News of Otsego County

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



Extremism Threatens George Floyd’s Legacy


Extremism Threatens

George Floyd’s Legacy

In our nation and county, we have a moment of opportunity.

George Floyd’s death – and, in particular, the graphic video, 8 minutes and 46 seconds of it – caused every American of good will, black, white, Hispanic, even, yes, Indians, to say, enough is enough.

The mechanisms of reform are starting to turn on the question of the moment: How do we retool our police departments so it, finally, once and for all, won’t happen again? How do we retreat from the militarization of local, state and national law enforcement set in motion on Sept. 11, 2001, after terrorists brought the Twin Towers to the ground before every American’s very eyes?

At the state level, Governor Cuomo has ordered every local government with one of the state’s
500 police forces to review records for the past 10 years and “reinvent and modernize police strategies and programs” – BY APRIL 1! This is what’s called, not a wish, not a study, not a forum, but an action plan.

Subjects to be studied include use of force, crowd management, community policing, addressing “implicit bias,” de-escalation training, community-based outreach, citizen-complaint
procedures, and more.

County Rep. Dan Wilber, who chairs the Public Safety & Legislative Affairs Committee, Oneonta Common Council, at Mayor Herzig’s initiative, and the Cooperstown Village Board are already moving to meet the governor’s deadline.

Potentially, this will be George Floyd’s legacy. Let’s not threaten it.

It isn’t guaranteed.

The biggest threat to accomplishing Cuomo’s mandate and George Floyd’s legacy – at base, to create a more perfect union – is extremism and its silly stepchild, overreach.

Extremism? How about Black Lives Matter’s Hawk Newsome, who said the other day: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down the system and replace it.” That’s
going to work out well.

Silly overreach? Last week’s action by the Cooperstown Village Board to remove the word “Indian”
from Historic Markers qualifies – and, presumably, eventually from such icons as the “Indian Hunter” in Lakefront Park.

It turns out, though, the word “Indian” is unobjectionable, even preferred, by many Indians themselves, local experts tell us. Some Indians specifically reject the alternative “Native Americans,” noting their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait – “Beringia” – from Asia 15,000 years before Amerigo Vespucci was born in 1454.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

The point is, there are “sensitive” experts out there – as compared to the “insensitive” rest of us, as characterized by Trustee MacGuire Benton – who would be contemptuous of the Village Board’s initiative, first raised by Benton and turned into a resolution by Trustee Richard Sternberg.

Thankfully, after knowledgeable instruction, Sternberg said he intends to at least revise his resolution to allow a period of study before approaching the state Education Department and asking for our local monuments to be defaced.

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch now says that resolutions, like this one, shouldn’t be sprung on the Village Board at the 11th hour of a late-night meeting, as this one was. She’s considering asking that resolution be included in the packet trustees receive on the Friday before their Monday meetings, so they aren’t ambushed.

Look, folks, all of us have undergone severe personal challenges, going on four months now.

Some of us, or family and friends, have been stricken by coronavirus. Many of us have seen our livelihoods challenged. Most of us have been confined, for better or for worse. And all of us have been inconvenienced.

Then, just as things appeared to be improving – maybe, it turns out, in New York State; but in much of the rest of the nation, no – a match was thrown into a bucket of gasoline in Minneapolis, dramatizing a grievous flaw in OUR American society that can no longer go unaddressed.

In both crises – the pandemic and the protests – there has been extremism and overreach, and
they are eroding the consensus that will allow us to get anything out of this mess.

Again, let’s stay focused.

As we enter the Fourth of July weekend, let’s vow to stick to the business of being can-do Americans,
and get both crises behind us, to affirm our American system, that we don’t burn books, and
can read what we want. That we don’t deface monuments over ideology. That we remove statues by due process, not mob rule.

That we can burn flags if we want to – even our revered Stars & Stripes.
Except for very narrow exceptions – shouting fire in a crowded theater – we can say and write what we want. If we can stand the scolds, we can use whatever words we want. And certainly, we can think what we wish, as long as we don’t act on our felonious ruminations.

Let’s treasure these Constitutional guarantees. They’re called freedoms. And looking at most of the world, they’re American freedoms. Let’s cherish them. Let’s learn to appreciate them by practicing them – this Independence Day and going forward.

IN APPRECIATION: Giles Russell, Good Citizen


Giles Russell, Good Citizen

Giles Russell

Giles Russell was the kind of citizen – active, engaged, sure-footed in the projects he undertook – that any community would welcome and cherish.

“Giles was a very hardworking, very caring – I can’t think of anyone who cared more for the village than Giles; and a lot of people care about the village,” said Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk.

To Cooperstown’s gain, he and wife Jane chose “America’s Most Perfect Village” as their new home in 1989 as he prepared for his retirement in 1991 from an engineering career at IBM. They precisely duplicated a traditional saltbox (with all the modern amenities) in the Cooper Park neighborhood.

Soon, he was on the Village Board, then served as village administrator. He was a long-time member of the Library Board, determined firm up the finances of the often-strapped institution into a district library, with an almost guaranteed annual levy from the Cooperstown Central School District. He chaired the Tree Committee during its initial collaboration with Cornell in preparing a tree master plan that the village still follows today.

His influence reached to Oneonta and beyond through his participation in the Executive Service Corps.
Former Mayor Wendell Tripp remembers he gave a lot to the village and, being an engineer, “in a very precise way.” Heading the Village Board’s street committee, Giles and then Streets Superintendent Carter Coleman walked every sidewalk to determine which needed replacement or repair, said Tripp.

He could surprise, too. When the Fenimore hosted a Grandma Moses exhibit in 2006, it turned out that Giles, raised in Eagle Bridge, knew the family and had many telling anecdotes to share.

Behind a kindly and courteous mien was an analytical mind, a combination that allowed him to subtlely instruct without offense. When communities everywhere have citizens like Giles, they’re valued, as he was valued here.

– Jim Kevlin

In Nation Under Duress, A Verb To Live By


In Nation Under Duress,

A Verb To Live By

Socially distanced appropriately, Cooperstown village trustees join Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, center, at the Pride Flag, unfurled at 22 Main on Tuesday, June 1. From left are Joe Membrino, Richard Sternberg, Jeanne Dewey, MacGuire Benton, Jim Dean and Cindy Falk. (Jim Kevlin/

The verb, “to accept.”

The verb became action at 8:30 a.m. Monday, June 1, when Public Works Director Mitch Hotaling climbed a ladder and hung the Pride Flag on Cooperstown Village Hall.

When the Village Board, with some rancor, voted last July to fly the flag during Gay Pride Month, trustees couldn’t know how the verb, “to accept,” might resonate today after three months of pandemic and a week of riots.

To begin, let’s activate the verb to accept the people we know who are gay: beloved brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and cousins, childhood friends.

And more: Let’s accept they should be honored, even celebrated. It’s time.

“We” sounds majoritarian. It is. It is time for the country at large to accept this minority, and be enriched by it, as the majority has accepted so many others over our 250-year history and continues to do today.

Let’s go further. Let’s accept that violence settles nothing.

Arguably, the 1967 burning of American cities ripped apart the Civil Rights coalition of the 1960s and set back the cause 20 years. Fury creates fury; it’s no win.

Let’s accept that militarizing American police forces after 9/11 – “civilians” is what officers call the rest of us – was a mistake from its beginning in the shadow of the burning Twin Towers. Let’s ramp it back.
Locally, we’ve seen the bad as we walked past armored cars and flak-jacketed officers en route to the Hall of Fame’s Induction.

And we’ve seen the good: Last Sunday, Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner assigned no officer when 500 people rallied peacefully for justice in Oneonta’s Muller Plaza. He trusted them.
Community policing, that’s called, a partnership between police and people.

Let’s accept it.

Yes, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, we’ve read how Minneapolis’ police union sheltered members from responsibility. Let’s accept reform is needed there, too.

Let’s accept that our nation’s vast wealth – the envy of the world – hasn’t been sufficiently shared.

Locally, Schenevus’ unified joy at the prospect of a 300-job distribution center dramatized the yearning for good jobs here, as in black neighborhoods like the one where George Floyd was killed.

In the Trump Administration’s peace plan for Israel and Palestine, multi-national companies agreed to build plants in Palestine, where unemployment is as high as 43 percent in Gaza. Why not in disadvantaged American neighborhoods?

Let’s accept that economic stability stabilizes families, and neighborhoods and communities. Stable communities require less policing, fewer opportunities
for the Officer Chauvins of the world to do their damage.

Let’s accept vibrant American capitalism as a font of opportunity and wealth, the modern outlet for ambition and the pioneering spirit. And tax it appropriately for the benefit of all.

Let’s accept that our Constitutional system generally works – or, as Churchill said, better than any other – and that the current administration happened because government had lost touch with its constituents.

If we don’t like the result, that can be allayed, perhaps as soon as Nov. 3 or no later than Nov. 5, 2024, and reforms made along the way.

Let’s accept the arc of history bends toward justice. The American story, flawed as any other nation’s,
proves it.

Amid all this, let’s accept flying the Pride Flag each June. Since we all have gay friends and relatives, it shouldn’t be divisive at all. Mayor Gary Herzig has said he doesn’t object to it in Oneonta – so, draft a resolution.

Let’s accept we may not fly enough flags: Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway is lined with 90, one for every nation that has contributed any significant number of today’s Philadelphians.

Let’s accept the American canon: freedom, justice, the right to pursue Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. For everyone. And let’s use verb, “to accept,” to advance it.

Action Needed, And Responsible Majority Acted


Action Needed,

And Responsible

Majority Acted


Preparing to vote on 59 layoffs Wednesday, May 20, are, from left, top row, Chairman
Dave Bliss and Vice Chair Meg Kennedy; County Reps. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla; and Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta. Second row, Michele Farwell, D-Morris; Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta; Rick Brockway, R-Laurens; Dan Wilber, R-Burlington. Third row, Andrew Marietta, D-Fly Creek; Jill Basile, D-Oneonta; Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, and Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta. Bottom row, Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, attended but had departed. (Screenshot from Facebook Live meeting)

Sometimes things have to be done. Imperatives, they’re called.

Such is the regrettable layoff of 59 county workers, a decision made May 20, a week ago Wednesday, by the Otsego County Board of Representatives. The layoffs go into effect Monday, June 8, the day county government is allowed to reopen.

The vote was 9-4-1, with the nays all Democrats: a veteran county rep, Andrew Stammell, Town of Oneonta, who should have known better, and three newcomers, second-term Michele Farwell, Morris, ditto, and newcomers Jill Basile and Clark Oliver, who are, well, newcomers facing probably the toughest decision they will make in their tenures.

Danny Lapin, also an Oneonta Democrat, had to leave halfway through the meeting – he was moderating a long-scheduled OCCA panel on adapting to a post-COVID-19 world. Asked, however, he said he would have voted nay, too. “I share the same concerns as Representatives Stammel and Farwell” – that the cuts made aren’t the best possible.

In listening to last week’s debate, and talking with county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, and the vice chairman, Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, the cuts were made after an exhaustive review. Department heads were asked for guidance. Kennedy’s Administration Committee met for several hours Wednesday, May 13, then for five hours Friday, May 15, to make the final decision.

All board members were welcome at these meetings, and all were emailed voluminous information and data that were the basis for the decisions, said Bliss.

He added that many of the layoffs are people who were determined “non-essential” – a terrible term – and thus were prohibited from working anyway. Also, they will be laid off in time to partake of “enhanced” unemployment, an extra $600 a week. (A separate editorial, perhaps.)

Plus, the CSEA, at first obdurate, has since agreed to additional sweeteners from the county board: Those laid off may return with their seniority and vacation time intact, and can choose to pay and stay on the county medical insurance through the end of the year. Civil Service Law requires none of this, Personnel Officer Penny Gentile told the board.

All in all, that’s a pretty sweet layoff, if any layoff can be.

“When you’re talking about the solvency of the county,” said Bliss, “you’ve got to do what’s right.” Not to edit him, but they – the county reps – have to do the best they can, with the expectation any decision this complicated – paring 10 percent of a 500-person staff in two dozen departments – won’t be perfect.

As county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, said, quoting Teddy Roosevelt: “Sometimes the right decision and the hardest decision are the same.”

Here are a couple of ways to analyze the nay votes.

One, the Republicans, in alliance with the one Conservative, control the county board, and there’s a responsibility that comes with control. They were elected to, and arguably they made the best decision they could, after an open and inclusive process.

And it’s not over: There are more tough decisions ahead.

Two, through bipartisanship. That, along with “transparency,” are two terms that often emerge between Democratic lips. This was a time for bipartisanship.

It’s interesting that two Democrats – Andrew Marietta, Cooperstown/Town of Otsego,  and Adrienne Martini, City of Oneonta – serve on the Admin Committee, went through the many hours of deliberations, and voted twice in favor of the layoffs, once in committee, then on the 20th.

County Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, then called for those who voted nay to come up with an alternate list, if they can do better. That’s fine in theory; but, frankly, the county board’s procedures were followed in getting to the 9-4-1 vote. It should stand, and likely will.

“We have to do everything we can to bring these who lost their jobs back,” said Lapin. By not making the tough decision, he, Stammel, Farwell, Basile and Oliver will have little leverage to accomplish that.

The decision will be made by those who took a deep breath and did what they had to.

Actually, County Treasurer Allen Ruffles has an idea that’s more interesting: Use this opportunity to review county government top to bottom, to see where efficiencies can be put in place.

For instance, bill paying and hiring is done across multiple departments. Why not centralize
those activities, bills in the Treasurer’s Office, hiring and personnel administration in a new Human Resources Department.

That would be the best of all worlds: Making layoffs as painless as possible, and streamlining county government so those who do return will reenter a leaner, more effective and efficient organization.

Everyone’s adapting to the “new normal,” and it isn’t going to be 100 percent comfortable for anyone.

Build On DMCOC’s Smart Marketing


Every Business Should Build

On DMCOC’s Smart Marketing

It’s been hard to approximate layoffs. Business owners don’t want to announce them, and the monthly figures seem so theoretical.

Bassett Healthcare Network, people figure – and have heard anecdotally from time to time – has certainly furloughed and cut back hours after closing two floors and halting elective surgeries while coronavirus was considered a pending local emergency. But it doesn’t want to brag about it either.

So the county Board of Representatives plans to lay off 59 people – 50.5 FT equivalents, 10 percent of its payroll for $1 million in savings, and hardly enough – was a bracing bucket of cold water.

So were state Sen. Jim Seward’s declarations over the past few weeks that a depended-upon safety net, the state Department of Labor, is inaccessible. No one’s answering the phone and constituents, after days of trying, have been calling the senator’s office in tears. He wants answers, and action.
We need to focus, people.

In an interview the other day, the able Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corp. of Otsego County (too long a name) or DMCOC (meaningless acronym) had some scary numbers to share.

In 2018, she said, tourism brought $206 million to Otsego County, of which $101 million was spent employing people in a total of 3,426 jobs. Those jobs aren’t there this summer.
Happily, Destination Marketing has an action plan: It is rolling out a summer marketing promotion on June 1, looking to draw people here from a 150-mile radius.

Before we all throw up our hands in horror: The idea is to attract people, hopefully a lot of them, to kayak (with a loved one who has been equally exposed, or not exposed). And go to our airy beaches. And

Ride bicycles – one person per bike. And hike our lovely trails – 6 feet apart, of course.
Social distancing is easy in the Great Outdoors.

After July 1, when the Hall of Fame and other attractions very likely will have reopened
(The Clark Sports Center is looking to open that day), the marketing plan will shift to attractions, (paced to ensure the local institutions are not overcrowded.)

In the fall, the marketing will shift to foliage.

All of this makes sense, in line with the two-word imperative: REOPEN SAFELY. Both words matter equally; each must be done.

Two things:

One, are Destination Marketing’s promotions being sufficiently financed?

The county’s contribution to DMCOC is based on last year’s sales- and bed-tax revenues. We know the county’s broke, but it should take a flinty-eyed look at cost-benefit before it considers cutting here.

Another source of revenue is the Partners’ Program – partners being individual hotels, restaurants and attractions. They also are strapped, some less so, and they should participate if they can.

How about our local private foundations? Perhaps they can help ensure marketing efforts are fully funded.

People, some anyhow, are reluctant to accept the fact Otsego County is a tourist economy. That fact is going to be dramatically emphasized in the months ahead.

Two, local business must do what they can to serve, and thus profit from the people lured here by DMCOC’s marketing campaigns.

Maybe restaurants can make box lunches for bicyclists or picnickers. Maybe stores can set up sidewalk displays (enabled by municipalities.) Otsego County Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan said Oneonta City Hall is considering allowing all restaurants to do sidewalk cafes.

Nice, airy and safe idea.

Individual businesses know better how to do so for themselves. It’s important they do so.

We’re all in a fix. But it’s not a fix that’s going to last forever.

Maybe the weather will slow the coronavirus. Maybe a vaccine will be developed over the fall or winter or sooner. Maybe immunity will become widespread. Pandemics eventually end, some more happily than others.

The point is, as we flattened the curve, let’s now do what we can to soften the economic pain.

For Good Of All, Hope Marty Patton Right


For Good Of All,

Hope Marty Patton Right

It may turn out Marty Patton made the right call, delaying opening of his Cooperstown All Star Village, the youth baseball tournament camp in West Oneonta, in hopes of salvaging at least some of the 2020 season.

Things are happening so quickly.

With this week’s Glimmerglass Fest cancellation, pretty much all of the major summer activities have been cancelled or delayed – mostly notably, of course, Derek Jeter’s July 26 Induction and the 2020 season of Patton’s competitor, Cooperstown Dreams Park.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus threat seems to be easing day to day, from New York City to Otsego County where, for now, there’s almost nothing left.

Patton’s strategy – cancelling the first week in June during the first week in May, etc. – may allow him to salvage two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, maybe more. He is emphatic, as every sensible person should be, that safety will guide any final decision.

Given where were are, it’s possible COVID-19 may be just an unhappy memory locally in a few weeks.

The pacing factor for Patton is where his teams are coming from: Detroit and Houston and Tucson and wherever the disease’s arrival came later.

When and where are questions Patton’s struggling with, as he should be. Let’s hope facts break his way, for the benefit of all of us.

War Not Over, But Let’s Take Victory Lap


COVID-19 War Not Over,

But Let’s Take Victory Lap

Let’s take a victory lap.

As of Monday, May 4, the coronavirus threat in Otsego County had been reduced to one case. One case in the whole county.

It’s a battle won, not the war.

Testing for the coronavirus identified 62 positive infections once symptoms appeared, through the Bassett Hospital hotline (547-5555) and other means. In all likelihood, though, there is still coronavirus in our neighborhoods.

Testing for antigens, which is expected to ramp up in the days ahead – soon, in local pharmacies. It will identify people who have been exposed to COVID-19, have it in their bloodstreams, but may not have infected anyone else.

Further, no county is an island, as much as we might wish it to be. People are driving up from New York City, the national center of the epidemic – many fewer than would have been if Induction 2020, Cooperstown Dreams Park and the Glimmerglass Festival hadn’t been cancelled – but still, some.

Some people, it’s said, are renting now-vacant Dreams Park families’ accommodations, seeking to shelter their families from the disease’s Ground Zero. Who can blame them?

According to an order from county Board Chairman David Bliss, they are required to report their arrival to the county Department of Health and to go into a 14-day quarantine. But it’s unlikely everybody is doing so.

Yes, it’s not over.

Still, we – look in the mirror; look around you to see who’s within sight – all of us, have participated in this success, in reducing 62 cases (and, potentially, rising) to one.

We’ve sheltered at home. We’ve washed our hands and used hand-sanitizer.

We’re wearing masks. We’re staying 6 feet away from each other.

We’ve avoided congregating outside our families. We’ve cancelled all major local events, from the Otsego Chamber of Commerce’s spring gala, to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society’s annual dinner, to all sporting events and high school graduations – you name it. All churches and social clubs are in abeyance.

We’ve sacrificed, for the good of all.

County government sprang into action, beginning with Bliss’ emergency declaration, a day after
President Trump’s and Governor Cuomo’s, to enable quick implementation of state and national orders.

In addition to a COVID-19 task force, chaired by County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, sub-task forces for economic development (DMOC’s Cassandra Harrington, chair) and health (Bassett’s Diane Johnson) were spun off.

Individual initiative played a part: Oneonta City Councilman Mark Drnek comes to mind. His, which evolved into, has been adopted by the City of Oneonta’s Economic Development Task Force, appointed by Mayor Gary Herzig.

Our elected officials – the county board, the Cooperstown village trustees, our school boards in Oneonta, Cooperstown and across the county – have been on it, strategizing, cutting, with more to come –
to ensure an unprecedented challenge doesn’t become an unprecedented fiasco.

In the front ranks, we should be thankful to county Public Health Department and its director, Heidi Bond, for reducing 62 confirmed cases of coronavirus to a single one. These unsung heroes have enforced the quarantines, and ensured those under quarantined are tended and kept in place.

Of course, this has been a 24-7 undertaking for Bassett Hospital and Fox Hospital, on the job unstintingly since March 13 – 54 days as of Wednesday, May 6.

This represents a lot of individual dedication and institutional muscle.

OK. Down to one. Breathe deeply. The signs are good. But challenges remain. Foremost, remember, that one neighbor of ours who is still suffering. It’s not over yet.

Given the bludgeoning New York City has taken, it’s to be expected that Governor Cuomo – he’s performed superbly in this crisis – is moving forward so cautiously.

But human beings are human beings – communal animals, energetic, crying and laughing, jostling
each other, pushing ever forward – and won’t be constrained beyond what’s reasonable.

All of this shall pass, preferably sooner, but at some point regardless.

Still, we citizens of Otsego County can be proud today.

First Cooperstown Election Was A Wild One


First Cooperstown Village

Election Was A Wild One

Illustrations inn Alan Taylor’s “William Cooper’s Town” including, upper right, Cooper’s Otsego
Manor, where Victor Salvatore’s James Fenimore Cooper statue is today, and, upper left, Elihu Phinney, Otsego
Herald publisher, a friend of Cooper’s who became a bitter political foe.

Editor’s Note: The uncertainly surrounding this year’s village elections locally and throughout New York State, now scheduled six months late on Sept. 15, brought to mind the tumult surrounding Cooperstown’s first village elections, recounted in Alan Taylor’s “William Cooper’s Town,” which won a 1996 Pulitzer Prize.

The (state) Legislature (in 1807) was considering two rival petitions to incorporate the
village at the foot of Lake Otsego. Incorporation would provide Cooperstown with a government
distinct from Otsego Township.

Ostensibly the rival petitions disputed the official name for the incorporated village (formation of an aqueduct company was also at issue): in one, (Cooperstown’s founder, Judge William) Cooper and the village Federalists sought to retain the name Cooperstown, while the other championed by (Otsego Herald publisher) Elihu Phinney and his new Republican friends, favored “Otsego Village” in order to dishonor the judge.

…The judge spent much of March in Albany haunting the Assembly lobby to press for passage of his bill. Instead, on April 3, the day after Phinney openly endorsed (gubernatorial candidate Daniel) Tompkins in the Otsego Herald, the state Legislature passed a bill incorporating Otsego Village and empowering Phinney and four associates to establish their aqueduct company.

Wounded by the theft of his village, William Cooper plunged into the campaign of 1807 with a vengeance. It became his personal mission to punish Phinney and the (ascendant Democratic Republicans) by helping to defeat their candidate for governor.

Flushed with victory, Phinney and his associates aggressively moved to implement the new government for Otsego Village. The May 14 issue of the Otsego Herald announced Tompkins’ sweeping victory and
summoned the villagers to meet at the courthouse on Tuesday, May 19, to elect five trustees.

But Phinney and Metcalf underestimated the resiliency and the anger of the Federalists, who were still a solid majority in the village, if no longer in the county at large.

On the 19th, the Federalist majority packed the courthouse and elected five trustees favored by William Cooper. Four days later the village Federalists reconvened at Maj. Joseph Griffin’s Red Lion Tavern.

They instructed the new trustees not to act until the legislature amended the incorporation and restored the name Cooperstown.

…Enraged by Phinney’s betrayal, Cooper urged his neighbors to cancel their subscriptions to the Otsego Herald, and he launched an effort to bring another, solidly Federalist newspaper into the village. In late 1808, the Cooperstown Federalists established their own newspaper, misnamed The Impartial Observer, (renamed The Freeman’s Journal in 1817.)

…The Federalists briefly obtained a majority in the state legislatire and, in June 1812, pushed through a bill reincorporating the village as Cooperstown.”

Turn On Porch Light For Hometown Heroes


Turn On Porch Light

For Hometown Heroes

In New York City, folks are leaning out their windows beating on pots and pans at 7 each evening, an appreciative salute to the First Responders in our latest national trial: Healthcare workers, from ambulance drivers to surgeons, and everybody in between.

In more sedate Cooperstown, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch had an appropriate alternative: the Porch Lights for Support campaign.

(Thankfully: lawnmowers will be roaring soon enough.)

The idea is for residents to turn on their porch lights each evening so, when our local heroes drive home from Bassett Hospital, they do so through a continuous salute of lights.

Some folks immediately warmed up to the idea, and the tributes are in evidence evenings in Baseball Mecca, but not yet the unbroken line signalling the message: Thank you.

A parade of firetrucks, organized by two fire chiefs, Cooperstown’s Jim Tallman and Fly Creek’s Chris Vuolo and the county’s assistant emergency coordinator, Victor Jones, passed by the Bassett campus the other evening in a salute to our First Responders. Great stuff.

But anyone, and everyone, can get in the swing of things, not just in Cooperstown: Maybe the idea will catch on throughout the county.

At a time like this, a cavalcade of lights through all our communities would be a morale booster for all of us.

With Facts As Guide, Let’s Start Reopening


With Facts As Guide,

Let’s Start Reopening

As the headline has it, that’s what Governor Cuomo is doing. And he’s convincing.

When on April 16, Cuomo announced he was extending NY PAUSE from April 29 to May 15, most of us probably thought that it would then be extended to the end of May, then mid-June, and so on.
Upstaters, given the daily reports of New York City’s spiraling death code, were in that frame of mind.

So it was a pleasant surprise, Sunday, April 26, that the governor, in response to a reporter’s question at the daily briefing, said he planned to start “phase one” of the move to the “New Normal” on May 15 in three Upstate regions – including the Mohawk Valley, which includes Otsego County.

It wasn’t an unalloyed pleasant surprise; after all, who isn’t worried about our future relationship with the coronavirus.

Since then, Cuomo’s continued to sketch out a fact-based process.

Before the “New Normal” begins, regions must experience 14 days of sequential reduction in infection rates and less than 70 percent occupancy of hospitals.

Also, and less than a 1.1 percent infection rate; in other words, more people need to be getting better than are getting sick.

Tuesday the 28th, he announced isolation facilities will be established, so if a husband, wife, son or daughter gets sick, he or she doesn’t have to go home and infect the rest of the family.
To go back to the beginning, the sheltering in place and social distancing was required to “bend the curve” to achieve a declining infection rate, and that’s happened.

Cuomo’s decision comes amid a better understanding of the imperfection of

You may have read recent op-ed pieces or seen TV clips in the past few days of Dr. Scott Atlas, a former Stanford professor – Politico, The Hill, U.S. News, Real Clear Politics, Forbes, C-Span, etc. –
reporting on the emergence of five “key facts”:

1. The vast majority of us are at no significant risk of dying from COVID-19
2. Protecting older, at-risk people keeps hospitals from getting overcrowded
3. Total isolation slows population immunity, prolonging the threat
4. People are dying because other medical cases aren’t being treated
5. There’s a “clearly defined” population at risk that can be protected with “targeted measures”
With hundreds of people still dying daily in New York City, we can still say, but, but …

Still, the governor himself said Tuesday many Upstate counties resemble “Midwest and Western states” more than they do New York City and its suburbs.

Another report, in the Wall Street Journal, on Sweden’s experience suggests the benefits of targeting: Since 80 percent of people infected are over 65, Sweden only required those people to shelter in place. And since there were no pediatric deaths, elementary and middle schools stayed open.

That kind of strategic thinking makes sense.As it turned out, Sweden’s death rate was 80 people per million, less than the United States’ seven hardest-hit states. And since steps were less Draconian, they could be maintained for a longer period without blowback.

Cuomo’s “phase one” plan has another sensible twist: The state isn’t telling individual construction firms and factories how to open, reasoning that individual companies are better able to craft effective plans for themselves, plans that protect their workers and limit their liability.

Our reporter Libby Cudmore spoke to stalwart Eastman Associates, the Oneonta construction firm: It had already developed such a plan. In the Town of Oneonta, Burt Rigid Box is preparing one.

“A businessman called me this morning,” said County Treasurer Allen Ruffles, who chairs the county’s Coronavirus Task Force. “Here’s my advice. Make a business plan: This is how we can open safely. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell everyone.”

The goal isn’t to replace safety concerns with economic ones. The goal is to address safety concerns AND economic ones.

Governor Cuomo’s step-by-step process, it seems as we approach the “New Normal,” meets that criteria.
Both disease and economic depression would be devastating.

In Time Of Trial, All Of Us Have A Chance To Do Good


In Time Of Trial,

All Of Us Have A

Chance To Do Good

Otsego County is blessed with generous foundations.

The Clark Foundation and its spinoffs have, of course, been transformative, and continue to be, with supporting the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Fenimore and Farmers’ museums, Glimmerglass Opera and more than $10 million in college scholarships to top local students countywide since the 1960s.

The Clark’s Scriven Foundation is focused exclusively within the county, and it’s the rare worthy venture in the towns around Glimmerglass that hasn’t benefited from its public spirit and largesse.

As The Clark Foundation – founded by Stephen Carlton Clark in 1931; now one of the largest in the nation – was made possible by Singer Sewing Machine’s worldwide reach and success, so the Dewar Foundation, founded in 1947, was able to channel IBM’s similar globe-spanning fortunes into Oneonta.

As did many of what grew to 33 IBM millionaires, James Dewar’s grandfather bought stock in the International Time Recording Co. at the turn of the 20th century. Today, through IBM’s success, the Dewar Foundation’s fingerprints may be found on every worthy venture of the last 70 years in the City of the Hills. Hartwick College was favored in particular by Dewar’s widow Jessie, who lived almost three decades beyond her husband’s passing.

With such examples as Jane Forbes Clark and the Dewar family, the Community Foundation of Otsego County, in the making for the past year, is almost a guaranteed success.

Citizens who may have no more than $100, $1,000 or $10,000 to donate – many will choose to donate much more – will have a chance to experience the same thrill of doing good as the Clarks,

Dewars, Worcester’s and Stamford’s Robinsons and Broadhursts, and many other successful families here and across the country have done and are doing.

The original plan of Harry Levine, former Otsego Land Trust chairman, retired SUNY Oneonta President Alan Donovan, Patsy Smith of the Smith Ford family, Bank of Cooperstown President Scott White – there are 14 founding directors in all – was to build the community foundation’s focus from the ground up.

The idea was that, through focus groups and facilitated community meetings, the foundation would come to understand the common philanthropic will of all of us, and chart a strategy accordingly.

Then, the coronavirus arrived.

Faced with a countywide manifestation of an international catastrophe, the foundation board decided the time to act is now, and launched, as its first undertaking, the “COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund for Otsego County” to help the stricken, the frontline workers who help them, and the jobless.

In the planning process, enough money was initially raised to cover all administrative costs. All funds donated – each and every one of us should give something, large or small – will be channeled to existing non-profits with focused and success track records in meeting the challenge at hand.

Few of us are fortunate enough to do the vast good that Jane Forbes Clark and Jessie Dewar are doing or did. But together, all 59,493 of us, can do significant good. Let’s do it.


EDITORIAL Reprinted From This Week’s

Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal



He’s Ready For White House;

Americans Ready For Him

Governor Cuomo at the Baseball Hall of Fame, May 22, 2014. Cuomo was late, and missed President Obama. ( photo)

Andrew Cuomo for president.

Already, he seems presidential,  never more than this past Monday in announcing his collaboration with five other Northeast governors in a multi-state council “to restore the economy and get people back to work.”

Let’s do it.

In the five weeks of New York State’s fight against the coronavirus invasion, the governor’s shown all the qualities of leadership. He’s told the truth, good and bad. He’s had a plan. He declared a State of Emergency and implemented its most Draconian measures, unstintingly. He’s been decisive. He’s been human, and at times actually humorous.

County Avoids ‘Reactive, Emotional’ Measures Here


County Avoids ‘Reactive,

Emotional’ Measures Here

Visitors Asked To Take Sensible

Steps To Protect Themselves, Us

By now you’ve heard about Rhode Island: Last Friday, it had state police stopping cars with New York license plates at the state line, and instructing passengers they must self-quarantine for 14 days if they planned to stay in Ocean State.

The next day, National Guard troops went door to door in coastal areas, advising any Empire Staters who
had gotten out of Dodge, NY, of the quarantine.

The New York Post highlighted Rhode Island’s measures against Empire Staters.

“I want to be crystal clear about this: If you’re coming to Rhode Island from New York, you are ordered into quarantine … More than half of the cases of coronavirus in America are in New York,” Gov. Gina Raimondo told the New York Post.

The other day, our friend (and columnist) Adrian Kuzminski forwarded a Washington Post article headlined: “A plea from rural America: Urban COVID-19 refugees, please stay home,” by David Yamamoto, county commissioner of Tillamook County, Ore.

“Thousands of urban visitors descended on our villages, with cars lined up for miles on highways to the coast. Once here, the out-of-towners swarmed our grocery stores and cleared the shelves,” he wrote.

He added later, “Near Mammoth Lakes, Calif., the tensions between locals and outsiders have gotten so bad that one of the county supervisors said recently she’s worried that ‘someone is going to get shot’.”

And, “This past week, the White House coronavirus task force asked everyone who’s recently left New York City to self-quarantine for 14 days after new infections started appearing in the Hamptons and other popular refuges in the area. The spread has made Long Island locals so angry that one suggested small-town residents should “blow up the bridges.”

By contrast, “Safer at Home,” a statement – see Page A4 – from the Otsego County Coronavirus Task Force released by county Board Chair Dave Bliss over the weekend, is mild, as befits our local situation. After all, many of the “out of towners” around here have been part-time residents – summers, holidays and weekends – for decades. They’re part of the picture.

A couple of the suggestions are fine, but probably unenforceable: How would landlords and hotel/motel operators ensure their tenants are “following Governor Cuomo’s, President Trump’s and the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines”?

Likewise, to require people traveling into the area to advise the county Health Department is undoubtedly admissible under the state of emergency, but how can we be sure they get the message and know who to call? The Health Department is a pretty busy place these days, and getting through the switchboard there isn’t always easy.

That said, the crux of the statement is solid: When you get to town, self-quarantine for 14 days. If fever, coughing and shortness of breath occur, call a doctor, or the Bassett hotline, 607-547-5555.

It’s hard to believe, but 14 days passed last Saturday, March 28, since Bliss declared the county a state of emergency to smooth out local implementation of state and national emergencies declared the day before.

Anyone who has punctiliously followed the recommendations – self-isolate, monitor members of the household, keep strangers at a 6-foot distance, wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer – are largely out of danger, as long as he or she continues to follow the recommendations.

But with state Sen. Jim Seward and his wife, Cindy, both coming down with coronavirus in the past few days, vigilance – as Bliss underscored – can’t be overemphasized.

The sad passing of our first neighbor, Brenda Utter, 56, of Morris on Thursday, March 26, is a case in point: Five days before, said her husband Phillip, she was fine. He’s tested positive, even though he has none of the symptoms.
We regular folks can’t be 100 percent sure of anything.

The good news is as of Tuesday morning, the New York Times was following the worst-case scenario in predicting 100,000 to 200,000 deaths.
A Wall Street Journal editorial, following the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, using the so-called Murray model, was estimating 81,114 deaths over the next four months, “with 95 percent confidence that the number would be between 38,242 and 162,106.”

So we’re not out of the woods yet, although there are signs things are turning around: New York State’s infections are growing, but the infection rate is dropping.

So there’s no reason to lose our heads.

In the New York Post, Governor Cuomo called Raimundo’s actions “reactionary” and unconstitutional, saying he’d sue Rhode Island if the policy isn’t rescinded but believed they could “work it out.”

“I understand the goal … but there’s a point of absurdity, and I think what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity,” said Cuomo. “We have to keep the ideas and the policies we implement positive rather than reactionary and emotional.”

“Reactionary and emotional,” that’s what’s most to be avoided. And the local Coronavirus Task Force’s statement clearly does that. As it seems in most every step the task force has taken to date, there’s reason for Otsego County to look to the future with expectations of hard time, but confidence things will get better, perhaps sooner than later.

Job One, Beat Coronavirus; Job Two, Limit The Harm


Job One, Beat Coronavirus;

Job Two, Limit The Harm

Governor Cuomo tells CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Sunday, March 22: “The lesson was loud and clear. Do everything you can as soon as you can, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here in New York.”

As a community, we face two tasks.

Job One is to tackle the coronavirus threat.

As evident in closing schools and colleges, local governments and business, in our adherence to “social distancing,” and in Bassett Hospital’s pro-active agenda, there is community-wide commitment to that.

Governor Cuomo, who has been at his best since the crisis loomed, put it well Sunday, March 22, in his interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “In New York, we have already closed every valve that we can close. We learned from China. We learned from South Korea, and Italy.

“The lesson was loud and clear. Do everything you can as soon as you can, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here in New York. I can’t do anything else. I’m at zero non-essential workers. You can’t go below zero. So we have everything off.

“Now, we keep testing. We keep tracking the positives. Isolate the positives. Slow the spread. Increase the hospital capacity and in the meantime, get the darn masks and ventilators and the PPE equipment.”
In Otsego County, as in New York State at large, let’s continue doing all we can do.

Job Two is to limit the long-term damage.

With the welcome news that Italy’s epidemic is beginning to dip, we can be assured that the coronavirus will dissipate.
So, foremost, let’s not act precipitously.

Last week, Governor Cuomo estimated New York State’s challenge would peak in 45 days, in early May. If he’s right, that’s well before the summer season arrives here with Memorial Day Weekend.

The Hall of Fame’s decision to cancel the Classic Weekend in mid-May is defensible. That would be cutting it a little fine.

Cooperstown Dreams Park cancelling its 2020 season is premature, particularly given the economic impact – which, in the end, means impact on people: on retirees who depend on renting their homes, on business people dependent on the summer season, and on our foremost institutions and their employees, dependent on tourist visitations.

In short, pretty much everyone.

Cooperstown All-Star Village in West Oneonta has adopted a better model – “The Patton Plan,” if you will.

Owner Marty Patton is moving forward incrementally. Depending on how the challenge looks in early May, All-Star Village may or may not cancel its first week, June 5-11. The second week in May, the decision will be made whether to cancel the second week of youth-baseball tournaments, June 12-18. And so on.

Variations on “The Patton Plan” are no doubt being considered by The Fenimore and Farmers’ museums, Glimmerglass Opera, and the Hall itself as it looks ahead to July 26 and the prospective record-breaking induction of Derek Jeter.

Act if you must, but not immediately. All is not lost.

Running off county-by-county numbers on “The Coronavirus Economic Impact,” the New York State Association of
Counties (NYSAC), is estimating Otsego County’s government stands to lose $1,968,867 in sales-tax revenues alone, equivalent to about 20 percent of the tax levy.

That translates into $49,221,682 in lost sales – gasoline, restaurants, souvenirs – and doesn’t count lost occupancy tax on hotels and lodging, also substantial.

Apply the multiplier of 3 as money moves through the local economy, and that loss – even without lodging – would translate into $150 million, or $2,500 for every man, woman and child in the county.

That’s NYSAC’s “mild scenario.”

Job One is Job One – saving lives.

Let’s adhere to Governor Cuomo’s regimen, and give our healthcare community – the doctors, nurses and hospital staff, who are emerging as the heroes of this crisis – all the support we can.

But let’s look ahead to the job that awaits, and – with patience, prudence – minimize the long-term impact of a short-term crisis on the county that we love.

Rah, Team! Beat Coronavirus!


Rah, Team!

Beat Coronavirus!

There’s been a lot of great reporting, nationally, regionally and from local newspapers and TV, but this one was particularly helpful in helping we Otsego County folks sort out the crisis we find ourselves in.

The Wall Street Journal over the weekend contrasted how South Korea and Italy responded to the corona-virus arrival “South Korea’s known infections are now stabilizing at about 8,000, whereas Italy’s are rising relentlessly past 17,000,” reported Timothy W. Martin from Seoul and Marcus Walker from Rome. As of last Friday, there were 67 deaths in South Korea; Italy’s tally was 1,266, “far higher.”

Part of this is cultural.

Confucianism gives the state a freer hand “to intrude in people’s lives,” Tufts Professor Lee Sung-yoon was quoted saying. It puts “the good of the nation above individualism.”

It’s another story in “easygoing Italy.” The World Health Organization’s Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist, said, “There’s a premium in the individualistic Western mind to be defiant.”

In the U.S., of course, both human traits are evident, from the current Presidential campaign to our local neighbors: glorification of liberty on one hand, concerns about government control on the other.

The other part was practicality, allied with forceful action.

Tracing the initial infestation to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the government quickly tested all 100,000 church members, and is now conducting 15,000 tests daily, with diagnoses within six hours.

Italy has 20,000 more people, and is only carrying out 3,000 tests a day.

Here’s the very good news.

South Korea “accepted” by mid-February that Coronavirus had arrived. With its full-court press, the infestation peaked on Feb. 29.

That means, Coronavirus (COVID-19) is beatable. It’s still early for us: The first case in the U.S. was identified only on March 5.
President Trump’s declaration Friday of a National Emergency, following Governor Cuomo’s declaration the weekend before and county board Chairman Dave Bliss’s subsequent one, are essential steps in the right direction.

Widespread closures – locally and everywhere else – that followed over the weekend signal the message has been heard.

The widely distributed graphic that accompanies this editorial illustrates the current challenge: If Coronavirus spikes (the red part), medical facilities will be overwhelmed. If the curve can be flattened (the blue part), Coronavirus can be handled more routinely. Managed away, if you will.

Perhaps that can’t happen as quickly as in South Korea. The U.S. has 320 million people to South Korea’s 51 million, and spread over a much larger area.

While we get there, let’s handle the temporary restrictions as we generally have, with calm and a sense of responsibility to our neighbors, and the nation at large.

Locally, it was particularly heartening to hear from Bassett Healthcare President/CEO Bill Streck at that Friday, March 13, press conference: A team has been in place in the Cooperstown hospital since mid-January, only two weeks after China notified the WHO of the Wuhan outbreak, preparing for an eventuality that is now a reality.

Well done.

Let’s not be Pollyannas, but let’s look ahead with confidence that this too shall pass – sooner or later. Preferably sooner.

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