News of Otsego County

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


Letters To The Editor

DOSTAL: Thanks For Lighting Up Our Christmas

Thanks For Helping

Light Up Our Christmas

To the Editor:

The 2019 Great Otsego Light Trail would like to thank all who participated in the trail this year.

You made our holidays much brighter with a total of 18 displays! You are all delightful and your displays were a joy for all!

We would also like to thank our community partners:, The LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, WZOZ 103.1 FM, and CNY News. We’ll see you next year!

Light Trail coordinator

HILL: How Nice. To Live In A Place Where People Do Care. Here!

How Nice. To Live In A Place

Where People Do Care. Here!

To the Editor:

I’m writing to express my gratitude for living in a place that has such good, caring people. I have lived in Oneonta, Otsego County, and Upstate New York only for a year and a half.

Wednesday night, Jan. 8, I was driving to Richfield Springs that evening, heading to the Food Co-op to give a presentation. With the snow pouring down at times and blowing up onto the roads – and my windshield — from fields, I was driving as slowly and as carefully as I could. But on NY-28, about 6.5 miles from RS, the snow was coming down so fast and furious that I could not see where I was on the road. I ended up sliding (fortunately) slowly into a (fortunately) shallow ditch on the left. My car was stuck in there at about a 45-degree angle.

A driver and his wife immediately stopped to see if I was OK. At least eight other drivers paused or stopped during the half hour or so I was stuck there to do the same. One of them, a young man named Eddie Bello, who lived up the road from where I got stuck, not only stopped, but called a tow truck for me, and most importantly, stayed with his headlights shining on my car until the tow truck arrived so drivers could see it. Joe, the tow truck driver from Chuck’s Towing, got my car out in 10 minutes; neither car nor I was damaged.

I now have had my first New York Upstate Winter Experience, which included the not so good and the great aspects. I got stuck, but the good, caring people of Otsego County were there to help. Now that I’ve been christened a Real Upstate New Yorker, I’m going to get snow tires put on the car.


DOWNEY: Benefits Of Gas Aren’t Fossil-Fuel Fiction

Benefits Of Gas Aren’t

Fossil-Fuel Fiction

To the Editor:

Bob Eklund (“Praise For Fracking? Let’s call It Fossil-Fuel Fiction,” Jan. 2-3, 2020) and I are opposing veterans of the Gas Wars and almost friends.

The environmental and economic benefits of gas are NOT fiction. The EPA reports CO2 emissions peaked in 2007 as gas replaced coal in electric power generation. By 2017 emissions dropped 28 percent to 30-year lows. Emissions fell another 2.1 percent last year, mainly due to an 18 percent drop in coal generation. Coal power is now back to 1975 levels. Gas did it.

By replacing coal in electric plants, fracked gas (and oil) has stimulated our industry and our general economy while keeping prices low. Our population and GDP has grown enormously yet emissions keep dropping. No other industrial economy has that record.

The U.S.A. produces 14 percent of global emissions. The other 86 percent lies elsewhere. Coal-fired China pumps out more CO2 than the U.S. and the EU combined.

China “promises” to peak in 2030. However, according to the Global Energy Monitor, there are plans for increased capacity equal to current EU output of 150 gigawatts. That will mean building one coal-fired generator per week for 10 years, 500 of the 700 already planned. And we’re not even talking of what will be happening in India, Indonesia, and Africa.

In the meantime, in our little corner of the world, Andrew Cuomo slams the door on gas in the name of environmental purity.

He perverts the SEQR process in order to stop the 124-mile Constitution Pipeline that would deliver cheap Pennsylvania gas to New York and New England.

He extorts electric companies with the threat of franchise suspension. Note National Grid.

He raises the cost of electricity through subsidies and mandates favoring high-cost renewables.
He controls the agencies that withhold the permits.

It’s no great mystery that NYSEG requests a 27 percent rate increase. And … that’s only the beginning.
So while Cuomo diddles in “small ball” environmental politics, Vladimir Putin builds pipelines. He has two 800-mile pipelines under the Baltic Sea serving Germany.

Germany remains dependent on “brown” coal to backstop its renewables program. With electricity rates triple those in the U.S.A., it needs gas for price and environmental reasons.

Last month Putin opened the 1,800-mile Power of Siberia Pipeline to Northern China. The Power of Siberia Pipeline will eventually pump 38 billion cubic meters of gas by 2025. That’s the equivalent of Brazil’s annual gas consumption.

If the U.S.A. experience is any predictor, this will knock quite a few of China’s coal generators off the grid because … gas beats coal in price and emissions.

So I have a question for Mr. Eklund: which energy model is better for the global environment (and the individual’s pocketbook) – Andrew Cuomo’s or Vladimir Putin’s?

Give me a call, Bob. I’m in the book. I’d like to point out four or five other errors in your Letter but the ghosts of the poets tell me to stick to one theme.

That theme is – GAS WORKS. For the immediate good of our environment. For our collective and personal economics. For our country as a whole.


STAMMEL: 7-7 Split Calls For Power-Sharing, Cooperation


7-7 Split Calls For

Power-Sharing, Cooperation

To the Editor:

Every New Year brings change to the Otsego County Board. It has been interesting reading different opinions about our recent changes. To me, the selection of a chair and new vice chair from the same party caucus does not indicate a move away from the welcome bi-partisan collegiality of the last term.

Both leaders won the bi-partisan support of their peers because they have shown themselves to be thoughtful and hardworking Reps who get along well with their colleagues.

After his re-appointment, Chairman Bliss showed through his committee assignments that he understands that a 7-7 partisan split calls for power-sharing and cooperation between the parties.

Democrats are well represented in the new assignments, chairing two of the standing committees and one of the special committees. Democrats also hold a numeric majority on three standing committees and one special committee. I expect the bi-partisan cooperation will continue, as it should.

It’s important for me to express my thanks and appreciation to Chairman Bliss, who has entrusted me with the chairmanship of the Health & Education Committee for the third consecutive year.

The importance of this standing committee is sometimes overlooked, perhaps because the folks it represents often don’t have the loudest voices: our senior citizens; children and adults with special needs; people dealing with physical and mental health issues or addiction; struggling farmers; and yes, even our deceased neighbors.

The committee oversees a budget of over $15 million and supervises about 80 employees; the work touches all residents of our county.  At times, the public may only be aware of these departments when a crisis arises. Instead, we should all consistently tout the good work that our department heads and their staff are doing to keep our county safe, healthy, and thriving.

One example of this good news is the approximately 90 percent reduction in drug overdose deaths over the past couple years. This turnaround has come about in part because of the coordinated and strategic efforts of these folks to provide prevention, treatment, and recovery.

If you see any of the hard-working people contributing to the health and wellbeing of our county, please offer them a word of thanks. Most of these quiet heroes do not seek the spotlight but instead stay focused on their service to our community. While the work isn’t glamorous, it is important and improves all of our lives.

It is my hope in the New Year that the county board follows the examples of these employees and continues to eschew political grandstanding or divisive partisan issues. There is important work to do and I expect we will work together collaboratively to deliver common sense results for our deserving constituents.


County Representative

Town of Oneonta

WHELAN: Not Militia? Then You’re Out Of Luck

Letter From Mary Anne Whelan

Not Militia?

Then You’re Out Of Luck

To the Editor:

Could the proponents of this silly idea please tell us what portion of the NYS ‘SAFE ACT” conflicts with the Second Amendment? Actually, I doubt they know what either the Second Amendment or the Safe Act says.

Are they members of a well-regulated Militia, on which opening clause everything else in the Second Amendment depends? If not, they have no rights to the exercise of the Second Amendment whatsoever.


DUNCAN: Time For Sanctuary Against DMV

Letter From R. Scott Duncan

Time For Sanctuary Against DMV

Let’s make Otsego an “Automobile Sanctuary County.”

There is just too much government interference in owning and driving a car. It costs thousands of dollars a year to keep a car moving. Don’t I have some Constitutional rights?

The first step is paying for a learner’s permit. Then you have to pay someone to teach you to drive. Don’t forget to pick up the driving manual that you need so you can learn all about driving. Then you need to take a test. If you pass, you then are obligated to pay for the license.

And not once, but every four years, you pay again, and again and you also have to take an eye exam each time.

Now I have to find a car. That costs money and then the government charges tax on top of the car costs.

If you need a car loan, you will have to pay an interest for the use of that money. You can’t just walk
in and buy a car. You have to play this game about prices and options. Some options you have to pay for because it is the law.

Oh, and don’t forget there is also a registration fee for the car so you can get a license plate. Then every year there is the inspection fee to make sure the car is in good working order.

Then they say you have to have insurance. More money. They make you get insurance. Not once, but every year you have to pay. The government tells what insurance you must get.

If that is not enough the Department of Motor Vehicles sneaks another fee into the insurance policy: “DMV fee, $10.” Didn’t I already pay them for the registration and my license?

Last but not least you need gas plus tax on that. Repairs, tax on that. Then all these rules for driving and fines if you make a mistake!

Gun owners have it easy: a background check, one course on hunting, one course for a pistol permit. A couple of small fees. And that is it for the rest of your life. No more fees, no insurance, no more tests. You got your license.

The Constitution does not give us any rights for driving a car. We are hit by taxes multiple times. And rules…don’t get me started…

It is time we made Otsego County an “Auto Sanctuary.”

Hartwick Forrest

‘Sanctuary’ Movement Demonstrates NRA Has Lost Touch With Its Roots

Letter From Paul Conway

‘Sanctuary’ Movement

Demonstrates NRA Has

Lost Touch With Its Roots

To the Editor:

The proposal to create a Second Amendment “sanctuary county” is an awful idea for a variety of reasons.
The first and simplest reason is that the Second Amendment is NOT under attack. There is no likelihood it will ever be abolished. The U.S. Supreme Court and a vast majority of Americans support the right of citizens to own firearms to hunt and to protect themselves, their families and property.

(The wording in the Constitution that says, ”A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State“ has been irrelevant for decades but the belief that citizens have a right to own their own firearms has long been embraced.)

The sanctuary proposal is clearly intended to preclude the implementation of reasonable gun restrictions that a majority of citizens presumably support. (For example, public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans oppose the future sale of military assault weapons.)

I write as a gun owner and former hunter who has voted for moderate Republicans in previous elections. (I have also long enjoyed and admired Rick Brockway’s many newspaper columns on outdoor life and hunting. But on this issue I strongly disagree with him.)

Along with many other Americans, for many years I have been alienated by the NRA’s uncompromising opposition to common sense gun control initiatives.

Ironically perhaps, the NRA began after Union generals discovered that their troops fired as many as 1,000 rounds for every bullet that hit a Confederate soldier. They wanted an NRA that would promote better marksmanship in their troops.

During my lifetime the NRA has gone from an organization that mainly promoted marksmanship, hunting and related activities, to a highly political, usually partisan lobby group. Along with a right wing, libertarian ideology, it now represents the gun industry, which is motivated by profits gained from the unregulated sale of firearms, even military assault weapons.

The movement to promote the proposal is represented as a “grass roots” effort. I have strong doubts. Bottom line is this: It is clearly supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

One need only go to the NRA’s homepage and internet messages to see that it endorses the idea, as it did previously in Virginia and elsewhere. Given that organization’s ability to mobilize its membership by propaganda and fear tactics, there may soon be a large number of petition signatures demanding that the county Board of Representatives implement the idea.

A flood of petitions is not a sufficient reason to support the proposal. After reading a May 20, USA Today essay entitled, “NRA Helps Sheriffs Fight Gun Laws in Second Amendment ‘Sanctuaries’,” my doubts were reinforced.

The newly constituted county Board of Representatives should not allow itself to be politicized by this proposal. Inevitably it will be a highly partisan issue. This is bad timing to introduce it.

I can’t imagine an initiative more likely to divide and polarize our newly constituted Otsego County Board than this one.


GREY MATTERS: With ‘Green Light’ In Force, ICE Poster A Provocation


With ‘Green Light’ In Force,

ICE Poster A Provocation

To the Editor:

Prominently displayed next to each of three cashier window signs at the Otsego County Department of Motor Vehicle office in Oneonta that explain how the new “Green Light” Law will be implemented in Otsego County are signs proclaiming the phone number of the ICE Tip Line.

At the Cooperstown DMV office, there is an ICE Tip Line sign on the entrance door and there is another inside. This signage is suggesting that Otsego County residents doing business with DMV “spy” on others – OTHERS being the operative word – who are exercising their legal right to apply for a driver’s license.

New York State’s “Green Light” Law means that undocumented immigrants can once again obtain drivers’ licenses, a right that they had until 2001.

They have to pass the same test that all residents must pass, rather than drive on our state’s roads unlicensed. No one in Otsego County, or any other county in New York, must face harassment when at the DMV.

We call upon the Otsego County DMV to remove these intimidating signs immediately!

Grey Matters Social Action Group
First United Methodist Church
A Sanctuary Church

LEONE: Battle Of Bulge Reminds Us Of Drago, Nader’s Sacrifice

Battle Of Bulge Reminds Us

Of Drago, Nader’s Sacrifice

To the Editor:

It’s always the right time to be thankful for our veterans who have served selflessly around the world so that we at home can live in peace.

The 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge reminds me of the privations and sacrifice these magnificent soldiers faced all those years ago.

I recommend Academy Award winning movie, “Patton,” to see a depiction of the frozen hell that came crashing down upon the hundreds of thousands of American heroes who were literally sacrificing life and limb to free the world from the grip of Nazi tyranny.

And, yes, we have two of those heroes living and thriving among us, the incomparable Tony Drago and Sam Nader.



VELEZ: CVS Should Value Human Beings Instead Of Robots

CVS Should Value Human

Beings Instead Of Robots

To the Editor:

For those who have not been to the Cooperstown CVS in the last week or two, there are two new additions now.  Not two new employees, but two automated check-out stations.

Whoever enjoys listening to annoying robotic voices overlapping each other will be glad to possibly be able to save a few seconds so that the upper echelons of CVS management and their stockholders can add to their already bloated bottom line.

These machines take job opportunities away from real people who are trying to make an honest living.  And, they are showing up with greater frequency at many places where we shop.  They serve one main purpose.  They replace humans and they do not have to be paid.  The only real benefit is to the corporations.

Is enough never enough?



ROSS: Could ‘Citizen Of Year’ Be County Administrator?

Could ‘Citizen Of Year’

Be County Administrator?

To the Editor:

Where will you find a person who would know all about all 24 departments in the Otsego County system?

The department heads will be giving the manager the information that he or she needs.  The department heads know the laws, state mandates and the ins and outs that apply to their departments.

We have a county treasurer and deputy that do a great job with the budget.

I see that the board is putting out the cost will be $150,000 for the manager. I bet this person will have a deputy and secretary so it could be over $200,000.  The manager is just another layer of government.

Think about it: If the board gave one of the board members a raise, but not $150,000, and the job of working with all the department heads and taking information they need back to the full board, it would be less cost to taxpayers.

Look at the City of Oneonta.  It is on a third manager in a short period of time. The county is much larger, with a lot more different departments and covers many more miles than the city does.

The unfunded mandates are going to keep coming from New York State and this board will have to deal with where all the money comes from for the unfunded mandates.


Fly Creek

Sheila Ross is retired Otsego County Republican elections commissioner


DUNCAN: To Preserve Our Earth, Live By Nature’s Rules

To Preserve Our Earth,

Live By Nature’s Rules

To the Editor:

So the fracking industry comes into town and uses a lot of clean water that then becomes unusable, tears up and down the roads with trucks, and drills for the gas. Then pipes it out of the county and sells it to? … and this will benefit the poor people, how?

Poor people don’t always own the land. Mike Zagata’s description of fracking left out a number of critical elements. One of which is the use of water.

Living around here it may be hard to believe that water is a finite element. It is more precious than gold. It is past time to start finding solutions to using less water and using it more intelligently.

That is another problem with fracking. It is not just the process, it’s the mindset. Take, take, take. If we do not start thinking in terms of the cycles of nature and remain focused on the illusion that we can just keep taking from nature to transform elements into our own fantasies and uses, we are going to end up starving on a dry wasteland.

At the beginning of industrialization, industrialists’ goals were to drive people out of the rural areas, away from farming into cities, in order to have workers for their factories. Then the corporations pushed for big farms in order to create monopolies so they could increase profits.

They totally ignored the cycles of nature. This took away the sense of independence and self-sufficiency from many people. The variety of foods that we used to consume was greatly reduced. This is part of the cause of our problems with poverty and poor foods that are lacking the nutritional elements and varieties of foods that keep us healthy and intelligent.

It is an outdated concept that businesses and corporations are our salvation. That is not to say that some of it is not good. But we need to find a better balance between industrialization and the agrarian life style.

Instead of thinking about more money to solve problems, think about what is essential in sustaining life and build on that. More money is not an answer. Creativity and ingenuity are needed.

We have some incredible resources in this area; if we learn to preserve them and enrich them, we will do away with poverty. If we look around here for solutions and not out there, we will have a better long-term gain.

The earth is a living organism that can supply humanity forever, but if we keep ignoring the rules of nature, we will be destroyed along with all the other species we have already destroyed.

Hartwick Forrest

EKLUND: Praise For Fracking? Let’s Call In Fossil-Fuel Fiction

Praise For Fracking? Let’s

Call In Fossil-Fuel Fiction

To the Editor:

Normally, I would not respond to such pithy paeans of praise to the poison profits of pipelines as recently described by Mr. Zagata (Nov. 28-29) in this space. However, since my name and likeness, along with friend and fellow environmental activist Nicole Dillingham, were used as poster people for the piece, I feel I must.

First I must admit surprise at Zagata’s entry into fossil-fuel fiction arena, an area more usually occupied by the ever-zealous Dick Downey. Don’t worry, Dick, I find your efforts at fiction much more entertaining.

I have never been a paid activist and to claim that I and the thousands of others who gave of their time and energies were is an outrageous lie. Indeed most of the people I worked with used their personal means of transportation and funded their travel expenses out of their own pockets, a situation which may seem quaint to the former short-term head of the DEC.

As for the single “informant” who Zagata would have one believe speaks for all, there are no citations of payment, to anyone, in any amount, or on any continuing basis. Is the anecdotal evidence factual or just something Zagata pulled out of a “frackhole”?

Likewise his claim of a billion-dollar loss to the area. From whence do these figures derive? Or is this just another use of the tiresome tactic used by the fossil-fuel industry of throwing out eye-popping numbers in an attempt to appeal to the greed of those who would ignore any cost to the common weal?

I believe it was Mr. Zagata’s fellow fabulist, the aforementioned Dick Downey, who recently linked the opioid crisis to lack of methane gas. To link the tragic opioid cancer occurring in America regardless of whether there is methane available or not is reprehensible.

The opioid epidemic was caused by Big Pharma as recently shown by the “real” billions of dollars settlements agreed to by some of the more egregious offenders.  Ulster County, an area with ample access to methane gas, was recently named as the leading county in New York State for opioid-related fatalities. Of course, Big Pharma, like the Fossil Fuel Industry, throws millions of dollars into disinformation campaigns in an attempt to disguise their profit from poison business, one at the expense of individuals, the other at the expense of the planet.

I recall a conversation I had with Mr. Zagata a number of years ago in which I expressed surprise that (at the time) the DEC might support fracking.

I questioned how it was that the DEC tightly controlled the effluvia emanating from farming practices in order to prevent the contamination of waterways, but was willing to condone the rendering of millions of gallons of previously potable water owned by the public into permanently toxic waste.

His reply was less than illuminating. However, as this latest commentary demonstrates, he is still remarkably well versed in the aspects of barnyard effluvia.

The tiresome trope of people leaving New York State due to lack of methane gas, with acknowledgement to Clemens, is an example of twisting stats to a pre-formed idea. Might I suggest that a large number of people leaving are simply part of the “boomer” effect?

Ever since the advent of air conditioning, northerners have been seduced by the charms of winter weather below the Mason-Dixon Line.

New York being one of our most populous states had/has one of the largest populations of boomers reaching retirement age. It has been a time-honored tradition that they move south long before the advent of fracking. Another factor causing migration is the total lack of modern up-to-date communication abilities throughout most of rural New York.

The linking of diminishing church attendance is at the “are you kidding me?” level. More likely, people have stepped away from the church after having become dismayed by so many wrapping themselves in a holy banner in the service of Mammon.

Yes Mr. Zagata, I include you. At a time of year when many celebrate the story of a child born to parents fleeing oppression and hiding in a primitive manger is upon us, your assertions do little to help and much to harm. To suggest that the adherents of this faith, the same ones who are descendants of people who suffered persecution for their beliefs, are not up to dealing with a lack of methane gas is laughable. Unless of course, you are of the opinion that Mary and Joe would have been more comfortable in that manger if only they had a pipeline.


New Lisbon

KOUTNIK: County Board Has Honest Folks Trying To Do Best

County Board Has Honest

Folks Trying To Do Best

To the Editor:

I’ve been paying attention to politics and governance since the Eisenhower administration. It’s always been an important part of my life, from dinners as a boy listening to the news on the radio, and talking about it with my family, all the way to today, listening to and reading about the current Congressional hearings, and talking about them with my wife.

So in 2011, when Rich Murphy suggested that I run for the county Board of Representatives, I didn’t hesitate. Now that I’m a newly minted private citizen after eight years on the Board, I’d like to share some thoughts about county government with the county in general.

First and foremost: the quality of the folks who serve you in Cooperstown.

We hear a lot about government corruption and malfeasance and how you can’t trust politicians. From the state level on up, some of this is true and most of it is not.

But in Otsego County, it’s clear to me that everyone who serves on the county board is there to provide a public service. No one’s getting rich, there’s no power to speak of; and not once in eight years did anyone call me and offer to buy my vote.

Public service is one of the great foundations of American patriotism, and it goes back to the Founding Fathers and even before that. That’s what happening in Cooperstown – patriotic folks who want to make a difference, to contribute to their community, to give back.

They’re there to serve you – and to spend your money wisely: Otsego County has stayed beneath the tax cap ever since there’s been a tax cap, and we’ve got the lowest tax rate of any county in the State.

And, by the way, all that partisan stuff you see in the news? They just don’t have time for it in Cooperstown. They’ve got work to do. In eight years, I do not remember a single party-line vote.

So when you get the urge to complain about government and lawmakers, aim higher. The folks in Cooperstown are giving up time, energy, and in some cases, income, to serve you.

We accomplished a lot during the time I was on the board, but I’m disappointed we did not move the Board meeting times into the 21st Century. The Rules of Order say that county board meetings are at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of the month. That might have worked in the old days, but those days are past.

Meeting in the middle of a working day reduces transparency and accountability, and it has to change. Many counties have board meetings at night, and the sky hasn’t fallen.

Changing the meeting time would take a supermajority – two-thirds – so it’s a high bar. Call your county representative and tell them that you’d like to be able to attend a meeting – maybe even speak at one! – if maybe someday they changed the meeting time so that most citizens could attend without taking time off from work.

All my best to my friends on the board as they take on the challenges of 2020 and beyond,



On Jan. 1, Gary Koutnik completed four terms on the Otsego County Board of Representatives, representing District 11 (Wards 1-2, Oneonta), most recently as vice chairman.


DEAN: Study Before Acting On New Zoning

Study Before Acting

On New Zoning Law

To the Editor:

Sufficient affordable apartments, which the Village of Cooperstown needs, come from an efficiency of scale in single- and multi-building design and construction, lower cost of larger parcels of land, and lower operating expenses with the newest technologies. All of this comes with building new, planned developments, from the ground up.

Newly built rental housing units, of all types, on sufficient land, are so important to the quality of life, the retention of new residents, and to the local economy, that they could become a driver of growth on their own.

The construction of new, attractive, efficient, apartment and townhouse style quality housing, for different income levels and family sizes, is a major component of filling the existing and long-term housing needs, increasing the local population, and expanding the local economy, without damaging the central core of the village, in my view.

Encouraging developers to bring proposals for new, planned, multi-family, residential rental units will require aggressive and long-term tax abatements, and cooperation by village, town and county governments. It will also require the permitting of planned, multi-family residential development, in and close to Cooperstown.

The Village of Cooperstown is the economic, healthcare and tourism anchor for a wide area of Central New York. The long-term success of the Village of Cooperstown is critical for the long-term success of this area.

Before we start knocking down the walls of our historic homes, let’s step back a bit, and consider what it is that we really need, how much we are willing to cooperate and invest in our own long-term success, and how long we want it to last.


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