News of Otsego County

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



ATWELL: If Not For A Buttonhook


If Not For

A Buttonhook

Jim Atwell and his grandmother, who as a little girl narrowly survived falling down a well – prospectively allowing her grandson to live among us today.

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

Some years ago, I had dinner at Great-Grandpa’s house down in tidewater Maryland. It’s a handsome brick house with dormers, and it used to face a clear view across the fields to broad West River.

But realtors overran the area, and the fields filled up with houses for commuters to Washington.

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

And Great-Grandpa’s house is now a restaurant – a high-toned French one, mind you, down there in Shady Side, a hamlet once home only to truck farmers and to men who fished, dredged oysters and hauled enraged blue crabs from the Chesapeake’s tidewater.

We ate our dinners in an expansive, open-beamed addition to the house. It had been built out over the old backyard. It was tasteless of me, but I couldn’t describe the backyard as it once was.

“You know, the privy would have stood right over there, between the hat rack and the waiter’s station.” My fellow diners grimaced and went back to their goat’s cheese and endive vinaigrette.

But I sat fascinated. “And this table,” I added, “is probably just about over the old well.” If we were above that
well, I was at a spot crucial to my life.

For about 1880, a toddler, Great-Grandpa’s youngest daughter, fell down the family well. My grandmother.

As little boys, my brother and I would sit open-mouthed as she told the story – which she only knew from adults who repeated it later, shaking their heads. She’d been playing in the sunny back yard with another little girl and perhaps meant only to look curiously down into the well’s darkness. But she tumbled in, head first.

The other tot came into the busy kitchen, pulled at her own mother’s dress. “Annie Owings is down the well,” she lisped. The women ran shrieking into the yard. Neighbors’ doors banged open and a half dozen people rushed to stand around the well hole, peering down in horror.

The little girl was almost completely submerged. Only one foot jutted above the water in a tiny, high-button shoe. Men bent themselves over the well rim, stretching, clawing down toward the water.

But the shoe was just out of reach, even for the tallest of them.

Then a quiet voice said, “Lemme try, cap’ns.”

And a tall black waterman stepped to the well, drawing from his pocket a buttonhook. Lying down on his stomach, he leaned over the well rim, bent his torso down into the darkness. He reached down with the hook, stretched himself even farther, snagged the shoe’s topmost button. And drew Annie Owings out of the darkness, back from death.

“They rolled me on a barrel to get the water out,” Grandma would say, “and finally I coughed and started to cry.”

I told Grandma’s story to my table companions, and we sat silent. Then we toasted her and that buttonhook. And the tall black man, name unknown, who saved her life. And also opened life to my father, my brother and me.

I’ve thought of that distant day often since our meal at Great-Grandpa’s. An event 60 years before my birth almost meant I wasn’t. No big loss for the world, I know; but a considerable one for me.

How many other near misses, I wonder, were there for me, back across the generations? Beyond forebears who might have been snuffed by wars, plagues and falls down wells, what were my chances that all the right conceptions would take place, across all those endless generations? It’s dizzying, strikes me wordless.

And makes me wonder about a human’s value. Maybe each of us should say, “What am I worth? I’m only here by sheer blind luck.” Or maybe the opposite: “I must mean something since, despite unthinkable odds, here I am.”
Here we are, headed for a second darkness, gifted for a bit with life.

By that fact, maybe we owe something to all those faceless ghosts – humans who could have been. But never were.

ZAGATA: Did Anyone, Or Everyone Kill U.S. Pandemic Team?


Did Anyone, Or Everyone

Kill U.S. Pandemic Team?

By MIKE ZAGATA • Special to

A friend of mine commented that he was upset with the president because he had eliminated the Pandemic Response Team (PRT).

I didn’t know there was such a thing and I’m guessing that neither did the President.

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

However, the fact that my friend was blaming the President for eliminating it, and then a year or so later having us face a pandemic with the corona virus, prompted me to attempt to explain how the national budget process works.

Explaining the budget process will allow the reader to place blame where it belongs. That is, if indeed, there is blame to be placed.

The President, also referred to as the Administration, submits a budget to Congress for legislative approval. All budget legislation must start in the House of Representatives. Once passed by the House, it is sent to the Senate for approval and, if approved, it becomes law. That’s the simplified version.

Here’s what really happens.

The President sets a target for his spending called the budget. For example, President Trump made it clear that he wanted to rebuild our military and thus his final budget should reflect that.

Then two things happen. The director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) takes the President’s budget and allocates funds to the various agencies within the Administration. By “agencies,” I mean things like the Department of Defense, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, EPA, Department of Homeland Security, etc. In general, the heads of those agencies make up the President’s Cabinet.

The OMB then directs the Secretaries (heads of the various agencies) to figure out how much money they need for the next year.

The agencies then prepare their agency’s budget by asking each of their internal departments to submit a budget and then adding them together into one budget for each agency.

The agency budgets are then submitted to the OMB. That’s where the lobbying begins as each agency head wants the budget they submitted to be fully funded.

However, the actual budget is supposed to balance against the amount of revenue the federal government expects to take in from taxes (that we pay) and other revenue sources.

When that doesn’t happen, the government will have a budget deficit that will add to our national debt. You and I aren’t allowed to do that – when our checkbook is empty, we’re broke. The federal government just prints more money and then raises our taxes to pay for it.

The OMB meets with representatives from the White House in an attempt to allocate money to meet the President’s priorities and still provide adequate funding for each agency while balancing the budget.

It is during this process that the Pandemic Response Team (PRT) might have been “cut” from the budget.

However, the amount of money involved is so small that it is very doubtful anyone ever said explicitly to cut the PRT – PRT was likely part of a bigger program, some of which could be cut with very little “pain.” Once the OMB completes this process, the Administration’s “approved” budget is sent back to the agencies. The amount of money approved for each agency is the amount that agency is allowed to seek from Congress – starting with the House. It is called the “pass back” budget.

Each agency then appears before the House Appropriations Committee to make the case for their budget. Members of the Committee ask the various agency heads, or their representatives, questions about their budget, including what’s in it and what’s not. This provides the second opportunity for the PRT to be included in the budget or axed.

Because the House is now controlled by the Democratic Party, the Democrats may also be responsible for the lack of funding for the PRT.

It is during the Appropriations process that the budget is carefully scrutinized and where lobbying is done on behalf of the various programs either included in, or left out of, the budget by the Administration’s budget. Thus, this is the part of the budget process where the PRT was likely not funded.

In other words, if the President’s budget doesn’t include something, anything, that Congress feels should be funded, the House Appropriations Committee can add it into the budget bill that it passes and sends along to the Senate.

Once passed by the Senate, it goes to the President for signature and, at that point, he could veto the entire bill. We know this because each year the President submits a “balanced” budget and Congress ads “pork” that leads to an unbalanced budget and deficit spending.

That is indeed how the process works. I lived it as Audubon’s director of Federal Relations. To place blame based on a lack of understanding of the budget process or unverified sources is simply not appropriate and serves to fuel the divisiveness leading to our current political climate. Now, if ever, is the time to come together irrespective of party affiliation.

CUOMO: Daily Updates Show Much Being Done


Cuomo’s Daily Updates

Show Much Being Done

Photo of the Day: I toured the Javits Center in New York City today, where FEMA is beginning to build a 1,000-bed temporary hospital.

Editor’s Note: Here’s an example of Governor Cuomo’s daily email updates, which underscore how much is being done to combat coronavirus. Do yourself a favor: sign up at:

March 23, 2020

Dear New Yorker,

Amid this pandemic, we can’t underestimate the emotional trauma people are facing or underestimate the pain of isolation. It is real. This is not the human condition — not to be comforted, not to be close to friends, not to be able to hug someone. This is all unnatural and disorienting. But my hope is that while New York may be socially distanced, we remain spiritually connected. We will overcome this challenge and we will be stronger for it.

Here’s what else you need to know tonight:

1. Supplies are arriving at the Javits Center, which I toured earlier today to see the progress on the building of a temporary hospital there. The federal administration has deployed 339,760 N95 masks, 861,700 surgical masks, 353,300 gloves, 145,122 gowns and 197,085 face shields to New York State. Many state supplies have also been deployed to the Javits Center. The facility will open next week.

2. We opened a drive-thru mobile testing center in the Bronx this morning.  This opening follows successful mobile testing centers in New Rochelle, Rockland County, Staten Island and Long Island. (Visits are appointment-only and must be made by calling 1-888-364-3065.) New York is currently testing more than 16,000 people per day, more than any other state or country per capita.

3. I launched the New York Stronger Together campaign. Celebrities including Robert De Niro, Danny DeVito, Ben Stiller and La La Anthony have shared videos amplifying my message that people must stay home – not just to protect their own health, but to protect the health of more vulnerable New Yorkers.

4. 30,000 people have responded to our call for retired nurses and doctors, medical school students and others to join New York’s Coronavirus response effort. We still need more citizens to join this reserve staff. If you are a recently retired medical professional, a therapist, a psychologist or a qualified medical or nursing school student or staff member, we want your help. Enlist here:

5. The FDA has approved the use of a new experimental treatment in New York on a compassionate care basis to treat COVID-19 patients. The trials will use antibody injections to help stimulate and promote individuals’
immune systems against the virus.

Tonight’s “Deep Breath Moment”: I want to remind New Yorkers that New York State Parks remain open for solitary walks or hikes — but you must keep six feet of distance from others.
You can also take a virtual tour of many New York State parks.
Ever Upward,



State of New York

Front-Porch Perspective Avast, Maties!

Front-Porch Perspective

Avast, Maties!

Editor’s Note: Only a partial version of Front Porch Perspective was published March 12-13.  Here’s the full version.

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

Nope, I’m still not sitting on my front porch, laptop frozen to my lap. Maybe after I spot a first crocus, I’ll try writing out there again. Hey, I’m old and a bit ditsy – but not nuts.

Jim Atwell, a Quaker minister and retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

Meanwhile, last week some whimsical friends did find a way to distract themselves and me from the winter. They organized a pirate party and held it at our house.

And what, you ask, is that? Why it’s an indeterminate number of adults, middle-aged or (in my case) decrepit.  It centers on some slapdash costuming, eating and gulping ersatz piratical fare, singing appropriate chanties (“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest,” etc.) and, if adequately oiled, attempts to dance the hornpipe.

As to the ragged hornpipe dancing, quoth the Bard, “Oh, piteous spectacle!”

By luck, no clear photos survive, especially of the hornpipe. Several pirates might have to remain in disguise for years.

But the edibles that the invading pirates hauled into our house – well, they were gob-smackingly, lip-lickingly grand. Cheeses and cold meats, jumbo steamed shrimp, a smoking kettle of what its maker called “shipwreck stew.” For the last, I presumed to suggest a more piratical name. The cook humored me, and her splendid stew was renamed “slumgullion.” (You might look that up.)

My own contribution was a specialty from my home state, but one that sounded, I thought, suitably violent: Maryland beaten biscuits. And making them involved every pirate present.

After mixing a batter similar to pie pastry, though lard was an essential ingredient, one rolls the result into a flat sheet and then beats it with a mallet for twenty minutes – if the biscuits are just for home folks. But if company’s coming (or pirates), pound away for a half an hour.

What a rollicking, communal project that pounding became! When the most attractive of the marauders was taking her turn, she matched her malleting’s rhythm to dance steps – and that got the rest of us swaying and singing. ”Sweet Georgia Brown!”

To me, that will remain the highpoint of our pirate

partying. But the biscuits turned out as memorable, too.

A half hour of pounding gave the seeming pie pastry a soft, puckered texture. It was easily rolled into a long snake. Then pieces were pinched off the snake’s end, each about the size of a golf ball.

Each of these was rolled to a perfect sphere and added to those already placed on a jellyroll pan. The low sides, please note, will reflect heat and add something special to the baking. Don’t’ ask me how. It just does!

Oh, and when two dozen golf balls are arranged in rows of six, the tops of all are lightly pricked on with a household pattern as unique as a horse farm’s brand. Then into a hot oven for around 12 minutes. Watch closely! They should not brown, but only tan.

Now, take a hot biscuit and split it: a unique fragrance and a texture, not flakey, but at once firm and cushiony.

Lay across that open biscuit a thin slice of country ham. No! not cold and just out of the refrigerator! A paper-thin slice at room temperature. The biscuit’s heat will release the ham’s flavor.

If you should suggest that all the above somehow merges cookery with magic, any beaten biscuit cook will respond, “Damned right!”  Though if the responder is a family grandma, she’ll more likely just grin, wink, and click her tongue against her upper plate.

You’ll get no secrets out of her. Tight-lipped as a pirate, is she!

Jim Atwell, a retired college administrator and Quaker minister, lives in Cooperstown.

MACHOLZ: Protect Over-60 Members Who Are At Highest Risk


Protect Over-60 Members

Who Are At Highest Risk

By JOHN A. MACHOLZ • Special to

In Luke, Jesus calls his followers to be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents. It is now time for us to be wise as we follow the One who brings hope and healing to our lives and world.

The Most Rev. John A. Macholz is the Lutheran bishop of Upstate New York.

I am announcing the cessation of “in person” worship in this synod beginning March 15 and continuing for at least three weeks through Tuesday, March 31. At that point in time, we will reassess and make additional recommendations if needed.

I recognize that I do not have the authority of Scripture or constitution to do this but I do believe that we have the imperative of both to act responsibly for the well-being of the Church. The rapid spread of COVID-19 requires that we act. Some may see these measures as drastic. I consider them prudent.

Many of our members at the Sunday liturgy are age 60 and older. People in this age group have been designated as persons at higher risk, as well as those who are vulnerable for health reasons. It is our responsibility to care for them and for all our members in every possible way. This is one of those ways.

Continuing to gather only gives the virus increased opportunity to grow and spread. We have the ability to slow this spread. This is, in my pastoral opinion, the time act.

I am in continuing contact with the Churchwide office in Chicago and the Governor’s office in the state of New York. We will continue to seek their advice and counsel in this regard.

In the meantime, remember this: we are not closing down congregations. We are seeking new ways to be in ministry with one another. We are working on resources for use at home, some have already been posted to the synod website and on Facebook. The synod website will be continually updated and include information on COVID-19 as it becomes available. In addition, making use of Facebook and Instagram Live can provide an opportunity for continuing contact for some. A simple phone call on a regular basis to those most isolated will be an important ministerial tool and a welcome gift. To paraphrase Presiding Bishop Eaton’s words, “we are practicing physical distancing, not social distancing.”

I am deeply grateful for technology that allows us to work remotely, which many of us will do moving forward. It adds another level of distancing ourselves from the source.

Please also note that during these times Church Staff (Administrative Support Staff, Sexton, Musicians and the Pastor’s) will continue to work in connecting with their faith communities and the local authorities to remain current with realities and progress, as well as planning for the future. It is important; therefore, that we continue to pay salaries and provide insurance for staff members. It is also good stewardship that we find alternative ways to give our regular offering to the church. There will be an article on the web site that may prove useful for you.

As we move forward as the Church Together please know that I will continue to hold you and our shared ministry in prayer and in hope. We shall weather this storm and come out on the other side stronger, more compassionate, more knowledgeable and more resilient about ministry in these trying times. This will be an opportunity for us to grow and discover. May it be so among us.

BENNETT: This Is What ‘Worst’ May Look Like


This Is What ‘Worst’

May Look Like

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

According to the CDC, from Oct. 1, 2019, through March 7, 2020, an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 Americans died from seasonal flu-related illnesses. That’s out of 36 million to 51 million total flu illnesses.

It appears that seasonal flu vaccines have mitigated the numbers, as have some people’s immunity, as well as having fully staffed and equipped medical facilities at the ready.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Larger numbers are attached to the corona virus. The CDC says between 160 million and 214 million people Americans may be infected, and the U.S. epidemic could last for months.

Using the CDC base, other experts say as many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. Compared to seasonal flu, we have no vaccine, we are still short on tests, and it’s widely agreed we’ll run short of hospital facilities, equipment and medical staff.

While some say 200,000 to 1.7 million deaths is a worst-case scenario, no one can prove that.

In the Civil War, 620,000 Americans perished. Two thirds of the deaths were to disease and one of the biggest killers was “the ague,” which was almost certainly the flu but wasn’t yet called that.

WWI saw the deaths of 116,000 U.S. servicemen, and 63,000 of them died in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. In fact, that epidemic was the single most lethal event in American history up to that time. According to the CDC, it was responsible for 675,000 total American deaths.

By comparison, WWII killed 418,000 Americans – military and civilian combined. The Korean War took 33,000 American lives. Vietnam claimed 58,000 American lives. In single event catastrophes, the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor took 2,403 American lives. The 9/11 terrorist attacks had 2,977 fatalities.

Back to today:

Researchers say the Coronavirus is as transmissible as the Spanish Flu, while a bit less physically severe. But
it’s also is higher in transmissibility and severity than any other flu virus since the Spanish Flu. This could become the single deadliest assault on Americans over 80 in our 243-year history.

That’s why preparedness for a worst-case scenario was so important. That’s what the CDC was for, before it was politicized by the Trump Administration. That’s what the White House pandemic response team was for, before it was fired by John Bolton in 2018.

As the Coronavirus spread around the world, the Trump Administration misrepresented its severity, stonewalled the facts, and stuck its head in the sand for two months. Trump himself was a fountain of misinformation about what was happening and, even worse, what could happen.

He hobbled the CDC early on, then classified CDC public health information. He talked about the virus being utterly unimportant. Finally, his recent public pronouncements acknowledging the danger felt so off-kilter that he seems to be speaking from some strange Twilight Zone dream state.

His mistakes and lies regarding the pandemic are endless. In the beginning they seemed to be about protecting the stock market and his re-electability. But they now seem different. They seem to be the mistakes of someone so far in over his head that he can only flail about, grasping for anything to hang onto to keep from drowning.

(Anyone with lifesaving training can tell that’s the most dangerous person to try to save, because he will mindlessly drown you in attempting to save himself.)

So here we are: our putative national leader, President Trump, failed to prepare for a worst-case health scenario. He then denied the facts about the pending disaster to prop up his own interests. He continued to deny facts pouring in from experts around the world. He finally acknowledged the crisis four to eight weeks too late to mount a strong offense against it. Instead, he left the entire nation playing defense because of his continuing ineptitude.

This may yet make Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and even WWII look like walks in the park. Make no mistake, many thousands of avoidable deaths will be directly attributable to Trump. More Americans may die unnecessarily on his watch than any other president.

Trump will again say, “I’m not responsible.” And that is so true.

SCHARFENBERGER: Catholics Should Pitch In To Flatten Disease’s Curve


Catholics Should Pitch In

To Flatten Disease’s Curve


Due to growing concerns and medical advice related to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in social settings, Bishop Scharfenberger has announced that all regularly scheduled public Masses in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany – except weddings and funerals – will be canceled until further notice. Churches will, however, remain open for private prayer, pending further regulations.

The Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Albany.

In addition, all Confirmations have been canceled until further notice and will be rescheduled. Funerals and weddings may be attended only by close family and in accordance with social distancing and capacity requirements. Further restrictions may force a change in those guidelines as we go forward.

“Although we know how difficult it is for Catholics to be without the Mass and without the Eucharist, we must do our part to help ‘flatten the curve’ and stop the spread of COVID-19 in order to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Bishop Scharfenberger said when making the announcement.

“I encourage the faithful to pray and fast as we continue our journey through this season of Lent. Try to include at least 15 minutes of daily intentional prayer, with family where possible and safe. Use the Bible, say the Rosary, watch Mass on TV, and please remember to pray for those who are suffering from the Coronavirus worldwide and for all those in the medical community who are on the front lines.”

The Diocese of Albany is keeping Catholics apprised of changes, updates and resources on its dedicated web page: In addition, a Faith at Home page includes links to livestreamed Mass, daily Scripture readings, saints of the day, and suggestions for creating a sacred space at home:

MORGAN: Nothing To Fear – But Flu Itself


Nothing To Fear

– But Flu Itself

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor and national syndicated columnist, resides in Franklin.

Are you frightened by this virus?

You should be. Consider these scary figures please.

Consider up to 45 million Americans infected by this virus.

Yes, 45 million!!! With three exclamation points!

Consider from 350,000 to 560,000 Americans so sick with it they have to be hospitalized. And consider from 18,000 to 46,000 people dying from the virus. This, according to our Center for Disease Control.

These figures describe the situation in the U.S. The World Health Organization offers global figures that should frighten you more. Figures such as 3 to 5 million people severely ill with the virus. And from 250,000 to 500,000 dying from it.

Wait! It gets worse. Recently the CDC and other prestigious organizations upped the world numbers to 650,000 deaths.

Such staggering numbers justify the flight cancellations. And the zillions of masks. We can hardly blame countries for closing their borders. Or for quarantining cities.

There is no mystery why stock markets around the world would crash. Looking at these numbers, we welcome the news that responsible countries and states have declared states of emergency.

Before you stick your head in the oven, let us consider an additional fact. The virus I refer to is not the current coronavirus. It is our annual flu virus. The one for which so many of us cannot be bothered to get a shot.

Repeat. I am not here writing about the latest virus. The one that has turned the world upside down. No. I write about the ho-hum annual flu and its season.

Yes, up to 45 million Americans were sick with the flu this season. That is, between last Oct. 1 to Feb. 22 this year. And, yes, up to 45,000 of us died from that flu.

We barely noticed. Well, our big media barely noticed. And so we, not informed, took the flu season in stride. We barely noticed that those strides took us over and past 45,000 dead folks.

We and our media took little note of this calamity because it was nothing new. The figures are daunting every flu season. For instance, look at 2017-18. Up to 45 million flu patients. Just in the U.S. Up to 1.4 million people hospitalized. Just in the U.S. Up to 95,000 Americans died from influenza.

The media did not scream these figures at us. Politicians did not blame their opponents for them. Nobody blamed Trump for the 95,000 deaths. Nobody shutdown anything while this contagion raged.

We lost 95,000 Americans to one virus in the 2017-18 flu season and as a nation we yawned. Thus far we have lost fewer than 100 lives to coronavirus, and all hell has broken loose.

What is going on to cause this? A few things.

One is that this is a new virus. The world’s disease experts did not know much about it. Therefore they could not predict where it would go. Nor how quickly. Nor could they predict how deadly it would be. Or not be.

By the time they got a decent look at it, it had the appearance of a bomb. That is because the secretive Chinese kept the world and their own people in the dark about the outbreak in Wuhan. Until it was too late to contain it. Had they been open and transparent from the start the world might never have had to hit the panic buttons.

There is a further big factor in this. We should realize that FDR’s warning lives on because it was the truth.

Yes: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Why did this fear grow so quickly and so great amongst us? Did our medical researchers proclaim the end of the world was nigh? Did they fling about predictions that millions would perish from this flu? Did they proclaim that various leaders screwed up? And thereby condemned millions to illness and death?

Nope. Most top medical guys were pretty cautious. It was Big Media that hyped this epidemic. It was Big Media that flooded our screens with urgent news. It was Big Media that wheeled out the so-called experts to warn us this virus was deadly and dangerous and scary and horrendous.

They did it for the clicks. The more they scared us the more we clicked on their news. And the more money they hauled in from their advertisers.

This virus is no small matter. We should not turn our back on it. Our experts need to learn much more about it. We should take it seriously. Especially if it surges way beyond where it is at the moment. But thus far it pales when you compare it with our annual flu epidemic.

Big media disagree. And the more they disagree, the more money they make. They get paid to scare the hell
out of us.

From Tom…as in Morgan.


ZAGATA: NYC Looking Upstate To Solve Its Problems


NYC Looking Upstate

To Solve Its Problems

By MICHAEL ZAGATA • Special to

Most of you will recall the contentious debate between those who wanted the right to frack for natural gas beneath their property and those who wanted fracking banned. A foundation paid lawyers to visit towns and help them draft language prohibiting the practice of fracking within their jurisdictions under the aegis of “home rule.”
Concerned citizens, fearing ground water contamination, pressured the Governor to ban the practice. The Governor, of anti-fossil fuel persuasion, used the DEC and DOH to further his agenda and, for now, those against fracking succeeded.
Home rule and environmental protection were credited with that success.

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

The question is, however, what will happen to home rule and environmental protection when proposed energy-development projects fall within the definition of being “renewable”? After all, they fall within the purview of things “blessed” by our Governor.
Well, now we have the answer and it is called the “Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act.” It was introduced by the Governor as part of his amended budget and it will affect our way of life in upstate New York.
It amends the Public Service Law, the Economic Development Law, the Real Property Tax Law, the General Municipal Law, the Public Authorities Law, the Environmental Conservation Law, the state Urban Development Corporation Act and the state Finance Law, in relation to accelerating the growth of renewable energy facilities to meet critical state energy policy goals.
What does that mean to those of you who used home rule and environmental protection to stop fracking and wind power projects in the past?

Based upon an article posted in, Michael Gerrard, a professor of environmental law at Columbia Law School who runs a legal initiative supporting renewable projects in rural towns, said New York “has been slow to override” local opponents who have often succeeded in persuading towns to restrict development.

Cuomo’s plan appears to be a formidable solution, he said. “I think it would be one of the strongest state-level renewable-siting laws in the country.”

According to Anne Reynolds, Alliance for Clean Energy New York, “Many New York residents hold a dimmer view of renewables: A few large wind farms have already been delayed or cancelled because of locals (shame on us) who see them as a blemish on their landscapes and a threat to wildlife, property values and even groundwater.”
Sound familiar?

The DEC and the Public Service Commission would no longer be responsible for reviewing wind and solar power applications. Yes, you read that right. That authority would be transferred to an economic development entity. What happened to the State Environmental Quality Review Act? What kinds of projects are we talking about?

Under Cuomo’s bill, new transmission infrastructure (that translates to new power lines like the one you fought a few years back), cited by state officials as a critical way to bring Upstate renewable power down to New York City-area centers of demand, would get streamlined treatment.

In addition, regulators would undertake a comprehensive study of the grid’s future distribution and transmission needs. Please remember the bill’s title – Accelerated Renewable Energy and Community Benefit Act.” Exactly what community is being benefited – it certainly isn’t any from Upstate!

This will be the third time the city has imposed its will on Upstate – twice before for water (Adirondack Forest Preserve and Catskill Watershed) and now for energy. If you think this is fairy dust, consider the 3,000 acres solar farm being considered for West Laurens – and that’s just the beginning.

If you recall, I warned about the environmental impacts associated with renewables, but many readers dismissed those warnings because they had already drunk the Kool-Aid.

Well, those predictions have come true and may likely be far worse than originally thought, as already completed renewable projects have fallen short of their projected energy production predications and that, along with the fact that 40 percent of the energy will be lost before reaching New York City due to line drop, will mean even more solar and wind farms on our landscape.
That translates into more scars on our landscape and more wildlife evicted from habitats.

BENNETT: Otsego County’s Allocation Of Testing Kits? 3.
We’re all In This Together

Otsego County’s Allocation

Of COVID-19 Testing Kits? 3.

Reports about the coronavirus offer hugely differing opinions. That the facts are in dispute isn’t surprising, since this is a novel virus that health systems around the world are fighting for the first time.

Still, some facts are agreed on.

As of March 1, the World Health Organization reported 87,000 confirmed cases, 2,989 deaths, and cases in 60 countries. 80,000 cases are confirmed in China with the death toll approaching 2,800. Still, the growth rate of new cases in China has slowed, likely due to highly restrictive quarantines the government has in place. The next most effected countries are South Korea (3,736 cases), Italy (1,128), Iran (593), Japan (239), Singapore (106), France (100) and the U.S. (62). This was on March 1, but by now the numbers will have grown.

China is in internal travel lockdown. Germany says it faces a coronavirus epidemic.
Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and France are taking massive preventative measures, including closing public spaces, some travel restrictions, and checks of people on the move.

The first coronavirus case was reported to the WHO in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31, 2019. The WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30, 2020. At that time there were already known cases outside of China – Germany, Japan, Viet Nam, and the U.S. One month later, the first American death occurred in Washington State. There the virus has spread undetected in about six weeks and hundreds of new cases are expected. A first case has been confirmed in both New York City and Rhode Island, with health officials bracing for more.

Which brings up our national preparedness for the pandemic.

To head the government’s response Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence, who has no expertise in the area, and who as Governor of Indiana worsened an AIDs epidemic for political and fiscal reasons. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II, a lawyer, lobbyist, and also of Indiana, seems to be a typical Trump toady, saying of Trump’s appointment of Pence, “that’s genius.”

Trump has also muzzled Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, because Fauci publicly contradicted Trump’s downplaying of the situation. Fauci must now clear public statements through Pence, an act that replicates the public health disaster of official censorship in China, when early in the epidemic the state silenced doctors after they discussed the outbreak with colleagues. This not only enabled the virus to spread, it also took the life of Li Wenliang, one of the first doctors to speak out, who subsequently died from the virus.

Trump recently said that the virus “could get worse or better in the days and weeks ahead, but that nobody knows.” That’s not true. It will get worse and the U.S. is unprepared. Ignore for now budget cuts Trump proposed at the CDC. Ignore the firings of staff of the National Security Council pandemic team. Ignore the total chaos in our national response. Ignore that Trump’s entire administration is reminiscent of the Inquisition that tried and convicted Galileo for speaking scientific truth.

But don’t ignore this: The U.S. has made and sent out 15,000 coronavirus testing kits to cover the entire nation. That’s one kit for every 22,000 people in the U.S. Which means if an outbreak started now in Otsego County we’d have access to three kits.

Some 60,000 more kits are supposedly being made, meaning an upgrade to one kit for every 4,600 people. Even so, the odds of seeing a single kit here are unlikely. The kits are going to fifteen key cities where testing is now officially approved by the government. Since these are port-of-entry cities the risks there are obvious, but what about everyone else?

Why has this administration done almost nothing for two critical months? The answer is that it’s willfully ignorant of science and contemptuous of our citizenry. It only became concerned when the stock market started tanking. The one thing it can relate to is losing its own and its big donor money.

Should we be afraid? It appears to depend on which we value more: life or money.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang

creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Meredith.

ATWELL: Avast, Maties!

Front Porch Perspective

Avast, Maties!

Jim Atwell

Nope, I’m still not sitting on my front porch, laptop frozen to my lap. After I spot a first crocus, maybe I’ll try writing out there again. I’m old and maybe a bit ditsy – but not nuts.

Meanwhile, last week some whimsical friends did find a way to distract themselves from the winter. They organized a pirate party and held it at our house.

And what, you ask, is that? Why it’s an indeterminate number of adults, middle-aged or (in my case) decrepit. It centers on some slapdash costuming, eating and gulping ersatz piratical fare, singing appropriate chanties (“Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest,” etc.) and, if adequately oiled, attempts to dance the hornpipe.

As to the last-mentioned, let Shakespeare nail it: “Oh, piteous spectacle!”
By luck, no clear photos survive, especially of the hornpipe. Several pirates might have to remain in disguise for years.

But the comestibles that the invading pirates hauled into our house – well, they were gob-smackingly, lip-lickingly grand.

Jim Atwell, Quaker minister and

retired college administrator, lives in Cooperstown.

SEWARD: Repeal Flawed ‘Green Light’ Law

The View From Albany

Repeal Flawed ‘Green Light’ Law

Senator Seward

One of the more controversial pieces of legislation signed into law last year was the “Green Light” Law, allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses.

Presented by its supporters as the “same law” adopted in other states, New York’s version contained a provision that prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other border-protection agencies from accessing records contained in the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – something no other state does.

I voted against the “Green Light” Law because the thought of giving a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law was inconceivable.

Now we are seeing additional consequences of this bad public policy – putting law enforcement agents
and the public at risk while shielding criminals from detection.

Recently, I joined with members of the state Senate and Assembly for a special DHS briefing detailing how New York’s law is blocking law enforcement agencies from receiving critical information.
According to a fact sheet provided by DHS:

• New York State’s “Green Light” Law prevents U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) from accessing all New York DMV information. This includes driver’s license information essential to our law enforcement and national security missions.

• By restricting access to all DMV information, the “Green Light” Law stands as a dangerous and unnecessary roadblock to ongoing federal investigations into a broad range of criminal activity, and severe impediment to our officers and agents in the field.

• ICE is not asking the State of New York to provide a list of illegal aliens, or to identify which individuals in its database are here illegally. ICE needs access to the information – just like all other law-enforcement agencies that work in the state – whether the subject of our inquiry is a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or illegal alien.

• Seventy percent of joint terrorism task force disruptions stem from arrests for immigration violations, yet the agency responsible for those arrests is now frozen out of New York DMV databases. This is a pre-9/11 mentality in a post-9/11 world.

•ICE’s need to access DMV records is essential to supporting criminal investigative efforts not only in New York, but also across the country and around the world. Our ability to identify and dismantle transnational criminal organizations – whether they’re flooding our communities with killer drugs like fentanyl and meth, trafficking weapons, peddling sensitive military technology, or selling women and children into miserable lives of sexual servitude – depends on getting the right piece of information into the right hands at the right time. And often, that piece of information is as simple as a license plate, and address, or a photograph.

The statistics back up the importance of the long-standing, cooperative relationship between ICE and state DMV. On a daily basis, ICE uses DMV data to fight a substantial number of crimes including drug smuggling, human trafficking and violent gang activity. In 2019, ICE arrested 149 child predators, seized 6,487 pounds of illegal narcotics, identified or rescued 105 victims of human trafficking/exploitation, and arrested 230 gang members – in New York alone.

The new law has also handcuffed local law enforcement. The state Sheriffs’ Association recently issued a letter to the governor and legislative majorities pointing out that for the sheriffs to keep their own officers safe by allowing access to DMV data, they had to sign non-disclosure agreements that jeopardize their federal partners.

Sharing of information is a critical component of law enforcement. New York State has taken an irresponsible action by enacting a law that blocks information from those who need it most. The “Green Light” Law has a number of flaws and must be repealed immediately.

Senator Seward, R-Milford,

has represented Otsego County

In Albany since 1984.

FAUCI: Coronavirus May Be No Deadlier Than Flu

Coronavirus May Be

No Deadlier Than Flu

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of an editorial, co-written by Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and other experts, that appears in the current edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

A degree of clarity is emerging from this report, (“Early transmission dynamics in Wuhan, China,” Li Q. Guan X and colleagues, New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 29.)

The median age of the patients was 59 years, with higher morbidity and mortality among the elderly and among those with coexisting conditions (similar to the situation with influenza); 56 percent of the patients were male. Of note, there were no cases in children younger than 15 years of age.

Either children are less likely to become infected, which would have important epidemiologic implications, or their symptoms were so mild that their infection escaped detection, which has implications for the size of the denominator of total community infections.

On the basis of a case definition requiring a diagnosis of pneumonia, the currently reported case fatality rate is about 2 percent.

In another article in The Journal, Guan et al. report mortality of 1.4 percent among 1,099 patients with laboratory-confirmed Covid-19; these patients had a wide spectrum of disease severity.

If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1 percent.

This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to
those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1 percent) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

CUOMO: COVID-19 Is Here. But It’s Not NY’s First Rodeo


COVID-19 Is Here.

But It’s Not NY’s First Rodeo

Governor Cuomo

As you may have heard, last night we learned of the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus – or Covid 19 – in New York State.

The patient is a woman in her late 30s who was traveling abroad in Iran, where there is an outbreak of the virus.

Her condition is mild, and she is currently isolated in her home in Manhattan.
From the beginning, we have believed it was not a question of if New York would have a coronavirus case, but when. That’s why New York State has been preparing for weeks, and we are diligently managing the situation.

It’s important that we don’t allow fear and panic to outpace reason.

Last night’s positive test was confirmed by the state’s Wadsworth Lab in Albany, underscoring the importance of the ability for our state to ensure efficient and rapid turnaround on testing.

New York State will immediately begin working with hospitals to help them replicate the State’s FDA-approved test and reach our goal of 1,000 tests per day. Additionally, we will
institute new cleaning protocols at schools and in public transportation.

Perspective is key here. This isn’t our first rodeo – we have dealt with the swine flu, Ebola, SARS and the seasonal flu. We are fully coordinated, we are fully mobilized and we are fully prepared
to deal with this situation as it develops.

If you have symptoms and have recently traveled to China, Iran, or at-risk areas in Italy and South Korea, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has, you should seek medical care right away. Call ahead and explain your symptoms and travel.

Symptoms of the novel coronavirus are similar to the flu, and include coughing, fever and trouble breathing.

Andrew Cuomo is
New York State governor.

KUZMINSKI: Ensure Local Politics Is Local 

The View From Fly Creek

Ensure Local Politics Are Local

Everybody knows that it takes millions of dollars to run for the most important political offices, and even billions (counting PACs and ‘dark money’) to run for president.

Although big campaigns can be funded by small donors (under $200 each), as Bernie Sanders has shown, most campaigns depend on large donors (up to and including more or less self-funded billionaire campaigns like those of Trump in 2016, and Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg this year).

It’s not a level playing field. Money can buy you a better ground game by hiring strategists, managers, pollsters, and field staff; it can also buy you a better mass media game by flooding printed and digital space with advertisements, news events and internet buzz.

This kind of money politics is very different from the personal politics we normally expect. The latter is rooted in a one-person-one-vote sense of fairness and democratic decision-making.

But that’s not how the larger political system works. It’s not about one-person-one vote, but many-dollars-many-votes. We have the right to vote, to be sure, and that remains a check of last resort against any politics we don’t like. But we only get to the voting booth at the end of a long process saturated with fake news, propaganda, hypocrisy and demagoguery. Even worse, our equal votes are made unequal through gerrymandering, voter suppression and unequal representation, as in the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College.

Finally, recent Supreme Court rulings – especially Citizens United v. FEC (2010) and McCutcheon v. FEC (2014) – have overturned limits on campaign contributions and institutionalized the big-money system of politics as a form of legalized corruption. Past attempts at campaign finance reform have focused on limiting how much individuals and organizations can contribute to political campaigns. But what they failed to address is the question of who should be eligible to financially support any particular campaign.

Currently there is no limit on how many political campaigns anyone can financially support. I live in rural Upstate New York, yet I am free to donate to anyone running for any office anywhere in the United States.

I can also contribute to national political parties and political action committees (PACs), which then cycle contributions back into political mobilization and organization throughout in the country. Corporations cannot make expenditures to influence federal elections, but they can contribute to political action committees.

Why shouldn’t I be free to financially support a candidate or cause anywhere in the United States? That sounds reasonable, until you turn the question around. Why should outside money routinely flow into the campaigns of my local state legislator or congressperson? Why should my representatives be beholden to interests outside of the district they represent?

Let me suggest an electoral reform. Call it district campaign financing. It would accept current laws limiting how much individuals and organizations can donate to political campaigns and organizations, but also insist that all political donations must come from within (not from outside) the electoral district in which the candidate or issue is on the ballot.

For instance, I must currently be a permanent resident of my town to run for town office. If district campaign financing were the law of the land, only permanent residents of my town, or other independent legal donors permanently headquartered in my town, could contribute to my campaign.

Similarly, anyone running for Congress could raise funds only from residents and legal donors within the Congressional district; and statewide candidates could raise money only within NYS; and so on. Only candidates for president could raise money nationally.

Independent legal donors within a district might include corporations, political action committees, political parties, and independent expenditure committees (super-PACs).

Under district financing, elected officials would no longer be torn between two masters, between the need to accommodate their voters on the one hand, and the special interests of outside donors on the other.

The idea of foreign money “interfering in our elections” has recently become a political football.

But we’ve had outside money “interfering in our elections” all along – money coming from outside the district in which the election is being held. If we’re going to continue to have money in elections (and it’s hard to see how we’re not), wouldn’t it be nice if it came from home?

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor

and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

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