Archive for September, 2007

Something to believe in

Thursday, September 27th, 2007
Michael McGuire

We don’t give much love to farmers anymore.

But I’m giving a big Thumbs up to South New Berlin dairy farmer Ken Dibbell.

When it comes to taking action and thinking outside the box, Ken’s an inspiration – at least he is to me.

He’s got a lot of ideas about how to save small dairy farms from extinction. Some are more popular than others. He’s not afraid to tell you about them, either.

And for an old guy, between farming and fighting, Ken’s got a lot of energy, too (it seems like he’s marching on Washington every other day).

But lately, Ken doesn’t seem to think his efforts will wind up doing any good.

“So why keep doing it,” I asked.

He replied with a smile, “You’ve got to let them know you’re still alive.”

And does he ever (He’s still water-cooler talk in at least one federal building in D.C., because he showed there up with a pitch fork and a list of demands. Although, he says the pitchfork was just for show).

Well, Ken is still alive – more alive than most people half or three-fourths his age, it seems.

He fights for what he believes in. Most people say he’s on the right side, too.

And win or lose, Ken seems happy.

He’s living proof that it pays to believe in something.

Downtown revitalization

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
Jeff Genung

It wasn’t exactly the United Nations, but it was certainly a meeting of the minds. I had the opportunity to go to the “Downtown Summit” Tuesday night, put on by representatives of the Norwich BID, Commerce Chenango, downtown merchants and organized by my good friend, Martha Ryan.

There was, I’ll admit, a certain sense of deja vu in the concept behind the meeting – revitalizing downtown. In the last 17 years, I bet I’ve been to that same meeting at least a dozen times. I still eagerly await the revitalization.

I say that somewhat facetiously, of course, because I have in fact seem microbursts of revitalization in downtown Norwich throughout the years. I’ve seen scores of businesses start up with grand plans and fail miserably; precious few are those which started, stuck it out, and succeeded.

I’m no expert in the field of business, and certainly no entrepreneur, but I can smell a business that’s not going to make it a mile away. Those who fail to plan, as the saying goes, can plan to fail. Some stores or restaurants that have opened in Norwich over the years … it makes you wonder if the owners were just sitting around with a six pack watching UFC when they said, “Hey, we should open a business!”

The instances where inspired genius like that have actually succeeded are few and far between – and usually backed by a large amount of money and/or luck. Don’t count on that, folks.

I’m hopeful something good will come out of the Downtown Summit, and not just for downtown Norwich but for Oxford, Sherburne, Greene and New Berlin as well. A vital downtown is essential not only to the economic health of a community, but its cultural and spiritual health as well. There’s a lot of good to be found in our downtown – and a lot of potential to fill those empty storefronts with homegrown talent in businesses which augment what’s already here.

Welcome Back Unadilla Valley

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007
Patrick Newell

Once upon a time, Unadilla Valley had a pretty good girls’ soccer team. Memories of those strong teams seem so far off in the past, but it was just four years ago when the Storm were contending for division and league championships in the Midstate Athletic Conference with all-league players Walbrecht, Lorence, and Baio leading the team to prominence. Then there was the inevitable talent dearth that hits every team at some point followed by precious few wins. Unadilla Valley girls soccer, once a regular top contender was off my radar screen. The drop off of the girls’ program coincided with the ascendance of the boys’ program. The two programs flip-flopped in a manner of speaking. Now, in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak that included a New York Pizzeria Tournament title, UV’s girls are in the hunt for a league championship. Talking with head coach Chris Bieniek during the preseason and early-season games, I did not get an indication that big things were expected of the Storm this year. Truthfully, I’m sure Bieniek expected her squad to be at this level either. “I’m sure a lot of people are surprised,” Bieniek said in a recent interview. “It’s a been a while… .” Yes, it has been too long. Welcome back Unadilla Valley, you’re not only back on my radar, you’re front and center in the crosshairs.

Caring for a day

Monday, September 24th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

So we all know volunteering is a nice thing to do, but with so many different activities taking up our precious free time, it’s hard to give up the few free moments you have.

Like a lot of people, I find it difficult to even complete my own chores, and nearly impossible to set aside a chunk of time to give to someone else, but that’s exactly what I did this weekend. On Saturday, members of The Evening Sun staff, along with other community members including my husband and 18 month old son, joined the group of United Way volunteers for “A Day of Caring.”

Having no idea what to expect, we traveled along a couple back roads and deep into the woods of Greene. Our group was assigned to go to the Children’s Home Residential Treatment Facility. The kids who live at the home helped us to plant a memorial flower garden, weed the vegetable garden and stain a bench, among other things.

Despite the fact that I had a million projects of my own that I knew I had to complete, the day went even better than I expected. It felt great to help out an organization dedicated to helping children, and in addition, we got to spend the day with some really nice kids and get a better understanding of an organization we were relatively unfamiliar with. I think the United Way struck gold with this new campaign kick-off event. Hopefully even more people will join us next year to become better acquainted with some great community organizations.

Shopping cart marriage legalized, but not yet acceptedized

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007
Michael McGuire

“By the power vested in me by the City of Norwich, I now pronounce you cart and cart. You may conveniently interlock with each other for storage purposes.”

The crowd-on-wheels stationed outside the Norwich City Court Monday rattled their cages in thunderous approval.

“Atta boy, Barry,” Somecart yelled out. “Show ‘er the ole swinging gate.”

With that, Mr. and Mrs. Barry and Randi Greasedbearing, the history-making bride and groom, were showered with shredded sales flyers as they headed for the South Plaza in a rented cart-caddy for their 10-day honeymoon.

The first-ever legal shopping cart wedding had concluded.

About 30 similar ceremonies followed in what many on-hand say was a day-long celebration of love and cart’s rights.

“None of this seems real,” said Randi. “I’m still afraid that it’s all just a dream.”

Just over 24 hours after the unprecedented love-fest, a record number of carts have already been popping-up in blissful pairs on lawns and street corners throughout the city.

According to legal experts, however, Randi’s dream, and the dream of several hundred other carts, could turn into a nightmare.

Officials in Albany are already threatening to challenge the city’s recently passed cart marriage law in Supreme Court on the grounds that “it’s really retarded.”

Others want it banned based on religious and moral standards.

“In the bible it says Adam and Eve,” said Wilton Flowers, a self-proclaimed member of the moral majority. “Not Wheelie and Squeak.”

In fact, it doesn’t mention shopping carts at all in the Bible, experts point out. That’s prompted some civil rights activists to call for a re-write of the good book.

“It’s plain and simple; by not including them in his Bible, God has discriminated against shopping carts,” said Sue Anne Litigate, a legal analyst for A-Cart-heid, a non-profit cart’s rights group. “We don’t care who re-writes it, as long as carts get a fair shake.”

In anticipation of the new carriage-friendly Bible testament, married or soon-to-be-wed carts have been seen wearing shirts that read, “The Greatest Story Ever Rolled.”

Even armed with the bible and the law, things aren’t looking up for the carts’ cause. Currently, over a dozen suits challenging the marriages in some form have been filed in state and federal courts. With no legal precedent set, many are unsure how justices will rule in these landmark cases. When informally polled if they were pro or anti cart, 99 percent of surrogate court judges replied, “are you serious?” The other one percent laughed.

While the judges’ positions are inconclusive, the public is clearly split.

Ironically, two separate groups, one for and one against the law, say they both plan to sue God if he rules in favor of the other side.

However the chips fall, Barry and Randi say they’ll always be in love.

“So maybe we won’t get a tax-break,” Barry said, sipping on a Virgin Daiquiri outside the Tractor Supply, enjoying his 10-day vacation. “Big deal.”

“It was still the best day of my life,” Randi added.

Miracle in the making

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

An amazing thing happened last night. I went to a public meeting, and the public was actually there.

I know it doesn’t sound that impressive, but after more than a year’s worth of meetings that were made up of local officials, me and one or two residents who actively attend every meeting, you kind of forget that there are thousands of people in town who are being effected by the decisions that are being made.

Last night was different. The City of Norwich held a public meeting and discussed opportunities to revitalize Norwich. The city court room was full of people who stayed for the entire hour long presentation and actually discussed their ideas and hopes for the future. It amazed me to see so many people turned out. I know that’s the way local government should work, but far too often, that isn’t the case.

People presented some interesting and well thought out ideas for ways to get Norwich on the right path. (My favorite was Giff Foster’s discussion of alternative energy facilities. It’s about time we started taking some proactive steps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduced our carbon emissions.)

The next meeting will hopefully take place within the month, and hopefully it will get the same amount of community involvement as the first, if not more. Oh and if you missed the meeting, they are working to get all the information on the Norwich City web site at www.norwichnewyork.net. (It might take a few days though.)

The only statistic that matters

Monday, September 17th, 2007
Patrick Newell

Maybe the best learning tool a coach can impart on his players is to finish the game and play to the final whistle. Yogi Berra coined the malaprop phrase, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” a long time ago, and that statement was never more true for Sherburne-Earlville, Unadilla Valley-Edmeston, and Greene last Friday and Saturday. I had the fortune of watching two of those three teams play last weekend. The Marauders, amid the festive fervor of homecoming, edged A-P-W by a point. UV-Edmeston, also came away with a one-point win, and lastly, the Trojans spoiled the re-opening of Norwich’s revamped and state-of-the-art field. Again, that was a one-point victory. In each case, the victor was not the dominant team. In fact, if you weren’t looking at the scoreboard, you would surely assume the opposing team was winning the game. And not just winning, but handily controlling play. The aforementioned contests proved to me that total yardage is one of the most deceiving statistics. So is time of possession, rushing yards, passing yards, and almost every statistic except the one that matters most: The actual score. For four quarters, I watched Sherburne-Earlville do virtually nothing on offense – except when opportunity knocked. The Marauders seemed in position to scoop up every loose ball or grap an errant pass. They were pushed around all over the field, but made just enough key plays to keep themselves in the ball game. This was the type of game S-E has lost year in and year out. The breaks in close games rarely went its way, but on that day – perhaps the start of a new trend – the chips finally landed on the Marauders’ side. I didn’t see the Storm’s win over Spencer-Van Etten, and their second-year coach, Jack Loeffler, said his team is not looking at the statistics. Frankly, there wasn’t much to look at with just 90 total yards. But within those 90 yards was one opportune moment where the Storm’s defense recovered a fumble deep in Panthers’ territory, and then strung together three quality plays to score their only points. UV-E’s defense has spent a lot of time on the field this season, and considering the number of yards given up to the number of plays run by the opponent’s offense, it’s pretty darn good. The Storm allowed one fourth-quarter touchdown, but quelled and quieted just about every other S-VE advance to win its first game of the season. And then there was Norwich versus Greene. it was the type of game you enjoy watching, regardless of your allegiances. For one half, neither team assumed control, but from the third quarter to the exciting finish, it was all Norwich. The Tornado drove the ball up and down the field, but had just one touchdown to show for all that effort. Greene, meanwhile, didn’t drive the ball at all. One big kickoff return by Jake Wentlent and one TD pass from Nate Whittaker to Justin Van Wert – on the next play after the return – was about all the Greene offense mustered through 24 minutes of play. But that touchdown was just enough, thanks to a successful two-point try. The momentum, the electric home crowd, and a long winning tradition backed the Tornado on their late march toward a winning score. But the Trojans, an undersized Class C school just starting to make a name for itself, made the ultimate stop of the game halting a winning score one-yard short. It was the first contest between the two schools, and hopefully the first of many more. It’s games like these that further my love of high school football, and for all of the statistics-loving people out there (myself included), the only one that really matters is the final score.

Victims of the accused

Thursday, September 13th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

As I sat waiting in the court room yesterday I did what I often do and surveyed the faces populating the area. I especially pay close attention to the reactions of those sitting in the audience. I watch the surface of their often depressed expressions only hinting at their deeper turmoil.

I had one of those rare moments of heart yesterday, while waiting for the first case to begin of Robert Gallo Jr., charged with allegedly conspiring to harm or kill a police officer. Sitting in the wings of the old train station now resurrected into the City’s courtroom sat only what I would assume to be a close loved one of the defendant. She was weeping constantly and struggled to keep her pain silent, not wanting to disturb the court. When the judge ruled that Gallo was going to be held on a million dollars bail she lost her strained composure for a moment and cried out in a loud gasp of whimpering air.

I’m not sure why I notice such things and although I sometimes wish I didn’t, I’m grateful I do.

This got me to thinking about those not commonly thought of as victims, the defendants family and friends. In most cases the sympathy for the victim and their families seems to block out all else. The children of criminals still need to be fed and when the crime leads one into the correction system it is a daunting task for those now abandoned to adapt.

You stand alone, ashamed, embarrassed, financially insecure and most tragically without much sympathy. People do come from trouble families and often the ties of their criminal corruption are rooted in a bad domestic life, that reason does not justify turning a callous eye toward the notion of considering those associated with a defendant as being victims.

Funny like a hole in the head

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007
Michael McGuire

“Lard and Clear.”

That was the headline on Monday’s New York Post describing an unfit and scantily clad Britney Spears’ train wreck performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards over the weekend.

That’s really mean, unfair – and funny.

But no one will be laughing if she winds up like Anna Nicole Smith – dead. Sure, Brit’s given us plenty of fodder these days, but behind the laughs it appears her life is falling apart. I’m the first one to admit it’s easy to forget that when you’re busting a gut.

And I’m the first to admit it’s hard to feel bad for celebrities. But we have to either love them or hate them. No more kick ‘em while their down and hug them when they pick themselves back up. No more flip-flopping.

If Britney doesn’t get it together, and winds up like all the rest of Hollywood’s cursed, we can’t take the easy way out and feel bad – we should have felt bad while it was happening. It’s an insult to speak or act otherwise. Instead, I say we force ourselves keep laughing, and see how that feels.

But that would be mean, right?

9/11, Day of Reflection

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

Nine Eleven is back, as it always will be, but it means something to us today it never did until six years ago. It continues to be a day of condolences and mourning but perhaps more importantly it demands reflection.

Six years on and the ground has been kept warmed with fresh blood. The day that marked the occasion saw the lives of nearly 3,000 lives vanquished. They died knowing only a pre-nine eleven American and if they could be revived just once, on this day, every year, I wonder what differences they might see.

That ground is hotter now then it was then, with our war of ideology brought to nearly ever corner of the earth. The cure-all prophecies of installing democracy the American way has left a chaotic and fractured path of destruction across several countries. That strategy has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, thousands of military personnel and a trillion dollars. Our results today are a consequence of such actions and are rarely measure in the positive. Often they are interpreted as one of our fastest growing detriments.

We have made the world a more dangerous place in our vain attempts to make it better. How can we expect other nations, such as Iran and Syria to embrace democracy and western culture when they are surrounded by failing examples of those beliefs, Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan… all are far worse off than they were six years ago.

America itself barely abides by the laws it once held sacred. Imagine a dictator criticized for violating human rights only to have America explain to him, that when we do it, it’s different, or to an extremist group for that matter. We can no longer claim we lead by example like we once did.

America gasped in fear over the events of September eleventh and in that desperate breathe inhaled a darker component of the republic. Each fevered breathe eagerly seized since has been taken with belligerent haste, like a distressed victim in the midst of an anxiety attack. Their mind focused only on the immediate problem and not on the long term solution. But instead of air, we are yearning for immediate security and stability because we are afraid.

Through whatever means necessary we have endure to achieve the most immediate relief, thinking we could crush our enemies if through only the seer power of escalation. A republic removing its constitutional gloves to get a dirty job done. Suspend their constitutional rights, expand the power of the executive, hold them, kill them, even torture them if we must, as long as it’s ironically under the righteous flag of freedom it’s allowed. We wanted to create a better world and all our means justified their eventual end, but the end never came… can it even been seen anymore?

The shaken chains of any slave should ring out in the ears of all free people. Their allowed existence threatens the vacant wrists of anyone unfortunate enough to disagree with the status quo. That even includes those violated by our own country. Once an advocate for freedom we now find ourselves explaining our way around such nuisances to a global community, finding exceptions to principles once held without.

I no longer just mourn the death of those killed on this day but rather in reflection I mourn the death of nearly everything we once stood for. Pride in our legacy, shame in our current state and contempt over the direction of our future.