Democracy on display: The Polk Township “junk” ordinance discussion

Man, was I impressed with the way the  “junk” ordinance discussion went down Tuesday night at the Polk Township supervisors meeting.

See, the township had been considering passing an ordinance that would punish people who left junk – old cars, furniture, non-used trampolines, old machinery, construction materials, etc. – on their property for an extended period of time.

Well, it turns out that even though residents in Polk Township don’t like looking at the eyesores that cluttered and dirty properties in the township represent, they really, really  don’t want the township telling them what they can and can’t have on their property.

How do I know?

Well, about 20 people addressed the board on the issue on Tuesday night and 19 of them spoke out against the proposed ordinance and the fine that came with it.

But the reason why the meeting impressed me so much had to do with attendees’ behavior. About 220 members of the public came to this meeting, which was held at the Polk Township firehouse. Folks were allowed to use a microphone to address the board. And not one person spoke out of turn. Nor did one person ever raise his voice in a belligerent way.

All the people who addressed the board had solid,  cogent arguments on why the ordinance shouldn’t be passed. Appeals from residents dealt with the fact that people need the spare parts on the old cars or farm equipment on their property,  the difficulty of defining the word “junk” and the broadness of the proposed ordinance’s language.

One Polk Township resident, Paul Brennan, came up to the front of the wood-paneled hall, read from notes he had prepared and essentially gave a point-by-point argument as to why he felt the proposed ordinance was unjust.

Neal Murphy, a well-known West End farmer, who wore a plaid shirt, overalls and spoke in a light Pennsylvania Dutch accent,  addressed the board and the crowd on the issue, stating,  “There’s this little thing called pride. And if you don’t have the pride to at least take care of your own property, well, then I don’t know what to tell ya…”

What impressed me further was that one Polk Township resident who had a dissenting opinion, who thought the ordinance should be passed, was applauded by the audience after his remarks with the same enthusiasm that all the speakers against the proposed ordinance were applauded with.

And finally, what impressed me most about the discussion and the meeting on Tuesday was how the township relented.

Even though the township had invested a lot time and even money in drafting the proposed ordinance — which of course has merits. People should not use their property as a dumping ground — the township decided after hearing all the residents’ comments to not even go back to the drawing board and  redraft the ordinance. The township superiors decided to just dynamite the whole idea, to let the issue and the proposed ordinance “die.”

There was no denying it: the people had spoken.

Though it might  sound cheesy, it was the kind of meeting that made you feel proud to be an American.

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The face behind the popular West End Facebook page

Effort resident Barry Dawson works long hours promoting West End businesses and dishing out West End news items on the Facebook Page he created, "The West End of Monroe County," and now on his new website "West End Supporter."

So just who is behind that popular “West End of Monroe County” Facebook page?

It turns out that the person who has been promoting West End businesses, dishing out West End news and advertising the region in general, all on one Facebook page, is Barry Dawson, a West End native who has much experience in promotions and in the communications field.

Dawson, who worked for the rock radio station WZZO for many years, said that he started the page because he sees great economic potential in the West End and he really loves the region. The page has garnered hundreds of “likes” in a short period of time and has now grown to include a separate West End website and a streaming radio station.

“I know the West End really well and I truly want to see its businesses succeed. When they succeed, everyone succeeds, said Dawson, 35, of Effort.

The page began to generate buzz almost immediately after Dawson started it, in early December 2012. Few people knew he wrote the page, but it had photos and insider information on many things West End.

As December progressed, more and more people started to visit the site, which told people which West End businesses were offering good deals and which businesses were slated to come to the West End. Dawson also began posting weather updates, traffic photos and some regional history on the page.

On Wednesday, the page had 672 “likes.” But more impressively, 433  people on Facebook were “talking about” the page. When people are interacting with a Facebook page in a range of ways, Facebook says they are “talking about” it.

Dawson credits his experience in the fields of promotions and communications with the success of the page. Dawson spent many years as the head marketing director for WZZO. His main duty was to build an audience for the station. He also worked in radio in other states and briefly attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

And now he’s applying that knowledge. Dawson, who works out of the kitchen of his home at the moment, works about 12 hours a day on the page. He also recently launched a companion website called West End Supporter, which gives information on the West End, offers a business directory, and shows where local events will be held, among other things.Dawson hopes  to add a streaming radio station to the West End Supporter website. On the radio station, community leaders will be interviewed, issues facing the region will be discussed and local bands will have their music aired.

Ultimately, Dawson would like for the main focus to be the West End Supporter website because he can sell ads on it and actually earn some money. But he says that he will continue to maintain and contribute content to the Facebook page.

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A good sign

Something caught my attention recently.

I was in the new Kinsley’s ShopRite in Brodheadsville and I noticed a sign.

Yup, a sign. The sign was for Doris’s Café, the new café at Kinsley’s. The massive supermarket, which opened in August, is family owned and Doris is the mother of Chris Kinsley Sr., who runs much of the business.

The reason why the sign caught my attention wasn’t because it looked nice, even though it did, hanging above a staircase, facing the café’s seating area.

It caught my attention because of, well, that additional “s.”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have another look.

“Doris’s Café.”

See that extra “s” forming the possessive?

It’s absolutely correct.

When a  word ends in “s” and is possessive, says the Chicago Manual of Style, you are allowed either to put an apostrophe at the end of that word, as in “the fortress’ walls,” or you may tack an additional “s” onto the word,  “the fortress’s walls.”

It doesn’t really matter which one you chose. This is a case in grammar where the decision is left to the writer. It’s a style issue.

I was a bit surprised, however, that the café chose to add this extra “s.” Some might think that the extra “s” is  pedantic. After all, when’s the last time you wrote, “We were in Chris’s room” or “That’s Janis’s friend”? We don’t usually add that additional “s,” even in written English.

As for me, I do not like adding the extra “s” to a word ending in “s” to show the possessive. Doing so requires me to think more. Does this extra “s” really belong here or not? I just want to add an apostrophe to the end of the word ending in “s” and be on my way. “Paris’ charm,” “the boss’ hairdo,” “the walrus’ tusks.”


All that being said, there are certain instances where it is recommended that the additional “s” be used. For example, the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage says that when a singular word ends in “s,” e.g., “octopus,” you should tack that additional “s” onto it when forming the possessive. “The octopus’s eating habits.”

Even more cogent, the Times’ style guide says that if the formation of the possessive changes the  pronunciation of the word (for example, if  TIMES goes to TIMES-ez), then that additional “s” is usually tacked on.

Being that Doris’s Café  really would be pronounced DORIS-EZ café , the sign is yet again correct. The folks at Kinsley’s are on a roll.

So I wanted to know who chose to add this extra “s” to the sign. Who over at Kinsley’s ShopRite has such a good grasp of grammar that they knew that the additional “s” could be used and, additionally, was bold enough to use it in a sign.

I called Chris Kinsley Sr.

I asked him who chose to add that “s.” Was it the fancy design company that was tasked with creating the look of the new store and all its signs? Was there some noted grammarian in the family? Who did it?

“I put that extra ‘s’ in there,” Kinsley said.

He went on.

“I just knew to do it from the grammar lessons I had in school,” he said and laughed.

I told him that I was very impressed with his choice to use the extra “s.” I had never seen it used in a sign.

Again, Kinsley laughed.

“You can’t believe how many people told me that it was wrong.”


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Observations from the West End, a day after Sandy hit

So last week the editors here at the Pocono Record sent me out to the West End to report on how it was affected by Hurricane Sandy. I came back to the newsroom with a decent amount of good  information, but we had so many reporters covering Sandy and had so much “copy” that a lot of my stuff didn’t make it into the paper.  So I thought I’d post what didn’t make it into the paper here, on the blog. After all, I saw seagulls in the parking lot of West End Plaza. Now when’s the last time you saw seagulls in the Brodheadsville?  Think about it. Anyway, here is a sampling of things seen and heard in the West End on Oct. 30, 2012, a day after Hurricane Sandy hit.

•A key traffic light at the corner of Gilbert Road and Route 209 in Gilbert was out. According to an employee at the Turkey Hill near this traffic light, the light had been out for more than 24 hours. Many traffic lights around the county were out on Tuesday. Motorists mostly got along by acting as if there were a stop sign at the intersections where the traffic lights were out. However, some motorists weren’t behaving that nicely. At this traffic-light-less intersection in Gilbert. “Everyone’s acting like they have the right of way,” said Crystal, an employee at the Turkey Hill. Still, Crystal said she hadn’t seen any accidents. The Turkey Hill in Gilbert had no power on Tuesday afternoon; signs on its pumps read, “out of order.”

•Utility crews from other states actually were called in and were working. PPL Electric Utilities and other utility companies in the region always say just before a large storm hits that crews from other states are going to be on standby, to help, if need be. Well, on Tuesday, there was a need, and out-of-state crews were hard at work in our area. On Gilbert Road, many workers from Kentucky Utilities Company, or KU, which is owned by PPL, were doing power line repairs near Altemose Drive.  One of the workers, who had slight Southern accent, said he liked Pennsylvania and had done work in this state for PPL before. He couldn’t comment any further.

•Many stores were without power. At the West End Plaza in Brodheadsville, many cars drove into the parking lot and then promptly drove out. That’s because all the stores in the strip mall were either closed or looked closed. Actually, the only store that even looked remotely open in the shopping center was Radio Shack. A note in Radio Shack’s window said the store was only accepting cash.

•Out of place wildlife were present. For the first time, this reporter saw seagulls in the Poconos. Two seagulls were walking around in the West End Plaza parking lot. The Poconos is about 100 miles from the ocean, so it’s by no means a big hang out for seagulls. Seagulls are said to come inland when big storms hit or are expected. The birds wait out the storms in fields and marshes and, well, in parking lots, apparently.

•Kinsley’s ShopRite became the place to be. Kinsley’s, which was operating on a generator, almost seemed like an oasis, considering that so many stores in the West End had lost power.  The mega supermarket was operating on a huge generator and all its sections were open. Local folks really started swarming the place on Tuesday. A Dunkin’ Donuts nearby didn’t have any hot water in the morning and therefore didn’t have any coffee. This sent more bleary-eyed customers over to Kinsley’s in search of java. In addition, many local residents who had lost power on Monday and Tuesday headed over to the café at Kinsley’s and were hanging out there, using the cafe’s Wi-Fi and watching its TV. “This is really a refuge,” said Diana Diamond, of Gilbert, referring to the café at Kinsley’s. Diamond and her 13-year-old daughter came to the store after their power went out. “Yeah, it’s great, we can watch TV, go on the Internet. They have nice clean bathrooms. And if we’re hungry, we can always go downstairs to eat,” said Diamond as she sat on a circular couch with about six other folks who also came to the supermarket’s café because they had lost power.

•The storm prompted some funny exchanges between people. At the Turkey Hill in Gilbert, which did not have any electricity on Tuesday afternoon, one man walked in and said, “Why don’t you have any lights?” to which the manager behind the darkened counter replied, “Oh, we’re trying to save on electric.” The man then said, “I guess this is a good way to go green.”



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