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Editorial

Democrats Signal Plans To Republicans

EDITORIAL

Democrats

Signal Plans

To Republicans

Otego-Laurens District 3 Shift

Can Take Away GOP’s Majority

Friends, the Democrats are coming to get us, and it isn’t going to be pretty.

Caitlin Ogden
Rick Brockway

Chad McEvoy, the local party’s brainy director of communications, sent out an email on Oct. 1 that affirms an editorial that appeared here in early summer – the future of party politics in Otsego County will be determined in District 3, where two newcomers, Republican Rick Brockway and Democrat Caitlin Ogden, are competing for an open seat on the county Board of Representatives.

If Ogden wins, control of the board shifts from Republican to the first solid Democratic majority in county history.  (In 2006, Democrats allied with Republican Don Lindberg and took control, but without a true majority.)

In the emailed memo that begins to the right of here, McEvoy points out “the political stars are aligning … This could be huge for the future of our community,” and he ticks off what would be slam dunks for a Democratic majority:  Creation of a county manager, improving energy efficiency of county buildings, a community college, buying up and repairing blighted properties.

Nothing wrong there, but things get a little iffy when he gets into the “diversity of thought” in the party on two issues in particular. One is “doing our part to fight climate change” – that likely means no fossil-fuel bridge to green energy.  Two is “whether we want to roll out cannabis production and retail sales locally in a post-legalization world.”  We know how that’s likely to go.

As the Cooperstown Village Board – all Democrats – has proved, an ideology-driven governmental body with no opposition will do what it wants.

In control for almost a decade now, Democrats are only now hitting their strides and the community is shocked, shocked.

One, using a Comprehensive Plan that was largely developed without public input (as most are), the trustees stirred a hornets nest by looking to plunk an apartment house in one of the village’s finest single-family neighborhoods.

Two, the trustees approved flying the Pride Flag next June at the downtown flagpole, against the advice of the village attorney and the one attorney-trustee.  If the Ku Klux Klan seeks a similar permit, Village Hall can’t deny it because of the precedent set; fight, it will lose, the attorneys said.

Three, blinking signs are popping up everywhere, blinking, blinking, blinking into local living rooms.  Are they needed?  Do they work? They are an irritation, and there’s an ethical question about government applying stimulus-response to the citizenry.

The point is, absent any viable opposition (for now), the village trustees can do whatever they want, and are doing so.  New Trustee MacGuire Benton was explicit:  If people don’t like the trustees’ decisions, they can run for office.  So there.

Other than no fossil-fuel bridge and Big Pot in our future, there’s a lot of nuttiness in Albany that’s headed our way, with the Democrats in control of both houses and the Governor’s Office.

An interesting vote in point was the county board’s resolution against the “Green Light” law authorizing “illegal immigrants” from getting drivers’ licenses.

Every Democrat on the county board voted nay or abstained on that resolution, except Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta, who voted aye angrily, saying he had been sandbagged.

This month, county Rep. Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, even voted nay on the “Justice for Jill” resolution.  The whole issue of the new Democratic majority emptying prisons will have to wait for another day, but it’s real, and the impacts will be far-reaching.

And this is just the beginning.  The other day, New York City’s Human Rights Commission imposed a $250,000 fine on the use of the term, “illegal immigrant,” in certain context.  Just the beginning.

On the other hand, give Otsego County Democrats credit.  In the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016, they mobilized and organized.  The county went for Trump, but a motivated party swung it in 2018 for Democrat Antonio Delgado, our new congressman.

The Republicans need to show similar vigor, as they are in the Town of Richfield, in organizing against a Democratic effort to impose a restrictive comp plan and zoning code on the community.

With a 7-7 split on the board – the Republicans keep control through weighted voting and an alliance with Meg Kennedy, Mount Vision, a Conservative Party member – the GOP failed to mount any effective challenge in the City of Oneonta, where Republicans as recently as 2015 controlled two of the four county board seats, plus the Town of Oneonta’s.

In District 1 (Butternuts/Morris), no Republican has challenged Michelle Farwell, nor was Stammel challenged, vulnerable if anyone is.

The Republicans need some soul searching, and to pull up their bootstraps.

District 3 is a good place to get started.

The Democrats, according to the McEvoy Memo, are going to give it all they’ve got.  A sneak attack in the primary won the Independent line for Ogden, where only Brockway’s name appeared on the ballot.

The numbers were too small (30 to 4) to be meaningful, but it showed what can be done – what might be done.  If Brockway is to be elected, Republicans need to give him all the support they can.

And there’s mischief to contend with, too.  Outgoing Otego-Laurens county Rep. Kathy Clark sought out Ogden at the last county board meeting and chatted with her cheerfully for a few minutes.  Later, Ogden said Clark  advised her to increase the size of her name on roadside signs.

Clark broke with the GOP last year when the Republican County Committee failed to endorse her husband, Bob Fernandez, for sheriff.  Republicans shouldn’t underestimated the damage she might do.

In the last county board election, this newspaper endorsed the Democratic slate, and several are performing splendidly – Farwell among them, but also Andrew Marietta, Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, and even Liz Shannon, City of Oneonta, who is retiring after one term.

This year, though, with the doings in Albany and local Democratic militancy on the energy issue, Otsego County needs the county board as a bulwark against a potentially destructive Democratic tide.

Come on, Republicans, shake it off.  Keep District 3.

The Revolution’s Won Might Barbara Jean Morris, SUNY Oneonta (And Hartwick College) Create New Model?

PRESIDENT MORRIS’ INSTALLATION

The Revolution’s Won

Might Barbara Jean Morris, SUNY Oneonta

(And Hartwick College) Create New Model?

“As chief executive officer, you are assigned all powers, duties and responsibilities appropriate to the post.”
KRISTINA M. JOHNSON • SUNY Chancellor

After the week that was, Barbara Jean Morris, SUNY Oneonta’s new president, must have heard those words with mixed feelings.

SUNY Oneonta President Barbara Jean Morris with SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Just three days before her Saturday, Oct. 5, installation, a threat to shoot up the campus – it turned out to be a hoax – had shaken the college community.

Earlier this semester in a school year that is barely month old, a SUNY Oneonta student took his own life.

Neither of these happenings were the new president’s fault, yet they underscore the solemnity of what Dr. Morris is taking on: The responsibility for 6,000 students and 1,000 staff and faculty members.

It’s more than that.  As one of the top five employers and a $100 million budget, it’s not too much to say that SUNY Oneonta’s president is responsible – not solely, but to a degree – for the welfare of an entire county, an entire region.

No wonder the new president appeared contemplative, to say the least, at such a celebratory ceremony.

Looking around the auditorium, a number of faculty members (retired) have been associated with the college since the fourth president, Royal Netzer, who was succeeded by Clifford Craven in 1970.

What changes they must have reflected upon, thinking back to Craven, Alan Donovan (1987) and Nancy Kleniewski (2008)?

“Pomp & Circumstance,” or perhaps Holst’s “The Planets” or something by Sibelius were replaced by a Ghanaian drum-driven dance and the XClusive Dance Crew’s hip hop number, fun.  Not better or worse than entertainment atf installations past, just different.

Particularly moving was the Javanese “Luk Luk Lumbu” (“The Bending Taro Leaves”), delivered by the 100-plus student World Chorus.  It packed the wallop of a Handel chorus.

Dr. Timothy Newton, foreground, directs SUNY Oneonta’s World Chorus, which includes, from left, Amanda Davenport, Terri Forde, Lisa Suwa, Phebe Samiljan, Alysa Dutson, Alexis Ryder, Kalyna Rogers, Yi-Xuan Yu, Jacob Goldstein and Madison Hurley. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

In her remarks, SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson used terms like “competitive,”  “fearless,” even “fierce” to describe the newest of her 64 college presidents. Perhaps then, but that’s not the sense you get about Barbara Jean Morris today – words like “diplomatic,” “upbeat,” “human” come to mind.

Morris’ pal Noelle Norton

The sense of nostalgia was further evoked by her friend and San Diego university dean Noelle Norton’s whimsical story about the two dousing themselves in perfume back in the 1990s before delivering a paper, “Faith and Sex: Presidents Under Pressure,” at a presumably mostly white, male symposium in Boston in the 1990s.

Several speakers remarked that Morris is SUNY Oneonta’s second female president.  When is that no longer news?  The third? The seventh?

You might have come away feeling Barbara Jean Morris’ tenure won’t be – or shouldn’t be – about the celebrated rise of women (and blacks and other formerly outcast minorities) over the past half-century.

The faculty in the processional was mostly women, with many minorities of both sexes.  Chancellor Johnson is an openly gay woman, as are four SUNY campus presidents.   Students and audience members fully represented a cross-section of the United States as is and where it’s going.

Despite the public debate about race, hate, immigration, white supremacy, looking around the Dewar Arena the other day, you had to conclude the battle is won.  If anything, over-won: 60 percent of SUNY Oneonta’s students are women, compared to 40 percent men; nationally, it was 56-44 in 2015.  Is it time to look for a new balance?

Some would argue today’s much-remarked-upon national divide can be blamed, to large degree, on our colleges and universities, with the replacement of the Western Canon with gender and ethnic studies, and the exaltation of PC.

Now, why shouldn’t higher education in general, and SUNY Oneonta – and Hartwick College – in particular, play a role in building a new synthesis based on acceptance of the new reality?  To wit, we are living in a multi-ethnic nation, where parity between sexes and among genders is widely accepted.

The revolution is over.

When she had to be, Dr. Morris may indeed have been competitive, fearless and even fierce.  Now, her diplomacy, optimism and humanity will be more in demand.

Her new 13-word mission statement for SUNY Oneonta was much remarked upon at her installation: “We nurture a community where students grow intellectually, thrive socially and live purposefully.”

With a little adjustment, it sounds like a workable foundation for a future American society at large.

Is Delgado Risking Reelection Over Impeachment

Is Delgado Risking Reelection

Over Call For Impeachment?

Congressman Delgado

Within minutes of Antonio Delgado proclaiming his support for impeaching Donald Trump on Monday, Sept. 23, the National Republican Campaign Committee declared it is the freshman 19th District congressman’s “political death sentence.”

It’s out of character, for sure. On issues to date, Delgado’s played it safe, focusing legislative efforts on agriculture, broadband and healthcare, knowing, regardless, little legislation sent from the Democratic House of Representatives to the Republican U.S. Senate is going anywhere.
He’s played it just right in what Otsego County’s Republican Chairman Vince Casale calls “a textbook definition of a swing district.”

What did he have to gain by coming out for impeachment?

The 19th District voters who supported impeachment –Democrats and some centrists, mostly – had nowhere to go except Delgado. Sensible centrism made sense for an out-of-district candidate in his vulnerable freshman year: build cred, firm up the base incrementally.
That’s out the window now.

“My impression is this is a pure moral, ethical stand,” said Richard Sternberg, Cooperstown, the Democratic strategist and his party’s Town of Otsego chairman. “Having identified and political risks, he’s basically making a courageous stand.”

Still, risky.

A look back on Election Night 2018 is illuminating, and shows vulnerability.

Delgado beat incumbent Republican John Faso handily by an 11.3 percent margin (147,873-132,873), but given the four-way race – remember the Green Party’s Steve Greenfield and independent Diane Neal, the “Law & Order SVU” actress? – he garnered less than a majority (48.6 percent) of the total vote.

We forget: Ulster County, a Democratic stronghold in the swing 19th, won the election for him. The Delgado lead there – it makes sense the congressman then established his district office in Kingston – was 19,052. Districtwide, he only won by 15,000.

And he only won four of 11 counties in the 19th: Otsego and Schoharie, both squeakers, the Dutchess portion just comfortably, plus Ulster.

Not a landslide. Reelection isn’t a sure thing.

Until the Sept. 23 announcement, Delgado had played it cool. It’s hard to think of any controversial stance on anything.

Maybe he simply got carried away by the Democratic fever that swept the House of Representatives over
the weekend of Sept. 21-22, after the Ukraine-gate surfaced.

Think 40 years ahead. A young lad is sitting on his grandfather’s lap, “What did you do in Congress,
Granpa?” Would grey-haired Delgado really want to reply, “Sat on the sidelines of history, Sonny.”

Casale presented an alternate scenario to Sternberg’s: “He’s scared of the left of center” – in Ulster County, if anywhere. “If he’s not with them, they will threaten him with a primary.”

Leading up to presstime this week, it appeared it may be, where goeth the polls, so goeth the presidency.
On Saturday the 28th, an NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll found 49 percent of Americans favored
impeachment – up 10 percent from April, when the Mueller Report was first released; 46 percent said impeachment was unnecessary.

By the next day, a CBS poll found 55 percent favored impeachment, to 45 percent saying it wasn’t warranted. Building, building… (Monday the 30th, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there WILL be a trial in the Senate if the House sends up articles of impeachment. Hmmm.)

But FiveThirtyEight, and pollsters who led the New York Times over a cliff in 2016, were expressing caution in the form of the “differential nonresponse bias.” – “If partisans on one side of a political question respond to a survey more readily than partisans on the other side, … the results in your poll won’t match the real-world opinion. “… Instead, the poll will be skewed by how willing some people are to respond to a survey.”

Given how sure-footed Antonio Delgado was in dispatching six Democratic primary challengers last year, then grinding down Faso, it’s interesting to see him bet all on this impeachment thing. It’s a plunge.

Delgado’s next local Town Hall meeting is 6-7 p.m. this Saturday, Oct 5, in the Cherry Valley Community Center, 2 Genesee St. Go and ask him about it.

On impeachment overall, waiting for the outcome of the 2020 presidential election – it’ll be here before we know it – would have been a better way to tamp down acrimony. But that’s not to be.

In The End, Only Work, Love Matter

PARENTS HEAD TO JAIL OVER … NOTHING

In The End, Only

Work, Love Matter

Venerable Harvard Yard, left, and Hartwick College’s centerpiece, Founders Way, dedicated in 2017.

The ironic thing about actress Felicity Huffman and many other well-heeled parents bribing college officials to get their students into top schools is:  It doesn’t matter.

Human beings have lived for 200,000 years. No one’s sure how many of us have walked this Earth, but a common “best guess” is 105 billion.

All but a tiny fraction of those, you must know, never heard of Harvard, Yale or Stanford. Even today, only a fraction of the 7.2 billion living on Earth have heard of the Ivy League – or would care if they had.

Now get this: Despite the inevitable challenges we all face, many of those 105 billion, and today’s 7.2 billion, are living satisfactory lives, some more joyful than others, all containing moments of happiness, and sometimes much more.

This being a local paper, there’s a local angle, beyond all of us knowing a happy person, or two, or many more.

With 10 more of those overreaching parents due to be sentenced this week – perhaps to short prison terms – Malcolm Gladwell’s comparison of Harvard University with Hartwick College from “David and Goliath” (2013) comes to mind.

Gladwell compared the number of STEM students – in the rigorous science, technology, engineering and math fields – at Harvard and at Hartwick.

He found: Even though Harvard’s bottom third of STEM students have higher SATs than the top third at Hartwick, “students in the bottom third of the Harvard class give up on challenging math and science studies just as much as their counterparts in Upstate
New York.”

Comparing themselves to the geniuses at the top of the class, Harvard’s bottom third become “so demoralized … many of them drop out of science entirely and transfer to some non-science major.”

Dipping into another analysis, Gladwell finds “the likelihood of someone completing a STEM degree … rises by 2 percentage points for every 10-point decrease in the university’s average SAT score.

In the case of a young woman considering STEM programs, he figures she would reduce her chances of success by 30 percent by choosing Brown over the University of Maryland. “Thirty percent!” he exclaims.

“The smarter your peers, the dumber you feel,” said Gladwell. “The dumber you feel, the more likely you are to drop out of science.”

This isn’t to dis Harvard.

If you get in – as a number of lively, brainy, disciplined, accomplished Otsego County high school graduates do every decade – great. When you do go, and are surrounded by all those geniuses, don’t forget: You’re plenty smart or you wouldn’t be there.

Elsewhere, it’s been noted U.S. presidents – until lately, exemplars of American accomplishment – were predominantly from small towns, from Niles, Ohio, to West Branch, Iowa, to Tampico, Ill. In small towns, according to one theory, young future presidents learned they could influence their surroundings, and emerged self-confident
they could save the world.

Many didn’t go to college, but “read law,” and many went to fine smaller colleges
like Hartwick – Kenyon, Bowdoin, Union. Harry S Truman went to Spalding
Commercial College in Kansas City, Mo. – and dropped out.

So two cheers for Otsego County – home of small towns, and of Hartwick College.

Even that’s beside the point.

Two-thirds of Americans don’t have college degrees, and many of them – as all of us know from our neighbors – are living happy lives, with meaningful jobs, surrounded by loving family.

One caveat, don’t forget that Brookings’ study from 2014, identifying – statistically – three ways young people can achieve economic security: One, finish high school; two, work fulltime; three, don’t marry and start a family until you’re 21.

Nor is this in praise of poverty. No way.

Let’s go back where we started. Fifteen parents may go to jail this week for something that doesn’t matter.

What did Freud say? Love and work are the sole requirements of a happy life.

Felicity Huffman, husband William Macy and their daughters.

When Huffman’s daughter Sophia learned the news, she told her mother, “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?” mom Felicity testified.

“I had no adequate answer for her then,” the mother continued, “I have no adequate answer for her now. I can only say, I am so sorry, Sophia. I was frightened, I was stupid, and I was so wrong.”

Go Hawks! Go Red Dragons, for that matter – SUNY Oneonta has success
stories aplenty as well.  Even further: Go Oneonta Yellowjackets! Go Cooperstown Redsk…, er, Hawkeyes!

The means to happiness may be simpler than we often think.

Will  Improvements To Main Street Ever End? No, Shouldn’t

EDITORIAL

Will  Improvements

To Main Street Ever

End? No, Shouldn’t

Mayor Tillapaugh, right, holds a construction conference at Main and Chestnut. From left are Deputy Mayor Cindy Falk, Streets Committee chair; Roger Pendell, Upstate Companies, and Greg Miller and Todd Harter,
Barton & Loguidice engineers. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Begun inauspiciously in March 2014 with the felling of 37 trees on Main Street, a remarkable series of successes has followed in the reinvention of downtown Cooperstown for 21st century tourism.
The environmentally sensitive rain gardens, new sidewalks, streetlights, replacement of 19th century water mains and sewerage – even a new flag pole, embroiled in controversy as it now is – have followed in quick succession.

But it’s not over, as observed in the past few days, as the Upstate Companies, which is growing
into a Mount Upton-based behemoth, began working on the latest projects:
• One, the reinvention of pocket Pioneer Park, at Main and Pioneer, with a low stage, bike racks and water fountain, more benches and new plantings. The more open center will provide more elbow room around Santa’s Cottage, often packed as it is from Thanksgiving Weekend until the Big Day.
• Two, a new traffic signal setup at Pioneer and Chestnut. The Upstate crews are replacing curbs and sidewalks (with brick pavers) from Pine Boulevard to the intersection. The traffic light will be replaced with a single signal, just as it is, but adjustable to easy entry and exit from the nearby fire station.
Chestnut Street will be narrowed, for less-stressful pedestrian crossings, and a small plaza created in front of Mel’s. Plus, Walk/Don’t Walk signals will further ease pedestrians’ minds as they navigate more clearly delineated crosswalks, courtesy with long-lasting stripes from Andela Glass, the Richfield Springs recycling concern.
(That last piece depends on the weather, according to Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch: Blacktop requires a stretch of 50-plus degree weather to cure.)

While this isn’t the beginning, it isn’t the end, either.

Work may begin this fall on the new entrance to Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field, which will include sidewalks, new walls and a decorative arch. Inset is entrance as is today.

At Doubleday Field, water and sewer lines will be laid from the Main Street entrance to the left side of the grandstand to provide service to the restrooms, locker rooms and pavilion that will be part of next year’s third-baseline reconstruction.
Depending on how soon winter arrives, work may begin on the Main Street entrance, including the fancy arch pictured with this editorial.
Next summer, the construction should be going strong along Doubleday Field’s third-base line. The mayor isn’t sure how much will be done by next year’s 100th anniversary of the baseball landmark, but there should be enough to be impressive during ceremonies planned by the Friends of Doubleday.

That’s a lot in five years, but it’s not over – probably never over, Mayor Tillapaugh
said.
Fowler Way, which leads to Doubleday from Chestnut Street, next to the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, is much used, but narrow, bumpy and lacking sidewalks, all of which could and should be addressed.
She is particularly interested in upgrading Hoffman Lane, across from the Hall of Fame, to lead more of the quarter-million fans that visit the Hall each year to Lakefront Park and James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass. Locals are often surprised to learn that many visitors are unaware the lake is even there.
Then, attention could turn to Railroad Avenue, which is becoming a center of local life and commerce, with Mike Manno’s 21 Railroad office building, and Attorney Michelle Kennedy’s office building next door, Cooperstown Distillery, the Railroad Inn, the renovated Spurbeck’s, Butch Welch’s recently redone parking lot,
and the Susquehanna & Western Railroad headquarters.
With the empty “Where It All Began” warehouse and other space for apartments, Railroad Avenue is a promising next center of population growth.
Will it ever end? Listening to the mayor, you have to conclude: Never, and it shouldn’t.

 

If Not Constitution Pipeline, Then What?

EDITORIAL

NAYSAYERS NEED TO BE AYE-SAYERS

If Not Constitution

Pipeline, Then What?

As any one of you who have been there know, Owego’s a delightful community, rich with history – Belva Lockwood, the first woman presidential candidate, taught there.  Fine mansions line the Susquehanna River.  There’s a funky, arts-oriented downtown.

Owego’s Belva Lockwood was the first woman to run for president – in 1884 and 1888 on the National Equal Rights Party line.

A half-block off Main and Front streets, however, you see the rot.  Solid homes are in disarray; when the money’s not there, maintenance is the first thing to go.  There was one particularly well-maintained home for sale, but it listed for $125,000.  It would have demanded twice that in Otsego County.

Owego was a particular showcase in the day, not so long ago, when every community in Upstate New York was a showcase.  Remember delightful Little Falls, fine homes built around a series of park-like squares.  Or today’s woeful Amsterdam, which used to be the prosperous center of the nation’s carpet-making industry.

Otsego County’s community centers are challenged, too.  Happily, Oneonta’s DRI is taking hold, with the exciting Lofts on Dietz, 66 artist studios and apartments, due for groundbreaking next summer.  Cooperstown, destination of a half-million tourists a year, is in particularly good shape, although ghost-town-like for most of the winter.

What better time for yet another promising piece of economic-development news.

So, it’s back!  The Constitution Pipeline.  At least the possibility that the Constitution Pipeline, designed to carry natural gas from Northeast Pennsylvania to the East Coast, may finally happen, although not immediately.

Remember Alternate M?  It was a route for the Constitution Pipeline across southern Otsego County, endorsed by the county Board of Representatives.  It was estimated that is would bring some $13 million a year in property taxes to municipalities the pipeline would have crossed – seven years later, that would have amounted to almost $100 million.

Instead of returning the county board’s embrace, Williams, the Houston-based pipeline builder, opted for a route through Delaware County, where it was challenged every step of the way.  Eventually, in 2016, the state DEC denied the permits necessary to cross stream beds.

Just think of it.  By now, the villages of Otego and Unadilla, which negotiated agreements with the Constitution builders, would have had natural gas.  In Schenevus, 300+/- people might have been employed by now at a distribution center at I-88’s Exit 18.

The City of Oneonta would have had all the natural gas it might have needed for economic development.  Existing institutions – the colleges, the hospitals – would have gone beyond the “interruptible powers” that, during cold snaps, requires them to burn dirty, more expensive oil.  Who knows what job-producing entity might have been attracted to the D&H Railyards by now.

No, we’re not climate deniers here.  It has to be addressed.  Something like Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposed $2 trillion for a 10-year Apollo-like program in green research – other Democrats have similar ideas – is essential.  A technological solution to climate woes – some would rather we all feel the pain – is the most desirable outcome.

Thinking back to 2012, when the county board endorsed Alternate M:  The debate has become much more rigid since then, between the no-gas, no-how crowd and those espousing the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce more sensible position, seeing fossil fuels as a short- or middle-term necessity until full-service renewable technologies come on one.

As argued here before, it’s a macro problem; we’re too micro to matter.  Let’s not sacrifice Upstate New York in general – and our Otsego County, in particular – on the altar of climate purism.

That said, while a federal court has overturned the DEC’s ban on the pipeline, no one’s going to be digging a trench anytime soon.  The state Attorney General’s Office is certain to appeal, plus Stop the Pipeline and other local groups.

With no one knowing what may happen in the November 2020 president election, is hard to imagine anyone would embark on such a massive undertaking facing such uncertainty.

A view of once-prosperous Owego’s downtown from the other side of the Susquehanna.

The visit to Owego was particularly poignant because it’s the one area of the state where there sufficient natural gas in the underlying Marcellus Shale to be commercially extracted.  As it is, drillers in nearby Pennsylvania are tapping into New York State and extracting the resource anyhow.

Owego could be rebounding, as some of its Pennsylvania neighbors to the southeast area, instead of declining.

There’s no reason for anyone to object to renewables, but so far renewable proponents have offered no related economic-development strategies.  Who doesn’t love the idea of a job-creating eco-commerce park at Oneonta’s D&H railyards.  But months after the idea surfaced to enthusiasm, nothing concrete has emerged.

In the face of declining Upstate, the renewable movement has to do more than simply object.  We need concepts that can be implemented.  Naysayers have to become aye-sayers. Otherwise, the Constitution Pipeline may start to sound pretty good.

Conductor Huff At CSO – Wow! Stay Tuned

EDITORIAL

Conductor Huff At CSO

– Wow! Stay Tuned

Silas Huff, in a rehearsal prior to Saturday’s performance. (AllOTSEGO.com)

Last week’s editorial praised the local arts and culture scene, after Oneonta and Otsego County were identified as “eighth most vibrant arts community” in the U.S. by SMU’s DATA ARTS’ report.

Silas Huff’s conducting of the Catskill Symphony Orchestra Saturday evening, Sept. 7, added several exclamation marks to all of last week’s positive conclusions.

Huff is the first of three conductors competing to succeed Maestro Chuck Schneider as CSO conductor. Carolyn Watson conducts Oct. 12, and Maciej Żółtowski Nov. 16. The new conductor will lead the CSO at the annual cabaret concert next March.

Two of Huff’s selections – the bookends – a Strauss overture and Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” brought standing ovations. The centerpiece, a Haydn cello concerto, drew a more subdued response, although soloist Andrew Janss impressed.

As for Huff himself, his direction was tight, intense, authoritative, subtle but effective; no showy flourishes. First rate. A top candidate.

If you believe competition brings out the best in people, Watson and Żółtowski appearances will be gripping. Huff’s sure was. If you’ve never attended a CSO performance before, treat yourself. (Tickets available at www.catskillsymphony.net.)

How Can We Make 8th Most Vibrant Arts County Thrive?

EDITORIAL

How Can We Make 8th Most

Vibrant Arts County Thrive?

What? In a United States that some insist on characterizing as a burning dumpster, can there be good news?

Well, here it is: Oneonta, as Otsego County’s “urban core,” has been ranked the eighth most-vibrant small community in America in Southern Methodist University’s fifth annual Arts Vibrancy Index Report.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder, there are 16,360 towns in the U.S. Not all of them, of course, are “small communities.” Still, eighth puts Oneonta and Otsego County in a very elite sliver of arts-oriented locales.

And, of course it is.

It is home to the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, which thrives while such cities as Honolulu, Syracuse and Albuquerque have lost their orchestras. Shock of shocks, even one of the nation’s “Big Five,” the Philadelphia Orchestra, went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.

There’s the $8 million Foothills Performing Arts Center, owned free and clear, which – hindered by the Great (and long) Recession – is finally getting traction under the steady leadership of Executive Director Bill Youngs and board chair Roxanna Hurlburt.

Over a typical academic year, Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta offer a vast range of top talent from around the nation at the Anderson Arts Center and Goodrich Theater respectively, and in their art galleries.

Oneonta theater troupes? Four, count ’em: Orpheus, Bold Theatrics, Bigger Boat and Stuff of Dreams. Does any similar-sized community have so many. And three dance troupes – Elite, Donna Decker and Jillian’s.

All this in a small city of 14,000.

Beyond the “urban core” of Oneonta, DataArts goes on to single out the Cooperstown museums – the Fenimore and Farmers’ – the Glimmerglass Festival, all nationally known and appreciated. All three are strong, and The Fenimore, beginning this summer with Herb Ritts’ photos from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, began reaching out to a whole new audience, younger, hipper – the future, if you will.

(For whatever reason, Brewery Ommegang has dropped its summertime popular-music concerts, but performers like Norah Jones and Elvis Costello proved there’s a wide draw, at least in summer months.)

Below the Big Three, there are thriving entities like Linda Chesis’ Cooperstown Summer Music Festival, Cherry Valley Artworks’ full series of professional performances at the Star Theater, plus its semi-annual Sculpture Walk.

Gilbertsville’s Major’s Inn has a concert series through the summer, plus arts-related programming year-‘round. (Oneonta filmmaker Joe Stillman is showing his latest documentary, on LBJ’s attorney general, the humanitarian Ramsay Clark, at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Major’s as a fundraiser for the historic venue.)

That reminds us of Barton Kaplan’s Magic Mountain Music Farm in the hills between Gilbertsville and Morris: Top music students from New York City and beyond practice intently for the summer and put on a weekend of performances in a Gllbertsville church.

The monthly Coffee House at the Schuyler Lake Methodist Church – folks with guitars and more – is another example of a decentralized artistic fervor. Here’s another: The Church in Mount Vision, which has been presenting plays all summer long for three years now.

This is hardly comprehensive, and it underscores what a great idea Oneonta’s ArtSpace project is – 66 studio-residential units in a four-story building due to rise on the city’s Dietz Street next year.

The point: While we bemoan what we don’t have – yes, we’re out of natural gas and electricity, if anyone wants to open a factory here – we should be developing what we do.

The DataArts ranking brought to mind former Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller’s Arts Summit in January 2011 at Foothills – it was terrific. There must have been 100 artists and arts enthusiasts there.
Miller was his usual droll self, telling the bubbling gathering, ““I’m not in it for the arts; I’m in it for the economy.”

But he had a point. He offered $200,000 from a City Hall budget surplus – yes, those WERE the days – to help get a comprehensive effort to promote arts off the ground. It never got any traction, but why shouldn’t it?

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, R-Mount Vision, is leading up a countywide Energy Task Force. Why not a countywide Arts Development Task Force?

It wouldn’t have to be government based; there’s plenty of arts leadership clout around here. Something like the 55-member Energy Task Force might be too much. But how about a six-member task force with heavy hitters like The Fenimore’s Paul D’Ambrosio and SUNY Oneonta’s Janet Nepkie, who created the college’s amazing Music Industry major. It could be privately run.

Now, arts is a summer magnet. How about a summer and fall magnet? Then maybe a summer, fall and Christmas magnet? Then add in a winter carnival component.

As SMU DataArts documented, we have what it takes to be much more.

How Often Can We Help Something 1st-Rate Happen?

EDITORIAL

How Often Can We Help

Something 1st-Rate Happen?

Solicitations, by phone, mail, email or in person, are a pesky part of 21st century life.

The advantages the Susquehanna SPCA’s “Shelter Us” campaign for $3 million to build a new animal shelter are: one, the people who are running it are our neighors – we know them. And, two, everything about it is first rate.

Staffworks’ President Anita Vitullo, left, with Anne Keith, “Shelter Us” campaign chair, at Saturday’s ground breaking. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO,.com)

Anita Vitullo of Clinton, Staffworks’ president and philanthropist to the pet world, underscored the many ways “Shelter Us” is top notch in her remarks Saturday, Aug. 24, at the groundbreaking on Route 28 at Index.

Smiling Stacie Haynes prepares to announce the $2 million initial goal has been met.

She talked about “dynamic leadership,” and how the shelter’s dynamo executive director, Stacie Haynes, called her and “did a good job of convincing me” to provide support. Add board chair Gaylord Dillingham and “Shelter Us” chair Anne Keith to that dynamic cadre.

Vitullo, who was announcing “Shelter Us” had raised the $250,000 needed to match her matching grant, went on to speak about commitment, and customer service, and mission – all the things that, no doubt, has made her placement company successful, too.

Add in creativity and innovation. Vitullo told how Haynes collaborated with Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. and District Attorney John Muehl in creating a county Animal Cruelty Task Force, to get ahead of some of the pet and farm-animal related fiascos of the past few years.

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

EDITORIAL

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

EDITORIAL

‘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 amazon.com and MSUpress.org.

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

EDITORIAL

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/AllOTSEGO.com)

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

EDITORIAL

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?

EDITORIAL

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?

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