Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Experiential Intervention - OMNI

If you are a substance abuse or mental health professional, consumer (if you are, you'll know what the word means), family member, youth, educator, community provider, juvenile probation officer, or a concerned community member, please join in on Thursday, October 1, as presenters Jay Meyer, Executive Director, and Brian McKenna, Director of Juvenile Justice, Substance Abuse and Counseling for OMNI Youth Services demonstrate their unique approach of learning through Experiential Intervention.

The title of their presentation is "Demonstrating Positive Outcomes Through Experiential Interventions; a Unique Approach to Learning for Youth and Families".

DATE: Thursday, October 1st
TIME: 5:00 p.m. - Social hour & light dinner
6:00 p.m. - Presentation
PLACE: McHenry County Mental Health Board, 620 Dakota Street, Crystal Lake IL 60012
RSVP: (815) 455-2828 (for seating and food planning) (same day RSVP is okay)
COST: Free

This special study session co-hosted for you by Families ETC, the Transitional Youth Work Group of McHenry County, and the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

Second-best bumper sticker

Several years ago my daughter and I were shopping in Columbia, S.C. As we approached my car in the parking lot, a woman was loading her purchases into the trunk of her car. On the bumper of her car was this bumper sticker.
I motioned to it and asked my daughter to follow me as I approached the woman. I coughed to get her attention, said Hello and then asked her if she was one of those people who obeyed speed limits.
Well, I'll tell you - - her nostrils flared, and smoke started coming out of ears. But, before she could get up a head of steam and rip into me, I said, "Wait! Wait! So am I!"
She told me that she had had about 400 bumper stickers made up at her own expense, and she was passing them out to other drivers. She didn't have one with her, but she asked my address, and, true to her word, she did mail 3-4 to me.
I've thought about sticking one on my car, but around Chicagoland it would be too much like a bulls-eye.

What if you flip off a cop?

You must read this September 15th TIME magazine article - maybe even print it or otherwise save it. If nothing else, it's good for an afternoon laugh. But it's good for something else, too.,8599,1923125,00.html

David Hackbart, a 34-year-old Pittsburgh paralegal, flipped off a police sergeant who had observed him to express his displeasure toward a rude driver behind him.

The sergeant ticketed Hackbart for disorderly conduct under a state law that forbids obscene language and gestures. In March a District Court judge ruled that the law (and the $119 fine and costs) was unconstitutional.

The article also mentions a Pennsylvania woman who swore at her overflowing toilet and had been arrested. That one cost the City of Scranton, Pennsylvania, $19,000.

Recently, the City of Woodstock bashed one of its officers for flipping off a City Councilman and ordered him to stay away from the Councilman. Maybe, in view of court action elsewhere (and probably in many places), any discipline for that incivility was wrong. While it might not be the best of manners, is it disciplinable? Legally, I mean.

Should the City of Woodstock review that action and rescind that portion of its punishment?

"Hackbart ... says police should not be able to punish people by issuing citations they know to be unconstitutional." Well, duh...

I don't recommend driving around and flipping off police officers or deputies!

Tow Zone - oh, really?

Recently many No Parking signs were erected on and around the campus of McHenry County College. I'm sympathetic to the parking problems at the College, both on behalf of students, faculty, staff and visitors. These problems have resulted from sharp enrollment increases.

But are the parking restrictions legal? What if they aren't? What if the signs have no legal effect? Worse - if the signs aren't "legal", what if someone's car gets towed or ticketed?

An earlier call today to IDOT to ask whether the signs on U.S. 14 (top photo) are "legal" has not yet been returned. My question to IDOT was, "Are the parking signs on both sides of U.S. 14 legal?"

The signs are not regulation signs that meet the standards of the "Bible" followed by IDOT. The signs are temporary signs, similar to electioneering signs, small and erected in wire frames. IDOT likes signs on metal posts.

Now, what about the signs along perimeter roads, such as College Entrance 1 Road, and the driveways of the parking lots? Are these "No Parking - Tow Zone" signs legal? First, it was important to learn whether the perimeter roads were public roads or private roads.

The Crystal Lake Streets Department says the perimeter roads around the MCC campus are not public streets. So why are there Crystal Lake Police enforcement signs along them?
I called the Administration office of Crystal Lake to ask if there is a City ordinance about parking at MCC. They were going to direct my inquiry to the police department for response. So far, no call back from the Crystal Lake P.D. Keep in mind - these signs warn that the "No Parking - Tow Zone" ban is by order of the Crystal Lake Police.

Now, about the parking lots at MCC. Clearly, MCC can create its parking rules for the parking lots. These are private property. But can they use warning signs announcing the authority of the Crystal Lake Police?
I'm awaiting a return call from MCC with information as to who installed the No Parking signs and who paid for them.

Watch for more information about the legality of the No Parking signs.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nygren contributes to Democrat

Press Release by Zane Seipler for Sheriff

Republican Sheriff Keith Nygren’s Support of the Democratic Party

Woodstock, IL, September 30, 2009- In the latter part of the 1970’s, Keith Nygren embarked on a political career. Record states that Mr. Nygren was a Democratic committeeman in Algonquin Township. At the age of 32, Keith Nygren was endorsed as the candidate for the appointment of sheriff by the McHenry County Democratic Central Committee. He did not get the appointment but his career as a politician began.

Keith Nygren was appointed Sheriff of McHenry County in 1997, this time as a Republican. Prior to 1997, Mr. Nygren never participated in Republican Party politics. According to recent record, Sheriff Nygren has not completely left his Democratic ideologies behind. At a time when the Republican Party struggles to rebuild, Sheriff Nygren gives financial aid to a local Democratic leader. Not just once but several times over the past couple of years. When the Republican Party is in need of cohesiveness, leadership and support, Sheriff Nygren openly undermines the party that appointed him to office. By providing campaign contributions to members of the Democratic Party, Keith Nygren turns his back on the Republican campaign donors that have helped solidify his tenure over the past 12 years.

Bi-partisan relationships are necessary in all aspects of government, including law enforcement. Financing the other team crosses the line. If Mr. Nygren has formed personal relationships with members of the opposing party, those relationships are to be respected. Party unity and loyalty should also be respected. Republican campaign contributions should not end up in Democratic coffers. County Republican leaders should not be attending breakfast fundraisers for any member of the Democratic Party.

I am asking Republican Sheriff Keith Nygren to publically withdraw his support for any and all Democrats running for office, or to resign from the Republican Party.

Zane Seipler
Republican Candidate for Sheriff

Squad car in accident?

Was a Woodstock police car involved in an accident in the Wal-mart parking lot last week?

A tip reached me today that, indeed, one was.

I don't recall seeing any mention of it in the Northwest Herald, and no press release is posted on the Police Department webpages.

Police officers are human; they are behind the wheel for many hours in a month. They may not drive many miles; the entire department averages only 30,000 miles/month (16-month average); that's 1,000 miles/day. Three shifts: thus, 333 miles/shift. Four-five officers per shift? An officer might drive 50-75 miles on his shift. Some more; some less.

But an officer has a lot to do while he's driving: watching traffic; watching people; reading the computer; listening to the police radio and using it; talking on his cell phone.

So, what happened in the Wal-mart parking lot? Did a driver back out of a parking space and into the squad car? Did it happen in a turn? At a stop sign? Was anyone ticketed?

By the way, is there a Vehicular Control Agreement in effect on the Wal-mart parking lot? Such an Agreement allows the police department to enforce traffic laws on private property.

Cell phone (dis)courtesy

Yesterday I was at Mercy Woodstock Medical Center and had a short wait before the service was available. Seated in the waiting area on the lab side was a woman who was carrying on a long and loud conversation on her cell phone - while she was reading a magazine.

Within a few minutes a man seated to her right got up and walked out into the entrance hallway to get away from her. I remarked to employees at both the Radiology and Laboratory reception desks about the loud and long conversation, but neither took corrective action.

Later I learned that Mercy allows visitors and patients to use cell phones but, if the call becomes disruptive, the caller can be asked to terminate the call or go outside to finish it.

My suggestion to Mercy is that front-desk employees should be alert to such loud or long cell phone conversations and that a supervisor should be asked to speak to the phone user.

Too many cell phone users intrude in open, public places with their conversations. They just don't care. And, if you dare to say anything to them, they can quickly become confrontational, even nasty.

I was in a McDonald's one day where a man had set up his office. He had his laptop, PDA, phone, newspaper, reports, burger and drink, and he was conducting business on his phone in a loud tone of voice. The manager-on-duty was reluctant to approach him. You know, you don't want to anger a customer. What he didn't realize was that he was likely lose 5-6-7 customers for not approaching the man on the phone.

It's best to let management deal with the disruptive customer. If they don't, you can also contact the franchisee or McDonald's corporate office. Or the ownership or headquarters of whatever business in which you happen to be.

A restaurant - or a medical office or any other public place - is not a private business office or a cell phone user's personal phone space. Users should be considerate of others around them. Keep the calls short and in low tones, or go outside.

Monday, September 28, 2009

ALPR - coming to your town soon?

What is ALPR? Automatic Licence Plate Recognition. Big Brother is watching...

Watch this interesting video from British Columbia:

So much better than driving along McHenry County roads and running license plates individually to find out if an owner (not necessarily the driver!) might not have a driver's license. Eliminate driver distraction. Save patrol cars!

The driver of a vehicle equipped with ALPR can check thousands of license plates in a day, all without the driver's hands leaving the steering wheel. Imagine that!

One of the important uses is searching for uninsured vehicles. Boy! Could they ever use that in New Mexico, where about 60% of the cars are uninsured. And in McHenry County? What percentage of vehicles are uninsured?

If the insurance companies and the Secretary of State Department of Motor Vehicles ever really got serious about taking uninsured vehicles off the roads, they could implement this system. When an insurance premium was five days late, computers could go into action and trigger all the follow-up procedures. Special enforcement officers could show up and remove license plates.

After all, it's pretty easy to spot a vehicle with no license plates; right? Vehicle owners and drivers would quickly learn that mandatory minimum insurance coverage means m-a-n-d-a-t-o-r-y!

No insurance? No license plates!

2030 - only 21 years from now...

What's the 2030 Plan?

Be sure to read (maybe, re-read) Kevin Craver's article in yesterday's Northwest Herald for information about the Plan and where you can review it.

Do you want to be part of the planning process? Want to put in your two-cents' worth? Final input is October 9-10.

Look for the schedule when you can review the Plan according to the District of McHenry County in which you live. It's all in the article.

Best Bumper Sticker

Just look what showed up in my mailbox today.

Recently I was talking about this bumper sticker, and a friend in Wisconsin mailed it to me. Now, will I put it on my car?

I'm the person who has said that the only bumper sticker I'll ever put on my car reads, "I hate bumper stickers!"
But I might change my mind!

Woodstock PD's radar speed trailer

Woodstock PD still has its radar speed trailer, and it still works. Today it was on northbound Clay Street near Clay Academy (formerly known as Clay Elementary School).

When Clay was an elementary school, you could always find students on the sidewalks before and after school. The 20MPH school speed limit made sense then, for the safety of the children. The school zone by Clay is a 20MPH zone, but the speed limit is only in effect "when children are present" and then only between the hours of 7:00AM and 4:00PM on school days.

When children are not present, the speed limit on Clay Street is 30MPH, so the first thing that got my attention at mid-day when I approached the trailer was the 20MPH regulatory speed limit sign mounted on the trailer. The speed limit at the trailer, when no children are present, is 30MPH, yet most drivers slowed to 20MPH.

The 27MPH speed displayed on the trailer is for a car approaching the school zone but not yet in it. The car, which I could see behind me, had not yet reached the zone.

Legally, the 20MPH speed limit sign on the speed trailer had no effect. A speed limit sign posted without action and approval of the City Council is meaningless. It would have been better to have the added message about the school zone, but all that wording might topple the trailer.

The other problem was that the speed trailer was parked out of the street on the "parkway", the grass median between the street and the sidewalk. Usually the trailer is parked on the street, as it was recently in the 500 block of North Madison Street, and often it is protected by traffic cones.

The proper place for the speed trailer on the street. Vehicles have been ticketed for being parked on the parkway (except for the vehicle in the 900 block of Clay all day today), and no less should be required or expected of City-owned vehicles or equipment. I'm sure it was just a minor oversight and decision to place it out of the street, when there would be less chance of its being run over by a distracted driver. But it belongs in the street, just as does any vehicle.
If you would like the speed trailer to be located in your neighborhood, send an e-mail to Provide the police department with the location and a brief description of the extent of the speeding problem or reason you'd like it there.

6 DUIs - do not pass Go, do not collect $200...

... Go directly to jail.

PRESS RELEASE from the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office
SEPTEMBER 28, 2009



McHenry County State’s Attorney, Louis A. Bianchi, is pleased to announce that defendant Kurt Boyle was convicted of his 6th DUI today and sentenced to 6 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. A Lake in the Hills patrol officer discovered the defendant slumped over the steering wheel of his car in a retail parking lot. The defendant upon having contact with the officer, stated “You got me”.

In Illinois, defendant’s who are convicted of their 6th DUI offense are considered Class X felons. They face a sentencing range of 6 – 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. This case was prosecuted by Assistant State’s Attorney Simeon Kim.


Comment by Gus:

Who was the judge? When was Boyle arrested?
What were the sentences on the first five DUIs? And who were the judges?
Where and when were they?
Did any involve accidents, injuries, death?

I remember stopping a drunk in Colorado one night. Couldn't get him to pull over. It was one of those O.J. Simpson chases - about 30 MPH, including right through a red light.

When he finally stopped, he got out and put his hands on the roof of his car before I could ever get out of my car! His driving history included more than 20 traffic violations and numerous prior DUIs.

Leaf-burning in Woodstock

Yesterday I drove through a cloud of smoke in Woodstock. After I stopped coughing and my eyes stopped watering, I could see the road again and kept going. I looked around to see which house was on fire, but it was "only" smoke from a backyard.

This morning's article about leaf-burning in McHenry County (outside municipal limits) caused me to wonder about regulations within the City Limits of Woodstock.

According to Donovan Day, Woodstock's Code Enforcement Officer, leaf-burning is not permitted. Not on week-ends; not in the evening; not in the Fall. Not ever. Luckily for Donovan, enforcement is provided by the City's police department.

If you wish to report leaf-burning, all you need to do is call the Woodstock P.D. at 815.338.2131

Perhaps all the officer will need to do is make a quick stop at the location of the fire and direct the resident to put it out and not burn again. A quick courtesy call and explanation of the City's ordinance may be all that is needed, without a summons; however, the officer should record the call and/or issue a written warning.

The importance of calling the police and making the report is the likelihood that the same resident will burn at another time. If he does, then he should get a summons and "invitation" to visit the local Administrative Adjudication Court. A good plan is "one warning is all you get." At least, I hope that's where such tickets will be handled and not in the (expensive) McHenry County court system.

The police department has confirmed that it has the authority to enforce Woodstock's no-burn ordinance. All the officers should be familiar with the no-burn law and know the Department's policy for calls on that subject. Hopefully, officers will themselves be watching for violations and take action without the need for residents to call.

Survey – police intimidation

In a recent survey the question was asked, “Have you ever been the victim of attempted (or actual) intimidation by police?”

The responses were,

Yes 27 (21%)
No 102 (79%)

In this unscientific survey, not necessarily limited to this particular geographic area and without any known percentage of error, for there still to be a 21% positive response is startling. Many thanks to the 129 readers who participated in this survey!

“Intimidation” can have many meanings and broad interpretation. For example, let’s say that I have a long beard, as I did after a three-week raft trip through the Grand Canyon 28 years ago. Further, let’s say that I am driving through a small town and get stopped for a minor traffic violation, worth a $50 mail-in ticket.

Just because I have a long beard, let’s say I get hassled by a local cop and accused of being a drug dealer. The cop wants to search my car. Should I let him? Now, I know he won’t find anything in my car, but should I let him search it?

And what about my pockets? What is he entitled to search of my pockets? Should I let him? Is he only entitled to “pat” me down to find any weapon that could be used against him? Is he entitled to empty out my pockets or to ask me to remove the contents?

If I don’t, he’s likely to make my life miserable on the side of the road and perhaps pile on some other tickets. If I do let him search, because of the fear factor or intimidation, then he is searching illegally, but I’ll get to go on my way sooner.

Then let’s say that I tell him he can search and, at that point, he calls for a drug dog. Can’t he search without a dog?

And after all that, the dog and he don’t find anything; I get my $50 ticket and go on my way. And from that point on, the cops are the enemy. It didn’t start out that way, but that’s how it ended.

Just what cops want; right? Turn the public into the enemy. Just because they’ve got the badge and the gun. Is this the kind of police work we want?

NWH headline - huh?

On Page 9A of this morning's Northwest Herald was this headline: "Route 47 detour closed at Harvard, Marengo." Does anyone have a clue as to its meaning?

There must be many frustrated drivers of cars, motorcycles and small trucks who follow the signs for the Route 23 detour. It's Route 23 that is closed between Harvard and Marengo, as the article explains. Why in the world these light vehicles are directed east on U.S. 14 to Woodstock, south on Route 47, and back west on Route 176, I have no idea!

Light vehicles could proceed on Route 23 and take a short detour just around the bridge that is being replaced. Obviously, heavy trucks and tractor-trailer units would have to stay on the current detour to avoid damaging bridges on the local roads and congestion on the narrow roads around the Route 23 construction area.

But the "Route 47 detour"? What's that?

Why would IDOT schedule paving work on Route 47 at the same time that Route 23 is closed (for months) for the bridge replacement? Why didn't IDOT let that wait until next year? And why can't the Route 23 bridge be replaced in a much shorter period than the months it is taking? Is it some company's retirement plan for its employees? I mean, you go by there and only a few people are working.

It seems to me that project engineers could get everything lined up and then crews just swing in and do the work. And clear out.

Open Request to HPC and City Council

The following are open letters to the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission and to the Woodstock City Council:

1. To the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission:

Chairman Allen Stebbins and members of the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission (Don Frick, Beverly Ganschow, Lucia Matlock, Erica Wilson):

Please include the following item on the Agenda for your October 5, 2009 Regular Meeting. Please do not cancel this meeting.

My request is to include "Action on the pending Nomination of the building popularly known as Grace Hall for Landmark Designation including, but not limited to, quoting specific sections of the Woodstock City Code to the City Council, restating the requirements for Landmark designation, restating the supporting statements of Landmarks Illinois, the Illinois Historic Preservation Commission (or Agency), and the National Trust for Historic Preservation (or the actual name of such agencies), and demanding that the City Council "untable" this nomination and take action at its October 6, 2009 Regular Meeting and approve the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission.

2. To the Woodstock City Council

Mayor Brian Sager and Members of the Woodstock City Council (Dick Ahrens, Julie Dillon, Maureen Larson, RB Thompson, Mike Turner, Ralph Webster),

Good morning, Mayor Sager and Members of the Woodstock City Council,

In the absence of any acknowledgement or reply to my September 24 message, I'll assume it didn't reach you and I am re-sending it (below).

Please insert a "placeholder" in the Agenda for the October 6, 2009 meeting of the Woodstock City Council for consideration of and approval of the nomination by the Historic Preservation Commission for Landmark Designation of Grace Hall. This matter is of the utmost importance, in view of the pending demolition permit you have approved. It will be too late, once the wrecking ball swings against the first wall of Grace Hall.

The precedent of a "placeholder" has been established.

May I ask that each of you make an independent assessment of the historic and architectural value of Grace Hall and that your decision not be influenced by that of any other Council member? You have the right, the duty and the responsibility to follow the City Code, first and foremost. While you might have a personal opinion that is outside the Code, it seems to me that you are obligated to observe and follow the City Code. If you don't like the Code, then change it.

But this Landmark Designation nomination must be construed under the existing Code.

Thank you.

Gus Philpott

City Council silent on request

On September 24, 2009, I emailed the following request to Mayor Brian Sager, the six members of the Woodstock City Council, with copies to City Manager Tim Clifton, Deputy City Manager Derik Morefield, Jim Kastner and Nancy Baker.

My email must not be working, but there was not one response. Not even an acknowledgement of receipt of the email. I can fully appreciate that Derik, Jim and Nancy would not reply, after they saw that Tim received a copy. Not one of the six independent Council members replied. Maybe Tim was waiting for Brian to reply.

OK, so here is the email I sent:

Good morning, Mayor Sager and Members of the Woodstock City Council,

I am writing to ask you to place the Landmark nomination of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) on the Agenda for the October 6, 2009, City Council meeting. This nomination was tabled at a City Council meeting and is yet to be addressed.

There are good and sufficient reasons for you to act before WCLS submits a request for the first building permit in Phase 3. The HPC has determined that Grace Hall more than meets the minimum qualifications for Landmark designation.

I do not agree that WCLS' earlier request for amended special use permit knocks out the landmark designation request. This is exactly the situation that the Woodstock Historic Preservation Ordinance was created. When a building of historic or architectural value is threatened, then the City can act to preserve it.


Gus Philpott

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Phantom of the Op'ry

Ready for some fun this week-end? Some different fun?

Check out Theatre on the Green at This week-end Phantom of the Op'ry will be presented on Friday and Saturday evenings and on Sunday afternoon. (October 2-3-4)

Prices are modest. You'll have some coins (and bills) left over to head on back to the Woodstock Square after the show. Check the website for times and ticket prices.

Where's the show? Theatre On The Green, 15314 Saint Patrick Road, Woodstock, IL 60098

For information, e-mail:

Or telephone Lisa Waichunas, Resident Artistic Director, at 815-354-7435

Democratic candidate for sheriff

At this afternoon's Diversity Day event on the Woodstock Square, I stopped by the display table of the Democratic Party to say Hello and inquired whether the party would have a candidate in the race for Sheriff.

And right there, on the left end of the table, on a clipboard, was a petition for Mike Mahon. Welcome to the race, Mike.

I had hoped to speak with him tonight, but I can't seem to find a telephone number online for him. Mike lives in Lake in the Hills. If a reader knows him, will you please ask Mike to call me at 815.338.2666? Or e-mail me at

For many years since I moved to McHenry County (in 1996) I have said, "No major office should go uncontested." This year's race is going to be interesting and exciting.

Vigil across from jail

Tonight at 7:00PM there was another, the third, vigil across the street from the McHenry County Jail. The vigil was held for the detainees in the Federal I.C.E. unit, where 60-70-80 detainees are being held, and the group gathered along the west side of North Seminary.

Tonight there were about 80-90 people present. The count continued to grow after the 7:00PM scheduled starting time. Candles were distributed, and many had brought their own candles. The wind took care of some of the candles, and small flashlights were distributed.

It was a time of prayers conducted in Spanish for those being held across the street. Local interest in providing religious contacts to detainees has been supported by the Sisters of Mercy, of Chicago. The Feds have agreed to increase visiting hours for religious purposes, but some here feel that the McHenry County Jail has been dragging its heels on complying with orders to increase visitation. Unnecessary delays may be occurring in approving registration (or certification or approval) of those to be allowed access to inmates ("detainees"). Visiting hours for religious contact do not count toward a person's normal visiting hours.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

#3 B&B in Woodstock - coming along

Innkeepers Everton Martin and Karla Stewart-Martin report that the renovation of their bed-and-breakfast, Royal Victorian Manor, is progressing. Considerable remodeling of the interior is moving forward, and exterior grounds work has been done - and re-done, to accommodate upgrades in electrical and water services.

Everton said, "The transformation is amazing." He was referring to the interior changes. He added that he is no longer stressed out; now he is just numb. Anyone who has extensively remodeled a large home can relate to that; right?

The time-table is to obtain all the necessary permits to open by (approximately) year-end. Groundhog Day 2010 will be Tuesday, February 2, of course, and this is always a big week in Woodstock. Woodstock Willie is quite likely to make his annual appearance in the Square, and he will prognosticate on the arrival of Spring at 7:07AM.

Keep an eye on the Schedule of Events for that week. It's not out yet, but no doubt the committee is already working on it. Now, where is that Groundhog Club banner?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Celebrating Diversity

I'm sure there was no "accident" about this Sunday's celebration of Diversity on the Woodstock Square and receiving a magazine in the mail this week with its lead article entitled "Teaching Diverse Students." Since 1998 I have been a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, of Birmingham, Alabama. In some years I have dragged my heels about kicking in my small contribution, and then they "zing" me with a great magazine issue and I cough up. And it happened again!

I don't agree with every issue they take on, but with many of them I do. And so I am willing to kick in, to help them in my small way to continue their work.

Several years ago I took the Center's idea of a Mix It Up lunch program to District 200, and they tried it out at one school. On one day of the school year, schools bust up the cliques and require students to move around and sit with others they don't know - with someone they would not usually sit with - and to get to know that person. Some of you know my opinion of "try". To my knowledge, D200 "tried" it out only in that one year, instead of joining the thousands of schools that have committed themselves to diversity and implemented the program permanently. It's not that much work, but it requires a commitment. You know ... the "C" word! Like, Choice. Like, Change.

The articles in this magazine that got my attention?

A teacher who introduced her class to disabilities and invited her polio-stricken mother into the classroom in her wheelchair.

A third-grade Texas teacher who stepped up to stop disrespect in the classroom.

A documentary about the first racially-integrated high school prom in Charleston, Mississippi - in 2008!

A documentary created by student with learning disabilities to share their wisdom.

An article on zero-tolerance policies.

I invite your attention to the SPLC and its Teaching Tolerance unit. For more information, visit

On the last page? "In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it." Marianne Williamson (1952 - )

Comment on Sessom conviction

I decided not to comment on the Sessom conviction by the SAO within the same article, but instead to ask a few questions here, separately.

In searching the Northwest Herald website by the suspect's last name, Sessom, I found no article that he reported his arrest. This caused me to wonder whether the Woodstock Police Department had issued a press release and/or notified the Northwest Herald and The Woodstock Independent of Sessom's arrest.

When a Chicago man cruises Woodstock streets and attempts to pick up a girl who has just left a school bus, this seems newsworthy to me. Not only should folks in town learn of it quickly through the newspapers, perhaps even school officials should distribute news of the arrest through the school information network, to raise the alertness of parents and students.

From the three entries on the Northwest Herald website, one cannot discern when the crime took place. The Grand Jury indicted him, according to a June 15, 2009 entry on the Northwest Herald website. Grand juries may act fairly quickly after a crime is reported, so do we assume that the crime occurred in April or May, toward the end of the last school year?

The Woodstock Independent does a pretty good job of including many crimes in Woodstock by reporting them weekly. The Northwest Herald fails Woodstock readers by reporting only a few crimes, and only about once a month.

When residents in a town or city know, accurately, what crimes are being committed, then they can decide whether to turn up the heat on the City Council and the Police Department for increased enforcement. When the crime information doesn't reach the public in a timely manner, or at all, then the public is uninformed - and that's never good.

Could the Police Department and the City of Woodstock do a much better job of keeping residents informed? You bet!

SAO gets conviction in bench trial

From the Office of the McHenry County State's Attorney:


September 25, 2009



McHenry County State’s Attorney, Louis A. Bianchi, is pleased to announce that Marcus Sessom was found guilty of the offense of Intimidation by the Honorable Judge Sharon Prather after a two day bench trial. Sessom, a Chicago man, was accused of threatening to rape and kill a 17 year-old girl with special needs if she did not enter into his car. Sessom approached the girl as she was walking along St. Johns Road in Woodstock after getting off her school bus. The girl became frightened and ran away unharmed before alerting authorities. Though denying the offense, Sessom told the Woodstock Police Officers that he talked to the girl because he was “driving down the street trying to pick up girls, because that is what he does.” Intimidation is a Class 3 offense for which the defendant could be sentenced to 2 to 10 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Judge Prather will sentence the defendant on November 9, 2009. The case was prosecuted for the State by Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Blackney and David Johnston.

Dog waste case trashed again

This morning's Northwest Herald reports that Algonquin's case against Carrie Fosdale has been dropped - again.

If you remember, Fosdale objected to the placement of a poop can for doggie waste in front of her home in the Old Oak Terrance Homeowners' Association territory. It was placed there by the Association, apparently without notice to or consultation with Fosdale. Now, which of us wants a smelly, mosquito-attracting can in his front yard for all dog-walkers to drop their bagged waste in??? Not I!!!

Fosdale was charged with theft, after she removed the can. She didn't steal it; she just removed it. But the "powerful" people in the Association (and some of us have had experience with those whose power has gone to their heads) claimed "Foul" and sicced the Algonquin Police on Fosdale, which put her squarely in the sights of the State's Attorney's Office (SAO).

The case was apparently dropped once on a "technicality" and then re-filed by the SAO. And then they dropped it a second time. The reason this time? "It was our determination that we would not be successful in providing that part," Deputy Chief State's Attorney Demetri Tsilimigras told the Northwest Herald. What was "that part"?

"That part" was "proving that Fosdale intended to permanently deprive the association of the dog waste can." Well, duh.... What was Fosdale going to do? Hide the waste can full of dog poop in her house?

This type of case shows the abuse of authority and incredible power of a police department and the State's Attorney's Office to wreak havoc in a person's life and bank account. It's a case that never should have made it past the patrol officer's computer keyboard. It's a dispute between the Association and a homeowner, not a criminal matter. What has Fosdale's defense cost her so far???

The cop should never have accepted a criminal complaint, and the police department should have had the guts to back up the officer. And the SAO should have had the case dismissed at the very first court appearance.

Of course, the entire matter could have been handled a different way. The Association could have contacted Fosdale to ask how she would feel about a smelly can in front of her house. Or the Association could have thought about it for five seconds and figured out what she would say. Then it could have put the dog poop can in the common area, away from any houses.

Dog owners should learn how to "curb" their dogs; i.e., you make them poop in the street. After they pick it up, the next rain might wash away what's left. And you take the poop home and put it in your own waste can, in your own garage. In the meantime, no one will have to see the poop stain in their yard or worry about kids stepping in it. Better yet, have their dogs poop in their own yards; then take them for a walk.

And you don't follow the advice in a recent "Dear Abby" column to dump it in your neighbor's trash can, just because you don't want to carry it home.

Fosdale should go back to court - this time to sue the Association over its criminal complaint against her! Go for it, Carrie! Remember: Don't get mad; get even!

If you would like to contribute to Carrie Fosdale's legal defense fund (I'm sure Attorney George Kililis didn't work for free, and there is no reason he should have), please send your checks or money orders, payable to Carrie Fosdale, to me. I'll be sure she gets them.

Opera House Schedule - stale

This morning I was checking the schedule for upcoming events ("Current Season" and "Now Playing") at the Woodstock Opera House, and I couldn't help wondering why the schedule still shows the programs for August 22, August 28, August 29 and September 12. And no programs coming up.

Surely, with $30.00, $20.00, $28.00 and $23.00 ticket prices, respectively, there must be money to update the website.

Maybe I'm the only one who is "a little" sensitive to these ticket prices for a city government-owned entertainment venue. I'd love to attend more events there, but ticket prices keep me away. Is this true for anyone else?

I don't have an expense account to pad for an evening's entertainment. I still consider $100-150 for an evening's entertainment as a lot of money. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned.

If prices were lower, would otherwise-empty seats be filled? Would higher attendance result in more sales of refreshments next door at Stage Left Cafe (and maybe even at the property-tax-paying eateries and bars within walking distance of the Opera House)?

Affordable Housing on the Way

The Corporation for Affordable Homes in McHenry County (CAHMCO) has announced that it was awarded a $2,500,000 grant for permanent supportive housing in McHenry County. Congratulations!

CAHMCO applied for the grant on May 4 for funding by the State Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Last night at a meeting of the Transitional Youth Work Group (TYWG), which meets at the McHenry County Mental Health Board, Executive Director of CAHMCO Mary Lu Seidel explained the grant.

This grant will be of special interest to certain at-risk young adults, because they may be able to qualify for independent housing which they can actually afford.

"Supportive housing" is for 1) those who, but for housing, cannot access and make effective use of treatment and supportive services in the community and for 2) those who, but for supportive services (for example, mental health services), cannot access and maintain stable housing in the community.

A candidate, or applicant, must be in some type of program that provides case management, and the referral to CAHMCO is made by the Case Manager.

The $2.5 million is to develop and manage up to 24 housing units. These may include efficiency apartments and apartments of one or more bedrooms. These will not be "group homes". CAHMCO will buy, rehab (or build) housing on lots or properties which have been foreclosed. Real estate taxes will likely be waived on these properties, which is a big step toward making them affordable.

Rents will be affordable to people earning approximately 30% of the area median income. No monthly rent subsidies are planned. This is permanent housing (not transitional housing), but it is for transitional-age residents.

An example of rent is: for a studio apartment for one person earning $15,840/year ($7.75/hour x 51 weeks/year), the monthly rent would be $396, including utilities.

Now, that's affordable!

For more information, go to or call 815.206.5805

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cell Phone Radiation

Where does your cell phone rank on the list of health-hazardous phones?

Check out this report of the Environmental Working Group at No danger, you say? Then be sure to read this!

You can look up your phone by manufacturer and model number. There is a ton of good information there, including hints for reducing radiation effects on your body.

Be sure to read the warning about cell phone usage by kids.

And if you think that using a Bluetooth and just keeping the phone in the belt holster is the way to go, keep reading in the research section of that report.

Farmers Market Chef Demo

This Saturday, September 26, there will be a chef's demonstration at the Farmers' Market on the Woodstock Square.

The chef will be from Pirro's, and there will be cooking demos at 9:30AM, 10:30AM and at 11:30AM. And you know what demos must mean: chef's samples!!! The demos will be inside the Square, so make your purchases from the farmers' stands along the streets and also inside the Square, and then be sure to drop by the demos.

Entertainment this Saturday will be Compass, a group of five men from Lake County. They have been at the Farmers' Market before, and Keith says that everyone loved them. Compass will be playing from 9 to 12.

Keith also says that apples, pumpkins and squash are in. There will be lots of baked goods and lots of plants.

There will be eggs on Tuesday, and the entertainment on Tuesday will be Mark Hobbs and friends.

Super-majority: is it 5 or is it 6?

Under the Woodstock City Code, when the City Council wants to do what it wants to do, in spite of a recommendation from a department, board or commission of the City, then it needs a "super-majority" of votes to over-ride that recommendation.

That issue was a big deal with the City Council when it was turning a blind eye to the Historic Preservation Commission over Grace Hall.

And it came up at the September 15th City Council meeting, when the City Council over-rode the recommendation of the Woodstock Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA's recommendation was to deny Cunat's request for variance for under-sized apartments at Autumnwood.

Okay, so what is a "super-majority"? According to the City Code, if the City Council wants to over-ride a recommendation of a department, board or commission, a simple majority is not enough. A "super-majority" is required, and a super-majority is three-quarters (75%) of the City Council, who must vote in favor of the motion.

It's three-quarters (75%) of the seven members of the City Council; i.e., of the entire Council. Whether they are present or not. The Code does not say "of the members of the City Council who are present at the time of the vote."

Grab your 5th Grader and ask what the answer is to "How much is 3/4 of 7?" OK, let's see... Hmmmm.... 0.75 x 7 = Where are the fresh batteries for the calculator?

Got it! 5.25. 3/4 of 7 is 5.25 Oh-oh. Which Councilperson is going to get cut into fourths? No one?

This means that, rounded off, a super-majority of seven must be six (not five). You can't cut up one councilperson into fourths, and not one of them is going to allow you to ignore his (or her) one-fourth (1/4) vote. So a super-majority is six (6). Not five. Six.

And that's exactly what Deputy City Manager Derik Morefield told the City Manager (and City Council) last October about the number of votes by the City Council that would be needed to over-ride a recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission for Landmark Designation for Grace Hall, should the HPC so recommend.

Unfortunately, by April Derik had a change of heart (or was there some other type of influence?), and then he opined that only five votes would be needed to over-ride the HPC. Derik, you were right the first time.

However, last week five heads on the City Council nodded to John Cunat and out he walked with his variance. A super-majority was needed, but the vote was 5-2. Two council members voted "Nay." So there was no super-majority, and the motion should have failed.

Why didn't it fail?

Autumnwood gets variance

Be sure to read the Page 7 article in The Woodstock Independent (TWI) this week (September 23, 2009) about the variance handed out by the Woodstock City Council for Cunat's Autumnwood Apartments.

TWI reports that, when Cunat bought the property, the seller's prior illegal conversion of six tiny spaces (were they utility closets or ???) into "efficiency" apartments escaped their attention. Now, just how does something like that happen?

Cunat ought to have known of the legal size requirements of living units; it's not like they are inexperienced in the apartment-rental game. They must have done measurements and unit counts as part of their due diligence. According to the article, Councilman Dick Ahrens said, "There's certainly a difference between a 351-square-foot apartment and a 500-square-foot apartment."

Councilwoman Julie Dillon said something about 19'x19' room and a $650 rental rate in the same sentence. Is Cunat renting the 361 sq. ft. "efficiency" apartments for $650??? No wonder they wanted the variance!

According, again, to the paper Councilman Mike Turner asked Police Chief Lowen about the "experience of the Woodstock Police Department" with the apartment complex. The answer, according to the paper, was that the apartment complex "management has a strong working relationship with the department" and "they work hand-in-hand with the permanent beat officers to address any issues that come up."

Mike, that's not an answer! Did you ask a follow-up question to get the answer to your first question? The answer should have been, "In the past 90-180-365 days we have had "x" number of calls to that apartment complex, and the calls have included (the types of calls)."

I have my own opinion about whether a $650 monthly rent ($7,800/year!) for a 361 sq. ft. efficiency apartment is an "affordable option" during times of economic hardship.

Is there an occupancy limit for an efficiency apartment? Is it ever checked?

Woodstock Advocate passes 100,000 mark

Sometime, probably earlier today, the counter on this site passed 100,000 views. Thanks - many thanks - to all the readers of The Woodstock Advocate.

The counter has been on this site only since January 3, 2009, although the first article was published on April 15, 2007.

Initially, I didn't place on counter on this site. I was writing it because I wanted to write it, not because somebody might read it. One of the things I wanted to do on a second blog ( publish the crime reports from the Woodstock Police Department.

I decided to install a counter, after I received a letter on behalf of the City on January 7, 2009, denying the Crime Reports to me. The City claimed that my site had only 2,000 "hits" in a year. They were looking for a way to deny providing Crime Reports of the Woodstock Police Department to me. The City also claimed that a blog (an online journal) is not "media", because the word "blog" is not used in the statute (although "electronic format" is there). What is a blog, if it's not "electronic format"?

50 ILCS 205/3 (c) 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..."

So perhaps The Woodstock Advocate really does qualify as "news media" to receive Crime Reports from the Woodstock Police Department?

First, I had to find out where that "2,000" had come from, since I didn't know of a counter on this site. After searching around, I did find one that recorded the number of views of my profile (not of articles).

The 100,000 views have occurred since January 3. That's less than nine months. The counter records "views", not "unique" visitors. So every time you click on this site, the counter increases. And every time I click (for example, to post an article), it counts.

How many articles or stories have there been so far?

There were 282 in 2007;
There were 827 in 2008; and
There have been 841 in 2009 (to date).

Thanks to readers for your story suggestions and especially for your comments. (click)

Landmark Nomination - when to be decided?

Yesterday's letter from Esther Hall Gordon, now of Battle Creek, Michigan and former resident of the Woodstock Children's Home from 1963-1971 and Woodstock High School graduate '71, again reminded me once again that, as readers know, Mayor Sager and the Woodstock City Council tabled the nomination of Grace Hall for Landmark Designation at a prior City Council meeting, just before approving demolition of Grace Hall. That demolition is subject to approval of the first building permit for the South Phase of the WCLS special use permit to building additional little duplexes.

On September 14th I asked the City Council, at its joint meeting with the Historic Preservation Commission, to "untable" this nomination and act on it. My request elicited no response from the City Council.

The City Council would like this issue to just die and go away. Residents (voters!) cannot allow this to occur. The City Council must act responsibly and not continue to ignore the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission. They didn't deny it at the previous meeting; they "tabled" it. This means it is still on the table!

The honorable thing for them to do is place this nomination on the Agenda, before a permit request ever reaches the Plan Department, and act on it.

If they approve it, that will slow, stall or eliminate demolition. If they deny the landmark designation, then that opens the door for legal action against the City by the Historic Preservation Commission and interested residents for not following its own Historic Preservation ordinance. The building absolutely meets (and exceeds) the minimum requirements under the ordinance for Landmark status.

Of course, if the City Council approves Landmark status for Grace Hall and refuses to issue a demolition permit, then that will prompt legal action by Woodstock Christian Life Services, through its attorney, Mark Gummerson. When was it - a year ago? - that he intimidated legal action could be expected if the City didn't approve WCLS plans? It was subtle, but every member of the City Council had to hear the threat of legal action.

The Woodstock City Council needs a second, and fully independent, legal opinion on the question of superiority of WCLS' request for special use permit over the Landmark nomination. It is my belief that an attorney who is an expert in historic preservation will advise the City that Landmark designation, regardless of when pronounced, trumps demolition of a building with historic and architectural value.

At the present time, the City is relying on advice that, just because WCLS jumped in line first, its claim is superior to the Historic Preservation Commission's nomination. 'Tain't so.

There are seven members of the City Council. What Woodstock needs is seven independent members of the City Council! Men and women who will investigate, think through and make their own independent decisions on issues. All leaders; no followers.

Will this City Council have the courage to address the Landmark nomination without further malingering?

Woodstock Children's Home (Grace Hall)

The following letter was received from former resident Woodstock resident, Esther Hall Gordon. Ms. Gordon writes about the building that has been in our news recently and has generally been referred to as "Grace Hall."

Another reason to remember this building, located at 318 Christian Way, is its prominent use as the Woodstock Children's Home. Ms. Gordon may travel from her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, to be present at the October 6th meeting of the Woodstock City Council.

Watch for more information about Ms. Gordon's visit to Woodstock and address to the City Council. Her letter follows.

"Dear Mr. Gus Philpott:

"As a dependent and neglected minor from Chicago, my full legal guardianship was providentially relinquished by my birth parents and accepted by the late Reverend Robert Murfin, Director of the Evangelical Child Welfare Agency (ECWA), previously located at 127 North Dearborn Avenue in Chicago, and currently known as the Evangelical Child & Family Agency. Reverend Murfin then assigned my physical custody to the Woodstock Children's Home, where I found a refuge from my birth parents from 3/28/63 until high school graduation on 6/7/71. Moreover, I am keenly aware of the rich historical background of the place which became my "home" for eight years and three months, and consider myself most fortunate to have been privileged to live, for the greater part of my eight years of residency, in a suitable boarding school type of environment, where, for the most part, I received adequate care from both nonprofessional and professional staff, most of whom projected a genuine sense of concern as to my immediate well-being. Conversely, there were still many incidences of "preferential treatment" given out by both professional and nonprofessional staff alike, to a select few high school-aged residents, whose physical custody and care had also been entrusted to the Woodstock Children's Home, but whose names will not be divulged in this particular forum.

"Additionally, some of us, including myself, endured silently under ongoing emotional abuse, which consisted of demeaning, harsh, and punitive treatment at the hands of a few nonprofessional houseparents or relief workers. Also, we witnessed firsthand very specific incidences of blatant and willful improper care and treatment doled out to a few children's home residents, especially those whose behavior mirrored their underlying emotional pain and grief over the loss of their "homes," "families," and "parent(s)," despite a fairly minimal and, more frequently, an extremely inadequate physical, emotional, and spiritual environment, as provided by their families of origin. Like many others, I had to grow up very quickly, attend school regularly, participate in church activities faithfully, as well as perform my chores at the children's home, and hold down a job in the community, so that I could plan for my future. In short, I become a good parent to myself, which is not at all bad!

"I read, with consuming interest, your letter, of 3/9/09, as posted to the Woodstock Advocate, along with the published Woodstock City Council Meeting minutes, and various letters to the editors of the Northwest Herald and the Woodstock Independent relative to the above concern. I wish to thank you so much for your interest in the preservation of Harrison House, aka Grace Hall, and the most unfortunate, albeit exploitative, agenda which the Woodstock Christian Life Services organization has now set forth, apparently in full cooperation with the City of Woodstock, which, it would appear, is equally complicit in this, as yet, unrealized business venture. Unfortunately, your keen insight with regard to the "waiting games" being played out between WCLS and the City of Woodstock, primarily in connection with the exploitative agenda on behalf of Woodstock Christian Life Services is "right on." Thus, I would strongly emphasize garnering more expansive, state-wide support for this particular matter. If left to Woodstock's small town politics (or perhaps, by now, more aptly described as "pseudo city" politics), the building will fall without so much as a peep from anyone beyond the city limits. Thus, my purpose for writing to you, as well as other concerned Woodstock residents, and municipal government officials, is to raise awareness of the inevitable. To be sure, I will be contacting as many former residents of Harrison House as possible to appeal for their involvement and input.

"I have also read, with even greater interest, today's Woodstock Independent article, "Tensions Force Council to Examine HPC Role," in which reference is again made to the demolition of Harrison House, aka Grace Hall. Have all interested parties "tabled" their previous efforts or negotiations with the city council or WCLS? What is the current level of involvement on the part of the Illinois Historical Preservation Society, if any, or with those whose primary motivation is to preserve Harrison House, aka Grace Hall, not merely out of consideration for those of us who made our home there, but, also, in keeping with their consuming passion for historical preservation of worthwhile sites? In my opinion, the building's historical significance is fairly unknown to the general public. Therefore, many are either unaware of its impending disappearance from the landscape, due to intentional efforts by WCLS to evade questions from concerned parties, specifically as to their projected date of demolition, while they remove their belongings from the building, and hope everyone just forgets about Harrison House. Meanwhile, in the hope of silencing the "troublemakers," has the City of Woodstock also continued to "let the clock run down" on Harrison House's existence, with the hope that most local and distant folk are just plain apathetic about this wonderful old building? It would be good if Nancy L. Baker's excellent book "Images of America: Woodstock" could be promoted through local high school history classes, as Baker documents very well the historical legacy of the community of Woodstock, as well as provides an most informative look at the history of Todd School in chapter four.

"During recent follow-up telephone and email conversations with Ms. Cindy Smiley, who, incidentally, has been most supportive of my efforts to contact the City of Woodstock, WCLS, and former Woodstock Mayor Bill Anderson, who also happened to reside at Harrison House, aka Grace Hall, during the years I lived at the Main Building, it was conveyed that no further action had been taken by anyone from WCLS, as to submission of specific future building plans or demolition requests. With the obvious caveat that WCLS would eventually submit their expanded building plans, whereupon issuance of a demolition permit would be granted by the City of Woodstock, Ms. Smiley advised me to contact Woodstock Christian Life Services directly to inquire as to their current scheduled date of demolition. Yesterday morning, in response to my telephone query as to scheduled date of demolition, I received an, "I don't know" answer from a female worker with WCLS, which, of course, I don't buy for one minute.

"Also, Ms. Smiley recommended I contact local community residents and activists, Mr.and Mrs. Dan and Carol (Roskie) Lemanski, whose father Coach Anthony Roskie coached at the Todd School for Boys, and with whom I later became acquainted during his tenure as a Woodstock Community High School coach, which I did. Except for a most timely return phone call from Mrs Lemanski this afternoon, during which we discussed at great length the current status of the demolition of Harrison House, aka Grace Hall, in addition to the past impossible requests set forth by the City of Woodstock CounciI, e.g., "raise one million dollars in six months," I remain unenlightened as to the "hidden agenda" with regard to destruction of this historic landmark. Is one million dollars the current "fair market value" of Harrison House, aka Grace Hall? To be sure, there are some things on which we cannot place a price tag. This is definitely one of them.

"From my perspective, the financial exploitation of not only a unique local historical site most worthy of preservation, i.e., Harrison House, aka Grace Hall - the sole remaining building of the Todd School for boys,- needs to be kept at the forefront of Illinois' historical preservation groups by local community activists, such as yourself and the Lemanskis, as well as by those previous residents, such as myself, who actually lived in Harrison House, but who have since moved away from Woodstock and relocated to other states.

"How many of the locals from Springfield would have stood still for one minute at the suggestion of demolishing the site of Lincoln's birthplace and home, incidentally, both of which I have visited, to make way for more "financially profitable and lucrative exploits in real estate? None! From my perspective, Harrison House could be preserved solely on the basis of its noteworthy legacy as the Todd School for Boys, where many students, such as actor and playwright Orson Wells, lived, studied and received a quality education. Harrison House, aka Grace Hall, does not belong just to the Woodstock Christian Life Services enterprise, nor does it belong to the City of Woodstock, or to the state and local historical societies,- and, no - not even to those of us who lived out our minor years as residents of Harrison House, and attended and studied at Woodstock Community Schools, worshiped in Woodstock churches, and worked for Woodstock employers. Harrison House belongs to ALL of us.

"I would be more than happy to travel to Woodstock and meet with the City Council at its next regularly scheduled meeting, as well as Woodstock Christian Life Services representatives. However, I see the City Council's October 9th meeting has been cancelled with no rescheduled date. Please advise as to next meeting, as well as whether I need to contact city offices to be placed on the agenda of the next meeting, when this matter will again be discussed. Has anyone considered purchasing the existing property and renovating it into a bed and breakfast? Or, if not appropriate for commercial zoning, and residents oppose that idea, why not just maintain the site, as it is currently in good repair, based upon my observations during a "walk through" with staff last September 2006 during my Woodstock High School Reunion for the Class of 1971.

"I speak on behalf of the countless disadvantaged and indigent children and adolescents, who, through no fault of our own, lost our families of origin, and left whatever homes we might have known, no matter how inadequate, to become residents of the main building and Harrison House on the campus of the Woodstock Children's Home. Please help me preserve the memories of this building and do not allow its destruction. I am deeply disappointed to hear that this building will also soon be obliterated from the landscape. It was, for so many young people, including myself who, through no fault of our own, needed a haven from an unsuitable home environment.

"In September 2006, I returned to Woodstock during the weekend of my high school reunion (WHS Class of 1971), but instead of going to reunion events, chose to visit Harrison House, where I did a "walk through," and spoke with several workers. It is the only vestige left of my childhood "home," and a place where I actually stayed for eight consecutive years! Really, it is the only place to which I can still return and feel as though my childhood was not totally swept away by unfortunate circumstances, broken relationships, and demolished buildings.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to visit one more time, and take my own pictures before the demolition, so that I can show my adult sons and my grandchildren where I lived as a girl


"Esther Hall Gordon
207 Embury Drive.
Battle Creek, MI 49014
(269) 274-0793

"cc: Terry Egan, Executive Director, Woodstock Christian Life Services; 350 Christian Life Way; Woodstock, IL 60098"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Diversity Day - this Sunday

Diversity Day 2009: We’re In This Together!

Press Contact: Patrick Murfin Ph. 815/814-5645


September 23, 2009


WOODSTOCK--Diversity Day 2009: We’re In This Together! will be held this Sunday, September 27 from 1 to 4 PM on the Square in Woodstock.

For the 13th annual festival will take note of “The tough economic times that have taken a devastating toll on our community and nation while the world remains in turmoil,” festival Executive Director Patrick Murfin explained. “Sometimes fear and anxiety cause groups to turn on each other and bigots seek to exploit those fears. But in times like these we need each other more than ever. Our festival is meant to rally the whole community regardless of race, religion, national origin, language, gender, sexual orientation, age or ability in mutual respect and celebration.”

The festival program will feature live entertainment and inspiring messages from individuals and organizations working together in the face of adversity.

Musical and performance acts include The Frothy Boys, a ebullient men’s doo-wop a cappella ensemble; legendary McHenry County story teller Jim May; blind singer/guitarist Pierre Berube; pianist Matt Chopin; the Bolivian folk dancing of Corazon Boliviano Grupo de Danza Folkloria director by Julieta L. Bolivar; and folk music by Keith Johnson and Judy Matzen.

Murfin will be joined by his long time festival co-host Gloria Urch in introducing featured speakers. Joe Blanco, coordinator of the Woodstock PADS site will talk about homelessness. Suzanne Hoban of the Family Health Partnership Clinic will speak on healthcare and Julie Biel-Claussen of the McHenry County Housing Authority will discuss the challenges of finding affordable housing.

An annual highlight of Diversity Day is the Peace and Justice Award presented to an individual or individuals who have advanced the causes of justice, equity and compassion in our community and the world. This year the recipient is Thomas Dincecco who has dedicated his retirement years to service to those in need. Among other activities, Dincecco is the coordinator of the Direct Assistance Program (DAP) of the Woodstock Community Ministry which provides emergency grants to those who fall between the cracks of the safety net. The award will be presented by last year’s recipient, Sue Rose of the Housing Authority.

Carlos Acosta of the McHenry County Latino Coalition will present this year’s recipients of the organization’s Scholarship Awards, sponsored by State Farm Insurance.

The festival also includes table displays with information from non-profit organizations, social service providers, government agencies, issue advocacy organizations, religious groups, political parties, and businesses.

Diversity Day 2009: We’re In This Together! Is organized by the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Woodstock. Admission is free and open to the public.

For information contact Murfin at 815 814-5645, e-mail or visit

IL 47 - why in Lakewood?

I got to thinking this afternoon, how did the Village of Lakewood end up with property on both sides of Illinois Route 47 north of Route 176? Or did it? This property may become the site of a huge development of ball fields and hotels (or motels).

The website for the Village of Lakewood announces that it covers just under four square miles. Now, a four-square-mile village is pretty easy to size up. That's two miles in each direction, roughly. Does it really include both sides of Route 47 and, yet, still include half of Crystal Lake? How could that be?

As Crystal Lake marched westward, why wasn't Woodstock gobbling up land south to and past Route 176? It got to Lucas Road. Which city was closer to that area? But Woodstock and Crystal Lake missed it, and Lakewood got it.

Of course, it's all too late now, except for the crying, gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands.

And a little farther south? Where you would think you are in Huntley? But, when you see those flashing red and blue lights in your mirror, you find out that you are Lake in the Hills?

Should there be a law that, when a state highway runs through a village, town or city, there must be "City Limit" signs on the highway to warn motorists where they are? And actually at the city limits? I use the word "warn" for good reason.

Most people around here know that the speed limit is enforced in Bull Valley. As a result, drivers generally slow down in Bull Valley and don't exceed the posted speed limit.

On Highway 47 south of Woodstock and on Highway 14 between Woodstock and Crystal Lake, it's a whole different story. Basically, there is no enforcement on Highway 47, unless Lake in the Hills PD can spare a radar car every once in a while.

And on Highway 14? Well, NASCAR friends, you own that road. And don't worry about passing on the shoulder. No one is watching.

Shred it on Oct. 17

Have you been looking for a place to get rid of all those boxes of files, receipts, letters, documents, bills (the paid ones!), customer and client records, statements? You know, all that "stuff" that you'd hate to blow out of the landfill and end up on the front page of the Chicago Tribune?

On-site shredding will be provided by Shred-It, a Chicago shredding company. This service provides document destruction right where you drop off your boxes, so that you know the documents are safely and secured destroyed, not carted off somewhere to be raided by prying eyes.

Gather up all those (standard-size) boxes and some $5 bills and haul them to the Family Health Partnership Clinic (FHPC) parking lot on Saturday, October 17, between 10:00AM and 1:00PM.

For a $5.00 donation per box, you can see all those documents disappear into a massive shredding machine, right before your very eyes!

No appointment is necessary; just come out with your documents! For more information, call 815.334.8987 Ext. 24, or check it out on

New ballgame in town?

Is there going to be a new ballgame in town? And I don't mean on U.S. 14 by the hospital.

How about on Route 47 between IL 176 to the west and 176 to the east? You know, all those cornfields down there in beautiful rural McHenry County?

Only it's not beautiful "rural" McHenry County; it's Lakewood! Rumor has it that there are plans for 27 ball diamonds and three hotels (motels?). $$$, going into sleepy ol' Lakewood.

And traffic? Whew! If you think it's bad on 47 now, just wait. Will Route 47 be widened for 3-4 lanes in each direction? ala Huntley? Racetrack City - on the way. But Lakewood will surely beef up its police department and attempt to control speeding and other traffic violations. Maybe it will even figure out how to put those violations in its own adjudication court and keep all the money at home.

The McHenry County Regional Planning Commission September 24 Meeting Agenda doesn't show this item. Could it come up there? Heck, when you look at that agenda, nothing will come up, because there are only general titles and no specific business.

October 1, 8:30AM Planning & Development Committee. There?

October 6, 9:00AM, is the next County Board meeting. Will it come up there?

And what does this mean for the baseball stadium plans over by the new gravel pit?

Chamber Mixer a success

Yesterday's joint mixer of the Woodstock and the Crystal Lake Chambers of Commerce was a great success. Family Health Partnership Clinic sponsored it, and business members from both chambers attended.
Pictured is the interim Executive Director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, Tom Sagendorf.
Co-emcee for the mixer was Rick Schildgen (CL Graphics), an Ambassador of the Crystal Lake Chamber, who was sporting his "Ambassador-green" jacket. Rick told me that his chamber has approximately 25 Ambassadors, who act as liaison between members and the Chamber office.
If you weren't there, you missed the tastiest treats that I've had at a chamber mixer - ever. Josh Humphrey (Sam & Harry's, Schaumburg) and Scott McClain (Midwest Outdoor Kitchens, Inc., Lake Barrington) wowed guests with hot culinary delights, and Carrie Curie (SweetPea Cakes) brought awesome treats for dessert.

Folks did a pretty good job of staying on their feet, mixing around and swapping business cards. That's what a mixer is for - meet business people you don't know yet and trade cards, and renew past acquaintances and trade business cards.

Watch for a new promotion by Apple Creek Flowers. Elizabeth Crisp, owner, is developing new ideas to help you dazzle your business clients, friends and family. Call her for information at 815.338.2255. If you have friends/clients out of town who want to order flowers for local delivery, just have them call Elizabeth at 800.2APPLE4

What's coming up for the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce? On October 6 at 7:30AM there will be a general membership meeting. Details will be posted soon on the Chamber's website at For the time being, save the date.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NWH reports Nygren complaint

The Northwest Herald reported this morning on last Thursday's little escapade in the Jewel-Osco parking lot. The reporter called yesterday after he heard about the police report and after he talked to Sheriff Nygren.

I appreciated Brian Slupski's call, and he reported my side of the story pretty accurately. And I'll venture a guess that he reported Nygren's side pretty accurately, too. Too bad that he didn't "get" that side of the story accurately.

The "restaurant" mentioned in the article. Not really a restaurant at all. It's a bar. Try the Red Mill on Lake Avenue in Woodstock. As I told Brian, my car has never, in the 11 years that I've owned it, been in the parking lot at the Red Mill.

Two copies of the same article appear on The first was published yesterday, shortly after the reporter and I spoke. The second, with a different headline, was published today. Re-publishing the article means that the many Comments are divided between the two articles.

To find both, search for "Philpott" or for "blogger" on the Northwest Herald's website. Nineteen comments appear for yesterday's article, and the count at this time for today's article stands at 35.

Buyer's Remorse - C4C

Check out this interesting article about the results of the Cash for Clunkers program. You know - that program that was supposed to blow through $1,000,000,000 but ended up sucking $3,000,000,000 into the auto industry.

The article?

Read about the larger-than-expected number of buyers who wish they hadn't. Read that the average new-car payment is $317 for 49 months. (That's lower than I thought it would be.)

And that fuel consumption is expected to increase because the new cars will be driven more miles than the clunkers were: 10,894 estimated annual mileage for the first 239,000 C4C vehicles vs. 6,162 miles for the clunkers. An estimated 700,000 new cars left dealers' lot under this program.

And this clincher? "Other critics groused that Cars for Clunkers took $2.8 billion from the general roster of 300 million citizens and handed it tax-free to a small group of 700,000 citizens." "Cars" stands for "Car Allowance Rebate System".

Monday, September 21, 2009

New blog hits 1200 in first week

In just a week's time a new blog has surpassed the 1,200 mark on views. If you haven't been to the new Dirty site, drop on by and check it out.

It is hilarious and it's clever. Be sure to scroll from top to bottom, so that you don't miss the latest additions. They aren't all posted at the top, and the new stuff is not necessarily at the bottom. So put on your Sherlock Holmes' hat and search for the new material.

I wish I had even 1/4 of the talent of the person who has assembled that site. There are some things I've love to do with a video camera, a good Nikon with a long lens, and PhotoShop. But for the time being, this is it.

How the public helps the police

Are you getting sick and tired of drug and alcohol activity in your neighborhood? Are you fed up? Are you willing to do something about it?

When you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood, call the police. Call them right away. Don't wait too long. Don't think, "I'll just call them next time." Call them this time.

Above all else, keep yourself in the clear. If you can get a vehicle description and a look at the occupants, fine. Get the license plate number.

Report it to the police. In Woodstock the number is 815.338.2131 Request an officer to come and check it out. If the vehicle pulls away shortly after you call, call the police back and tell the dispatcher where it went. It could be that the occupants of the vehicle have a police scanner and hear the telecommunicator dispatch the call.

Tell the dispatcher not to put your name or address out over the radio but, instead, to have the officer telephone headquarters for that information.

If you want to speak to the officer, consider whether you want the officer to come to your residence or if you want to drive to police headquarters and meet him or her there.

Residents in Woodstock are getting involved. Locations of suspicious activity are being identified.

Recently one resident reported such activity. Before the officer could arrive, the suspicious car pulled away. The resident called back to the police and reported where the car was. The officer investigated and arrested two occupants of the vehicle and had the car towed.

Now, what can the Woodstock Police Department do to show appreciation for citizen cooperation?

1. If the citizen asked what happened, tell him. Yes, certain information can be withheld, but the gist of the reason for the arrests and towing of the vehicle become public record. If the citizen wants to know, tell him the charges and when and where he can learn more, such as names of those arrested and their court dates. And why the car was impounded. That's how you get more help next time!

2. Put out a press release. Give it promptly to the newspapers and put it on the police department's website.

3. City: put a link or banner on the City's homepage to direct residents and other website visitors to new press releases posted "several clicks down" on the PD's webpage.

There was what appeared to be a major arrest on September 8. Certainly more important than a few car windows getting shot out with BBs and slingshots. The police department has said that crime information is released within three days of an arrest.

Maybe it was buried in the numerous crime reports published weekly by The Woodstock Independent, but it seems like such an arrest might be worthy of its own story.

Code Enforcement - how expensive?

Just how expensive is Code Enforcement to a city like Woodstock? And what purpose does it serve?

In Woodstock we have a long list of what are called Nuisance Ordinances. These address the "sights for sore eyes": the inoperable cars in driveways; the obviously-junk vehicles in backyards; the high and noxious weeds in yards; construction debris in yards; sheds falling down; garage sale signs; the junk, for sale or free, that is put out at curbs; etc.

We have a great Code Enforcement Officer here in Woodstock, Donovan Day. He does a conscientious job, respectful and polite to all residents (probably even when they aren't polite to him). And he has a never-ending job.

How could Woodstock modernize Code Enforcement, increase efficiency, lower costs, gain increased awareness and higher voluntary compliance with the ordinances hidden away in the City Code?

More education! More publicity! How about a weekly (or at least monthly) column in The Woodstock Independent? The City could buy advertising space and publicize one or two different ordinances each month.

Could the City mail out a letter first, even before Donovan goes by, after a violation is reported or observed? If a letter resulted in correction of the violation without a personal visit, wouldn't that save a lot of money? A nice form letter and a $0.44 stamp vs. an hour of employee time?

Violations could be photographed and published as examples for other residents. If the City doesn't want to embarrass a violator, stage a "violation" and publicize that.

Use a small portion of the water bill mailing to create awareness of these ordinances. Every house gets one of those. Create a link on the homepage of the City's website to dynamically-presented information designed to grab a viewer's attention.

Use humor, cartoons and caricatures. Use fresh photographs. Woodstock has one of the most stagnant, boring websites I've ever seen. What is there on it that would ever attract a viewer to come back a second time?

The Charleston, S.C. Police Department had a great website under the former chief of police. Now it's dead. It went from dynamic and exciting to dull and boring.

We must have talent among the City employees and residents who would be glad to help inject some "life" into the City's website. A clever, low-priced video could be produced by our own high school students to promote compliance with these ordinances.

Anyone else have creative ideas for increased efficiency and productivity in City government?

Underage drinking - in Woodstock???

Over the week-end I picked up a flyer about underage drinking in Illinois. The flyer, printed in both English and Spanish, was produced by Community Connections for Youth (CCY), a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit and tax-exempt organization headed by Ken West.

"14% of 10th graders and 26% of 12th graders drove after drinking."

What can you, as an adult, do to help reduce underage drinking (and driving after drinking)?
1. Ask questions;
2. Verify answers;
3. Shape futures; and

remember SUMMER:

Set rules
Understand & Communicate
Make sure you know where your youth is
Make sure you know who your youth is with
Engage young people in activities
Reserve time for your family

Of course, it will help if you don't drink and then drive!!!

The flyer includes a graph from a 2008 Illinois Youth Survey. The graph illustrated the percentage of youths in Grades 8, 10 and 12 who
A. engaged in binge drinking
B. drove with a DUI adult (did it mean "rode"?)
C. drove with a DUI teen (did it mean "rode"?)
D. drank alcohol in the past year

CCY meets on the second Monday of each month at the Judd Street fire station, from 8:45AM-10:00AM. Visit a meeting and get involved.

Contact information:
Ken West, Chairman
Phone: 815.338.2921

Doctors for single-payer healthcare

Check out this group of doctors who are traveling across the country from Portland, Oregon, to the Capitol steps in Washington, D.C., speaking out for what they consider the only real solution to the health care crisis: Single Payer/Improved Medicare for All.

Go to

In case you can't figure that out, it's Mad As Hell Doctors.

They were in Madison on September 17 and will be in Chicago on September 25-26; that's Friday and Saturday.

One of their slogans is "Get Mad. Stay Mad. Make History."

Want to join it for the ride, or part of it? Fill out the form on their website and expect information by e-mail.

I was talking with a man on the Square last week who told him of one of his acquaintances who had been in the hospital for two weeks. The bill? $96,000. Pretty absurd, isn't it? Who can afford that???

Woodstock Chamber Postpones Expo

The Woodstock Chamber of Commerce has postponed its business expo that had been scheduled for October 17-18. The announcement was made by Interim Executive Director Tom Sagendorf and is posted on the Chamber's homepage at

"As the new, Interim Director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it is my responsibility to insure that any event or publication in which we ask our membership to make an investment meets or exceeds their expectations, their return on investment. Based on the slow pace of reservations to date for the Woodstock Business EXPO exhibitor booths, I, in agreement with the Board President and Executive Committee, have decided to postpone this event which was scheduled for October 17 & 18. As this was to be the first major chamber event under my watch, I take this action very reluctantly and with no small amount of regret.

"However, I do commit to our membership that when new dates are established for the Business Expo, we will focus all our resources and efforts to plan for and host an event the likes of which we have never seen before. Tall words for sure, but I am confident that everyone involved will make it a roaring success for the Woodstock business community as well as the Woodstock residents. You deserve our best."

The business and professional tone of Tom's letter bodes well for the Woodstock business community. Tom is serving as a volunteer in his position as Interim Executive Director, giving the Board of Directors a little breathing room to continue its search for a full-time, paid Executive Director. Tom's business and management expertise is very much appreciated at a time when it is needed the most.

The Chamber's financial peril was brought to the attention of the full membership and the public recently, when the Board, before knowing of Tom, revealed its perilous financial condition. What happened was that prior Boards had continued to endanger the security of the Chamber's own headquarters on the Square by refinancing the mortgage six times in 22 years.

The original mortgage (or purchase price?) in 1987 was $87,500. The current mortgage is $188,000!!! How or why the Boards through the years continued the high-risk financial impairment of the Chamber-owned building is beyond me. How they kept it secret (or at least out of view) is beyond me. Why members did not insist on transparency in disclosure of the true financial position of the Chamber is beyond me.

The current Board has put a stop to that runaway train. Certainly, the lack of further re-financing had a lot to do with it. When you are maxed out on your credit, then you have nowhere else to turn.

Now is the time for the entire business community to gamble, if you will, one last time. Roll your dice (join and pay your dues). Support the Chamber financially. And get involved.

Tom's business experience can lead this chamber out of the woods. I have been a member of four chambers (not including my one year with this Chamber about three years ago) and have worked for four Chambers (and I never want to work for another one). The Woodstock Chamber is indeed fortunate to have Tom's leadership at this time.

Tom was retired and was looking for a volunteer opportunity. Let's make it enjoyable for him and help him return to retirement and different volunteer work that won't be a full-time, but unpaid, job.

Thanks for all you are doing, Tom.