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Impoundment Ordinance -where'd it come from?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

Impoundment Ordinance -where'd it come from?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
April 3, 2012


Where did Woodstock's new Vehicle Impoundment Ordinance come from? How'd it get started? Who thought it up?

On January 3, 2012, Woodstock Police Chief Bob Lowen wrote to City Manager Tim Clifton. His letter sought the approval of an attached proposed ordinance that would let Woodstock Police confiscate cars under certain circumstances. He is a little more polite with his wording, calling it "impounding". Elsewhere, he used the word "seize".

He informs City Manager Clifton that, prior to January 1, the Illinois Vehicle Code did not allow non-home rule cities "the opportunity to seize vehicles used in the commission of certain criminal and/or traffic offenses." Well, Jack Franks, Pam Althoff and Mike Tryon's buddies in Springfield took care of that one. As of January 1, Woodstock can. It could. And only two weeks later, it did! On January 17, the City Council approved, unanimously and without discussion, Ordinance 12-O-02.

So, before I go further (this could become a book - and won't), who dreamed up this scheme? I can't imagine that Chief Lowen did. Did the City Attorney's office come up with this idea? How much did they charge to write the proposed ordinance? And who drafted (crafted!) Lowen's letter to the City Manager? Did it all come out of 656 Lake Avenue? I doubt it!

Did the idea come out of the City Manager's office? "Hey, guys. We've got to find revenue someplace!" Did that office put Rich Flood to work and tell him to figure out where the City can stick it to a select group?

Did it come from the Mayor? Did he tell Clifton to find money? Find it, and find it anywhere you can.

But the legislators first had to do their dirty deed. So who pumped the legislators for the new statute? Anyone think that cities don't lobby the legislators? So where did the bill in the legislature come from that went into effect on January 1?

How could Lowen's letter of January 3 and the multi-page draft of the proposed ordinance be ready, when the new law just became effective on January 1? Maybe the law was passed in mid-2011, with a January 1 effective date. Did the bucket get passed downhill to Lowen?

My guess is that the January 3 letter was written elsewhere and put under Lowen's pen for a signature. Let him be the fall guy. From that letter,

"Our City of Woodstock Vision 2020 calls for us to 'Maintain a vigilant police department committed to and accountable for providing public safety and security' as well as to 'Be eternally committed to the economic vitality of the municipal government...'" (italics in the original)

Aha!!! The money game. Lowen anticipates impounding fifty (50) vehicles annually. How will this help the "economic vitality" of Woodstock? 50 x $500 = $25,000. Chump change.

The first time the City grabs some lawyer's car, the City will blow 2-3-4 years' income to pay legal fees to defend itself.

A bad law should be repealed - fast!

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