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Editorial

Conductor Search: What A Treat, Opportunity

EDITORIAL

Conductor Search:

What A Treat, Opportunity

Now, THAT’S marketing – in the nicest possible light.

On learning its venerable founding conductor, Chuck Schneider, was retiring after 46 years, The Catskill Symphony Orchestra Governing Board could have simply advertised for a new one, sorted the resumes, interviewed top prospects and made a decision.

Instead of handling matters in-house, the search committee threw open the decision-making to the public; not exclusively, of course, but it encouraged attendees at three concerts this fall – and the musicians, too – to fill out questionnaires assessing each candidates’ strengths.

And what a lesson for veteran concertgoers and newcomers alike, to see three conductors from different parts of the globe – Silas Huff, who rose through conducting the 44th U.S. Army Band, Carolyn Watson from Australia (now in Kansas), and Maciej Zoltowski from Poland – perform widely varying programs in markedly different styles.

“The biggest surprise is: we got 73 applicants – nationally and internationally,” said Laurie Zimniewicz, search committee chair. “We were like, wow.”

So, as you can imagine, all three have terrific credentials. Google them.


The conductors designed their own programs and invited in soloists, and each evening was at times gripping, even for the not-so-aficionados/experts among we audience members.

Huff began with Strauss, which swept audience members onto their feet, and ended with Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” another crowd pleaser. He was the most engaging in his remarks from the podium.
Watson was precise, intense, all energy.

Her selections were the most edgy, beginning with Higdon’s percussion-heavy “Fanfare Ritmico.” But if you were surprised at the outset, you were captured by the end.

Zoltowski was Tchaikovsky heavy – two of the three pieces. But what Tchaikovsky! The audience was rapt as pianist Alex McDonald, brought in from Texas, accompanied the CSO on Piano Concerto #1 – an emotional highpoint of the season, for sure.

To see three different conductors at their trade – one each in September, October and November – was a
rare opportunity around here, and mind-expanding.

It was satisfying to learn how the community responded: Attendance grew over the three concerts; subscriptions grew. Doing well by doing good. Nice.

The Search Committee won’t make the final decision, but will present an assessment Dec.10 to the CSO Governing Board, including graphs depicting how the audience and the CSO musicians rated the three.

The plan is to give the most weight to the musicians’ inputs. “Without a happy orchestra, we won’t have an orchestra,” she said, and she has a point.

Still, there’s more to that.

Will a conductor’s taste in music help fill the house? Will he or she be able to reach out to all constituencies – the musicians, yes, but also audiences, the board and, if the institution is to grow and prosper, the community?

Will the conductor be able to think like an executive, to strategize, to identify opportunities and chart the future? And, in doing so, to productively collaborate with CSO President Diane Williams, the Governing Board and Executive Director Thomas Wolfe.

In short, the Governing Board may be guided by others’ perspectives, but in the end, it must make its own decision.

In part, that decision will be with an eye to the future: How to attract a younger audience. As a side benefit, conductor candidates have provided a rich list of ideas on how to do this, Zimniewicz said.

The Catskill Symphony Orchestra, based in Oneonta, was founded in 1973. That’s almost half a century ago. It can be taken for granted. But it shouldn’t be.

At a time when major cities are losing their orchestras, ours continues to thrive. If you haven’t partaken, this is a good time to put a toe in the water.

The conductor should be chosen around the first of the year and will direct the CSO’s annual Cabaret Concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14, in SUNY Oneonta’s Dewar Arena. You’ll be glad you did.

Citizens, Cooperstown Needs You To Run For Village Board

EDITORIAL

Citizens, Cooperstown

Needs You To Run For

Village Trustee Position

Bernie Viek, supported by Lake Street neighbors, raises concerns about a blinking light at the Sept. 23 Cooperstown trustees meeting. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

Bernie Viek’s testimony nailed it.

In the past few months, the Cooperstown Village Board’s default response to any traffic issue has been, put up a blinking light. After a driver rolled his car through the boat ramp at the end of Fair Street April 11 and drowned, suddenly a blinking red light appeared at Fair and Lake streets.

At the Sept. 23 trustees’ meeting, Viek, attending with a crowd of perturbed neighbors, reported the light was blinking, blinking, blinking all night long on his bedroom wall.

Plus, because of the nature of the drowning – the first ever at the site – a blinking light wouldn’t have saved a life.
No doubt neighbors of other blinking lights – at Susquehanna and Beaver, at Delaware and Walnut, at Glen Avenue, Lake Street and the village’s south end – have similar complaints.

Why would the village trustees start putting up these signs without any notice or public discussion?

Because they can.

After almost a decade of uncontested village elections, can you blame the trustees for concluding they can do pretty much what they want?

Bernie Viek’s dilemma – responding to his concern, the blinking light was removed – is just one of many indications the Village Board no longer believes it needs to build a consensus before it acts.

Outpourings of public angst in the past year underscore this.

The blinkers, for sure. Plans for an apartment house backing up to Pine Boulevard, one of the village’s finest streets. A provision in the proposed zoning code, removed after public outcry, to allow conversion of single-family homes into dormitories. The proposed Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskins Robbins store, now withdrawn, at a problematic site overlooked in the zoning redo.

The unanimous vote to fly the Pride Flag next June on the community flagpole has remained under the radar – speaking out is too easily misunderstood in today’s climate. But the Vets’ Club unwillingness to be used as a foil – it rejected Trustee Richard Sternberg’s proposal to fly the POW/MIA flag on the flagpole this month – suggests an unease.

Also, by rejecting Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh’s recommendation to go easy – the trustees can approve any flag they want, he said, the problem comes when the KKK submits an application – the village trustees put all taxpayers in jeopardy.

Why? Because they could. Since there hasn’t been a check at the ballot box for local Democratic Party dominance for almost a decade now, they can get away with it.

Maybe that’s coming to an end.

The county Republican chairman, Vince Casale, said he is already lining up a slate for the mid-March village elections. This is good; the village Republican Party collapsed in 2012 after GOP Mayor Joe Booan opened discussions to merge village police into the county Sheriff’s Department.

Now, that was accountability.

Because of national divisiveness manifest locally, many Democrats might be unwilling to vote Republican. But there are other ways to provide choice: Individual citizens need only collect 50 signatures (shoot for 100; you’ll be challenged) to get on the ballot. Call Village Administrator Teri Barown, who oversees village elections,
at 547-2411 for instructions.

The Democratic caucus at the end of January routinely rubber-stamps pre-selected candidates, but that doesn’t have to be: Any registered party member can have a couple friends propose and second his or her nomination, and force a contest.

Further, former trustee Lou Allstadt sought both Republican and Democratic endorsements at the party caucuses, signaling both his independence, and an interest in serving all of us, R, D or small “I”.

Contested elections are not a radical idea. They’re a good thing, the basis of the world’s greatest Democracy. Jousting between parties – Judge Cooper’s Federalists and Jedediah Peck’s Jeffersonians – dates back to the very founding of the village in 1807.

Plus, Democrats who have controlled the Village Board since 2020 have blind spots that call out for attention, foremost the decline of the business district. Mid-afternoons from January through March, downtown is a ghost town. It wasn’t that way even a half-decade ago, much less a decade ago.

While the City of Oneonta has been a successful partner in the redevelopment of Bresee’s Department Store and Stevens’ Hardware into first-rate apartments, and now the recruitment of Kearney & Son Development to construct the exciting Lofts on Dietz project, the Village Board here has actively resisted such initiatives.

The Village Board needs, one, to join the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce at the highest membership level, and, two, collaborate with merchants and chamber members to ensure vigorous and constant downtown promotion programs.

Further, instead of breaking up stately homes into apartments and more modest homes into dorms – a formula for neighborhood deterioration – the Village Board needs to partner with Bassett Hospital and developers to build affordable housing hospital employees say they want.

That could be outside the village – word is circulating about a Phoenix Mills Road project, next to Centers – or at convenient but appropriate sites in or around downtown. (For heavens’ sake, protect and enhance the neighborhoods!)

This is no criticism of Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, who is an exceptional representative for the village. She is focused, as she should be – there’s a lot out there – on finishing up the ambitious public works projects now underway, including the 100th anniversary renovations of historic Doubleday Field. In the end, though, she’s the leader.

Trustee Joe Membrino, who with wife Martha moved here from Washington D.C. in 2013 on his retirement as a BIA attorney, is a trustee in the Lou Allstadt mold – experienced in high councils, widely knowledgeable, level-headed, and no push-over. He was appointed to fill out Tillapaugh’s trustee term when she was elected mayor.

The third Village Board member up for reelection, Macguire Benton, is a work in progress. His declaration during the Pride Flag debate that, if people disagree with him, they should run for Village Board, dramatized the arrogance that requires remedy at the ballot box.

Nominated by the Democrats when Allstadt retired, he ran unopposed last March and gained a seat with only 114 votes, the bottom of the ticket.

This week, he took to Facebook to encourage people not to contribute to the Salvation Army Kettle Drive, sure to alienate other constituents unnecessarily.

As a freshman, he should be trying to figure out who his constituents are and what they want – and don’t want – from Village Hall. A strong challenge would be a great education for him, as well as a tonic for the Village Board in general.

Friends, all that’s required is for citizens to be citizens. If you care about preserving Cooperstown, playing to its strengths and increasing its liveability, run. Not angrily, not to settle scores or push parochial issues, but to participate in guiding “America’s Most Perfect Village” into the future.

Remember, it’s “most perfect,” not perfect. There’s work to be done.

From All, Best Wishes For A Speedy Recovery

EDITORIAL

From All, Best Wishes

For A Speedy Recovery

$10 MILLION MAN: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, is flanked by, from left, MVREDC chairman Robert Geer, Empire State Development Corp. President Howard Zemsky, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, when the City of Oneonta was named the first DRI community on July 20, 2016. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Editor’s Note: This editorial is reprinted from this week’s editions of Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal, on newsstands now.

The news that state Sen. Jim Seward’s cancer is back – his office issued a press release Wednesday, Nov. 6 – brings two immediate reactions.

One, fingers crossed. Advances in cancer-fighting research can mean five years, 10 years – and more – of active living. Everyone’s got a story of a happy outcome.

Two, reflections immediately come to mind on the ongoing Seward Era of Otsego County politics. It’s been a charmed one, and to reflect on it underscores how his recovery will be good news for all of us.

Just think about this decade, the State Sen. Jim Seward Decade, if you will.

You Can Read County Manager Job Description

WHO MIGHT BE COUNTY MANAGER?

You Can Read County

Manager Job Description

Editor’s Note: Here are the qualifications for a county manager the Otsego County board was scheduled to consider Wednesday, Nov. 6.

►Section 3. Appointment and Term of Office

The County Administrator shall be appointed by the Board of Representatives and shall serve a term of three years at the pleasure of the Board of Representatives.
In the event of a vacancy in office, the County Board of Representatives shall appoint a person to fill the
position for the remainder of the unexpired term.

The County Administrator shall be reviewed annually by the Board of Representatives, or a committee
designated by them.

►Section 4. Qualifications

At the time of appointment the County Administrator shall possess the following qualifications:
1. Graduation from a regionally accredited or New York State registered college or university with a Master’s Degree in Business or Public Administration or a related field and six (6) years of professional experience in the field of public administration; OR

2. Graduation from a regionally accredited or New York State registered college or university with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business or Public Administration or a related field and eight (8) years of professional experience in the field of public or business administration.

3. The appointee need not be a resident of Otsego County at the time of appointment but shall become
so within sixty days of the date of appointment and remain so during his or her term of office.
Failure to become a resident or to remain a resident shall be cause for dismissal by the Otsego County Board of Representatives.

4. The Board of Representatives shall appoint on the basis of these qualifications and on the basis of additional qualifications that the Board of Representatives may establish from time to time.

Reps Ready To Balance Credentials, Experience

EDITORIAL

Reps Ready To Balance

Credentials, Experience

As the City of Oneonta has demonstrated, moving to a city manager – or county manager, the issue of the day – can be “fraught.”

(That’s the word of the day – or year – all of a sudden, every reporter is finding every situation “fraught,” filled with possibilities for undesirable outcomes.  It’s the “Where’s the Beef?” of 2019.)

Wednesday, Nov. 6, the Otsego County Board of Representatives, after almost two years of study, was scheduled to vote on a job description and resolution to create the job. The resolution would set a public hearing for the next meeting, Dec. 4, and at that point the county reps could vote.

Before then, county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, who has championed the effort as chair of both key committees, Intergovernmental Affairs and Administration, said two public information meetings will brief citizens on the innovation and allow discussion and input.

The county board chair, David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, supports creating the county-manager job, but said he wants to make sure the job description is non-specific enough to give the county reps a big enough talent pool and flexibility in picking the right person.

As it happens, two local examples exist that allow lessons to be drawn.

In Oneonta, the city Charter Revision Commission that met in 2009-10 was determined to prevent the hiring of a “good ol’ boy” from the local power structure for the job.

So the job description specifically requires an MPA – a master’s in public administration – which narrowed the talent pool, and may have contributed to the failure of the first two city managers, before the position was stabilized under George Korthauer, a veteran administrator from Petoskey, Mich., who’s been able to pretty much avoid controversy in his two years on the job.

It’s been argued the MPA provision prevented executives like Joe Forgiano, then-retiring executive vice president at MeadWestvaco, Sidney, from being considered. (It’s unclear if he was ever asked if he was interested.)

But you can think of other eminent Oneontans, people like retired SUNY Oneonta president Alan Donovan or former mayor John Nader, who, lacking an MPA, might have stepped in nonetheless and performed superbly.

Then there’s Village of Cooperstown, where Teri Barown was seamlessly promoted from village clerk, and has been effectively operating since with nary a ripple.

The village administrator position had been created in the 1990s, but never filled. And in September 2016, recognizing more day-to-day oversight was required with downtown projects multiplying, Mayor Jeff Katz and the trustees simply promoted her.

It’s worked out great, (plus the village saved some money). Barown knew the trustees, knew what they wanted and what they would resist. She is knowledgeable, diplomatic, with a fine-tuned sense of customer service.

No problemo – not a one.

With such lessons to draw on, Chairman Bliss brings a commonsense outlook to the county manager job description.

Crafted with the help of NYSAC, the state Association of Counties, it’s not surprising the MPA provision is included, and others as well. That’s the sea NYSAC swims in.

But a range of work experience combined with a range of credentials appears to tilt toward the Cooperstown model rather than the Oneonta one.

That’s good, because too much narrow-gauged professionalism can also, little by little, squeeze out democracy.

School superintendents are a case in point: For instance, every school board resolution begins with “on the recommendation of the superintendent of schools,” as if boards of education can do nothing that their hired manager doesn’t suggest or endorse.

Given the requirement that superintendents implement ever more precise and far-ranging law and regulation, even they lack much leeway in determining what local schools teach and how.

And remember, 30 years ago, when voters could reject school budgets and spending would
actually be cut. Today, schools are required to provide so much of what goes on in schools, local boards of education can only cut things like the basketball team, which nobody wants.

You don’t need to go to Washington D.C. to find Donald Trump’s “deep state.” It’s alive and well at 89 Washington St., Albany, the state Department of Education, and in every school district in the state.

Also to watch for: Oneonta’s city manager system – to give him credit, Korthauer’s professional, low-key approach has settled things down – seems to have sapped Common Council’s motivation; committee meetings are routinely cancelled due to lack of a quorum, and it’s been months since any Council member has proposed a notable initiative. (Maybe the new cadre elected Tuesday, Nov. 5, will change that.)

The advantage of the existing county board is that it’s close to the people, and responsive … although not always as efficient as it might be.

It’s that inefficiency – Vice Chairman Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, mentioned expensive change orders on county jail renovations that keep surprising the county reps. A county manager, presumably, would put a better chain of command in place.

Kennedy, who is learning about statewide networking after recently joining NYSAC’s board, hopes the county manager will be able to seek out best practices and novel initiatives statewide to help fix local problems – with our challenged rural emergency squads, for instance.

Following the Teri Barown model, is there someone already at the county who could step up to the job, MPA or not? Karen Sullivan, the planning director who ends up in charge of much of county innovation, would certainly be a contender (although she says she doesn’t want what, at least at the beginning, will be a daunting job.)

Acting Treasurer Alan Crisman, IT Director (and Milford village mayor) Brian Pokorny, Personnel Director Penny Gentile, even current Clerk of the Board Carol McGovern come to mind as promising prospects after a sufficiently rigorous interview process. Working for an MPA while on the job might be a sensible requirement.

Bliss and county Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, a former vice chair, are also concerned about mission creep. A county manager, budgeted at $150,000 a year, might conclude he or she needs a deputy, then secretarial help, and before you know it we’re up to $250,000.

Bliss is determined stay on top of that. After all, the county already has $116 million worth of brain- and firepower. That should be enough.

At base, the world’s a complicated place – and that goes for local government as anywhere else. The right amount of expertise and executive ambition could serve the county well.

It’s not a slam dunk, no guarantees; but Coach Bliss understands the vagaries involved in playing the game. And to listen to him, we can hope for, not a NYSAC cookie-cutter solution, but one that can pursue local opportunities while reducing local challenges.

The point, in the end, is a happier, more efficient Otsego County.

Early Voting Begins In County, And With It, New Opportunities

EDITORIAL

Early Voting Begins

In County, And With

It, New Opportunities

“Anything that allows more people to exercise the right to vote is important,” said Mike Henrici, the county’s Democratic elections commissioner after the first weekend of early voting in Otsego County.

Maybe.

Early voting has been around for 30 years – Texas was first – and today 38 states open the polls in advance of Election Day, which this year is Nov. 5.  New York was the 38th state and, as elsewhere in the state, polls opened at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the county’s Meadows Office Complex in the Town of Middlefield.

Day One, 50 people voted – the first historic ballot was cast by Kathy Chase, Cooperstown. Day Two, 42, and by noon Monday, Day Three, 34.  At that rate, perhaps 400-500 ballots will be cast by Sunday, Nov. 3.  There will then be a two-day hiatus, and polls will be open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Election Day.

Chase, who plans to be in Colorado visiting her son on Nov. 5, and thus wouldn’t have been able to vote, said, “If it increases voter turnout, then it’s a good thing.”

Yes, but that seems not to have happened nationwide, although early voting has risen from 7 percent of voters in the early 1990s to 17.3 percent, a U.S. Election Assistance Commission statistic reported in a recent column by Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commission member in the Washington Times.  That doesn’t include absentee ballots.

However, studies out of American University and the University of Wisconsin concluded states with early voting found turnout dropped 3-4 percent, he recounted.

One theory is that, with one Election Day, campaigns mount an intensive effort to get out the vote; having to do so over two weeks – or as much as 45 days in some states – saps the undertaking.

But what about in Otsego County, when you’re talking about very small numbers, particularly this year, when only county and town offices, and three state Supreme Court slots, are on the ballot.

Take the Town of Richfield, where the motivated Protect Richfield neighbors went to court, lost, then took control of the Comprehensive Plan revision to achieve their goal: banning wind turbines from the jurisdiction.

If Protect Richfield organized to drive a dozen house-bound supporters to the polls every day of 10-day early voting, the 120 votes might very likely swing the election in their favor.

Same in the county board’s District 3 (Laurens-Otego), where Democratic organizers put on a push in the June 25 primary to garner 30 write-in votes to win the Independent line for their candidate, Caitlin Ogden. Despite Republican Rick Brockway having his name printed on the Independent ballot line, he garnered only four votes.

When we’re talking that few numbers, it doesn’t take much to tilt the game board.

Don’t kid yourself that couldn’t be happening.  The other day, the county Democratic Committee sent out a tightly packed schedule of envelope stuffing and phone banking.  The OCDC is energized.

Whether Republicans are caught flat-footed remains to be seen.

Last year, Democrat Antonio Delgado raised $9 million to wrest the 19th District congressional seat from incumbent Republican John Faso, who raised a mere $4 million, according to OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics’ home page.

With that kind of money at his disposal, you can see what kind of hay Delgado’s 2019 campaign can in the 10-day early-voting period, when Delgado will be running for reelection.

Ironically, given Democratic support of taking big money out of politics, early voting “increases the already skyrocketing cost of political campaigns,” wrote Spakovsky, who now is at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“When so many citizens vote early, any candidate who limits spending on voter mobilization to the last few days before Election Day (instead of engaging in expensive turnout efforts during the entire early voting period) will be at a serious disadvantage,” the column said.

There are other issues.

Spakovsky pointed out that in the 2016 Presidential campaign, early voting began in three states even before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had completed their debates.

After early votes are cast, candidates can die.  Scandals can erupt.

In 2016, Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican and presidential candidate, dropped out a week before the Arizona primary and still received 70,000 votes, many of them early ones.

A CNN analyst pointed out John Kasich came in fourth, behind Rubio by only 6,000 votes. The Ohio governor had been beaten by “Rubio’s ghost.”

If Kasich had continued as a viable alternative to Donald Trump, who knows what our nation’s political landscape would have been today.

In conclusion, Spakovsky mourns the “damage to civic cohesiveness” gained by everyone voting on a single day.

In Cooperstown, for instance, gathering at the Rotary Club’s pancake breakfast at the vets’ club after casting your ballot is as much a part of Election Day as standing in line at St. Mary’s Parish Hall.

Candidates are there.  Republicans and Democrats shake hands.  There’s a feeling of civic cohesion, if not unity on all the issues.

“Given the costs, particularly its tendency to lower turnout, early voting is a ‘reform’ that states should consider undoing,” said the former FEC commissioner.

An unalloyed good?  It seems not.

Revisit Richfield Comp Plan: Elect Palevsky, Eckler, Bello

ENDORSEMENT EDITORIAL

Revisit Richfield Comp Plan:

Elect Palevsky, Eckler, Bello

Nick Palevsky for Richfield town supervisor

In the lead-up to the Richfield Town Board adopting a new Comprehensive Plan & Zoning Code, people said they want to see the town come together.

People observed that “nothing’s happened” in the Richfield Springs area in the past 20 years (or longer).

Send Political Letters

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By noon Monday, 10/28

People mourned the decline in enrollment of the Richfield Springs Central School, which graduated 29 seniors on June 29.

These emotions are easily understood.

But to conclude, as some did, that the town’s new comp plan and code, hatched without the knowledge of the community at large with special interests in mind, will accomplish any of those things is likely mistaken.

While polite, meetings leading up to the final decision – a public hearing Sept. 23 on the zoning code, and the town board meeting Sept. 30 where members of a clique, 3-2, jammed through the undigested document – were angry.

The reasons have been spelled out in our news pages: West End neighbors, their lawsuit against the five-turbine Monticello Hills Wind foiled, took control of the process of revising the comp plan and zoning code.

Fred Eckler for Richfield Town Board

By the time the community at large became aware of what was going on, the neighbors controlled the Zoning Commission, the Planning Board and three of five seats on the Town Board.

In addition to banning wind turbines, and original comp plan virtually prohibited any development along Route 20, the major commercial thoroughfare through the town.

After an outcry, and more measured inputs by people like Andela Products President Cynthia Andela, that was revised.  On the whole, though, the plan pushed through Sept. 30 envisions the Town of Richfield’s future as agricultural – as dairying disappears – and residential.

That ensures “nothing” will happen, new people won’t move in, commerce will remain stagnant, school enrollment will continue to ebb.

The Republican Town Board slate – former Supervisor Nick Palevsky, incumbent Town Board member Fred Eckler and newcomer Ed Bello Jr. – object to the new comp plan and code.

Ed Bello Jr. for Richfield Town Board

They deserve voters’ support Tuesday, Nov. 5.  Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the town and across Otsego County, where local elections will be held.

If elected, a first step being considered would be to revisit the petitions signed by landowners in the town to require a super-majority – a 4-1 vote – to pass the zoning code.  If found valid after all, and Sept. 30 vote is moot.  The code is no more.

If that happened, it would have to be just the beginning.  A process – the particulars are unclear; this is a rare occurrence – would have to be pursued to come up with a new comp plan and zoning code that truly reflects the widest possible consensus among townsfolks.

Done correctly – not by any special-interest group, but by community leaders guided by only the good of the whole – a new broad-based plan might very well achieve what everyone wants.

That’s a community that’s come together, not torn apart, where “something” can happen in terms of jobs and commerce, where RSCS will indeed flourish again.

Vote Farwell, Brockway For County Board Seats

ELECTION EDITORIAL

Vote Farwell, Brockway

For County Board Seats

2017 – now, that was a year for local democracy.

Twelve of the 14 seats on the Otsego County Board of Representatives were contested – only Gary Koutnik in Democratic Oneonta and Dan Wilber in Republican Town of Burlington got a pass.

Reelect Michele Farwell in county board District 2.

This year, regrettably, there are three, but one race calls out for an endorsement:
Michele Farwell, the Democrat running for reelection in District 2 (Morris, Butternuts and Pittsfield).

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By noon Monday, 10/28

Every county board has top performers, the most influential, the reps who make things happen.

Currently, that would include the peace-making chairman, David Bliss, plus Meg Kennedy, Peter Oberacker, Andrew Marietta and perhaps Ed Frazier. When they speak, things happen.

Others, certainly, may have a slightly different list.

A good case can be made to include Michele Farwell in that select group for one initiative alone: She suggested the county board join a lawsuit against Big Pharma to try to reclaim some of the costs of fighting the heroin epidemic.

Now, it seems likely the county’s claim will be recognized.

Just a freshman, she also is co-chairing the county Energy Task Force with Kennedy. Energy is a divisive issue. It’s unclear if a consensus can be reached. But both Kennedy and Farwell have shown restraint and consideration in navigating a ship in rough waters.

Like the best of the reps, she doesn’t speak a lot (or too little.) But when she speaks, she’s worth listening do.

Farwell is being challenged by an independent, Marcia Hoag, who should be saluted for running in a year when so few have stepped forward. But Farwell has earned reelection.

In the two other contested races:

Elect Rick Brockway in county board District 3.

• District 3 (Otego-Laurens), Republican Rick Brockway is amiable and approachable, the kind of legislator that every elected body requires. He knows
the territory, and he knows his would-be constituents. Vote for Brockway.

• District 14 (Oneonta’s Wards 7-8), Jill Basile, has the edge against Wilson Wells, a Libertarian and engaging young man. As the Democratic nominee in the Democratic city, Basile has appropriately attended the past several county board meetings to prepare herself for the job she will probably hold.

Unopposed, Oneonta’s Oliver Emerging As Political Player

ENDORSEMENT EDITORIAL

Unopposed, Oneonta’s Oliver

Emerging As Political Player

Get to know Oneonta’s Clark Oliver.  You likely will be hearing a lot about him on the political scene in years to come.

Clark Oliver with fellow county board candidate Jill Basile at a recent meeting.

A senior poli-sci major at SUNY Oneonta, he will be finishing his degree in December just in time to take office Jan. 1, as he’s running unopposed in the county board’s District 11 (Oneonta’s Ward 1-2).

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By noon Monday, 10/28

In the past couple weeks, two fellow Democratic candidates – Hall of Fame grantsman Caitlin Ogden, who is running against Rick Brockway in District 3, and Hanford Mills Director of Education Luke Murphy, who, learning Common Council member Michele Frazier is moving to Delhi, mounted an energetic write-in campaign in Oneonta’s Ward One – report they were inspired to run by Oliver’s enthusiasm and encouragement, as well as Village Trustee MacGuire Benton.

In an interview, Oliver – he’s a gutsy young guy, smart and talented:  you may remember that, as a boy, he performed in the Broadway hit, “101 Dalmatians,” on its national tour – said he also encouraged Jill Basile to run for county rep in District 14, and Kaytee Lipari Shue to run for Common Council in Ward 4.

Disillusioned, then motivated, by President Trump, Oliver issues are a little general – transparency, fiscal responsibility, environmental sustainability, etc. — still to be precisely defined.

“Each of us is running to make our communities a better place – we aren’t necessarily a slate,” he said.  “A lot of young people are excited and passionate about running for office. At many levels of government we don’t see young people represented.  I’m inspired we all decided to run at the same time, and happy to see a change in local politics.”

Let’s see where it goes.

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, necessarily, than entertainment at 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.

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