News of Otsego County

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



YOUNGS: Now, Foothills Major Driver Of Economy


Now, Foothills Major

Driver Of Economy

By BILL YOUNGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.COM

As I start my sixth year as the director of Foothills I’d like to thank the Oneonta community and the entire region for their support again in 2019.

I am proud to report that we hosted 314 events which included everything from the Grand Oneonta Opera, a Vet’s tribute with Jerrod Niemann, a Rolling Stones tribute, Tusk- a Fleetwood Mac tribute, the Oneonta Concert Association, the Ornament holiday show, The Not Too Far From Home Comedy Tour, Mario the Magician, a Wedding Expo, the Tri-Cities Opera for children, live broadcasts of the Met Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet and local dance companies, Orpheus, Star Struck Players, Bigger Boat and Stuff of Dreams theater groups, our annual October fundraiser, a health expo, First Night, SUNY Oneonta alumni events, Little Delaware Youth Ensemble, weddings, private parties, business and organizational conferences, job fairs, high school proms, Red Cross blood drives, and we’re the local voting location. The list goes on!

Believe it or not, we did all of this with only three fulltime employees!! Geoff Doyle (Operations Manager), Shane LoBuglio (Facilities Manager) and Alicia Hanrahan (Event Coordinator). A very big Thank You to them!

Also, please keep in mind, Foothills is funded solely by donations, event sponsorships and facility rentals. We are very fortunate to have so many loyal supporters. We thank you all.

But what the businessman inside of me is most proud of is the 27,000 attendees who walked through our doors for those events. What a boost to the local economy! While we are busy fulfilling our mission as a center for the arts; we feel we have also become a major economic driver for the city and the region.

Imagine what those 27,000 people spent while in the area on hotel rooms, restaurants, books stores, gift shops, etc. Many business people have told me they see a positive impact each time we host an event. That makes us very proud! A stronger community can only help us in our goal to achieve our mission. I feel we are starting to be recognized for that vital role we play in the city and region.

We are continuing this trend in 2020. We are excited to say that several months’ weekends are already booked! We also have several exciting projects we are working on….stay tuned!

Thank you all for your support. PLEASE spread the word: YOUR Foothills is making a difference in our community. Please show your support by buying tickets, making a donation or just by spreading a good word!!

Thank you and Happy New Year!

ZAGATA: Rising to the Fly


Rising To The Fly

By MICHAEL ZAGATA • Special to

Fishermen understand why the brook trout they catch are often smaller than the brown trout they catch. It’s because the brown trout are more discerning about “rising to the fly” and thus falling victim to the fishermen’s net, while brook trout are prone to rise to the first fly they see.

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

There is a lesson there for all of us with regards to how we cast our votes. It is natural to rise to the sound bites that offer promise or free stuff, even though common sense tells us it isn’t really free. Someone has to pay for it, but we tell ourselves that’s OK as long as it isn’t us. But, are we kidding ourselves?

If not us, who?

Recently I watched a news clip featuring presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren where she stated that, if elected president, she would create as much relief (public financial assistance) for as many people as possible as fast as she could. That is a very attractive “fly” and represents the approach of the other Democratic candidates as well.

Translated into financial terms, that means she would increase our taxes and/or increase the national debt without doing the things that increase our economy and allow us to pay for those social programs. We would pay for those social programs with higher taxes and more debt – and we pay annual interest on that debt.

Contrast that approach with that of our sitting President, a Republican, who believes in creating jobs via growing our economy. That means giving more people the opportunity to have a job, shed the stigma of poverty, and growing the tax base while lowering individual taxes and reducing, not growing, the national debt. The contrast is stark. To quote an old adage, “give a man a fish and feed him for a day; give him a fishing pole (job) and feed him for life.”

Like the brook trout, we are seeing many seemingly attractive flies cast upon the water by the candidates. Are we going to rise to the first one or are we going to take the time to weigh the consequences of the various alternatives using the information we have learned from life’s lessons? A case in point is the push to continue on the trend being forced on us by the Left to pursue socialism.

Those of us over 50 have seen first-hand that communism and socialism have failed the people governed under their paradigms. Today’s young people haven’t, with the exception of Venezuela, had that opportunity. To them that “fly” appears attractive.

As fly fishermen know, presentation is everything! Then it’s just a matter of setting the hook and landing the “fish.”

As an example, let’s talk about free college tuition. It looks very attractive to someone about to enter college even though tuition, itself, only represents part of the cost.

Historically, a student entered college, got a part-time job and took out a student loan. After graduating, that student got a job and part of their income was used to pay back that loan. Once it was fully paid, normally within five years, he or she could take the monthly amount that formerly went to pay down the loan and use it for something else – it became a windfall.

Contrast that with the new paradigm of “free” education. That same student would go to college and maybe get a part-time job, but wouldn’t need to take out a student loan – at least not for the tuition portion of their college education. Following graduation there would be no loan to pay off. Hurrah!

But is that person really ahead? As a result of everyone getting a “free” education subsidized by the government, the government will be faced with having to raise more money – and it does that by raising taxes.

In reality, that student will be faced with higher taxes, not for the five years it would have taken to pay off the student loan, but for life. Was it really a good deal or was it in the “presentation” without evaluation?

ERNA: Heartache In The Heartland


Heartache In The Heartland


If you took a bet when I was born it wouldn’t have been for success.

Erna Morgan McReynolds, raised in Gilbertsville, is retired managing director/financial adviser at Morgan Stanley’s Oneonta Office, and an inductee in the Barron’s magazine National Adviser Hall of Fame.  She lives in Franklin.

My parents had moved to Upstate New York five years before I was born so my Dad could follow his dream. He wanted a farm like the one he left in Northern Ireland as teenager fleeing “the troubles” in 1926. A farm of green fields with horses pulling plows. Living in a little lane with all of those other McReynolds, I think. He dragged my Brooklyn born Mom to what she saw as a primitive world.

My parents carried me home to a farmhouse with no running hot water, leaks in the roof, cracks in the plaster walls, no central heating. Our barn didn’t have any modern touches either. Exposed pipes that froze every time the temperature dropped, no automatic milking machines, no gutter cleaner, no hay baler. No burly sons to share the work. Worse yet — no capital to modernize.

We lived on a hillside farm where crop fields brimmed with rocks. Each spring Dad towed a drag (sort of a raft) to pile on the leftovers the last glacier dropped. After that he got out a grinder which spread seeds for crops. And I trudged up the hillside at noontime each day with his lunch while he slumped under a tree.

Four miles away was a tiny village with a creamery which took our hundred-weight milk cans. Made butter there and put the rest on a train to be bottled or made into cottage cheese and cheese. As a little kid I learned how to get into those cans to scrape the cream off the top — not knowing that Dad’s milk check depended on how much fat the milk had.

He had no capital, three young girls, the wrong dream and no sons to help him. While he milked by hand, others used machines. He piled hay on a wagon while prosperous farmers used hay balers.

Clinging to the wrong dream. No capital to modernize. Bad luck when cows died screaming with rabies. His own injuries. The good deed helping a neighbor landed him in bed for weeks with a back injury. Then blood poisoning and final felled by emphysema.

He lost three farms. He lost pride. Failed to support his wife. She had to go to work in those Ozzie and Harriet days when women were supposed to stay home cooking and cleaning with a clean, freshly ironed apron tied around her trim waist.

A good job was a union one at a local factory. But with men home from the war — Rosie the Riveter was out of work. Sometimes the factory needed more workers — they hired women. But women didn’t stay long. Bosses said women worked for pocket money — men supported families.

What about that young girl tackling the world? Afraid but doing it anyway. In the country, joining 4-H was a big deal. Hard to do if you didn’t have money because you had to pay dues. I can’t remember how I did it — but I got into 4-H. Girls learned to cook and sew. We were only going to be wives, secretaries or maybe teachers or nurses.

I needed to sew anyway — we couldn’t afford store-bought clothes. If you sewed well you could go to the county fair where farmers and their wives showed off their skills and livestock.

If you were a young girl you wore your creation. Judges inspected everything. Now that was scary. You know I am a perfectionist. I wanted a blue ribbon. My first year I sported an apron and carried potholders stuffed with milk filters. By the time I was 10 it got even scarier. I still wanted a blue ribbon. But I was awkward wearing my hot pink chubby size 16. Judges lifting my skirt, showing my legs to inspect my hem. How could I do this right?

Fortunately I could read and I had a library card. I trekked the mile to the village to take out a book to teach me how to stand and walk. I did everything the book said — I even balanced books on my head got a blue ribbon! Terrified but I had what counted — a blue ribbon.

Today even with fewer farms dotting our hills and valleys, farmers go to county and state fairs to show off their produce, their pies, pickles, quilting and especially their livestock. Want to see a small piece of what upstate NY was 50 years ago? Go to a county fair. Walk around. See remnants of a way of life mainly gone.

SEWARD: Job #1: Halt Outmigration, Then Deficit, Bail Reform


Job #1: Halt Outmigration,

Then Deficit, Bail Reform

By State Sen. JAMES SEWARD • Special to

The 2020 New York State legislative session got its official start a few days ago with the governor’s State of the State address.  While the governor mentioned a few ideas I can back, for the most part, he glossed over or completely ignored some of the toughest challenges facing our state.

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, represents the 51st District, which includes his native Otsego County.

New York State is losing population at an alarming rate.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New York lost more people than any other state in 2019, the second straight year we have held that dubious distinction.  I have pointed to this concern in the past, and while the governor has blamed the weather for our outmigration, that’s not the real problem.  Taxes are too high, the cost of living continues to go up, and unworkable government regulations are discouraging business growth.

In 2019, the Democrats in charge in Albany raised taxes and fees by more than $4.6 billion.  They also eliminated the popular property tax relief checks for seniors and homeowners.  This year won’t be any better.  We are already facing a $6 billion deficit that can be traced to rising Medicaid costs and overspending in last year’s state budget.  Unfortunately, the governor’s message did not offer any remedies to these fiscal concerns.

The governor was also silent on the so-called bail reforms that officially became law on January 1.  Under the changes, there are dozens of serious crimes that no longer require bail, allowing alleged perpetrators to return to our communities with no consequences.

Since the law took hold, dozens of suspects have been released back on the streets, leaving us more vulnerable than ever.  These are not petty criminals, but individuals charged with serious offenses – like manslaughter, stalking, sex trafficking, child assault, and domestic violence crimes.

Many are repeat offenders who pose a clear and present danger to the public, but thanks to the Democrats’ new law, a judge may no longer even consider “dangerousness” as a criteria in determining whether an individual should be held or set free.

Many of these individuals quickly committed new crimes, further endangering the public and exhausting police resources. There have been a host of real life examples, including several right here in the 51st Senate District.

I have also read a number of first-hand accounts from individuals crediting their time in jail for helping them turn their lives around.  Drug addicts, who received help to overcome substance abuse, are among those opposing the bail law reforms.  Albany County District Attorney David Soares made this exact point while testifying about this law last year:

“I also need to point out the possible impact on drug courts. The way drug courts work right now is that defendants are held on bail and given the option of drug court or jail.  If everyone gets presumptive release on drug cases, nobody will go to drug court. We need to carefully examine how we treat drug crimes under any new bail proposal. I know I don’t have to tell you how bad the opioid crisis is in our state. Drug courts around have been very successful in helping individuals get the services they need and stay clean.”

I voted against the reforms last year and co-sponsor several bills to repeal the changes entirely or amend the measures to, at the very least, allow judicial discretion in domestic violence cases or where public safety is in jeopardy.  To date, Senate Democrats have shown no willingness to correct the mistakes in their ill-conceived bail reforms.  In fact, on the first working day of the legislative session an amendment brought by Senate Republicans to repeal the bail reform laws was voted down with every Democrat voting against the measure.

Moving forward, I will continue the fight to repeal this unsafe law. You can join me by signing my on-line petition at  By signing, you will be sending a strong message to the Senate Majority that our communities MUST be protected.

ZAGATA: Save Eagles From Environmentalism


Save Eagles From


In 1969, our country moved from demonstrating against the Vietnam War to marching for environmental protection.

That year, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which required federal agencies to do an Environmental Assessment (EA) and/or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to granting a permit allowing a “project” to go forward.

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

If it was determined the project wouldn’t cause any “significant” environmental impact, a Negative Declaration (Neg Dec) could be issued.

If it was determined, via a science-based review, that there would be significant impact, the applicant was required to do things to mitigate or offset that impact.

If the impact couldn’t be addressed, the project was either dropped or revised in a manner that would allow the agency or agencies to grant the permit(s).

In 1975, New York State passed its own version of NEPA known as SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review [Act]. It too was a science-based law that directed the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conduct the science-based environmental review prior to a project moving forward.

President Obama and our Governor have bastardized those processes by fast-tracking projects that fit their energy “agenda” and by using those laws to stop projects that don’t – even if doing so jeopardizes our energy security.

President Obama granted a 30-year exemption from the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow wind power companies to push his renewable energy agenda.

Those companies can now each kill up to 4,200 eagles over a 30-year period and that’s after we spent millions to help the bald eagle population recover so it could be removed from being listed as an Endangered Species.

It seems that with the Left, the end justifies the means. If an inconvenient law gets in the way, ignore it. Does that also apply to you and me?

Then Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold reacted to President Obama’s ruling with the following statement:

“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, (the Department of the Interior) wrote the wind industry a blank check. To essentially give power companies a 30-year hunting license to kill eagles and other birds is unconscionable.

“I think we’re opening a Pandora’s Box that will kill millions of birds (also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act) over the next 30 years, maybe tens of millions. I don’t understand why we’re making this devastating and senseless compromise.”

Something has happened within Audubon since then as Audubon, initially founded as a bird-protection organization, is supporting the wind-power project near Windsor, Broome County – much to the dismay of our local Audubon Chapter. Will we ever learn the political motivation behind that decision?

Why is it that Audubon, now a much broader environmental protection group, is willing to condone wind and solar power while knowing full well the environmental impact associated with mining the metals used in lithium ion batteries in countries lacking our mining protection laws?

Just as New York mirrored the federal government’s NEPA legislation with its SEQR law, our Governor is now following in President Obama’s footsteps. He is using the SEQR process to fast-track renewable energy projects that are consistent with his “renewables” agenda and to stop projects, especially those associated with fossil fuels, that aren’t.

Is he putting New York’s energy security at risk by doing that?

In 1974, the U.S. relied upon OPEC for its energy and OPEC brought us to our knees by cutting off the supply. Do we really want to repeat that situation by relying on China, Russia and the Congo for the materials used to make the lithium ion batteries needed to store the energy from wind and solar power?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – before we drink the Kool Aid, we need to know what’s in it!

SEWARD: Are Lawless Rewarded And Lives Endangered?


Art Lawless Rewarded

And Lives Endangered?

At this time of year, I normally review positive policies and new laws that have been adopted in Albany.  Unfortunately, there was more bad news than good coming from the state Capitol during 2019.

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, represents the 51st District, which includes his native Otsego County.

One item that will benefit homeowners is a permanent 2-percent property tax cap.  I have long supported this tax relief measure and have helped pass Senate legislation on a number of previous occasions to guarantee this savings tool.   However, as I have said in the past, for the property tax cap to truly deliver we need to end unfunded state mandates that tie the hands of local government officials.

Unfortunately, no mandate relief measures were adopted this year. And, in fact, local governments will now have to prepare for plenty of new costs thanks to the state budget and other Albany missteps.  If state officials believe a program is important, than funding must be part of the package.  Forcing the costs on to local governments (and ultimately taxpayers) and then boasting about doing something good, is disingenuous.

New laws to “reform” New York State’s criminal justice system are also going to be costly – increasing expenses for local governments and putting public safety at risk.  These measures, that are set to take effect at the start of the year, have received a great deal of attention in recent weeks as more and more people voice their concerns.  The measures, which I opposed, include:

  • Bail changes that will allow 90 percent of individuals arrested to walk free without posting bail;
  • New discovery laws that put increased demands on local prosecutors and could put crime victims and witnesses in danger.

A letter I just received from the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials (NYCOM) states, “The dramatic acceleration in the timing of discovery and the expansion of the matters to which it applies will have significant cost and compliance implications for cities and villages with police departments and/or local justice courts.”

Recently, the state Sheriffs’ Association, the District Attorneys Association of New York, and the state Association of Chiefs of Police held press conferences around the state to voice their concerns and opposition to the new laws.

As I have said previously, I am open to discussing changes that could better address the way bail is utilized, but judges should still be afforded some discretion.  Starting on Jan. 1, judges will have no opportunity to consider an individual’s criminal history or flight risk when it comes to a bevy of crimes including manslaughter, assault, criminal possession of a gun, and a number of drug sale offenses.  Instead, these perpetrators will be released immediately without bail.

Another new law I opposed, which has already taken effect, allows illegal immigrants to receive a driver’s license.  Providing a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law is inconceivable.  This measure is bad public policy that could put lives in danger, rewards lawbreakers, and sends the wrong message to those who take the legal path to citizenship.

Supporters of the measure like to mention that other states already allow illegal immigrants to drive.  However, those states require substantially tighter proof of identification and may impose limitations on driving to incentivize naturalization.  None of those states relies solely on foreign documents for identification purposes, which is the case in New York.

One other new law that will have a major impact is the new farm labor bill.  The mandates associated with the law will hurt our upstate farmers and drive up the cost of farm goods that we all purchase.

At the start of the 2019 legislative session, I pledged to advance policies to improve New York’s economy, help reduce the crushing tax burden, and combat population loss.  I will continue to advocate for those priorities in 2020 and am hopeful that the mistakes of this past year will not be repeated.

MORGAN: ‘He Lied Under Oath.’ That’s It


‘He Lied Under Oath.’ That’s It

By TOM MORGAN • Special to

The bloodbath-cum-circus in Washington these days? It awakens memories. Of how a notorious American ambassador handled a similar brouhaha – the Clinton impeachment.

He deployed a simple device. With it, he brought a certain order to the mayhem of the thinking of his friends. In one stroke he turned their murky thinking to crystal
clarity. I am certain he would use the device today.

Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta investment counselor whose “Money Talk” column is nationally syndicated, lives in Franklin.

G. McMurtrie Godley – “Mac” – retired to Gilbertsville from his distinguished career in our diplomatic corps. The Clinton impeachment proceedings had saturated the nation’s air, airwaves and print with debate and downright wrangling: He said this. No he didn’t. He did this. No. It is not important. It is vitally important. He broke the law! Rubbish!

The arguments raged in offices, bars, coffee shops and millions of homes. They certainly raged in Mac’s home. Where he entertained retired diplomats galore. Along with great and lively minds from academia to business to government.

His dinner parties were often bedlam. That was the case with parties during the Clinton impeachment. That is, until he daubed a four-foot sign and draped it over his television for all the combatants to see. HE LIED UNDER OATH!

“HE”, of course was President Clinton. And clearly, he lied to a judge in a federal court case. He committed perjury.

Case closed. To Mac this ended all discussion of the Clinton impeachment. He believed there was nothing more to consider.

Our president had taken an oath to preserve, protect and defend our laws. He was the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. He had violated one of our most sacred laws. He had lied to a federal judge after swearing to tell the truth.

Mac’s sign hit me like a bucket of ice water. It had the same impact on his other friends. It sobered us to a reality we all knew. A reality we had overlooked in our debates. The reality that truth before a judge is utterly essential. As essential to the running of our country as gas is to our car’s engine. To perjure is to dump sand into the fuel tank.

Mac, by the way, had voted for Clinton. He contributed to his campaign. That did not matter. Once he learned Clinton lied under oath the president became a pariah to the old ambassador.

For me, Mac’s sign floats above today’s debate concerning the intel agencies and their spying mess. This was criminal. No, it was an innocent mistake. They did this. Nah, that’s an exaggeration. I read the IG report and it said this. Well, I read it and got exactly the opposite impression.

Whenever I see Comey, Clapper or Brennan on my television, the sign flashes: HE LIED UNDER OATH.

Each lied. That much is clear. People can argue over a hundred other issues. They cannot argue that these guys did not lie under oath.

Not important? It shouldn’t matter? After all, everybody lies. It’s only politics. It was an attempted coup. Rubbish!

People said the equivalent during the Clinton impeachment. Hey, it was only sex. It didn’t affect his job performance, did it?

Mac devoted his working years to serving this country. To him, oaths were sacred. To violate an oath was unthinkable to him. Anyone who did so instantly sullied his own character. A person who lied under oath no longer deserved to be trusted. Every other of his or her activities would be under a cloud, in Mac’s view.

The Only Constant Is Change


The Only Constant Is Change

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

Once we are born, every moment of every day brings change. We are born biologically complete, yet with little else to our beings. We can’t speak, walk, or talk.

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

As a baby, then in our youth, in our teens, maybe even through our twenties, we live through endless and often tumultuous changes. Every day offers fresh knowledge and new experiences.

Our parents first teach us. Then other teachers bring more ideas. New ideas and feelings bring hope, fear, desire, doubt. New relationships bring new views of the world.

We develop knowledge and self-awareness. We experience gains and losses, ups and downs, and come to accept ongoing change as part of our lives.

Yet by our thirties most of us have established a reasonably well-defined life – a life with work we chose, a partner we chose, friends we chose, a place to live we chose, religious beliefs or non-beliefs we chose. We chose preferred literary, music, and movie genres.

We have probably chosen to belong to certain groups: civic organizations, trade organizations, recreational organizations, and others. We have reached a point where we don’t have to keep changing – we have chosen our place in the world.

We have likely even chosen political affiliations. Even if we don’t actively join in partisan political activities, if we want to vote we must describe ourselves to the voting registrar as a Democrat, Republican, or as a member of some other party. If we want no formal party attachment, we still have to write down Independent or Unaffiliated, even as we lean one way or the other.

Ongoing polls of American voters since 1974 show consistently and significantly lower voter turnout in younger people and higher turnout in older people. Since elections are extolled as the best means to peaceful change, and since the older we get the less receptive we are to change, it seems we could expect voting to be more appealing to younger voters. But the reverse is true.

Why do more older folks vote than younger folks? Is it a tradition the older generation upholds? Do older folks have more time on their hands? Do young people move so often they are effectively disenfranchised, or don’t stay long enough to establish a voting habit?

r is the fact that they are often renters make them feel less connected to a community and therefore feel less of a need to vote? Or are they simply absorbed in getting their lives off to a good start?

What if the idea of voting no longer signifies a gilded avenue to desired change for young people, but instead offers a burning roadblock to unwanted change for older people? It can be argued this is where we are and where we appear to be heading.

The voting cry to “Make America Great Again” is clearly about repealing the changes of the last 50 years – be they women’s equal rights, voting rights, LBGTQ rights, or many other rights.

While those who proclaim MAGA are of all ages, it turns out that those who actually vote MAGA also skew older, just as voters do on the other side of the political chasm.

What does this mean for our futures? Will more and better education turn those young MAGA-prone kids into liberal voters as they get older? Will the continuing flight from rural to urban areas by young people of all backgrounds offer opportunities to liberalize their attitudes?

Or will they progress from nonvoting MAGA-chanting youths to older MAGA folks who will habitually vote against any kind of progressive change? Or will the eventual disappearance of Trump put out all their fires?

Based on the state of our politics, the future of our nation seems unknowable. The old ironic curse, “May you live in interesting times,” seems to apply.

Still, there are dozens of theories about our destination – pick one and see where it goes. If you find you can deduce and predict the voting patterns of the next decade or two, you can rule our politics.

The Christmas Message Gospel of St. Luke

The Christmas Message

Gospel of St. Luke

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Madonna & Child
Giovanni Battisti Salvi

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you;

Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2
King James Version

YES, VIRGINIA… There IS A Santa Claus, Editor Wrote 8-Year-Old


There IS A Santa Claus,

Editor Wrote 8-Year-Old

Editor’s Note: The New York Sun’s Francis Pharcellus Church penned this famous response to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897.

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

She was a little shy at first, but Jordyn Trask, 5, eventually did warm up and share her Christmas wishes with Santa Claus in his cottage in
Cooperstown’s Pioneer Park during a Friday, Dec. 13, visit. Her brother Harrison, 1, sat
on Santa’s lap for the first time. They are the children of Issac and Samantha Trask, Oneonta. (Jim Kevlin/

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

115 West Ninety Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing

on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Libby Found Love, Work, Heartbreak — And Home


Libby Found Love, Work,

Heartbreak — And Home

Editor’s Note: What a decade! Her friends and colleagues celebrated Manager Editor Libby Cudmore’s 10th anniversary among us on production day, Tuesday, Dec. 10, and agreed to write this memoir.


Libby Cudmore with Mascot Goodie at the 2013 Goodyear Lake Polar Bear Jump. ( photo)

There’s a lot for Ian and I to celebrate in December. Our families do Christmas, Yule and Hanukkah, our original anniversary, the New Year’s Eve to cap it all off.

But this December, I realized that I had another anniversary to celebrate – 10 years with the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and, most recently, It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed with a job, but in 10 years, I’ve realized that it’s more than than a job – it’s a way to give back to a community that has welcomed me so graciously.

When I moved to Oneonta in May 2007, I wasn’t sure if I would stay. This was my husband’s hometown, after all, but I wasn’t sure that there was a place for me yet. But that changed when Jim Kevlin hired me as a freelance reporter in April 2009.

My first story was about a bridal fashion show at SUNY. My second was an interview with Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, who was playing at the now-defunct Oneonta Theatre, then re-opened and full of promise.

I was hired full-time that December, Monday the 14th,  given a desk and the business cards I’ve been passing out ever since. If you look in your drawer, chances are you have one. If it was before 2017, it said “Reporter.” Since then, it has said “Managing Editor.”

Our new reporter, James Cummings, asked me: What’s the favorite story you ever written? How do you even pick?

But a few come to mind: getting to travel to Oneonta, Ala., and see the similarities (and a few differences) between our cities, and declaring actor Cuyle Carvin “Oneonta’s Heartthrob.” As an obsessive music fan, I still get giddy knowing that, at any time, I can pick up the phone and call Greg Harris, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, for comment.

I love being able to support the good deeds at the Susquehanna SPCA, see the rise and revitalization of the Milford Methodist Church, to be a first-hand witness to all of the change in Oneonta as the DRI gets underway. I absolute agree that we’re “Onta Something.”

Of course, there has been plenty of heartache too. The sudden death of Mayor Dick Miller was when I felt it the most profoundly. I was tasked with not only covering the tragedy, but also processing my own grief privately. I had seen Dick that Thursday evening at the Future for Oneonta Foundation reception. He gave me one of those sideways handshakes I knew so well, the quick “how ya’ doin’” in passing. We’d had our disagreements over the years – par for the course in both our professions – but I respected and enjoyed him immensely, and still miss him.

The murder of 11-year-old Jacelyn O’Connor still haunts me. I’ve written about far too many brutal deaths in our county, but in some ways, I’m honored to do so, because I task myself not with writing about the killer, but letting my readers know who the victim was to their family, their friends, their community. They’re stories I wish that I didn’t have to write, but I am always honored when I get to speak with survivors like Jennifer Kirkpatrick and Erika Heller, to be trusted with their loved ones’ legacies.

I am always in awe of the support that the people of Otsego County continue to bless me with. From the packed house at the Green Toad for the launch of my debut novel, “The Big Rewind,” to the votes that came in for my guest conductor bid at the Catskill Symphony Orchestra’s cabaret concert. Many of you were there to cheer when Ian proposed to me in the 2013 Halloween parade, and some of you came to our wedding in 2015.

But you have also been with me in the darkest times to. In 2017, we lost MJ Kevlin, my dear friend and mentor. The outpouring of love and support from all of you was overwhelming, and if I didn’t thank you then, consider this a much delayed appreciation for the kindness you showed me, the grief we shared.

Recently someone asked me where I was from. For the first time in my life, I didn’t reply “Oklahoma City,” where I was born, or generic “Upstate New York” to compensate for a hometown I don’t particularly associate myself with. “Oneonta,” I answered without hesitation.

I didn’t grow up here. But if home is where you hang your hat (and, as you know, I wear many of them) then it stands to reason that your hometown is the town where your home is located – and thus, your hat hangs.

Writing for the Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and has made me feel more a part of this community here than any career I thought I would have. Every week you welcome me into your home and your lives, you call me with good stories about graduations and strange collections and upcoming meetings, you allow me to lament with you when you send in obituaries and when we stand at the scenes of loss. It’s a position I do not take lightly, and I pledge to continue to my best to tell your stories accurately and honestly.

I’ve lived in a lot of places and I’ve traveled internationally and cross-country. But when I come off I-88 and turn onto the Lettis Highway, whether after a few days or a few weeks away, I always get the same feeling as the lights of Main Street greet me.

Welcome home.

ZAGATA: Democratic Intrigues Weave Tangled Web


Democratic Intrigues

Weave Tangled Web

By MIKE ZAGATA • Special to

Speaker Pelosi proudly informed us that she is a Catholic and thus doesn’t hate the President, but she conveniently ignored her pro-choice voting record – even defending the taking of a life about to be born. I think I’d be happier, as a fellow Catholic, if she admitted she hated the President but defended the lives of the unborn.

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

I’d also have more respect for her as a person if she didn’t let her political ambition, i.e. retain the title of “Speaker,” interfere with her judgment as she clearly didn’t want to proceed with impeaching the president. However, that’s what her base wanted and she couldn’t/wouldn’t risk losing her throne.

These are indeed strange times. The Democrats are trying to impeach the President for something he denies while choosing to ignore the fact the former vice president, Joe Biden, bragged on tape about doing the very thing the President is being accused of doing.

The Democrats are also accusing the President of attempting to interfere in the 2020 election by trying to find out if the former vice president and his son participated in Ukrainian corruption while ignoring that Hillary Clinton and the DNC hired a foreign operative to assemble a now-discredited dossier to embarrass then candidate Trump.

Is it one’s Party that determines whether or not something is legally and morally wrong or is it our conscience?

With 43 percent of NYC’s population falling below its definition of the poverty line, it is abundantly clear why politicians pander to the Left and pandering includes funding them with our tax dollars. You and your tax dollars are paying for the activist groups that oppose jobs and economic growth. Is that something you plan to continue doing?

The Mayor is spending taxpayer dollars to send the homeless to other cities and states while knowing full-well that when the time limits for the programs that are paying for these relocations expire, those unfortunate people will become an economic burden to those cities and states – but to  the Mayor they will be “out of sight out of mind.”  How convenient!

“New York City spends about $95 billion a year, and 13 percent of it goes for human services” for the 43 percent of its population below the city-defined poverty line. Some of these contracts, such as the one to Lutheran Social Services of Metropolitan New York, can amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. Smaller contracts go to community-based organizations, and every member of the New York City Council gets to dole out $2 million to favored groups.” That wouldn’t amount to
buying votes now would it?
The same thing is happening at the federal level. Our government covers the cost of the environmental groups when they sue a federal agency. That’s one of the reasons California continues to burn, yet those groups have no skin in the game and are not held accountable for the results of their intervention.

Do you remember when Sen. Jeff Flake decided to ask the FBI for a full investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh after two women screamed at him in a Senate elevator that they were rape survivors? Well, it turns out Ana Marie Archila was co-executive director of the “Center for Popular Democracy” and then executive director of “Make the Road,” both liberal groups, when she screamed at Senator Flake. In February, Archila was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s guest at the State of the Union address.

The thread continues, as it seems “Make the Road” was involved with the successful effort to block Amazon from establishing a headquarters in Long Island City and providing 25,000 high-paying jobs. Deborah Axt, the group’s co-executive director, said, “This is a huge victory. We are thrilled,” when Amazon withdrew. How can they be thrilled when 43 percent of The City’s population falls below the poverty line?

Have you been following the debacle surrounding the inability of National Grid and Con Edison to provide natural gas service to new customers in Westchester County and Long island due to a lack of gas? According to one article, Governor Cuomo sent them a letter claiming they, not the Public Service Commission which he controls, should have better prepared for increased demand in years past rather than imposing a moratorium when its application for the pipeline project got blocked by him.

“The ‘moratorium’ is either a fabricated device or a lack of competence” Cuomo wrote.

He went on to say, “Gas can be trucked, shipped, or barged.” Remember that uproar locally about “bomb trucks” on Route 205 – imagine the outcry about having them on the Long Island Expressway. How long would it take to get the necessary permits – decades while people’s pipes are freezing.

He also proposed “other infrastructure or additional unloading facilities being installed” – again, it would take decades to get the necessary local approvals and state permits. He went on to say, “Electric service and demand response measures could be proposed” – being proposed and actually making them operable are two very different things. He further suggested “heat pumps” which require electricity to operate the pumps – and guess where that electricity comes from – and “renewable sources”.

According to the governor, who controls both the PSC and the DEC, “the choice was never between the pipeline or an immediate moratorium.” And then he accused the utilities of trying to bully the state and threatened to take away their franchises to do business in New York – and he did that from his very own Bully Pulpit.

ERNA: ‘Be Afraid, But Do It Anyway’


‘Be Afraid, But

Do It Anyway’


One day a woman who had sat next to me at a fundraising dinner called me. She wanted me to be the speaker at an event for women alumnae from NYU. How could I resist? She titled it, “An Interview with a Financial Superstar”.
She asked about my growing up outside a little village in Upstate New York. How did you go from no hot running water in your home to being on the Barron’s Top 100 Financial Advisors list?

Editor’s Note: Erna Morgan McReynolds, managing director of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Oneonta before her retirement last year, has agreed to write an occasional column for our newspapers. Here, she introduces herself. Enjoy!

Good fortune blessed me. Or I thought it did. As a child I thought I was lucky. Wouldn’t it have awful to be poor in the city? Instead I grew up in a village of 300 and went to a small central school where teachers and villagers alike could look after every child.

Knowing that our family was poor, a teacher helped me get jobs cleaning houses and serving at soirées for the wealthy society of the village.

During my high school years I worked at the grand summer home of a descendant of the founder of the village. Mr. and Mrs. G. gave me special standards.

She dogged my steps as I dusted and polished with her white glove ready to pick up any speck of dust. Her husband led me to his library for 15 minutes every day. He wanted me to learn about music as diverse as the Welsh National Choir to the Brandenburg Concertos.

They gave more. On my day off each week they had me sit with them at their grand dining room table for lunch. I had prepared those gourmet meals using the Cordon Bleu cookery course they bought me.

They taught when and how to use all of those forks and knives and spoons and eat strange foods. Mrs. G called them “alligator pears.” Now I call them avocados. And I know how to do more with them than guacamole. Sometimes my knees shook under the table trying to do everything just right.

As a high school senior, my English teacher persuaded me to write an article which landed a scholarship at a journalism course.


Yet somehow I finished that course thinking I could be God’s gift to journalism. I took a series of jobs when women couldn’t be journalists but only were secretaries, nurses or teachers. I became a sports reporter while going to college, then a radio news director and advertising sales woman at a local station. By selling ads to pay the bills for a group of weekly newspapers, I became a reporter/editor.

Want to know scary? A girl who couldn’t even dribble a ball covering soccer and basketball? Going into rooms filled with cigar smoke, politics and men who sometimes leered.

Next with the naivety of under 20s I emigrated to New Zealand, where I became a reporter for the morning paper in the capital, Wellington. This was the era when there were no real women reporters. There were two others in the newsroom: the women’s page editor and another woman who never saw the light of day working overnight as a sub-editor.

Getting a “round” or a beat was for men. But I became what no man would – the energy reporter. That was 1973 – the year of the oil crisis. Good fortune again. I was in the right place at the right time.

After all of those front page leads, I landed a job as a radio/TV reporter at the NZBC. Great tales attached to both jobs. Then on to London. By age 23 I produced the news and current affairs show which boasted the largest audience in Europe.

Lured back to the U.S. by the most persuasive man I ever met – my husband of 35 years – I became a news producer at 30 Rock, NBC. Scary too. Would I be good enough?

My final career, I thought. Then another piece of good fortune. Lured back to Otsego County by that persuasive man, we built one of the largest investment advisory practices in the country. One of three top teams in America. We advised foreign governments’ social security funds and thousands of individuals.

During those 30 years I became a Girl Scout Woman of Distinction and a Maker – one of a select group of women who “make things happen” along with women like Melinda Gates and Hillary Clinton. Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year. Part of the Barron’s Hall of Fame Advisors. And I spoke at the United Nations in the room where the General Assembly meets. Where they have all of those headpieces that translate to your language.

When my interviewer asked the audience for questions, the first one was … how did you do all of this? What gave you the courage?

The answer: I have no courage. I have been afraid of everything I have ever done.

When Jim Kevlin suggested writing a column – I didn’t think I could do it. I was terrified, but Jim said I could do it so…and more to come.

A French teacher I had once told me I could speak French but that I am a perfectionist. Hope she was right!

SEWARD: Reforms May Be Costly, Dangerous

Albany Perspective

Reforms May Be

Costly, Dangerous

Jim Seward

Editor’s Note: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has represented Otsego County in Albany since 1986.

As we approach the start of 2020, there are a number of new laws that will take effect in New York State. Among them are provisions I am deeply concerned about that will put public safety at risk. The measures include:

• Bail changes that will allow 90 percent of individuals arrested to walk free without posting bail;

• New discovery laws that put increased demands on local prosecutors and could put crime victims and witnesses in danger.

These so-called “criminal justice reforms” put criminals first. When the measures were proposed in Albany, I spoke with district attorneys and law-enforcement officials in my state Senate district to gather information and gauge their thoughts on the changes. Many legal experts pointed out the dangerous, unintended consequences associated with these laws. I voted against the proposals.

While I am open to discussing changes that could better address the way bail is utilized, these laws go too far. Starting on Jan. 1, perpetrators arrested for manslaughter, assault, criminal possession of a gun, and a number of drug sale offenses will all be released without bail. These suspects will be back on the streets immediately even if they have a criminal past.

Judges will no longer have the ability to consider a defendant’s criminal history when determining bail.

This is of particular concern in domestic violence cases. A suspect will be released immediately, sent back into the community unsupervised, and have the ability to encounter the victim, the victim’s loved ones, and others.

When California became the first state in the country to eliminate cash bail, they provided for safeguards to ensure the protection of the community, including allowing courts to order defendants to report to a court officer or consent to monitoring such as ankle bracelets, as well as allowing preventive detention for those the court deems too dangerous to release. New York’s new reforms include none of these safeguards.

Along with the serious public safety concerns posed by the lack of bail, new discovery laws will force several unfunded mandates on our county district attorney offices and police departments. Small rural departments that are already understaffed and underfunded will need to hire personnel and purchase new computer systems to comply with new deadlines and requirements. In the end, taxpayers will be footing the bill to help with the defense of suspected criminals.

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York finds it will cost $100 million for extra staff and other resources for offices outside of New York City to comply with the new discovery laws.

Recently, the state Sheriff’s Association, Association of Chiefs of Police and the District Attorneys Association held press conferences around the state calling for a delay in implementing these new laws.

The New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) is also calling on the state to hold off on the changes until sufficient time is allowed to fully understand the negative effects, and to make the necessary corrections.

I am co-sponsoring legislation to address the concerns regarding the changes in the bail and discovery laws:

• S.6839 – giving judges discretion to set bail in domestic violence cases;

• S.6840 – allowing judges to consider whether a defendant poses a danger to the community when determining bail;

• S.6849 – repealing criminal justice reforms enacted in the 2019-20 state budget including bail and discovery changes;

• S.6853 – placing a one-year moratorium on criminal justice reforms to hold statewide hearings on the measures.

Earlier this year, I helped advance several bills to protect crime victims and keep our communities safe.
Those bills, known as the Crime Victims’ Justice Agenda, never even received a vote. I will continue to advocate in favor of those measures in the upcoming legislative session. I will also be working to pass these new bills I am co-sponsoring to right a serious wrong and tilt the scales of justice back toward law-abiding citizens.

MATHISEN: Memoir Takes Us To 911 Bombing


Takes Us To 911 Bombing

Don Mathisen

Editor’s Note: Don Mathisen, retired to Oneonta after a career as a reporter for WNYC, New York City’s NPR station and other outlets, published “A Broadcaster’s Life” last month, primarily for his children and grandchildren, but a few copies are available at The Green Toad Bookstore, 198 Main St.

I ran for my life as the South Tower fell. I was just a few hundred feet away, standing in a crowd of people, many of whom had escaped from the building. Now we were all running for our lives, burning debris falling all around us.

The smoke and dust was washing over in waves, getting thicker and thicker. A woman tumbled to the ground in the mad rush to escape. A man helped her up as she kicked off high heals. Now she was running bare foot on the pavement thick with soot, busted glass and soon, her blood. The woman got cuts on her feet but kept running.

Sprinting east on Liberty Street, south on Broadway, east again on Wall Street the crowd was directed into a basement by custodians who worked at Two Wall Street, an office tower that now provided temporary safety to the panicked herd. The building has five sub-cellars. The custodians ushered the fleeing people first into the lowest level. As that basement level filled with refugees from the developing disaster, custodians began directing survivors to the next level up. I was parked on the third sub-cellar, about 30 feet below the street.

At that point I took out my cassette tape machine and microphone and began recording interviews with people who had escaped from Two World Trade.

Roberto di Matteo was on an upper floor of Two World Trade Center when the first plane struck.

“I felt a bad shudder on the whole building. I stepped out of my office and I heard one of the traders on the trading floor yell that a plane had hit One World Trade. So, immediately everyone started to evacuate the building. We just went straight for the stairs. We walked down the stairs and got to the lobby on the street level.”

Di Matteo and his co-workers disregarded announcements by building security personnel who urged occupants to shelter in place. Ignoring authorities’ advice probably saved their lives. In fairness, officials had no way of knowing a second plane was taking aim at Two World Trade.

“After looking outside, all we could see was a big mess, there was debris everywhere. It looked like pieces of a plane were on fire. It really was an ugly mess out there. Then we felt the second impact, it must have been the second plane that hit Two World Trade. After that everybody just started to panic, everybody started looking for the quickest way out. Everybody started to scream once they felt the second impact.”

Di Matteo made it safely out of Two World Trade Center’s lobby. He was standing on the street nearby when the building fell down.

“I was looking up at the top of Two World Trade, about to walk away, when the building collapsed. And again, everybody reacted with screams and looked for places to take shelter.”

Soon dust, smoke and the smell of death began to fill our subterranean refuge. The custodians were assuring us that the building was safe. It was not on fire. They said they had gone to the roof to check for fire. They said smoke was entering the building from outside via the ventilation system. They were working on a solution to the problem.

I believed those brave men who rose as leaders of this panicked crowd. However, I needed to get out of the building. I wanted to see what was happening at Ground Zero. I had a story
to report. I walked up the stairs looking for a way out of Two Wall Street. I found a door, walked out into a surreal world of dust, smoke and destruction. I found chaos, confusion, death and wreckage all around.

I watched a man die while an Orthodox Greek Bishop prayed over him. The prayers failed to stop the victim from writhing in pain on the lobby floor of Stuyvesant High School, an emergency triage center hastily commandeered after students fled to safety.

Only death brought stillness to his body.

Here are transcripts from my on-the-scene radio broadcasts.

“I saw the impact of the second plane hitting the South Tower. While I was looking up, there was a loud bang, it was an earsplitting crack followed by a fireball coming out of the north face of the building. There was a great deal of smoke and debris falling. People started to run, screaming and shrieking. A few people fell on the street, no one was trampled, as folks helped them get up.”

Then the course of history was altered.

“I saw the South Tower collapse. There was a rumble and a banging, pancaking noise. The top of the tower started to lean toward the northeast. There was so much debris and dust flying around. I was in a large group of people, at first we thought we were safe, but it quickly became apparent that we were not.”

Almost 3,000 people died that day, most of them killed in the Twin Towers. On the streets surrounding the World Trade Center, survivors and bystanders were fearful, but for the most part they remained in control.

Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103