News of Otsego County


Editorial: A Syrupy Salute to Spring

A Syrupy Salute to Spring

Last Sunday the annual Sugaring Off celebration, heralding the evasive but long-hoped-for beginning of spring, made its first appearance of the season at The Farmers’ Museum. This event, which runs for four Sundays, offers maple syrup and everything that goes with it to myriad visitors; the village and farm buildings are open for exploration, and the animals are eager for a pat on the head. Sugaring Off Sundays anticipates the April opening of the Farmers’ and Fenimore’s doors and gates for the 2023 season.

The reason for this activity is local maple syrup, provided by the Otsego County Maple Producers. The syrup, boiled down from sap tapped from 30-year-old sugar maples, is an ancient and local phenomenon first produced by Native Americans in the mid-16th century.

Editorial: Daylight Saving: Time and Time Again

Daylight Saving: Time and Time Again

Among the myriad annoying swirls of disaffection, rage, frustration and division in this country, the years-long massive popular and political debate over abolishing daylight saving, or abolishing standard, times—and then adopting either as standard—should be a mere minor tremor. But this particular time war, which was in fact first developed by the Germans in World War I (and abolished right after it) has been raging across the country, as well as across Europe and Great Britain, for nearly a decade, and it is not going to stop until a decision is made. And then, of course, as have been several cases in the past, that decision may not even hold.

Editorial: Saving Article IX

Saving Article IX

Among the most important sections of our New York State Constitution is Article IX, one that has been on the local books since the organization of our local governments—our counties, cities, towns and villages: home rule. This, in a broad sense, describes those governmental functions and activities traditionally reserved to or performed by local governments without undue infringement by the state. More technically, home rule refers to the constitutional and statutory powers given local governments to enact local legislation in order to carry out and discharge their duties and responsibilities—budgets, property taxes, schools, highways, fire departments, libraries, and the like. Home rule is accompanied by a restriction on the authority of the state legislature to enact special laws affecting a local government’s property, affairs and government. The legislature is specifically prohibited from acting with respect to the property affairs or governance of any local government except by general law, or by special law enacted on a home rule request by the legislative body of the affected local government, or by a two-thirds vote of each house upon receiving a certificate of necessity from the Governor. Article IX, in fact, serves both as a source of authority for local governments and as a shield against intrusion by the state upon their home rule prerogatives.

Editorial: Starlight Express

Starlight Express

Last week, when it was unseasonably warm and clear in the early evening, there appeared in the low sky a string of lights, moving slowly across the horizon and disappearing. Very few people around Otsego County actually saw this, as by habit very few people wander outside and gaze upward at this time of year. There was no record of this phenomenon in the newspapers or on social media; it was as though nothing had happened to disturb the slow, forward-creeping days and hours as we march on toward the onslaught of the more gentle months.

So, what was that beautiful arching line of light? The parade was, in fact, a satellite train—a bunch of satellites in this case, but not in every case—51 in all— that had been launched off the coast of California to enter space and eventually dissipate into individual satellites once they entered their correct Federal Communications Commission-approved orbits.

Editorial: Help Wanted

Help Wanted

First, a heartfelt thanks to our many readers who have reached out to us with praise and appreciation for the steps we have been taking to make our print and digital publications a more informative and engaging community resource.

Now we are asking for your help in the next phase of our improvement efforts; please respond to a new survey designed to help us get a better sense of how our readers interact with our newspapers and website. Our intent is to discover what our readers most enjoy and what we could be doing better. In hopes that as many voices as possible will be heard, the survey has also been designed for non-readers—and sporadic readers—to complete as well. The more information we gather, the better able we will be to continue our efforts to make our papers—and their online counterpart, currently in the throes of re-design—vital and integral resources for our communities.

Editorial: On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice

An unusual thing happened during this past weekend’s severe cold snap: Between 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday, Otsego Lake, the largest lake in Otsego County, froze over completely. With this week’s warmer weather forecast, it may well thaw again and, if it does, it will follow a somewhat disturbing trend that could spell trouble in the years ahead.

Records of ice cover on Otsego Lake have been kept since 1842 and, with the establishment of the SUNY Biological Field Station on the Lake in 1968, extensive research and record-keeping on all aspects of the health of the lake have been an invaluable resource.

Editorial: Let’s Chat

Let’s Chat

Last November OpenAI, a not-so-big (albeit associated, through a $1 billion investment, with Microsoft and co-founded, in 2015, by Elon Musk), artificial intelligence lab in San Francisco, introduced a newly developed chatbot—ChatGPT—that has made impressive inroads into our understanding of the challenges of artificial intelligence. The company first coded a chatbot in 2020, GPT-3, which is one of the first AI tools that responds to prompts in viable human-like text, for the most part both grammatically and, it is hoped but not confirmed, factually, correct.

Editorial: This Is for the Birds

This Is for the Birds

Last year, more than 57 million birds, including poultry, perished in the U.S. from a surge of avian influenza (H5N1), a killer disease that has been increasingly effective in attacking wild birds, especially migrating waterfowl. Mallards and Canada geese seem to be the most susceptible. The disease, which has flared up sporadically since its discovery, as fowl plague, in 1878, is caused by infections that occur naturally in wild aquatic birds. These infections are transmitted to other birds, domestic and wild, through bodily discharges as well as through contact with contaminated surfaces.

Until last summer, Avian Flu has been seasonal, proliferating from September to March and then disappearing during the warmer months. The current outbreak, however, has not fallen off over the last two summers.

Editorial: Tread Lightly, Care and Think

Tread Lightly, Care and Think

Every year the growth, and non-growth, of a variety of areas of interest—such as the economy, the population, bird migrations, immigration, wildfires, utilities, stocks, violence, college rankings, China and the like—are subject to intense research and interpretation. Inevitably, the results are published far and wide just after the last drop of the New Year’s ball.

One such fast-developing aspect of our life is our carbon footprint (CO2e), the total greenhouse gas emissions that trap and release heat, causing global warming. GHG is caused, directly and indirectly, by individuals, events, organizations, services, places or products. As these emissions enter the atmosphere they give rise to extreme precipitation, acidification and the warming of the oceans. Think climate change.

Editorial: Everything Old Is New Again

Everything Old Is New Again

It has been 20 years or so since the names Tara Barnwell, Michael Moffat, Elinor Vincent and Darla Youngs have appeared together on the masthead of “The Freeman’s Journal.” A confluence of events perhaps regarded by some as a perfect storm—or an imperfect storm, by others—has brought us all together again.

“The Freeman’s Journal” is arguably one of the oldest weekly newspapers in the nation. Founded by Judge William Cooper, it began as the “Impartial Observer” in 1808 with publisher William Andrews. A year later, both the name of the paper and the publisher had changed, becoming the “Cooperstown Federalist” under the direction of John H. Prentiss. The newspaper’s flag finally stuck in 1817 and has remained “The Freeman’s Journal” ever since. The Journal’s sister newspaper, “Hometown Oneonta,” is a mere babe in the woods by comparison at just 15 years old.

Editorial: Resolutionary Thinking

Resolutionary Thinking

With the New Year comes the tradition of setting resolutions. About 40 percent of U.S. adults set New Year’s resolutions every year. The largest demographic, at 59 percent, is young adults aged 18-34. Research shows that 95 percent of our New Year’s resolutions are fitness-related, inspired by the desire to “look better.” Despite those good intentions, after one month 43 percent will have given up their goal; after three months only 10 percent are still at it.

Fitness also makes you feel better and even the fittest of the fit want to be more fit. But if we are to improve the longevity of our resolutions and how they make us feel better rather than how they might—or might not—make us look better, perhaps we should be focusing on finding new passions, new routines and new thinking that are easier and certainly more fun to stick with through the new year and even the years that follow.

Editorial: Is There a Santa Claus?

Is There a Santa Claus?

In 1897, “The Sun,” a New York newspaper, published one of the most famous editorials in journalism. Written by Francis Pharcellus Church, it was in answer to a letter written by an 8-year-old girl who was not satisfied by answers given her by her family and friends to her question—one that remains to this day on the inquisitive minds of many children—Is there a Santa Claus?

“We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

‘Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. ‘Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
‘Papa says “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.”
‘Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street’

Editorial: The 101st Year

The 101st Year

Since 1921, “The Freeman’s Journal” has sponsored a Christmas Fund drive to help our local families in need, assisting them in putting clothes on their children, food on their tables and presents under their trees at a time when it seemed the holiday season would leave them bereft and out of the festive swirl of things. The fund was created by Rowan D. Spraker, Sr., then the editor and publisher of “The Freeman’s Journal,” and it was intended as a Christmas gift to area residents in need who were unable to provide a holiday for their children, families, and, in some instances, animals.

Spraker no doubt got his decidedly brilliant idea from “The New York Times,” whose publisher in 1911, Adolph S. Ochs, was out on a walk on Christmas Day and met a man in tattered clothes. The man told Ochs that although he had been able to have a meal at the YMCA, he had nowhere to sleep that night. Ochs decided that The Times should use its pages to give back to its community, and the following year the paper published 100 short accounts of people who were struggling to provide for themselves and their families. The agencies that were already helping these people were mentioned, and the Times suggested that its readers donate to those organizations. It worked, and today the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund is still going strong, helping the city’s neediest—and others around the globe—to the tune of $330 million since its beginning.

EDITORIAL: Baby Eagles Look to Their Future

Baby Eagles Look to Their Future

Last Saturday, much to our collective surprise and dismay, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team lost to the Netherlands in the first game of the knockout round of the FIFA [International Federation of Association Football] 2022 World Cup, in Qatar. In many and obvious ways it was a very sad day for the young team; in other ways it was the beginning of a four-year campaign to bring the sport to the attention and adoration of the American people and the world.

Editorial-Buy Thoughtfully and Buy Locally

Buy Thoughtfully and Buy Locally

Until recently, the main streets of Otsego County’s towns, villages, and hamlets were densely populated with various commercial concerns that provided local residents with the majority of the goods and services they required to live full and productive lives. The money exchanged circulated within the communities, and local economies were vibrant and self-sustaining. Food was locally grown; that you could only get certain food at certain times of the year—like sweet corn—only made that food sweeter.

Today, those vital shops have largely disappeared, replaced in some towns by businesses catering to visitors, and in others by empty, decaying, and boarded-up storefronts. Where commerce still exists, mainly in outlying commercial strips, it is comprised largely of enterprises based in faraway places. While our shopping dollars do cover low-paying local jobs, most of it returns to the “head office” in God-knows-where.

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