New year brings improvements, ideas for more

Well, here it is, a new year. Hard to believe it’s been 365 days since we started the last one, but you know what they say: Time flies when you’re having fun.

Obviously, for your’s truly, the last year has been interesting as I’ve gone from leading a staff of reporters and editors to put out 14 weeklies to putting out just one — but doing a lot of it myself.

Since it’s the new year, and a new volume of The New Era, we’ve made a few tweaks to the newspaper in this edition. First of all, that “Sample Copy” logo, that may be at the top of your paper if you got it in the mail here in the Sweet Home area, means that we sent the paper to all of the local homes today and that logo is required by the Post Office to do so. You won’t see it again for a while.

What is more permanent is a little effort we’re making to remind you that we realize that our readers are very important to the existence of this paper. If you look under The New Era flag on page 1, you’ll notice that there is a line stating that this is the “Hometown Newspaper of Greg Stephens.” Frankly, I don’t believe I know Greg, but he’s one of our subscribers and he’s important to this newspaper. Every week, for the foreseeable future, we will put one of our subscribers’ names there. Names will be selected at random, so there’s no predicting when yours might appear.

We’ve also tweaked a few other things such as the folio lines, which carry the date and page number at the top of the page, and the headings we use when we jump stories. We have more plans for small improvements in the future, but they will come when the time is right.

Though it’s already a new year and a little late for the old Christmas wish list, I figured I might as put together a little wish list anyhow — kind of a resolution of some things I’d like to see happen this year.

– Get Weddle Bridge fixed. Bringing the old bridge back to health would certainly be a good move, particularly since it’s become a central part of the Oregon Jamboree and a symbol of the city in general. There are not yet that many tourist attractions within the city limits, and people do come by to see the bridge.

In fact, as the rain poured down last Friday, a fellow from Springfield stopped by to ask how to get to the bridge. He’d come up to Sweet Home to look for some historical information (part of his reason for stopping at the newspaper), but he also wanted to see the bridge. He’s not the only one.

– New businesses. Since I’m quite new to Sweet Home, I have little knowledge of how things were in the past, when the logs were rolling out of the forests at a much higher rate than they are now. But I’ve got a lot of back editions of The New Era, and I’ve slowly been educating myself. One thing that has struck me (and I’ve heard it, as well, from many local folks) is how businesses used to be here that are no more — places like shoe and clothing stores, car dealers, lots of groceries — commerce that has declined with the Spotted Owl and other excuses to greatly reduce the local timber industry.

Sweet Home could use more business. Many new homes are proposed for Sweet Home, and many will be built. As those homes go in, people are going to move into town, creating more opportunity for prospective and existing business owners.

Also, tourism is a potential gold mine that nobody has really tapped here yet. Ask yourself why there isn’t an operating marine supply and repair business for a community where watercraft stream through during the summer. Who wants to drive to Lebanon or Albany or beyond for a part when they’re supposed to be on the lake? I understand that business is tricky and the summer boat crowd is seasonal; but with the number of ATVs and snowmobiles in this area, it makes little sense that no one has been able to build a viable parts-and-repair business for outdoor recreational machines. If seasonal tourism can’t sustain your business, diversify a little to broaden your appeal.

Also, along the lines of tapping into the tourist trade, more curio shops, antique stores and other special-interest businesses would make Sweet Home more attractive to people driving through or coming here for the purpose of shopping. Not to be too sexist, but hey, let Dad go fishing. Mom can browse through those stores — except there aren’t enough of them yet to really make her want to come here. There are too many empty storefronts on Main Street. Does anyone besides me think that the old Cascade Hardware building on 13th and Main could make a great antique and curio mini-mall, kind of like 5th Street Market in Eugene? Some nice antiques could look really attractive behind those big windows.

There’s talk of bringing in a large magnet store at the proposed Santiam Plaza, across from the old Cedar Shack. A general store, such as Bi-Mart or something like that, would be great in many ways for Sweet Home — particularly if the population continues to grow.

– New cops. As stated previously in this space, this is an issue that has to be faced here in our town. We need to come up with a way to put more police officers on the streets because our problem of rising crime is not going to go away. Local politicians have got to come up with an answer to this.

– New politicians? I’m personally not at the point yet where I’m anywhere near ready to make choices on whom I plan to vote for this year, but the opportunity is going to be there. We’ve got elections for governor, county sheriff, Congress, the state House and other offices coming up. If you don’t like the way things are going, this year is your chance to vote for change.

– New laws. Most of the new laws slated for this year don’t appear too significant, but we can at least be glad that one of the stupidest laws ever passed in the state of Oregon is being revised — the 20 mph 24-7 school zone law. The new law will take effect at the end of this school year and will require speeds of 20 mph only between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. only on school days or when the yellow lights are flashing.