“There are no second acts in American lives” has been attributed – some say misattributed – to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Antonio Delgado – as he recounts in his splendid commencement address last weekend at his alma mater, Colgate University – is a contradiction in point.
His experience as hip-hop artist AD, The Voice, which he assesses here for the first time we’ve seen, very well could have ruled him out as a prospective Congressional candidate, particularly – as he puts it – in the 19th Congressional District, which is 90 percent white.
Still, his first-rate credentials – they include a mother’s love, which he touchingly revisited in his speech – plus Colgate, Oxford and Harvard degrees. And his experience – as a litigator, not a lobbyist, he’ll tell you – with a top-flight law firm, certainly qualified him as a successor to the consensus-building Chris Gibson of Kinderhook and – projecting ahead – to the canny and effective Sherwood Boehlert of Greater Utica.
That Delgado is black was, in itself, never disqualifying in the 19th District – certainly, not in Otsego County, which – split a third, a third and a third Republican, Democrat and independent – voted twice for Barack Obama, with folks generally, if not unanimously, thrilled to do so.
There’s a lot going on in the City of Oneonta right now, as City Hall’s DRI (the Downtown Revitalization Initiative) begins distributing $10 million in state money, leveraging it in a way that attracts many millions more in private investment.
Certainly, there are time pressures. There are conflicting agendas. There’s not ever going to be enough money to make everybody happy. Lately, environmentalists are ready to swoop down on any development that may require more energy, (which is every project).
So from time to time, it may be hard to remember this is the fun part.
Editor’s Note: This is reprinted from this week’s Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta editorial pages. Click here for related editorial. What do you think? Letters to the Editor welcome at email@example.com
In a couple of weeks, we won’t remember that Cooperstown’s Main Street is a ghost town from Columbus Day to Memorial Day. The 500,000 visitors will begin arriving in earnest with Dreams Parks’ June 1 opening.
By the time we again become Coopers(ghost)town, the opportunity will have been lost.
The opportunity, of course, is 100 Main St., a gap in the village’s set of most perfect teeth since CVS moved to the southern edge of the village in November 2017 –yes, it’s almost been two years.
If you had driven from Cooperstown to Franklin late Sunday afternoon, you would have been greeted by one lovely scene after another.
The sun had broken through. The brilliant light green trees promised the leaves that may be out by the time you read this, contrasting with the solemn evergreens. That panorama from the top of that back road leading from Otego’s I-88 exit into Franklin was never more sensational.
It felt great be alive, and to be in Upstate New York.
The recently completed state budget contains a measure, championed by Governor Cuomo, that prohibits police departments from releasing mug shots of suspects.
The other day, Monday, April 22, Trooper Aga Dembinska, Trooper C spokesman, declined to release a mug shot of Gabriel Truitt, 33, suspect in the Dec. 29 arson fire on Oneonta’s Walling Avenue, where former city firefighter John Heller was killed.
Dembinska advised that, while the governor has yet to apply his signature to that part of the state budget that will make mug shots closely held in the future, the Department of State Police, which is under the governor’s administration, has put it in place, anticipating its approval.
“No one will get anything from us anymore,” she said. Granted, she and Maj. Brian Shortall, Troop C commander, are simply following orders from headquarters, as they must.
At the time, Truitt was at large. As it happens, he was wandering in our midst. But without the mug shot, how could anyone have identified him? This newspaper circumvented the ban by obtaining Truitt’s mug shot from a 2018 arrest report, but that’s going to be harder to do as time goes on.
Originally, Cuomo had intended to bar release of all police reports, in effect enabling secret arrests, anathema – and historically unprecedented – in our system of open justice. And so is the mugshot ban.
Welcome to the Cheka, Albany style.
In proposing the mugshot ban, the governor put it this way in an interview on WAMC, Northeast Public Radio:
A couple of months ago, Gerry Benjamin, director of SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center and an expert on Upstate New York, saw the region’s economic future in nurturing and growing what we have.
Craft brewing and yogurt production, in particular, are developing nicely, he said, although neither is generating sufficient jobs at sufficient salaries to begin replacing the manufacturing behemoth that was the Mohawk Valley.
The advantage to incremental growth, of course, is that it can be absorbed organically, with job along I-88 incrementally reviving the declining community centers to the north.
Springbrook, of course, is the poster child, growing to over 1,200 jobs on a simple concept: Better care for handicapped children can be provided more humanely and at lower cost in proximity to their New York State families. Win, win.
Two more examples of growing in place – growing and excelling is more like it – may be found in the two organizations that will be honored at the Otsego County Chamber’s annual Gala & Celebration of Business Thursday, May 2, at Foothills. (Reservations, call 432-4500, ext. 2.)
One, venerable Pathfinder Village, is vigorously placing its Down syndrome and otherwise handicapped residents in real jobs, filling real employer needs. For instance, with Astrocom in Colliersville unable to find workers, Pathfinder is deployer a half-dozen trainees and two supervisor daily to that aircraft parts fabricator.
Former Pathfinder residents are also working at Golden Artists Colors, Price Chopper, Silver Dollar Optical, NYCM and NBT Bank.
Two, Les Grummons arrived in Oneonta in 1970, having acquired the Rotherby-Murphy Funeral home, and knowing virtually nobody.
He quickly developed a strategy: Get on friendly terms with as many people as possible. He joined the Rotary, the Elks, Moose and Eagles. He pursued his interest in the Sons of the Legion, rising to state commander. He served on the board of Catholic Charities, St. Mary’s and Hospice. He rose to the state Funeral Directors Association presidency, cementing his reputation in the industry. He was elected to Common Council.
In the process, he solidified the Lester R. Grummons Funeral Home among the front ranks of such local institutions, a solid business that has provided service and employment to many over almost a half century.
As detailed on Page B1 of this edition, Pathfinder will be honored at NBT Distinguished Business; Grummons, as Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Distinguished Citizen.
The state Comptroller Office a few years ago reported that only 29 jobs had been created in Otsego County in 2016 but, one, state data lags and, two, it doesn’t reflect the groundwork that was being done to make way for growth we’re starting to see now.
For instance, Custom Electronics is creating 50 jobs for to make high-storage batteries, building blocks of a renewable future. A grant has ensured Corning’s 175 Oneonta jobs for 15 years. Cooperstown Distillery and Andela Products, Town of Richfield, are anticipating expansions and 10 new jobs each. Some 50 jobs are unfilled at Amphenol in Sidney. A little bit of natural gas would allow a distribution center to bring 300 jobs to Schenevus in short order.
Plus, the colleges, schools and hospitals provide a stable base.
And with Paul Landerses and Les Grummonses among us, the current downward trend, we can confidently hope, is temporary.
The other day in downtown Cooperstown, a kitchen worker stepped out onto Main Street’s sidewalk in the middle of the day, lit a joint, took a few tokes and went back to work.
You might think, get used to it. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Legalization of marijuana, which the ascendant Democratic majorities in the state Legislature and Governor Cuomo expected to become law in January, has foundered over a number of issues.
When trouble arose, the governor’s fallback plan was to include legalization in the FY20 state budget that passed April 1.
A state budget is a cloak for a myriad of controversial issues. The single budget vote, required by April 1 under the state Constitution, gives assemblymen and state senators deniability if constituents try to make them accountable on any single issue – like, say, legalizing pot.
Abolish Otsego Now? Goodness. It’s Otsego County’s “single point of contact” on economic development, the locus of job-creating efforts.
Adrian Kuzminski, our creative and thought-provoking columnist, suggests such in the column on the opposite page. Read the column. But here’s an alternative idea.
How about abolishing Otsego 2000? It’s arguably the “single point of obstruction” to any economic development in Otsego County, evident most recently in the drive to stymie a
10-year effort to redevelop Oneonta’s vacant D&H railyards.
Here’s just one instance: A few years ago, Otsego 2000 successfully blocked the 160-turbine
Jordanville wind farm because the windmills would have degraded the “viewshed” from James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass.
The typical 1.5 MW wind turbine creates enough electricity to power 332 homes; 160 would have powered 53,120 homes, more than double the 23,921 homes in Otsego County.
Now, Otsego 2000 has dug in its heels on bringing any more natural gas to Otsego County. Zilch. Nada. Zero.
As it stands, regrettably, the Town of Richfield’s proposed Comprehensive Master Plan hasn’t yet accomplished its mission.
So the Town Board – it meets on the second Monday of each month, and may act on the plan in either April or May – should put it on hold, at least for the time being, until the community’s will can be dispassionately determined and the plan revised to reflect it.
A Comprehensive Master Plan’s goal is to capture the aspirations of a community and write those goals down so they can be systematically pursued; Richfield’s has been captured by a faction, judging from interviews recounted in this newspaper’s last edition.
So all townsfolk of good will – and their leadership – should stop, reflect and try again.
Here’s the story, as best we could determine it.
When the six-turbine Monticello Hills Wind Farm was proposed in 2012 on the town’s west end, some neighbors objected.
According to Dan Sullivan, one of the founders of the resulting Protect Richfield, which sued to block the wind farm, the neighbors found town government had little interest in their concerns.
Town government, they concluded, was under the control, primarily, of people living in the Village of Richfield Springs and other parts of the town, many of whom saw the wind farm as
welcome tax relief.
The suit would eventually fail, but when Otsego Now’s effort began in August 2015 to update the town and village existing comp plans for economic-development purposes, the neighbors saw it as another opportunity to protect their neighborhood, and got involved.
Others began seeking appointed or elective office on the key town boards and commissions.
By the time the draft of the updated
Comp Plan went to public hearing March 12, wind-farm opponents controlled the Zoning Commission that prepared it, the Planning Board that must review it, and the Town Board that must approve it.
As you might expect, the plan prohibits “industrial wind farms.”
That, however, was not the limit of Protect Richfield’s vision: For 95 percent of the town’s land space, the updated Comp Plan envisions only farms, single-family homes and agri-tourism.
After the public hearing, Andela Products President Cynthia Andela said, she met with Sullivan, and obtained two concessions:
►One, a “Route 20 overlay” in the plan, which limits development to 500 feet on each side of the center line, was expanded to 1,000 feet, although she’s not sure even that is enough.
►Two, “home occupations” permitted in rural parts of the town – that includes such activities as building contracting – were limited to three employees each, and Sullivan agreed to lift that limit altogether.
But she was also concerned that a limited commercial-industrial zone around the village itself, where municipal water, piped-in natural gas and sewerage are available, isn’t big enough to accommodate future growth.
And, she said, other sites should be considered for such development, perhaps around the NYSEG substation on Federal Hill, which Otsego Now thought promising enough to put down $50,000 on a right of first refusal.
The point is: Comprehensive Master Plans are intended to map a route to achieve the will of the community, and the Town of Richfield plan fails to do that.
Yes, it fills the goal of the resurgent west end to block wind farms, but even with wind, is there another area of town where turbines might help deliver tax relief?
Even Otsego 2000, the environmental group – Sullivan is a board member – is touting Richfield, where natural gas is already available for development, over the City of Oneonta’s D&H yards. Doesn’t it make sense to expand the commercial zoning around the village?
With Richfield Springs Central School’s K-12 enrollment at 425, isn’t there a desire for more single-family homes for young families with children, and jobs for the parents?
And is the potential for lovely Canadarago Lake sufficiently reflected in the plan?
As to agriculture, a couple of weeks ago, in response to a question from Otsego County’s Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19th, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue painted a bleak picture of dairy farming in Upstate New York. “We’re not compelled to keep anyone in business if it’s not profitable,” he said. Does any local community want to hitch its wagon to that star?
As it happens, there’s something that people of good will can do about all this: Run for town office this Nov. 5.
But time is running short: Petitions to run for town supervisor or the two Town Board vacancies must be submitted by April 1-4. The good news is, only 16 signatures are required to run as a Democrat, 33 as a Republican, two as a Conservative, five as an Independent, and less on other lines.
To their credit, Protect Richfield members were motivated to get involved in town government. But town government should be everyone’s. And Protect Richfield’s success is an inspiration others can follow. Individuals do make a difference.
In the Town of Richfield, as everywhere in a Democracy, everyone should help chart everyone’s future.
A columnist – a dad, too – wrote in Psychology Today a few years ago:
“My hope is that their involvement in sports will help to build their character in positive ways. I’d like them to learn to cooperate with others, work together for a common goal, respond appropriately to victory and defeat, and grow in virtues like courage, humility, patience and perseverance.”
Why did the CCS Hawkeyes varsity basketball team come to mind?
One, because they just claimed the first-ever state championship in a highly competitive sport. Not everyone plays golf, or even football. But it’s the rare American boy who hasn’t spent many an hour playing pickup basketball, dribbling and shooting and, from time to time, spraining an ankle.
But, two, because this Hawkeyes basketball team stuck to business, stayed cool when challenges arose, worked hard on their skills, and supported each other on the court the way the best teams do.
In response to an outpouring of criticism at a public hearing on the GEIS Tuesday, March 5, to Oneonta City Hall and Otsego Now’s plans to redevelop the D&H railyards, Mayor Gary Herzig had an elegant reply.
Development on the 50 acres suitable for job-generating enterprises will:
• One, be as energy efficient as construction technology currently allows.
• Two, use as little natural gas and fossil fuels as possible.
• Three, use as much renewable technology as is available right now.
But no, Herzig’s City Hall is not going to derail Oneonta’s single greatest job-development (and tax-generating) prospect.
And, in an interview over the weekend, he was pointed: “We should not let those who are economically secure, by comparison, tell those who need jobs they can’t have them.”
Yes, of course, combatting Global Warming is a Good, but it’s not the only Good. The city’s just-updated Comprehensive Master Plan, he said, also embraced the values of “social justice” and “shared sacrifice.”
And those principles: Energy efficiency, social justice and shared sacrifice, will guide the railyards’ redevelopment.
Meanwhile, muscular environmentalism is getting tiresome – and unhelpful. Too often since the anti-fracking movement – it turned out there’s too little gas around here to frack it – we’ve seen intimidation as the local environmental movement’s preferred tactic, and it’s getting old.
We lack sufficient natural gas to even fuel our major institutions – our colleges and hospitals – not to
mention any growth.
Yet roomfuls of The Outspoken helped block the Constitution Pipeline that would have filled the need – snap! – and generated $13 million in annual tax revenues if routed through southern Otsego County.
XNG trucks are OK on
I-88, but on our narrow roads were a danger, and they’ve now mostly been routed to more appropriate Route 8 in Chenango County, but – lacking a pipeline – compressed natural gas, delivered by truck, is the one sensible alternative.
Yet The Outspoken – notably Dec. 12, when the Oneonta Town Board was browbeaten into passing a resolution against the $17.5 million decompression
station – helped halt that sensible alternative to a pipeline endorsed by both the Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regional economic development councils.
Without gas, the REDCs recognized, Otsego and the surrounding counties are done – finished! – as viable economies.
Yet Otsego 2000, the Cooperstown-based environmental group – has issued not-so-veiled threats to sue both City Hall and Otsego Now, if necessary, to halt the decompression station, which would largely be paid for with state money and would fill the county’s natural gas needs until blessed renewables come on line.
For now, not forever! Yes, yes, we all agree:
Renewables are the future. But not the present, perhaps not even for a generation. (New York State’s plan targets 2040 for partially achieving fossil-fuel freedom.)
Even then, renewables may not be the whole answer. This past Tuesday, Len Carson, DC Marketing president and a Ward 5 Common Council candidate, circulated a TED Talk video prior to Wednesday’s
Citizen Voices meeting.
It was delivered by Michael Shellenberger, one of Time magazine’s 2008 Heroes of the Environment.
Its title, “How Fear of Nuclear Power is Hurting the Environment.”
In it, he argues that, despite the vast advances in solar farms planned in the U.S., Europe, even India, the data show that, without an expansion of nuclear, the Earth is doomed.
OK, Outspeakers, let it out.
All of this needs to be
considered in context. While we argue over something that’s big here, the D&H plans are tiny, tiny in the context of the world’s economy and population – there are too few of us to either save the world or ruin it.
So let’s relax.
Another Common Council candidate, Seth Clark in Ward 2, nailed it at the GEIS hearing: “We need hundreds and hundreds of jobs. We not only owe our children the future, we owe them a couple of hot meals a day.”
In an intriguing Letter to the Editor this week, Otego’s Dennis Higgins applies Kant’s “Categorical Imperative” to the debate. Do unto others. But this isn’t good vs. evil; it’s a practical one.
approach is a strategic, sensible, short-term way to tackle a conundrum: Putting food on children’s plates today, while we await a better solution – one we all agree with – tomorrow.
How often do any of us, over the course of our lifetimes, get the opportunity to save another human life?
But the Otsego County Board of Representatives and Cooperstown Village Board have been presented with that opportunity in the case of Mike Covert, 58.
Covert, a 25-year county employee (mostly as a deputy sheriff) and village police chief since 2013, has suffered the health travails of a modern-day Job in the past year, from kidney failure to a triple bypass to failing eyesight and deteriorating disks in his neck.
In the midst of this, he received wo
I was struck by a news clip showing Elizabeth Warren speaking to a crowd and telling them we need to remove the control over our lives from government and put it back into the hands of the people. This
is the same woman who is supporting Bernie in his call for socialism.
Socialism is a system based on government control over the “people.” After all, some entity has to decide who gets to keep their wealth and who doesn’t. Guess who would get to keep it.
This call for returning control to the “people,” that’s you and me,
comes at a time when liberals are calling for government-controlled healthcare for all at a cost of $32 trillion over 10 years, while taking healthcare choices away from the 150 million plus Americans who presently have health care and “The Green New Deal” (GND) with an undetermined cost (somewhere in excess of $93 trillion, $600,000 per household) without including the adverse impact to our economy.
Editor’s Note: This is the text of Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s 2019 State of the City address, delivered Tuesday, March 5, at the Foothills Performing Arts Center. He also announced $2.3 million in grants through the city/state Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
During the past year, some have questioned whether we have lost some of our momentum in revitalizing and reinventing the City of Oneonta. I want you to know that the answer to that is absolutely “no.”
We have been taking the time to go about this process the right way. We have engaged the entire community in the planning process, and we have been listening.
Literally, hundreds of people – residents; business and property owners; member of our boards and commissions; committee and focus group volunteers, our truly dedicated city staff, and our Common Council members – have participated and enthusiastically contributed their energy, their ideas and their aspirations to create a blueprint for a new Oneonta.