News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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Editorial

Will  Improvements To Main Street Ever End? No, Shouldn’t

EDITORIAL

Will  Improvements

To Main Street Ever

End? No, Shouldn’t

Mayor Tillapaugh, right, holds a construction conference at Main and Chestnut. From left are Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, Streets Committee chair; Roger Pendell, Upstate Companies, and Greg Miller and Todd Harter,
Barton & Loguidice engineers. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Begun inauspiciously in March 2014 with the felling of 37 trees on Main Street, a remarkable series of successes has followed in the reinvention of downtown Cooperstown for 21st century tourism.
The environmentally sensitive rain gardens, new sidewalks, streetlights, replacement of 19th century water mains and sewerage – even a new flag pole, embroiled in controversy as it now is – have followed in quick succession.

But it’s not over, as observed in the past few days, as the Upstate Companies, which is growing
into a Mount Upton-based behemoth, began working on the latest projects:
• One, the reinvention of pocket Pioneer Park, at Main and Pioneer, with a low stage, bike racks and water fountain, more benches and new plantings. The more open center will provide more elbow room around Santa’s Cottage, often packed as it is from Thanksgiving Weekend until the Big Day.
• Two, a new traffic signal setup at Pioneer and Chestnut. The Upstate crews are replacing curbs and sidewalks (with brick pavers) from Pine Boulevard to the intersection. The traffic light will be replaced with a single signal, just as it is, but adjustable to easy entry and exit from the nearby fire station.
Chestnut Street will be narrowed, for less-stressful pedestrian crossings, and a small plaza created in front of Mel’s. Plus, Walk/Don’t Walk signals will further ease pedestrians’ minds as they navigate more clearly delineated crosswalks, courtesy with long-lasting stripes from Andela Glass, the Richfield Springs recycling concern.
(That last piece depends on the weather, according to Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch: Blacktop requires a stretch of 50-plus degree weather to cure.)

While this isn’t the beginning, it isn’t the end, either.

Work may begin this fall on the new entrance to Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field, which will include sidewalks, new walls and a decorative arch. Inset is entrance as is today.

At Doubleday Field, water and sewer lines will be laid from the Main Street entrance to the left side of the grandstand to provide service to the restrooms, locker rooms and pavilion that will be part of next year’s third-baseline reconstruction.
Depending on how soon winter arrives, work may begin on the Main Street entrance, including the fancy arch pictured with this editorial.
Next summer, the construction should be going strong along Doubleday Field’s third-base line. The mayor isn’t sure how much will be done by next year’s 100th anniversary of the baseball landmark, but there should be enough to be impressive during ceremonies planned by the Friends of Doubleday.

That’s a lot in five years, but it’s not over – probably never over, Mayor Tillapaugh
said.
Fowler Way, which leads to Doubleday from Chestnut Street, next to the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, is much used, but narrow, bumpy and lacking sidewalks, all of which could and should be addressed.
She is particularly interested in upgrading Hoffman Lane, across from the Hall of Fame, to lead more of the quarter-million fans that visit the Hall each year to Lakefront Park and James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass. Locals are often surprised to learn that many visitors are unaware the lake is even there.
Then, attention could turn to Railroad Avenue, which is becoming a center of local life and commerce, with Mike Manno’s 21 Railroad office building, and Attorney Michelle Kennedy’s office building next door, Cooperstown Distillery, the Railroad Inn, the renovated Spurbeck’s, Butch Welch’s recently redone parking lot,
and the Susquehanna & Western Railroad headquarters.
With the empty “Where It All Began” warehouse and other space for apartments, Railroad Avenue is a promising next center of population growth.
Will it ever end? Listening to the mayor, you have to conclude: Never, and it shouldn’t.

 

If Not Constitution Pipeline, Then What?

EDITORIAL

NAYSAYERS NEED TO BE AYE-SAYERS

If Not Constitution

Pipeline, Then What?

As any one of you who have been there know, Owego’s a delightful community, rich with history – Belva Lockwood, the first woman presidential candidate, taught there.  Fine mansions line the Susquehanna River.  There’s a funky, arts-oriented downtown.

Owego’s Belva Lockwood was the first woman to run for president – in 1884 and 1888 on the National Equal Rights Party line.

A half-block off Main and Front streets, however, you see the rot.  Solid homes are in disarray; when the money’s not there, maintenance is the first thing to go.  There was one particularly well-maintained home for sale, but it listed for $125,000.  It would have demanded twice that in Otsego County.

Owego was a particular showcase in the day, not so long ago, when every community in Upstate New York was a showcase.  Remember delightful Little Falls, fine homes built around a series of park-like squares.  Or today’s woeful Amsterdam, which used to be the prosperous center of the nation’s carpet-making industry.

Otsego County’s community centers are challenged, too.  Happily, Oneonta’s DRI is taking hold, with the exciting Lofts on Dietz, 66 artist studios and apartments, due for groundbreaking next summer.  Cooperstown, destination of a half-million tourists a year, is in particularly good shape, although ghost-town-like for most of the winter.

What better time for yet another promising piece of economic-development news.

So, it’s back!  The Constitution Pipeline.  At least the possibility that the Constitution Pipeline, designed to carry natural gas from Northeast Pennsylvania to the East Coast, may finally happen, although not immediately.

Remember Alternate M?  It was a route for the Constitution Pipeline across southern Otsego County, endorsed by the county Board of Representatives.  It was estimated that is would bring some $13 million a year in property taxes to municipalities the pipeline would have crossed – seven years later, that would have amounted to almost $100 million.

Instead of returning the county board’s embrace, Williams, the Houston-based pipeline builder, opted for a route through Delaware County, where it was challenged every step of the way.  Eventually, in 2016, the state DEC denied the permits necessary to cross stream beds.

Just think of it.  By now, the villages of Otego and Unadilla, which negotiated agreements with the Constitution builders, would have had natural gas.  In Schenevus, 300+/- people might have been employed by now at a distribution center at I-88’s Exit 18.

The City of Oneonta would have had all the natural gas it might have needed for economic development.  Existing institutions – the colleges, the hospitals – would have gone beyond the “interruptible powers” that, during cold snaps, requires them to burn dirty, more expensive oil.  Who knows what job-producing entity might have been attracted to the D&H Railyards by now.

No, we’re not climate deniers here.  It has to be addressed.  Something like Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposed $2 trillion for a 10-year Apollo-like program in green research – other Democrats have similar ideas – is essential.  A technological solution to climate woes – some would rather we all feel the pain – is the most desirable outcome.

Thinking back to 2012, when the county board endorsed Alternate M:  The debate has become much more rigid since then, between the no-gas, no-how crowd and those espousing the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce more sensible position, seeing fossil fuels as a short- or middle-term necessity until full-service renewable technologies come on one.

As argued here before, it’s a macro problem; we’re too micro to matter.  Let’s not sacrifice Upstate New York in general – and our Otsego County, in particular – on the altar of climate purism.

That said, while a federal court has overturned the DEC’s ban on the pipeline, no one’s going to be digging a trench anytime soon.  The state Attorney General’s Office is certain to appeal, plus Stop the Pipeline and other local groups.

With no one knowing what may happen in the November 2020 president election, is hard to imagine anyone would embark on such a massive undertaking facing such uncertainty.

A view of once-prosperous Owego’s downtown from the other side of the Susquehanna.

The visit to Owego was particularly poignant because it’s the one area of the state where there sufficient natural gas in the underlying Marcellus Shale to be commercially extracted.  As it is, drillers in nearby Pennsylvania are tapping into New York State and extracting the resource anyhow.

Owego could be rebounding, as some of its Pennsylvania neighbors to the southeast area, instead of declining.

There’s no reason for anyone to object to renewables, but so far renewable proponents have offered no related economic-development strategies.  Who doesn’t love the idea of a job-creating eco-commerce park at Oneonta’s D&H railyards.  But months after the idea surfaced to enthusiasm, nothing concrete has emerged.

In the face of declining Upstate, the renewable movement has to do more than simply object.  We need concepts that can be implemented.  Naysayers have to become aye-sayers. Otherwise, the Constitution Pipeline may start to sound pretty good.

Conductor Huff At CSO – Wow! Stay Tuned

EDITORIAL

Conductor Huff At CSO

– Wow! Stay Tuned

Silas Huff, in a rehearsal prior to Saturday’s performance. (AllOTSEGO.com)

Last week’s editorial praised the local arts and culture scene, after Oneonta and Otsego County were identified as “eighth most vibrant arts community” in the U.S. by SMU’s DATA ARTS’ report.

Silas Huff’s conducting of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra Saturday evening, Sept. 7, added several exclamation marks to all of last week’s positive conclusions.

Huff is the first of three conductors competing to succeed Maestro Chuck Schneider as CSO conductor. Carolyn Watson conducts Oct. 12, and Maciej Żółtowski Nov. 16. The new conductor will lead the CSO at the annual cabaret concert next March.

Two of Huff’s selections – the bookends – a Strauss overture and Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” brought standing ovations. The centerpiece, a Haydn cello concerto, drew a more subdued response, although soloist Andrew Janss impressed.

As for Huff himself, his direction was tight, intense, authoritative, subtle but effective; no showy flourishes. First rate. A top candidate.

If you believe competition brings out the best in people, Watson and Żółtowski appearances will be gripping. Huff’s sure was. If you’ve never attended a CSO performance before, treat yourself. (Tickets available at www.catskillsymphony.net.)

How Can We Make 8th Most Vibrant Arts County Thrive?

EDITORIAL

How Can We Make 8th Most

Vibrant Arts County Thrive?

What? In a United States that some insist on characterizing as a burning dumpster, can there be good news?

Well, here it is: Oneonta, as Otsego County’s “urban core,” has been ranked the eighth most-vibrant small community in America in Southern Methodist University’s fifth annual Arts Vibrancy Index Report.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder, there are 16,360 towns in the U.S. Not all of them, of course, are “small communities.” Still, eighth puts Oneonta and Otsego County in a very elite sliver of arts-oriented locales.

And, of course it is.

It is home to the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, which thrives while such cities as Honolulu, Syracuse and Albuquerque have lost their orchestras. Shock of shocks, even one of the nation’s “Big Five,” the Philadelphia Orchestra, went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.

There’s the $8 million Foothills Performing Arts Center, owned free and clear, which – hindered by the Great (and long) Recession – is finally getting traction under the steady leadership of Executive Director Bill Youngs and board chair Roxanna Hurlburt.

Over a typical academic year, Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta offer a vast range of top talent from around the nation at the Anderson Arts Center and Goodrich Theater respectively, and in their art galleries.

Oneonta theater troupes? Four, count ’em: Orpheus, Bold Theatrics, Bigger Boat and Stuff of Dreams. Does any similar-sized community have so many. And three dance troupes – Elite, Donna Decker and Jillian’s.

All this in a small city of 14,000.

Beyond the “urban core” of Oneonta, DataArts goes on to single out the Cooperstown museums – the Fenimore and Farmers’ – the Glimmerglass Festival, all nationally known and appreciated. All three are strong, and The Fenimore, beginning this summer with Herb Ritts’ photos from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, began reaching out to a whole new audience, younger, hipper – the future, if you will.

(For whatever reason, Brewery Ommegang has dropped its summertime popular-music concerts, but performers like Norah Jones and Elvis Costello proved there’s a wide draw, at least in summer months.)

Below the Big Three, there are thriving entities like Linda Chesis’ Cooperstown Summer Music Festival, Cherry Valley Artworks’ full series of professional performances at the Star Theater, plus its semi-annual Sculpture Walk.

Gilbertsville’s Major’s Inn has a concert series through the summer, plus arts-related programming year-‘round. (Oneonta filmmaker Joe Stillman is showing his latest documentary, on LBJ’s attorney general, the humanitarian Ramsay Clark, at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Major’s as a fundraiser for the historic venue.)

That reminds us of Barton Kaplan’s Magic Mountain Music Farm in the hills between Gilbertsville and Morris: Top music students from New York City and beyond practice intently for the summer and put on a weekend of performances in a Gllbertsville church.

The monthly Coffee House at the Schuyler Lake Methodist Church – folks with guitars and more – is another example of a decentralized artistic fervor. Here’s another: The Church in Mount Vision, which has been presenting plays all summer long for three years now.

This is hardly comprehensive, and it underscores what a great idea Oneonta’s ArtSpace project is – 66 studio-residential units in a four-story building due to rise on the city’s Dietz Street next year.

The point: While we bemoan what we don’t have – yes, we’re out of natural gas and electricity, if anyone wants to open a factory here – we should be developing what we do.

The DataArts ranking brought to mind former Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller’s Arts Summit in January 2011 at Foothills – it was terrific. There must have been 100 artists and arts enthusiasts there.
Miller was his usual droll self, telling the bubbling gathering, ““I’m not in it for the arts; I’m in it for the economy.”

But he had a point. He offered $200,000 from a City Hall budget surplus – yes, those WERE the days – to help get a comprehensive effort to promote arts off the ground. It never got any traction, but why shouldn’t it?

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, R-Mount Vision, is leading up a countywide Energy Task Force. Why not a countywide Arts Development Task Force?

It wouldn’t have to be government based; there’s plenty of arts leadership clout around here. Something like the 55-member Energy Task Force might be too much. But how about a six-member task force with heavy hitters like The Fenimore’s Paul D’Ambrosio and SUNY Oneonta’s Janet Nepkie, who created the college’s amazing Music Industry major. It could be privately run.

Now, arts is a summer magnet. How about a summer and fall magnet? Then maybe a summer, fall and Christmas magnet? Then add in a winter carnival component.

As SMU DataArts documented, we have what it takes to be much more.

How Often Can We Help Something 1st-Rate Happen?

EDITORIAL

How Often Can We Help

Something 1st-Rate Happen?

Solicitations, by phone, mail, email or in person, are a pesky part of 21st century life.

The advantages the Susquehanna SPCA’s “Shelter Us” campaign for $3 million to build a new animal shelter are: one, the people who are running it are our neighors – we know them. And, two, everything about it is first rate.

Staffworks’ President Anita Vitullo, left, with Anne Keith, “Shelter Us” campaign chair, at Saturday’s ground breaking. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO,.com)

Anita Vitullo of Clinton, Staffworks’ president and philanthropist to the pet world, underscored the many ways “Shelter Us” is top notch in her remarks Saturday, Aug. 24, at the groundbreaking on Route 28 at Index.

Smiling Stacie Haynes prepares to announce the $2 million initial goal has been met.

She talked about “dynamic leadership,” and how the shelter’s dynamo executive director, Stacie Haynes, called her and “did a good job of convincing me” to provide support. Add board chair Gaylord Dillingham and “Shelter Us” chair Anne Keith to that dynamic cadre.

Vitullo, who was announcing “Shelter Us” had raised the $250,000 needed to match her matching grant, went on to speak about commitment, and customer service, and mission – all the things that, no doubt, has made her placement company successful, too.

Add in creativity and innovation. Vitullo told how Haynes collaborated with Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. and District Attorney John Muehl in creating a county Animal Cruelty Task Force, to get ahead of some of the pet and farm-animal related fiascos of the past few years.

Doesn’t That Sound Better Than A Mantra Of Hate?

Doesn’t That Sound Better

Than A Mantra Of Hate?

All this talk about hate. Maybe it’s different in a rural enclave like Otsego County, but how often in the course of a week or month or year do any of us come face to face with something we can define as “hate.”

Yet Governor Cuomo, last Thursday, Aug. 21, in announcing our state will be the first in the nation to enact a “Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act” (see excerpt below), used the word “hate” 22 times.

Yes, you might suspect the whole idea is part of some hidden agenda, since nobody knows what our governor’s ambitions are.
But he used the word “attack”

13 times, and words with the letters “t-e-r-r-o-r” 17 times.
Come on.

Let’s try to put this in some sort of perspective.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified about 1,000 “hate groups” in the country. But say each has 250 members – a stretch for such organizations as, for instance, Truth in Textbooks in Boerne, Texas.

That’s 250,000 people. A lot, but just 0.1 percent of the 250 million adult Americans.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to, say, the number of high school students who lovingly volunteer on community projects.
Shucks, there are 2.3 million Boy Scouts.

Yes, a nut with an AK47 can’t be ignored.

How is New York going to define itself? By hate, or ♥?

General German Reporting For Duty

EDITORIAL

Otsego Countian In Congress? Nice!

General German

Reporting For Duty

General German in Antarctica, where a glacier was named in his honor.

If Adjutant Gen. (ret.) Anthony P. German is elected congressman from New York State’s 19th District, you can bet we will be the only district represented by someone who has an iceberg named after him.  (As commander of the state’s Air National Guard, his pilots collaborated with the National Science Foundation’s Antarctica Program.)

Also, he would be the first Otsego Countian to represent us in over a century, since Republican George W. Fairchild, 1907-1919, Oneonta Herald publisher and, later, first chairman of the fledgling IBM board of directors.  (As congressman, he hosted Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Taft at his mansion, now Oneonta’s Masonic Temple.  Cool.)

Before him, a Republican father-son hops-growing and banking combination – two David Wilbers, also from Oneonta by way of Milford – served off and on for several terms in the second half of the 19th century.

And, of course, William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown (and The Freeman’s Journal, Hometown Oneonta’s sister publication), served two terms as a Federalist, in 1795-97 and 1799-1801.

It’s past time to get our political mojo back.

With Determination, Discipline The Whartons Led The Way

EDITORIAL

‘There are no Caucasians present, though it would be difficult to distinguish them from many of those mingling in the mix of multi-hued wedding guests. Without exception, the guests are dressed fashionably, with stylish attire and stunning jewelry. The men are doctors, lawyers and undertakers; the women are school teachers and social workers … (The) waitstaff make their way through the crowd, bearing silver trays laden with chicken and crab croquettes, creamed sweetbreads on toast points, and slices of Virginia ham rolled with water cress – to accompany the Champagne punch served in crystal cups. Such is the life of many accomplished upper-middle-class Negroes along the Eastern Seaboard in the 1920s and 1930s.”

DOLORES WHARTON, from “A Multicultured Life”

With Determination, Discipline

The Whartons Led The Way

Dolores Wharton’s memoir, “A Multicultured Life,” will be available Sept. 1 on amazon.com and MSUpress.org.

The quote, above, is Dolores Wharton’s earliest memory, recounted in “A Multicultured Life,” an engaging, irresistible memoir of not quite a century of American life, as she – in tandem with husband Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., the former SUNY chancellor (and much more) – moved from the nation’s black aristocracy to the heights of the American mainstream – in academe, industry and government.

Theirs is a soaring life story, of hard work, discipline, determination – and achievement.

Her husband was son of the first black U.S. ambassador (to Norway, 1961-64).  He was a Harvard grad with a University of Chicago Ph.D., a Rockefeller envoy to South America and Malaysia, Michigan State president, then SUNY chancellor, TIAA-CREF CEO and reinventor, deputy secretary of State, and retiree to Cooperstown (summers and weekends year ’round), where he’s served on Bassett’s and other key community boards.

He recounted his astonishing career in a 2015 memoir, “Privilege & Prejudice,” a title that encompasses all the opportunities and obstacles to overcome.

Take Control! Consider Otsego Lake Association

EDITORIAL

Take Control! Consider

Otsego Lake Association

Annual Meeting at 9 a.m. This Saturday

Otsego Lake Association Co-Presidents David Sanford, left, and Jim Howarth, right, chat with boat stewards Sierra Stickney, Oneonta, and Luis Suatoni, Springfield Center, at the boat-cleaning station at Cooperstown’s Lakefront Park. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

With so many areas of American life seemingly spinning out of control, there’s a contrary example in the Otsego Lake Association (OLA).

Its “100-percent volunteers,” according to Jim Howarth, co-president with David Sanford, are focused on a common mission: “Protecting the health, beauty and wellbeing” of the lake.

OLA stalwart Paul Lord shows a sample of the
European Frog Bit, Otsego Lake’s latest invasive.

Listening to them, it’s clear:  Local volunteers, working together, can get a lot done.

There are larger non-profit, governmental and educational entities focused on the wellbeing of James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass, a national environmental icon – the OCCA, Otsego 2000, SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station (BFS), the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, to name only a few – but the nimble OLA is a PT boat amid, if not aircraft carriers, the mid-size cruisers.

In advance of its annual meeting – this Saturday, Aug. 10, at Cooperstown’s Fairy Spring Park on East Lake Road; coffee and donuts at 8:30 a.m., with the meeting at 9-11 a.m., including conferring the annual Lake Citizen Award – Howarth and Sanford stopped by the other day to help raise the visibility of a story of accomplishment.

Like many OLA members, the two motivations came out of many happy personal experiences. Sanford recalls when commercial fishing was still allowed on the lake, and a daily staple at the Cooperstown Diner was Otsego Bass caught that morning. A student at SUNY Oneonta in the 1970s, Howarth remembers renting a motorbike from Thayer’s at $5 a day to take his future bride Susan onto the lake. Or a canoe ride, $2 a day.

Marijuana Law Prudent Step. Maybe, Just Maybe, Enough

EDITORIAL

Marijuana Law Prudent Step.

Maybe, Just Maybe, Enough

This year’s wild and crazy one-party bloc in Albany may have, by failing to reach it’s ultimate goal, achieved a sensible outcome in one area.

Governor Cuomo Monday, July 29, signed legislation that reduces the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana under 2 ounces from felony to violation.

The penalty: a $50 fine for less than an ounce to a maximum of $200 for one to 2 ounces. (Above that, dealing’s involved, and stronger penalties kick in.)

It also erases the records of people convicted of possessing small amounts in the past. You may remember: The original goal of the Democratic majority was to create a massive commercial enterprise, with pot stores peppering Main Streets from Brooklyn to Butternuts.

Greed – how to split the huge anticipated revenues – and suburban soccer moms created an impasse.
Pot, of course, is part of our modern landscape. Sending junior to the Big House on finding a joint in his pocket is nonsense. So is creating another Big Tobacco – Big Pot?

Maybe the measure Cuomo signed Monday is just enough. Let’s leave it alone for a while and see how it plays out.

What Is It About Flags, Anyhow?

EDITORIAL

What Is It About

Flags, Anyhow?

The First Amendment is pretty clear:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Operative phrase:  “No law.”

The devil, of course, is in the details, beginning with “shouting fire in a crowded theater,” the metaphor used by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1919 to suggest the First Amendment must be subject to sensible limitation.

Issue One: Sale of Confederate flags or merchandise bearing the image of the flag at county fairs.

In particular, a group, Fair for All, formed two years ago and has been actively lobbying and demonstrating for a ban at the Delaware County Fair.

The latest development came April 29, when the Delco fair board, under pressure from Cooperative Extension, and the state’s Attorney General and Department of Ag & Markets, agreed to ban the “display” of Confederate flags and related merchandise, but not their sale.

At last report, the Otsego County Fair had banned the symbol, but wasn’t enforcing the policy.

The Stars & Bars, of course, is freighted with multiple interpretations.  Is it simply a dramatic graphic, or a symbol of thumbing one’s nose at authority, per “The Dukes of Hazzard,” or an expression of ignorance if its Civil War roots, or an overt or subconscious expression of racism.

To the point it’s an intentional provocation to violence, it would be covered by Justice Holmes’ stricture.  Short of that, it’s one of the aggravations of living in a free society.

From a practical standpoint, if you find the Confederate flag objectionable, stay away from county fairs for the time being.

Issue Two: Flying the Pride Flag.

The Cooperstown Village Board, and its newest trustee, MacGuire Benton, should be congratulated for agreeing to be – it appears – the first Upstate New York municipality to trumpet acceptance by unanimously voting to fly the Pride Flag on Village Hall next June, which is Pride Month.

If the First Amendment means nothing else, it’s live and let live.

That said, the trustees would be wise to place their action in the context of a defensible policy.

While calling approval of his resolution “awesome,” the freshman trustee also suggested how things might get sticky:  “There are flags that are indisputably racist, indisputably bigoted and don’t reflect the values of the majority of Cooperstown.  I certainly wouldn’t support that.”

Certainly, but lacking a policy, does the Village Board have the standing to block any request that is less than “indisputable??

For instance, what if the local chapter of the National Right to Life petitions to fly its flag at 22 Main?  Or NARAL, the National Abortion Rights League?

What if one religious denomination seeks to have a flag hoisted?  Does the Village Board have the standing to say no?  Then what about other religions, represented in the village or not, or the irreligious?

The Village Board shouldn’t be deciding whose First Amendments Rights get precedence.  By trying to do so, is it opening itself – and, thus, taxpayers – to the possibility of expensive legal challenge?

Of course – “fingers crossed” – none of that may ever happen.  But is “fingers crossed” a basis for good governance?

The Lofts May Fulfill Dream Of A Renewed Downtown

The Lofts May Fulfill Dream

Of A Renewed Downtown

The Lofts On Dietz is being proposed by developers Ken and Sean Kearney.

Speaking of development, The Lofts On Dietz, artist studios and middle-income apartments proposed for downtown Oneonta, is simply thrilling.

The developer – a father-son combination, Ken and Sean Kearney, principals in Parkview Development Inc. – have completed two similar projects, in Beacon and Poughkeepsie,

The father outlined the project to Common Council July 16, and to the city’s Planning Commission the following evening, and came across as seasoned, knowledgeable and level-headed.

Dave Hutchison, long-time member of the city’s Environmental Board, asked that it achieve a net-zero energy status, and use a
geothermal system.

As of now, city codes don’t require that, but Kearney said he will discuss the possibility with his NYSERDA-approved consultant.

Fine, but energy isn’t the only issue, or even the foremost.

Until now, despite DRI status and many millions committed to the city center’s rebirth, it’s been theoretical.
This is real. It’s been done elsewhere. It can – and will – happen, it we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

No Land For Apartment Complex? Harrumph!

EDITORIAL

No Land For Apartment Complex?

Harrumph!

No room for an apartment complex in the Village of Cooperstown? What about the “Where It Began” warehouse at Main and Grove? (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

“The Grove” developer Josh Edmonds did the right thing Wednesday, July 17, in withdrawing his application for a 12-unit apartment building between Pine Boulevard, one of the Village of Cooperstown’s finest streets, and lower Chestnut.

It promised to be a long fight, with no certain end.

…the former CVS building at 100 Main St. It’s on the market.

As reported here before, Edmonds has figured out the home of the future – energy efficient, bright, supremely comfortable – and has built a half-dozen of them already in northern Otsego County, including one for his family at the end of Delaware Street.
This guy understands the future; but feeling pushback from residents – some prospective customers, no doubt – he sensibly pulled back.
No matter: His inevitable success won’t depend on a particular site. Besides, there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere in the village, for him and for others.
For instance, just days before his announcement, the former CVS at 100 Main, vacant for two years, went up for sale. It’s one-story, but zoned for two more stories of possible housing. What’s more, the concrete basement may be easily adapted for parking.
Now, THAT would be a showpiece for whatever Josh Edmonds might do.

Fans, Cooperstown Spent $10-15 Million Preparing For You

EDITORIAL

Fans, Cooperstown

Spent $10-15 Million

Preparing For You

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch stands in Pioneer Park, the next focus of Village of Cooperstown improvements. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Welcome, Induction attendees!  Will there really be more than a record-breaking 84,000 of us?  Excitement.

If you’re been here before, look around: You will see many changes and improvements to Cooperstown’s downtown that have occurred since the last record-setter, when Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn set the record for attendance in 2008.

If you came then, you might be astonished by what you see now. Then, all the sidewalks were cracked.  Main Street needed paving.  The whole downtown had a bit of a well-worn sense about it – endearing, yes, but still…

Beginning in 2012, that began to change quickly.

Now-Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch remembers being a bit nonplussed at her first Village Board budget meeting after being elected a trustees in March 2011.

“The budget wasn’t balancing very well,” she recalled the other day.  “There was a big surplus in the Water Fund, and $400,000 had to be shifted from Water into the General Fund” just to stay even.

“That was maintenance level,” she said.

The next year, the village trustees made a decision after the most angrily debated local issue in decades:  In the face of a sharply divided electorate, they voted to extend paid parking to all downtown streets between Labor Day Weekend and Columbus Day Weekend.

Almost immediately, Village Hall’s financial picture brightened.

The first year, paid parking added $250,000 to the $5 million village budget, and that’s continued to grow in the years since to $400,000 in the fiscal year that ended May 31.  Village taxes haven’t gone up in five years.

At the same time, a freshman Village Trustee (now Deputy Mayor) Cindy Falk, began developing prowess in grantsmanship.  Successes soon followed:

  • In 2013-14, a $600,000 state Green Innovation Grant paid for “rain gardens” around newly planted trees. In part, the idea was to slow runoff into Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna River. The first brick sidewalks were also installed.
  • About the same time, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $2.2 million for downtown enhancements, from repaving, to sidewalks, to redone and new lampposts (with LED lights), to street furniture, on Main but also on Pioneer.
  • The final step will come this fall: Narrowing the Main and Chestnut intersection, adding walk/don’t walk signs, and generally making it less scary to pedestrians. (If you’ve tried to cross there, you know what we mean.)
  • Local money, $1.2 million, was used for more routine projects, albeit important: the replacing of water lines and sewerage under Pioneer Street dating back to the 1880s.
  • A $5.8 million renovation of historic Doubleday Field, the symbolic – if not actual – Birthplace of Baseball is now underway. Go and take a look.

In all, Falk estimates $10-15 million has been spent to make this village of 1,769 people more welcoming to a half-million visitors a year.

Throughout this period, now-retired Trustee Lou Allstadt led the charge on upgrading the historic Village Hall.  Stop by and take a look, and stop by the library and Cooperstown Art Association gallery while you’re at it.

No one has a ready tally of all this.  $5 million.  $10 million.  Maybe more.  Whatever, a lot for a village of

There’s more still to come, particularly at Pioneer Park (Main and Pioneer), where initial work – a bike rack and water found – has already begun.

A stage is planned against the Tunnicliff Inn side wall for the popular “Music on Main” programs during the summer. Brick pavers will add handicapped accessibility.  And landscape – a London plane tree and birches – will be added, three lampposts and new furniture.

“We all recognized new sources of revenues were needed, and aggressive grant application, to take care of infrastructure that was just going to deteriorate,” Tillapaugh said, who was fully involved in all of this as deputy mayor to Jeff Katz, who retired from office a year ago April 1, and now as mayor herself.­

She also pointed out that merging village court into Otsego Town Court, and repositioning the municipal library as a school-district library, paid for by a separate levy, further helped the village’s financial picture.

The free-wheeling nature of the 2008 Ripken-Gwynn weekend is no more.  Everywhere you’ll see high-security measures: from temporary iron fences to such additions as $4,000 trash cans that can be locked during the Legends of Baseball parade Saturday evening.  You’ll also notice a much greater police presence.

Regrettably, that’s the nature of our post-9/11 world, intensified after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.  It can’t be helped for now; maybe in a better world to come.  We can at least be assured that state-of-the-art measures are in place to ensure the security of the at-least 84,001 of us this weekend.

Enjoy – the Induction of Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines and Lee Smith will likely be one for the record book.  In beautified downtown Cooperstown this weekend, we may be participating in history.

 

County Board’s ‘Green Light’ Resolution Was Litmus Test – And Democrats Failed It

EDITORIAL • July 11-12, 2019

County Board’s ‘Green Light’

Resolution Was Litmus Test

– And Democrats Failed It

First, it should be said that there’s a troubling lack of interest this year in running for the Otsego County Board of Representatives, whose reach, from road building to social services, touches all 60,094 of us.

In the 14 districts, there are only three contests coming out of the June 25 primary:

  • In District 2, the one-term Democrat, former Morris Town Board member Michele Farwell, is being challenged by Marcia Hoag, a former Pittsfield Town Board member who is running on the Voice of the People line, but says she is allied with Republicans.
  • In District 3, where former board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego/Laurens, is retiring. Republican Rick Brockway, a retired ferrier and outdoor columnist, and Democrat Caitlin Ogden, a Baseball Hall of Fame grantsman, are both newcomers running for the vacant seat.
  • In District 14, where Democrat Jill Basile and Wilson Wells, a Libertarian, are seeking to succeed Democrat Liz Shannon, who is retiring.

Contrast that with 2017, when 12 of the 14 seats were contested, and there were some humdingers.

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