News of Otsego County

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KUZMINSKI: OPEN LETTER TO ANTONIO DELGADO

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for July 13, 2018

OPEN LETTER TO ANTONIO DELGADO

Fight Faso Over

Big Money In Politics

Adrian Kuzminski

Congratulations on winning the Democratic nomination for Congress in New York’s 19th Congressional District.
You’ve got a tough fight ahead against a smooth and wily opponent. I’m one of many who would like to see Representative John Faso defeated. He is a bought and paid for ex-lobbyist with big hardcore far right support.
The Mercer family, investors in Breitbart News and supporters of Steve Bannon, gave a half-million dollars to the pro-Faso PAC “New York Wins” in the last election, helping put him over the top.
All told, the Mercers spent over $25 million in 2016 supporting far-right candidates PACs, and organizations across the country, including New York State. Their agenda of radical privatization requires the destruction of public institutions and entitlement programs. That means lowering the standard of living for most people while concentrating wealth in fewer and fewer hands.
The Mercers are the .001 percent, and Faso is the guy they’ve hired to represent us in the 19th CD in
Washington.
All that ought to be a slam-dunk for the Democrats, but not unless they act on it. This is an opportunity for you, Mr. Delgado, to take up the challenge. Faso needs to be called out on his right-wing, pro-corporate, anti-people agenda.
The Democratic leadership unfortunately has enabled, even embraced, much of that agenda. Beginning with the Clinton years, they abandoned labor unions and sided with corporations, supporting trade agreements that outsourced jobs, and tax breaks that favored corporate development over public service.
They continue “to talk the talk” about fighting for their constituents, but they no longer “walk the walk.”
You and the Democrats aren’t going to win this election by supporting a status quo that is working for fewer and fewer people. Defending the status quo is Faso’s job, not yours. You need to challenge the system, not claim that you can work it better than he can, or that it’s not so bad.

Parker Fish/The Freenan’s Journal  – During a visit to the Hometown Fourth of July celebration in Oneonta, candidate Delgado chats with Steve Londner of the League of Women Voters.

You have to show voters that Faso is the local agent responsible for people’s growing insecurity.
You need to expose the sham property-tax reduction he tried to pawn off on voters by gutting local healthcare funding. You need to alert voters to his duplicity in
voting to repeal Obamacare, after promising otherwise – something he’s likely to do on Social Security and other entitlements.
You need to remind voters of his support for deregulating Wall Street and destabilizing the economy.
And then there’s Trump. He’s a demagogue who’s been left free to exploit the insecurities and fears of the people whom the Democrats have left behind, and Faso seems 100-percent behind that.
Trump and Faso’s agenda is the same as the Mercers’: Privatize everything in sight.
You’ve got to do what other Democrats haven’t done. They have not attacked the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the culprits blocking the kind of universal, affordable healthcare enjoyed by citizens of almost all other developed countries.
They have not broken up monopolistic corporations, whether it’s Amazon, the Wall Street banks, Google, or Walmart, which collectively have killed off small business, the backbone of the economy.
The Democratic leadership has not fought to reduce military spending, which is funding immoral wars abroad and bankrupting our government, while sucking up tax money that should go to social services and infrastructure.
They have done little to get us off fossil fuels and onto renewables, allowing for the acceleration of greenhouse gases and the destabilization of theclimate.
And they have completely failed to get money out of politics, leaving us stuck with a corrupt, pay-to-play system, for which Faso could be the poster boy.
You don’t want to be part of those failed strategies.
If you fudge on these issues, you’ll lose; if you face up
to them, you have a chance to win.
But there’s an even bigger challenge. There’s little doubt that the benefits of American imperialism since World War II have run their course. Globalization led by unrestrained corporate power is no longer a tide that lifts all boats. It only lifts the yachts.
We can no longer economically dominate Europe and Asia, nor can we afford our massive global military machine.
Those days are over.
If globalization has a future, and I hope it does, it has to be more inclusive economically. In the meantime, America must figure out its own identity in a new, multi-polar world.
Now is the time to put our own house in order, and rethink what we’re doing. We need a new definition of American Exceptionalism, one that rejects racism, bigotry and narcissism in the name of a common understanding of the deepest American principles: democratic accountability, Constitutional rule, economic justice, and the greatest possible liberty that’s consistent with mutual respect.
Then we can redefine our place in the world. The Republicans aren’t going to do that, but you might. It could be our last chance.

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

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Focus Indictments Put All Nursing-Home Operators On Notice

Editorial, June 29, 2018

Focus Indictments

Put All Nursing-Home

Operators On Notice

Now we know, lives indeed may be at stake.
Two top executives of Focus Ventures have been arrested on eight counts involving two residents of the county’s former nursing home, Otsego Manor. (The county sold the Manor to Focus in January 2014, for $18.5 million, and Centers Health Care bought it from Focus in January for an undisclosed sum.)
Five of the counts are “endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person.” The other three are “willful violation of health laws.”
Two patients were involved. The first, identified as M.B., was a celebrated case. She was left untended in a wheelchair throughout Memorial Day Weekend 2016. Several nurses and aides faced criminal charges as a result. The second, now known to be Robert Banta, longtime chair of the Otsego County Soil & Water Conservation board; the conservation center on Route 33, Town of Middlefield, is named in his honor. He fell on June 17, 2015, the night he moved into Focus, hit his head, and died a week later.
Arrested and arraigned May 31 in Otsego Town Court in Fly Creek were
Focus CEO Joseph Zupnik and Daniel Herman, a
partner in the company.
The company that operated Focus Otsego, CCRN
Operator, was also charged.

On the one hand, there’s hope in this piece of bad news, hope that nursing-home operators can’t recklessly cut staff and not be held responsible for deadly consequences.
Two weeks before, another piece of bad news, that Centers, Focus’ successor, had unilaterally raised “private pay” rates from $320 to $510 a day, the highest in New York State – Long Island and New York City included – caused a sense of despair. (Since, Centers has rolled it back to $410.)
With federal reimbursement policies forcing public nursing homes into private hands, can nothing be done to ensure the new private owners provide satisfactory care to our most vulnerable fellow citizens?
Recently, Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, vice chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives and chairman of its Human Services Committee, wrote a letter in response to an editorial urging the county board take more responsibility for the former Otsego Manor.
Having sold the Manor, he said, the county board no longer has responsibility for what happens there. This is not to beat up on Koutnik: His opinion is widely shared among county representatives.

The Zupnik-Herman arrests prompt us to repeat our point, and expand on it.
At the very least, the county board should have a representative at every meeting of the Centers (formerly Focus) Family Council. Medicaid regulations require nursing homes that accept federal reimbursement to have such councils. It is the only opportunity for the public to be briefed and ask questions of administrators.
Our state senator and assemblymen should do the same. And certainly, Congressman John Faso, R-Kinderhook, or any Democrat who might defeat him this fall should follow suit – after all, federal reimbursement policies forced the county to sell excellent Otsego Manor to profit-powered entities.
Since, who hasn’t heard stories with dismay about the degradation of service locally?

Regardless, the Zupnik-Herman indictments are excellent news, whatever the resolution of the court case.
The indictments, by the state Attorney General’s Office, send the message loud and clear: Top executives of nursing-home corporations may be exempt from the common decency in the search for profits, but they aren’t exempt from the criminal code.
What’s needed is whistle-blowers, not just private citizens, but the officials we elected to take care of us, who have greater clout in forcing action than the rest of us.
(In this case, that might indeed have already happened; if so, bravo.)

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EDITORIAL: In 40 Visits, Brian Flynn Earns Democrats’ Support

Editorial, June 22, 2018

In 40 Visits, Brian Flynn

Earns Democrats’ Support

If for nothing more than the knowledge he’s gained about Otsego County and its issues in 40-some visits over the past year, Brian Flynn is the logical
candidate for local Democrats to support in the party’s 19th Congressional District primary Tuesday, June 26. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.
Absent someone actually from Otsego County – Cooperstown’s Erin Collier was an attractive entry, but it appears she got involved too late to gain sufficient traction – we need a candidate in a Hudson-Valley-heavy field who cares about Oneonta and Greater Cooperstown.
We also need a congressman who’s strategic, and Flynn has proved he is: By focusing on Otsego, plus Schoharie and Delaware, while others ignored us, he may have carved out the relatively few votes, perhaps as few as 4,500, to win in the seven-person race.

Parker Fish/The Freeman’s Journal – Brian Flynn, seen here with fellow Democratic hopeful Erin Collier at the debate earlier this month at Cooperstown Central School’s Sterling Auditorium, deserves county Democrats’ support in the June 26 primary.

Flynn has also sought out key local folks for his campaign staff, including the brainy Leslie Berliant, who ran for county rep from the Town of Middlefield last fall, and MacGuire Benton of Cooperstown, former Otsego County Young Democrats’ president. Clark Oliver of Oneonta, Benton’s successor at the YDs, was also on the staff for a while.
And Flynn’s also courted and largely won over most of the county’s top Democrats, from county Rep. Gary Koutnik, Oneonta, the ranking Democrat on the county board, to activists Deb Marcus of Oneonta and Melinda Hardin of Cooperstown, to the potent Sustainable Otsego leadership.
(Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, referred to Jeff Beals by a cousin’s wife – no, Beals is not the mayor’s cousin – has been the odd man out in supporting the Woodstock teacher-by-way-of-the-CIA.)
Flynn, while he’s only lived fulltime in the 19th for less than two years – with wife Amy and children Bo, 14, and Heddah, 10 – he has roots, and family roots. He has owned that home in Hunter in Greene County’s ski country for the past 13 years (and bought the property 15 years ago, after a fire, and rebuilt it.) And his grandfather was a bartender and grandmother a chambermaid in Catskill hotels. The Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural Center in East Durham, on the road from Cobleskill to Catskill, is named after a great uncle.
Moreover, he’s got the energy, the brains, an engaging personality, the high-level contacts – his partner in Schlossberg:Flynn, an investment firm, is Caroline Kennedy’s husband, Ed – and the money – both he and big-firm lawyer Antonio Delgado have raised almost $1 million – to win, and this should matter to Democrats.

Whether it should matter to the rest of us remains to be seen, as Flynn and our current congressman, Albany veteran John Faso, R-Kinderhook, sharpen their focus on the issues from the end of June to November.
As we’ve noted here before, Faso would be unobjectionable in normal times; he’s done what a congressman who wants to make a difference would normally do: Get key committee posts, cleave to the party line, but break with the party when sensible, on the merits and on the politics, to do so.
Both of these candidates could
capture the middle, and thus win.
But as Nov. 6 approaches, if it appears – as historical precedence suggests it might – that the House of Representatives will be recaptured overwhelmingly by the Democrats, then a switch to Flynn might make sense.
For now, Brian Flynn, who has gotten to know Otsego County, and vice versa, is the clear and best choice for local Democrats.
A strong turnout – even better, one that clearly is the clear factor in his nomination next Tuesday – would
lock in that relationship for the
benefit of both.

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EDITORIAL: The Right Leader, At The Right Time?

Editorial, May 11, 2018

WERTENBAKER LAND

TRUST PRESIDENT

The Right Leader,
At The Right Time?

From the fields at the end of Graves Road, Cherry Valley, recently acquired by Caleb Wertenbaker’s Glensfoot farm, no human habitation is visible.

People generally recognize Otsego County’s geographic schizophrenia. (Schizophrenic, in the best possible way, of course.)
To the south, there are 10 Interstate exits – 11 if you count Sidney’s – largely undeveloped (except Exits 14-15, at Southside Oneonta), ideal for commerce, manufacturing, distribution and other job-creating uses.
To the north is the pristine Glimmerglass watershed, a national environmental icon, surrounded by pretty hamlets and villages, most of them in sad states of deterioration. (Wouldn’t Westford and Westville, to pick two, be delightful with an influx of young families and new incomes?)
Jobs on the highway. Homes amid lovely hills and valleys. An ideal future to contemplate.

The Otsego Land Trust, which achieved its goal of bringing 10,000 acres under conservation easements by 2010 (a little late, but no matter), is an important piece in achieving the happy equation: When the jobs inevitably arrive (fingers crossed), entities like the Land Trust, it is to be hoped, will have ensured sufficient protections are in place to avoid ruination.
So how nice, on the one hand, is it to reflect on Princeton, N.J., developer Harry Levine’s successful conclusion of 12 years as Land Trust president, and his succession by Caleb Wertenbaker, a ninth-generation member of a family that has tended Glensfoot farm in Cherry Valley since the 1790s. (Currently, Todd Gohde is managing production of certified organic hay there.)
Glensfoot now encompasses some 1,200 acres, and Wertenbaker underscored the importance of the Land Trust’s mission the other day during a walk on rolling hills at the top of Graves Road, the latest 500 acres added to the family’s holdings, now being placed under conservation easement.
At the top of a meadow, less than two miles from busy Route 20, and half that from the Village of Cherry Valley, there was no sign of human habitation in any direction, only fields, forest and blue sky.
“It’s always been here and will always be here,” said Wertenbaker, who since graduating from Oberlin in 1996 has made a living in set design in New York City and Boston, escaping up to these parts whenever he can.

Levine
Szarpa


Harry Levine, by all accounts, has been an activist Land Trust president. Foremost, he raised staffing from a sometimes half-time executive director to five professionals, including the latest executive director, Pat Szarpa, about to mark her first anniversary. She served for six years as executive director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, based in East Aurora, the Buffalo suburb, before moving to Cooperstown in 2012.
To the heartfelt thanks of many, Levine and the Land Trust board stepped up and saved Brookwood Gardens, 23 acres on Otsego Lake a mile north of Cooperstown, from falling into private hands and, thus, lost to the public forever. A businessman, though, he was particularly concerned about the P&L.
Making Brookwood financially sustainable requires $25,000-40,000 a year, depending what Land Trust overhead is assigned to it, Wertenbaker said. Shortterm, Levine had lined up a handful of donors to keep Brookwood going.
But it’s no surprise that Szarpa, when asked for her three top priorities, listed Brookwood as one of them. Some of that will be generated by giving a franchise to Brent Baysinger’s Canoe & Kayak Rentals of Portlandville to enable canoe rentals at Brookwood.
Additionally, the northern half of the property, the deteriorating home there razed, the two bridges over Leatherstocking Creek repaired, will soon be reopened, enhancing weddings and other uses on the southside – and, meanwhile, available for birding and other passive uses.
For the Land Trust to flourish, the general public has to care, and Szarpa is working with the national Land Trust Alliance “to create strong images so we can tell our story,” an outreach effort in its early stages. Plus, she is preparing for reaccreditation and taking other steps to make sure the organization is as strong as it might be.
(Plus, expect additions to the “Blueway,” a trail of publicly accessible sites from Deawongo Island in Canadarago Lake to where Oak Creek meets the Susquehanna, (near the site of David “Natty Bumppo” Shipman’s cabin.)

Whereas Levine, out of necessity, took the lead, Wertenbaker inherits a more mature organization, and sees his role as helping the Land Trust work. “I’m not going to be the driver. I’ll play a leadership role, but ‘leading from behind’,” he said. “The day-to-day business is 100 percent in the hands of the staff.”
As a set designer – and, mostly recently, as creative services director for productionglue, a New York City events company – Wertenbaker as manager helps “creative projects and creative people” accomplish their goals, rather than his agenda. “What I want (in the Land Trust) is a group of people to work together on a common goal.”
The right leader at this particular time, wouldn’t you say?

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DEAN: To Succeed, Otsego County Must Be Known

Column by James Dean, May 11, 2018

To Succeed, Otsego

County Must Be Known

Editor’s Note: James R. Dean, the Cooperstown village trustee, has been proprietor of New York Custom Curved Wood Stair Railings & Handrailings locally since 1973. In last week’s Part I, he analyzed out economic-development challenges we face. This week, Part II offers solutions.

James Dean

So what is the plan?
Almost everything that has been done so far to increase our population and business base, while very good, has not been enough to reverse our situation and we need to rethink what we need to do and how we need to do it.
As Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig often says, “We need more people.” I fully agree. Nothing changes in Otsego County without more people.
We need more people at the same time that we know we are in an imperfect situation for an ideal promotional effort. Knowing that, we should still move ahead to try to attract more people, businesses and outside money to Otsego County. The needed improvements will follow as our promotional efforts succeed.
Rebuilding Otsego County will not happen without a laser focus on promoting the big picture of “Otsego County New York” to the outside world. “Otsego County New York” are the four most important words that the outside world needs to hear from us. We need to reach out with public and private strategic messaging designed to capture the attention of people and businesses, that previously did not know about life in Otsego County New York.
Counties and businesses up and down the Hudson Valley, and elsewhere, are putting promotional and advertising money, and other resources into attracting new people and businesses to their area, and it is working. People are moving from the Hamptons to Hudson Valley where their money buys so much more.
I do not see that in Otsego County. To see what pride and promotional efforts of an area looks like, go to the Kingston area’s Luminary Media’s Arts and Culture website www.Chronogram.com.
Chronogram also has impressive print edition that is distributed free, in over 750 locations, from Stamford to Brooklyn, on both sides of the Hudson. It serves 51 towns and 9 counties in the Hudson Valley (see distribution). They are capturing customers, in a very organized way, while we are completely off the radar. Luminary media also has a real-estate advertising website http://upstatehouse.luminarymedia.com/, with similar print editions and equal distribution, reaching the same people. We have nothing like that here. How do we compete with that? At the very least we should try to be included in their orbit.

This image from Doug Decker’s 2015 video, “Oneonta, Life Enjoyed!”, depicts youngsters fishing. People would come to Otsego County if they knew about its charms, Jim Dean asserts.

People wanting to buy homes and property in Otsego County is a major component of deep, structural, long-term, local economic development. Zillow.com is a major real-estate advertising website that shows almost every home for sale in Otsego County (search Otsego County NY in Zillow). This is a tool that should be used to showcase Otsego County homes available for purchase. Local realtors already sponsor these Zillow ads and would handle most of the sales.
The Zillow interactive website platform is also an interesting model for a possible new, very visual, map based, all inclusive, fully interactive website, solely for the promotion of living and working in Otsego County New York. This new website could become the information destination for comprehensive and organized promotional efforts.
I suggest “OtsegoCountyNewYork.com” as the name for this possible new website. I have secured this name for possible future use. This new website would have click on/off layers for the major categories of interest in Otsego County like city, towns, villages, healthcare, churches, education, recreation, parks, businesses, shopping, real estate, restaurants, transportation, arts and culture, places to visit, etc. To see a simple Google Map prototype go to https://tinyurl.com/yaw5vm2t. Each similarly formatted layer would have mouse over icons that would identify the location, clickable points of interest that would open up with information, photos, audio, videos and/or “mini tours”. The purpose of this “master website” would be as a “central destination” for many outreach efforts for the “big sell” of all that Otsego County has to offer.
This new website would allow viewers to tour all of Otsego County on their own, at any time, from anywhere. This single focus new website would be fair and equal in providing information about all of Otsego County, from Richfield Springs to Unadilla (supported by volunteers from around the county, grants and donations) and would carry no paid advertising or preferential promotions.
Ideally, it would be developed and managed by a new, neutral entity, independent of any special or competing interests.
Quality of life is one of our major assets. Many people in other places have more money, but they do not have the quality of life, and they do not know where to look to find it. We want to paint our picture, and tailor our messages, to meet that need and welcome them to join us.
First, we sell them a forever home; then they help us build out the future of Otsego County. This applies to retired people, young creatives, entrepreneurs and self-employed people with businesses and families. Creating, and then conveying, a sense of pride of community and common cause will go a long way to helping Otsego County succeed.
I can think of no other publications that so beautifully portray, in pictures and text, so much of what we enjoy, need to convey, about Otsego County New York than “Otsego County – Its Towns and Treasures”, “Cooperstown”, and “Otsego Lake”, all three books published by The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown. Also “Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York – 200 Years of Health Care in Rural America” for the rich history of the first-class healthcare that has always been available in Otsego County New York.
Our problem, in my view, is not that people do not want to come here. Our problem, in my view, is that people do not know that we exist.
It is very important, in my view, for Otsego County local governments, businesses, schools, public and private organizations and interested individuals to work together, and to invest, in this common cause.
Rebuilding Otsego County is the collective responsibility of every person, hamlet, village, town and city in our county.

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KUZMINSKI: More Gas? Only If Paired With Equal-Sized Renewable Project

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, May 5, 2018

More Gas? Only If Paired With
Equal-Sized Renewable Project

Adrian Kuzminski

When fracking was proposed in New York State a decade ago, the potential benefits were jobs, economic growth, lower energy prices, and energy security.
Opponents (like me) worried not only about local degradation of the environment but about the global consequences of methane seepage and emissions for the climate as a whole.
In most places outside of New York State, the frackers won the argument, and in fact much of what they claimed has come to pass.
Vast new reserves have been opened up by fracking, perhaps even more than anticipated. The United States has moved from deep energy dependence on often unfriendly foreign sources to a greater degree of energy self-sufficiency.
The US has become a net exporter of natural gas and is now able to leverage its new energy resources in foreign policy negotiations. Fracking has sparked renewed economic activity and a sense of energy security has been restored.
But the cost of these short-terms gains may yet overwhelm us. Professor Anthony Ingraffea from Cornell has a sobering new video on YouTube: “Shale Gas: The Technological Gamble That Should Not Have Been Taken.” Check it out; go to youtube.com and type “technological gamble” in the search line.
Ingraffea goes back six years and compares the climate change predictions made by a range of experts then with the latest data now available.
The new evidence shows those predictions to have been wide of the mark in the worst possible way. Global warming is happening much faster than predicted.

Cornell Professor Anthony Ingraffea’s conclusion in 2013 that natural gas contributes more to global warming than other fossil fuels changed the debate.

Ingraffea puts the blame for accelerating climate change squarely on the fracking revolution. As its critics have worried all along, the overall greenhouse emissions of fracked natural gas turn out to be as bad if not worse than any other fossil fuel.
Fracking has not been the “bridge fuel” the industry advocated. Ingraffea points out that fracking has extended the fossil fuel age, dramatically increased global warming, and, by providing continued low-priced gas and oil, frustrated the development of renewables.

This issue is playing out locally as well. There’s an energy crunch in Oneonta, with NYSEG interrupting gas service to some of their larger customers (SUNY, Fox, and some local businesses) because of limited supply.
In spite of the fracking boom in neighboring Pennsylvania, the infrastructure for delivering more gas in the Oneonta area right now doesn’t exist. The secondary pipeline serving the area isn’t big enough to meet demand.
The same arguments for the benefits of fracked gas used a decade ago are once again in circulation by those calling for more gas: It’ll bring jobs, stability, and economic growth.
Without a functioning economy we have social chaos, it’s true; but without environmental protections we have eco-catastrophe.
Transitioning to renewables remains the unavoidable answer in both cases. Renewables address the climate issue while providing economic relief with
jobs in the new industries we so desperately need. But it’s not happening fast enough.
That’s a political problem – one unfortunately not about to be solved.
The gas proponents now, as before, are focused on short-term benefits and seem oblivious to the bigger threat. Those who appreciate the long-term threat, on the other hand, have no immediate and practical solutions to the energy challenge.
Yes, of course, we must transition to renewables ASAP, but it’s not just a matter of effortlessly dropping one energy source and plugging in another.
There are serious technical problems (limits to electrical applications, intermittent power and inadequate electricity storage) and financial ones (funding the required large-scale infrastructure changes).
It’s time to recognize both the urgency of climate change as well as the need to buy some time to put in place technologies and financing that can transition us to renewables as quickly as possible.
It’s time to recognize both that the unintended consequences of gas may be worse than the problems it solves, and that those suffering from economic insecurity can’t afford to wait around indefinitely for promised but undelivered jobs in renewable energy.
What’s needed is restraint and prudence. Until we get to renewables, we’re clearly going to continue to overheat the planet to keep the economy going and avoid social breakdown.
How much more warming can we stand? It’s not clear, but major new pipelines and gas power plants are climate-denying projects that promise to take us over the edge.
In the meantime, we have growing local economic distress which might be relieved by delivering more gas to Oneonta by enlarging its existing pipeline.
Improving that pipeline and its capacity would clearly boost the local economy; a redone pipeline might also be more efficient.
But any expansion of gas consumption, even a small one like this, can no longer be justified unless correlated with a funded renewable energy project of at least the same scale.
Nothing less is acceptable any more.

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

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EDITORIAL: If We Want Solar Energy, Let’s Get Serious About It

Editorial, May 5, 2018

If We Want Solar Energy,
Let’s Get Serious About It

If we care about solar energy, it’s time to get serious about it, don’cha think?

Happily, Otsego 2000 may be doing just that, having taken a leadership role among local environmental groups on this matter. On Feb. 24, its board adopted a resolution that reads, in part:
“Climate change, driven in large party by fossil-fuel use, is a significant threat to our region and way of life.

“We call for and support energy conservation and efficiency to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the necessity or expanded fossil-fuel infrastructure and delivery systems.
“In addition, we call for and support smart development for renewable energy sources to meet the goals adopted by New York State for greenhouse-gas reductions.”
Caveat (conservation first), then support.
The resolution continues in the same vein. It supports rooftop solar panels. And solar farms, but again with caveats: Put them on “previously disturbed areas,” protect farmland, “protect historic, cultural and scenic resources,” maintain conserved lands. This is fine, and clearly in synch with Otsego 2000’s overarching mission – to protect, not develop.

But if, in fact, we want solar energy around here, a more affirmative strategy is necessary.
The most significant solar project proposed so far in Otsego County – thousands of panels on 50 acres north of Morris – is on hold, according to Chet Feldman, spokesman for Distributed Solar, Washington D.C. As he explained it, a PSC ruling last year on economical proximity to power lines, and federal tariffs made the project “not conducive,” at least for the time being.
Promisingly, Feldman said “We’re always looking forward to doing business in New York.” So it, or another project, may still happen.
So far though, solar power locally is limited to boutique uses: People who can afford it equipping their homes with panels. Otherwise, the Solar City installation near Laurens, by county government for county government, is the only functioning solar farm in the county. (Thank you, county Rep. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, now retired, for pioneering it.)
If Otsego 2000, Sustainable Otsego, OCCA and other environmentally focused entities – goodness, even the Clark Foundation – really wants solar power widely used here, they need to say so and go after it, without the caveats.

Ed Lentz, Butternuts Valley Alliance chair (now New Lisbon town supervisor), surveys the 50 acres where Distributed Solar planned a solar farm. It is off the table for now.


If it chose to be, muscular Otsego 2000 certainly has the clout to get it done.
Meanwhile, Otsego 2000’s executive director, the able Ellen Pope, has taken the new policy seriously, attending a forum March 27 organized by Scenic Hudson, and – she reports – well attended by municipal officials from around the state.
It’s complicated. Large installations – 25 megawatts and up – fall under state Article 10 regulations for siting electric-generating facilities, signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2011. Below that, a good town plan can guide where things happen, or don’t.
Attendees were advised, “plan for the town you want.” Of course, we all know that means: Keep everything the way it is. If we really care about global warming, about renewables, about humankind’s survival, that probably won’t fill the bill.
The Otsego 2000 policy dwells on what needs to be protected. But let’s turn it around. Let’s identify appropriate sites – sure, brownfields (Shur-Katch in Richfield Springs, maybe), former landfills, acreage shielded from public view – those black panels are ugly – and so on.
It might make sense to rule solar farms out, period, in the extra-protected Otsego Lake watershed. It makes sense to extra-protect a national environmental icon. But that leaves plenty of space elsewhere in Otsego County.
The Morris installation, tucked in the beauteous Butternut Creek Valley, would have been an eyesore, and perhaps polluted the creek, too. The county’s Solar City site is in a former gravel pit – ideal.
If Otsego 2000 could identify ideal spots for solar farms – a half dozen, a dozen, even more – and put the regulations in place to enable them, it would be doing our 60,094 neighbors (as of last July 1, and dropping) a favor. When a solar developer shows up, no problemo, with enhanced tax base and jobs to follow.
Plus, an itty bit, we might even help save Planet Earth.

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EDITORIAL: Retiring Bright Light Is Inspiration To Rest Of Us

EDITORIAL: April 27, 2018

Retiring Bright Light Is

Inspiration To Rest Of Us

Investment counselor Erna Morgan McReynolds accepts accolades from the 150 people who attended a retirement reception in her honor Saturday, April 21, at the Major’s Inn in her native Gilbertsville. Seated at left is her husband and already retired business partner, Tom Morgan.

A touching and inspiring event happened at Gilbertsville’s Major Inn last weekend: 150 wellwishers, from almost every town in Otsego County and as far away as London, England, packed the landmark mansion to express appreciation to a special lady, Erna Morgan McReynolds.
For the past 30 years, Erna has been an investment counselor in Oneonta for Morgan Stanley (and its half-dozen predecessors), and thousands of clients have been drawn to her by her savvy, certainly, but also her humanity. Everyone who knows her can attest, she cares. The result: Their security.
But that hardly scratches the surface of her accomplishment. Raised a poor girl in Gilbertsville, she graduated first in her class, broke into journalism locally with anyone who would accept her offerings, and by her late 20s was a popular writer at The Dominion, New Zealand’s largest newspaper.
In her 30s, she moved to London and TV broadcasting, then to New York, where she was a producer of some of NBC’s top news shows. Recognizing TV is a young person’s business, she followed her husband, Tom – an accomplished personality in his own right – into investment counseling in Oneonta, where she flourished as she helped her Otsego County neighbors flourish.
She embraced the Girls Scouts as a cause, and – with Tom – Hartwick College and the Catskill Symphony Orchestra (the couple is credited with saving it and guiding it to its current success), and much more.
Over the years, her abilities were recognized well beyond her natal place. Year after year, Barron’s listed her among the Top 100 Women Financial Advisers in the nation, and in December 2016 she was at the United Nations, presenting “The Business Case for Women’s Leadership in Public Institutions.”
If you know Erna, you can be sure the transition of Oneonta’s Morgan Stanley office to the Table Rock Group, headed by veteran Morgan Stanley executives Daniel and Kathleen Grasmeder, from Glens Falls, will be as seamless as possible, with her client/friends front of mind.
Erna says she hasn’t decided quite what her retirement will be bring – happily, she plans to be even more active on the Glimmerglass Festival board.
Regardless, in a time of out migration when Otsego County faces particular challenges, we can look at Erna Morgan McReynolds and say, with assurance, Horatio Alger lives – and lives here.

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EDITORIAL: NYSEG Must Provide Full Range Of Energy

EDITORIAL April 20, 2018

NYSEG Must Provide
Full Range Of Energy

OTHERWISE, OUTMIGRATION INEVITABLE

From NYSEG Facebook page An Otsego Now contingent returned from a March 14 meeting reassured NYSEG’s new president Carl Taylor would help ease local energy shortages.

Let’s not be prophets of doom, but we’re all thinking people who can more or less put the pieces of the puzzle together.

In her March 29-30 column, our colleague,
columnist Cathe Ellsworth, alerted us to an
Albany Business Review report that Upstate
New York lost 2 percent of its population
between 2011 and 2015. Seven counties gained population; 20 lost it.
In our general area, Tompkins County – home of Cornell and Ithaca College – surprisingly lost the second most, 5.1 percent or 5,294 people. Our Otsego County was 11th on the list, losing 2.26 percent or 1,408 people.

The next week on our front page came the story, “Utility Retreats From Gas Pipeline Upgrade,” reporting how the utility serving our county, NYSEG, has backed away from upgrading the DeRuyter natural-gas line that runs to Sidney and then Oneonta, even though it received a rate increase to do so a couple of years ago.
In the article, Otsego Now CEO Jody Zakrevsky reaffirmed NYSEG can’t provide enough natural gas – or electricity, either – that any new manufacturer of any size would require to move here.
A Chinese company looking to establish a manufacturing plant somewhere in the U.S. came calling a few months ago, Zakrevsky continued. “We had proximity to an Interstate, water, sewer – but we could not meet their energy demands, either electrical or gas,” he said. “…Without that power, we’re limiting our ability to compete.”
The news hook for the story was a meeting state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, hosted at his Albany office in mid-March for local business and community leaders to make a plea to NYSEG’s new president, Carl Taylor.

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David M. Wilfeard, 63; Cooperstown Native Worked At Bassett

IN MEMORIAM:  David M. Wilfeard, 63;

Cooperstown Native Worked At Bassett

David Wilfeard

COOPERSTOWN – David M. Wilfeard, 63, of Cooperstown, passed away on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at Bassett Hospital, surrounded by his loving family, following complications stemming from the treatment of lung cancer.

David was born at Bassett on Sept. 7, 1954, a son of Herbert and Irene (Childs) Wilfeard.  He attended Cooperstown Central School, graduating with the Class of 1973.  He married Elizabeth Stager on May 21, 1983.

David lived in the area all his life, working in the past as an account clerk typist in the mid 1970s for Otsego County, as an administrative assistant at The Meadows from the late 1970s through 1992, and most recently, as a facilities manager at Basset Hospital until 2004.

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