It's fantasy world stuff, but wouldn't it be nice to have the power to fix something with a snap of your fingers? I asked readers that question a couple of weeks ago: Which things in the Tri-Cities that took a hit during the recession would they magically fix?
I received comments on the street from readers and friends; other ideas came via anonymous and signed emails.
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If more ideas come in the next week, I will share those in a future column. For now, here's a rundown of what "Talk of the Town" readers would fix:
• If we could tear down all the abandoned strip malls, the old St. Charles post office, the old factories in Geneva ... such eyesores! Many of the old rundown apartment buildings in St. Charles should go, too.
• Too bad our beautiful Charlestowne Mall was not the one turned into the outlet mall that has opened in Rosemont. I would snap my fingers and make that happen.
• I think my family of six (two teenagers and two almost-teenagers) would vote (snap fingers) for the revitalization of the fun hut at Mill Race Inn in Geneva. Every couple of weeks in the summer on a Sunday afternoon, we would bike there from St. Charles as a family and sit outside in that festive atmosphere, feeding those huge fish that surfaced there. Loved the outdoor setting, the fun music and finger food.
• Suggestions for the east side of Geneva -- we live over here, and we are going nuts for lack of anything of interest. If the recession slowed down progress, we would snap our fingers for a Walkers or similar pancake house because that would be a regional draw.
• Maybe another snap would produce a Trader Joe's or Caputo's grocery store? Now these suggestions go from your pen to God's ear.
• I would snap my fingers to make sure the area along the river in St. Charles on First Street was left open. I was so glad the developer stopped. It was nice to see the area used during festivals, but other times it was great just to see open land and watch kids play. When thinking of being in eateries along First Street, I would rather look out and see a view of open land than three-story condo buildings.
• Without a doubt I would bring back the Rx Cafe on Main Street in St. Charles. The food was outstanding, and there is nothing else like it in the Tri-Cities area.
• Fix school funding from the state, which was messed up before the recession and has simply gotten far worse. That way, the local tax burden wouldn't be so huge for the schools.
• I would bring back Avenue Chevy in Batavia and its excellent service department and inexpensive oil changes.
• Given the choice, I would snap my fingers to fix all of the ash trees stricken with the borer. But because this is about what the recession affected, I would say it has affected city budgets, making it harder to more quickly remove the trees. So, though it is painful, it would be a snap of the fingers to have all of the dead trees cleared out.
• I would fix the fact that no really good movies appear in the Tri-Cities. One has to travel all the way to Glen Ellyn to see good movies that are not the blockbuster Hollywood teenage movies. There are mature and intelligent adults in this area who would love to go to the movies. What about foreign films and Sundance films?
• I would love to see the old sites of former restaurants closed by the recession to be saved, but open with a new excitement -- beyond burgers and Italian-style meals.
• My wish is for Kane County to establish a Developmental Disabilities Service Board. It would improve the lives of many residents in the county, both the individual with the disability and the families and agencies that are assisting them.
• We really need another company like Arthur Andersen back in St. Charles that brings in hundreds if not thousands of people for training and/or work. Jobs drive a community and pay the bills. They allow houses and schools to be built, and eventually stores and restaurants to thrive. Without an increase in jobs, the area will suffer and the malls will have empty storefronts, regardless of how pretty you make them. That would be my magic fix.
• I miss any electronics stores that carry stereo equipment, because I'm kind of a music freak. So when the big box stores like Sears and Circuit City left, I missed looking around in those stores.
• I would bring Borders bookstores back. I loved browsing around those stores.
• I would make Charlestowne Mall vibrant again, and bring Tavolini's restaurant back in downtown Geneva.
Ten years later: It's hard to believe it has been 10 years since Daily Herald editor John Lampinen and I chatted at the Caribou Coffee shop that has long since closed on the east side of St. Charles.
Because I had been gone from the Kane County Chronicle for nearly a year and was doing some sports freelancing for the Herald at the time, he asked me about writing a weekly column.
I was working full-time in another field, so I wondered if I could do more than two or three columns before running out of things to write about. But I said yes.
Here I am, 10 years later, still plugging away with the "Talk of the Town" column. It's not easy to fit it in with my other work, but the positive feedback from readers and the hundreds of people I have come to know in nearly 40 years of local journalism provides plenty of incentive.
God willing, I'll be around for several more years writing about the things that make this area a great place to work and play.