News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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Letters To The Editor

NORTHRUP: Give Native Americans A Say
LETTER from JAMES “CHIP” NORTHRUP

Give Native Americans A Say

In How Things Are Named

To the Editor:

My distant relative and friend, the late Jim Northrup, was a Native American, decorated Vietnam Marine vet, and very humorous author.

My real name is James so Jim and I used to joke about how all the “Jim Northrups are strong, handsome and above average.”

He’s gone now, but on his behalf, as his paleface relative, I’d like to suggest that when it comes to naming locations, sports teams and other things – ask a Native American.

If they’re OK with it, go ahead. If they’re not, rethink it.

Native Americans, including Jim and his brother, are disproportionately represented in the Armed Forces. They often struggle with health issues, but in my experience, they’re pretty much immune to bone spurs.

If something is going to be named for them, give them a say in it. All the Jim Northrups think it’s the right thing to do.

JAMES “CHIP” NORTHRUP
Cooperstown

Mecca ‘Tone-Deaf’ Way To Refer to HoF 
LETTER from SAMANTHA DAVENPORT

Mecca ‘Tone-Deaf’

Way To Refer to HoF

To the Editor:

I am a reader of www.AllOTSEGO.com as well as its weekly newsprint companion. Twice now I have seen reference made to the Baseball Hall of Fame as “Mecca” and/or “the Mecca.”

Although I too place great value on the HoF and acknowledge it might be very old tradition to use the word, I think calling it “Mecca” is, frankly, tone-deaf.

I am sorry to be so blunt. For many, including some of our fine Bassett physicians, this would be the same as saying the Hall was just like the Vatican or the Church of The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. For many others, again including some of our fine Bassett physicians, that term brings to mind Howard University specifically.

I know we in and around your readership value our community, both near and far. I know we wish to be as welcoming as possible and assume your staff and sponsors feel likewise.

Therefore I kindly ask you to consider using other terms of great praise for our fine local institution.

Thanking you in advance,
SAMANTHA K.
DAVENPORT
Oneonta

 

MOTT: Village Pretty; Now Make It Work

LETTER from ROBIN MOTT

Village Pretty:

Now Make It Work

To the Editor:

I have been told that between 5 and 8 a.m. Wednesday, June 24, a crew would be coming in to, hopefully, fix a water main on Main Street that has broken. If it does not get fixed, I will not be able to do business that day. I am not the only one in this situation.

This is the third time that a water main has broken in my six years in business. Each time this happens it costs me money. Water is essential to my business, I cannot open my shop without it.

My question is: at what point does the beautification of our lovely village slow down and some maintenance on our existing infrastructure start?

ROBIN MOTT
The Hair Shop
Doubleday Court
Cooperstown

DILL: Know Where RXs Come From 

LETTER from MAUREEN DILL

Americans Should Know

Where RXs Come From

To the Editor:

I’m writing to you about my concerns regarding the fact that the majority of our prescription medications (as much as 90 percent, I’ve been told) are manufactured outside of the U.S. – primarily in China and India.

Many of us are interested in “sustainability,” and this, I believe, is related to our sustainable future!
Having “Googled” this subject, I’ve also read that the welfare of the U.S. regarding these prescription medications is largely hinged on our maintaining good relations with China.

One of my grandchildren, who is a staffer for the current chair of the Oversight Committee, had sent me several links to House and Senate bills concerning this subject. All, it seems, are currently “stalled” and/or descriptive text on the bills is currently unavailable.

As you might guess, there is little to no oversight in the laboratories where many of these medications are being manufactured. Some prescription medication labs in China are operated under the names of U.S. corporations.

Family members who use prescription medications have endeavored (by phone or online) to identify the source of their current meds, but the providers of these prescriptions were unable or unwilling to identify the source of manufacture.

Today, if we purchase a garment, or shoes, or food products, or a piece of equipment, labeling of these products is required to list country of origin. Why not so for the prescription meds we are putting into
our bodies?

MAUREEN DILL
Morris

RISSBERGER: Citizens Can Expected Action On City Policing
LETTER from DAVID RISSBERGER

Citizens Can Expected

Action On City Policing

To the Editor:

In light of recent national and local events, I feel compelled to speak out regarding the tragic death of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

David Rissberger is the senior member of Oneonta Common Council.

As I’d like to believe most civilized people would be, I was horrified and appalled to watch the barbaric treatment of Mr. George Floyd as he was being arrested by the Minneapolis police department.

Police officers take an oath to protect and serve ALL members of their community and to treat citizens with respect and dignity. The video of the death of George Floyd that went viral clearly showed that Mr. Floyd was afforded neither.

In recent days my heart has been filled with hope as I have watched thousands of people across our country taking to the streets in peaceful protest in response to the horrific treatment of Mr. Floyd and other instances of police brutality against people of color.

The Justice for George Floyd protest in Muller Plaza recently drew over 500 people – one of the largest crowds for any protest in recent years. This speaks volumes of the caliber of people in our region who wish to demonstrate their dedication to improving their community by helping to ensure that people of color are treated equally under the law.

Following the protest in the plaza, many have questioned on social media, “What next?”  and “Were we even heard?” I would like to offer assurances that your Oneonta City Council members have been listening, but we also know that listening can become meaningless if not followed up by action toward areas of identified concern.

Our mayor and the leadership of the Oneonta Police Department have met and will continue to meet with our local chapter of the NAACP to continue the dialogue to discuss ways in which to improve relations and interactions with people of color.

My colleagues and I have reached out to our police chief in order to discuss areas which may be improved, such as a review of ongoing education and training in the proper use of force and updating policies and procedures for police officer conduct.

This is a good start and I am not naïve to think that this is the totality of the work that we will do in the coming days.

I believe that Oneonta has made progress in race relations in the last 20 years but we must never rest on our laurels. The day that we do is a day that we allow those voices of bigotry
and prejudice to slowly overshadow and stain our community once more.

Those of us on the Common Council are dedicated to working with our police force and our local chapter of the NAACP to ensure that ALL citizens of Oneonta are safe, secure, and feel that their voices are equally heard.

We need to continue to hear from the people in our community and hear your stories. Thank you for peacefully protesting and helping to move us forward to a better, more equitable society.

DAVID RISSBERGER
Common Council
Oneonta

BRENNER: Oneonta Police Will Listen To Concerns
LETTER from CHIEF DOUG BRENNER

Oneonta Police Will

Listen To Concerns

To the Editor:

Contemporary law enforcement is as dynamic and challenging as we seen during any of our careers in law enforcement. While we who have chosen this profession watch national trends, tragedies and triumphs and shared challenges, we are uniquely Oneontan.

OPD Chief Doug Brenner

We have had some low moments in this department that have prompted, over time, a near-complete overhaul of the agency. These changes were a response, in some cases, to public demands and outcry, internal investigations, independent investigations, changes in police training and best practices, court rulings and, as with any law enforcement agency, changes in State and Federal Statues.

Calls for change have been consistently applied and reviewed, and in 2014 the City of Oneonta Police Department became a New York State Accredited Police Agency. Part of State Accreditation is ongoing review of best practices for law enforcement and best practices both inside of New York and across the nation.

We, the City of Oneonta Police Department assure you, The People, the most important part of our city, that we continue to progress each day toward the goal of being better than the day before. In 2019, we achieved re-accreditation as we strive to provide the most professional police services possible.

While we are deeply troubled and saddened by national events, our true concerns lie here at home with this community. We take great pride in wearing the uniform of a city Police Department.

Local Law Enforcement is a total immersion undertaking. We get to know many of our local citizens, citizen students, business owners and workers from out of the area. Our effectiveness increases with community support and open dialogue.

We want to hear your concerns and use them as an opportunity for growth and improvement. We will stand with you in every aspect of denouncing practices that hurt, demean and destroy trust in our agency and work to ensure those practices do not occur in the City of Oneonta.

We have had conversations with groups and individuals regarding how to operate as an agency. From our most junior officer to the chief of the department we all welcome constructive dialogue and we encourage anyone to ask us questions should the opportunity arise. We are proud to work here and love the opportunity to talk about the community, the issues we face and challenges that are inherent in the profession.

Community activism and involvement runs deeply in this community, it is one of the hallmarks of civil society and a sacrosanct right we swore an oath to uphold.

We are incredibly proud of the most recent example of a local demonstration regarding a larger national conversation assembled and completed in an honorable and peaceful manner.

Yours in service,

DOUGLAS W. BRENNER
Chief of Police
City of Oneonta

DILL: County Planner Sullivan Always Went Extra Mile
LETTER from MAUREEN DILL

County Planner Sullivan

Always Went Extra Mile

To the Editor:

Karen Sullivan

Karen Sullivan and her predecessor Terry Bliss were amazing leaders and expert planners. Otsego County was lucky to have them.

I had the pleasure of knowing and working with them during my role as flood recovery coordinator from 2006 to 2008 and, as I recall, it was through Karen’s efforts that flood victims who had lost their homes to the flood were able to benefit from funds from a state grant.

Karen always went the extra mile!

I, for one, will miss her and wish her the very best in her future endeavors.

MAUREEN DILL
Morris

MASON: Step Up, OCCA, BFS, Watershed Commission
LETTER from ANDREW MASON

Step Up, OCCA, BFS,

Watershed Commission

To the Editor:

Michael Whaling’s recent letter in The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta, regarding pesticide use by the Leatherstocking Golf Course, was spot on. This is just the time when the course begins its annual dousing of the shores of Otsego Lake with chemicals dangerous to humans and wildlife alike.

The last time the public was able to learn the specific materials and quantities used on the course, it was revealed that the golf course used over 3,300 pounds and 100 gallons of pesticides – many carcinogenic, acutely toxic, and developmental or reproductive toxins.

The golf course has not released its pesticide usage since – is there any wonder why?

The use of these poisons adjacent to a public water supply and recreation area is unconscionable and goes unchallenged by SUNY’s Biological Field Station, the Otsego County Conservation Association, Otsego Lake Watershed Supervisory Committee, and the Village of Cooperstown – all ostensibly concerned with the lake and public health. Clearly these entities are more interested in staying in the good graces of the Clark Foundation, owner of the golf course, than in living up to their responsibilities.

The Leatherstocking course claims to be environmentally responsible.

If that is truly the case, let them tell the people who drink and recreate on Otsego Lake’s waters just what they are spraying
next to it.

ANDREW MASON
Oneonta

Letter From Oneonta NAACP: Outraged? Yes! We Exclaim, ‘Not Again’
LETTER from ONEONTA NAACP

Outraged? Yes!

We Exclaim, ‘Not Again’

When we saw the heinous act of another black man, George Floyd, intentionally being held down by four relaxed policemen and George not resisting arrest, but resisting suffocation and pleading “I can’t breathe, please let me stand,” it makes us return to the actions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It was difficult to watch one policeman putting his knee with increased pressure on Mr. Floyd’s neck and three policemen watching until another black man’s life was painfully lost.

We could go back to Emmett Till in Mississippi, Ronna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., Eric Garner in New York City, Trayvon Martin and just a few weeks ago, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, shot dead running through a predominately white neighborhood, along with many others too numerous to list or mention.

We are not surprised, we are angry. Yes, again we are shocked when most of these killings we have
witnessed, through new technology – except Emmett Till – result usually without immediate arrest. When these incidents happen they continually make your blood pressure spike for weeks, but we are not surprised of the bad police action throughout our nation and time and time again our justice system not resolving cases.

Shocked? No. Surprised? No. Outraged? Yes! And we exclaim, “Not again!” When is enough going to be enough? A national communication process will certainly not even start with this person presently living in the “wrong house” for three years.

Thursday evening, May 28, Joanne and I participated, along with 1,200 others, in a webinar presented by Derrick Johnson, CEO & president of our National NAACP, and panelist including presidents of the Minneapolis, Georgia, Louisville, New York Branches, each explaining the situations happening in their communities, what they are doing to resolve their immediate problems but also what they are doing with actions moving ahead.

President Derrick Johnson strongly emphasized that if change is to be made, people must use positive energy to complete the Census, get to the polls on Nov. 4, and make a concerted effort to know your legislators and community leaders.

As our vice president, Michelle Osterhoudt, stated in her memo to each of you – “Talk about it, denounce social injustice, raise awareness and most importantly, join your local NAACP.” These are the way that you can make your communities stronger.

THIS MOMENT IS CALLING US TO STAY STRONG EVEN THOUGH WE ARE OUTRAGED AND NOW MORE THAN EVER, WE MUST FIGHT AND DEMAND JUSTICE, AND “WHEN WE FIGHT, WE WIN”!

 

Lee Fisher is president of the

NAACP, Oneonta chapter.

Letter From Lewis Hamilton: Did New York State Really Do Better Than Texas
LETTER from LEWIS HAMILTON

Did New York State

Really Do Better Than Texas?

To the Editor,

Chip Northrup’s recent letter condemning the efforts of Texans while praising those of New Yorkers was strong on opinion but weak on data. From my Google search on May 30:

• New York (state population, about 20 million), 203,000 cases, 23,282 deaths; Otsego County (population, 59,249); 67 cases, four deaths.

• Texas (state population, about 29 million), 62,338 cases, 1,648 deaths; Kerr County (population 52,405), 16 cases, zero deaths

While these numbers change frequently, they are reliable enough to show clearly that Texas has vastly fewer cases and deaths than New York State. Then, taking rural counties of similar size, the numbers again show Texas far ahead of New York.

We can all agree that there are a number of reasons why these striking differences have occurred, but to conclude that somehow Texas is falling far behind New York is untenable. In any case, Texas’ numbers are impressive by contrast to those in New York.

Consider Governor Cuomo’s March 2020 order forcing nursing homes to admit cases of COVID-19 – this action may have turned some into medieval “pest houses” seen during the times of plague.

Mayor de Blasio’s tight lockdown of tenements in New York City, attempting to limit community spread of the virus (in contrast to the quarantine of known positives cases) is the antithesis of “distancing” and may have caused more harm than good.

Note the logical actions of well-off New Yorker city dwellers – they fled! Are these public responses “as good as anywhere…?”

To paraphrase Mark Twain: It’s not the things you don’t know that can hurt you, it’s them you do know that ain’t true.
LEWIS HAMILTON
Cooperstown

STAMMEL: Cut Tourism Funding To Prevent Layoffs
LETTER from ANDREW STAMMEL

Cut Tourism Funding

To Prevent Layoffs

To the Editor:

Last week, the Otsego County Board of Represent-atives made the tragic decision to terminate 59 employees, amounting to hundreds of years of institutional knowledge and public service.

While the euphemism “layoff” continues to be used, it doesn’t accurately reflect what occurred. These jobs have been eliminated. To return, multiple committees and the full board would need to re-create, fund and then fill these jobs; an unlikely prospect for the foreseeable future.

It is unfortunate that this newspaper cavalierly glossed over these individuals, some with decades of service, and instead cynically focused on the perceived gain or loss of “clout” by politicians who voted for it.

This was by far the most difficult vote any representative has taken and each tried to do what our conscience and judgment told us was right. I don’t believe politics or clout factored into this decision for my colleagues – I know it didn’t for me. While we can disagree on the merits of this vote, we all acknowledge the devastation of overturning the lives of 59 families in our community.

Budget decisions the county board makes in any given year reflect our values and priorities and also have lasting impacts on future budget years. In December 2018, this paper printed a letter of mine in which I expressed concern that the county board was voting to approve a half-million dollar raise for management, including a raise for themselves of nearly 30 percent. These votes took place just weeks after the board endorsed the county treasurer’s plan to accelerate the tax foreclosure process on local struggling homeowners.

In addition to my concern that these actions reflected a tendency of the board to prop up those with power while making it harder for those struggling, the letter also warned about timing.

I wrote, “Economic storm clouds may be gathering. The county is disproportionately reliant on bed and sales taxes, which track volatile consumer spending. It appears the stock market is set for its worst year since 2008 and economists predict a recession within two years. These raises are essentially locked into future budgets. When the economy falters, the board will need to raise taxes or cut services.”

While no one expected the suddenness or magnitude of the current recession, clairvoyance is not required to predict a recession. All economic expansions eventually come to an end
at some point. The choices we make in the good times will reverberate when hard times come.

Last week I stated that while job cuts may become necessary, I could only vote for them if they were strategic and a last resort. Neither factor was present at the time of the vote. Looking only at the departments reporting to my committee, it is counterproductive to cut a significant proportion of employees working on issues of public health and mental health/addiction during a time of pandemic and rising community trauma. Some of these employees even generate revenue for the budget, more than paying for the expense of their position.

As evidence that the job cuts were not a last resort, we pointed to the over $1.1 million being funneled to external agencies and semi-private entities. While the Administration Committee voted to cut 59 jobs, amounting to 25 percent of some departments, it only voted to cut by 15 percent payments to agencies doing work outside the county’s core mission. Included in this was over $600,000 to a private tourism agency advertising for a largely non-existent tourism season. This agency is supposedly supported through the County’s bed tax. With a loss of 70 percent of bed tax, how can we only cut our payment by 15 percent? These concerns and others were brought up repeatedly throughout the decision-making process and should have been resolved adequately prior to terminating employees.

It is on all Otsego County residents, both elected officials and voters, to think about what kind of government we want. In recent decades, we’ve greatly reduced the number of our neighbors working locally in public service, while at the same time transferring millions of taxpayer monies to out of town consultants and private corporations and agencies. COVID-19 has only accelerated this trend.

Do we continue further down this road? It may result in not just job losses for our neighbors but also valuable losses in services, as has been evidenced by the County Clerk’s recent closure of the Oneonta DMV. Through your voice and your vote, let your county know what kind of government you want to see. In the meantime, let’s all support our loved ones and community during this difficult time.

ANDREW STAMMEL
County Representative

COLONE: ‘Reimagine Upstate’ Will Lead To Single Oneonta
LETTER from ALBERT COLONE

‘Reimagine Upstate’ Will

Lead To Single Oneonta

A couple of weeks ago, Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal published my opinion piece, once again trying to promote the idea of consolidating the city and town of Oneonta. I submitted it to try and generate some meaningful debate on the issue. Surprisingly, the only subsequent reference I’ve seen was an unsigned comment in another paper. How can
this be?

Whoever submitted that comment, thank you for the notation “will someone gently remind Al Colone” that his longtime advocacy for merging was riding a “dead horse.” The word “gently” has become increasingly important as I’ve aged.

On the importance of consolidation, it was not only something which should have been done 10 years ago as the writer notes; it was seriously discussed some 50 years ago. Too bad, had it happened we would have been a much better Oneonta than what we have now.

The writer suggested the biggest hindrance against merging was in the notion the city has been looking to absorb the town to share the town’s prosperity. What prosperity?

The town’s once proud retail sector is and has been gradually evaporating, starting long before the virus; a prosperous Oneonta would have had Southside water 10 years ago, as well East End sewer; while they both have substandard housing, the towns’ neighborhood deterioration is far worse than that of the city and; the median household income of both are consistent with the poverty levels within Appalachia! What prosperity?

But the main reason for my letter was in trying to urge local leaders to move on consolidation before the state does it for us through a plan to “Re-imagine Upstate” and other issue “re-imagining; like our Upstate Education Systems!” It’s going to happen; neither the state nor federal Governments will be able to financially sustain the current over-kill of local governments.

We’ll likely see more County and regional consolidation. Townships are truly nonessential; they are inefficient! They don’t lead and are virtually obsolete. Upstate governance would function much better without them, positively supporting the quest for real prosperity.
I hope this letter has brought greater clarity to my views on the matter! Good wishes!!

ALBERT COLONE
Resident
City of Oneon

RUDY: 5 Traffic Signals Doing Job Of One
LETTER from JOHN RUDY

5 Traffic Signals

Doing Job Of One

To the Editor:

Until now, Cooperstown could be characterized as a quaint little village with one traffic light.
That one light, on Main and Chestnut, has multiplied into five: one one each corner and one suspended above the middle of the intersection.

Is this someone’s idea of a joke? Or just a case of Buy 4 Get 1 Free?

JOHN A. RUDY
Cooperstown

NORTHRUP: County Response Tops

Letter From CHIP NORTHRUP

County Primus Inter Paras

To the Editor:

Otsego County’s response to The Plague has been as good as anywhere in Europe or Asia and better than most places in America.

For that reason, the county is on track to safely reopen ahead of almost any other place in America, having met Governor Cuomo’s requirements.

By stark contrast, Texas is next to last in testing per capita, there are no contract tracers, little social distancing and few masks.

Texas’s unsafe “reopening plan” is simply a date, and the day the state reopened without regional rollouts, it recorded its highest number of new cases.

Efforts to control the spread of The Plague in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin were trumped by the governor’s hasty order, which was based entirely on the political science of the Gregorian Calendar.

By comparison, New York State’s response is positively First World and Otsego County is now literally the first of the first. Congratulations to all concerned.

CHIP NORTHRUP
Cooperstown

STAMMEL: Let’s Revisit One Oneonta

Letter From ANDREW STAMMEL

Let’s Revisit One Oneonta

To the Editor:

As we enter Phase One of the easing of COVID-related public health restrictions, it is important to reflect on where we are, but also where we came from and where we are going. We are poised to surpass the sobering milestone of 100,000 dead Americans this Memorial Weekend, after just two short months of viral spread.

NY’s “PAUSE” went into effect as the rate of infection and death was escalating in our state and county. At this point, Otsego County has suffered a lower rate of infection and serious illness. But the deaths of four of our neighbors is significant and their families should remain in our thoughts and prayers.
The lack of large-scale local viral spread is partly the result of luck and our rural geography, but mostly the product of concerted efforts. The early pro-active moves of our Department of Health, hospitals, and schools have had a positive impact.

Finally, the prudent decisions and sacrifices made by every county resident have helped to protect our vulnerable neighbors. We will never know how many lives were saved by these actions but social distancing, improved hygiene, and wearing masks have certainly flattened the curve.

These sacrifices have come with a cost. Grandparents miss their grandchildren; young people are missing classmates, graduations and other milestones; and our local businesses have been battered by the social and economic lockdown.

This paper’s suggestion that the governor is now arbitrarily “setting us free” is unhelpful. The economic pause was always intended to be short-term, allowing us to weather the first wave of virus and to build up our public health resources.

Weeks ago, state health experts outlined the health metrics and infrastructure that had to be present to begin reopening. Our county board endorsed the regional phased and science-based state plan in a tri-partisan nearly unanimous vote.

Because of the sacrifices residents and the work of local government, we have now met the criteria. It won’t be like flipping a light switch back to “normal.” We are instead dialing down health restrictions and transitioning to something new.

As the weather warms and summer holidays approach, many are tempted to throw caution to the wind. We must instead continue to show personal responsibility and exercise good hygiene and social distancing. After all, most of us engaged in this behavior not because the government directed us to, but because we knew protecting our vulnerable family and neighbors is the right thing to do. Let’s not backtrack.

We cannot predict when the health threat will finally end. Many experts expect the virus to follow the pattern of other respiratory illness and spike this fall and winter.

In the absence of strong and clear leadership at the national level, we’ve seen some governors fail to enact any precautions or others who have reopened their economy while their infections continue to accelerate. This may lead to hotspots that eventually find their way here.

We should continue to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Whenever this viral threat ends, I trust that Otsego County will emerge a stronger and more compassionate community. You’ve all done so much to look out for each other already. Let’s keep up the good work!

ANDREW STAMMEL
Town of Oneonta
County representative, District 4
Chair, Health & Education Committee

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