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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Columns

MORGAN: Downstate Controls, Doesn’t Care About Upstate

Column by Tom Morgan for November 9, 2018

Downstate Controls,

Doesn’t Care About Upstate

Tom Morgan

Yawn.
Upstate’s recovery from the Great Recession is the weakeast of any U.S. region. According to a recent study. You can examine all the nooks of Upstate’s economy. Most every one is daubed with lackluster. Papered with anemic. Writ large with blah.
Yawn.
Upstaters grew accustomed to this long ago. Our motto should be “We’re Number One at being Number Fifty!”
Most of us know what would help revive Upstate. Lower taxes would. Fewer regulations would. Fewer mandates from an out-of-touch Albany bureaucracy would. A much slimmer state government would. Because the slimness would suck less money from Upstate taxpayers. The slimness would reduce the number of state government fingers in Upstate pies.
We tend to lead the nation in taxes and regulations. We lead the nation in making life difficult for businesses large and small. Don’t you wish we could lead the nation in something else?
There is one move that would help Upstate.
Getting rid of downstate would.
Yawn.
The idea excites few. Lethargy pervades. (Maybe we lead the nation in lethargy too?) This is because upstaters know downstaters in the legislature would never allow us to split. And downstaters call the shots.
In other words, the guys who know and care nothing about Upstate decide Upstate’s fate. A good example of this is that Greens in the Big Apple are major voices in blocking fracking in our Southern Tier. Can you imagine Upstaters blocking projects on Staten Island? Upstaters opposed to tree-culling in the Hamptons? C’monnn.
Downstaters really do know nuttin’ about upstate. This is more than a laugh line at a party. Folks in Glen Cove and Oyster Bay really think Jamestown is only in Virginia. Utica really is another country to denizens of Commack. Syracuse and Binghamton are Fuhgettusville to dwellers of Brooklyn.

Oh yeah? Well, vice-versa to you too, buddy! Really. I mean, tell me all you know about the latest problems in Amityville and Islip.
Truth is, we don’t know and we don’t care that we don’t know. We feel so little allegiance to each other.
We New Yorkers have scant connections. We have no state TV or radio network. No statewide newspaper. And Upstate doesn’t even get its fair share of the state’s greatest industry: corruption. We don’t get no respect.
Splitting the state in two would work. Surely it would.
First, we would have less corruption in government. Because no new state could ever compete with the sleaze that oozes up the Hudson to Albany from the City and Long Island. Downstaters are simply too practiced in corruption for us.
Second, an Upstate government would be sensitive to Upstate issues and challenges. Its legislators and bureaucrats would more likely know how to locate Canandaigua without GPS.
Third, a separate Upstate might well end up with two political parties. As now composed, New York State has one.
Two parties, competing ideas? Hey, it might work!
This column goes to some heavies in the Big Apple. At this point I could write that they are all slobs. None of them would respond. Because none of them will have read this far. As soon as they saw the word “Upstate” they fell asleep.
A prime minister of Canada once mused that living in the attic of the U.S. was like sleeping with an elephant. The big fellow kept the bed warm, but when he rolled over…
This is the predicament of Upstaters.
If we all voted the same way and organized and outright demanded…
Oh, forget about it. Yawnsville. It would never work. We have met puny and he is us. Even in the corruption business. We could all contribute to raise a mountain of money to buy off the downstate legislators and governor. Yeah, but it would flop. Those birds are too accustomed to the big bribes. They would laugh at our paltry efforts. Not that they wouldn’t take the money.
From Tom…as in Morgan.
Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta financial adviser and syndicated columnist, lives in Franklin. His new novel, “The Last Columnist,” is available on amazon.com

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KUZMINSKI: Gerrymandering Takes Away Our Right To Representation

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for November 2, 2018

Gerrymandering Takes Away
Our Right To Representation

Adrian Kuzminski

The most remarkable thing I’ve seen in this year’s midterm
election campaigns is Chad McEvoy’s op-ed in the New York Times. The headline says it all: “If I win my district, I’ll get rid of it.”
That’s the 101st Assembly District, a model of gerrymandering, which snakes in a narrow strip from New Hartford near Utica through part of Otsego county to the Hudson Valley.
Its shape guarantees that almost nobody living in the district is connected to anyone else in it. Its only purpose is to provide a safe seat for a politician who can be sure that his atomized constituents have no voice of their own.
Chad is running to overturn this kind of all too familiar nonsense.
The 101st district is an egregious case of gerrymandering, but in fact most of our legislative districts work exactly the same way. Most people couldn’t find their state legislative or Congressional districts on a map, or even name them accurately.
The districts overlay and cut across one another in insane fashion. People in one Congressional district are guaranteed not to be together in the same state Assembly or Senate districts.
Divide and conquer is obviously the rule.
Most districts are spread over a large number of communities almost entirely unique in terms of jobs, industry, schools, social services, and so on. That means our local communities are NOT represented in Albany or Washington.
The heart of your community is where you live and work. It includes your neighborhood, the town where you do most of your business and shopping, and the school district where your kids go. For most people – except for those commuting to distant jobs (say 20 miles or more) – these functions mostly overlap.
Call it home.
The largest local unit which people recognize and more or less identify with is the county, which administers social services, collects taxes, provides public safety, manages code enforcement and waste disposal, maintains major local highways, carries out environmental and planning responsibilities, and coordinates local towns which enjoy home rules under the state Constitution.
People know their counties; counties are the largest political entities which still function as communities. The county should be the political district that is directly represented in Albany, if not in Washington.
New York has 62 counties and representatives elected from each of those counties could comprise at least the state Assembly, if not the entire state legislature. That would be one way to upset business-as-usual in Albany and put the public back
in control.

This map of the “spaghetti district” accompanied the New York Times op-ed. For full column, Google “chad mcevoy nytimes.

Of course, counties differ widely in size. The largest county in the state – King’s County(Brooklyn)– has a population of 2,504,700, while the smallest – Hamilton County, in the Adirondacks – has 4,836 residents. But just as towns are represented on the Otsego county Board of Representatives by weighted voting, counties could be represented in Albany the same way.
The larger number of smaller, more rural counties would naturally work together to offset the clout of the fewer number of larger counties.
As far as Congressional districts go, in densely populated areas (like New York City) they should be drawn to be within counties as much as possible. In less dense areas, like Upstate, they can be drawn to include whole counties as closely as they can.
The point is that the interests of, say, Otsego county, would have a direct voice in Albany, something that is NOT currently the case.
In fact, our communities
are not directly represented anywhere at all.
This lack of representation
goes a long way towards explaining why a place like Otsego county has long suffered chronic economic decline and social malaise.
Let me close with a couple of personal endorsements of local candidates who recognize the need for the kind of fundamental change I’m talking about.
One is Chad McEvoy in the 101st Assembly District, as discussed above. Chad wants to strengthen local education, supports single-payer health care for New Yorkers, and advocates universal broadband and green energy as economic drivers.
The other candidate I’m voting for is Joyce St. George in the 51st Senate district. St. George – a feisty, anti-corruption investigator and local business woman who also supports single-payer health for all New Yorkers – is running against our long-time senator Jim Seward, who represents the status quo.
Seward has made a career of recycling taxpayers’ own dollars back to them as perks for which he can take credit; his so-called “economic summits” have gone nowhere; and his environmental record is among the worst in Albany – he’s been consistently rated near the bottom of New York legislators by the watchdog group Environmental Advocates. If you think we can do better on these issues, vote for St. George.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor
and Sustainable Otsego
moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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ZAGATA: Is Upstate Downbeat? Blame Slow Recovery

Column by Mike Zagata for November 2, 2018.

Is Upstate Downbeat?
Blame Slow Recovery

According to a newly released report from the Empire Center for Public Policy, “New York’s Uneven Economic Recovery: A Tale of Two States,” those of us who live in Upstate New York escaped the real estate/housing bubble that led to the economic crash in 2008. Why? Because our economy was so bad that we didn’t experience a bubble like the rest of the country. How’s that for good news?
Since the economic downturn, the Governor has claimed he has grown the state’s economy back to recovery. Have you experienced a recovery? Here’s how he’s been able to make that claim.
According to the governor, “We created 1,000,000 jobs (since 2011). New York State today has more private-sector jobs than it has had in the history of the state. Period. Unemployment went from 8.5 to 4.2 percent, and the recovery was statewide. In the old days you would see New York City doing very well, and Upstate would be struggling. Look how even the recovery is all across the State.”
The data don’t support that claim. In fact, to the contrary, it shows a sharp and growing economic divide between Upstate and downstate. According to the “Report,”, “By any standard, Upstate New York’s economic recovery has been among the weakest of any region in the country”. Only West Virginia, Wyoming and Arkansas, coal and minerals-dependent economies, have fared poorer. According to the Report, New York’s annual rate of real GDP growth has been lower than the rate for ALL states in six of his first seven years in office.
New York City, followed by Long Island and the lower Hudson valley, suburbs for the City, has enjoyed the highest rate of job growth in the state. At the same time, Upstate has gained private-sector jobs at about one-third of the national rate.
Of the State’s 62 counties,
23 of them, all but one
Upstate, have yet to recover to their pre-crash private employment levels. Knowing this, the Governor banned fracking in an attempt to court the “green community” and stopped the pipelines that could have brought much-needed natural gas and jobs to our region.
Did the unemployment rate in Upstate really drop or was it made to look that way – remember the old “shell” game? Based upon information in the Report, total private-sector employment Upstate grew by 6.3 percent since 2010. That is about one-third the U.S. rate of growth (17.8 percent) and even worse than that for downstate (21.2 percent). The Southern Tier counties ranged from having a loss of jobs to zero-5 percent growth. Guess where we fell in the ranking?
According to the Report, the 48 up-state counties saw a drop in employment “by a combined total of 87,500 from August 2010 to August 2018. Yes, the unemployment rate Upstate fell, but only because the labor force in those counties decreased by 210,000 people” – a result of fewer people looking for work because they had either given up, left the state or both.
Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport

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ZAGATA: Science Can Be Political Tool, And Even Worse, Up For Sale

Column by Mike Zagata for October 26, 2018.

Science Can Be Political Tool,
And Even Worse, Up For Sale

Mike Zagata

I read with interest and admiration the article in last week’s paper about the different kinds of “truth.”
Objective truth is the “truth” that
is supported by fact. Subjective “truth” is what circumstances point toward or what we want, based on the information we have at our disposal,
to believe.
The Senate confirmation hearings for judge, now justice, Kavanaugh were used in the article to illustrate the differences.
I found myself agreeing with the points being made until the author alleged that
it was the Republicans
who failed in the search for
THE truth by not having the FBI conduct a thorough investigation.
The truth is that we have no idea whether or not their investigation was “thorough.” What we do know is that the Democrats
sat on the information alleging
sexual abuse until AFTER the
Senate hearings.
Had they wanted the FBI to do a thorough investigation in search of the “truth”, the information about alleged sexual abuse would have been provided to the FBI
BEFORE, not AFTER, the
hearings. Had that been done, the FBI’s findings would have been a part of those hearings and thus fully vetted.
Based on that information, one can conclude the real agenda was not a search for the “truth”, but an attempt to delay the judge’s confirmation until after the mid-term elections.

Does that conclusion represent the objective or subjective “truth”? Each of us enters the search for the real “truth”

with built-in bias. That makes it very difficult to accept
information that differs from the results we want, i.e.
don’t confuse me with the facts.
It becomes tempting to omit certain information when offering our version of the truth to others. For example, the author omitted the fact that the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee sat on the allegation of sexual abuse for six weeks prior to the hearings. Without that information, it is much easier to “sell” the truth that the FBI didn’t do a thorough investigation.

Finding the truth is not easy. I was invited to lunch recently by a person who wanted to talk about climate change. The person was very sincere and had done considerable research on the topic. In fact, it was that research that led to confusion, because one source stated that the recent deviations in our climate were outside the norm and another source said they weren’t.
How does the average lay person or non-scientist determine which one is the “truth”?
Unfortunately, science has become a political tool and, worse yet, can be for sale. If a scientist gets a government funded grant to do research on climate change, should that scientist’s findings have to agree with the government’s position? The answer is “no”, but grants have been withdrawn when
they didn’t.
That’s not true “science” where we test the null hypothesis and let the chips fall where they might. If we deliberately omit data points because they aren’t consistent with what
we want them to be, that isn’t
good science.
The downsides of doing so are a loss of public confidence and the expenditure of scarce capital to cure a problem that may not exist. If we cry “wolf” when there is no wolf, will the public be willing to support what needs to be done when a real “wolf” exists?

It’s election season, and we’re all being bombarded by various versions of the truth by candidates for office. I do not personally know all of the candidates, so I can only reach the subjective truth about how I feel they will perform if elected.
I do, however, personally know two of the candidates – state Sen. Jim Seward and Congressman John Faso. I worked with them while serving as your DEC commissioner and knew John as a neighbor.
I have watched them make the tough decisions based upon the objective truth when they could have ducked them. Those decisions were intended to provide real, measurable benefit to their constituents. That’s the objective truth based on fact.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and an environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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KUZMINSKI: If We Can’t Agree On Basis Of Truth, Nation In Trouble

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for October 19, 2018

If We Can’t Agree On Basis
Of Truth, Nation In Trouble

Adrian Kuzminski

In any war, as the saying goes, truth is the first casualty. That’s become the case, unfortunately, in the war of the sexes as well. It’s turned into a war because the abiding injustice women have suffered from men
resists resolution through institutions mostly created and
sustained by men.
What counts as evidence, or sincerity, or credibility may have more to do than we’d like to admit with male rather than female dispositions.
Part of the problem is the hidden nature of sexual abuse. The evidence of such assault is intensely private and intimate, with objective evidence for or against allegations perhaps harder to find than in other areas.
Christine Blasey Ford and Brett
Kavanaugh, on the face of it, cannot both be telling the truth. She alleged he attacked her when they were teenagers, and he denied it. The U.S. Senate was faced with sorting this out, and the senators failed to do so.

The tragedy of the Kavanaugh-Ford controversy is the substitution by
our leaders (and by many of us) of subjective truth for objective truth,
of belief for fact.
Objective truth is factual experience that can be witnessed, recorded,
publicly acknowledged, and shared
by as many people as care to seek it out.
Subjective truth is a
personally held belief about something, a private opinion, conviction, or interpretation that can be asserted as if
it were true, but which
remains unproven, and is not necessarily true.
There are many reasons why anyone might believe one or the other of them, and many of us have little hesitation in taking sides. But, in the absence of confirming evidence about the alleged sexual assault, these
reasons are largely subjective.
They reflect beliefs people hold about what happened, or didn’t happen, not knowledge whether anything actually happened, or not.

That’s why an investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh (as with anyone) was of the utmost importance. A factual determination, according to the rules of evidence, means establishing objective, publicly ascertainable facts about the event in question.

Now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford at last month’s U.S. Senate confirmation hearings.

It also means that, in the interest of due process and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” allegations must have reasonable plausibility to deserve investigation. It’s true that Senate confirmation hearings are not legal proceedings, but a factual basis for allegations remains essential.

The Republicans initially dismissed Ford’s allegation as implausible, and only reluctantly admitted her testimony under great pressure, and even more reluctantly agreed to a limited FBI investigation. They are paying a heavy price for their political and cultural blindness about gender
issues for dismissing what appeared to be a credible woman making plausible allegations.
The Democrats rightly insisted upon a factual investigation as the only way to settle the matter, initially gaining the upper hand in the debate.
But many Democrats have continued to insist that the word of an accuser is sufficient to disqualify people from office, or worse. That too is a dismissal of factual
evidence as a standard of truth.
Was the FBI investigation thorough? It’s doubtful that it was. Deborah Ramirez, another alleged victim, claims the FBI didn’t even follow through on witnesses she named for them.
Culturally, we are losing the ability to decide factual issues. I’m reminded of an exchange between a scientific geologist and a fundamentalist Christian reported in the early days of the evolution debate.
The scientist points to the ancient fossils he’s uncovered as proof that the earth could not have been created just a few thousand years ago by God. The fundamentalist replies that God created the fossils with the illusion of great age in order to test the faith of people like the scientist. That’s how belief can be used to trump fact.

This kind of impasse, sadly, is nothing new. But it’s getting worse. In an age of fake news, cultural relativism, media propaganda, and a flood of unsubstantiated opinion on the Internet, we have reached a point where the assertion of a belief is no longer confirmed or disconfirmed by an appeal to objective evidence.
Absent such a check, there is no mechanism to settle our differences, nothing to stop the escalation of conflict and violence.
Without the ability to test beliefs by facts, we have no common standard for deciding the issues which divide us. The abandonment of the standard of public evidence, imperfect as it has been, is more than shocking.
It puts into peril our political system, and indeed the very fabric of our society. Under these
circumstances, anything goes.
We are in trouble.

Adrian Kuzminski, author, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor, and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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ZAGATA: Natural-Gas Issue Is A Ruse; Real Intention Is No Growth

Column by Mike Zagata for October 12, 2018

Natural-Gas Issue Is A Ruse;
Real Intention Is No Growth

Mike Zagata

Apparently something happened to The Professor during her youth to cause her to come
forward during the confirmation process for The Supreme Court Justice, but we’ll never know for sure exactly what happened, nor will we know
who was responsible.
That wasn’t the intended outcome of the public spectacle we’ve been subjected
to. The intended outcome
was to delay the confirmation process until after the mid-term elections.
Thus well-intentioned people like us who were supportive of either The Judge or The Professor were used. We believed we were doing the right thing in seeking the truth, but we were being manipulated to actually support a different agenda – delay.

I bring that up because the raging debate over energy has the potential to repeat that scenario and use our concern for the environment to push a no-growth agenda.
We are concerned about the quality of our environment and thus want our energy sources to be environmentally friendly. However, when I read two quotes, one from a Board member and the other from a local environmental activist, stating that heavy industry has no place in our community and that, instead of trying to attract companies to our area by being able to provide the energy they would need, companies should go elsewhere where that energy already exists, I feel “used.”
Do you understand the
significance of that mentality? It means that if those against development can prevent us from getting gas they can prevent us from having jobs.

Sometimes the stated issues are a cover for a hidden strategy, Mike Zagata writes.

My suspicion was realized. Are those who oppose economic growth in our area using the “environment” as a ruse to get us to support their real agenda without our knowing it?
In one of the many recent articles, mostly by the same people, opposing
natural gas, pipelines, trucking and decompression, and everything in
between, the author states that it’s
OK to burn fuel oil on those days (about 30 per year) when our hospital, college and some industry are curtailed because there isn’t enough gas to go around.
Fuel oil does not burn as cleanly as natural gas so, if your real concern is protecting the environment, how could you possibly state that it’s OK to burn fuel oil for 30 days instead of natural gas?
Your real agenda – no growth for our area – is starting to show through!

Oneonta is a welcoming community, but we’re not open to being told how we can lead our lives, what kind of jobs we can have or that our children have no future here.
We need more – there is already some – heavy industry as that was what historically supported the middle class and it’s the middle class that pays the bulk of the taxes.
About half of our potentially taxable property is off the tax rolls. Thus we’re paying about double what we should be for the services we receive.
Our school enrollment is about half what it was when we had a stronger economy and the jobs that came with it. Other schools in our immediate area are suffering the same drops in enrollment and will face consolidation if that doesn’t stop.
People are leaving New York in droves and it’s not due to the weather. Each time someone leaves, the taxes of those of us who remain must, by definition, go up in order to pay for the same level of services.

The folks opposed to everything, the vocal minority, don’t offer viable alternatives to using natural gas as a bridge to the time when renewable energy sources are economically and physically viable. They sprinkle fairy dust into the air and hope we breathe it.
Industry – that evil entity that we don’t want to come here – is working to develop the ability to store energy captured by solar panels. However, that’s still a ways into the future and, even if it was available today, it would not be able to meet our energy needs after the week of rainy, cloudy weather we just experienced.
In addition to not being predicable, solar energy has its own environmental issues. Do the people who oppose natural gas pipelines prefer to look out their window and view 450 acres of solar panels instead? The answer is a resounding “no”. They can afford to install a solar system out of sight that services their needs and don’t much care if the rest of us suffer from extreme heat or cold because we don’t have enough gas to meet our needs.
As I’ve said before, it’s time for the real majority to get involved, take back control of our lives and get out and vote.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki AdministratION and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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ADRIAN KUZMINSKI: Natural Gas Is A Bad Investment

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, October 5, 2018.

Natural Gas Is A Bad Investment

Adrian Kuzminski

It’s obvious we have to get off fossil fuels, yet we keep hearing that fossil fuels – natural gas in particular – are essential to local economic growth. While “solar and wind would be a viable source for electric,” Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky wrote in The Freemans Journal & Hometown Oneonta in the Aug. 30-31 editions, “it (the solar and wind source) does not currently provide a solution to companies that need extreme heat in processing.” For them, he tells us, natural gas is a necessity. Further, they are the companies he thinks we need for future economic growth.
Zakrevsky points out that two projects with potentially 475 jobs failed to materialize recently due to the lack of natural gas essential to their operation. That’s hardly surprising. Companies that can’t function without natural gas have been locating in places where adequate gas infrastructure already exists, and that is clearly not Oneonta.
Bringing more natural gas to Oneonta would cost a fortune: $17.5 million, Zakrevsky estimates, for a decompression station and related infrastructure. But many millions more would be needed to replace and expand the DeRuyter pipeline.

The Freeman’s Journal – Otsego Now’s Zakrevsky outlines plans for a decompression station Aug. 9 to the Oneonta Town Board.

Why aren’t the local businesses who would benefit raising the money themselves? Perhaps it’s because no serious investor would fund a project importing natural gas when industry can locate far more cheaply elsewhere, where gas is abundantly available.
That’s as it should be. Natural-gas dependent industries ought to go to natural gas rather than spending more money to get natural gas to come to them. That’s economic efficiency.
Even then, there’s no guarantee businesses will come. Look at Richfield Springs in our own county. A surplus of natural gas hasn’t helped Richfield attract industry.
Yet Otsego Now seems bent on depleting the public purse to bring more gas to Oneonta, leaving citizens and consumers (taxpayers and ratepayers) to bear the costs of the project.
The few businesses involved, including NYSEG, would, whether they realize it or not, in effect be making a profit on the backs of the public. Yes, some jobs would be created, but they are unlikely to support whole families (few jobs today do).
Meantime, the public as a whole would be impoverished by having to pay for the project, arguably leading to less, not more, overall economic growth. And money invested in natural gas is money that is not invested in other job-creating industries – like renewables.Even worse, this project, which calls for a 25 percent increase in the amount of natural gas delivered to Oneonta, would re-enforce the
current, unnecessary use of natural gas
by residential and institutional
consumers.

These consumers are not dependent upon natural gas for industrial processes requiring “extreme heat.” Non-polluting alternatives would serve them (and the climate) far better, and create jobs too. That should be the priority.
Yes, it’s true that our electricity supply is also constrained, but renewables can expand available electricity, which should be prioritized over gas.
And there’s the safety issue. Otsego county’s Public Safety Committee, to its credit, after several virtual pipeline gas truck rollovers, has called for the trucks to be taken off local roads.
Also, keep in mind, according to the New York Times (Sept. 14, 2018), “since 1998, at least 646 serious gas distribution episodes have occurred across the country, causing 221 deaths and leaving nearly a thousand people injured, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”
The whole Otsego Now project is in effect a massive subsidy by the public for a polluting and unsafe industry which would better be located elsewhere. It’s time for local planners – and politicians like state Sen. Jim Seward – to abandon economically non-viable proposals for bringing more
fossil fuels to this area. In spite of its
history, Oneonta’s no longer the place for fossil-fuel dependent heavy industry.
The essential infrastructure we need – as I’ve argued in my last column – is state-of-the-art broadband for all, not obsolete gas pipelines for a few. Real internet would help give us a new economic base, which in turn would help finance sustainable local enterprises.
This is the vision that our economic planners should be pursuing, and for which they ought to be fighting to find money. Earlier this year, New York State announced $1.4 billion for 21 renewable energy projects, including 22 solar farms, three wind farms, and one hydroelectric project.
That’s the kind of money Otsego Now should be going after if it wants to invest in the future of Otsego County.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick
College philosophy professor, author
and Sustainable Otsego co-founder and moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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MIKE ZAGATA: New York Not So Great Lately, Either

Column by Mike Zagata, September 28, 2018

New York Not So

Great Lately, Either

Mike Zagata

‘America was never that great.”
That’s an amazing quote from a man who’s had nothing but opportunity his entire life. Yes, he’s made the most of it, but that’s not the point. The point is that, because America was great, he had the opportunity to succeed.
Before moving to the point of this article, I thought it might be useful to look at the media via a historical perspective. Thus, I offer the following quote:
“Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.”
Any idea who wrote it? No, not President Donald Trump. It was one of the most revered of our early writers – Mark Twain. If you’re following the path of the current nominee to the Supreme Court, it should ring true.

According to that same media, Governor Cuomo is concerned that the recent revisions to the federal tax code will unfairly cost New Yorkers $16 billion in lost deductions. Another way to interpret that concern is that the federal tax code revisions put the spotlight on the “Blue” states – states governed by Democrats – by pointing out that that we are paying too much in taxes. In our case too much is about $16 billion.
According to the governor: “We have high local property taxes and a relatively high income tax.” Is that news to any of us reading this article? About a million folks have figured this out since he became governor and left.
Each time someone leaves New York due to its high taxes, what impact does that have on those of us who remain? By definition, if we expect the same level of government “services,” our taxes must go up.
It’s interesting, the governor chose to lay part of the burden for high taxes off on the local governments by mentioning high property taxes. However, what he neglected to mention is that the county’s obligation for half of the state’s portion of Medicaid drives up local taxes.

Turning Point USA, a conservative campus group, posted this graphic on its website after the governor’s remark.


If I remember correctly the county’s bill for Medicaid was about $11 million. That amount is roughly equal to the money collected from county tax payers. We are being forced to run county government on sales tax revenue and state aid. Our local property taxes go to pay for Medicaid. New York is the only one of the 50 states that does this.
If the government continues to give out money as “candy,” our taxes must go up even more. Some would argue that money leads to local economic growth – I would argue that we need to be certain that it does. Getting a $10 million grant and then using much of it to pay the consultants who oversee it is not a suitable return on investment.
When we read, “Oneonta just received a $250,000 grant and it didn’t cost us anything”, do we take a moment to stop and think about that?
Where does government get its money – from us in the form of taxes, fees and licenses.
This particular project may not have been funded with money from taxes collected from Oneonta residents, but a grant to some other New York community very likely was funded by tax dollars from Oneonta residents – the money all goes into the same “pool.”

However, what’s even more troubling is that a governor, who took an oath to uphold the law, has come up with a scheme to circumvent the law (an attempt to get out of that spotlight). His scheme would have enabled taxpayers to contribute to tax-deductible charitable funds set up by the various local governments which would then provide tax credits to the donors equal to 95 percent of the donations value.
As one might expect, the IRS said “no”. Beyond the scam aspect, think about the impact this could have had on the state’s charitable organizations by diverting funds that might have gone to them to local government as disguised taxes instead.
Even more troubling is the mindset that says, “If I don’t like it, I’m not going to abide by it.” Today, it’s all about “me” and how I can scam the system to improve my lot at the expense of others.

That has to change if we’re going to make America “GREAT” again. To me, what made America great was having pride in our country and being willing to work hard to make it, and thus our lives and the lives of others, better.

Mike Zagata, a former DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and an environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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KUZMINSKI: Let’s Build On Sustainable Assets, Not Unsustainable Liabilities

Column by Adrian Kuzminski,

Friday, September 21, 2018

Let’s Build On

Sustainable Assets,

Not Unsustainable Liabilities

Adrian Kuzminski

Otsego County needs a new direction for energy and economic development. An important step to that end was taken last week when the county board’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee endorsed the idea of setting up an energy and economic development task force.
Kudos to them! A county-wide task force would give us two things we don’t have now: long-term economic planning and a wide range of interests and expertise systematically participating in local decision-making.
We’re increasingly recognizing how vulnerable we are. We depend on long supply lines for food, energy and necessities. As climate change accelerates, those supply lines become less reliable.
We read, almost daily, of one disaster after another regionally, nationally, and internationally: mega-hurricanes, severe droughts, enormous wildfires, melting polar ice, mass extinctions, etc.
No place is immune from climate change, not even Otsego County. Nonetheless, our quiet corner of the planet looks more and more like a refuge compared to many in other places, and that may be our greatest asset.
In fact, climate change may have some advantages for us: milder winters, a longer growing season, plenty of water.
We may be more resilient as well – thanks to a lower population density – than overdeveloped areas, including coastal cities in the South and drought-prone regions in the West, which now bear much of the brunt of climate change.
We need an economic plan that builds on sustainable assets, not on unsustainable liabilities.

Parker Fish/The Freeman’s Journal – Flanked by Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham, left, and county Rep., Liz Shannon, D-Oneonta, Irene Weiser reported on the Tompkins County Energy & Economic Development Task Force to the county board’s Intergovermental Affairs Committee Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Our sustainable assets include, above all, an uncrowded, serene, clean, safe, attractive and relatively stable environment – something increasingly rare in a world of accelerating climate change.
We have an underutilized rural base, including agriculture, forestry and the potential of value-added products. Farming has not recovered from the death-blow to the dairy industry, it’s true, but if local boutique and organic farmers had more financial support and better distribution systems, they could be more competitive and develop new local products.
We have a high-quality health care system, and we often forget it is our major industry. Even so, it has yet to realize its full potential as a magnet for medical and nursing care.
Bassett Healthcare, as an integrated medical system, provides a superior level of care that could be coupled with additional facilities for assisted living. An aging population will demand it, and we could supply it.
We have, in Oneonta, institutions of higher learning that could be further developed and better folded into the community. Curriculum innovation and more partnerships between the colleges and local institutions and businesses – after the model of the Hartwick College nursing program – could make it possible for more students to stay on in our communities after graduation, as we see in other college and university towns.
Tourism has become the main interface between Otsego county and the world. Our cultural attractions – events, concerts, festivals, galleries, and museums – could be expanded even further. But tourism works only insofar as the powerful symbiosis between our cultural assets and the historical aura and natural beauty of the area is maintained.
Tourism needs to be kept proportional and diversified, so as not to overwhelm the fabric of local life.
And, perhaps most important of all, we have a steady in-migration of people looking for second homes, or retirement living, or the opportunity to conduct internet-related businesses and raise families in a new setting, away from the urban madness.
These new immigrants are attracted by the natural assets they find here, as well as good schools, good healthcare, a lively cultural scene, and a vibrant civic life worth being a part of.
They want sustainability, which we can offer, in contrast to the increasingly unsustainable systems they’re looking to escape.
If I were to make an optimistic prediction about the future of our communities in response to the growing ecological and economic crises, I would look to a synthesis of high-tech internet with a rural, family-oriented lifestyle.
Such a synthesis would realize participation in the global economy with the virtues of small town and country living.
If this is to be our future, if these are the people we want to attract, then we need universal broadband to sustain the economy, as well as renewable energy to preserve a clean and beautiful local environment.
That’s where our investments ought to be going.

Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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KUZMINSKI: Populism As American As Apple Pie

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, September 7, 2018

THE GOAL: ECONOMIC, POLITICAL FREEDOM

Populism As American As Apple Pie

Ever since the last presidential election the words “populist” and “populism” have been widely bandied about, mostly as pejorative terms.
A populist politician, we often hear, is a demagogue who wins votes by inflaming the resentments and emotions of ordinary people at the expense of rational thought. Those who fall prey to populism are no more to be trusted, critics suggest, than the politicians said to manipulate them.
It’s a curious feature of populism that it defies the normal left-right political spectrum. These days we have left-wing and right-wing populists.
In the last election, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were both called populists. And historically, we’ve had left-wing populists like

Huey Long
George Wallace

Huey Long, and right-wing populists like George Wallace.
It is the corrupt elites, populists argue, who are to blame for the insecurities and troubles of the middle-class. If you’ve lost your job, are over your head in debt, can’t pay your bills, don’t have adequate health care, lack a decent pension and feel that your values are being undermined, populists say, it’s because of them.
The elitist agenda, they say, is what drives inequality, including the outsourcing of jobs, corporate globalization, union-busting, deregulation and the machinations of the deep state. All this, in their view, represents the tyranny of the one percent, not the welfare of the 99 percent.
It doesn’t require a demagogue to convince people that these are real problems, not paranoid fears. The trouble with modern left- and right-wing demagogues is their unwillingness or inability to get at the root of the problems which they try to leverage for votes.
It’s telling that politicians accused of populism today don’t call themselves populists, as well they shouldn’t. They’re faux-populists who

stop short of challenging the status quo of continuing inequality.
Some history might be useful here. It’s largely forgotten that there was a vibrant populist movement in 19th century America. It was represented first by the Farmers Alliance after the Civil War, and then by the People’s party in the 1890s.
The People’s Party candidate for president in 1892, James B. Weaver, got over a million votes and carried four states. Over 40 populists were elected to Congress in the 1890s, including six United States senators, along with numerous governors and mayors.
Today such a populist wave would be totally shocking, which is a measure of how narrow our political options have become.
The classic 19th century American populists were the last serious political movement in this country to defy the duopoly of the two major parties and lock-step left-right thinking.
Their defeat in the 1890s by their better-funded and organized opponents ensured that the issues they tried to raise would henceforth be excluded from national political debate – as indeed they have been down to the present day.
What were those issues? Classic populists – unlike their modern faux-populist successors – rejected the two options that even then defined American political discourse: corporate capitalism and state socialism.
Corporate capitalism consolidates economic and political power into giant top-down structures controlled by a handful of rich investors and executives. State socialism consolidates economic and political power into giant top-down structures controlled by a handful of politicians and bureaucrats. You see the similarity.
Classic populists rejected both socialism and capitalism as tyrannical absolutist ideologies. Instead they tried to balance the need for collective action with individual freedom.
They sought to maximize equality by making sure that private property was widely distributed, and that concentrations of economic power were highly regulated, if not eliminated.
They were advocates of small, independent producers: farmers, artisans, fabricators and generally owners of moderate-scale, local, independent enterprises.
They aimed to relocalize democratic government in the decentralized Jeffersonian tradition of home rule. You can have genuine free markets and real democracy, they argued, only when citizens enjoy individual economic security as independent owners of productive property, and can practice meaningful local democracy.
Classical populists weren’t led by demagogues – who flourish in modern, impersonal, mass politics – but by a variety of grassroots activists (as we would say today) who focused on the issues then crucial to economic and political independence, especially the regulation and decentralization of corporate power (especially in government, finance, transportation, and communications).
They advocated public banking as a way of redistributing capital to individuals and small businesses by allowing easy public access to credit at low interest rates.
(More about populism can be found in my book, “Fixing the System: A History of Populism Ancient & Modern,”available at amazon.com.)
The politicians who try to exploit populist concerns today aren’t really populists. They’re usually left-wing state socialists (Bernie Sanders) or right-wing corporate capitalists (Donald Trump).
They advocate more big socialism or more big capitalism to solve our problems. But neither socialism nor capitalism is likely to produce the kind of individual economic and political freedom the original populists envisioned.
The problems they raised are with us more than ever. Maybe it’s time to take their solutions seriously.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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