dates, exact charge(s), names of officers involved.

Veteran battles HOA over stickers on car

A Dallas veteran is battling his jerkwater Homeowners Association (HOA) over seven stickers on his black Chevrolet HHR that they want to classify as "advertising." Frank Larison is a disabled Marine who has lived in his condo for eight years.

He has seven Marine Corps stickers on his vehicle, and the Woodlands II on the Creek HOA is flexing its muscles and threatening to tow his car and fine him $50.00/incident, if he doesn't cover or remove the stickers.

What do these "horrible" advertising stickers say? Semper Fidelis; OORAH! It's a Marine thing; First Marine Aircraft Wing Association Vietnam Service; Freedom is not Free ribbon; Love it or Leave it eagle emblem.

Watch this clip from Fox-TV4 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area:

I'm trying to get a mailing address for Frank Larison, who will probably appreciate some donations and contributions for his legal fight against the HOA.

Garage Sale Violations

One of my biggest pet peeves is garage sale signs.

The City of Woodstock liberalized the garage sale ordinance and now allows off-premises signs, effective January 1, 2009, and subject to very specific terms. This ordinance is explained on the City's website; click on the tab in the upper-left corner.

What happens when a resident obtains his garage sale permit and then thumbs his nose at the City, knowing that his sale will be held on a week-end when municipal employees are not working?

This sign, located about three-four blocks from the sale (legally, in terms of distance if it is one of only two off-premises signs advertising this sale), does not meet the garage sale ordinance in several ways.

1. Sign is 2' x 3' (6 sq. ft.); signs are not to be larger than 2.5 sq. ft.
2. Sign is mounted on street-sign post (specifically prohibited in ordinance)
3. Height is more than 3' above grade
4. Sign is not self-supporting

Is there any enforcement on week-ends, when municipal employees are not scheduled on duty? Are police officers authorized to remove non-compliant signs?

Without the City's close observation and enforcement, it is very easy for a town to get junked up with signs very, very quickly.

Should Woodstock establish the Sign Police and organize and train volunteers or set up a part-time, contract position to enforce the Code? Maybe, pay a bounty for each violation identified?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Marengo Elem. School Problems

Check out the Letter to the Editor in today's Northwest Herald with 143 responses already (at 8:55PM). The letter headline is "Reprehensible behavior". To find it after today and after it drops off the Most Read letters list, just search on the NWH website ( for "reprehensible" or the author's last name.

Author Kristin Ottolino wrote about a school board member who was the subject of a Marengo Police Department report after he dropped the f-bomb in the hallway at Locust Elementary School.

I was reminded by this article that a sergeant at the Marengo P.D. has not called me back. I had picked up a copy of the police report about the f-word and noted that the reporting officer had written that Jeff Hoffmann would call him back. There was no supplementary report delivered to me with the original, and I wanted a copy of that, too.

The police must really be busy in Marengo. Too busy to return a phone call? Too busy to follow up on a police report, when the perp doesn't call back after he told an officer that he would?

And too busy to meet with a parent? A parent had an appointment this week at the Marengo Police Department about her child's being approached on school grounds and being asked who his mother was. The person asking was not a school employee.

Does Locust Elementary School allow people to just walk around unescorted on school grounds during school hours? As I've heard the story, the parent called the police and set up an appointment to go into the police department and talk to them. An hour before that meeting, that parent was called and told that an "emergency" had come up and the police would not be able to meet with her for about ten days.

About all I can say about that is, (fill in the blank)! The parent had better get hold of the Mayor and the City Council and ask what kind of police department they have in Marengo.

What kind of emergency comes up that a police officer cannot meet with a person wanting to discuss filing a complaint for ten days??? Short of the whole town burning down or a toxic spill or a major health scare, I can't think of one.

Oh, by the way, I am further reminded that Principal Suellen Lopez did not return my call of May 20. My, my; manners are slipping in Marengo.

Stay tuned for more on this incident.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Aggressive Driver - 5208 LP

I've been trying to remember to take my "nice" pills and accept that some drivers are just rude, reckless, stupid, inconsiderate, dangerous and a few other adjectives, but you get the picture; right? (To get a better look at the picture, click on it; then click on the Back button on your browser to come right back here.)

This morning I was driving into Crystal Lake from Woodstock, meandering along right on the 50MPH speed limit on U.S. 14. Sure, I think the speed limit is a little low. It could be 55MPH. Or I could just speed up and go 55. Or 60 or 65 or 70, like some drivers. Or I could pull over onto the shoulder and let a tailgater go by.

But I pay my road taxes just like he does, and I don't set the speed limit. And I've read the Illinois Vehicle Code where it says that a driver will not travel at a speed in excess of that which is posted. And it is well posted as 50MPH from near Turning Point to the 40MPH zone east of MCC.

So this guy in a red pick-up with a large distinctive Mopar decal on the tailgate (Illinois license 5208 LP) tailgated me in the no-passing zone until we got east of North Ridgefield Road. Then he floored it to go around. And not just "around". Actually, he almost didn't go "around". He cut it quite close to the side of my car, as if to let me that he owned half the road and he intended to take his half out of the middle! And that he was mad that I was delaying him in getting to his all-important j-o-b.

He was barely past me when he cut back in and blasted on down the road. And then? Guess what! He caught a red light at South Ridgefield Road. And then he caught another red light at IL 176, and another one at either Woodstock Street or Crystal Lake Avenue.

What did his impatience and reckless driving get him? He made it to three red lights before I did. Bravo! And he probably felt really great about all the time he saved!
One of these days the cops are going to give a little time to U.S. 14 and figure out how to nail the tailgaters and speeders. I have an idea for them. Get out there in something that doesn't look like a patrol car. Plod along at the speed limit in an old beater, and just radio ahead to have the violators stopped. Or get an old van or a pick-up and park on the shoulder.
Funny how the speeders and reckless drivers can spot a police car blocks and blocks away, but they would miss an old dirty van parked on the shoulder of U.S. 14. They'd do their dirty deeds right in front of the cop, and all he'd have to do to use up a little radio time.
And while I'm on the subject of U.S. 14, how about some enforcement against the idiots who drive on the shoulder around cars stopped behind a car waiting to turn left - like at Lily Pond Road or at North Ridgefield Road? Or grabbing some of the illegal left turns eastbound at South Ridgefield Road at the light?
How about some real tickets, instead of wasting all the manpower on seatbelt tickets?

He speaks the truth

Just how big a mouth does Roland Burris have? How many feet can he get into it?

In this morning's Northwest Herald he is quoted as having said, "I'm as straightforward and honest as I can be."

Now, a statement like that should put everyone at ease. Why did he qualify it with "as I can be"? There is no such thing as being "almost honest". You are either honest or you are not.

Is it sort of like the man who says, "Now I'm going to tell you the truth"? So, what has that man been telling us all the time before he said that?

Roland might be a nice guy. Maybe he really did nothing wrong by chatting up the ex-governor's brother. And trying to avoid offending him.

Crafty? You have to remember - He's from Chicago. He's a lawyer. He's an experienced politician. He's a former elected official in Illinois.

Why doesn't he just keep his mouth shut and go about his business of wearing the Senator label?

Will he run for election? Of course he will! Why would he willingly give up a plum job like that?

Was he the best man available to represent Illinois in the Senate? In his own words, "If [Blagojevich] had not been arrested, I would not have even been appointed."

Where in the world are the statesmen in the U.S.A.? Where did they go?

Swine Flu Update

The CDC now reports statistics only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at I don't even remember the last time I saw a meaningful article in a paper. But it's still with us.

Texas has surged ahead with the number of actual and probable cases, leading the nation with 1,358, or 17% of the total in the U.S. of 7,927.

Wisconsin has 1,130 (14%), and Illinois has "only" 927 (12%).

The next three states have less than 600 cases each. The top six states have 64% of the number of cases reported in the entire United States.

No cases have been reported in three of the States.

Do you know anyone who has contracted the H1N1?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Trouble your middle name?

Well, it's about to be!

Leave it to the U.S. Government to come up with a really dumb idea.

Get a load of this opening line from the Chicago Tribune: "If your passport or driver's license includes a full middle name that you don't normally use, you will have to include that name on your ticket the next time you fly within the United States and by December if you fly overseas."

You can view the full article at,0,7734396.story

So, dig out your driver's license and your credit card that you use to purchase tickets, along with your passport, and figure out which hair you will be pulling out of your head as you navigate the new rules. Will the airline even understand the new rules?

And how about those TSA folks so proudly guarding our nation's transportation systems?

I sure hope I don't miss my flight because my middle name is on my passport, but not on my credit card or driver's license!

This is probably a good time to remind you of the new border crossing requirements. No longer will you just be able to flash your driver's license and a big smile at the border cop. You are going to need a Passport or a U.S. Passport Card or another OFFICIAL entry card. And you are going to need it by Monday - this Monday, June 1, 2009. Don't have one? Plan to stay in the USA until you get one.

For the new requirements, go to

Double-standard in McHenry County?

Last week’s trial and conviction of the Algonquin Police sergeant got me thinking about a battery that occurred in Woodstock two years ago, when one deputy got battered by another after a big drinking party. And how the injured deputy was persuaded not to call the Woodstock Police. And how nothing got into the newspapers about it.

After I heard about it soon after it occurred, I talked to Woodstock Police Chief Bob Lowen, and he told me that he didn’t know anything about it. As I recall, he sent a detective to the sheriff’s department to find out about it, and he later told me that the detective had not been able to learn anything. As in, it must not really have happened…

Over the past two years I have received information from several people who knew about it.

Judge for yourself about deputies being intoxicated and committing battery and causing “bodily harm.” And then decide whether you think Judge Graham’s decision last week was fair. Of course, you probably didn’t sit through two days of the trial. Actually, I know you didn’t, because I did. In spite of NO testimony by the alleged victim of any battery, the cop was convicted on one count of domestic battery.

Here is what happened.

On January 27, 2007, there was a big cop bash at the Red Mill Inn on Lake Avenue in Woodstock. It was described to me as a night of “serious drinking.”

A sergeant held a birthday party at the Red Mill. He was advised not to have the party, because the department had attracted adverse attention from the Anderson DUI squad car crash in Crystal Lake. But a birthday is a birthday, and the party was on.

At least one other sergeant and a lieutenant were at the party. When the party ended, all left. This last sergeant reportedly could not walk unassisted from the bar. This last sergeant's girlfriend could barely walk, but she drove.

I’ve joked for years about, “Ossifer, I had to drive. I wush in no condition to walk.”

Two female deputies followed behind the above car on Route 47. The vehicle driven by this last sergeant's girlfriend hit a curb on Route 47, went into an embankment and back onto the road and over the center line.

The two female deputies were behind that car and the driver flashed her headlights and honked the horn. The sergeant's girlfriend pulled over. One of the female deputies talked to the sergeant, who told her that he would drive. One of the female deputies started to get into the driver's seat to prevent that sergeant from driving. (Remember - he was the one who couldn’t walk to the car unassisted.) He yelled at her, grabbed her arm and threw her to the ground, bruising her. All was witnessed.

The female deputy and the sergeant argued more, and the sergeant let the female deputy drive.

The first sergeant (the birthday celebrant) and the lieutenant wouldn't do anything about it, so it was reported to another sergeant. There was an investigation, and the sergeant who knocked down the female deputy may have gotten a 30-day suspension but it didn't go to the Merit Commission. The female deputies were made to look the bad guys for ratting out the male deputies.

The female deputy who was knocked down and bruised was "persuaded" not to make a report with Woodstock P.D.

You see, this is how cop misbehavior gets covered up. The public never hears about it, because cops don’t file charges against other cops (usually). It gets handled internally, and nothing goes to the papers. After all, they have to work together, and it’s not good for your advancement if you break the Code of Silence.

This is the kind of law enforcement we have in McHenry County! The public must demand a cleaner operation in McHenry County. What kind of double standard exists when a deputy witnesses a drunk driver-friend or is the victim of battery by a deputy and takes no action?

Can any of those deputies be an effective or believable witness ever again in court?

Monday, May 25, 2009

General orders - who cares?

In many law enforcement agencies there are those pesky things called General Orders. These are sort of like the Rules of the Road. They are designed to keep a department running safely, for the benefit of the deputies or officers, for the public and for those who end up in the back seat of a patrol vehicle.

One of the General Orders at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department pertains to the time when a deputy is transporting a prisoner to the jail. The deputy is to proceed directly to the jail; do not pass Go - do not collect $200.

Let's say, for example, that Driver A is stopped by Deputy B, and it turns out that Driver A doesn't have a valid driver's license in his pocket. There are a couple of ways this stop might happen.

One is when Deputy B observes a traffic violation near 47 and Lake Ave. in Woodstock and makes a traffic stop.

Another way is when Deputy B uses the power of the computer and the internet to run a computer check on the license plate number of a vehicle in front of him that might just happen to be driven by a Hispanic-appearing individual. Deputy B reads on his computer monitor, no doubt while the patrol car is in motion (is this driving while distracted?), that the owner of the vehicle in front of him does not have a valid driver's license. So he stops the vehicle and, sure enough, the driver does not have a valid driver's license in his pocket. (One big problem with this is, how did the deputy know that the owner was driving the vehicle?)

Arrest time! The driver is arrested and placed in the back seat of the patrol car. General Orders say the arrestee is to be transported directly to the jail - in a safe and prudent manner, of course. No emergency lights. No siren. Obey the speed limits and obey all the traffic control devices. Do make any unsafe U-turns, especially when a car is passing the stopped patrol car!

Now, let's go a step further and say that Deputy B happens to be a K-9 officer and his four-legged "partner" is already sitting in the back seat. Just how safe is this for a prisoner, when he has to sit, handcuffed, next to an animal fully capable of good chomp right on the jugular?

Let's go another step and say that Deputy B is listening to communications over the police radio and he hears of a fight at the Fairgrounds, where six deputies and a supervisor are working off-duty. There is no call for assistance and, even if there were, there are plenty of deputies available to respond and assist. But Deputy B decides to stop at the Fairgrounds on the way to the jail, anyway.

Is there any risk to the prisoner handcuffed in the back seat of the patrol car? Does Deputy B leave the dog unattended in the back seat to "guard" the prisoner? Does Deputy B leave the prisoner unattended and take the dog to the fight? What if the fight turns into a shooting, and the prisoner gets hit? The potential (or real) liability for the County has just gone through the roof.

What if the prisoner has a health problem? For example, epilepsy. If he has a seizure, will the dog recognize it as a health problem and bark for help? Or will the dog go off "Safe" mode and attack the writhing prisoner?

Should K-9 units even be used for prisoner transport? Ever?

So, what happens next? Does Deputy B get a pat on the back for showing up, uninvited and undispatched, at the Fairgrounds to assist off-duty deputies? (By the way, did the Sheriff's Department line up that off-duty work at $40.00/hour per man?)

Or does he get a little private time with a supervisor and a "You know you really shouldn't have done that"?

Or does the Sheriff's Department take a harsh view of such an important violation of General Orders and take a meaningful step to protect the public?

Who sticks up for the arrestee, who had probably better keep his mouth shut?

Should the Department apologize to the arrestee and tell the State's Attorney to drop the charges?

When I was a deputy in Colorado, the standing rule was, if we stopped a driver within city or town limits, even though we had arrest powers we were to notify the local department, which would file the charges, and we would act as a witness. Maybe that's what we need around here.

The primary hunting ground for deputies is the County; i.e., unincorporated McHenry County. While deputies shouldn't be blind to obvious traffic violations occurring right in front of them, they have plenty to do in the unincorporated areas of the County, without making stops for "No Valids" in Woodstock.

Any thoughts? Anyone?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

School Board member unleashes f-word

On May 20 I wrote about the f-word hitting the halls at Marengo's Locust Elementary School, and on Friday I picked up the police report from the Marengo Police Department. It was released promptly upon submitting a FOIA Request.

The officer's report covered a "dispute", as it was termed, between parents in the hallway at about 4:45-4:47PM on Thursday, May 14. The police were called at 4:50PM and arrived at 4:53PM. The officer's report stated that the principal of the school, Suellen Lopez, informed him that a "verbal altercation" had occurred in a hallway between two parents.

Now, in these days of zero tolerance in schools for "altercations", what follows is more than a little interesting. Ms. Lopez told the officer that Steven Cohen had been walking in a hallway and, when he passed by Jeffrey Hoffmann, Hoffmann called him a "jerk". Steven stopped, turned and said, "Excuse me." As in, "Excuse me?" She said Hoffmann got in Cohen's face and bumped his chest with his own chest.

Lopez and Hoffman informed the officer that Hoffmann said the f-word (the actual four-letter word is stated in the police report) in a loud tone.

Here's the "more than interesting" part. Principal Lopez has banned a parent from school grounds and threatened her with arrest for trespassing, when all that parent was doing on school grounds was advocating for her children. Yet, when another parent, who just happens to be a member of the School Board, uses the f-word in a loud tone during an after-school program inside the school, the principal doesn't have him arrested. Is there a double standard in Marengo?

The officer spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Cohen at the school and talked to two witnesses; three, actually, when you include the principal.

But the officer telephoned Jeffrey Hoffmann. When he told Hoffmann that he could be cited for disorderly conduct, then Hoffmann told the officer that Cohen "hit him with his elbow", and Hoffmann said he wanted to sign a complaint against Cohen.

Hoffmann told the officer that he was driving on the expressway, and the officer told Hoffmann to call him when he got home. The officer then called Cohen to tell him that he had spoken with Hoffmann.

There must have been one heckuva traffic jam on that "expressway", because there is no follow-up report at Marengo Police Department. Did Hoffmann ever call the officer back? That was on May 14th. I picked up the report on May 22, and the Marengo PD telecommunicator told me there was no further report.

Battery on school grounds by adults is a very serious offense, but this will turn into a "he said/she said" situation, and charges for the chest-bumping and elbow "hit" at will probably not be filed.

But the use of profane language in a loud tone inside a school building? Principal Lopez herself ought to be filing the complaint about that one with the P.D. and taking it straight to the School Board. Will she?

Parent Empowerment Call-Ins

The Illinois Dept. of Human Services will sponsor two parent call-in tele-meetings on June 4. These call-ins are for all Illinois parents of a child (or children) with an emotional or behavioral concern.

Go to for complete information about these call-ins.

If you know a parent of a child with these concerns, please let him and/or her know of these free call-ins.


Memorial Day Ceremonies, Parade

The Memorial Day ceremonies in Woodstock will be held in the Park on the Square, beginning at 10:00AM. Plan to turn out and honor those who gave their lives for our great country.

The Memorial Day parade will follow the ceremonies and will begin about 11:00AM.

The VFW Post 5040 will host a lunch beginning at noon at 240 N. Throop St.
$8.00 adults (13 and older)
$7.00 veterans
$6.00 children 12 years of age and younger

BOFPC - June 1

The next meeting of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners will be on June 1, 2009, at 5:00PM. This meeting appears on the Community Calendar on the City's website homepage, but no agenda has yet been published, and the location is not yet known.

Hopefully, this meeting and all future meetings will be held at City Hall, as are meetings of all other Boards and Commissioners of the City of Woodstock.

At this or a near-future meeting of this Board the Office of the City Attorney will conduct a training for Commission members on the rules of the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA). The Board violated the OMA at its May 13th Special Meeting, at which the hearing into the Sgt. Gorski matter was to resume.

A motion was made to amend the Chief's complaint against Sgt. Gorski, and Sgt. Gorski's attorney asked for additional time to respond to the motion. The Board and its attorney went into Executive Session, but the court reporter, who was there to record the hearing, remained in the Council chambers.

The Board did not make an audio or video recording of its Executive Session, which is required under the OMA. There are no exceptions to that requirement.

As soon as the question was raised about the possible lack of recording, the City immediately investigated and learned that no recording had been made. The City took very stern action against the Board and let them know that the City considered this OMA violation as a very serious matter.

The City stepped up without hesitation and with complete transparency, which is exactly how it should have. The Mayor and City Manager insist on complete compliance with the OMA. The violation may have been an unintentional oversight of the Board not to record that Executive Session. Probably the only topic of discussion was whether to approve the request by Sgt. Gorski's attorney for time to response to the motion to amend.

But without that recording and the later access to the recording allowed by the OMA, the public would never know.

The immediate corrective action by the City is to be appreciated. And it is.

Rent the old fire station?

I always thought it would be cool to live in an old fire station. There was a good one in downtown Denver. You know, the old red brick. Two-story. Complete with old doors. Fire pole. The works.

Woodstock's original fire station, located just south of City Hall, is for rent. Not the "whole" fire station; just the upstairs. Offices now; until recently used by the Dial-a-Ride folks. (Where did they go?)

So if you want to rent it, hop on it now. But be sure to ask what is meant by "must maintain the public restrooms." If you rent the upstairs for office space, will the rest rooms still be "public"? (You know what that means...)

Oh, yes. And ask if the fire pole can still be used. Is it even still there?

Ever slide down a fire pole? I did, in a coach house in east Denver. The eccentric owner had a fire pole installed. At a party one night, some of us gave it a shot. Fortunately, someone told me you don't grip the pole with your hands as you slide down!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grammar - is it important?

A headline in this morning's Northwest Herald got my attention. It read, "It went by too quick."

The reporter was quoting the mother of a McHenry East High School student, who was apparently speaking of how quickly her daughter's school years had passed. OK, so the mother could have said, "It (the school year) went by too quickly" or "They (the school years) went by too quickly." The point is that an adverb "quickly" is called for, not the adjective "quick".

How many people make this mistake? Many? MANY!

But why would an editor repeat an incorrect sentence in a headline, giving it more credence?

I heard a lawyer say in court yesterday, "Him and his wife (did something)..." "Him" and his wife? No! His wife and he ...

Again, another common error.

Where do people learn this? Right in our schools. Years ago I was visiting a third grade class at Dean Street School and heard the teacher said something like, "Him and I went to the library." A teacher used language like that? And then, three weeks later in an IEP with 11 school district employees, that same teacher said something like, "He gave the books to him and I."

Is it any wonder our kids grow up using incorrect language?

Another favorite is "None were (doing something) ." The correct form is "None was...", understanding the "none" is singular and can be thought of as "Not one..." You wouldn't say, "Not one were doing that." (Although some will incorrectly say, "Not one of them were doing that."

Should you use words you can't spell? In a local educational summary this past week, I saw again the word "upserp". When I saw this word used in the same document last year, I held my tongue. This year? It's time for someone (more than one person) to learn that the word is "usurp." Maybe the person spelled it that way because she pronounced it that way. Or did she merely pronounce it the way it was spelled?

Language makes a difference. If I were an employer and an applicant showed a pattern of poor English skills, I'd keep looking!

The wrong expression?

This morning I received an email that ended with, "Have a wonderful week-end."

Is this the proper expression for Memorial Day week-end? What is this week-end all about? A work holiday on Monday? Hot dogs and burgers on the grill? Picnics? Setting up the pool?

Just what is Memorial Day? Just another holiday lost to the ages because no one is telling us, or reminding us, what this holiday, this Memorial Day, is for?

I shall always remember something happened in my life 40+ years ago and the man who taught me a valuable lesson.

I was an insurance salesman and had taken a client on the Friday before Memorial Day to a doctor for a physical examination for his new policy. After the examination, as my client and I were walking out of the doctor's office, I said to the doctor, "Have a nice week-end."

He looked at me, somewhat startled, and said only, "Good bye." But his expression caused me to think about what I had just said to him, and suddenly I "got" it.

This holiday, now always a three-day week-end rather than just being celebrated on the day of May 30th, is a time to pause and reflect on what it really means. Just this past week I received an email with photographs of many U.S. cemeteries in Europe and this list:

"In alphabetical order. Just Europe .

"1. The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne , France . A total of 2289 of our military dead.
2. The American Cemetery at Ardennes , Belgium . A total of 5329 of our dead.
3. The American Cemetery at Brittany, France . A total of 4410 of our military dead.
4. Brookwood , England American Cemetery. A total of 468 of our dead.
5. Cambridge , England . 3812 of our military dead.
6. Epinal , France American Cemetery. A total of 5525 of our Military dead.
7. Flanders Field , Belgium . A total of 368 of our military.
8. Florence , Italy . A total of 4402 of our military dead.
9. Henri-Chapelle , Belgium . A total of 7992 of our military dead.
10. Lorraine , France . A total of 10,489 of our military dead.
11. Luxembourg , Luxembourg . A total of 5076 of our military dead.
12. Meuse-Argonne. A total of 14246 of our military dead.
13. Netherlands , Netherlands . A total of 8301 of our military dead.
14. Normandy , France . A total of 9387 of our military dead.
15. Oise-Aisne , France . A total of 6012 of our military dead.
16. Rhone , France . A total of 861 of our military dead.
17. Sicily , Italy . A total of 7861 of our military dead.
18. Somme , France . A total of 1844 of our military dead.
19. St. Mihiel , France . A total of 4153 of our military dead.20. Suresnes , France . A total of 1541 of our military dead.
20. Suresnes , France . A total of 1541 of our military dead."

So, this week-end, remember (or learn) the meaning of Memorial Day and consider finding an expression other than "Have a wonderful week-end."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Curb your dog?

Take a look at this warning sign, displayed by a McHenry resident on his nice lawn. Think he might have a little problem with his neighbors? Sort of a stinky problem, maybe?
Years ago I remember the popularity of the phrase, "Curb your dog." Anyone remember that one?
Would a sign like this last in Woodstock?
Would it incur the attention of Community Development as an illegal sign? Could it be an expression of free speech and protected by the First Amendment?

Texting by police?

Will any new law in Illinois that prohibits texting while driving also apply to police officers who drive patrol cars while operating the laptop computers mounted in the front seat area?

This photo of a Lake in the Hills vehicle with a large laptop on a mount is a good example of the distraction provided by a police department. Use, of course, is encouraged.

Do any departments require a driver to stop his vehicle before reading messages or before sending them? Yeah, sure...
A couple of years ago I watched a Woodstock Police car westbound on Calhoun St. in front of Stewart's Cleaners. The officer in the blue unmarked car was looking at the computer. He must have been, because the car wandered across the center of the road and into the oncoming lane before the driver looked up. Fortunately, he did not encounter an oncoming vehicle "by accident."

Shopping for a hospital?

Planning to do a little advance homework before your next hospital stay? Or will you just tell Ralph's Team to haul you over to Memorial Medical Center (now, Centegra Hospital - Woodstock)?

Think you might like to do a little comparison shopping?

Check out

You might need to put on your thinking cap to use that website, but give it a shot.

Police Sgt. convicted on one count

Sgt. Wade Merritt was convicted today of one count of domestic battery, and he was found not guilty on the other two charges. The domestic battery charges were 1) with physical contact and 2) with bodily harm, and the other charge was that he interfered with a deputy who was trying to interview his minor son.

Judge Graham found him not guilty on Count 1, guilty on Count 2 and not guilty on Count 3, and I didn't get the exact domestic battery charge that was Count 2. Of course, I can't help wondering how he could be convicted on either charge, since the direct testimony was that there was no physical contact or bodily harm.

The prosecuting attorney made a plea for the judge to protect all battered women everywhere by convicting Merritt.

The defense attorney stated in his closing argument that the direct, sworn testimony of all witnesses who were present before the first deputy arrived was that no battery had occurred. All three said that there was no physical contact at any time between Merritt and his wife, Jackie Gappa.

Merritt testified well today and did not allow himself to be trapped by inaccurate questions from the prosecuting attorney. When the prosecutor asked, "Isn't it true..." and then said something that was not true, Merritt without hesitation answered that it was not true.

Judge Graham got a real work-out yesterday and today with many, many objections from both sides. These two days illustrated how many decisions a judge must really make, before he ever gets to the end of the trial and has to announce his verdict.

Both Merritt and Gappa told me that they are ready to have this behind them. It's unfortunate, in my opinion, that Judge Graham ruled as he did. Had I been he, I would have found Merritt not guilty on all three charges.

Merritt and Gappa understand how the evening escalated as it did, and Gappa was clear in her testimony yesterday as to why she called 9-1-1.

There were circumstances that, again in my opinion, could have been emphasized more highly in court, but it's easy for me to observe and hold this opinion without having been involved in the strategy and tactics of the defense team.

As I drove home after court, I thought, "Maybe there is a silver lining here somewhere." If today's court decision does end Merritt's law enforcement career, then he has the opportunity to embark upon a new career. With the world of police work becoming ever more dangerous, maybe he is being presented with a left turn, instead of a right turn, and this keeps him out of harm's way.

Swine flu update - 5/21/09

The CDC has made some background change in its daily reporting of confirmed and probable cases of swine flu, and this change eliminated the easy way of spotting the largest increases in cases. When the daily data are copied from the CDC site into a spreadsheet, now the words "cases" and "deaths" show up in each cell, rendering unusable formulas that could be used to calculate percentage changes.

OK; for yesterday?

The number of new reported cases in Illinois (these are the only ones in which we are interested; right?) rose from 707 to 794 (Tuesday-to-Wednesday), an increase of 87.

But in the whole U.S. there were only 241 new cases. Illinois had 1/3 of them! But still a total of only 794 cases in Illinois.

Let's hope this is not a "sleeper" virus and that we don't wake up some morning to hear of millions of new cases and deaths!

Grace Hall - up to bat June 16

Rumor has it that the" Grace Hall" issue will return to the Woodstock City Council agenda on Tuesday, June 16. [CORRECTION: The rumor mill now is that June 16 is the earliest that the Grace Hall topic could return to the agenda of the City Council.]

This week's local weekly paper carries three good letters on this issue. Buy a copy of The Woodstock Independent (better yet, subscribe!) and read the letters from Kathleen Spaltro, Dan Lemanski and Jane Collins.

This must remain a front-burner issue.

Keep in mind that there were those who thought the corner where the Opera House would have been a great place for a parking lot. Now is the time for interest in preserving Grace Hall as a designated Landmark to increase.

The City Council tabled the recommendation of the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission and then considered granting an approval to a special use permit requested by Woodstock Christian Life Services that would result in the probably-prompt demolition of this fine building at 318 Christian Way.

And for what? More of the little, plain duplexes that can be "sold" for $200,000 each. The competitive market plan is getting hotter. If Resurrection Center gets a green light to convert from a retreat to assisted housing, will this erode WCLS' market? How many of the existing duplexes are vacant? Any? Some? Many?

Many are working hard to identify a profitable re-use of Grace Hall. The only way to get strong WCLS attention is for the City Council to refuse a demolition permit and to then work with WCLS to support a good re-use.

Woodstock's motto, found on the City's website, is "True to its past...Confident of its future".

An improvement to that motto would be, "True to our past...Confident of our future".

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Marengo P.D. - very professional

Earlier today I called the Marengo Police Department for information about the goings-on at Locust Elementary School, where profanity abounded in the school hallway during school hours last Thursday. I have the name of the man who was out-of-control, but I won't publish it until I get the police report from Marengo P.D.

But the man is still on the school grounds. I do wonder what DCFS would have to say about whether his demeanor and actions last Thursday were in any way illegal in the presence of children. Was his manner threatening? Have his actions since been threatening?

Will I get the information? You bet. When I spoke with the duty sergeant, he suggested that I file a FOIA request to get the same report that the Northwest Herald has gotten. No hesitation at all. He offered to provide it upon receipt of the FOIA Request. I just won't get it out the door before he goes home tonight.

Guess where the Northwest Herald got its tip?

Stay tuned!

Just try to file a complaint at MCSD

What happens when you try to file a complaint against a deputy at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department?

Earlier I wrote a story about a woman who encountered a rude and disrespectful deputy this afternoon. She called the sheriff's department to make a complaint.

Late this evening she called to tell me that Sgt. Campos had called her back. He basically told her that deputies make mistakes. He had talked to the rude deputy before even calling her back. So much for getting the story first from the person wanting to make the complaint!

When she told him that the deputy had an "attitude" with her, his answer was that she "might just want to keep that to yourself."

Does that sound a little intimidating to you? It does to me!

Tomorrow she will call Undersheriff Gene Lowery with two complaints. One about the rude officer and the second about the supervisor who refused to accept her complaint.

She will only be interested in learning how to file a complaint. She is not interested in more "party line" or explanations that deputies might become "protective" about their comrades in arms.

Remember the line in the Eddie Murphy movie, Beverly Hills Cops, when the guy in charge asked Murphy if he wanted to make a complaint about his cop who had just been unprofessional? Hey, if only life were really that way around here!

Police sergeant trial started today

The trial of Algonquin Police Department Sgt. Wade Merritt started this morning in Judge Gordon Graham's court. Almost all of the court time today was devoted to testimony of the testimony of Jackie Gappa, Wade's wife.

It was clear to me from the outset that this is a case that never should have reached court. There was no testimony from her that a crime had occurred. The prosecuting attorney was having a really hard time trying to get her to say otherwise.

She was very clear in her statements that no physical contact had occurred, so how does the State's Attorney continue to go forward with charges like Domestic Battery - Physical Contact and Domestic Battery - Bodily Harm? Her testimony today explained her initial 9-1-1 call and her first statements to sheriff's deputies who responded.

While the deputies were still at the house, she told them that Wade had not hit her and that she did not want him arrested. WHILE THEY WERE STILL AT THE HOUSE. Yet, she further testified, Sheriff's Lt. Carlson said to her, "That's what all battered women say."

Subsequently, she went to the State's Attorney's office twice and phoned 4-5 times, attempting to retract her initial statement to the first deputies to arrive at their home on March 4.

Jackie Gappa does not appear to be a wimpy, cowardly woman. She was clear in her statements today. At times it seemed like the prosecuting attorney from the State's Attorney's office was questioning a defendant, not his own witness. He seemed to be trying very hard to get her to say what HE wanted her to say, not to say clearly what was to be HER testimony.

The care for and affection between Merritt and Gappa was clear. The emotionally-charged events of that evening seem to have been just that - emotions.

It's good that this is in court right now. Tomorrow will be Day 2 and hopefully the conclusion of the trail. Will Judge Graham rule tomorrow?

The Algonquin Police Department is trying to fire Sgt. Merritt, and the Algonquin Police Commission will conduct a termination hearing on June 17, 6:00PM at the Algonquin Village Hall, 2200 Harnish Drive. If its Police Commission had a member in the court today, he would know that this case should have a Not Guilty outcome and that the Police Commission should not support any termination of Sgt. Merritt.

Another time-waster in court

You may recall that months ago I wrote about a young man, Pete Burwell, who was arrested while distributing advertising flyers in McHenry with his employer and another employee. This was in December, when the Northwest Flyer Guys were distributing flyers that prominently displayed the company name and phone number. No anonymous hand-outs by them!

Company practice is to hang the flyer in a cellophane bag on the outside door handle of a home. They do not open storm doors or screen doors to hang the flyer on the inside door handle.

A resident of the neighborhood apparently was irritated by their distribution method and called the McHenry Police Department to report a possible burglary suspect. Police responded and stopped the car with the Flyer Guys as they left the neighborhood after finishing their deliveries. At least one cop had his gun out, and Pete was arrested for disorderly conduct.

You know? I had never thought about how threatening it must seem to open your front door and find a cellophane bag with an advertising flyer in it. The homeowner told police that the Flyer Guy had opened his storm door and tried the handle of his front door.

What's really interesting is that the resident may have described the owner of Northwest Flyer Guys to the police, but they arrested Pete, a young, clean-cut, black man who is about 21. Is there a little racial profiling going on in McHenry? How could the homeowner describe the white businessowner (according to the businessowner), but the cops grabbed Pete?

Pete had to opt for a public defender, and today the case was dropped. It was set for trial in Judge Beaderstadt's court at 1:30PM. The state made a motion for nolle pross, and that was that.

I wonder whether anyone keeps records on the number of times a person complains to police, who arrest someone on disorder conduct charges, and then the case is so weak, or non-existent, that it drags all the way up to a court date and then gets dropped.

I'll be writing a story about a woman in Crystal Lake who has been arrested at least three times for disorderly conduct on complaints by her neighbor (now, her former neighbor). Each time the neighbor has failed to show up in court, and the cases have been dropped. If I were the judge, I'd send the sheriff out for the complainant and haul her in and give her the third-degree. And maybe see that she got charged with disorderly conduct.

If you read the disorderly conduct statute, you'll find that it is unlawful to make a complaint about someone when you know that no crime has been committed.

Search fails to find body

Today a friend of mine once again found two squad cars from the McHenry County Sheriff's Department in her front yard (driveway). It seems that the sheriff's department periodically receives 9-1-1 calls from a phone line on her rural property, even though her family and she have no landline in their house.

One time was about 1:00AM, and there have been at least two day-time responses. She has explained to the deputies that there used to be a phone line on the property, but the line was cut when the property owner had trenching done.

When two deputies showed up late this afternoon, she explained (once again) that the phone line had been to the office in the barn, not to her residence and, so far as she knew, it still was not working. The first time the deputies told her it had been a 9-1-1 hang-up; the next time there was only static on the line; this time there was a busy signal - sounds to me like a circuit condition.

All that wouldn't be a problem, except today one of the deputies was very rude, intrusive, obnoxious and - shall I add? - unprofessional. He insisted on entering her residence in an impolite manner, saying he had to be sure there weren't any bodies inside. She was nearly in tears over his manners, and she is not a weak person. She understands that there could be a need to verify that no one was in need of help; had the deputy explained that need to verify and made his request in a polite, respectful tone, there would not have been any problem whatsoever.

I had previously passed along advice from a friend in law enforcement that she should obtain business cards from every deputy who came to her property AND get the report number for their call. Today I urged her to call the shift supervisor and make a complaint.

Later I learned that the rude deputy has been the subject of numerous complaints for his abrasive manner with County residents.

If a deputy is known (from previous complaints) to be rude and abrasive, why doesn't this get handled immediately by the sheriff's department?

And the other deputy today? She said he was polite and professional.

F-word hits Marengo elementary school hall

Is it true that the f-word hit the hallways big-time at Locust Elementary School in Marengo? Like, last Thursday, May 14, during a student-led conference?

Rumor has it that words got out of hand in the hallway and that several students and parents overheard the use of profanity.

Reportedly the Marengo Police were called to the school and a report was filed. Were there charges?

Let's see what Locust School and the Marengo Police have to say today. More later.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Drew Peterson Show

The media is making a big deal out of Drew Peterson's flip side, as he tosses jokes around about his new bling (handcuffs).

Whether you think he's guilty of two murders or not, the point missed by most reporters is the dark humor of some cops who have had to deal with matters that the general public will never encounter. It's sometimes referred to as "gallows" humor. Whether the cop is a patrol officer or a homicide detective, there are situations they regularly have to deal with that are impossible to "leave at the office", when they go home at the end of a shift.

The newspapers have tried and convicted Peterson. And then today's Associated Press article throws in the 2-cents' worth of a defense attorney who is reported to have represented Rush Limbaugh (was Rush accused of murder?) and William Kennedy Smith (most will remember the accusations of rape against him; fewer may remember that he was acquitted on all charges).

Defense Attorney Roy Black is quoted. "People are going to think this is a very bizarre person, who's more likely to have committed murder than someone who is in mourning."

I wonder whether that's a current quote that the AP reporter got from Attorney Black, or if it's one he dug up out of files somewhere. Surely, the "mourning" part doesn't apply. If Peterson thinks his fourth wife ran off with another man, why would he be in mourning?

Did Peterson make a mistake by not adhering to the rights that he must have read to hundreds over his cop career? You know the one... "You have the right to remain ______." "Anything you say, can and will be ______."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Need a little motivation?

Feel like you are dragging a little? Need a little "pick-me-up"?

Check out this short clip by Jim Cathcart at

and then ask yourself this question, "How would the person I'd like to be, do the things I'm about to do?"

Thanks to Joe Sabah in Denver for sharing this with me. Like to know more about Joe? Check out

Viruses, vaccinations and treatment

Yesterday I heard an interesting talk by Dr. Mayer Eisenstein at a healing arts fair in Elgin. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, don't miss him!

He touched on many different subjects: vaccinations, flus, homebirth, autism, home-schooling, and he even mentioned that the new head of the CDC had something to do with passing out condoms to students with the logo of New York on them!

In 15,000 home births, babies delivered by his clinic had no ear infections, very low asthma rates, and I think he said there was only one case of autism. He is not a proponent of vaccination, and he explained how parents can avoid the "order" of a school district for their children to be vaccinated.

Dr. Eisenstein sponsors a series of free webinars. This Wednesday, May 20, you can join in at 8:00PM Central Time by visiting and registering; remember; it's free. Dr. Eisenstein is a graduate of the University of Illinois Medical School, the Medical College of Wisconsin School of Public Health and the John Marshall Law School.

Expect your belief system to be challenged. You may want to read his books, two of which are Don't Vaccinate Before You Educate and The Home Birth Advantage.

The following information is from his website: "Homefirst® sponsors "The Dr. Mayer Eisenstein Radio Show" live every Saturday on XM radio #170 9 a.m-10 a.m central time and live in the Chicagoland area on WYLL AM 1160 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. central time. Homefirst® also sponsors the Homefirst® Autism Recovery Clinic Homefirst®

Protecting City Hall

WAR ZONE MCHENRY - In a Letter to the Editor of the Northwest Herald today, writer Deb Wilson of McHenry questioned the placement of new concrete flower boxes in front of entrances of the City of McHenry Government Center.

She wrote that, when she inquired about the purpose of them, she was told that they had been placed "for our protection"; i.e., for the protection of the occupants of the building.

Hello? Where do they think they are? Baghdad? Washington, D.C.?

I agree with Deb Wilson! Those planters are not going to stop any terrorist. Surely, the City of McHenry didn't have that in mind, when they put them there. Or did they? I couldn't find out today. A police dispatcher wisely suggested I call tomorrow.

Someone intent on ramming and destroying the McHenry Government Center in a SmartCar or a Scion might be stopped; at least, from ramming the building. But someone in a U-Haul truck loaded with fertilizer and a few other additives?

But maybe Deb was misinformed. Some of the flower boxes in front of the Court Entrance are still empty. Maybe they are really for the bodies of people leaving Traffic Court, after they hear the amount of the court costs on top of their fines...
Let's hope that this idea doesn't catch hold and spread to other communities. Be on guard, folks.

No emergency, but what if?

Fair Diddley. Sunday, May 17. A beautiful day. Dry, not too hot. Perfect weather.

But what about parking?

At mid-morning near the Square there were many vendors' vehicles and huge trailers, hogging street parking places that would be better left available for customers who will spend their hard-earned money (and then have to tote their purchases many, many blocks to their cars).

Some of those cars are parked in the 300 and 400 blocks of South Jefferson Street, lining almost the entire length of the east side of the street, which is a no-parking zone from Fremont Street to South Street. (For a closer look at the parking problem, click on the image. Then click on the Back button on your browser to return to this story.)
South Jefferson Street is not designed for parked cars on both sides of the street. That's why parking is prohibited on the east side of the street. But is the number of signs sufficient to warn motorists not to park there? Not hardly.
And did police give a pass today to all the drivers who did park there illegally? Can you just imagine the howls, if police had ticketed every illegally parked car in Woodstock today?
Better not make the visitors mad. They might not come back. But it's okay to ticket residents who park illegally, and police do - to the tune of $3,000-6,000 every month.
And what if there had been an emergency on South Jefferson today? Could two-three fire trucks have arrived promptly and been able to pull right up to a house? Or what about a police response to a domestic violence call? (Or, worst of all, what if a Comcast truck was trying to get to a house to repair someone's cable TV service???)
The 300 block of Fremont Street was a mess, too. When cars park on both sides, two-way traffic is eliminated.
How many years has Fair Diddley been in Woodstock? Does it get bigger every year?
Doesn't anyone do any advance traffic management and parking planning? Why not install temporary no-parking signs to supplement the insufficient number of fixed no-parking signs on South Jefferson and on Fremont Street from Madison Street to Dean Street?
Why not plan ahead and direct the vendors not to hog street parking near the Square? Steer them to the Public Works parking lot past Dairy Queen and have the Fair committee shuttle drivers back and forth.
Put up some "Park Legally or else" signs. I watched one mom park by City Hall blocking the door to the old fire station (and the driveway) and leave her car, clutching the hand of her small daughter as they ran toward the Square.
What do the merchants on the Square think of Fair Diddley? Do they do a lot of extra business on this day? Or does their business drop, because their own customers can't get to their stores and Fair Diddley visitors only shop the visiting vendors and then leave the Square?
Is the Chamber of Commerce or the Woodstock Downtown Business Association doing a survey of downtown businessowners during this coming week to learn their views? After all, these are the people who are here year-round and who pay enormous rents to operate their businesses on the historic Woodstock Square.

MHB Public Hearing - Tomorrow

The annual public hearing for the McHenry County Mental Health Board will be held tomorrow - Monday, May 18, 2009, at 7:00PM in the conference center of the McHenry County College.

The public is invited - more than "invited" - requested to attend to learn about the needs for good mental health services in McHenry County, to learn what services are offered in the county, and to express any ideas, suggestions, viewpoints and/or concerns related to mental health services, including developmental disabilities, substance abuse and traumatic brain injury. American sign language and Spanish speaking interpreters will be available.

If you wish to speak at the meeting, arrive early (6:15-6:50PM) and register to speak. If you wish to submit your comment in writing, email it to

Swine Flu Reports - Sat.? Sun.?

Has the swine flu fallen off the radar screen at the CDC?

The CDC had been issuing daily reports on swine flu numbers, including reports last Saturday and Sunday (a week ago). I began keeping a spreadsheet on May 6, when the CDC reported 642 total confirmed cases.

On May 15 the CDC re-titled the column of numbers as "Confirmed and Probable Cases", and on Friday there were 4,714 reported cases. The percentage increase in number of cases slowed considerably in the past few days, and the CDC issued no reports yesterday or today.

Some states have reported fewer numbers of cases than in previous days, before the category was changed to include "Probable Cases." For example, on May 9 Ohio reported an increase of six cases (to a total of 12), and on the following day it cut its number back to six.

And Georgia increased its number of reported cases from 8 on one day, to 36 the next day, and then cut the number back to 18 on the next day. It seems to me that a case would become "confirmed" only after a positive lab test. What was going on with tests in Georgia?

Are the tests reliable? Are there really 4,714 cases in the U.S.?

Pretty quickly people were saying that the threat was overblown. Any thoughts about that?

Garage Sales (and signs) in Woodstock

Looking for a garage sale in Woodstock?

There is now a new way to find a garage sale. But, first, there is still the old way. Just drive around and look for a Garage Sale sign planted in the right-of-way. The sign to the right is one of the illegal signs in Woodstock.

Why is it "illegal"? It has no City-issued sticker ; it is planted blocks away from the sale; it is placed in the right-of-way of a State highway.

But now there is a second way to find garage sales in Woodstock. Go to the City's website at and click on "Garage Sales" in the upper left corner of the homepage.

I am going to be picky about the wording on the Garage Sales webpage. It is not the City's role to publicize or advertise garage sales. Especially not for a $5.00 permit. At the very most, the listing of addresses should be identified only as addresses for which permits were issued.

But should the City even be devoting resources (employee time and City website space) to any garage sale permits issued?
How does the person wishing to hold a garage sale learn of the rules pertaining to sales and signing? Not too easily. But if you are persistent, you can search in the City Code and find the following in Title 3, Chapter 7:
"Prior to the start of a garage sale, a permit must be applied for and obtained from the department of community and economic development. An application form for applying for such a permit can be obtained from the department of community and economic development. The fee for a garage sale permit shall be five dollars ($5.00) for each garage sale event. Upon issuance, the garage sale permit shall be visibly posted on the premises. (Ord. 08-0-70, 11-18-2008, eff. 1-1-2009)"
There is more to it, but I couldn't find Ordinance 08-O-70. A link could be added right on the above webpage to take a viewer to these rules. If you have a lot of time and great patience, perhaps you will be be lucky enough to find the ordinance itself.
It seems to me that the person wanting to hold a garage sale must go in person to City Hall and pay his $5.00. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to download a form, mail in your $5.00 and get the permit by mail, along with the stickers that must be affixed to each Garage Sale sign? Or even complete it online and pay by PayPal?
You can't put signs blocks (or miles) from your driveway.
If you are going to have a garage sale, call City Hall and ask for Community Development. You might want to ask about the fine for blowing off the permit. I don't know what the fine is for violating the Garage Sale rules, but you can bet there is one. If you get a ticket after Woodstock's Administrative Adjudication Court is up and running, that's where you can go to contest it. Before that, it's off to the County Courthouse, if you decide to contest it.
If you are willing to risk $150.00 in court costs at the courthouse to fight a garage sale violation, go for it. Let me know what happens.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

OMA and electronic communications

With the continuing improvements and availability of electronic communications, what is the risk to the public during open meetings that some communications will not be open and public?

When you attend a city council meeting, a village board meeting, a commission or board meeting of a local government, you expect communications to be open and public. And it wouldn't hurt that they be loud enough to be heard throughout the meeting room.

With the increasing use of laptop computers (it saves paper, don't you know?) there is also a possibility that members of the "public body" could use them for private conversations during the meeting, which doesn't fit well with the Open Meetings Act.

Doing that would be akin to leaning to your neighbor on the board/communication/council and covering your lips as you whisper something about the matter under consideration. Somewhere, no doubt, a member of such a public body is sending a text message with his cell phone, sending an IM or sending an email to communicate with other members of the "public body".

Anyone, attending a public meeting anywhere, who gets a whiff of such an action, should immediately challenge it - right then and there.

If any member of a public body receives such a message, even if private on his BlackBerry or cell phone and if he gives attention to it during the public meeting, he should disclose to the public that he has received a text-message on his cell phone that, for example, his house is on fire and he'll have to leave as soon as the meeting is over. Then the public will know that he wasn't getting a message from a colleague on the board/commission/council asking/telling him to vote a certain way.

Busting those scams

Every day crafty, sly scammers are trying to steal your identity and get your money into their pockets.

A website worth knowing about is

Most internet users have seen authentic-appearing emails from banks and credit card companies, warning you of scams and then asking you to verify your identify, which they then steal.

Go to and sign up for the free e-newsletter. If you don't trust this link (oh, you sly one, you), do your own search on Google for "Scambusters". After you sign up, expect an email asking you to opt-in. Then you'll get see one advertising offer for their book, and you're in.

Trust me... (heh-heh).

"Now I'm going to tell you the truth." Don't you just love it when people say that? Your question to them has to be, "So what have you been telling me so far?"

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pleasant St. Water - not too pleasant

The City of Woodstock has posted the following notice on its homepage at regarding Tuesday's hydrant flushing.


"Due to a chronic discoloration problem in the water system on Pleasant Street, the Sewer and Water Maintenance Division will be flushing the fire hydrant at the end of Pleasant on Tuesday, May 19 at 9:30 a.m. Some loss of pressure may occur in some homes in this area, however, this condition will not present any health hazard and will only be temporary. Due to this flushing, residents are urged to check their water quality prior to doing laundry. Questions regarding this flushing can be directed to Public Works at 815.338.6118 or"

Is anyone on Pleasant Street drinking the water?

A Happy Ending

Sometimes people ask me, "Where is all the good news?"

OK, here it is...

A Blind Dog & His Handicapped Owner are Reunited

Last week a business owner in Pacific, Mo. saw a Golden Retriever get hit by a car on a major road. Thankfully, the dog was not badly hurt, but the man quickly realized that the older dog was blind. The dog had no tags, no collar and appeared to be disoriented.

He called Dirks Fund-Golden Retriever Rescue and they took the dog to have him physically checked out.

Click on Dirk's Fund web site link below and watch the heart-warming video about the dog and his owner.

I received this from a former classmate in St. Louis, who sends the reminder that most Missouri folks are kind-hearted. His own Golden Retriever was purchased from this group. Watch the video.

OMA Violations in Woodstock

OMA? The Illinois Open Meetings Act. It sets up rules and procedures (not Roberts Rules of Order) for how meetings of public bodies in Illinois are to be conducted. Last night a workshop was presented by the Office of the McHenry County State's Attorney.

In this article I'll comment on something I have observed at open meetings of two of Woodstock's commissions, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) and the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).

First, the HPC. Last October the HPC held a public hearing to kick off the consideration of the request by a Woodstock resident for Landmark designation of Grace Hall.

In the City Council chambers where the meeting was being held and before the start of the meeting, all the Commissioners of the HPC gathered at the front of the room behind the official desks of the City Council members. Then an attorney from the Office of the City Attorney arrived and joined them. I was immediately suspicious and considered stepping forward to listen in on their discussion, but I didn't.

The meeting opened, and the attorney for WCLS made a motion to continue the public hearing. The Commissioners quickly agreed. On a different evening it was revealed at a City Council meeting that the City Attorney had directed his young associate to advise the Commissioners to agree to the WCLS request to continue the meeting.

Was the discussion at the front of the room illegal? Under the Open Meetings Act it was. And the impropriety of it was confirmed in an answer to my question at last night's workshop.

Two of the members could have had a conversation. As soon as a third joined in and the conversation was about public business, it became a "gathering" as defined in the Open Meetings Act and subject to the Act. Their conversation was obviously in private and not for those in the room for the public meeting. You can't do that.

And the BOFPC? Without going back and re-hashing earlier meetings, the same thing happened on Wednesday, May 13, when the three Commissioners huddled with the attorney for the BOFPC at the front of the meeting room just before the 5:00PM starting time.

They were in the public meeting place, and they obviously were not deciding where to go for dinner after the meeting. In fact, all of them had better not be going out for dinner, unless they hold steadfast to the rule NOT to discuss any public business while the three of them are dining.

But the three Commissioners and the attorney seemed, to me, to be discussing the public business of the meeting. Their conversation could not be heard. Again, I considered stepping forward to listen in. I can just imagine the scene, as I'm sure they would have ordered me out of their hearing.

That "gathering" constituted a public meeting, even though the public meeting had not been convened yet. Next time? I'll be sure to step forward and listen to their conversation.

If they want to have a "private" conversation about the public's business, then they are going to have to go into Executive Session after the public, open portion of the meeting starts. And that closed session will have to be recorded.

Speaking of recording, my question to the BOFPC is, was your Executive Session recorded on May 13? Attorneys seemed to enter and leave the Executive Session, while the rest of us waited in the Council chambers. There is no problem with that, so long as the entrances and exits were noted on the recording and in the Minutes of the Executive Session.

How quickly lives can change

I don't know any of the parties involved in the fight at Emricson Park a week ago on Thursday night or who were at the ballfield on Friday night, but yesterday I was thinking how quickly lives have changed. Irrevocably changed.

Kids think they are "bullet-proof"; i.e., nothing serious will happen to them. Or they don't think, which is probably more often the case.

Certainly the lives of the family of the young man who died following a bodily collision during a softball game have changed in ways most of us will never be able to imagine. One day he was running around; the next, a funeral is being planned. The details of that Friday, the day after the beating and before the ballgame, will emerge. Careful investigation by medical and police personnel will uncover whether Bill Vahldieck complained of injury(ies) during the day.

And the lives of Steven Vasquez-Gomez and Michael Dunn, Jr. have changed irrevocably. The details of Thursday night's fight at Emricson Park will be examined under a microscope. As I understand it, there were many witnesses. Perhaps as many as 15. When these kids are separated and grilled on the fine points, a story of what actually happened will become clearer. Maybe not clear, but clearer.

Beating up a young man who dies a day later should produce a life-long question of whether the Thursday night beating had anything to do with his death, regardless of any findings by the Coroner or other medical examiner.

This isn't a matter of a few stop sign tickets or some tickets for a loud sound system in a car. Being involved in a serious fight, regardless of how it started, is a matter for serious self-exploration. Apparently, a verbal exchange occurred and, a short time later, the parties met at Emricson Park to "settle" it. That night will now be burned into their memories - forever.

In our schools, are kids taught to consider the importance of their words and actions? At home, are they taught that? Not very well.

And yet, how important is this?

It's called Conflict Resolution. The schools know who needs to learn it. It starts with small matters and escalates. Do the schools, which have charge of our kids for more hours than most parents see their kids, take a pro-active stand in meeting these issues head-on? Or do they handle them one-at-a-time, put them aside and move on to the next?

Who tracks the problem kid? Who says, if we don't get this stopped now, this kid is going to have, and to be, a huge problem.

Even though these incidents happened off school grounds, District personnel had better be taking a close look at them.