Friday, July 31, 2009

Grace Hall doomed?

There are those who believe the fate of Grace Hall is sealed. And that right under that seal is the word DOOMED - in bold, black letters.

And then there are those who believe that the race is not over, the deed is not done, in spite of the City Council's faulty vote last week, when it voted 5-1 to issue to Special Use Permit to WCLS that allows them to demolish Grace Hall after the first building permit in the South Phase is issued.

Are any further public meetings needed, before the wrecking ball shows up at 318 Christian Way?

The answer is, No.

Here's what the City has to say about the process from this point on.

"No additional public hearings are required in order for a building permit to be issued. A permit is applied for by the builder and required plans and application materials are reviewed by the City Engineer and City building inspector staff. The plans are reviewed for compliance with Woodstock’s zoning regulations, any conditions that may be included as part of the Special Use Permit, with applicable City building codes, and with the City’s engineering standards pertaining to water, sanitary sewer, storm water management, and paving. If the plans are approved, the permit is then issued by the Building Inspector. This process is administrative in nature and does not involve citizen participation."

And after that building permit is issued for the first duplex, WCLS will trot right in and ask for a demolition permit. Councilman Mike Turner asked WCLS President Terry Egan how soon he wanted to tear down Grace Hall, and the answer was either "As soon as possible."

Those of you who have been around Woodstock for years (maybe for life) remember the plans to demolish the Opera House. I didn't live here then; I've only heard that those in favor of tearing it down thought it would be a great corner for a parking lot.

A parking lot? Can you imagine the treasure reduced to a pile of bricks and carted away? For a parking lot?

There is still time. Get on the phone and call your City Council members. If you want to drive up Seminary and see Grace Hall still there, tell them. And tell them exactly what you want them to do - to stop the demolition and actually require WCLS to do what they told them to do last October.

The exterior of Grace Hall can be preserved. The interior could become four classy condos. Go to Emerson Lofts and actually go inside. You'll have a "Wow!" experience. The same thing could be done with Grace Hall.

Woodstock Farmers' Market - a secret?

The recent survey regarding the Woodstock Farmers' Market drew 48 responses. Thanks to each of you who took time to read the question and click on your response.

The question was "How often do you shop at the Woodstock Farmers Market?"

The responses were:

Every week? 4 (8%)
2-3 times per month? 6 (13%)
Once a month? 4 (8%)
Never? 34 (71%)

If you live in or near Woodstock, drop by the Farmers' Market on the Square, Tuesdays and Saturdays. Treat yourself. Go on ... indulge. If you do, you'll most like go back.

Let's go and vote

OK, here's a chance to vote somewhere else...

This is your chance to vote on Pres. Obama's performance on this Economy-AT&T/Yahoo poll....

The question is stated very simply... and to the point. No tricks. No hidden messages. No nothing. JUST A SINGLE, SIMPLE QUESTION. There is no way that anyone can say that it was not a fair poll... or, that it was "phrased" in a way that it can be interpreted later... to fit someone else's desired answer. In other words... it is a spin-doctor's "nightmare."

NOTE: After you vote, you will see a second page that shows the running total and what the opinions are.

CDC changes weekly swine-flu report

This week's Centers for Disease Control report on the swine flu pandemic has changed and, to me, is much less useful. Now, for example, you cannot see the state-by-state breakdown of reported cases and deaths.

One line summarizes these data:
5,514 reported hospitalizations (first week reported)
353 deaths (vs. 302, one week ago)

To learn State data, you must find the link for state data and then search state-by-state, substantially increasing the amount of time to find useful data.

The result is, basically, to hide what's really going on in the United States from the casual viewer.

As of this week in Illinois, there have been 3,425 confirmed and probable cases of swine flu and 17 deaths.

Thumbs down to the CDC this week!

DUI enforcement in the County

Just last night, at the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce members' meeting, a man approached me with a story about a recent DUI on McHenry County roads.

His daughter was driving home from Woodstock one night and followed a suspected drunk up Route 47 past the courthouse and north out of Woodstock on Route 47. The drunk was all over the road. She called the Sheriff's Department and reported the drunk and then continued to follow him.

The drunk driver continued north and then west and then north again. No deputy was available to respond and intercept the drunk. The drunk then turned back east on 173 and then south again, where the drunk passed a parked police car from Hebron. The man who was telling me this story wondered whether the Hebron officer had been monitoring Sheriff's Department radio communications.

The drunk nearly caused numerous accidents. Even as the drunk passed the Hebron police car, still being followed by this man's daughter, the police car did not pull out.

I think there was a happy ending to the story. The drunk stopped within sight of the Hebron police car and began backing up in the roadway, and I think that's when the Hebron officer got involved.

At one point the dispatcher told the daughter, or the girl's father who was relaying information from his daughter, that "the deputies were very busy that night."


This is not intended to bash deputies or dispatchers, but communication is the key in a situation like this. Motorists are encouraged to report drunk drivers. We hear this all the time. But what happens when they do?

Most motorists will not be familiar with how busy dispatchers can be or how sparsely the County might be staffed with sheriff's deputies at a given hour. Or whether a deputy is already tied up on a call or at some great distance from the drunk driver.

Concerned citizens want help when they call. I know how I have felt "brushed off", when I have called to report an impaired or reckless driver. When I want a driver ticketed and am prepared to go to court and testify, and so inform the dispatcher at the beginning of the call, I want to hear more than, "Thank you for calling." Usually, they don't ask my phone number, although I'm pretty sure it appears on their consoles. But do they save it?

One night I insisted that the dispatcher take my name and phone number and call me if they could get the driver stopped. Huntley PD was monitoring radio calls and grabbed the reckless driver. Dispatch did call me, and I drove from Woodstock to Huntley, where the driver was charged. I showed up in court for his trial, and he pled guilty.

Refresher training for dispatchers and more publicity for motorists will create a stronger partnership between concerned motorists and the sheriff's department. Deputies can play a large public relations role in this effort.

SAO nails repeat DUI offender


McHenry County State’s Attorney, Louis A. Bianchi, is pleased to announce that after a three day trial today a jury returned a guilty verdict in the case of People vs. Steven St. John. The defendant was observed leaving a Crystal Lake tavern and after getting into his vehicle, repeatedly collided with a parked vehicle. He was subsequently detained by officers from the Crystal Lake Police Department and charged with driving under the influence for the seventh time.

The case was prosecuted for the State by Assistant State’s Attorney’s Ryan Blackney and Simeon Kim. The conviction was for a Class X felony violation of driving under the influence of alcohol. The defendant faces a mandatory minimum of 6 years in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections with a possibility of being sentenced up to 30 years.

The defendant was also found guilty of a class 4 felony of driving while license revoked.

This case underscores the problem and dangers caused by repeat offenders who do not get the message that drinking and driving will not be tolerated. Those who choose to break the law will be vigorously prosecuted for the protection of the public. One death or injury caused by a DUI driver is one too many and the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office will prosecute those who drink and drive in violation of the law and jeopardize the public safety to the fullest extent possible.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Says it all...

This sign along Route 120 west of McHenry just really says it all.

August 4 begins the petition-signing period. See you then.
"Fairness" is what the race will be all about. Fairness for residents of McHenry County, for deputies of McHenry County, for taxpayers, for young adults, for kids - - - for all.

See? There is good in Woodstock!

Press Release from Gallery in the Garden

Gallery In The Garden Raises $4,000 for Turning Point Domestic Violence Program

(WOODSTOCK, Ill.) – July 30, 2009 – Gallery In The Garden, an annual event that celebrates the synthesis of art in nature, announced today its $4,011.48 donation to Turning Point, a domestic violence agency with a mission to confront violence against women and children in McHenry County, Illinois.

The donation represents 20 percent of proceeds from art sales during the July 25th and 26th event at a private garden in Woodstock. The donation also includes portions of proceeds from Jenapea’s food and drink sales, raffle for donated artwork and a donation jar for Turning Point.

“The programs and services offered by Turning Point are critical assets to this community and without this organization many families have nowhere to turn in a time of crisis,” said Deb Glaubke, co-founder of Gallery In The Garden. “We are happy to see this donation go towards advancing their programs in McHenry County.”

Celebrating its fourth year, Gallery In The Garden had over 800 people attended the two-day show that featured 50 area artists and musicians. The three-quarter acre garden at 600 Lawndale Ave. is a ten-year work in progress for Glaubke and co-founders Gale Harris and Rob Glaubke. It features a water garden, an oriental meditation garden and a variety of native and imported plantings.

“Gallery In The Garden represents the best in McHenry County coming together at this beautiful venue to raise money for Turning Point,” said Jane Farmer, Executive Director of Turning Point. “We thank the organizers for again making us the charity of choice.”

About Gallery In The Garden, Gallery In The Garden is a two-day annual event that celebrates the synthesis of art in nature presented in a private garden. Located in Woodstock, Illinois, Gallery In The Garden offers the public a unique opportunity to experience local artists in a natural setting featuring a water garden, an oriental meditation garden and a variety of native and imported plantings. Founded in 2006 by Deb Glaubke, Gale Harris and Rob Glaubke, the three-quarter acre space was developed from a plain backyard to become the location of one of the most premiere and celebrated garden events in northern Illinois.

Gallery In The Garden is a (501(c)(3) Non-For-Profit organization that benefits local charities. For more information, visit

Chamber HQ - to be sold?

The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce held a membership meeting at 6:00PM at Marian Central. Where was everybody???

It was a good thing that 11 of the board members showed up. And a few non-board members. But where were dozens of business owners who could have been there - if they cared?

I guess I don't want to be unduly unfair to the 275 business members of the Chamber who didn't bother to show up. It's summer; it was Thursday evening; there had been a storm in McHenry; it was dinnertime. Ho-hum. Maybe they just didn't want to hear the bad news. Maybe they figured they couldn't make a difference.

OK, I'll keep you in suspense a little longer. The purpose of the meeting tonight was to give members the required "opportunity" to vote on whether the Chamber Board could explore selling its headquarters on the Square at 136 Cass Street. The emphasis tonight was on "exploring" the sale of the headquarters. At least until Arlene Lynes, owner of Read Between the Lynes Bookstore, asked the critical question about the extent of the authority being requested by the board.

Arlene asked about the language in the Motion or Resolution (I didn't get a copy of it) that would allow the board to sell the building, if it so decided. And that's exactly what the vote was going to allow, if a sufficient number of Yes votes were made.

Just how precarious is the Chamber's financial position. Ex-officio Board member Tom Landers, Chairman of the Chamber's Finance Committee, gave a clear presentation. The Chamber bought the building in 1987, and the original mortgage was $87,500. Today, 22 years later, the mortgage has been refinanced six times, and the Chamber owes $188,000 on the building.

Kind of going in the wrong way for paying off a 30-year mortgage; right? Many Boards and many Executive Directors have done an absolutely rotten job of running the Chamber. That's the bottom line.

The Chamber's budget includes nothing for building improvements and repairs.

How did it get in such a mess? I've written about that previously and may need to again.

Any business in town that was run the way the Chamber has been run would have been out of business years ago. But the Chamber kept borrowing money against its equity in the building, and it has reached the end of the line.

Can the Chamber building be saved? Or will there be a distress sale at 136 Cass Street. (Whew! Almost like the echo from "Can Grace Hall be saved?") YES, if it is properly run and if the Board LEADS. That's what a Board of Directors does. It leads. Or, at least, that is what is supposed to do.

This year's Board inherited a terrible mess. Hard decisions must be made. Of 31 present tonight, there were 25 eligible to vote. Fifteen voted to grant approval to not only explore the sale of the Chamber headquarters, BUT TO SELL IT, if that's what the Board decided. Ten voted not to grant that authority. Remember: eleven (11) Board members were present tonight. Did they all vote Yes?

The Woodstock Chamber has great potential, but it has been squandering it. Possibly a new Executive Director will be able to turn things around and attract new members AND retain current members. Members want something besides a canceled check. A golf outing at $140 is not what most owners of small business think of as a membership benefit.

It's going to take a lot more than just talk to solve this problem. The mortgage on the Chamber building should have been down to $10,000 by now. Instead, it's $188,000, meaning that equity is probably near zero.

The Chamber's annual property tax bill is nearly $6,400, based on a Fair Cash Value of $240,000. As a 501(c)(6) organization it is not eligible for any special property tax treatment. If there are 13 empty storefronts on the Square now, who would rush in to buy a building at anywhere close to market value. Severe negotiating would take place, and buyers would smell the blood in the water.

Garage Sale Ordinance - so what?

Last week-end's prize for illegal garage sale signs goes to ...

While the sign has the required sticker from City Hall, it is affixed to a utility pole. And it was still there on Tuesday afternoon (but gone Wednesday afternoon). The ordinance requires signs to be removed within 24 hours after the end of the sale.
Is there really any enforcement? And, if so, what's the penalty for these two violations?

And then there is the third sign above it, with no sticker at all, for a sale at 585 Washington St. Three violations here: 1) on the utility pole; 2) no sticker; 3) remaining more than 24 hours after the end of the sale.

Let's say the fines were merely $25.00 per violations. $50-75 would sting a little, wouldn't it? Like, sort of eat up a good chunk of the profits from a garage sale?

Rather than running the Code Enforcement Officer all over town, why doesn't City Hall direct the police department to help the Code Enforcement Division and just instruct officers to remove illegal signs?

Training would take about five minutes. They are driving right by, anyway. If they aren't on a call, it would take about 30 seconds to stop and remove illegal signs.
Caution: do not remove these signs, just because you live nearby and think you would be doing your neighbors a good deed, saving the City money, and generally helping out. You just might end up on the short end of a theft charge. Now, I'm not accusing you of being a thief, but City Hall told me a couple of years ago that I would run the risk of arrest, if I removed illegal signs that were not on my own property.
So just call the Code Enforcement Officer. He's friendly and doing a great job.

Crash 'em or trash 'em

Driving by Jim M'Lady Nissan in Crystal Lake on Wednesday, I spotted this car. Did someone throw it out?

It's part of M'Lady's "Cash 4 Clunkers" program, and it's definitely an attention-grabber.
About all I would have done differently, if I were Jim M'Lady, is remove the Jim M'Lady license plate bracket and maybe scrape the Jim M'Lady decal off the trunk lid!
Maybe we'll see this car at the demolition derby at next week's McHenry County Fair!

Our Friendly Sheriff

This week I came across a copy of "Our Friendly Sheriff", a publication of the National Child Safety Council. The copyright is MCMXCIX. Help me, somebody. What year is that?
On the back cover, inside and outside, are listed the names of 81 businesses that probably contributed money, since they are acknowledged "as a public service by people who care." The booklet is a safety booklet that is geared toward younger grade-school children, perhaps kindergarten, first and second graders.
The 81 businesses contributed to the production or printing of this booklet "in cooperation with the McHenry County Sheriff's Office. OK, so how much did they kick in? Who solicited them and raised whatever money was used to pay for the publication of this booklet?
How many booklets were purchased? Are they being distributed currently, or is this a booklet that just surfaced now from years back? If more money was collected than the cost of these booklets, what happened to the difference?

Where is is temporarily lost in cyberspace. I initiated a transfer last week and hoped it would be done quickly.

Please try again in 1-2 days for more information about my traffic crusade and advocacy work.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The game is rugby, not badminton

When you go out on the playing field, it's smart to know what game is going to be played that day. If it's badminton, you dress one way, and you expect to walk off the field in one piece.

If it's rugby, you dress a different way. You know there are no blood counts. The game goes on, regardless. You are going to get bruised and banged up. If you're lucky, you walk off the field and don't get carried off.

So, how does this relate to what is going on with Grace Hall? WCLS was playing rugby, and the folks in town have been playing badminton.

Now it's time to even up the game and to bring in the "closers", the heavy-weights, the clout, the experts.

Did the City Council make the right decision last week, when it ignored the historic preservation protection granted by the Woodstock City Code? Last October the Deputy City Manager informed the City Manager and the City Council that a super-majority vote of six (6) would be needed to over-ride the Landmark nomination by the Historic Preservation Commission.

And then in July of this year he wrote that only a simple majority (which turned out to be four (of the six present) last week) was needed. What happened between October and July? What influenced him? Perhaps some FOIA Requests are in order? Derik is an honorable man, and he also works for the City.

All that really matters now is whether influence and money show up fast enough to stop the wrecking ball. It will do no good for the members of the City Council to say "Oops", after there is only a pile of bricks and a huge dust cloud where Grace Hall used to stand.

I wish that every one of you could read the July 21, 2001, letter to Mayor Sager and the City Council from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The letter reads, in part, "Unfortunately we were not provided with WCLS' submittal until 2:57 pm yesterday (July 20) afternoon .. In spite of our repeated requests to WCLS for detailed background information ... " and "This lack of communication has characted our dealings with WCLS to this point..."

Does even that small part sound to you like WCLS met the City's standard for collaboration?

I doubt that any of the seven members of the City Council read the letter before voting to allow demolition of Grace Hall. Had they read it, they would have chosen to put the brakes on the project.

It's hard to understand why this City Council does not take more pride in preserving Woodstock's history. It is not a "private property" rights issue; no one is trying to take Grace Hall away from WCLS.

In fact, it would most likely cost WCLS less to rehabilitate the property and convert into four (not two) condominiums (not apartments!) that they could peddle for $200,000 and then re-sell and later re-sell again. They blew a smokescreen at the City Council with constant references to (oh, shame on anyone who lives in) "apartments." And the Council got smoke in its eyes and never reached for the Visine or the gas masks.

The Race for Sheriff is on


Contact: Gus Philpott
500 Lake Ave. – 1
Woodstock, IL 60098
Ph. 847-971-7083
FAX 815-338-2666

Gus Philpott, Woodstock, Ill., has announced his candidacy for the Office of Sheriff of McHenry County, Ill.

Philpott, who will run as a Green Party candidate, is concerned about arrest procedures that recently attracted considerable adverse publicity to the Sheriff’s Department. Reports of racial profiling are of high concern to him, too. Other areas of great concern are the number of at-fault traffic accidents involving deputies and the high legal expenses incurred by the Sheriff’s Department.

Philpott will begin circulating petitions in August for his run to be the next Sheriff in McHenry County. The Primary Election will be February 2, 2010, and the General Election will be November 2, 2010.
Many thanks to Cal Skinner for the photo. Be sure to read

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Go directly to jail - do not ..

... even go home first.

Two jailers (err, correctional officers) at the McHenry County Jail (errr, Corrections Center or Facility, whatever the $10,000,000 word is) are in hot water over an alleged crime that occurred inside the jail over the week-end.

Word is that one has already been arrested and action is being considered against a second. As passed along to me, the crime involved some alleged physical attention to a female inmate of the jail.

The talk already is that one jailer will be fired; suspended could be the better word at this time, since the Sheriff's Department Merit Commission may be the public body that approves all firings, unless employment of jailers, as non-sworn employees of the Sheriff's Department, is not governed by the Merit Commission. It may be that jailers, if they are not governed by the Merit Commission, are at-will employees of the Sheriff's Department, meaning they can be directly fired.

Now, inmates are supposed to be safe in jail; right? Safe from harm by other inmates, and definitely safe from harm by employees of the jail.

Of course, the other side of the story could be that a female inmate complained of being touched inappropriately and maybe it didn't really happen. All such accusations must be investigated. It's not unknown that those in jail complain to get their keepers in trouble.

Jailers could be particularly vulnerable to such charges, because of their continual interactions with inmates. Inmates should be treated firmly, but with respect. And there should be strict rules governing cell checks or other interactions between jailers of one gender and inmates of the other.

[9:00PM Late this afternoon the Northwest Herald reported that Corrections Officer Elias Dario Fortoso, 29, was charged after an investigation started about July 13.]

NWH's great idea

An editorial in this morning's Northwest Herald takes Sheriff Keith Nygren and the City of Crystal Lake to task for the silly lawsuit over the intersection of Walkup Road and Dvorak Drive, in front of Prairie Ridge High School.

Unfortunately, it repeated the same misleading statement that appeared in yesterday's news article - that there have been more than 30 minor traffic accidents at the intersection "since 2000". What's misleading about it? Yesterday's paper reported that there hasn't been an accident there since September 2007, nearly two years ago.

Like, maybe the problem got solved? Kids are paying more attention now? Did Prairie Ridge High School officials undertake an education campaign to impress upon students that, when they leave the school, they need to drive their cars first and stay off their cell phones?

The great idea was: "The sheriff should withdraw the lawsuit, and all sides of this issue should lock themselves in a room until they work it out."

To that end, send in a little food and some bottles of water every couple of days, and call the Purple Potty People to put one of their best in the corner.

And don't forget spare batteries for the cell phone.

Just when did the so-called "improper" annexation take place, anyway?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Truck Parking at Wal-Mart

In some communities, when Wal-Mart comes to town to build a huge store, the city planners anticipate problems that have sprung up all over the country, and they head them off at the pass.

One of the problems has to do with truck parking in front of the store. Now, we're not talking about delivery vehicles. These are trucks that are most likely parked and left while the drivers are home in Woodstock or visiting someone.

It's nice that the City gets upset if someone parks a semi on Calhoun while hanging out for a few hours. That's good.

It's my understanding that truck parking at Wal-Mart was not addressed, when Wal-Mart came knocking on Woodstock's door. And I guess we don't want to make them too mad about anything because, when tax incentives run out, they might just abandon the store and move up the road a little for new tax benefits. Or maybe move into the County, where Woodstock would lose all that sales tax revenue.

But it might be nice for Community Development to pay a friendly visit at Wal-Mart and try to get the Store Manager's help to eliminate the parking that is a growing problem. He may or may not have any authority and will most likely have to confer with folks on up the food chain, maybe even all the way to Arkansas.

The above photo, taken Saturday afternoon, shows four tractor-trailer units and one detached semi-trailer.

Managed report-writing. Conspiracy or not?

Regarding comments posted to the "Read the Pavlins' Complaint" article posted on July 23, one reader today posted this comment which read, in part: "I read through each of the reports written by the deputies and honestly, they don't seem concocted to me. FOIA any incident that generated a multiple unit response where more than one deputy did paper and you'll see the same types of consistency as in the Pavlin reports. Report writing is structured very specifically using the same key phrases and written with the same types of details for a reason...court. Not conspiracy."

Cops learn in Report Writing 101 to use certain phrases. That's true. Using those phrases leads to consistency and ease in understanding. It simplifies the officer's job, too, because many officers today are only high school graduates, and you know what kind of skills in English and English Composition so many high school graduates leave with.

Some initial observations about the reports obtained by the Northwest Herald and placed so quickly on its website:

Dep. Lambert's report fails to note that Mr. Pavlin was taken to the floor. From his report you would understand that Mr. Pavlin was handcuffed while standing on his feet. There is no explanation given for taking his to the hospital, instead of directly to jail. Let's see; maybe bloody wrists could have something to do with it?

Dep. Mandernack wrote "Upon making contact with the residence, I observed broken glass at the entrance of the door."

Yes, that could happen. If you made contact with a glass panel in a door and it broke, then you could observe broken glass... Remember what I said about writing skills? Say what you mean; mean what you say.

Further on Dep. Mandernack wrote, "I then brought Jerome to the floor, utilizing a arm bar take down, in better attempts to control him and to defeat his resistance. Dep. Vogel then assisted in handcuffing Jerome."

Now, keep in mind that Mr. Pavlin was 80 years old and weighed 130 pounds. Next time you are having a beer with your friendly deputy, ask him to tell you about an arm bar take down. Better yet, ask him to take you down. Better check your hospital insurance first.

Dep. Vogel wrote, "Dep. Mandernack then assisted Jerome to the ground, and I held Jerome's left arm..."

Assisted Jerome to the ground? Is "assist" a word from Report Writing 101 that is used in place of a word to describe using force to accomplish something?

Dep. Bruketta failed to explain in his report what he observed about the method that Dep. Mandernack used to place Jerome under arrest.

This is why departments separate officers and do not put them in the same room with a "conductor to lead the symphony."

Sheriff sues over intersection?

This morning's Northwest Herald reports that Sheriff Keith Nygren is suing over jurisdiction of an intersection in front of Crystal Lake's Prairie Ridge High School.

Now, what's the big deal over there? According to the newspaper, which probably got its information from the Complaint filed in the lawsuit (how about a link to the Complaint on the Northwest Herald's website???), there were 30 minor accidents "since 2000". Well, not quite - only between 2000 and 2007.

So, in eight years there were 30 accidents. That's less than 4 per year. And the last one was almost two years ago, in September 2007 and reportedly caused by a 16-year-old driver on a cell phone who pulled out in front of an approaching car. Duhhh.....

The article also says that most of the accidents were rear-enders, when a student started to pull out into Walkup Road and stopped (duhhh.... again! ... starts to pull out in front of oncoming traffic) and the kid behind isn't paying attention and hits the car in front. Whatever happened to maintaining safe following distance and paying attention?

Why is the Sheriff getting involved in a jurisdictional argument? The road and/or the intersection is either in the County or it's not. Look at the land survey. It is not the Sheriff's job, duty or obligation to question whether the City of Crystal Lake properly annexed anything.

It is not the Sheriff's job to "lead the charge" on this. He doesn't have the authority to "lead the charge." He is supposed to enforce the laws, not change them.

How much will this cost taxpayers???

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Was the City Council right? Part 2

Last Wednesday, July 22, I wrote about the Landmark nomination of Grace Hall and asked whether the Woodstock City Council was right to vote and, if it did, would a super-majority be required to defeat the nomination forwarded by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC).

You may find that article of interest and especially the comments that have been made to and about it. The advice to the City Manager and City Council last week was that only a simple majority was needed to approve Woodstock Christian Life Services' plan to demolish Grace Hall and erect a duplex in its place.

Now it seems that I am not the only one to believe that a super-majority was required. On October 1, 2008, in a letter to the City Manager (and therefore to the City Council), the same Deputy City Manager, Derik Morefield, wrote about the petition to grant landmark designation to Grace Hall. In that letter, Derik wrote, "If the HPC ultimately recommends approval of landmark status for Grace Hall, such a recommendation can only be overturned by a "super" majority" (sic) or 6 votes of the City Council. This could potentially create conflicting actions consisting of a decision to approve the special use permit and the demolition of Grace Hall and approval of landmark status and the preservation of Grace Hall."

This is exactly the argument that I made to the City Council on July 21, before I became aware of Derik's October 1, 2008 Memo. And the October 1, 2008, Memo is marked as Received and Approved by Tim Clifton, City Manager.

Now, what changed between October 1, 2008 and July 13, 2009, when the more recent Memo from Derik said that only a simple majority was needed? A careful reading of the City Code supports the exact position stated in the October 1st Memo.

The City Council's action on July 21, 2009, was not supported by the City Code. The City Council approved the WCLS request by ignoring the pending landmark nomination.

The City Manager should immediately direct the Community Development Department to withhold any permit to build the first duplex in the South Phase, which will then trigger issuance of the demolition permit.

There are some pretty strong words I could use to describe the City Council's decision to proceed with a vote on July 21, especially after hearing the applicable section of the City Code read to them.

Should this cause the City Council (the City) to become financially liable for its action? Should the Council members become personally liable for proceeding to a vote? Or the City Attorney, should it ultimately be decided that his advice was erroneous?

Will legal action against the City be necessary to force it to comply with its own City Code?

Too many public bodies operate on the assumption that the public doesn't know or understand what they are doing or that the public will not have the resources to do battle with them.

No demolition can be allowed to take place without every step being taken correctly.

The City Council's 5-1 vote on July 21 did not meet the super-majority requirement of 6-0. The City's historic preservation ordinance is simple, easy to read, easy to understand. It's not convoluted, like so many of the "modern" ordinances.

Grace Hall is still protected by the historic preservation ordinance. It's that simple!

Fords or Chevies

From a local reader. Any truth to this?

"Lowen has done it again.

"In case you haven't heard or seen.

"The squad cars are being switched over from Ford Crown Victorias to Chevy Impalas because the County has them and Woodstock wants to try them out.

"Think of this logic - if they're going to need dealership repair, the nearest dealership will be Gary Lang after Reichert's closes, which means having to travel over to McHenry with two vehicles to drop off and return back to Woodstock; or will Gary Lang provide pick up for the city.

"The PD should stay with Crown Victorias and use the local Ford dealership instead of the money for repairs and parts being spent elsewhere."

Comments, anyone? So much for "Buy Local." And don't forget the trip back to pick up the car after Gary Lang has worked on it!

CUB's at the Woodstock Library July 30

OK, so not those Cubs! But keep reading.

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) will host a town hall meeting at the Woodstock Public Library on Thursday, July 30, 7:00PM. Come and hear about the latest clean energy policies in Illinois, incentives to help you become more energy efficient and low- and no-cost ways to lower utility bills.

CUB is a non-profit, statewide utility watchdog organization created by the Illinois General Assembly to work for lower electric, natural gas and telephone rates for residential and small business consumers. For more information, call 800.669.5556

And for even more information, visit
For attending Thursday night you'll walk away with a free, money-saving CFL light bulb.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Poll on gun issue at USAToday

Please participate and forward.

Obama's new Attorney General has already said this is one of his major issues.

This takes literally 2 clicks to complete. Please vote on this gun issue question with USAToday. It will only take a few seconds of your time. Then pass the link on to all the pro gun folks you know.

This upcoming year will become critical for gun owners with the Supreme Court accepting the District of Columbia case against the right for individuals to bear arms.

First, vote on this one.

Second, launch it to other folks and ask THEM vote - then we will see if the results get published.

Vote in the USAToday poll - click on the link below. The Question is: "Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?"

Go to the link below and vote.....

Arab Festival in Dearborn, Mich.

A reader called my attention to a YouTube clip shot at the ArabFest in Dearborn, Michigan on June 21, 2009. I didn't think I would watch the whole ten minutes of it but, once I started watching, I stuck with it.

Where were the police when all this was developing? The so-called "Security" presence there looked to me like a gang of bullies, and the police clearly should have been keeping them in their sights. It would be interesting to know whether charges of assault, battery and disorderly conduct were filed against the "security" bullies.

Phone Scam in Woodstock

A reader reported this morning being on the receiving end of this phone scam..

All she has to do to claim $150,000 is to send $400 to a man in New Haven, Connecticut. Since she wasn't born yesterday, she called the police department, only to learn they don't track calls. She was directed to the Attorney General's office but, of course, it is closed on Saturday.

Then she called the New Haven, Conn. police and learned they don't take telephone complaints. So much for being a concerned citizen.

Next step could be to contact the U.S. Postal Service. By the time she gets through the voicetree there and to the right person, she'll have hours invested. Maybe she should have just sent the $400 and saved her time...

More Discipline at Woodstock P.D.?

In a case apparently somewhat slow to catch hold, an officer of the Woodstock Police Department has come into the sights of Police Chief Robert Lowen.

As of this morning, no information appears as a Press Release on the police department's webpage for Crime Stopper Cases/Press Releases/Crime Alerts.

Will this case be handled administratively, where it could be kept under wraps and out of the public's view? Are there elements for criminal charges? If so, the public outcry should be immediate and loud.

Two other officers might get caught up in the backlash. Details first came to my attention on July 2, and I talked to the Woodstock residents that day. As I understand the situation, they had complained to the police department and felt no action was resulting. Then they went to the City Manager. Even so, three more weeks passed before definitive action by Chief Lowen.

The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners is getting a real work-out this year. Will this cause a turn-over in the composition of the Board? Should the Board be expanded, say, from three commissioners to five members?

Criminal Charges in Pavlin Incident?

Are criminal charges against one or more members of the Sheriff's Department on the way, as a result of the March 2008 incident at the home of Jerome and Carla Pavlin, in McHenry County near Crystal Lake?

Rumors are flying.

How is information legally released about Grand Jury investigations and indictments? Is anyone involved inside the Grand Jury room/proceedings allowed to give advance information about decisions by the Grand Jury?

How are decisions reached by the Grand Jury? And, when its decision is to indict a person who was investigated, what are the rules about releasing information about charges?

Is there a method by which information is released to the public? Is an employer of a person charged entitled to advance information, before the public gets it?

It is logical to assume from the details in a Federal civil lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department that the actions of the deputies involved in the Pavlin incident may come under the scrutiny of the Grand Jury.

Eight employees of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department are named in a Federal civil case filed on July 17; they are Sheriff Keith Nygren and Deputies David Shepherd, Greg Pyle, Jeremy Bruketta, Kyle Mandernack, Trevor Vogel, Christopher Jones and Ryan Lambert. Lambert has left the Sheriff's Department.

In criminal cases, the presumption is of innocence.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Little wins begin to add up

Sometimes you have to settle for small victories on the way to the big ones.

As longer-time readers know, I have been following the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners meetings. This Board of the City of Woodstock is an important board, because it has the power to make career-ending decisions regarding employment of police officers in Woodstock.

Some say I've been pretty hard on them, but that has not been the intention. The Board is manned by three residents in Woodstock, one of whom happens to be the police chief of a small community nearby.

Some would say that this gives the chief here an edge, because it is generally believed that cops don't go against cops. The Board showed this was not the case in February 2008, when it voted 3-0 against the Woodstock police chief and decided he had not made his case in the attempt to fire Sgt. Steve Gorski. It changed its mind this month and voted 3-0 in the chief's favor, even though no additional testimony by the chief was permitted or accepted; the Board did, however, allow the chief to amend his original complaint and then allowed the chief to submit the rules and regulations of the P.D., which should have been accepted only during his original testimony.

For years the Board met in the police station - in the conference room right off the chief's office. No wonder no one ever showed up at these public meetings. They didn't look "public" or "open" to anyone. When you showed up at the P.D., you had to wait in the lobby until someone came to escort you to the second floor conference room.

I ragged on the City pretty hard about this and, to their credit, they decided to change the location of the periodic meetings of this important Board. The Board now meets at City Hall. Now the work begins to get more residents interested in what is happening and get them to attend these meetings.

Then I noticed that the Board meetings were still being announced on stationery of the Police Department. Wait just a minute! This Board is a public body of the City of Woodstock, not of the Police Department. And now? City stationery (City Hall address) was used to announce the most recent meeting of this Board.

The next step is to find out whether the Board has received the Open Meetings Act (OMA) training outlined in a letter from the City Attorney on May 19. The Board was violating OMA rules fairly often.

For example, when it didn't tape-record Executive Sessions, that was a violation of the OMA. When it made a decision in Executive Session and then merely announced it once back in Open Session, that was a violation.
When it made a decision in Executive Session and announced it once back in Open Session, and then voted on it, that was a violation.
When it didn't call the roll once back in Open Session, that was a violation.

All the Board needs is a recipe (outline) to follow, and it'll stay in the clear. To some, this will look like nit-picking. Maybe it is. All right, it is. But the rules are for a reason and they are easy to follow.

Being the City's firing managers (for cops) is not an easy job. It's a very serious role. It deserves the attention of the public and the respect of all.

I'm not aware of any mechanism by which the public can bring attention to the Board of police problems in the community. There are some matters of concern now for which residents are waiting for answers. Two of them may involve conduct unbecoming an officer and should result in lengthy suspensions, if not termination itself.

Once a citizen makes a complaint to the chief, how long should it taken before an investigation commences and the citizen is informed of its status or conclusion?

And, when there is something smelly going on inside the department that all the officers and command personnel know about, why doesn't it get met head-on and dealt with? When a supervisor's habits are less than stellar and result in a poor reflection on the department, this obviously impairs his ability to lead. When that happens, you get rid of that supervisor. Well, in a perfect world, anyway.

Another question that seems to linger is why the police chief has not moved to Woodstock. There used to be a provision in the City Code that the chief had to live in Woodstock. I read it there, and now I can't find it. How does something disappear from the City Code?

If someone knows where it is, please clue me in. Often, a department head might be given some breathing room for meeting such a requirement; for example, he might be allowed a year to sell his house and buy one in town. In an adverse real estate market, that period might even be extended, but that breather must have run out some time ago. Is there still such a requirement on residency?

Swine Flu numbers still rising

What’s going on with the Swine Flu pandemic in the U.S.? Not much, if you listen to the news. But the CDC numbers tell a different story.

Last week’s survey question was, “What state has the highest number of confirmed and probable cases of Swine Flu?”

Because new figures are published by the CDC on Friday, the survey will close early and with these guesses from 20 readers:
Florida 2 (10%)
Illinois 9 (45%)
Texas 8 (40%)
Wisconsin 1 (5%)

The highest numbers of confirmed and probable cases of Swine Flu are
6,222 Wisconsin
5,151 Texas
3,404 Illinois
2,915 Florida

One of the readers guessed correctly that Wisconsin has the highest number of confirmed and probable cases.

The total number of cases increased 7.8% last week, which is the lowest percentage-increase in many weeks.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Read the Pavlins' Complaint

Thanks to Cal Skinner, I won't have to drive to Rockford tomorrow. Cal has posted the Pavlins' Complaint (legal term) on

For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting the Pavlin's side of the story, there it is.

Thanks, Cal! You saved me three hours of time, 80 miles of driving, probably a parking ticket, and the cost of buying a print-out of the Complaint. I owe you. Let's see, a cup of coffee?

Maybe now some of you will stop wondering about the righteous behavior of the deputies that night, perhaps the one who "assisted" Mr. Pavlin to the ground. Maybe the wrestling shows will have to stop calling such a move a "take-down". When you hear "assist" on WWE, now you'll know what they are talking about.

Now you know why Mrs. Pavlin dialed 9-1-1 and tried to summon police help and protection (from whom? the deputies!) that night.

And I'll bet the show's not over, folks. Just keep hanging onto your seats, and keep your eyes and ears open.

Is all this causing a little heartburn at 2200 N. Seminary?

A huge question is, why didn't the lid get clamped down a long time before that gang ever showed up at the Pavlins in March 2008? It's not like command personnel at the sheriff's department didn't know what was happening.

The people, the public, John Q. Citizen, must have the right to step forward with information and believe it will be properly received and thoroughly investigated.

Whistleblowers should not have to fear retribution, retaliation, demotion, loss of special assignments or other privileges for calling attention of command personnel to dirty tricks.

The Pavlins went to Chicago for their attorney for this lawsuit. Representing the Pavlins is Lawrence W. Jackowiak, of 20 N. Clark St. in the Chicago Loop. His complete address and phone number are at the bottom of the filing.

The Pavlins' lawsuit is against seven deputies in their individual capacities and Sheriff Keith Nygren. What will that Night of Terror in March 2008 cost McHenry County? Any guess?

Again, a special thanks to Cal Skinner. Be sure to go to and read the lawsuit. Bookmark that blog and read it often.

Pavlin case filed last Friday

According to the Federal courthouse in Rockford, the Pavlin case was filed on Friday, July 17. Case No. 09-50154 is a public record but, since I don't have a Pacer account, I guess it means a trip to Rockford to read it and I'll probably buy a copy at $0.50/page.

I didn't think it was a McHenry County case, and a clerk today at the office of the Circuit Clerk's office couldn't find any record of it. It makes sense that it would be in Federal court.

How many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars have been spent or wasted by McHenry County because of actions by deputies of the Sheriff's Department. The Gary Gauger lawsuit is coming up. If you haven't read his book, go to Read Between the Lynes on the Woodstock Square and pick up a copy. Well, don't just "pick up" a copy; buy it.

You'll probably read it straight through and then shake your head until you have a migraine. That one is very likely to cost the County some big bucks, in addition the money already spent in initially prosecuting the case and later in defending those efforts.

In addition to the civil lawsuit of the Pavlins, will there be criminal charges brought against some of the deputies who were at the Pavlins' home in March 2008? Will the State Police investigation find that unreasonable and unnecessary force was used against both of them and recommend charges? Are charges already under consideration?

One deputy described how Mr. Pavlin was "assisted" to the ground. Give me a break! Mr. Pavlin weighs about 130 lbs. A witness described it as "two deputies body-slammed him to the floor." And then the handcuffs were applied so tightly that bleeding resulted.

The usual case of clicking the handcuffs in really tight is because you are getting back at the person you are cuffing. It's a "I'll show him who is boss" attitude - an attitude of a bully. Of course, that's not to say that, in this case, that's what happened. Maybe it was just an "accident" that the handcuffs were put on so tightly...

The Federal case is likely to be a three-ring circus, with plenty of testimony from the Pavlins as to what really happened that night. So far, at the direction of their attorney in the criminal case just ended, they have kept pretty quiet about it.

Check out the online article about this lawsuit on If you feel they are still beating the dead horse of the criminal charges against the Pavlins that disappeared last week, post a comment there, saying so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Lawsuit filed after cases dropped

Late this afternoon a lawsuit was filed by a McHenry County couple, whose criminal case against them was dropped last week upon the Motion of the State's Attorney's office.

In March 2008 Jerome and Carla Pavlin were arrested by McHenry County Sheriff's deputies and charged with aggravaed battery and resisting arrest. After numerous court dates with their attorney, Mark Gummerson, and before the August 17th jury trial date that was on the docket, the State's Attorney's office moved to drop the case, formally called nolle prosequi, and did so emphatically With Prejudice, meaning that the charges against them were gone. And in court the further statement was made that the State's Attorney had no intention of re-filing charges against them.

That action ended an ordeal that had continued from March 2008 until this month.

Just before the end of the business day, their lawsuit was filed. It was too late in the day to get to the courthouse and read the Complaint. Details will be provided as soon as the Complaint is scanned into the court system computer and becomes available.

It was remarkable how quickly the Northwest Herald obtained copies of the deputies' reports and published them. It is also inexcusable that the Northwest Herald would display the home address and telephone number of defendants against whom all charges had just been dropped through a link on its website.

I wonder how the editor and the publisher of the Northwest Herald would feel if I published their home addresses and home telephone numbers. Just imagine the irate calls every time the Cubs lost or it rained or a typo appeared in someone's name.

They published the personal information of senior citizens who had just been cleared. Was this an unnecessary and inappropriate breach of privacy. And was the breach at the sheriff's department, where the address and telephone numbers could have been redacted.

Follow this story on this site. Details of their lawsuit will be published as soon as they are available.

National Trust disappointed by WCLS

On July 21 the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote and electronically delivered a 4 1/2-page letter to Mayor Sager and Members of the City Council. It contained their recommendation that the City Council deny the special use permit being sought by WCLS that includes demolition of Grace Hall.

I wonder how many of the City Council members read the letter before the meeting. Certainly, they didn't have time to digest and reflect on it; did all of them even read it?

At the City Council meeting the attorney for WCLS, Mark Gummerson, hammered the National Trust for sending the letter just before that night's City Council meeting.

What he failed to include in his flaming oratory was the letter's mention in Paragraph 2 that the National Trust had not received WCLS' submittal until 2:57PM the previous day, "and then only as a result of a direct request from Allen Stebbins (Chairman of the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission) to City staff.

The National Trust has been part of the "team" for months. The "team" is composed of WCLS officers, those opposing demolition of Grace Hall, and professionals. The National Trust letter mentioned "repeated requests to WCLS for detailed background information" and "lack of communication" from WCLS.

An argument developed last night about tax credits for WCLS, and Mr. Gummerson stated emphatically that tax credits do no good to a not-for-profit organization that doesn't pay income tax. Allen Stebbins said that tax credits can benefit such an organization through syndication and that there were experts available to show WCLS how to use them.

I concluded my remarks to the City Council last night with "There is an adaptive re-use plan that is economically feasible for Grace Hall. WCLS just isn't looking for it."

Their plan has been from the start to demolish Grace Hall. The City Council let them take another step toward the starter switch on the wrecking ball last night.

Councilman Turner asked Terry Egan last night just how soon he intended to demolish Grace Hall. The answer? "As soon as possible."

They, all of them, ought to be ashamed.

Was the City Council right to vote?

Last night the Woodstock City Council voted 5-1 to approve a Special Use Permit for Woodstock Christian Life Services that includes the demolition of Grace Hall (subject to one condition that probably won't provide much of a hurdle for them).

Should the Council have voted on this matter last night?

There is a nomination for Landmark status of Grace Hall pending before the City Council. The Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously on November 10, 2008, to recommend Landmark status to the City Council. The City Council would not give immediate attention to the HPC recommendation. Instead, it waited until April 21, 2009, and then quickly tabled that nomination. To date, the Landmark nomination has not shown back up on an Agenda for a City Council meeting.

When the Council was about to vote No on the WCLS petition on April 21, the Mayor handed WCLS and Mark Gummerson an invitation to ask the Council to hold off on a vote until a later date.

Last night City Code Section was read to the Council. "Any person ... may submit an application to the (Historic Preservation) commission requesting that a building ... within the city be designated as a landmark." That application was submitted in proper form to the Historic Preservation Commission.

Like it or not, property rights or not, this is the law in Woodstock.

Furthermore, "Upon nomination (emphasis added) or designation of landmark status, such building ...shall be afforded the protection of the historic preservation ordinance."

Some laws people like, some they don't. But this too is the law in Woodstock. Therefore, when the Historic Preservation Commission approved the motion to recommend landmark designation, Grace Hall moved under the protective umbrella of the historic preservation ordinance. In fact, it may have acquired that protection earlier, when it was nominated for landmark status.

The purpose of the protection is to buy breathing room. It is is demolished, it's too late to say, "OK, it's a landmark."

A Memo from the Deputy City Manager with the packet to the City Council informed them that "A simple majority of the Council is required to approve this motion (to approve the WCLS Special Use Permit, which includes the demolition of Grace Hall.)" The DCM's memo was silent about the pending landmark nomination.

The problem with the "simple majority" sentence is City Code Section (F), which reads "To override a recommendation of the (Historic Preservation) Commission, a favorable vote of three-fourths (3/4) of all elected members of the City Council is necessary."

This is called a "super-majority." A super-majority of seven is 5.25. Because 1/4 of a Council person cannot vote, you have to round that up to a full person, making six (6) the required number of votes needed for a super-majority of the Woodstock City Council.

Although that Section was also read to the Council, it proceeded with its vote and announced that the 5-1 vote carried the motion. One Council member was absent from the meeting, and RB Thompson voted against the Motion. As soon as one present member voted against it, it should have been declared defeated.

The City Attorney explained to me after the meeting that I had made an "interesting" legal argument. And he explained that allowing a minority to control a decision is just not the way a society functions. A majority rules.

He also explained that WCLS was first in line; it requested demolition of Grace Hall (as part of its overall Special Use Permit) before the Landmark nomination petition was filed with the Historic Preservation Commission.

While I didn't read every word in the City Code, I suspect it doesn't say that a property owner remains at the head of the line, if he jumps in the door with a request to tear down what could become a Landmark. It was the WCLS move to demolish Grace Hall that triggered the Landmark nomination, and I'll bet that is exactly what the City Council had in mind in the past when it created City Code Sec.

My continuing question is the City Council (and the entire government in Woodstock) is - What about the City Code? Why do you feel that you can play "three blind mice" (okay, well, seven blind mice) with the City Code?

The City Code is the law in Woodstock. Or is it?

WPD: Warnings exceed tickets?

In a recent poll on this site, readers were asked, “When you were last stopped by Woodstock Police for a traffic violation, did you get a ticket or a warning?”

Sixty-five readers responded.

The results?

15 (23%) got tickets
50 (77%) got warnings

Many thanks for your participation in this poll.

Verification of these percentages is being sought through inspection of Woodstock Police Department monthly traffic reports. Every month about 80% of the tickets fall into the "Other Traffic Arrest" category, which does not include tickets for Accidents, DUIs or Insurance Violations.

Information is also being sought regarding the income that the City of Woodstock receives from fines and court costs levied in McHenry County Circuit Court, which is where Woodstock PD tickets are processed.

Don't Change W. South St. Speed Limit

The Woodstock City Council is considering a request from a resident in the west end of the City to reduce the speed limit on West South Street.

In a recent poll on this site, readers were asked, “Should Woodstock lower the speed limit from 45MPH on South Street between Duvall Dr. and the west City Limit?”

28 readers said No
9 readers said Yes

Sure looks like about 3:1 against.

What will the City decide? You can influence the decision that the City Council will make by emailing the members of the City Council and letting them know how you feel. You’ll find their addresses on the City’s website at

Woodstock Farmers Market - Tues. & Sat.

The following email was received from Keith Johnson, Market Manager of the Woodstock Farmers Market.

"Just a note to let you know the SWEET CORN has arrived. Tracie Von Bergen had sweet corn at our market this past Tuesday and Twin Garden Farms is expected to be coming soon (possibly Saturday) with their famous “Mirai” Sweet Corn. Lots of veggies are now showing up and tomatoes are beginning to slowly appear. It has been a late spring, but the full lushness of summer is arriving. This Saturday, one of our favorite musical groups, The Beaumonts, will be providing the entertainment.

"Also if you would, please vote for Woodstock as your favorite farm market. Follow this link and you should be able to vote.

How often do you go to the Square for the Farmers Market? Do you like it? Anything you'd like to see changed that might increase the number of times you shop at our Farmers Market?

Vote through the above link and also in this week's poll on this site. Also, please post your comments and suggestions for changes or improvements. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grace Hall Demolition: 5-1

One should have been enough, but it wasn't. Enough to do what? Stop the City Council's decision to approve demolition of Grace Hall.

The saving grace here is that no demolition permit will be issued by the City until the first building permit is issued for the South Phase.

So what happened tonight?

WCLS made their case to the City Council for compliance with Conditions C and D in the October 2008 Ordinance.

Opponents of demolition stated their case. At times arguments were pretty forceful. There was some mudslinging. More about that tomorrow.

Statements were made that appeared misleading or incomplete, and some of them got challenged. Some questions got asked that never got answered. Sometimes I think those asking questions need to pay more attention to the words that are spoken in reply and, if the question isn't answered, then they need to stop the person who is speaking and ask for the answer to the question that was asked.

It seemed to me that people left the meeting mostly still respecting those who were on the opposite side. People disagreed tonight, but they weren't disagreeable. And that's the way it should be and it was.

More tomorrow on certain issues that were raised and how or whether they got resolved.

BOFPC votes to terminate Gorski

The Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners met at 5:00PM in City Hall to conduct a "Aggravation and Mitigation" hearing as the final part of the lengthy hearing into Chief Lowen's efforts to fire Sgt. Steve Gorski.

Gorski's attorney, Tom Loizzo, questioned Chief Lowen about performance evaluations, commendations and reprimands. The chief seemed unfamiliar with Gorski's complete personnel file, much of it compiled before he came to Woodstock. There were only two reprimands in the file, in May 1999. One of them was for not meeting his monthly ticket quota.

All of Gorski's performance evaluations were above standard, including two that were 4.277 and 4.33 on a 5.0 scale. But all the good stuff was before the period when the Chief asserted that Gorski's problems began.

Loizzo also asked Chief Lowen what proof he had that Steve had taken any drugs not prescribed by a licensed physician. The chief's answer was "None."

After hearing from both sides, the Board went into Executive Session to discuss what they'd heard and, when they came back into Open Session at 6:08PM, the Board's attorney proposed a Motion to terminate Steve, which was made and seconded. The three commissioners each voted "Yes", and that was that.

The Board's attorney announced that the Findings & Decision of the Board would be written in a few weeks.

My opinion? There is plenty of room for a successful appeal in this case. The Board decided in Gorski's favor in February 2008. Nothing has changed since then, except the Chief was able to get the Board to accept an amended complaint that included Judge McIntyre's ruling, and then the Chief, through his attorney, Dave McArdle, was able to further able to get the Board to accept the rules and regulations of the Woodstock Police Department, which should have been introduced during the original hearing.

I don't understand why Judge McIntyre's Decision was important to the Board. It was the Board that heard all the original testimony - first-hand. All Judge McIntyre did was read about it. Her Decision went far beyond the scope of the question asked of her in the chief's appeal.

I'm sure there will be more to come in this case.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Eat Out and Carry In"

This great headline was at the top of an article about Tennessee's expansion of its concealed carry law in the NRA magazine, America's 1st Freedom (August 2009, page 14). The NRA had supported a change in the concealed carry law to allow permit holders to carry their concealed guns into restaurants that serve alcohol, so long as they didn't drink alcohol themselves while armed.

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen had vetoed the bill, but both major parties worked together to over-ride his veto.

Just three months ago a man was gunned down in a sports bar in Nashville. His wife had a right-to-carry permit, but her gun was locked in her car because of the Tennessee law in effect at the time.

That story reminded me of Dr. Suzanna Hupp's story, which you can read elsewhere on this site (search for Hupp). She was having lunch with her parents in a Luby's Restaurant in Texas, when a crazed man drove his truck through the plate glass windows into the restaurant and began shooting people in the restaurant. Dr. Hupp's gun was locked in her car, instead of being in her purse. She told her story at last year's Second Amendment Freedom Rally in the Chicago Loop. She was 15 feet away from the killer, who executed both of her parents, along with about 20 other customers.

Dr. Hupp later ran for office in Texas and was instrumental in changing Texas law to allow concealed carry.

Dr. John Lott's book, More Guns, Less Crime, provides the facts that crime drops when law-abiding citizens are armed. It makes sense to me.

If you were a robber and you thought every tenth person on the street might be armed, wouldn't you think twice or more before pulling a gun on a victim? The victim might or not be armed, but there might be somebody nearby, ready to come to her rescue!

You don't have to carry a concealed weapon, but you will be safer if law-abiding, educated, trained, responsible citizens do. Help change Illinois law now.

Looking for a job?

I’m so glad that I’m out of corporate America. I have no idea how businesses can afford to stay in business these days.

What brings forth these thoughts today?

I just read the Job Description for the open position at the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce. You’ll find it at

Don’t get tired of reading before you get all the way to the bottom of the page. Here’s what you’ll find:

Physical Capacities
 Intermittent sitting standing, walking
 Bending, stooping, climbing
 Lifting 25 lbs; pushing, pulling 100 lbs
 Reaching, handling, fingering, feeling
 Vision: near/far
 Speaking, hearing

You can always tell when corporate types have been to the latest HR seminars. You know the one – “How to Advertise Your Next Job 101”.

I’m afraid to comment on those “Capacities”. (When I first glanced at the word, I thought I read Capabilities. I guess I should have gone to that seminar.)

Chamber HQ Sale Meeting - July 30

The "potential sale" of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce headquarters at 136 Cass Street will be the topic of an all-member meeting on July 30, 6:00PM, at Marian Central Catholic High School. How many of the 300+ members of the chambers will be there or be represented?

The precarious financial position of the chamber causes me to wonder what happened over the past few years. Why didn't past Boards act much sooner to head off the financial doom that now casts its pall over 136 Cass Street? Today's Board didn't watch the problems grow, but it gets stuck with the mess.

While that the Chamber was drifting into shallow water, the Woodstock Downtown Business Association (WDBA) was created and then Main Street Woodstock. WDBA has not been able to gain traction, and it looks like Main St. Woodstock could be sliding backwards into extinction. Initially, there was unnecessary friction between the Chamber and the WBDA. Some in the Chamber saw it as "competition", when it really wasn't. Chamber leadership at that time failed to educate itself and to curtail jealousies.

The result was back-biting and lack of respect, rather than coordinated efforts to promote the growth of business in Woodstock.

As you make your purchases from businesses during the next week, stop and talk to the owner of the business. Tell him or her that you care about Woodstock and care about that business staying in business and that you care about the Chamber's presence on the Square. Encourage the owner to attend the July 30 Chamber meeting, and then go back in a couple of weeks and ask it.

No sentencing in seven months???

Read this morning's article in the Northwest Herald ( about Raymond Gittings. He has apparently been in the Kenosha County (Wisconsin) jail for 13 months on the most recent charge of felony failure to pay child support. Although the article says he has been confined "for the past 13 months awaiting sentencing", he reportedly plead no contest in January to failing to pay child support, and so he has been there "only" for six months awaiting sentencing. The other seven months were awaiting trial.

But that's not the point. The point is that he could have had a free MRI almost eight months ago, courtesy of a 2008 court settlement involving the cancer scare in McCullom Lake, Ill.

According to the article, Attorney Timothy Mistrioty gave a voucher for the free MRI to Judge Barbara Kluka in about March. The newspaper says he "stopped short of filing a motion for a furlough" so that Gittings could leave jail to go for the MRI. What's the big deal about sending Gittings to a medical clinic or hospital with a deputy for 2-3 hours for an MRI?

Now, I haven't been to law school, but I think the way you get things done in court is to file Motions. Saying "Here, Judge," is not enough. You file the Motion for exactly what you want, and then the Judge rules on it. You wordsmith it so that you get what you want - or you don't.

The article goes on to say that Giddings, 38, has been indigent since adulthood, so that's about 20 years. How can he pay child support if he is indigent? Why didn't someone take him back to court and get the child-support order changed? If you don't have a job or assets or money, you can't pay child support. If he works, garnish his wages and have the child support sent straight from the employer to the court. If you have a mental illness, somebody (family?) ought to arrange for treatment and services. Right?

Having an indigent person with mental illness sitting in jail while his case is stalled in court is not right. Courts, everywhere apparently, allow cases to gather dust (called Continuances), instead of unclogging the system by tellling both sides to get busy and resolve the cases.

Jails are not mental health treatment facilities. It looks to me like little is accomplished by keeping Gittings in jail, except maybe he gets regular meals and, hopefully, medications for his mental health conditions.

Health & Safety Fair - August 5

McHenry County Children’s Health & Safety Fair is coming!

The annual McHenry County Children’s Health & Safety Fair is almost here! Now in its 19th year, it is bigger and better than ever! The fair will be held from 9 am to 4 pm on Wednesday, August 5, at McHenry County College, 8900 US Hwy 14, in Crystal Lake. Admission to the fair is FREE.

This year’s theme is “It’s a Jungle Out There”. With over 50 exhibits, games and prizes, a rock climbing wall and visits from favorite animal characters, the fair delivers on its promise to entertain and educate. Think of it as a “trade show for kids!” Children will have a chance to win one of two bicycles and helmets. Free school supplies are available when kids turn in their stamped cards after visiting exhibitor’s booths.

Reduced cost immunizations and dental exams will be provided for school age children on a first come-first served basis. Medicaid will be accepted. Parents MUST bring their child’s updated immunization record in order to receive required immunizations. A limited number of reduced cost school physicals will also be available – by appointment only – for children in families with incomes below Federal Poverty Levels. Make your appointment now by calling the Family Health Partnership Clinic (815-334-8987). Proof of income is required.

The fair is sponsored by the McHenry County Children’s Health & Safety Fair Coalition. They are a dedicated group of professionals, representing Community Action Agency/Head Start, Centegra Health System, CL Graphics, Family Health Partnership Clinic, Family Service & Community Mental Health Center for McHenry County, Home State Bank, McHenry County Latino Coalition, League of Women Voters of Illinois Education Fund, McHenry County College, McHenry County Department of Health, McHenry County Mental Health Board, McHenry County Sheriff’s Department, Mercy Health System, Northwest Herald, United Way of McHenry County Volunteer Center, STAR 105.5, and Youth Service Bureau.

"Working to prevent disease and promote health and safety for the people of McHenry County since 1966.”

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Death Knell for Grace Hall? NO!!!

Do you hear that bell tolling?

Tuesday night - this Tuesday, July 21, at 7:00PM - the City Council will once again consider the Special Use Permit requested by Woodstock Christian Life Services that includes demolition of Grace Hall.

It is important that every opponent to the demolition of Grace Hall show up at City Hall in time to get into the City Council chambers well before the 7:00PM starting time. Please note - the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners is due to use the chambers from 5:00PM for what it hopes will be - and probably will not be - a short meeting.

Before every City Council meeting the members of the Council receive a "packet" from the City Manager. They get their copies electronically, but a printed copy is delivered to the Woodstock Public Library, usually on the Friday before the bi-monthly City Council meeting. The printed packet this time is two (2) volumes, and each volume is one inch thick.

Now, do you think that each Council member will read every word in the packet and be fully informed about City operations and the items on the Agenda? I'd say it is not humanly possible. And not humanely possible, either.

In the packet is a Memorandum to the City Manager (and, therefore, to the Council) about the Grace Hall issue. The Memo, from Deputy City Manager Derik Morefield and dated July 13, 2009, summarizes the progress of the WCLS petition through the City's process. With the Memo are a letter from the Chairman of the WCLS Board of Directors and a Memo from the WCLS President. The haste in preparing Derik's Memo resulted in several date errors, where "2009" crept into the Memo instead of "2008". I say "haste" because his Memo bears the same date as the letter and Memo from WCLS.

Numerous points in both the WCLS letter and the WCLS memo deserve challenge. Hopefully, each member of the City Council and the Mayor will go through those documents with red pencils and mark areas for further explanation and investigation. Except how do you mark electronic copies with a red pencil for attention?

Derik's letter fails to mention that Ordinance 08-O-62 was modified after passage by the Council on October 7,2008. The City Attorney crafted extremely unfair and prejudicial Conditions, imposing obligations on two Woodstock residents that were NEVER discussed or approved by the City Council, and then Mayor Sager signed the Ordinance into effect without ever getting the consent of the other members of the City Council.

And the six members of the City Council have never publicly challenged that action. Why not? Is Ordinance 08-O-62 even valid?

The Ordinance placed a light burden on WCLS and so heavy a burden on Dan and Caryl Lemanski that they could never meet it.

When it appeared that the City Council was going to vote against WCLS' Special Use Permit on April 21, 2009, the Mayor handed WCLS a bye. The demolition matter comes back to roost on Tuesday night.

In his July 13, 2009 letter to the Mayor and City Council, WCLS Board Chairman David Fisher wrote, "There are cases such as this, where preservation is not practical or possible without seriously impinging upon the progress and viability of a business or organization. The length of the process, and the associated costs, has hurt the financial status of WCLS which operates on razor thin margins from year to year. This past year was our first loss in net income in several years due in part to added legal and consulting fees."

The City should have an auditor examine the WCLS books for any "cost over-runs" (such "added legal and consulting fees") directly attributable to any "extra" work to seriously consider adaptive re-use of Grace Hall. How many of the "added" fees would have been incurred, anyway? And how recently were other years of net loss at WCLS? What are the projections for the next 3-5 years? Net income or net loss?

Is WCLS in such financial peril ("razor thin margins") that its business plan needs radical surgery? Administrative staff cut-backs? Salary and expense account cuts? Will the plan for duplexes merely be a band-aid on its Income Statement and its Balance Sheet?

If WCLS had interest in any solution other than the demolition of Grace Hall, it could be worked out. For starters, put four "apartments" in the 7,300 sq. ft. building, not just two.

They keep their heels dug in. It's time for the City to do the same and to refuse a demolition permit.

Mr. Mayor and Members of the City Council, JUST SAY NO.

Sorry, we're out of that

Don't you just love it when typos slip into advertising? It's like, "Didn't anyone read this before they printed it?"

This sign, in the front window of a local Woodstock grocery (wasn't it voted No. 1 recently?), is part of this week's sale.

Maybe it was just an attention-getter, designed to get customers to the rear of the store and motivate them to gather up two-three containers that they didn't have on their shopping list. I might even go back before the sale is over to stock up.

This sign reminded me of another typo I'll long remember. When I worked at the Sears, Roebuck headquarters in Hoffman Estates, the company was planning to lay off about 400 employees. For some strange reason, a decision was made to spend a lot of money reducing the sizes of cubicles. I never saw the sense of that decision; they certainly were not going to need more room, once the 400 employees had departed!

The new, reduced-size cubicles were on display in the atrium, so that employees could preview the size of their new "mouseholes". Paper signs announced which category of employee (director, manager, etc.) would get what size cubicle. Clerical employees (popularly called "administrative assistants") were going to get a small cubicle AND be expected to share - clear evidence that some designer of office space had absolutely no knowledge of the amount of paper and files that these employees worked with!

But what got my attention was the word ASSOICATE on three of the four printed signs.

Now, I've typed the word "Associate" with that same typo, but re-reading the text (or using SpellCheck) catches the error, which is easily corrected.

I remember laughing out loud and not caring who was standing around. One woman asked me why I was laughing. I said, pointing to the typo, "This is what happens, when you give too much work to too few people, and expect them to get it done in too little time."

Somebody had typed it and missed the error. Somebody had printed it and missed the error. Somebody had put up the three signs and missed the error. And, when I went to the Office of the Building to suggest the signs be corrected, "somebody" said it didn't matter because the display was to be removed the next day.

One of my favorite sayings is, "If you don't have time to do it right the first time, you definitely don't have time to do it over."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Emailing at 100+MPH?

Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell was reportedly emailing his girlfriend and talking to her on his cell phone at more than 100MPH just before he lost control of his patrol car, according to a newspaper article today that referred to recently released documents in a federal lawsuit connected with the November 2007 accident near Belleville, Illinois.

Mitchell's patrol car crossed the median on I-64 and struck one car, then crashed into a second car, killing its two occupants. I recall a previous report that his speed may have been as high as 126MPH.

Mitchell survived and faces reckless homicide and reckless driving charges.

This cellular telephone use while on duty reminded me of a statement in one of the police reports published last week by the Northwest Herald in the Pavlin case. At some time after Deputies Jones and Bruketta arrived at the Pavlin residence, Deputy Jones stepped outside the residence to call Sgt. Pyle on his cellular phone and inform him of what was happening. This would have left Deputy Bruketta alone with the handcuffed son of the senior Pavlins in the house.

To what extent in law enforcement work do departmental rules allow communications between officers to be made off the police radio, where the conversations would be recorded? Is there, or should there be, a requirement that cellular phones will not be used for Departmental business?

When a call is going South, communications need to be on the air, so that all officers, especially those in the vicinity, know what is happening. Dispatchers and all supervisors can then also be aware of problems. Deputy Jones' report doesn't state how long he was out of the residence, and the Northwest Herald did not print any report of Sgt. Pyle.

Are there guidelines, procedures, rules, directives or General Orders at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department regarding use of cell phones while on duty?

Frank's campaign funds - how much???

Was there an error in the headline for the Northwest Herald article this morning about the money in Jack Franks' war chest? Anyone not reading the article carefully might believe that Jack had really raised $1,320,000 in the first six months of 2009. Many people believe the word "raised" means contributions from many people and businesses; in other words, broad support.

What's wrong with the article?

According to the article ...
Jack's parents, Herb and Eileen Franks, contributed $700,000;
Jack's wife, Deborah, contributed $200,000; and
Jack loaned his own campaign $150,000.
The total of these three amounts? $1,050,000.

The difference between the family money and the $1.32 million? $270,000

At the end of the previous reporting period for campaign funds, there was $161,669 on hand.

Does Jack now have $1,481,669 ($161,669 + $1,320,000) in his political war chest?

Jack has been unopposed in the 63rd District for several elections. That's a lot of money sitting there waiting for campaign expenses.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Publishing Home Addresses

Check out the article found at this link on Major League Baseball (MLB) Fanhouse.

It seems that The Riverfront Times published the home addresses of current and former St. Louis Cardinals' players. MLB didn't like it and revoked the credentials of The Riverfront Times.

The author of that article wrote, "To publish the home address of an athlete, or anyone in the spotlight, is wholly irresponsible. ... A person's home is their home. It is not public domain."

I wonder what the folks at the Northwest Herald would have to say, now that they have published the home address of senior citizens whose case against them was tossed by the State's Attorney's Office.

Later in the week I received a comment with the home addresses of Sheriff Nygren and Undersheriff Lowery. Because there are some real kooks in the world who might harm their families or them at home, I decided not to publish their addresses. I appreciate all the other comments received from the person who sent them to me and hope that person will understand and accept my reasoning for not publishing the addresses.

Bull Valley to annex Resurrection Retreat Center?

Once again - about the front page article in this week's The Woodstock Independent (July 15, 2009) - you have to read between the lines to get really steamed up.

Recall that about 18 months ago the Woodstock City Council agreed to lend its good name and credit backing to the Resurrection Retreat Center, so that the Center could get a lower interest rate on bonds or some kind of loan than it could get without Woodstock's participation. The Woodstock City Attorney said the City of Woodstock would not be on the hook, if the deal soured.

Remember the comments at the City Council meeting that justified this action? Visitors to the Retreat Center would be coming into Woodstock and spending their money. Sounded good at the time.

In the second paragraph of the front-page article appears the insightful information that the Center "...had operated as a center for high school students and other groups for several years. Because the center was used less and less for retreats in recent years, ..." Huh? Why didn't the City of Woodstock find this out before they put its good name on the line?

We all know what big spenders high school students at a retreat are. They stay on the property; they don't go into town and spend money. They don't visit the merchants on the Square with wads of loose cash or gather in the eateries or buy tickets at the Opera House.

Did anyone ask these questions then?

OK, you can't cry over spilled milk. But you can go forward with eyes wide open into future deals. And Grace Hall is one of them.

Now is the time to think of the questions they will wish two years from now that they had asked.

What are those questions?

Oh, I forgot about Bull Valley's being asked to annex the Center. Read the article. The people asking Bull Valley to annex the Center don't even live in Bull Valley!

Competition for Grace Hall

Did you see the lead article in this week's The Woodstock Independent (July 15, 2009)?

Read the plans for the Resurrection Village. Check it out - a complex of 123 residential units, including construction of 23 single-family residences and 14 duplexes. Where would you rather live? Within feet of a busy two-lane, state highway with trucks and school buses going by - a steady stream of large and small vehicles and bumper-to-bumper traffic at many times during the day? Can't you just smell the diesel fumes and hear the noisy traffic? Or in a quiet, secluded, beautiful, rural setting - free of noise and fumes?

Most of the residents in either place won't have vehicles and won't be drivers, so a lot of parking pavement will not be needed. Will prospective residents choose Resurrection Village over WCLS? How many of them will? Will the existing units and the proposed units at WCLS be quickly filled?

Has the market study for WCLS, which hopes to demolish Landmark designation- qualified Grace Hall and will so ask the Woodstock City Council on this Tuesday night, changed? Would a current market study strongly urge WCLS to put the brakes on their plans and sit out the recession/depression and not get financially over-extended in a very weak market?

The Woodstock City Council seems poised to grant a demolition permit to Woodstock Christian Life Services (WCLS), even though the Woodstock Plan Commission and the City Council have not seen detailed drawings of WCLS plans for the new buildings. Why isn't the City Council requiring the same plans as it does of other developers before giving a green light to a project?

If the City Council does grant approval on Tuesday night for WCLS to demolish Grace Hall, will it impose a condition that demolition is not to begin until financing is secure to build all of the new buildings and that all plans have been approved by all required public bodies?

What a shame it would be for WCLS to tear down a historic building and then cry
"Poor me" and have to delay construction of the much-talked-about duplexes!