Friday, June 30, 2006

Cell phone ban

Remember this? Here's some food for thought:
Drivers using hands-free phones were no better than those with the handheld variety, confirming previous studies...When using cell phones, drivers had slower reaction times and more accidents, and they drove inconsistently, sometimes approaching other cars and then falling back, he said.

When talking on the phone, the drivers had three accidents, but when they were drunk, they had none. The drivers also had no accidents when they were sober and not using phones.

Besides New Jersey, the only states to ban driving while talking on a handheld cell phone are Connecticut and New York. Washington and some other communities have also banned it, including Conshohocken and West Conshohocken. A statewide ban passed the Pennsylvania Senate this week, sponsored by Sen. Joe Conti (R., Bucks), but a House bill has not been approved. (Philadelphia Inquirer 6/30/06)
Should Elgin start discussing a cell phone ban?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rubella, again

Here's an absolutely horrible version of the Smoking Pope's Rubella.

The Tribune printed a story over the weekend:
Concurrent with the migration to the Web of professional video...there has been a nuclear explosion in the field of amateur video. The gatekeeper used to be "America's Funniest Home Videos," ...but now the gates are wide open.

YouTube, the leader in an increasingly crowded genre, claims 50,000 videos are uploaded to its site daily... (Chicago Tribune 6/25/06)
The great thing about YouTube is that they make it very easy to embed the video in a web page or blog, as I'm sure you've noticed. Google Video also has some support for this now, but it seems like YouTube has more users and more videos.

Hey, if you don't like this guy's version of Rubella, make your own.

An Elgin smoking ban?

Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona declared today that the evidence is now "indisputable" that secondhand smoke is an "alarming" public health hazard, and warned that measures like no-smoking sections don't provide adequate protection. (New York Times 6/27/06)
Smoke is a genuine health hazard, especially for the waitresses and others who are exposed for hours at a time, five or more days a week. I think there must be a way to implement a smoking ban in Elgin that would satisfy most people. One idea would be to ban smoking in restaurants only, exempting bars--temporarily, at least.

If downtown restaurants want to be exempted, perhaps they can also be exempted. My guess, however, is that there will be as many new customers as a result of a smoking ban as there are lost customers. Some people who now don't dine out because they are sensitive to smoke or don't want to be around it, will now be able to dine out. I also think that the number of people who absolutely have to smoke in a restaurant is very small. Most smokers can wait until after the meal to step outside for a smoke.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Subsidies for replacing chain link fencing

Here's a great idea:
Residents would get bigger grants to remove chain-link fences from their property, professional rehabbers would become eligible to receive money to fix up historic homes, and there would be no limit on the number of these and other similar grants that residents could receive at one time, under changes to several existing programs the city is planning to adopt soon...

Officials think chain-link fences are ugly and they had hoped to persuade people to start removing them. But they found takers for just $9,000 worth of grants.

The program offers residents up to $1,000, unless they have corner lots, in which case they can get up to $2,000...Mayor Ed Schock said he thinks the grants should be doubled. Most people who have a fence want one, he said, and the current amounts aren't enough to cover both removal and replacement. (Elgin Courier News 6/26/06)
I've thought for some time that the city should subsidize the cost of replacing chain link fencing with picket-type fencing in historic districts. I do think subsidies should be limited to the historic districts. Chain link is in itself not ugly--and is actually I think preferable for certain home styles, but it's not appropriate for the historic districts, where it clashes with the victorians.

Speaking of the Smoking Popes

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Time to stop being a nuisance

The council passed the new nuisance law.
Beginning Saturday, the city’s code department will issue $50 tickets for violations on the spot...The fine will continue if the problem persists for three days, bringing the total to $150. The fee then will jump to $300 by the 10th day and the city will turn the case to a court to collect the fines. (Daily Herald 6/25/06)
What was the old law?
Right now, the city’s code department issues warnings for various violations that give property owners about 30 days to comply. If the violation is not addressed within that time, code officers issue $25 citations, which very seldom are enforced, oftentimes remaining on the city’s books until they are paid when a real estate transfer is made. (Daily Herald 6/25/06)
This legislation might have been premature. As a Courier story last week illustrated, the city itself commits code violations. It would probably have been better to strengthen the existing code--by raising the fine to a collectible amount, for example, and by enforcing it. The old law seemed simpler--two trips for the inspector within a month--and yet went unenforced. This new law seems more complicated; an inspector would have to visit a property three times within 10 days before the fine jumps to $300 and goes to collection.

But since the city itself has plenty of property in different states of neglect or even blight, it's probably better if the city focuses first on doing its part. And only after all the property under its control is in good shape, should it crack down on residents' property. I think that the way people treat their property is in part influenced by their perception of the surrounding environment.
There are major and minor streets in Elgin with large potholes, well overdue for repairs and repaving--typically in the neighborhoods where nuisance violations are likely to be reported. There are cracked sidewalks and curbs. When the streets are smooth, and the curbs and the sidewalks look nice, I think we'll be surprised at how well people take care of their yards.

Unfortunately, I suspect that much of the money required for such repairs is being diverted to the far west side, where new roads, fire stations, etc. must be built. According to the Herald, the city has only now increased the impact fees it charges developers, raising it to $24,000 (up from $18,000) for a four-bedroom house. This is a substantial increase, but still well below what some neighboring communities charge. Carpentersville charges $39,000. Yes, Carpentersville sells at a premium over Elgin! It must be because of that famous line in the Smoking Popes song "You Spoke to Me:"
I drove all the way from Carpentersville
To see you here tonight
And it was worth it
You didn't play my favorite song
But that's all right
I love the new stuff too
I'm just glad I got to see you
Alas, how much better Brewfest would have been had the Smoking Popes or some lesser but nevertheless real rock bands been on the stage, rather than only cover bands. It was still fun, but it would have been better. I guess since we're worth $15,000 less than C-ville, we shouldn't ask for too much. Anyway...

I guess I'll have a few more things to say about Brewfest later this week.

And don't forget, you have til Saturday to stop being a nuisance! So drag that ratty sofa off your porch, get on your knees and finger out the weeds, sharpen that hand mower you inherited from grandpa last fall (and never got around to using), roll that hunk of rusted steel you call an automobile off your front lawn and back into the garage, and above all, grab the phone and rat on your neighbor if come Saturday, junk still festoons his yard. Have fun!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Mission video

I suppose this is a typical night at The Mission, downtown Elgin.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Brewfest needs Elgin music

The 11th annual Brewfest starts at happy hour tomorrow and runs through midnight Saturday. At 10,000 celebrants, this is probably Elgin's biggest festival. Brewfest would be an ideal place to showcase Elgin's music heritage and its music scene, but unfortunately the organizers only booked cover bands this year. Hopefully future years will be different. If you want to hear some of the great music being produced by Elgin bands, tell the Prairie Rock (847-622-8888). You can also use their website.

Third Floor revisited

Third Floor veteran Matt Vecchio and his group the x-mashers (Plastik Explosives) returns to Elgin this weekend, joining the City of E's very own The Brokedowns and others for a Clearwater show Saturday night. Also look out for x-Apocalypse Hoboken Mexican Cheerleader.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Say goodbye to your ash trees

The little green devil has arrived...
State officials said Tuesday that the dreaded emerald ash borer had been found recently in six trees in The Windings of Ferson Creek, a heavily wooded St. Charles subdivision.

"For the past two years, we have been preparing for this day ... hoping it wouldn't come," said Chuck Hartke, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, about the pest's appearance. "But it is here today. We must act quickly to contain and eradicate the emerald ash borer."

Officials said prompt action is necessary because the beetle's presence in Illinois threatens the state's more than 110 million ash trees. (source: Elgin Courier News 06/14/06)

This is likely to be as devastating as Dutch elm disease.
[The emerald ash borer] was accidentally imported to North America from China in the 1990s and has since destroyed more than six million ash trees in southeastern Michigan. (source: Wikipedia)

Reckless drivers on cell phones

The same day I asked if the Elgin City Council should start discussing a cell phone ban, this happened:
A car flipped on its roof Monday in Elgin when its driver tried picking up the cell phone she’d dropped in the car...She’d been talking into a cell phone while she drove but dropped it, and when she tried to pick it up, she lost control of the car, ran into the curb and the car flipped over. (source: Daily Herald 6/13/06)
And it sounds like she wasn't even charged with reckless driving.

Monday, June 12, 2006

An Elgin commercial

Elgin to crack down on nuisances?

Attention local property owners: City officials are sick and tired of people who don't cut their grass, leave couches on their porches, park in their yards and work on their cars outdoors.

And they say they're not going to take it anymore.

Starting July 1, inspectors would stop issuing warnings for so-called "nuisance code violations" and start issuing $50 fines on the spot. Residents who don't correct the problem that day would draw additional $50 fines for up to two more days. After 10 days, if the issue remains unresolved, the total fine would double to $300.

Under existing rules, nuisance violators are given a grace period of at least three days to take action, with fines coming only if they fail to do so. (source: Elgin Courier 6/11/06)
Interesting...didn't see noise pollution on the list though.

Also, I don't know if obesity and dangerous driving are nuisances, but I wonder if they've considered a cell phone ban? Or a fat tax?

Should Elgin go smoke-free?

Representatives of both sides of the issue presented studies during Thursday’s meeting supporting their opinions about how a ban would affect them. Some say businesses go under in smoke-free communities, and others say business improves.

Representatives of Paul’s Restaurant on McLean Boulevard said their business goes up on the days when they don’t allow smoking inside. But bowling alleys say banning smoking would harm their business.

Board of Health members are asking residents to write letters and contact city council members with their opinions on the issue. He believes if Elgin goes smoke-free, it would inspire surrounding communities to follow. (souce: Daily Herald 6/10/06)
What do you think? Should Elgin ban smoking in all public places? Just restaurants?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A new Elginite Flickrite

Say hello to PlayBall. Check out the Elgin v. Larkin pics.

From The Onion, all the great stuff that's happened in Elgin

The inside of a 1936 Elgin

Friday, June 09, 2006

Damming the Fox

The consensus is dams can be dangerous and bad for the environment, but some communities are dead set against demolishing them because they're as much a part of daily life as schools, stores and other local institutions.

The latter is precisely the case in Yorkville, where Illinois officials last week announced the start of a long-planned $2.7 million project to rebuild the Glen D. Palmer dam. The announcement came just five days after three men drowned at the base of the 530-foot-wide structure. (source: Chicago Sun Times 6/5/06)
At least 16 people have died at this Yorkville dam since it was constructed in 1960 as part of the ill-conceived and ill-starred Stratton Project, which would have subordinated all interests to that of pleasure craft owners (the idea was to make the Fox River navigable by pleasure craft from the Chain of Lakes to the Illinois River).

The Friends of the Fox River organization weighs in on the plan to rebuild the dam:
Local public opinion seems to have played an overly important part in deciding to rebuild the dam. While it’s important to solicit local input on the fate of the dam, that input should have been balanced by soliciting input from other stakeholders in the Fox River watershed as every resident within the watershed is impacted by factors affecting the health of the river. The dam is owned by the IDNR Office of Water Resources, not the City of Yorkville and as such is state property. We, as citizens of the Fox River watershed and the State of Illinois, rely on the IDNR to make sound decisions for all of us in regard to protecting our resources. When they bend to local public pressure, as they appear to have done in this case, we should hold them accountable. We, as taxpayers, are being asked to foot the bill to rebuild a dam that is detrimental to our natural resources in deference to the opinions of a committee representing only one community. (source: Tom Schrader, Friends of the Fox River 6/4/06)
The recent drownings are unlikely to prevent the rebuilding of the Glen Palmer dam, but it may energize the anti-dam movement. The task that lies ahead for the Friends of the Fox is to educate and convince the people of the Fox Valley that these dams are indeed harmful and that the benefits of a free-flowing river outweigh the aesthetic benefits of a dam. This ought to be one of the primary goals--if not the primary goal--of their organization.

This isn't an easy task by any means and will require careful planning and at least 5-10 years of regular educational programming, such as public lectures, before a sufficiently large base of support can be built. My guess is that currently in any Fox Valley community dam supporters outnumber dam opponents by a hefty margin, probably 2-1. Moving this ratio to 1-1 will have to precede any serious attempt to remove a dam. I really doubt the IDNR would do anything that a local community would oppose. But if the community is split evenly between those in favor and against, then local politicians and the governor's office will be neutralized, and the IDNR can act.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

How about a little Slapstick?

Sound quality isn't great, but it's the real thing...

Sherman moves to Randall

Nearly 14 months after Sherman Hospital announced it wanted to make a $310 million move to Elgin's growing west side, state regulators Wednesday approved the plan in about 10 minutes.

Members of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board voted unanimously to allow Sherman to relocate from 934 Center St. to the intersection of Big Timber and Randall roads. (source: Elgin Courier News 6/08/06)
The Courier says 3,000 jobs will be created, presumably both construction-related and medical staff--and presumably including existing staff. The Tribune says the old east-side site will be converted into, "24-hour urgent care center, with doctors' offices, outpatient facilities and labs." (source: Chicago Tribune 6/8/06)

I'm sure these east-side plans are made in good faith, but of course once the new west-side campus is built, it becomes much easier to close all facilities on the east side. If the east campus becomes a big money-loser, I doubt they will subsidize it for more than a few years before quietly closing their doors and saying, "We did our best!" I could be wrong.

In any case, a major hospital expansion--no matter where it's located--will create more jobs and serve more people and must be welcomed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

At least one reader is still there. That's good news. Actually, despite no posts in May, The Elginite blog still got almost 600 page loads and more than 400 unique visitors. It's not much, but better than I expected.

Here's the really good news:

Our fundraising goals have been met. An anonymous donor stepped in with a generous gift right after fundraising month "closed." With this support we will be able to launch this summer, and maintain the site for at least one year. Hopefully by that time advertising revenues will make the idea of a fundraising month obsolete. Cross your fingers.

In the meanwhile, feel free to email suggestions on what you'd like to see included in Better yet, respond with a comment to this post so others can see and comment on your suggestion.


Hello? Anybody there?