By Rev. SERENA JONES • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
Editor’s Note: Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, Union Theological Seminary president, was stricken with COVID-19 and missed speaking at the installation of the First Presbyterian Church’s new pastor, Faith Gay, on Nov. 29. Instead, she delivered her sermon Sunday, Jan. 10, when the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol was fresh in everyone’s minds. This is an excerpt.
No one watching the storming of the Capital could miss the “Jesus Saves” sign bobbing up and down as windows were smashed and police attacked.
I have also heard the reports that in the House Chamber, the people gathered for prayer to thank Jesus for supporting them in their actions. They were on their knees lifting up praise to God for what they had wrought, justifying it with Divine sanction.
The Christian whiplash of these two scenes next to one another was excruciating, painful, and so very, very American.
…Today, I want to wade into those murky waters, because they aren’t just headline topics, these tensions live within the heart and mind of everyone who claims the name “Christian” in this nation.
Millions of Americans watched in horror as partisan domestic terrorists stormed the U.S. Capitol last week to prevent the lawful election of Joe Biden. I join in the anger and disgust at the destruction of public property and the desecration of the hallowed citadel of democracy. I despair at the unnecessary loss of life, including brave Capitol police officers.
But I also angrily denounce the ongoing incitement by the President and allies in the Republican Party as well as their tepid or non-existent denunciations of the appalling insurrection.
It’s a day that will live in infamy, Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob attacked the U.S. Capitol, vandalized and ransacked the venerable building, and was driven out by National Guard units and Capitol Police with some loss of life.
Prior to Jan. 6, 2021, few Americans could visualize that ever happening. The natural response here in Otsego County, as throughout our United States, is horror, sadness and fear for the future.
Illuminatingly, the AllOTSEGO.com daily poll that sought readers’ opinions on the next steps found people chose the mildest options by a large majority.
The violence in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, which led to the deaths of five people, have clarified the one question that needs to be asked of our country, state and regional representatives: Are you for the democratic process or are you for insurrection?
There is no longer any nuance, thanks to the actions of a group of pro-President Trump protesters who chose to break into the U.S. Capitol, loot it, call for the deaths of both the sitting Vice President Mike Pence and the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and kill Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.
Their attempt to overthrow a free and fair election — the election managers of all 50 states (who are a mix of Democrats and Republicans) have found no evidence of fraud — has made it abundantly clear that there is a faction of Americans and elected officials who only trust an election when their side wins.
While we shouldn’t have to point this out, we will: That isn’t what democracy is. These actions are abhorrent.
Remaining silent is the equivalent of condoning the actions of a minority that believes violence and destruction have a place in America.
This is a question we never thought we’d need to ask our fellow elected officials to publicly answer, because we mistakenly thought the answer was obvious: Are you for the democratic process or are you for insurrection?
We support democracy and call on all of the City of Oneonta, Otsego County, and our state representatives to make their positions clear.
Clark Oliver, Dist. 11 Adrienne Martini, Dist. 12 Danny Lapin, Dist. 13 Jill Basile, Dist.14
Otsego County Board
Luke Murphy, 1st Ward Mark Davies, 2nd Ward David Rissberger, 3rd Ward John Rafter, 7th Ward Mark Drnek, 8th Ward
Oneonta Common Council
In reflecting on Jim Seward’s tenure as our state senator, one vignette always comes to mind.
It was the fall of 2006, and Cherry Valley’s Pam Noonan, on a Sunday afternoon at her home on Montgomery Street, was hosting opponents of Reunion Power’s 24-turbine wind farm proposed for East Hill.
Senator Seward had been invited and, prior to his arrival, attendees expressed some vexation that the senator, with his interest in jobs and tax-base enhancement, would not support the opposition.
The senator arrived and, as he always does, listened intently to his constituents’ concerns, not exactly Sphinx-like, but without letting on too much about what he was hearing and thinking.
The outcome, a few weeks later, was Seward’s reaffirmation of support for the state’s “Home Rule” doctrine – whatever powers are NOT given to Albany in the state Constitution devolve to localities.
Influenced by that or not, the Town of Cherry Valley adopted strict guidelines governing windmills, and Reunion went away.
But the Home Rule concept moved to center stage: A few years later to the state Court of Appeals, which ruled the Town of Middlefield, using its zoning powers, could block Cooperstown Holstein’s fracking plans.
What observers learned at Pam Noonan’s that afternoon was this: Seward’s prime interest wasn’t in ideology or partisanship – it was in representing his constituents.
Over the years, many praiseful words about state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, have appeared in this space.
We are proud to say that, throughout the current ownership, we’ve had the honor of endorsing him for reelection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
The central reason for this was, again, not partisanship or ideology, but because of Seward’s main focus: To serve the people of his 10-county Central New York state Senate District but, foremost, to serve its centerpiece: Otsego County, where he was born, raised, educated and built his political career.
Another word that comes to mind is “nurturing.” Jim Seward sought to nurture his constituents, to protect them, to enhance their opportunities for a better life, to solve their problems on the macro and micro level.
Jim was stricken with cancer in 2016. When it recurred in the fall of 2019, he – weakened by one disease – was stomach-punched last March by deadly COVID-19 and almost lost his life. Then, the people he would nurture for 34 years nurtured him in return.
At the time, the outpouring of support and love on social media and www.AllOTSEGO.com was specific and impressive. People spoke about what he’d done for them, and they praised him, offered support to him and his family – wife Cindy, son Ryan and daughter Lauren, and granddaughters Nora and Vivian – and prayed (effectively, you might argue) for his recovery.
There are many examples to follow in the dozens of tributes to the retiring senator that appear in this week’s newspaper. We can enjoy them. But we can also be guided by them. Thanks, senator.
Eileen Lishansky’s tribute is a favorite. Approaching Seward with a sticky issue, he picked up the phone and started setting it right. “From that day on, whenever my husband or I would meet him in the community he addressed us by name,” she wrote.
It’s that personal touch, which grew out of who he is. Several tribute writers note, he likes people. Or that he’s not an angry man, and that doesn’t have to win every fight: He’s willing to talk things through, to take the long view.
In return, people like him. If you’re ever seen him walk across a crowded room, it’s a miracle he ever gets to his next appointment: Every half-step, someone wants to shake his hand, make a plea or give him an attaboy.
One of the people who knew him best is former state Sen. Hugh Farley, a Republican from the Capital District, now retired to Port Richey, Fla. They sat side by side in the Senate chamber for decades, and Farley saw Seward in action. (Only John Marchi of Staten Island, who served 50 years, was in the Senate longer than Seward, Farley said.)
“He got along with people,” said the retired senator in an interview from his Florida home. “It makes for a much better situation if you don’t get personal in your partisanship. He was always a gentleman. I never heard him confront or insult anybody. I was very proud of him for that.”
As we bid Senator James L. Seward farewell from his current job – thankfully, he plans to stay active in a manner still to be revealed – the dozens of complimentary tributes that appear in this edition give us pause for rumination.
We’re in a period of intense partisanship, where we believe we’re right and the other guy is wrong – or worse, immoral. In reflecting on Jim Seward’s 36 years serving all of us, we realize it doesn’t have to be that way.
We can disagree without insulting. We can believe strongly, without demonizing the other. We can have a diverse country – diverse lifestyles, diverse culture, diverse thinking – by being who we are and accepting that others may be different. No sweat.
It can be done. Jim Seward’s life to date proves it.
On Friday, Jan. 8, Assemblyman John Salka engaged in a frank, one-on-one, 15-minute conversation with me about the election results and the insurrection at the Capitol. I sincerely appreciate him devoting so much time to talking with me, as I’m just one of over 100,000 people in his district.
But I was left appalled by his attachment to two self-serving, destructive, false narratives.
It was clear from our conversation that he has no actual evidence that Joe Biden’s electoral victory was fraudulent. He brought up one item (the affidavits of people who claim they saw irregularities). I explained that many of those were from people who had not attended observer training and therefore didn’t understand that what they witnessed was routine procedure.
Sometimes sedition is a good thing. Sometimes, not so much. My family are experts in sedition and revolution. We may in fact be some of the most revolting people in America.
When sedition wins, history, which is written by the winners, proclaims you a hero. When sedition fails, history proclaims you a traitor.
Our first seditious loss came in North Carolina, where, as colonials, we joined The Regulators, in a localized tax revolt against Great Britain in 1771. We lost that one, but that seditious revolt was a precursor to the Revolution in 1776, where we were on the winning side.
On Dec. 31, 2020, James L. Seward of Milford – everyone’s “Gentleman Jim” – retired from the New York State Senate, where he had served Otsego County since Jan. 1, 1986. Because of COVID-19, few of his constituents had the chance to say: Farewell – and thank you. When offered the opportunity, many of us – his fellow legislators, community leaders, top corporate executives and businesspeople, and citizens to whom he reached out and helped in time of need – have now done so in tributes that appear in this Special Edition – from The Editor
With all the hype and misinformation about election security, I cannot remain silent. I would be remiss if I did not try to provide some facts.
I was the Democratic elections commissioner in Delaware County from 2001 to 2008. I was and am proud of the work elections officials do including the inspectors at the polls, the county commissioners, deputies, clerks, state commissioners, attorneys and staff at all levels and the secretaries of state throughout the nation.
‘I don’t think globalization is coming to an end. I think the global system is in crisis. I think every major institution in our society is in crisis …
“I think the (World Health Organization) is a discredited organization. I think the White House is a discredited institution.
“I’m sorry to say this because I know it’s your former employer: I think the New York Times does not have the credibility it once had. It reads like the Guardian or the Nation. It doesn’t read like a newspaper.
“There is a crisis of credibility and trust.
“I don’t think that means institutions are going to go away. What it means is those institutions are going to need new leaders who have a different world view.”
“Apocaplyse Never” author
Interviewed on C-Span.
You already know that I have been afraid to do almost everything I ever did, but that never stopped me. But then there were the times when I should have been afraid but wasn’t.
Why did I think I could head off around the world at 21? Emigrate to New Zealand from a small Upstate dairy farm?
From New Zealand there was no easy way to call home if I was in trouble or just homesick. With the primitive system there I had to book calls to the U.S. far in advance. At Halloween I reserved my slot for Christmas Day.
And of course there was no Internet back then. Just handwritten letters on onion skin paper to make them lighter and cheaper to mail. Even an air mail letter could take weeks to get to my family.
There were no credit cards in case of emergency either. I hadn’t even dreamed of seeing ATMs.
So where was my fear when it should have seized me?
I had booked and paid for my 13,000-mile ticket which would let me see a lot of the world. I could get on and off planes, change airlines and visit as many countries as I wanted as long as I didn’t exceed those 13,000 miles.
I put on nylons, dress, gloves and my sturdy walking shoes. One had to“dress” for airplane travel in those days.
My foreign travel began with a drive from Upstate to the JFK airport. Without a look backward, I boarded a 727 and flew from that iconic TWA terminal.
First stop was Ireland to meet my Dad’s brother — my Uncle Tony, my cousins, Dad’s friends.
Dad left Northern Ireland in 1926. He had never returned. I would be the first to visit his family since 1926!
After my TWA dinner, which was served on china even in steerage, I took a brief nap. I opened my bleary eyes at Shannon Airport in Ireland. Shannon was a world apart then, with donkeys hauling goods and people through
Western Ireland. No tractors. Few cars.
But my uncle and two of my cousins were there to greet me. Their hours-long journey to fetch me took almost as long as my trip from JFK.
In my ignorance, my Upstate travel agent had booked me to the right island but the wrong side of it. The McReynolds lived near Belfast. Hours away from Shannon and often on single-track roads flanked by hedgerows.
My cousin Tommy, who could tell a tale about almost anything, told me those hedges housed the “wee people,” who built fires there and roasted mushrooms.
I have to admit I stared hard into those hedges. I wondered when one of the wee ones would spring out in front of our car.
This cousin never stopped spinning fairy stories. But he had some real stories to tell too. A tough Belfast city bus driver, Tommy had been held up at gun point more than once “in The Troubles.”
My Dad had left half a century before. He assured us that it was a time of “The Troubles” back then. Nothing to worry about.
But there had been plenty to worry about then and when I arrived too.
After our visit to my cousin Iris in a border town in the Irish Republic, we had to go through a checkpoint to get into Ulster.
Soldiers dressed in camouflage wielding machine guns; sand bags to deflect bombs; questioning by sentries before we could pass through.
That was unnerving but with Dad’s reassurances I knew this was just normal life.
A few days later when my cousins and Uncle were giving me a tour of a nearby city, a policeman was stopping the line of traffic in front of us. As we neared the road block suddenly my cousin wheeled the car around and started tearing away.
But before we went more than a few yards, an explosion rocked our little Mini, our eardrums felt like they would break and black smoke plumed in the air. Sirens blared. Children on their lunchtime recess ran about screaming. Parents arrived shouting, looking for their children in the mayhem.
Maybe I should have been afraid? But I took my Dad’s advice and didn’t worry. I stayed in Northern Ireland for my 10 days. We were frisked as we went into Belfast department stores. Stopped at roadblocks. Walked past young soldiers in camouflage. But I still had 9,000 miles to go.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Otsego County’s Congressman Antonio Delgado’s State of the District address Monday, Jan. 4, the day after he was sworn in for a second term at the U.S. Capitol.
Accessibility, accountability, transparency. To me, these are not just words—they are my creed. I can’t promise that we will always see eye-to-eye on a particular issue.
But I can and do promise you that I will listen to your views, that I will treat them and you with respect, and that, whether we agree on an issue or not, I will explain my position to you.
As I look ahead at my second term in office, these principles will continue to guide me.
I will remain a member of the Committees on Small Business, Agriculture, and Transportation & Infrastructure – not the most high-profile committees in Congress, by any means,
but by far the most important for the needs of our district.
That’s where I want to be.
Using my leverage on these committees, I will redouble my efforts to help our 27,000 small businesses and self-employed individuals thrive despite challenging economic
I will keep fighting to ensure that our more than 5,000 farms – the backbone of both our upstate economy and our rural way of life – can compete in today’s farm economy.
And I will keep pushing for investments in our region’s infrastructure – from roads, to rail, to broadband, to cell service, to hospitals, to public schools, to affordable housing – so that we can ensure a healthier, safer, and more productive future for ourselves and our children.
Our first order of business in this new Congress, however, will be to confront the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While public health experts tell us that the darkest days of the pandemic have yet to come – and it is essential that we remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions to keep our loved ones safe – we can find hope in the fact that the scientific community has produced a safe and effective vaccine in record time.
As of today, New York has administered more than 275,000 vaccine doses with almost 500,000 more doses on hand. While the vaccine rollout in New York and across the nation has gotten off to a slower than anticipated start, I’m confident that our state and our country will continue to accelerate the rate of vaccinations in the coming months.
To that end, it is imperative that Congress provides more funding for state and local governments to support those on the ground doing the heavy lifting of coordinating the vaccine’s distribution.
“As some of you know, I received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine here in D.C. on Dec. 18, and I will receive my second and final shot here this coming Friday. I took the vaccine upon the advice of the attending physician and consistent with continuity of government guidelines.
But I also took the vaccine to show that the vaccine is safe, and to demonstrate my trust in the public health officials whose expertise and advice has so often been ignored and undermined by those in elected office since the pandemic began.
As I travel back and forth between home and Washington and then make my way all across the district engaging with constituents about the health and the safety of the vaccine, my goal is to build trust and faith in this treatment. When I look someone in the eye and urge them to get vaccinated, I want them to know that I’ve done it, myself.
We have seen the impact of inconsistent leadership on important measures like mask-wearing, and I believe it is critical to clear up any confusion there may be around the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
I will continue to put my faith in this treatment while also ensuring that New York State, and the local governments therein, from counties to hamlets, have all the federal support needed to continue to roll out the vaccine at home.
In closing, I want to say how honored I am to be representing New York’s 19th District for another term. It has been the privilege of a lifetime. On Sunday, I took a sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of this office.
Tonight, I make another pledge to you: that I will continue to listen to your concerns and priorities for our nation; that I will always put what is right for our community above what is easy but wrong; and that I will strive to be an effective representative for everyone in our district.
Thank you, and God bless you.”
Congressman Delgado, now living in Rhinebeck, is a Colgate and Harvard Law School graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, and an experienced litigator on his election in 2018.
As a former long-time resident of Otsego County, I still appreciate our community’s hospital workers, responsible gun owners and polite neighbors – even when we don’t always agree.
Unfortunately, these are things Rick Brockway doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate.
I was struck by the angry and personal tone in one of Brockway’s latest rants when he attacked long-serving public health providers, including Mary Ann Whelan, for recognizing that gun violence is a national health issue.
Brockway should realize that he only won his last election by 150 votes. Given the area is Republican leaning and that his family members are well-positioned in the area, this 150-vote win isn’t much to brag about.
Rather than spreading misinformation and inflaming the community he represents with buzz words (illegal immigrants, Nancy Pelosi), he should appreciate the hard work of the doctors, volunteers and members of the local League of Women’s Voters who care for our community.
I hope people remember his ingratitude at the next election.
I join community members across Upstate New York – friends and colleagues alike – to say: We will all miss Bill Magee.
His service to our communities was a lifelong passion and commitment. He worked across the political spectrum to deliver for his district and he did it without the fanfare many politicians expect to receive. He did it by acting on solutions to meet constituent needs, and not making promises he couldn’t fulfill.
I first met Bill Magee in 2013. I had an interest in public service and asked for his advice. He gave it. As we all knew about Bill – he did not add more words than needed, so his advice was short but still useful.
More than what he said to me he gave an example to follow. When I called his office to make an appointment, he set the appointment that day. I didn’t get any sort of , “I’ll get back to you.”
The day before our meeting a problem came up in his schedule. Instead of a staff member calling to reschedule, I got the call directly from Bill.
In short, I will miss Bill Magee. He served our district for many years, and as a result we have done better together. He also left us with many stories that we remember with a smile, and I suspect many reading this letter are thinking of theirs.
Going forward, I will remember Bill Magee as a friend and mentor, and whose example I hope to emulate.