News of Otsego County

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


Doesn’t That Sound Better Than A Mantra Of Hate?

Doesn’t That Sound Better

Than A Mantra Of Hate?

All this talk about hate. Maybe it’s different in a rural enclave like Otsego County, but how often in the course of a week or month or year do any of us come face to face with something we can define as “hate.”

Yet Governor Cuomo, last Thursday, Aug. 21, in announcing our state will be the first in the nation to enact a “Hate Crimes Domestic Terrorism Act” (see excerpt below), used the word “hate” 22 times.

Yes, you might suspect the whole idea is part of some hidden agenda, since nobody knows what our governor’s ambitions are.
But he used the word “attack”

13 times, and words with the letters “t-e-r-r-o-r” 17 times.
Come on.

Let’s try to put this in some sort of perspective.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified about 1,000 “hate groups” in the country. But say each has 250 members – a stretch for such organizations as, for instance, Truth in Textbooks in Boerne, Texas.

That’s 250,000 people. A lot, but just 0.1 percent of the 250 million adult Americans.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to, say, the number of high school students who lovingly volunteer on community projects.
Shucks, there are 2.3 million Boy Scouts.

Yes, a nut with an AK47 can’t be ignored.

How is New York going to define itself? By hate, or ♥?

General German Reporting For Duty


Otsego Countian In Congress? Nice!

General German

Reporting For Duty

General German in Antarctica, where a glacier was named in his honor.

If Adjutant Gen. (ret.) Anthony P. German is elected congressman from New York State’s 19th District, you can bet we will be the only district represented by someone who has an iceberg named after him.  (As commander of the state’s Air National Guard, his pilots collaborated with the National Science Foundation’s Antarctica Program.)

Also, he would be the first Otsego Countian to represent us in over a century, since Republican George W. Fairchild, 1907-1919, Oneonta Herald publisher and, later, first chairman of the fledgling IBM board of directors.  (As congressman, he hosted Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Taft at his mansion, now Oneonta’s Masonic Temple.  Cool.)

Before him, a Republican father-son hops-growing and banking combination – two David Wilbers, also from Oneonta by way of Milford – served off and on for several terms in the second half of the 19th century.

And, of course, William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown (and The Freeman’s Journal, Hometown Oneonta’s sister publication), served two terms as a Federalist, in 1795-97 and 1799-1801.

It’s past time to get our political mojo back.

With Determination, Discipline The Whartons Led The Way


‘There are no Caucasians present, though it would be difficult to distinguish them from many of those mingling in the mix of multi-hued wedding guests. Without exception, the guests are dressed fashionably, with stylish attire and stunning jewelry. The men are doctors, lawyers and undertakers; the women are school teachers and social workers … (The) waitstaff make their way through the crowd, bearing silver trays laden with chicken and crab croquettes, creamed sweetbreads on toast points, and slices of Virginia ham rolled with water cress – to accompany the Champagne punch served in crystal cups. Such is the life of many accomplished upper-middle-class Negroes along the Eastern Seaboard in the 1920s and 1930s.”

DOLORES WHARTON, from “A Multicultured Life”

With Determination, Discipline

The Whartons Led The Way

Dolores Wharton’s memoir, “A Multicultured Life,” will be available Sept. 1 on and

The quote, above, is Dolores Wharton’s earliest memory, recounted in “A Multicultured Life,” an engaging, irresistible memoir of not quite a century of American life, as she – in tandem with husband Clifton R. Wharton, Jr., the former SUNY chancellor (and much more) – moved from the nation’s black aristocracy to the heights of the American mainstream – in academe, industry and government.

Theirs is a soaring life story, of hard work, discipline, determination – and achievement.

Her husband was son of the first black U.S. ambassador (to Norway, 1961-64).  He was a Harvard grad with a University of Chicago Ph.D., a Rockefeller envoy to South America and Malaysia, Michigan State president, then SUNY chancellor, TIAA-CREF CEO and reinventor, deputy secretary of State, and retiree to Cooperstown (summers and weekends year ’round), where he’s served on Bassett’s and other key community boards.

He recounted his astonishing career in a 2015 memoir, “Privilege & Prejudice,” a title that encompasses all the opportunities and obstacles to overcome.

Take Control! Consider Otsego Lake Association


Take Control! Consider

Otsego Lake Association

Annual Meeting at 9 a.m. This Saturday

Otsego Lake Association Co-Presidents David Sanford, left, and Jim Howarth, right, chat with boat stewards Sierra Stickney, Oneonta, and Luis Suatoni, Springfield Center, at the boat-cleaning station at Cooperstown’s Lakefront Park. (Jim Kevlin/

With so many areas of American life seemingly spinning out of control, there’s a contrary example in the Otsego Lake Association (OLA).

Its “100-percent volunteers,” according to Jim Howarth, co-president with David Sanford, are focused on a common mission: “Protecting the health, beauty and wellbeing” of the lake.

OLA stalwart Paul Lord shows a sample of the
European Frog Bit, Otsego Lake’s latest invasive.

Listening to them, it’s clear:  Local volunteers, working together, can get a lot done.

There are larger non-profit, governmental and educational entities focused on the wellbeing of James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass, a national environmental icon – the OCCA, Otsego 2000, SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station (BFS), the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, to name only a few – but the nimble OLA is a PT boat amid, if not aircraft carriers, the mid-size cruisers.

In advance of its annual meeting – this Saturday, Aug. 10, at Cooperstown’s Fairy Spring Park on East Lake Road; coffee and donuts at 8:30 a.m., with the meeting at 9-11 a.m., including conferring the annual Lake Citizen Award – Howarth and Sanford stopped by the other day to help raise the visibility of a story of accomplishment.

Like many OLA members, the two motivations came out of many happy personal experiences. Sanford recalls when commercial fishing was still allowed on the lake, and a daily staple at the Cooperstown Diner was Otsego Bass caught that morning. A student at SUNY Oneonta in the 1970s, Howarth remembers renting a motorbike from Thayer’s at $5 a day to take his future bride Susan onto the lake. Or a canoe ride, $2 a day.

Marijuana Law Prudent Step. Maybe, Just Maybe, Enough


Marijuana Law Prudent Step.

Maybe, Just Maybe, Enough

This year’s wild and crazy one-party bloc in Albany may have, by failing to reach it’s ultimate goal, achieved a sensible outcome in one area.

Governor Cuomo Monday, July 29, signed legislation that reduces the penalty for unlawful possession of marijuana under 2 ounces from felony to violation.

The penalty: a $50 fine for less than an ounce to a maximum of $200 for one to 2 ounces. (Above that, dealing’s involved, and stronger penalties kick in.)

It also erases the records of people convicted of possessing small amounts in the past. You may remember: The original goal of the Democratic majority was to create a massive commercial enterprise, with pot stores peppering Main Streets from Brooklyn to Butternuts.

Greed – how to split the huge anticipated revenues – and suburban soccer moms created an impasse.
Pot, of course, is part of our modern landscape. Sending junior to the Big House on finding a joint in his pocket is nonsense. So is creating another Big Tobacco – Big Pot?

Maybe the measure Cuomo signed Monday is just enough. Let’s leave it alone for a while and see how it plays out.

What Is It About Flags, Anyhow?


What Is It About

Flags, Anyhow?

The First Amendment is pretty clear:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Operative phrase:  “No law.”

The devil, of course, is in the details, beginning with “shouting fire in a crowded theater,” the metaphor used by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. in 1919 to suggest the First Amendment must be subject to sensible limitation.

Issue One: Sale of Confederate flags or merchandise bearing the image of the flag at county fairs.

In particular, a group, Fair for All, formed two years ago and has been actively lobbying and demonstrating for a ban at the Delaware County Fair.

The latest development came April 29, when the Delco fair board, under pressure from Cooperative Extension, and the state’s Attorney General and Department of Ag & Markets, agreed to ban the “display” of Confederate flags and related merchandise, but not their sale.

At last report, the Otsego County Fair had banned the symbol, but wasn’t enforcing the policy.

The Stars & Bars, of course, is freighted with multiple interpretations.  Is it simply a dramatic graphic, or a symbol of thumbing one’s nose at authority, per “The Dukes of Hazzard,” or an expression of ignorance if its Civil War roots, or an overt or subconscious expression of racism.

To the point it’s an intentional provocation to violence, it would be covered by Justice Holmes’ stricture.  Short of that, it’s one of the aggravations of living in a free society.

From a practical standpoint, if you find the Confederate flag objectionable, stay away from county fairs for the time being.

Issue Two: Flying the Pride Flag.

The Cooperstown Village Board, and its newest trustee, MacGuire Benton, should be congratulated for agreeing to be – it appears – the first Upstate New York municipality to trumpet acceptance by unanimously voting to fly the Pride Flag on Village Hall next June, which is Pride Month.

If the First Amendment means nothing else, it’s live and let live.

That said, the trustees would be wise to place their action in the context of a defensible policy.

While calling approval of his resolution “awesome,” the freshman trustee also suggested how things might get sticky:  “There are flags that are indisputably racist, indisputably bigoted and don’t reflect the values of the majority of Cooperstown.  I certainly wouldn’t support that.”

Certainly, but lacking a policy, does the Village Board have the standing to block any request that is less than “indisputable??

For instance, what if the local chapter of the National Right to Life petitions to fly its flag at 22 Main?  Or NARAL, the National Abortion Rights League?

What if one religious denomination seeks to have a flag hoisted?  Does the Village Board have the standing to say no?  Then what about other religions, represented in the village or not, or the irreligious?

The Village Board shouldn’t be deciding whose First Amendments Rights get precedence.  By trying to do so, is it opening itself – and, thus, taxpayers – to the possibility of expensive legal challenge?

Of course – “fingers crossed” – none of that may ever happen.  But is “fingers crossed” a basis for good governance?

The Lofts May Fulfill Dream Of A Renewed Downtown

The Lofts May Fulfill Dream

Of A Renewed Downtown

The Lofts On Dietz is being proposed by developers Ken and Sean Kearney.

Speaking of development, The Lofts On Dietz, artist studios and middle-income apartments proposed for downtown Oneonta, is simply thrilling.

The developer – a father-son combination, Ken and Sean Kearney, principals in Parkview Development Inc. – have completed two similar projects, in Beacon and Poughkeepsie,

The father outlined the project to Common Council July 16, and to the city’s Planning Commission the following evening, and came across as seasoned, knowledgeable and level-headed.

Dave Hutchison, long-time member of the city’s Environmental Board, asked that it achieve a net-zero energy status, and use a
geothermal system.

As of now, city codes don’t require that, but Kearney said he will discuss the possibility with his NYSERDA-approved consultant.

Fine, but energy isn’t the only issue, or even the foremost.

Until now, despite DRI status and many millions committed to the city center’s rebirth, it’s been theoretical.
This is real. It’s been done elsewhere. It can – and will – happen, it we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot.

No Land For Apartment Complex? Harrumph!


No Land For Apartment Complex?


No room for an apartment complex in the Village of Cooperstown? What about the “Where It Began” warehouse at Main and Grove? ( photo)

“The Grove” developer Josh Edmonds did the right thing Wednesday, July 17, in withdrawing his application for a 12-unit apartment building between Pine Boulevard, one of the Village of Cooperstown’s finest streets, and lower Chestnut.

It promised to be a long fight, with no certain end.

…the former CVS building at 100 Main St. It’s on the market.

As reported here before, Edmonds has figured out the home of the future – energy efficient, bright, supremely comfortable – and has built a half-dozen of them already in northern Otsego County, including one for his family at the end of Delaware Street.
This guy understands the future; but feeling pushback from residents – some prospective customers, no doubt – he sensibly pulled back.
No matter: His inevitable success won’t depend on a particular site. Besides, there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere in the village, for him and for others.
For instance, just days before his announcement, the former CVS at 100 Main, vacant for two years, went up for sale. It’s one-story, but zoned for two more stories of possible housing. What’s more, the concrete basement may be easily adapted for parking.
Now, THAT would be a showpiece for whatever Josh Edmonds might do.

Fans, Cooperstown Spent $10-15 Million Preparing For You


Fans, Cooperstown

Spent $10-15 Million

Preparing For You

Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch stands in Pioneer Park, the next focus of Village of Cooperstown improvements. (Jim Kevlin/

Welcome, Induction attendees!  Will there really be more than a record-breaking 84,000 of us?  Excitement.

If you’re been here before, look around: You will see many changes and improvements to Cooperstown’s downtown that have occurred since the last record-setter, when Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn set the record for attendance in 2008.

If you came then, you might be astonished by what you see now. Then, all the sidewalks were cracked.  Main Street needed paving.  The whole downtown had a bit of a well-worn sense about it – endearing, yes, but still…

Beginning in 2012, that began to change quickly.

Now-Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch remembers being a bit nonplussed at her first Village Board budget meeting after being elected a trustees in March 2011.

“The budget wasn’t balancing very well,” she recalled the other day.  “There was a big surplus in the Water Fund, and $400,000 had to be shifted from Water into the General Fund” just to stay even.

“That was maintenance level,” she said.

The next year, the village trustees made a decision after the most angrily debated local issue in decades:  In the face of a sharply divided electorate, they voted to extend paid parking to all downtown streets between Labor Day Weekend and Columbus Day Weekend.

Almost immediately, Village Hall’s financial picture brightened.

The first year, paid parking added $250,000 to the $5 million village budget, and that’s continued to grow in the years since to $400,000 in the fiscal year that ended May 31.  Village taxes haven’t gone up in five years.

At the same time, a freshman Village Trustee (now Deputy Mayor) Cindy Falk, began developing prowess in grantsmanship.  Successes soon followed:

  • In 2013-14, a $600,000 state Green Innovation Grant paid for “rain gardens” around newly planted trees. In part, the idea was to slow runoff into Otsego Lake and the Susquehanna River. The first brick sidewalks were also installed.
  • About the same time, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $2.2 million for downtown enhancements, from repaving, to sidewalks, to redone and new lampposts (with LED lights), to street furniture, on Main but also on Pioneer.
  • The final step will come this fall: Narrowing the Main and Chestnut intersection, adding walk/don’t walk signs, and generally making it less scary to pedestrians. (If you’ve tried to cross there, you know what we mean.)
  • Local money, $1.2 million, was used for more routine projects, albeit important: the replacing of water lines and sewerage under Pioneer Street dating back to the 1880s.
  • A $5.8 million renovation of historic Doubleday Field, the symbolic – if not actual – Birthplace of Baseball is now underway. Go and take a look.

In all, Falk estimates $10-15 million has been spent to make this village of 1,769 people more welcoming to a half-million visitors a year.

Throughout this period, now-retired Trustee Lou Allstadt led the charge on upgrading the historic Village Hall.  Stop by and take a look, and stop by the library and Cooperstown Art Association gallery while you’re at it.

No one has a ready tally of all this.  $5 million.  $10 million.  Maybe more.  Whatever, a lot for a village of

There’s more still to come, particularly at Pioneer Park (Main and Pioneer), where initial work – a bike rack and water found – has already begun.

A stage is planned against the Tunnicliff Inn side wall for the popular “Music on Main” programs during the summer. Brick pavers will add handicapped accessibility.  And landscape – a London plane tree and birches – will be added, three lampposts and new furniture.

“We all recognized new sources of revenues were needed, and aggressive grant application, to take care of infrastructure that was just going to deteriorate,” Tillapaugh said, who was fully involved in all of this as deputy mayor to Jeff Katz, who retired from office a year ago April 1, and now as mayor herself.­

She also pointed out that merging village court into Otsego Town Court, and repositioning the municipal library as a school-district library, paid for by a separate levy, further helped the village’s financial picture.

The free-wheeling nature of the 2008 Ripken-Gwynn weekend is no more.  Everywhere you’ll see high-security measures: from temporary iron fences to such additions as $4,000 trash cans that can be locked during the Legends of Baseball parade Saturday evening.  You’ll also notice a much greater police presence.

Regrettably, that’s the nature of our post-9/11 world, intensified after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.  It can’t be helped for now; maybe in a better world to come.  We can at least be assured that state-of-the-art measures are in place to ensure the security of the at-least 84,001 of us this weekend.

Enjoy – the Induction of Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines and Lee Smith will likely be one for the record book.  In beautified downtown Cooperstown this weekend, we may be participating in history.


County Board’s ‘Green Light’ Resolution Was Litmus Test – And Democrats Failed It

EDITORIAL • July 11-12, 2019

County Board’s ‘Green Light’

Resolution Was Litmus Test

– And Democrats Failed It

First, it should be said that there’s a troubling lack of interest this year in running for the Otsego County Board of Representatives, whose reach, from road building to social services, touches all 60,094 of us.

In the 14 districts, there are only three contests coming out of the June 25 primary:

  • In District 2, the one-term Democrat, former Morris Town Board member Michele Farwell, is being challenged by Marcia Hoag, a former Pittsfield Town Board member who is running on the Voice of the People line, but says she is allied with Republicans.
  • In District 3, where former board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego/Laurens, is retiring. Republican Rick Brockway, a retired ferrier and outdoor columnist, and Democrat Caitlin Ogden, a Baseball Hall of Fame grantsman, are both newcomers running for the vacant seat.
  • In District 14, where Democrat Jill Basile and Wilson Wells, a Libertarian, are seeking to succeed Democrat Liz Shannon, who is retiring.

Contrast that with 2017, when 12 of the 14 seats were contested, and there were some humdingers.

In Sam Nader’s Story, American Dream Lives


In Sam Nader’s Story,

American Dream Lives

Sam Nader

Sam Nader has that rare gift: When you talk to him, you feel there’s no one other than you he’d rather be talking to.

That, of course, is only one of the secrets of his success – there are many facets to his personality and accomplishment. Part of the rest of the secret is the City of Oneonta itself.

In the years before World War II, it was an exciting vital place, with locomotives streaming in and out of the largest roundhouse in the world, the streets busy, people working, even in the Depression to a great degree – the railroads had to move.

In the Sixth Ward, new arrivals – Italians, Russians, Poles, Lebanese like the Naders – were becoming Americans, celebrating America, adding their strains of culture, and family life, and religion, and food – all of it – to a changing nation.

After Pearl Harbor, virtually every able-bodied young man went to war and they returned – the ordeal behind them – to the city they called home, loved like a home can only be loved. And then, they prospered amid the admiration of their grateful fellow citizens.

For decades, Oneonta was a city of out-sized men, soldiers, citizens and friends, the sons of the war and often their fathers.

Bombardier Sid Levine, businessman, philanthropist and Sam Nader’s partner in the Oneonta Yankees, comes to mind. B-24 pilot Lloyd Baker, the revered OHS athletic director and principal.

The cheerful Tony Mongillo, Navy radio man on an aircraft carrier, who recorded his hometown’s
history in pen for the rest of his life.

Gordie Roberts, another B-24 pilot who returned home to dominate the insurance field; to the end (in 2010) he seemed to be everywhere.

Everyone knew these men, admired them and – even more unusual, liked them. Even loved them.

Time’s taken its toll. Today, two of the titans remain.

Tony Drago, 98, who returned from WWII to become Oneonta’s winningest coach, his OHS basketball team’s 1959-60 undefeated season still to be surpassed.

The other is Sam Nader, Drago’s friend of 85 years, who is turning 100 years old on Monday, July 8.
In everything he did, Sam Nader succeeded. At Bendix (now Amphenol), he was a counselor and mentor to many young Oneontans as he rose through the ranks to director of purchasing.

In love, the son of immigrants wooed a descendant of Oneonta’s first families, and their wedding at Colliscroft, the Greek revival  mansion named for Collis Huntington, who from Oneonta became one of California’s Big Four, signaled the jointure of River and Walnut streets.

If not everyone got it, Sam’s elevation to mayor, despite being rebuffed by the then-dominant Republican Party, completed the inclusion of the “Lower Deck” immigrant families into the mainstream of Oneonta life.

Then in his baseball successes – he transformed Damaschke Field into Yankee Stadium North for a quarter-century – Oneonta got to know the National Pastime’s heroes, and the heroes Oneonta – simply cemented a legacy.

Sam Nader will be honored in various ways in the days ahead, with a proclamation from
Mayor Gary Herzig, “Sam Nader Day” in Damaschke Field, beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday,
July 13 – and much more.

When the celebrations pass, Sam Nader’s story will still be a gift to Oneonta and surrounding communities: That despite the current cynicism all around us, Sam Nader’s grit, hard work, humor, love of family and community was rewarded with success.

In Sam Nader’s story, the American Dream lives.

Village Trustees:  Keep Cooperstown Cooperstown


Village Trustees:  Keep

Cooperstown Cooperstown

The Grove, a 12-unit apartment house, is planned in this copse of woods between Chestnut Street and Pine Boulevard, a half-block from the downtown. (Jim Kevlin/

A sitting-room-only-on-the-floor crowd Monday, June 24, at the Cooperstown Village Board’s monthly meeting had a point: Why put an apartment house in the middle of one of the village’s finest single-family-home neighborhoods?

There it is. That said, who doesn’t have some mixed feelings, given that the developer, Josh Edmonds, intends to build a complex that is supremely energy efficient, as is his new home at 45 Delaware St., and to price it so young families with incomes in the $54,000 range can afford it?

10 Chestnut St. includes this building, formerly Smith Cooperstown, before the Ford dealership moved south of the village.

Nonetheless, don’t village trustees have a stewardship responsibility: to preserve Cooperstown as it is known and loved? Do they have to destroy the village to save it?

With some emotion, Sherrie Kingsley, co-proprietor of the Inn at Cooperstown with her husband Marc, read a letter he co-signed that contained a chilling conclusion: Concerned about “our quality of life as well as the value of our properties,” the couple had met that morning with Altonview Architects to discuss how they might convert two houses they own, 12 Chestnut and 180 Main, into apartments if necessary.

Who knows how many others would do the same?

Energy Amity Not Easy, Chamber Policy Shows


Energy Amity Not Easy,

Chamber Policy Shows

The Otsego Chamber of Commerce’s “Energy & Infrastructure Policy,” released last Thursday, June 13.  The title sounds innocuous enough.

In effect, it is rank-and-file business owners’ Declaration of Independence.

The whole of the Otsego Chamber’s new policy appears in this newspaper, beginning at right.  Read it.  But there are a couple of key paragraphs.

The first makes common cause with every sensible person’s aspirations:

“As we head toward the inevitable move to renewable energy, the Chamber will continue to support and help implement all forms of energy including wind, solar, natural gas, hydro as well as geothermal, ground and air source heat pumps. The Chamber will also help connect businesses … with organizations that can perform energy audits and make upgrades that can help decrease energy usage as well as providing information for rebates and financing options.  The Chamber can work with elected officials and state agencies … to implement renewable energies and technologies.”

Knocked Off Ballot, Brothers/Candidates Still Love Oneonta


Knocked Off Ballot,


Still Love Oneonta

Before you dump a Big Gulp in a downtown flower box, watch out for brothers Nate, left, and Eric Roberts: They take it personally.

Oneonta’s Roberts brothers have a point. Actually, they have a lot of points.

Walking down Oneonta’s Main Street sidewalk after an interview the other day, it was either Nate or Eric who pointed at the sidewalk and said, “That’s what we mean.”

He was pointing at a trail of dog droppings.

Four days before, someone had vomited in front of a nearby establishment. The vomit was still there.

And cigarette butts – count ‘em. No, there are too many to count.

“The ordinances aren’t being kept up with,” Nate said.

The Roberts brothers had been planning to run for Common Council, Nate in Ward 4 (north of Walnut Street) and Eric in Ward 8 (both sides of Lettis Highway and the downtown.)

But Democrats – Kathy Meeker in the Fourth and outgoing Council member Joe Ficano in the Eighth – challenged them on the party’s behalf, and the county Board of Elections last week removed the Robertses from the ballot.

Too bad, because the main impetus for their campaigns was the deterioration they see around them.

For instance, Nate, 36, an entrepreneur – he operates Serenity Hobbies in the former Alpine Ski Hut – reports two men, either drunk or drugged up or both, in broad daylight, “yelling at cars and pedestrians in front of my store.”

He called the OPD. Fifteen minutes later, an officer still hadn’t arrived. By then, the men were taking off their shoes and throwing them at passing cars. Nate called again.

Another 15 minutes. By the time an officer arrived, the two troublemakers had “dispersed on their own.”

Eric, 34, obtained his master gardener certificate from Oregon State, returned home a couple of years ago and is a landscape management technician for City Hall.

When he sees a Big Gulp overturned in a downtown flower bed, he takes it personally.

City Hall will tell you, “You can use our public spaces,” said Eric, adding, “I haven’t seen a single professional having lunch in Muller Plaza since I got back.”

Moms with baby carriages cross the street to avoid the homeless, panhandlers and guys bumming
cigarettes, he said.

Smoking, drinking and littering are supposed to be prohibited in the city’s lovely parks – Neahwa, Wilber and the rest, but it’s routine, said Eric, who spends his working days there.

A single officer walking the Main Street beat from 9 to 5 would resolve much of this, said Nate. “What happened to the bike cops?” added Eric.

The Robertses have interesting personal stories. Both graduated from Edmeston Central, but their dad was food manager at RSS’ Oneonta Bagel Company for 17 years, so they frequented the city since boyhood. (Nate has been doing the job part-time for the past several months.)

The brothers were drawn to the City of the Hills by its music scene – bands aplenty from SUNY’s Music Industry Department, and venues aplenty.

“We want to create that opportunity again,” said Nate.

In college, Eric got a call from a pal in a band that needed a bass guitar, and spent 10 years on the road, with the combo winning gold and even platinum disks. Nate spent time in New York City, and ran a booking service for a while when he got back to town.

As it happens, Nate was inspired to run for Common Council when the two attended a meeting alerting the city fathers they plan to open The Pale Horse Public House in what was formerly The Alley on Water Street

Yes, there will be live music.

This could go on. For instance, the two are bruised by the challenges from the Democratic Party – Eric had double the required signatures; Nate triple – and have a lot to say about the process. For instance, if a double signature is stricken, it should be stricken from the Democratic or Republican petitions too.

Common Council has come through a pretty sleepy time. When was the last time a Council member proposed an exciting initiative from the floor? Committee meetings are routinely
cancelled for lack of a quorum or agenda items. What’s going on?

After the Nov. 5 elections (a primary  is June 25), the Robertses won’t be there to add pizzaz, but five of the incumbents are leaving and there are plenty of candidates vying to replace them. So maybe we’ll see some Roberts-style freshmen.

Sure, the DRI – the state’s Downtown Redevelopment Inititiative – has sucked up a lot of the oxygen. Little’s been done, and next month it will be three years since state Economic Development czar Howard Zemsky – he resigned a couple of weeks ago – announced the $10 million grant.

While we wait, must great be the enemy of good? Listening to the brothers, routine enforcement needs beefing up, a little broken-window policing, maybe.

Most entrancing about the Robertses was, despite their specific complaints, they love Oneonta. Now home again, they don’t intend to leave. There’s a lot of that, and that’s an asset.

As Eric put it, “The city isn’t the way I remember it. It’s gone.” But he added, “I don’t want to say anything bad. It needs help.”


Legal Marijuana Will Enslave Many


Legal Marijuana

Will Enslave Many

Marijuana is many times more powerful than it used to be and a danger – particularly to our children, Ben Cort, a substance-abuse and marijuana-commercializatoin expert from Colorado told a LEAF-sponsored forum locally. (Jennifer Hill/

A visitor to Otsego County from Vermont a few days ago described what seems to be a sensible end to marijuana prosecutions in the Green Mountain State.

Smoking pot has been decriminalized, not legalized.  Folks who smoke it are allowed to grow enough for their own use.  End of discussion.  Live and let live.

Alas, poor New York State, where we’re focused, not on live and let live, but on extracting the maximum in revenues from a prospective $3 billion industry and spreading it around among our partisan friends.

After months of smoke and fiery rhetoric over marijuana legalization, Governor Cuomo Monday, June 3, doused hopes, saying it probably won’t happen this year.

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