News of Otsego County

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



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.

ATWELL: On Thanksgiving, Remembering Blue

Front Porch Perspective

On Thanksgiving,

Remembering Blue

Jim Atwell

Four years ago on a snowy winter day, Dr. Fran Fassett came to our house and released our good old Blue from his failed body. It was amazingly peaceful, even blessed time.

Anne and I had had Blue for about 10 years. He was a rescue dog who’d been picked up along Route 88 near Oneonta. Thank God, he was brought to our own animal shelter. A friend on staff there contacted Anne; she knew we’d recently lost our dear old Zach.

From the get-go, we knew we had a challenge on our hands. Blue was perhaps 6, a lean, muscular dog with great strength and stamina. And no wonder. Though between Blue and his forebears, a number of gentler breeds had entered his bloodline, he was at heart still a Catahoula Spotted Leopard Dog. That breed was developed in the Louisiana swampland – to hunt wild boar.

The dogs were trained to work in packs of three, with two grappling with a boar’s back hocks while the third (who’d perhaps drawn the short straw) went for the snout, There, and in spite of long, slashing tusks, the dog struggled to hang on till the human hunters arrived at the fray.

I’m guessing that Blue’s ancestors were mostly back-hock dogs. The snout-grabbers likely didn’t last to do much begetting.

It’s to Anne’s enormous credit that Blue transmuted from a strong young dog wracked by separation anxiety to a gentle-hearted hound loved by hundreds around here.

That first stage, though, took a great toll on the two of us – and on our Fly Creek house. If we both left the place at the same time, Blue panicked and damned near tore apart the downstairs, trying to get outside. Mind you, he wasn’t trying to escape; he was trying to get to us. He was ours, we were his, and he wasn’t going to be alone in the world again.

Of course he was not a perfect pet. Deep in him there still lurked a stealthy hunter, an opportunist who watched for chances to snatch at food. In our absence, he once pried open the freezer’s door and wiped out an entire two-pound frozen pork roast – thinking of it, I guess, as a sort of porksicle, he chomped his way through the whole thing, plastic wrap and all. It was a boneless roast, and the only evidence he left behind was the freezer door, slightly ajar, and, of course, the missing roast.

After that, we tried a child-proof lock on the freezer; that was child’s play to Blue. Finally we thwarted him with a hasp and a padlock.

As noted, plastic wrap was no deterrent to Blue. Once, for a charity sale, we’d baked and individually wrapped 18 large chocolate brownies and, in cosmic madness, left them on a tray on the kitchen counter. We came home to find Blue, tail wagging and all innocence, sitting on the floor next to the empty tray.
Anne and I rushed him to the vet, since all that plastic, tangled in the gut, could have been the end of him.

Later, Dr. Fassett’s assistant told us of her part in saving him. Rubber-gloved, poor girl had had to pick through a bombshell laxative’s explosion, using chopsticks to separate and count those eighteen large squares of bemired plastic.

With a sly grin, she’d offered to return them to us, proof that all systems were now clear. We demurred.

Blue had come to love his new home in Cooperstown, and last summer, as an elderly dog, he enjoyed afternoons on our Delaware Street front porch, greeting passing neighbors who stopped by to visit. He became a celebrity with local children, whose comment on first petting him was always the same: “He’s so soft!” And indeed he was.

By early that March, however, Blue had weakened greatly. On the morning of the 9th, it was evident that he could barely keep on his feet, and he hadn’t eaten for a couple of days. And, for the first time, he seemed unable to wag his tail.

I had had a half-dozen Quaker friends coming for a meeting at our house that afternoon at 2. They were still there when Dr. Fassett arrived. The Friends sat quietly, holding us all in the Light as Anne and I knelt by Blue.

Before the vet arrived, and as we had sat in silent prayer, Blue had dragged himself up from his place by the back door and limped around the circle of us, saying goodbye, I’m sure. He knew all those Friends, and each patted him and scratched his ears. Then he asked to go out the back door.

Down to the yard he went and slowly walked the circular furrow we’d kept open for him in the deep snow. When he got back to the steps, he looked up at me steadily for a long minute, and then turned to make a final circuit of his yard. Satisfied, I guess, that he was leaving all in order, he labored up the steps and lay down on his bed. That’s when the vet arrived, another old friend, to put him gently at ease.

What a fine dog he was, and what a blessed companion to both of us! We two will always be grateful for the gift he was. And for his joyful, unqualified love.

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

ATWELL: Priest Gave Me A Different Take On Life



Angst At Age 15

By JIM ATWELL • Special to

Last time we talked, I described the start of a major teenage crisis: when I knocked a nun flat on on her face, and then sat on her.

To summarize: During halftime of our high school’s basketball team, I was selling candy and gum in the hallway just outside the gym to raise money for new uniforms. I was sitting on the edge of rickety table, and a young nun (my homeroom teacher!) was standing by me to keep order as I sold my goods.

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

As someone always says after a mishap, “It all happened so quickly!” Blare of a horn signaled that second quarter had ended. Gym doors burst outward, and a roiling teenage crowd poured into the hallway, most of them turning right and toward our table.

That table was in poor shape, shaky, and I shouldn’t have been sitting on its edge. But I was a young smart aleck, showing off. Sister Mary Aphasia (I’m cloaking her real name) stepped backward as the crowd surged toward us, and (dare I say it?) through all the black serge, a buttock pressed into my bony knee.

Something like electric shock struck me. My bony knee kicked backward and took out the table leg. I was dumped forward, knocking Sister Aphasia face-down in the horrified crowd. And I, limbs flailing, came to rest, cushioned on what I’d first contacted only seconds before.

At first the shocked crowd fell back, as if what lay on the floor was a bomb about to explode. Then two classmates grabbed my arms and yanked me up. I blundered into the crowd, praying to be suddenly cockroach size so I could skitter away through the scuffling white bucks and sneakers.

Meanwhile, two red-faced senior girls uprighted Sister Aphasia, who, who hadn’t been hurt and, by all reports, was laughing heartily. Oh, bless that dear nun, long in retirement and now in her nineties! I wonder if she has any recollection of that day?

I do, and of the days that followed, ones racked with guilt for me. “You knocked down and sat on a nun! Sacrilege!” I couldn’t stop shouting that in my mind.

I knew what I had to do. Confession. That would free me of the horror. But I couldn’t risk presenting my sacrilege in the confessional. The priests in our parish all belonged to a tough, German-founded order; and some of them were given to bawling out loudly those confessing to them.

I could easily imagine one reacting to what I spilled out:

“What? You did what?” At that, the line outside that confessional would scatter into the pews like startled hens. I could, however, betake myself to another member of that order, a man who was, to my mind, a true saint.

Father Joe Turner was too old  and arthritic to handle hours in a stuffy confessional. Instead, he hobbled down the corridor from his room and directly into the empty choir loft high over the back of the church.

There he eased himself onto a pew, took out his rosary, and sat in the shadows, waiting to receive anyone who should come. He had a small purple stole around his neck, a sign that he was open for business.

And business came, though all male. For at that time a priest could not hear a woman’s confession unless a screen was between him and the penitent. But the males came, and one of them, me – 15, shaking, as I blurted out an account of the sacrilege I had committed.

As I blurted, Father Joe leaned forward, head in hands, shaking as much as I was. Then I realized the old man was suppressing laughter. And I felt hurt, disappointed, even insulted.

Sitting upright again, Father Joe wiped away tears; and then, as he found his voice, he waved his open hand slowly back and forth before him. When he could speak, he said something I have remembered for 65 years.

“Son, I’d gladly hear your confession, but you have no sins to tell me. But I have something to tell you that explains what happened. God has wondrous ways of opening up our lives to us. And at times like this, I’m sure that He also has a fine sense of humor as he nudges us along in our lives.” He paused a moment, looking calmly at me. And in that moment, I sensed a great blessing was being offered me.

“Now, here is how to read this strange, zany thing that befell you.” He chuckled at the aptness of befell.

“The jolt you suffered, and that continues in you, awoke something that will rejoice and vex you all your days, even if you live to my age.” Another chuckle and a slow shake of his head.

“I mean your human sexuality. I don’t know why it should have been sparked by a madcap happening — unless it’s because God is a bit of a jokester.” He smiled warmly. “I like to think so.”

He slapped his own knees, meaning a discussion done.

“Now, young man, you need some time to think. But make sure that it is fear-free thought! Thinking of God shouldn’t scare you, but invite love and trust. Do you understand?”

Yes, I do. And better every year.

MARTINI: County Manager Will Save Much Wasted Time


Martini: County Manager

Will Save Much Wasted Time

Editor’s Note: This commentary from County Representative Martini was in response to County Representative Frazier.

By ADRIENNE MARTINI • County Representative City of Oneonta

MARTINI: A single manager will replace 14 doing intergovernmental coordination.

I am about to complete my first term on the Otsego County Board of Representatives as the District 12 representative for Wards 3 and 4 in the City of Oneonta. A few weeks ago, I was re-elected and will serve a second two-year term. Like my colleague Edwin J. Frazier, Jr., it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people who live in this district, regardless of whether they chose to vote for me.

Representative Frazier and I agree on many of the challenges that face our county. We also agree that our department heads and county agencies provide the best services they can to our residents, given the fiscal constraints imposed on them, both by our low property tax rate and by the unfunded state mandates continuously heaped on them. During the last two years, there have been dozens of moments where I have been in awe of what our dedicated employees can do with so little.

I have also been in awe of how much time, taxpayer dollars, and energy could be saved if there were one person in charge of coordinating the vital work our departments do. Take, for example, the efficiency of moving some county services into 242 Main in Oneonta. In order to relocate or create satellite offices for the Office of the Aging, the District Attorney, and Social Services, at least four committees have had to be involved.

While more engagement seems like a good thing, it frequently means four times as much work-time spent in meetings about logistics, rather than time spent providing tangible aid to our more challenged residents. This is not what these department heads have been hired to do, yet they have taken it on because they care about who they serve. These are the kinds of costs that are hard to show on a balance sheet. That does not make them less real.

Representative Frazier would like to see a reduction in the salary and staff of any department head who has had duties reassigned to a county administrator. What he does not account for is that many of these duties don’t belong to any one person or department. Currently, 14 people are responsible for inter-departmental coordination, which effectively means no one is responsible for it.

Still, as Representative Frazier suggests, $250,000 is a lot of money, even if you consider that the county’s budget hovers around $117 million. While we could (and likely will) debate the assumptions made when producing that number, it is a nice round one to use for the sake of argument. Representative Frazier suggested other uses for this amount, including a new 10-wheel dump truck/plow or increased treatment and prevention services to those affected by the opioid crisis. Which, on their surface, are all good things.

What he failed to account for are line items like the cost for maintaining that new dump truck, as well as the salary and fringe benefits for the person hired to drive it. Given the difficulties the county has had hiring people to drive trucks we already own, the assumption that truck could be put in use is large one. The same staffing problem is evident when discussing increased services for those affected by substance use disorder. There are currently funded lines in the budget for social services that we can’t find qualified workers to fill because surrounding counties and the private sector are willing to pay them more.

Representative Frazier and I agree if a county administrator position is created and filled, the structure of the board and its committees should be re-evaluated. Some committees could be eliminated, including Negotiations, Performance Review and Goal Setting, and the Strategic Planning and Technology Committee. If the county administrator position works as drafted, the current number of representatives could be reduced.

While we can make predictions about what might happen once a county administrator is in place, we won’t know until we begin the process, assuming we can find a qualified applicant who will be effective at her or his job. However, we do know now that we are not safeguarding taxpayers’ money as expertly as we could, nor are we allowing our hard-working employees to thrive in the jobs they were trained to do. Simply buying a new truck will not solve those fundamental problems.


BENNETT: Disunity Is As American As Cherry Vs. Apple Pie



Disunity Is As American

As Cherry Vs. Apple Pie

Frederick Yohn’s 1901 “Battle of Oriskany,” fought 35 miles north of Oneonta, depicts what some consider the first between all-American combatants, Loyalists and Iroquois on one side and Patriots and Oneidas on the other. The commander, General Herkimer, died of his wounds. Yohn’s painting was used on a 1977 U.S. stamp.

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to

The press says we live in an era of unprecedented political division. The amplification of every tweet may make it seem so, but there is a different view of the severity of our polarization.

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

The American Revolution saw Loyalists interested in compromises to prevent war, but colonists seeking independence who were not. Anyone trying to effect compromise or be neutral was suspected of Loyalist sympathies and often subject to violence.

The Revolution was the first American civil war, with suspicions dividing neighbors, families and friends. Loyalists were harassed, attacked, imprisoned and even executed. Many Loyalists fled the country.

Then came the contentious 1796 presidential election.

The Federalists were led by John Adams, and the Democratic-Republicans by Thomas Jefferson. In a multi-candidate presidential field, they were first and second in electoral votes.

Though deeply divided by personal beliefs and political association, Adams became president and Jefferson vice president. Jefferson was frozen out of executive decisions as Adams oversaw an undeclared naval war with France, one that Jefferson bitterly opposed.

Under Adams, the Alien and Sedition Acts passed and were used to silence Democratic-Republicans. Federalist opponents were arrested, tried before partisan judges, convicted of sedition and imprisoned.

In 1856, on the Senate floor, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks caned an anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

Conflicts were flaring across the nation, culminating in John Brown’s 1859 raid at Harper’s Ferry –
an unsuccessful attempt to start a slave rebellion.

In November 1860, Lincoln was elected president. Decades of polarization over slavery came to a head. In April 1861, Fort Sumter fell to the Confederacy and Civil War ravaged the nation until April 1865.

Over 750,000 Americans died while many millions became casualties – through injury, disease, losing their livelihoods, land and property.

WWI created heavy political polarization. In 1917 American labor unions, socialists and pacifist groups opposed the war. But the U.S. was dragged in and conscription began, was opposed by anti-war movements, and set off deadly
draft riots.

Thousands were prosecuted under the 1918 Sedition Act; conscientious objectors, many of them Christian pacifists, were punished and a number died in Alcatraz Prison, then a military facility. Around 300,000 men refused to register, report for duty, or deserted.

In September 1939, as America wrestled with isolationism, WWII came to Poland. There were bitter political battles between internationalists like FDR, and isolationists like Charles Lindbergh – the voice of the 800,000-member America First Committee, which was given to pro-fascist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Two years of political polarization were only broken by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The battle for civil rights, from the 1950s through the ’70s, resulted in hundreds of citizen deaths, thousands of protests, many thousands of arrests, and the assassinations of American leaders, both black and white.

The Vietnam War then divided all, including the Democratic Party – which imploded in the summer of 1968 when Chicago police beat anti-war protesters. Humphrey won the nomination and lost to Nixon, who continued the war for six years until forced to resign in 1974.

While 58,000 Americans and upwards of 2 million Vietnamese died, anti-war protests roiled the entire nation for over 10 years; 570,000 men were classified draft offenders and 200,000 were formally accused; 8,750 were convicted and 3,250 went to jail. Estimates of those who left for Canada and other countries range upwards of 50,000.

We have endured periods of intense political division and polarization, often worse than now, and frequently leading to horrendous outcomes. We have fought actual internal wars with lethal weapons, arrests, and imprisonment. But – Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding – today’s divisions are not about life-threatening forced conscription or American war deaths.

Our political polarization today is mainly a war of words and as Winston Churchill said, “Better to jaw-jaw than war-war.” Perhaps we can all work on being better at “jaw-jaw” and quit seeing fellow citizens as mortal enemies.
Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director.

‘Love Unknown’ Travisano’s Elizabeth Bishop Biography Is Pinnacle Of 45 Years Of Scholarship


‘Love Unknown’

Travisano’s Elizabeth Bishop Biography

Is Pinnacle Of 45 Years Of Scholarship

About to embark on a national book tour, retired Hartwick College Professor Tom Travisano previewed his new book, “Low Unknown: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop,” Wednesday, Nov. 6, at Oneonta’s Roots Brewing. Jim Havener, proprietor of Green Toad Bookstore, which sponsored the evening, is standing at right. (Chris Lott photo, courtesy Hartwick College)

By ROBERT BENSEN •  Special to

ONEONTA – Randall Jarrell (a friend of Elizabeth Bishop) said that a poet is one who, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, manages to get struck by lightning six or seven times.

Robert Bensen is a poet and retired colleague of Tom Travisano in the Hartwick College English Department.  This was his introduction at the first reading and book signing of “Love Unknown” Nov. 6 at the Green Toad Bookstore.

It doesn’t work that way. And don’t try it at home. And don’t let your kids try it either. But Jarrell’s outlandish savvy underscores one thing: We don’t know how poets and poems are made. Like all art, it’s a mystery we never stop
trying to solve.

We do know, however, that now and again, the universe plants among us a child whose way with words grows through trial and talent and long life, such that her compositions are read, spoken, cherished.

And now and again, the universe gives us a person whose apprehension of those writings grows commensurate with their greatness, whose vision helps us enter more fully the world, at once intimate and vast, that the poetry paints for us, helps us be more alive to the work that so moved him to dedicate his life to it.

I can just see one of Tom Travisano’s students, after a rapturous class on Bishop, ask, “Dr. Travisano, have you studied Elizabeth Bishop your whole life?” To which Tom replies (I imag-ine), “Not yet!”

I wonder what stirred in the young Tom Travisano 45 years ago, when the first Bishop poem lit up in him, lit the first steps on his life’s path to Nova Scotia, New York City, Cambridge, Mass., Rio de Janeiro, and the Amazon villages in Brazil, but always return to this small city in Upstate New York?

Her life’s work ended about when his began.

Was “The Imminent Will that stirs and urges everything” (in Hardy’s phrase) at the end of Bishop’s life passing the task of immortalizing her work into others’ hands?

What thread of fate led Travisano to seek out the whole canon of Bishop’s poetry, drafts, letters; to write his dissertation at the University of Virginia on a little known and less understood poet that would become his first book, “Elizabeth Bishop: Her Artistic Development.”

Then to place Bishop studies in the wider circle of Robert Lowell, Randall Jarrell and John Berryman, in his study, “Midcentury Quartet.” And then to widen his scope to all of American poetry in the three-volume “The New Anthology of American Poetry.”

Having scanned that transcontinental immensity, he returned to his first love, entirely textual I’m sure, to the other woman in Tom’s life (Elsa won’t mind), through the letters between Bishop and Robert Lowell, in his edition, “Words in Air.”

Then attending to Bishop’s future, a study of “Elizabeth Bishop in the 21st Century, Reading the New Editions.”
And now, the culmination of his lifelong (so far!) study, the book we are all privileged to be part of launching tonight, “Love Unknown.”

Through that whole career, the love and support of his family supported him in his addiction: his wife Elsa, son Michael and daughter Emily.

Professor of English at Hartwick College, English Department chair, endowed Babcock Professor of English, twice a Winifred Wandersee Scholar, Travisano won numerous teaching and research and trustee awards, as well external support from the Guggenheim Foundation and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, founded and still serves as president of the Elizabeth Bishop Society, wrote and delivered countless (I gave up) articles, chapters, reviews, lectures, interviews with the BBC, across the nation, across the Americas, across the ocean, maybe Mars someday – anymore and I’m going to need oxygen.

We don’t know how poems and poets are made, but we know that the best that can happen for a poet
is to have a reader as brilliant and articulate as Tom Travisano whose dedication carries her work forward, so we reap the reward of understanding. Please give a generous hand of applause to Dr. Tom Travisano.

The Haves And The Have Nots



The Haves And

The Have Nots

Possibly the most important outcome of the recent meeting to discuss the future of the Schenevus Central School District is a quote from the superintendent: “The District’s revenues are inflexible.”  She went on to say, “the District does not have property wealth or the income wealth to raise taxes enough to cover the deficit.”

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

Finally someone in a position of authority has admitted the truth!  We live in Appalachia and Upstate New York is in a death spiral.  Ironically, Schenevus is where the first gas well to be fracked is located.  Would that have made a difference to the school district if it had been allowed to go forward?  We’ll never get to find out, but fracked gas has undeniably made a positive economic difference in Pennsylvania.  That we do know.

As it started snowing, I thought about the claims of those who protested the use of fracking on the grounds they wanted to protect the surface and ground water.  You might be wondering what snow has to do with protecting our water sources.

It’s really quite simple.  As soon as a snow flake falls, those same people clamor to have the roads salted.   Thousands of tons of salt are spread on our roads each winter and that salt ends up contaminating our rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater – yet you don’t hear a peep about it from the folks who shouted down fracking.

Why is that?  Maybe it’s because they don’t have to make a living here like the 30 percent of our population that’s below the poverty line.  Maybe it’s because they don’t care if our young people have to leave to find work.  Maybe it’s because they don’t care if Upstate New York is losing its population at an alarming rate.

If you doubt that, look at the number of students who graduate from Oneonta High School – less than half the number that graduated in the 1960s.  The same is true for Laurens, Morris, Jefferson, Worcester, Franklin, Treadwell, etc.

The smaller schools are facing the need to merge which means a loss of identity and jobs – something we can’t afford to have happen.  It has to go that way as the schools’ enrollments are too small to offer a diverse education and their tax base is declining. Those of us who choose to stay face, in order to maintain the current level of government “services,” an increase in our taxes every time one of our neighbors decides to leave New York.

As the superintendent from Schenevus so eloquently said – we simply can’t afford not to merge some of our schools.  (A paraphrase.)

Look at what’s happening to the towns within the New York City watershed.  The city has bought up about 90 percent of the developable property within the towns.  Thus those towns have very little opportunity to grow their tax base while at the same time they are facing a 2 percent tax cap and a 3 percent cost-of-living increase.

They are in an economic vise with no way to escape.  Why – because New York City will do, and has done, anything to avoid the need to filter its water.  Meanwhile, the deer and beaver keep pooping in the woods.

Our area needs a source, or sources, of reliable energy now – energy that can be tapped when and where it is needed.  We simply can’t afford to wait until technology catches up with our current need.

Natural gas is a reliable bridge that will allow us to start reversing the downward economic trend now before the downward spiral is irreversible.  That doesn’t mean we don’t care about our planet – we do.  We also realize that it takes prosperity to have the free time and available capital to protect our environment.  Protecting our environment isn’t a priority for the lesser-developed countries – survival is.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable and thus we’re going to run out of them.  One would have to be a fool not to recognize that and begin now to take the steps necessary to have reliable energy available when we run out of fossil fuels.

We can’t just flip a switch and make that happen – just as we can’t flip a switch and have solar energy available 365 days a year – at least not in Otsego County.


In Our Brave New World, No Parking Lots Needed!



In Our Brave New World,

No Parking Lots Needed!

Editor’s Note: In sending this along, Oneonta’s Laurie Zimniewicz observed, “Based on these predictions, Oneonta is ahead of the curve regarding the parking spaces at the Dietz Street lot,” focus of a public debate on whether 80 parking spaces should be given up to allow construction of the Lofts on Dietz, 64 artists’ lofts and studios, and middle-income apartments.

Auto repair shops will go away. A gasoline engine has 20,000 individual parts. An electrical motor has 20. Electric cars are sold with lifetime guarantees and are only repaired by dealers. It takes only 10 minutes to remove and replace an electric motor.
Faulty electric motors are not repaired in the dealership but are sent to a regional repair shop that repairs them with robots. Your electric motor malfunction light goes on, so you drive up to what looks like a Jiffy-auto wash, and your car is towed through while you have a cup of coffee and out comes your car with a new electric motor!

Gas stations will go away. Parking meters will be replaced by meters that dispense electricity. Companies will install electrical recharging stations; in fact, they’ve already started. You can find them at select Dunkin’ Donuts locations.

Most (the smart) major auto manufacturers have already designated money to start building new plants that only build electric cars.

Coal industries will go away. Gasoline/oil companies will go away. Drilling for oil will stop. So say goodbye to OPEC!

Homes will produce and store more electrical energy during the day than they use and will sell it back to the grid. The grid stores it and dispenses it to industries that are high electricity users. Has anybody seen Tesla roof?

A baby of today will only see personal cars in museums.

Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world! Ask any taxi driver if they saw that coming.

Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties. Ask Hilton Hotels if they saw that coming.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go-player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.

In the USA, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM’s Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for right now, the basic stuff) within seconds, with 90-percent accuracy compared with 70-percent accuracy when done by humans. So, if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90 percent fewer lawyers in the future, (what a thought!) only omniscient specialists will remain.

Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, it’s 4 times more accurate than human nurses.

Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars are already here. In the next 2 years, the entire industry will start to be disrupted. You won’t want to own a car anymore as you will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you will only pay for the driven distance and you can be productive while driving. The very young children of today will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car.

This will change our cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars. We can transform former parking spaces into parks.

1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide including distracted or drunk driving. We now have one accident every 60,000 miles; with autonomous driving that will drop to 1 accident in 6 million miles. That will save a million lives plus worldwide each year.

Most traditional car companies will doubtless become bankrupt. Traditional car companies will try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.

Look at what Volvo is doing right now; no more internal combustion engines in their vehicles starting this year with the 2019 models, using all electric or hybrid only, with the intent of phasing out hybrid models.

WELCOME TO TOMORROW; it actually arrived a few years ago.

FRAZIER: County Manager Job Won’t Pay For Itself


Frazier: County Manager

Job Won’t Pay For Itself

Editor’s Note:  Mr. Frazier’s letter arrived after this week’s editions of Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal had gone to press, and is published here so the public may review it before the first information meeting on the county manager position, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 14, at Oneonta City Hall.  A second is planned at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the county courthouse in Cooperstown.

Ed Frazier is county representative from District 1, Unadilla. ( photo)

To the Editor:

I am about to complete my fourth term on the Otsego County Board of Representatives as the District 1 representative for Unadilla. I was recently re-elected to serve my fifth two-year term. It is an honor and a privilege to serve my district. “Thank you” to all that chose to vote for me.

I do not take the duties of the position lightly. A primary responsibility, in my opinion, is fiduciary. Safeguarding the money that our taxpayers send to Cooperstown is a fundamental obligation of my office. Thus, this letter.

Some of my fellow representatives have spent time discussing the development of, and job duties for, a “centralized leadership position” for Otsego County. By creating and filling a county administrator position, they feel the right candidate will be able to identify and fix any so-called “inefficiencies” in our county government.

They contend that the savings from correcting these inefficiencies will more than cover the expenses of the position. That is hogwash.

BENNETT: Spend To Fight Internal Threat: Bad Health

We’re All In This Together

 Spend Money To Fight

Internal Threat: Bad Health

Larry Bennett

Government exists to protect a self-defined group – a tribe – from outside existential threats. Long ago the threat was other tribes. Today it includes fire, crime, disease, drunken drivers, natural disasters and more. But government’s first reason is to protect us from them – to ensure that which our tribe holds dear is successfully defended. Be that property, principles or our basic human right to exist.

Today, roughly 15 percent of U.S. government spending is on military defense, about 5 percent of GDP. (That’s more than the next seven nations combined.) Few quibble that the U.S. needs a robust military defense. We may grumble about it, hate its excesses, or decry its misuse, but in the end every U.S. citizen is well-defended, to everyone’s benefit. About 30 percent of government spending is on major medical programs, about 10 percent of GDP. (Social Security comes in around 24 percent of government spending, or 8 percent of GDP.) Yet even as government spends twice as much on health care as on the military, it can’t fully defend our citizenry from ill health.

Among the industrialized nations, we alone eschew universal health care. As citizens we spend almost three times as much annually per person – around $11,000 – as the average of citizens of the other developed nations. Using national health plans, those nations average $4,000 per person per year. It’s also worth noting that our outcomes are not better and are frequently worse. It’s wasteful, ineffective, and unfair.

Where are the flies in our ointment? Private insurance companies pay large salaries to fleets of executives. They provide returns to investors. They spend huge sums lobbying our elected representatives. They have huge staffs doing all the same paperwork: There are over 900 private health care companies in the U.S. Then there is the fact that every form of medical delivery systems, not just insurers, is highly redundant.

There are 7,200 hospitals in the U.S., out of 16,500 hospitals in the world. Redundancy is huge as hospitals spend heavily on the latest medical equipment to compete with other hospitals. Doctors are expensive to hire and support. Insurance chooses networks based to some degree on the broadest range of services offered, so the medical facilities scramble to offer them. And of course, drug costs are huge (and drug companies are cash cows) mainly because the bargaining power of 900 different insurers is heavily diluted.

Yet it’s claimed that the U.S. can’t afford universal healthcare: It will break our middle class backs. In response, Elizabeth Warren says her universal plan will be funded by higher taxes on the rich and on corporations, and the middle class won’t have to pay more. Some analysts think she is too optimistic.

Bernie Sanders says his plan will indeed cost the middle class more. Some analysts agree.

First, let’s say Warren is too optimistic and that Sanders is right. I say we should all be lining up to pay more. Not just to defend ourselves and our immediate families from ill health and disease, but because it is part of our social pact to help look after our fellow citizens – our tribe, if you will. Employ the government to use its weight and power to reduce drug and other costs.

If health care still costs us more, we can put off buying a new smart phone every two years. We can drive our car for seven years instead of five. We can eat out less. And so on. None of these are onerous choices. If poor people need assistance to pay the increased costs, give them assistance. Bring everyone into the deal and stand together.

We are willing and able to pay to defend ourselves from existential external threats to our nation’s greater well-being. We should be willing to do so with existential internal threats to every citizen’s personal well-being.

Larry Bennett, recently retired

Brewery Ommegang creative director

who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

My Right Leg Always Had Bad Karma

A Front Porch Perspective

My Right Leg Has

Always Had Bad Karma

Jim Atwell

I’ve been on the porch this afternoon, enjoying one of the last days of sitting out there. A windy Halloween’s just past, and Delaware Street is full of fresh-fallen leaves spinning in whirlwind gusts of chill air from the northwest. Above me are repeated flights of honking geese, hell bent for the South and warmer climes.

My right leg’s propped on a second chair. Right foot and calf are still encased in a heavy leather boot fastened shut with a half-dozen Velcro straps.

That leg, now 81, has had a history of mishaps that eclipses the sum of those that have smote all the rest of me.

Not counting the number of times that right ankle has been twisted, topped by a killer sprain incurred in a Fly Creek volleyball game. And the right femur got its turn when a heifer kicked sideways and knocked me clear across the barn. That broken bone had me laid up for weeks on the sofa, and that inactivity nearly cost me my gall bladder.

Inaction, you see, caused agonizing adhesions in my back – every drawn breath felt like a dagger’s stab. At the emergency room, a brand-new resident with more zeal than experience decided that I had a diseased gall bladder and lined me up for next-morning surgery. Thank goodness, he was reined in by an older doctor who ambled into the ER, glanced at my X-rays, and sent the resident to the showers.

I wish good luck to that resident but hope he’s back home now, maybe selling insurance in Cincinnati.

During my lay about sofa days, lots of kind souls stopped by to wish me well. Invariably they’d ask, “Where’s the break?”

At that, my Anne would always say, “I can show you!” She’d head for the kitchen and return with a big dog biscuit shaped (you guessed it) like a bone. She’d hold this up before the guests (and before the dog, who’d understandably followed her) and say dramatically, “This is Jim’s femur.” Then she’d snap off one of its top two lobes, adding, “And this is the break.”

Snap! Anne would break off the lobe. Guests always laughed warmly, but it did make me wince a bit every time, especially if my Anne then tossed the piece to the happy dog.

But the chain of events after the heifer’s kick had a denouement, poignant in its own way. The heifer hadn’t been mine. I was only giving it temporary barn room after hauling it to Fly Creek from the Unadilla livestock auction, this for a neighbor who lived about a mile away.

Some months after the ninja heifer’s kick broke my femur, someone knocked on our back door. There stood the heifer’s owner, holding a bundle wrapped in white butcher’s paper. It contained, he said, a 10-pound rump roast from the now-late heifer, trimmed out of the top of the very leg that had broken mine.

With a weak smile, the neighbor said, “God knows you earned this! Hope you and Anne enjoy it.”

I know that I did. I asked Anne to let me do the roasting, and when it came to slicing and plating, I really took my time, recalling our last close encounter.

That was shameful of me, I know – what old morals texts called “morose delectation.” Psychologists redubbed it “sadistic pleasure.”

OK, I feel guilty. But not exactly repentant.

I am convinced, though, that all the negative karma that has dogged my right leg originated 65 years ago. Back then, a scrawny teen was sitting on a shaky table in the hall just outside his high-school gym. It was halftime, and he was there to sell candy to the crowd that would pour out of the humid gym
to gulp some fresh air. (We were selling candy, you see, to raise money for new uniforms.)

Well, here came the crowd, deferring to a young nun, my homeroom teacher, who ended up pressed backward, right against my table – and right against my bony right knee. Horrified, I kicked backward and collapsed the table’s right table leg. The table and I pitched forward, knocking down the nun on her face in the crowd. And I, oh, I fell after her, landing, scrawny butt first, right on her considerably softer one.

This took place in the 1950s, when for a boy to offer a nun his hand as she stepped up onto the school bus was a bold act, something that smacked of sacrilege. It would certainly set kids already on the bus to tittering.

That, of course, was just a kind of mild mishandling. Never mind knocking a nun down and then sitting on her!

More of this sad story next time. . .

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

LWV: 5¢ Fee Will Reduce Solid Waste, Pollution


 5¢ Fee Will Reduce

Solid Waste, Pollution

Editor’s Note:  This position paper was prepared by Liane Hirabayashi and Julie Sorensen, co-presidents, League of Women Voters of the Cooperstown Area and Steve Londner, Chair, Steering Committee, League of Women Voters of the Oneonta Area.

“No, I brought my own bag,” many shoppers are telling store clerks when asked “Do you need a bag?” And more shoppers will be giving the same reply starting in March 2020 when the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act goes into effect. This new law bans — with some exceptions— the use of plastic bags by merchants and others to hold purchases.

The League of Women Voters of the Cooperstown Area and the League of Women Voters of the Oneonta Area believe this ban on plastic bags is an important step toward the goal of reducing solid waste and environmental pollution. We are, however, disappointed that paper bags were not included in the ban because when it comes to waste reduction, paper bags have as many problems as plastic bags do.

In general, the public does not perceive paper bags as being as bad for the environment as plastic bags, but that is not the case. As Eric Goldstein of the National Resource Defense Fund in New York noted, “The transportation of paper products from forests to pulping mills to retail outlets consumes large amounts of fossil fuel and emits ground level air contaminants. And the paper-making process itself is energy intensive and a major source of water pollution.”

Paper bags are costlier to transport at the beginning of their lifecycle, but the cost incurred at the end of the paper bag’s lifecycle should concern us as well.

Using paper bags does not decrease the amount of waste we generate. Paper bags that are not composted may leave our homes as recyclable material, but if the bags are contaminated or are simply not recycled, they end up in the landfill. In either case—being sent to the recycling processor or to the landfill—there is a short-term cost to transporting the bags to their final destination, a cost that is paid by the taxpayers of this county. As for the long term, every single paper bag that is not recycled is taken to the landfill, and each bag placed in that landfill brings us closer the day when the landfill will reach capacity and be closed.

Even as they were writing the law, New York State legislators seemed to recognize these problems associated with paper bags and agreed to a solution of sorts: a provision to impose a 5¢ fee on paper bags. This fee would reduce waste by encouraging people to use their own reusable bags when shopping and not to merely replace plastic bags with paper bags. The 5¢ bag fee would not be imposed on the most vulnerable in our community and a portion (2¢) of the funds collected would be used to buy and distribute reusable bags among this population. The remainder of the fee would support statewide environmental projects.

Unfortunately, in designing this solution the legislators did not require statewide compliance with the 5¢ fee. It is up to each county and municipality to decide whether or not to charge this fee—a fee that will discourage people from replacing plastic bags with paper and encourage them to use durable reusable bags.

Beginning in the 1970s, before there were deposits on bottles or systems in place for recycling cans, plastics, and paper, the Leagues in our county began their efforts to support policies that promoted the reuse and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes. More important, we have supported all efforts to promote policies that reduce the generation of waste.

Otsego County as well has recognized the importance of waste reduction in its 2018 Solid Waste Management Plan, and the residents of the county clearly support these waste reduction goals. Many citizens participate in the successful Hazardous Waste Days and Earth Day Collections held in the county. Since the installation of the densifier at the ARC Otsego Re-use Center approximately 2,000 pounds of polystyrene has been collected. Clearly, people here support promoting a cleaner environment.

No doubt, when the ban goes into effect, many of us will forget our reusable bags, and pay the fee. Over time, however, that little nudge of paying the 5¢ fee will change our habits, and carrying reusable bags into stores and markets will become second nature, just as recycling cans, bottles, and paper has.

The League believes that replacing plastic bags with paper bags is not a solution to waste reduction.  The Board of Representatives should step up and rectify the situation by implementing the 5¢ paper bag fee in Otsego County. Imposing the fee will be good for our environment and will support Otsego County’s overall waste reduction goals.


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