Jessica's Reporter Blog

My downtown Norwich wish list

Thursday, October 9th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished for a wider variety of stores to chose from in downtown Norwich. The selection isn’t quite what it used to be, and I could probably think of dozens of shops that I would love to see gracing one of the now empty store fronts on Broad Street. I know Commerce Chenango has a business wish list, and probably a lot of other organizations have created them as well, but here is my own business wish list.

• Shoe store – call me girlie or obsessive or whatever you want, but I enjoy the occasional shoe shopping expedition. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve broken a shoe or needed to find something to go with an outfit and the limited local offering has left me wanting.

• Clothing choices – No offense to McLaughlin’s or Fashion Bug – both stores have nice clothing choices – but Norwich could really use a little more selection when it comes to clothing stores. A little more variety would be a blessing in this area. Especially if we could attract a store with a bigger variety of children’s clothing.

• Music store – I know itunes has diminished the need for a real music store, but I still enjoy going in an actual store, picking up a CD and taking it home with me. Since I’m an adult, I think I should be able to buy a CD, even if it has curse words in it, and listen to the whole thing as the artist intended.

• Toy store – Downtown Norwich has food, ice cream, movies, books, clothes and jewelry, but unless you want to go outside the city limits to WalMart, you’re not going to find much in the way of toys.

• Crafts – Last year I tried desperately to find some last minute candy molds to make favors for a wedding shower I was hosting. After searching all over Norwich and the surrounding areas, I finally gave up and made the trip to Binghamton. It was then that I realized that Norwich doesn’t really have any type of multi-purpose craft store. While there is a fabric shop, there are many other craft items that are impossible to find in the area.

My list could go on and on. Electronics and computers, a bigger variety of dinning options, or how about a place to grab a drink on a Sunday afternoon? I don’t know if any of the stores on my wish list will ever actually make their way to Norwich, but it would make for a vibrant and exciting downtown shopping area.

The Revolution

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Last month when I heard that the YMCA had received a grant to purchase a $2,000 Dance, Dance Revolution game system with the goal of combating childhood obesity, I was a little skeptical. The idea of using video games to encourage kids to be more active seemed a little odd to me, and how much activity can you really get by stepping on a couple of arrows, I wondered.

I wasn’t convinced, but I was willing to give it a try, so after my niece made several passionate pleas for the game, I picked it up this weekend.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I can barely walk across a room without tripping, stumbling or falling into something. Coordination has never been a strong point for me, so when I decided to test the game out last night, I expected I would probably fall down, badly bruise myself and give up after 15 minutes or so. Instead, I spent the next hour and a half jumping around and tapping my foot on the dance mat.

If anyone had seen me, I’m sure they would have doubled over with laughter, but with the game in work out mode, I worked up a sweat and had a fun time doing it.

I don’t know if the game will trick kids into working out, (the children in my house have yet to test out the game) but it’ll work for me.

Playing the part

Friday, October 3rd, 2008
Jessica Lewis

When I first started dating my husband, I acted a lot differently than I do today. He acted differently too. During the early days of a relationship, you never want the other person to see your flaws and faults, but after time, those things become obvious, and you determine whether or not they are things you can live with.

Last night’s vice presidential debate brought back memories of the first phase in any relationship. I’m sure all political candidates act in a certain way before the election. Just as you would in a relationship, you want to hide your bad qualities until you know they aren’t going to make the other person run screaming.

Like I said, I’m sure this is common place, but during last night’s debate, I think it was obvious that the candidates were both hiding some pieces of their true character.

For Sarah Palin, all of the pit-bull attitude, humor and intelligence seen during the Republican convention were gone. Instead of going on the attack, she kept a smile plastered to her face, and spent 90 percent of her time praising John McCain. I’m glad Palin didn’t give into the negative attacks seen so often in politics, but it seemed like she was holding back all of the qualities people initially found so refreshing.

Biden also seemed like he was holding back. Instead of finding fault with Palin herself, Biden’s concentration was on McCain and not the woman who stood across the stage from him. Although Republicans and Democrats alike said Biden needed to be careful not to attack the Republican VP pick, I think that sentiment is a little sexist at best.

The debate was interesting and hopefully provided a little insight into both candidates, but just like in a relationship, time will tell if those qualities they’re holding back will sneak to the surface.

Ways to cut government spending

Thursday, September 25th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I’m no economics expert, and I will admit that I have a hard time even balancing my checkbook, but I think I’ve come up with at least one wonderful way to cut government spending.

My brilliant idea just came to me as I watched a senator pass a giant cardboard check to a village mayor this week. How much money could we save if we stopped presenting giant, cardboard checks to people?

I know my idea isn’t going to balance the budget or save the country from bankruptcy, but I have to wonder how much money is wasted every year on the creation and printing of large cardboard checks that can never actually be cashed and really serve no purpose.

Most people know that when a person, group or municipality is presented with an oversized check, the only purpose really served is that of creating a photo opportunity. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. When someone volunteers a sizable amount of money to a worthy cause, they deserve recognition, but I think the act has become so overused, that it doesn’t carry much meaning anymore. Especially when you consider the fact that the actual money being given isn’t usually presented at that time, and in some cases it can take months or even a year to obtain.

Passing a giant check has become so common place that every time any individual or group gives even the smallest amount of money to an organization, they’ll pop up in a photo with a giant check. With so many photos that look so similar, a lot of people overlook the picture, without stopping to see the details, and the one purpose it serves, creating publicity for the gift giver, is lost.

Maybe it won’t save the taxpayers any money, and maybe it won’t have any significant effect on government spending, but maybe the simple act of doing something different would be a more effective way of drawing attention to what is being done.

Some Friendly Competition

Friday, September 19th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I used to love playing sports in high school, and I made sure I was involved in some type or sporting activity year round. I was never the star of the team, and in some sports, I was awful, but I always enjoyed running around, getting some friendly competition and hearing the positive cheers from the crowd.

It’s been years since my high school days, but this week I got to enjoy it all from the sidelines. My niece is in eighth grade and started playing soccer this year, and despite the fact that she didn’t have enough legal practices to participate in this week’s games, I still allowed myself to get carried away as I cheered on my alma mater, yelled to the players on the field and jumped out of my seat every time they scored a goal, much to the amusement of my more reserved husband. Even more amusing perhaps was the fact that my two year old son mocks my every movement, and was also jumping up and cheering every time I did.

I may have been animated and excited, but I never forgot that I was watching a junior high sporting event. I’m sure many would agree, nothing ruins the fun of a game faster than some over zealous spectator who feels they have the right to berate the players, and scream at the referees.

So far this season, I’ve seen little of that behavior, and I hope the positive trend continues. We may not all have two-year-olds mocking our movements, but we are setting an example for the children we set out to support.

The Wonders of Modern Technology

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Some people are more technically advanced than others. That much is obvious. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me when I meet someone who doesn’t have a computer or know how to send a text message or who has no clue what a blog is. However, I think the technology of an answering machine is something that everyone should be embracing by the year 2008.

According to About.com’s history of the answering machine, the first automatic answering machine was invented in 1935, and machines were being sold in the United States by 1960. They may not have been popular and readily available until the 1980s, but I think 48 years is long enough to become acquainted with a product and to figure out how it works.

I know there are people who dislike answering machines and voice mail, and I’m okay with that. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but if you’re a public official, I think you should be required by law to have some type of answering machine. I’m not sure how any public official could keep up with their constituents and the important news they need to be aware of without some type of answering device.

Maybe I’m the only one who is annoyed by the fact that I can’t leave messages for some public officials, but try calling a number everyday for a week, getting no answer and having no ability to let them know you called, and you might just get annoyed too, so if any public officials are reading this, please, for the good of my sanity, submit to modern technology and get yourself an answering machine.

The only option

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008
Jessica Lewis

If I told you the only way to ever lose weight was to never eat any of the foods you enjoyed, you would probably not be the least bit interested in being healthy. There would be some people who were willing to ignore temptation and be healthy individuals, but many would probably be tempted into cheating at least once in a while.

I think abstinence only education has about the same chances of working. Ever since hearing that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, an advocate of abstinence only education, is the mother of a pregnant teen, I’ve beet thinking about all of the failures of this type of program. There are going to be some teens who are for it. They’re going to hold firm to their beliefs and wait until they’re ready to have sex. Other teens are going to determine they are ready and like it or not, they’re going to do what they want.

I think it’s obvious that abstinence only education isn’t the answer for every kid. A cookie cutter solution isn’t going to stop teen sex, and if you ignore all of the other options, you’re basically sweeping the issue under the rug and pretending it doesn’t exist.

I know there are those who think that teaching kids about sex education is like giving them permission to have sex, but I think in the long run, you need to give kids the ability to be safe and responsible and hope that they make the right choices. If you’re preventing them from getting the knowledge they need to make informed decisions, you’re just setting them up for failure.

Day of Caring

Friday, August 22nd, 2008
Jessica Lewis

When the Evening Sun staff left the YMCA last year to participate in the United Way’s first Day of Caring. I had no idea what to expect. I knew we were going to a children’s home in Greene, and I knew that we would be planting flowers, but beyond that, I had no idea what the day would hold.

After a few hours of digging, planting bulbs and visiting with a lot of the kids at the center, I think we all left feeling good about the work we did, not to mention the fact that we gained a new found knowledge of what the United Way really does.

This year’s Day of Caring is coming up on Sept. 27. I’m not sure what our crew will be doing this year or where we will be going, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help a good cause and learn a little more about the non-profit organizations in the area.

This year, non-profit groups are anticipating a lot of need in the community and they will probably have a harder time finding the funding they need as more and more people began to feel the economic pinch. But volunteering for the Day of Caring is an easy and inexpensive way to show your support for local non-profit organizations.

My first experience with an angry mob

Friday, August 15th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Sure they didn’t have torches or pitchforks, but after hearing a few choice comments from the members of the public gathered at the Guernsey Memorial Library on Thursday night, it wasn’t difficult to imagine them as the angry mob that always seems to form at the end of a classic horror movie. 

 

The crowd of approximately 40 people was gathered for last night’s library board meeting. I understand their anger. The State Comptroller’s office released the results of an audit that found Director Melanie Battoe had $15,000 in questionable purchases, many of which she tried to justify at Thursday night’s  meeting, however her explanations did little to appease the angry crowd. I expected to hear some tough questions. I expected to hear some people demanding to know whether or not the director would be fired. I did not however expect to see a police presence on hand to control some rowdy individuals. The shouting and angry accusations didn’t quite seem to fit in a building where I was always taught to use my indoor voice. 

 

Actually, I heard a lot of choice items I didn’t expect. I definitely didn’t expect to hear people shouting that the library director should be taken away in shackles or lynched, but I heard both suggestions. Personally, if I had been on the board, I probably would have thrown some people out, but the board did their best to listen to all of the shouting, questions and complaints. They even listened to one complaint so out of place that I thought it must be a practical joke. The gentleman who was speaking however seemed anything but jovial. 

 

Yes there were some questions about where some money was spent, and about conflicts of interest with Battoe’s husband handling the library’s computer service and there were comments on the status of employer-employee issues that have been going on for some time. But when one member of the community became irate because Battoe had barred him from the computers for looking at obscene web sites, I have to say, I’m not the only one who seemed a bit surprised. 

 

I guess everyone has their own priorities, and in this instance, everyone is going to form their own opinions, but I hope we as a community will be intelligent enough to drop the mentality of an angry mob, put down the pitchforks and start looking for ways to ensure this type of oversight doesn’t happen again.

A new look at the fair

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

The fair was in town last week, and I’m fairly certain I was one of only a few people who not only had the chance to attend nearly everyday of the festivities, but also got paid to do it. Few people other than the carnies who manned the rides had a similar opportunity.

If working at The Evening Sun over the past two years has taught me anything, it’s that you never know what you might end up doing for tomorrow’s paper. Thursday morning, I had no idea that I was going to get to spend a day going on rides, playing games, looking at animals and sitting in the grandstand. (If I had, I would have brought some sun block and some Dramamine.) But despite a serious case of motion sickness and a slight sun burn, I left the fair with a new found fondness of all that the event has to offer.

When I attended the fair as a child, I’ll admit, I rarely left the rides and entertainment of the mid-way. I ignored everything else the fair had to offer, including the grand stand shows, the animal competitions and the exhibits and displays in the buildings around the fair grounds.

It’s taken a few years for me to see and appreciate the real offerings of the fair, but after exploring the exhibition halls, seeing the 4-H displays, petting some of the animals and watching young children present the animals they were so proud of, I’m sure I won’t be able to hear about the fair without thinking about all the hard work and dedication that children and adults put into making it what it is, a celebration of the agricultural roots of the community.