When one looks about and takes in the bustling commercial activity of Otsego County during the busy tourist season and anticipates the impending return of the thousands of college students who keep things humming through the “off-season,” one feels confident that Otsego County has a healthy, perhaps even vibrant, economy. And while that may be true, beneath the shiny veneer of commercial success lies a dark reality.
Otsego County, like many of its neighbors, has a poverty problem. According to statistics published by Opportunities for Otsego, Inc., a community action agency actively fighting a local “War on Poverty” since 1966, the poverty rate in Otsego County stood at 13.3 percent as of the census of 2020. Of families with a female head of household and children present, a jaw-dropping 39 percent live in poverty. And in a measurement known as the ALICE threshold, which measures households that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, 29.2 percent of all Otsego County households live below that threshold.
A few months ago the New York State House and Senate voted to approve the shutdown of the puppy-mill-to-New York pipeline, ending the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores across the state. The bills await the governor’s signature. They have taken an inordinately long time to reach Hochul, having been first introduced in March, 2019.
Among the relentless fighters for this shutdown is our own Stacie Haynes, Executive Director of the Susquehanna SPCA.
As Board President of the New York State Animal Protection Federation as well, Haynes was instrumental in the passage in June of the Companion Animal Care Standards Act for Shelters and Rescues, which raises the standards of care for animals in shelters and rescues and ensures the licensing of all organizations caring for homeless animals.
Last Spring “Our Great National Parks” premiered, to the enthusiastic enjoyment of many of us still in the throes of Covid. The series’ executive producer and narrator is former president Barack Obama who, during his administration, protected more public lands and water than any other U.S. president. The series records the activities of a variety of animals, forests and plants, many formerly endangered, that have emerged, survived and prospered in the wild under the protection of many National Parks around the world: the rhino, Maasai lion, Cape buffalo and elephants in Kenya; lemurs, limestone needles and birds in Madagascar; volcanoes, loggerhead turtles and Erabu flying foxes in Japan; sloths, squirrel monkeys, white-faced monkeys and tiny crabs in Costa Rica; waterfalls, saltwater crocodiles, flatback turtles and coral reefs in Australia; mountain gorillas and golden monkeys in Rwanda; rainforests, orangutans, gibbons and tigers in Indonesia; armadillos, cougars, maras and pumas in Chile/Argentina; blue whales, elephant seals, sea creatures, bears, bison and elk in the U.S.
Since 2004 the U.S. has lost 2,100 newspapers, of which 2,000 were weeklies, closing at a rate of two per week. Many of the survivors have had to cut their staff and circulation. More than 200 of the 3,143 counties in the country have no local newspaper, with no reporters telling their stories and keeping an eye on the issues most critical to their local democracy and quality of life. There are no advertisers to offer their goods and services for sale, there is no newspaper of record, printing all the legal and tax notices, and there is no repository of community knowledge — births, deaths, op-eds, columns and letters to the editor.
Until this past week, we were just settling into a summer of weather that seemed almost perfectly “Goldilocks” — not too cold, not too hot. It reminded us of the summers of old, when there would be one or two days in early July that were considered hot — somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees. No one had air conditioning and very few had a swimming pool.
But last week the heat was intense and somewhat frightening, given global headlines on record-breaking heat, raging wildfires and devastating drought. Those of us who saw the allegorical film “Don’t Look Up” found ourselves, well, looking up. Since not well-versed in climate science, we considered looking up some facts and statistics but, afraid of finding anything too scary, put it off. Then, when a real scientist pointed out that we are now seeing effects of climate change not expected until around 2050, we had to do some looking up.
After an excruciating two-year Covid hiatus, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is at last back on track with its traditional mid-summer Induction Weekend. While the Weekend brings in a healthy number of past Hall of Famers as well as, this year, three living inductees, and their families, fans and friends, it also welcomes tens of thousands of baseball fans and all of their families who, when not milling about waiting to catch a glimpse of their baseball heroes strolling about town or on the tee-boxes and greens of Leatherstocking, spend their well-saved dollars on Main Street and beyond. This is a good thing for our tourist-starved Village which, to its credit, not only welcomes these multitudes with open arms, eager cash registers, tempting restaurants and comfortable beds, but also sweeps up every street and sidewalk after them within minutes of their departure.
Last Friday evening, a new production of The Sound of Music, the beloved musical written in 1959 by Rodgers and Hammerstein, came to life at The Glimmerglass Festival, signaling the start of the 2022 season, its 47th — an astonishing accomplishment.
The Glimmerglass Festival, changing its name over the years, began with three performances of La Bohème, courageously staged after three years of planning in the sparsely designed, non-air-conditioned, orchestra-pit-less 400-seat auditorium of the Cooperstown High School. The cast consisted, first, of professional singers and orchestra, but the two large choruses were made up of local volunteers, including a lot of children and teachers and, in fact, five Bassett doctors. The backstage crew — make-up, dressers, props — was all volunteers and the dressing rooms, separated by hanging sheets, were in the over-heated boiler room.
Thomas Jefferson: Written in Stone
The worst of the pandemic, perhaps, in the rear view; a nation tired and shaken looks for a way to celebrate its birthday in public for the first time in two years.
We spent the morning in Springfield Center, delighted and refreshed as the crowd grew in happy anticipation of the return of the Town’s rightfully heralded Fourth of July Parade. A joy to behold, a joy to talk with the participants as they lined up for the 11 a.m. step-off. Moms and dads, children and grandparents, friends and neighbors coming together on a postcard-perfect morning to celebrate the nation and salute the first responders, the veterans, the children, the bands so proudly marching by.
Then, the drive back to Cooperstown brings news of a wholly different parade experience in Highland Park, Illinois, one in which seven died and dozens were injured because this country has failed, repeatedly, to ban the sale of assault weapons. Because it was more important for Congress to pull a muscle patting itself on the back last week for passing “groundbreaking gun safety legislation” strong enough to barely break a pencil in half. Good job, Congress. You blew it, again.
Editorial: Congratulations, graduates!
An editorial page shout-out this week to every high school senior across Otsego County earning his, her, or their diploma. We won’t try to trip over words echoing what you heard at your respective ceremonies except to congratulate you doubly for your endurance, perseverance, and durability.
High school is already the world’s longest automatic carwash – you’re pelted with punishing jetstreams of water, slapped around by those rotating sheets of chamois, doused in hot wax, rinsed off with more of those jetstreams, then forced through superheated drying lamps and discombobulating high-speed fans. They’re all giant obstacles along the way blocking one’s would-be progress through life. But like your fellow alumni from the classes of 2020 and 2021 – and as your future fellow alum from graduating classes yet to come – you’ve had to face the one-two punch of all things COVID.
Addressing the school’s 143rd Commencement on Sunday, Cooperstown Central School District Superintendent Sarah Spross congratulated the students for withstanding two years of what she called “remote learning, then hybrid remote and in-person learning, masks on, masks off, masks back on, masks off but on voluntarily.” No one need be reminded of the see-sawing regulations, but her words were a fitting punctuation to her earlier praise for the class’s resiliency.
Students in their black gowns and mortarboards – some with honor cords and other earned adornments – lined up in the hot sun to receive their diplomas and be awarded some 60 different awards and scholarships. Friends and family applauded as their sons, daughters, and siblings entered the tent covering the ceremony on the back lawn of the Fenimore Art Museum; all stood and gave a rousing cheer for the faculty members joining the procession into the ceremony.
Every student and teacher there – just like every student and teacher lining up for the processions at every school district in our county – earned that applause and more. They plunged through a rigorous academic gauntlet while withstanding a social environment changed dramatically by a pandemic.
In spite of COVID (and we do mean in spite of), we think the challenge underpinning the Class of 2022’s academic and social achievements will lead to amazing achievements ahead. They’ve done the book-learning and passed all the academics, but that always-elusive real-world training that once awaited us only after we collected our high school diplomas became a huge part of earning a diploma over the past two years. Along with algebra, science, history, and grammar, they’ve had to learn new societal norms – some dictated not only by COVID, but by a general social upheaval affecting so many in our country and county. They’ve had to adjust and adapt in ways that haven’t always been a part of life inside high school walls. They’ve had to learn new technological skills. They’ve had to learn how to think fast and adapt not just because a textbook said so, but because life demanded they do so. They learned how to follow new rules by helping to create those new rules. These all are lessons that one does not get from a textbook, and all are attributes that will never fail them.
We hope every student is able to take a few moments to reflect on the accomplishment measured not by grade point average or plans for future study, but by how you stood up and won the challenge. Our heartiest congratulations to each and every one.
Hochul, Delgado, Wilson
The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta endorses the following candidates in the primary elections for the offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York State:
Kathy Hochul and Antonio Delgado
Mrs. Hochul rose immediately to the occasion when her scandal-scarred predecessor abruptly resigned from office in 2021. Her equanimity was and remains the temperate influence the state needs; she has been able to parlay that to a more productive and seemingly collegial atmosphere in the state Capitol. To be sure, she has made a couple of missteps along the way – choosing now-indicted Brian Benjamin as her lieutenant governor and pushing a sweetheart deal for a new stadium for her beloved Buffalo Bills. She recovered well from the Benjamin debacle by tapping Rep. Antonio Delgado as her new lieutenant and, as this page has noted, that Bills stadium was a foregone conclusion that any governor would have sought to keep the team in town.
Mr. Delgado is no stranger to Otsego County; we believe as the whole of New York comes to know him as we do, they will meet a public official who connects to the community. His skill sets serve him well in office.
Neither of Mrs. Hochul’s opponents meet the challenge: Rep. Tom Suozzi’s campaign began with an encouraging promise to stick to the political center but gained no traction. Jumaane Williams is so focused on New York City we fear he would know nothing about New York much farther north of Yankee Stadium.
We are concerned that Mr. Williams’s Lieutenant Governor running mate, Ana Maria Archila, may gain some Ocasio-Cortez mojo and surprise people on primary day. Her sole attribute seems to be a calculated ability to be obnoxiously and melodramatically confrontational. That’s not what we need these days.
In the June 28 Democratic primary, we endorse Kathy Hochul for governor and Antonio Delgado for lieutenant governor.
Speaking of confrontational, we are disappointed by Rep. Lee Zeldin’s transmogrification into Donald Trump-lite, using cheap playground taunts for his opponents instead of engaging in a decent debate on issues. We know Mr. Zeldin to be knowledgeable and thoughtful; his attack-dog persona is unwelcomed, his chasing after a Trump endorsement embarrassing. He and fellow candidate Andrew Giuliani seem more interested in a thumbs-up from Mr. Trump than they do engaging in a forthright, issues-based discussion. That Steve Bannon, perhaps one of the planet’s most hateful, destructive people – left his federal court hearing last week to support Mr. Giuliani at a fundraiser is all we need to know to give wide berth to Mr. Giuliani’s candidacy.
Harry Wilson, on the other hand, has stuck to his core issues – New York’s battle with street criminals and reasonable reforms to the state’s ill-conceived bail reform laws, an economic turnaround plan that makes sense, a proven ability to work with both parties. His moderation on these and other matters make him, we think, the candidate best able to attract the votes a Republican would need to win in a heavily-blue New York. Mr. Zeldin’s campaign criticizes Mr. Wilson for being an advisor to the Obama Administration as if it’s some kind of treason. We think it illustrates a statesmanship too long lacking in New York’s political minefield.
In the June 28 Republican primary, we endorse Harry Wilson for governor.
Editorial: Gas, guns, and overpromising
We’re encouraged by the big news from the weekend that 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the United States Senate agreed to the ‘framework’ of a deal on gun safety measures – enhanced background checks for prospective gun buyers under the age of 21 and funding for state red-flag laws, along with money for programs to improve safety and mental health services in schools. Even though it seemingly has less to do with gun control than it does the less direct permutations of the issue, it’s a start.
Mr. Devil lurks in the details. Now the nation waits while staffers for those 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans face off in a stuffy room in the U.S. Capitol and argue across the table about exactly what their principals meant in their weekend announcement.
Not that we blame the lawmakers for putting out a statement – it’s an impatient America that wants to know, right now, what Washington is going to do about guns, or, depending on one’s side in the debate, mental health. Legislation, as we know, doesn’t come easily out of the halls of Congress. In this instance, they have to make it look like they’re getting somewhere – so out comes the press announcement.
Public-policy-by-press-release carries with it the risk of overpromising; that the end product won’t come anywhere near the ‘framework’ such an announcement promised. Staffers are under pressure now not just to deliver a product that fits the press release, but also one that responds to the untold numbers of telephone calls and e-mails marked URGENT they’ll be sifting through as the negotiations plod forward.
Speaking of overpromising press gambits, how’s that gasoline tax break working out for you?
Remember back in April when New York state lawmakers trotted out the brass section to announce their cure for pain at the pump by removing the state’s sales tax on a gallon of gasoline? We acknowledge our cynicism here and don’t discount the value of saving a couple of dollars with a fill-up, but it would appear that not too many people are trumpeting the temporary tax cut that took effect on June 1.
It’s hard to get excited about saving a random number of pennies when, in the last week – according to Gasbuddy.com – the average price of a gallon of gasoline in New York rose by 15.1 cents, and are nearly 40 cents per gallon higher than one month ago. No, lawmakers couldn’t have foreseen such a ridiculous manipulation of the marketplace that would come about, perhaps, in part, as a result of their promise to drive prices down. We’re seeing a marketplace run amok, and, as we alluded in an earlier editorial on the topic, that’s no place for even the best intended legislative initiatives.
We’re paying $5/gallon and more for a gallon of gas. That all but erases the political benefit we’re certain some had hoped for with this sales tax ploy – one that coincides with the coming of primary elections in June and August, and running all the way through and past the general election in November.
The lesson here for the spin doctors: Be careful what you promise. Be it guns, gasoline, or anything else – a fired-up electorate is going to hold your bosses to the pledges they make in the carefully-worded statements you advance.
Editorial: With appreciation for ‘a more excellent way’
Perhaps we take it for granted from time to time, that sprawling campus in Cooperstown. Fox Hospital, too, in Oneonta, and all the clinics and centers and caregiver offices filling the map in Otsego County.
In a nation whose rural regions are often challenged by a lack of access to quality health care or relegated to satellite status dozens of miles away from even the nearest emergency clinic, we’re fortunate indeed.
Fortunate that 100 years ago this week, the doors opened on a hospital in the Village of Cooperstown, named after Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett to honor her steadfast dedication to caring for the people of her rural county. Fortunate, too, that Edward Severin Clark made building the hospital a philanthropic priority, that his brother, Stephen Clark, reopened its doors in 1927 as a medical, research, and teaching hospital, and that the Clark family and Scriven Foundation have, in the 10 decades intervening, kept Bassett and the communities it serves foremost in their work.
A century ago, there was no such thing as a “healthcare industry.” Messrs. Edward and Stephen Clark and the doctors with whom they worked at the time could not have foreseen the seismic changes that would overhaul local, regional, and national health care many times over in the decades to come. Predictive sciences and artificial intelligence available today may give us a better idea of what’s on or over the horizon, but the model the hospital’s founders created in the 1920s remains a foundation for whatever is to come.
Today’s healthcare industry is exactly that – out of necessity, a big business that to stay afloat must be flexible, forward-thinking, and growth-oriented. Bassett – once a standalone hospital in the southeastern corner of the Village – could not be immune from those changes if it was to survive. To thrive and continue to serve our rural population, it had to expand to what we now know as the more corporate-sounding Bassett Healthcare Network.
Business smarts and resiliency aren’t even the half of it, though – a healthcare network, in the end, succeeds only when the communities it serves believe and trust in it. It’s a deeply personal and emotional experience for each individual who walks through the door of a clinic, an office, an emergency room. Bassett succeeds. A big business, perhaps, but one with a small town feel that respects its rural roots.
“There are two things that strike me as Bassett’s greatest assets today,” Bassett Healthcare Network President and CEO Dr. Tommy Ibrahim said in a statement to The Freeman’s Journal / Hometown Oneonta. “The first is this sure foundation provided by Mary Imogene Bassett and our other founders. The second is the hard work, dedication, and excellence of our caregivers and practitioners as they build on that foundation.”
We agree, and we applaud Dr. Ibrahim and his predecessors, the Clark Family, the Scriven Foundation, board members, staff, caregivers, and practitioners past and present throughout the Bassett Healthcare Network who have served us for the past century. It’s a hard-won achievement that can’t rest on the laurels we toss in their direction today, but it is a legacy and a future that we do not take for granted and for which we are genuinely grateful.
Editorial: Hall of Fame kudos
All five out of a possible five stars to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and its expert staff for kick-starting Cooperstown’s first learning-how-to-deal-with-COVID summer with the return of its joyous “Hall of Fame Classic,” a holiday weekend gathering that brought some 4,000 fans to Doubleday Field last Saturday and brought the village to near-summer-strength life almost overnight. Visitors crowded Main Street until everyone seemingly decamped to Brewery Ommegang for the Avett Brothers and Lake Street Dive show on Saturday night and left Main Street oddly quiet – but that was temporary. Sunday was another busy day.
Exactly what do you mean by ‘transformative’?
An editorial commentary
What a grand week for the environment! The New York Mets and Colorado Rockies were snowed out of their May 20 game after half-a-foot fell on Denver. Meanwhile, here in Otsego County, people escaped sweltering late-July heat and humidity with a trip to Glimmerglass, despite the beach being closed until Memorial Day weekend. A tornado ripped through northern Michigan. And GasBuddy.com, that repository of weekly good news, tells us average gasoline prices in New York rose more than 17 cents per gallon last week, $1.86/gallon higher than one year ago.
Deny it if you must, but it all points to some kind of upside down climate difficulties. And as is its wont, New York’s state Legislature approved a “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” in 2019 to ‘take the global lead’ on all things climate change. Excuse us while we pat ourselves on the back and move on to the next thing that we can write a press release about!
This nobly-named statute created a 22-member Climate Action Council, whose ‘Scoping Plan’ – now under public review – lays the groundwork for 100% zero-emission electricity grid by 2040 and says “fossil fuel-emitting cars and appliances will no longer be sold after 2035.”
The plan has its detractors and supporters, and we urge readers to examine the Council’s Scoping Plan at climate.gov.ny to read it in full. The period of public comment remains open through June 10, 2022.
It’s a hefty read with laudable goals and conclusions – but we wonder if it ever will, or can, get up off the ground under the crushing weight of government-speak that fills its PowerPoint slides. Forget the 22 members named to the Council itself – there are advisory panels, a ‘Just Transition Working Group,’ and a ‘Climate Justice Working Group.’ Every person on every one of those sub-groups dutifully heads off to innumerable Zoom meetings where they say their piece – a piece that’s usually filled with clichés using a lot of words to say nothing.
New York State annually reserves the third Tuesday of May for voters to cast their ballots on local school district budgets and board of education seats. It’s an important opportunity for the community to participate in
shaping local education policy, and we urge all eligible voters to take a few minutes and do so on May 17.
We urge readers to visit the website of their local school district — each has a good description and analysis of the budgets up for the May 17 vote along with the details of when and where the vote will take place.
In addition, we urge voters to support school budgets as proposed in each of the county’s local school districts. These aren’t spendthrift plans — in each case, district leaders navigate the rough seas of local demands and state mandates with an eye toward minimizing the school taxes property owners must pay. The programs these budgets support are essential to every student’s education — academic, athletic, artistic, vocational — each is a vital part of the comprehensive tool boxes that today’s world demands. The teachers and staff whom these budgets support are essential, too, of course — called out correctly as among the heroes of the pandemic and beyond, and deserving of our unified support.