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News of Otsego County

Columns

Bob and Tulsa, Buffalo and Roy

On Bob and Tulsa, Buffalo and Roy

Commentary by Ted Potrikus

 

Our route home to Cooperstown from Tucson took us through Tulsa, Oklahoma, last weekend, and there was no way I’d pass through town without stopping at the new Bob Dylan Center. It did not disappoint.

I love every twist and turn of Dylan’s work, have read at least a few dozen books about the guy, own all his records, the whole deal. The Center isn’t just a shrine to random artifacts (“Here’s the chair Bob sat in when he wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’”). Instead, it’s a place that can interest the casual observer (my long-suffering wife) and captivate the devotee (me) with thoughtful exhibits and expositions that delve deeply into the artist’s multitudes. Not unlike our own Baseball Hall of Fame. An experience to treasure.

We spent the night in downtown Tulsa; our hotel that evening hosted a gathering of Black motorcyclists who had traveled to town to commemorate the city’s Black Wall Street Massacre of 1921. I had nearly enough college credits to earn a major in American History but first learned about the event through a New York Times article on its 100th anniversary. Homes, businesses burned, hundreds dead in riots, thousands imprisoned for more than a week for no cause other than their race; a shameful weekend that should be a part of every curriculum.

KEVLIN: Hello from Arizona and Jim Kevlin

News from the Noteworthy

The importance of local news

Hello from Arizona and Jim Kevlin

A few days ago, the first edition of the Tempe Independent – Volume One, Edition One – showed up in the mailbox.

Inside, I learned local Congressman Greg Stanton presented Tempe City Council with a $500,000 check to renovate the Rodeway Inn on Apache Boulevard to accommodate up to 200 of the city’s 380 homeless people.

I learned miles-long Warner Boulevard, a major east-west road through the city, is being repaved, and made handicapped-friendly at the same time.

I learned the historic 1924 Hayden House restoration is complete and will be open for public events and self-guided tours. (Some 100 years ago, Charles Trumbull Hayden’s Saltillo River ferry and his nearby flour mill led to the development of modern Tempe.)

There were also obituaries, sports stories and people news — there’s a new principal at Marco de Niza High School, around the corner — and police blotter items.

I had barely put down the Independent, when an email arrived from Hometown Oneonta/Freeman’s Journal Publisher Tara Barnwell suggesting a column to commemorate the April 18, 2021, sale of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta to a group of citizens determined to preserve local journalism in Otsego County.

My reaction: You bet!

POTRIKUS: The unifying power of baseball

Column by Ted Potrikus

The unifying power of baseball

My wife and I stopped by the Stax Museum of American Soul Music as we passed through Memphis, Tennessee on Saturday — we’re on a long-planned, twice-delayed drive from Cooperstown to Charleston to Tucson to visit our kids. “Where ya from?” the clerk asked. “Upstate New York,” I said. “Cooperstown, to be exact.”

“The Baseball Hall of Fame!” he said happily. “I drove up there a few years ago. Loved it. Had to visit. Love baseball.”

“I love baseball, too,” I said, “but I love my Stax records. I’m glad to be here at your Hall of Fame.”

This week’s column comes to you from the ninth-floor room in a Hilton Garden Inn in the “Bricktown” neighborhood of downtown Oklahoma City. The view from our window: the glorious field of the OKC Dodgers, the AAA affiliate for the Los Angeles Dodgers. We watched the final three innings of the game as we pulled in yesterday afternoon; no game today (but there are tornado warnings for later tonight, so there’s that).

Around the stadium — statues of Baseball Hall-of-Famers like Warren Spahn, Johnny Bench, and Mickey Mantle. Busts for Lloyd and Paul Waner (“Little” and “Big” poisons, respectively), Carl Hubbell. One for Negro League great Joe Rogan. One for beloved Yankee Bobby Murcer, a street named for Joe Carter. Proud Oklahomans all.

Out of My Shell

Column by Dr. Richard Sternberg

Out of My Shell

Last week, I took a major step for myself and poked my head out of my shell. I decided that the situation with COVID is really not going to get much better. It is going to be endemic like the flu or the common cold and we’re going to have to deal with it. It’s time to get life back to as normal as possible.

I decided to take a trip to New York City, specifically Manhattan. There were several things that I wanted to do, and I haven’t been able to do for over two years. My personal schedule gave me a small window of opportunity to make the trip. I was also interested to see the response in the city to the continued presence of COVID and increase in lab-positive cases.

I went to a museum and I went to a Broadway show off Times Square. I also had a report from a friend of the crowd reaction at New York Rangers hockey game.

One day I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art specifically to see a special event, a major retrospective of the works of Winslow Homer. By the way, if you have any interest in American art, you must get down to see this exhibit. It is worth the trip. These major retrospectives of Homer occur only approximately once every 25 years. This one is every bit as spectacular as the last one was in the mid-90s.

‘At Rest’ bill needs to rest, permanently

Column by Ted Potrikus

‘At Rest’ bill needs
to rest, permanently

History will forever remember cocktails-to-go as one bright spot amid COVID’s Darkest Age. We might not have been able to dine out, but we could order take-out and our favorite beverage too complex to craft at home.

It’s not like Those Who Imbibe weren’t also giving plenty of business to retail liquor stores (mercifully deemed ‘essential’ from the start of the pandemic shut-down) and the wholesalers that serve them, but having the right ingredients on hand for that Moscow Mule or Appletini might not have been top-of-mind when we were worried about everything else.

When New York took steps earlier this year to allow restaurants to once more serve up a nice cocktail with your take-away dinner, retail liquor stores went suitably ballistic. I’m not taking sides here (although I defer
to the restaurateurs for whom drinks-to-go was a lifeline) and was unsurprised by the trite “this will doom small business” trope the liquor store lobby trotted out.

More often than not, though, it’s the wholesalers and distributors — the guys who have controlled New York’s retail liquor industry since the earliest post-Prohibition days — who hide behind the more loveable mom-and-pop shops to fiercely protect their turf. Wine in grocery stores in New York? Probably not in my lifetime — and that’d be a topic for about 10 more columns. From where I sit, they’d love to see New York’s ridiculously confining liquor laws stay right in the 1930s.

Saving Main Street USA

Column by James Dean

Saving Main Street USA

As a non-retail small business owner and an astute observer of Main Street USA, I have great sympathy for the economic struggles of Main Street USA storefront retailers.

Main Street USA, and its storefront retail businesses, can define their communities desirability and quality of life, by whether they look bright, attractive, welcoming, thriving, and growing, or dusty, dark, stuck in time, just holding on, or dying.

The centuries-old, only game in town, limited aging product inventory, “passive retailing” model of “open the door, turn on a few lights, and wait” has been laid to rest by the new, dynamic, low-expense, multiple-choice, latest model: the shop-in-your-underwear, anything you want delivered tomorrow, free shipping, free easy returns, online retailing model.

The choice for many Main Street USA storefront retailers — to have any hope of improving their customer traffic and financial situation — is to change the way they see and act upon the retailer/customer relationship and understand their additional responsibilities for the success of their own business, or slowly pass away from self-imposed, unwilling to change, benign neglect.

If a business district and the retail stores look bright, alive, attractive, colorful, vibrant, successful, active, cheerful, and welcoming, then people will be happy to be there. When people are happy to be there, enjoying the moment, they will patronize more businesses and spend more money.

A kind of tax holiday

Commentary: Don’t be fueled

A few weeks back I wrote in this space about New York’s gasoline tax; predicting lawmakers from various corners would be calling for its temporary roll-back as a means to relieve the price at the pump. If I remember correctly, I confidently wrote that it couldn’t be done – that lifting the sales tax on anything, however temporarily, is too complicated, too much of a political and logistical lift.

I also picked Iowa and Gonzaga for the March Madness championship, so there you go.

Albany indeed made a liar out of me last weekend with a budget that includes suspending a part of the state’s gasoline tax from June 1 – December 31, reducing the pump price by roughly 16 cents per gallon. This is nice,

Helios Care: Volunteer Appreciation

Helios Care salutes its volunteers

[Editor’s note: This week’s “News from the Noteworthy” comes from Tammy Christman, Director of Community Outreach and Volunteer Services for Helios Care.]

April 17-23 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and organizations across the country are celebrating the wonderful works of volunteers. The value of hospice volunteers cannot be overstated. The desire to give time and talents freely, to those on the end-of-life journey, emanates from a heart of compassion and a spirit of giving.

Whether providing direct or indirect support, volunteers are an integral part of our team. Helios Care’s exceptional volunteers use their gifts and skills to help provide patients, caregivers, and families with the most peaceful and comfortable end-of-life experience possible. Our outstanding office and fundraising volunteers also work diligently behind the scenes to contribute towards this best possible care for patients and families.

This week’s column

Line 59: “Let me tell you how it will be.”

A commentary

IKEA opened its first northeast enormostore just outside of Newark, New Jersey, in 1990, at a time when the sales tax there stood at four percent. The company filled New York City subway cars with signs enticing the locals to take a ride over the bridge where they could buy all the things they need and save a bundle on sales tax (the combined New York state and city rate at the time hovering around eight percent). Legend has it Albany was none too pleased by this tax-evading subterfuge and instructed staff from the Tax Department to prowl IKEA’s parking lot to take pictures of New York license plates. They’d match DMV records to the photos and send a letter to the registered owner with a friendly reminder that if they had purchased anything while out-of-state, they were obliged to report that to New York and cough up the “use tax” they had evaded by shopping in New Jersey.

Over the years, we’ve heard occasional denials that such activity ever took place.

Of course it didn’t!

No, instead we have LINE 59 on our annual state income tax return. From the instruction booklet we read this declarative: Report your sales or use tax liability on this line. Do not leave Line 59 blank.

If you use store-bought tax return software and try to enter a zero on LINE 59, it comes back as an error.

I was present at the birth for Line 59, advocating for it in my previous life as the lobbyist for New York’s brick-and-mortar retailers. This was in the early 2000s when Internet-only merchants were starting to ransack the retail

Breakfast with the Board

Join us for ‘Breakfast with the Board’

Commentary by Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, Village of Cooperstown

Two years ago, in a May 2020 “Mayor’s Message” in the Village Voices newsletter, I wrote this:

“The residents of the Village of Cooperstown should be proud of the way they have responded to this unprecedented health crisis. Recommendations to stay home, to physically distance from others and to wear a mask when not possible to distance, have all been willingly adopted and are successfully reducing the impact locally of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, our community has doubled down on what makes us so special – we sincerely care and support one another – that consideration has never been more evident. We provide meals for Bassett Hospital essential

Richfield Springs Food Co-op — a gem

It once was Ruby’s and it’s still a gem

— a column from Ted Potrikus

Dan Sullivan – the Town of Richfield Supervisor and co-founder of the Richfield Springs Community Food Cooperative – invited me out last week for a tour of the store on the village’s West Main Street. I had been there only a few minutes talking with Kari James, the store’s full-time manager, when the proprietors of B. Blossom Catering came in with the morning delivery of vegan lunch plates to sell there that day. I knew right away what I was buying for lunch – a kale salad topped with jerk-flavored roasted tofu.

Dan and Kari looked at the dozen-or-so containers. “Hang on,” Dan said. “Let me count these. I’ve already had a lot of calls this morning to have one set aside.”

Fortunately for my lunch plans, not all of them had been spoken for. And Dan kept getting calls. Some for Town business (a surprise visit that afternoon from Rep. Antonio Delgado’s staff) and some for the Co-op. Customers, too – Co-op members get a 10 percent discount on their freshly-made coffee and plenty of them stopped in that morning for a cup and to say hello to Dan and Kari. And Dan peeked in an adjoining room to greet a half-dozen villagers who meet there each Monday for a game of mahjong.

They really weren’t interruptions at all – I had the chance to check out the locally-sourced, locally-grown, locally-made, and/or locally-packaged food and home goods. And the coffee – Dan gets it

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

News from the Noteworthy

Violence Intervention Program aids sexual assault victims

[Editor’s note: Opportunities for Otsego contributes this week’s ‘News from the Noteworthy,’ prepared by Will Rivera, Crisis Intervention Director, and Hannah Bosman, Violence Intervention Program Education and Resource Specialist.]

Opportunities for Otsego’s Violence Intervention Program recognizes the month of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Every 68 seconds, someone in our country is sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is defined as any form of contact or behavior that occurs without any consent from the victim. One out of six women, and three percent of men in our country have been the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. Sexual assault can take various forms such as rape, unwanted touching, knowingly passing along a sexually-transmitted disease, and videotaping without consent.

Opportunity for Otsego’s Violence Intervention Program (VIP) works around-the-clock to support victims of sexual / domestic assault, as well as promoting safe environments and self-worth. The Violence Intervention Program’s Silent Witness Exhibit was created for survivors to share their stories so they can build strength, resilience, awareness, and justice for victims. One anonymous survivor shared they were physically and emotionally abused by their partner. When they disclosed to their family about their abuse, their family was supportive. After securing safe housing, they were able to apply for an order of protection.

The victim said, “I was so happy and felt so safe to be back home and out of his sight.”

The consequences of sexual violence are detrimental; they can have long-lasting effects that can impact a victim’s physical and mental well-being. Showing your support to victims can help them speak out when crimes like this occur and can improve awareness in our community.

After a sexual assault has occurred, it can be very scary for the victim. They may not be sure what to do next. An essential victim support is to ensure they are listened to and know they are believed. This can be accomplished by using phrases such as, “It’s not your fault,” and “I’m sorry this happened.”

In our community, individuals can be active bystanders when witnessing abuse. Being an active bystander is to safely step in and intervene when witnessing these crimes. This may give the person you’re concerned about a chance to get to a safe place or to leave the situation.

Supporting victims in our community also means we need to create changes and hold abusers accountable for their actions. Changes in our local organizations, businesses, schools, and workplace cultures that shift their focus to supporting victims and prevention of sexual assault and abuse provides our community with the tools to understand our role in calling out problematic behavior.

Then we can focus on holding abusers accountable and bringing an end to victim-blaming.

VIP provides comprehensive services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and violent crimes so they may find the safety and support they need to live free from abuse. If you or someone you know has been impacted by interpersonal violence, contact VIP, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 607-432-4855. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Calculus, chaos, Cuomo

Calculus, chaos, Cuomo

An opinion column

It was just one month before COVID shut the world down in 2020 and tempers were short in New York’s state Capitol. I don’t remember exactly why the governor and legislature were sniping back and forth, but I do recall sitting down for a mid-February meeting with one of Governor Cuomo’s top policy people.

“I know it’s chaos around here,” I said to her, sympathetically. “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.”

“Hey, It is chaos,” she shrugged. “That’s the way the boss likes it.”

***

Andrew Cuomo strolled to the microphone in New York City last week with characteristic swagger, carrying the binder that contained either his prepared remarks or, perhaps, a playbook filled with trick plays that end with the ultimate Hail Mary pass – a trip back to Albany as governor of New York State.

It was his second appearance on what looks like a mea culpa tour of friendly locations in New York City, and this time, he spoke with gubernatorial intonation about the need to revisit bail reform to combat the region’s rising crime rate. (This would be the same bail reform that he jammed through the state Legislature in 2019.)

Within hours, his successor, Governor Kathy Hochul, leaked a memo outlining a 10-point bail and discovery reform bill she plans to inject into state budget negotiations, the process over which her

Springbrook details plans for “Ford on Main”

Springbrook: Plans for “The Ford on Main”

[Editor’s note: This week’s “News from the Noteworthy” column comes from Seth Haight, Chief Operating Officer for Springbrook.]

I hope Springbrook’s plans to renovate Oneonta’s historic Ford Block buildings come as no surprise.

While the COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold, it is near and dear to our hearts here at Springbrook. That is why I was excited when Patricia Kennedy, Springbrook’s CEO, asked me to write this piece and bring the public back up to speed about our plans for the buildings. I am Springbrook’s Chief Operating Officer and leader for this project.

I’ll start with why Springbrook chose to pursue renovating a downtown building. For us, this project is about community. Springbrook is recognized across the state for our innovative, compassionate, and professional approach to supporting people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. We have offices in Oneonta, Norwich, Binghamton, and Ithaca, operate homes in five counties, and offer supports in 14 counties. But Oneonta is home.

Yes, we’ve spread, but always for a purpose. Our approach is to find what works here in Oneonta and Otsego County first, then offer those services across the state. Springbrook’s success is built on this sound strategy and our commitment to the mission. This project is no different. This community has supported our growth and the needs of the people we support for nearly 100 years, and we need to invest back into the community.

The planned $6.5 million project will add vibrancy to Oneonta’s downtown, preserving the beautiful historic character of the buildings while attracting professionals to live downtown and showcasing some of Oneonta’s outstanding small businesses, like the Latte Lounge and the Green Toad Bookstore. We envision “The Ford on Main” as more than a building—we hope it will be a destination, a testament to a community that can change to meet the needs of the people who live here.

The renovations will keep existing retail space on the lower floors while the upper two stories will be converted into 22 affordable, market-rate residential units. Renovations will also revive the pass-through area from the municipal parking lot to Main Street. The corridor has long served as an unofficial introduction to Oneonta for tourists, students, and newcomers to our region. This project also follows in the footsteps of other similar investments in this community, like the Klugo renovations to the former Bresee’s building or the repurposing of the former Christian Life Sciences Center. Each investment builds on the next—all good things for Oneonta.

As “The Ford on Main” project is about community, we are excited to acknowledge our many partners. Springbrook is driving the bus, but many others are along for the ride. These partners include the City of Oneonta, NYS Homes and Community Renewal, Community Preservation Corporation, the Otsego County IDA, NYS Parks & Recreation, the National Parks Service, and the Empire State Development Corporation. They have helped us navigate grants, loans, designs, contracts, and much more. They will also help us with our goal of using local suppliers, contractors, and talent as much as possible.

We intend to start construction in the second quarter of 2022, with a tentative open date in the fourth quarter of 2022 (don’t quote me on that opening date!). A website for the project will launch in April. I encourage you to visit to stay up-to-date on construction, find rental information, and share your perspective about the building or the pass-through space.

Springbrook is here for a lifetime—mine, yours, your children’s, your grandchildren’s, the lifetime of Otsego County, of Oneonta. We all thrive together. And remember, buy local!

My mad map to March Madness madness

My mad map to March Madness madness

You say you want some sports? I got your sports right here!

It’s March Madness, that time of year when I set aside my utter ignorance for all things college basketball and plunge face-first into filling out a tournament bracket. I pinpoint the data, poring carefully over each school’s win-loss record, coaching strategies, recruitment violations, and other important calculations.

Here’s one that I used to win a pool back in the 1990s: I had just finished reading a biography of Bing Crosby, wherein I learned Bing was graduated from Gonzaga University. That was all the reason I needed to choose the ‘Zags – at the time an upstart team on the margins – and that year, they stunned the basketball world and made it to the Elite Eight. I won a few bucks and they became a perennial powerhouse.

Perhaps you’re having trouble finalizing the perfect bracket to send in to whichever sportsbook has come crashing through your television to demand you parlay your bets and become a champion and rake in the dough they promise every 90 seconds or so. I am happy to share some of my can’t-miss bracketeering tips with you:

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