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News of Otsego County

Politics

Fully vaccinated students at SUNY Oneonta at 88%

Fully vaccinated students
at SUNY Oneonta at 88%

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA ⁠— COVID numbers for SUNY Oneonta have steadily improved with more students getting the vaccine.

Danielle McMullen, chief of staff at SUNY Oneonta, reported to the Common Council on Tuesday, Sept. 21, that 94% of students had at least one dose of the vaccine while 88% are fully vaccinated.

McMullen said SUNY Oneonta was doing “really well, when compared to other SUNY schools,” and credited the “strong messaging campaign” with the rising numbers of vaccinated students.

“Students came back to campus really wanting that in-person, robust experience,” McMullen said. There was a “spike (in COVID cases) that we anticipated” McMullen said who spoke of the erroneous notion that the vaccine is a “silver bullet” but they took a look at “a lot of data points including students social activity” and were able to make determinations on how they could improve their response.

McMullen called it a “testament of our campus coming together” and “being honest with the local community.”

Mayoral candidate Len Carson faces backlash over vaccine billboard ads
Billboards in the town of Oneonta owned by DC Marketing featured anti-vaccination messages last week. (Contributed).

Mayoral candidate
Len Carson faces backlash
over vaccine billboard ads

By Kevin Limiti • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA Len Carson, the Fifth Ward Common Council member and Republican mayoral candidate, received some heat at the council’s meeting Tuesday, Aug. 17, for approving billboard ads through his company, DC Marketing, that presented false information about coronavirus vaccines.

Jennifer Hill spoke at the meeting at City Hall, saying the ads were dangerous and strongly condemning Carson for his role in putting up the ads.

Len Carson

“It’s unconscionable that a member of the council and one who wants to lead the city to spread false information,” Hill said. “Mr. Carson did not come across as someone who would want to do that. I don’t know what changed.”

RUDY: State should mndate vaccinations for its employees

LETTER from JOHN A. RUDY

State should mandate
vaccinations for its employees

The unions representing New York state troopers and public school teachers oppose a mandatory vaccination requirement for their members. At the same time, more and more private employers are requiring vaccination by their employees as a condition of continued employment.

Conservatives regularly argue that government should emulate the private sector in its employment practices. A vaccination mandate is a good place to start.

For those state troopers and teachers who choose not to be vaccinated and thereby to ignore the risk they pose to us taxpayers and children with whom they come in contact, I suggest that they have at least two other choices:

1) find another line of work;

2) move to Florida or Texas.

John A. Rudy
Cooperstown

Views From Around The State: August 5, 2021

Views From Around The State

August 5, 2021

Governments need to refocus on coronavirus

By The Albany Times Union Editorial Board:

New York did a solid job beating back the coronavirus after it took hold here 16 months ago, and for all the sacrifice it took, the state has opened up again.

But now there are signs we are losing ground, as a state government that so ably fought the pandemic seems to have lost its laser focus, and too many unvaccinated citizens live in some kind of illusory state of immunity.

Those two problems were underscored by the revelation this week that the Cuomo administration sat for four months on $15 million that had been set aside in the state budget to address the problem of vaccination hesitancy. It’s an effort that was clearly needed months ago. Barely 57 percent of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control, well below the minimum of 70%. We need more people to get shots to protect those who can’t avail themselves of the vaccine.

ROBBINS-SOHNS: Village money should improve lives of villagers

LETTER from MARY-MARGARET ROBBINS-SOHNS

Village money should improve lives of villagers

In regard to the pier in the lake “viewing deck,” I urge the Board of Trustees to stop spending money on tourist attractions. Rather focus on our neglected community. Sidewalks, piers, etc., don’t make a village.

Its people do.

The viewing deck/dock may sound fun, but it provides little to the community. It is not environmentally friendly and poses numerous liability issues, not to mention potentially risking our
water source. Oh, and the maintenance.

Covid-19 had a harsh impact on many members of our community mentally and physically. We have a lack of outdoor play spaces and a lack of areas where older adults have the ability to enjoy children at play. I must point out that the community would greatly benefit if these funds were spent on our children and adults. A better playground, two tennis courts/basketball courts located on the mutually owned village, Clark Foundation and school land. Or even a summer art program by the lake once a week directed by one of our marvelous not-for-profits. We need to focus on building a better community to attract and retain our healthcare workers and serve all walks of life.

The voters and taxpayers are provided so little. Stop looking gift horses in the mouth We are in fact throwing money in the lake!

The people living in the village matter too! Stop broad stroking projects because they feel good. Think about the citizens who probably are most likely unaware of this project as it was not in The Freeman’s Journal.

Let’s serve those who serve us!

Working for mindful spending and a stronger community,

Mary-Margaret E. Robbins-Sohns
Cooperstown

 

Death certificates lead to Coop-Otsego dispute

Death certificates lead to Coop-Otsego dispute

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Tillapaugh

A financial dispute over dead people has left officials in the village of Cooperstown and town of Otsego frustrated with one another.

The disagreement stems from services performed by the registrar of vital statistics, which is a job village officials perform town-wide. Registrar duties include birth and death certificates. While there are some births outside of the village, most are at Cooperstown’s Bassett Medical Center.

However, it is the deaths outside of the village boundaries that have been costly to Cooperstown. According to materials provided at the village’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday, July 26, the cost of providing death certificates to town residents has cost the village anywhere from about $1,300 annually to a recent high of $2,900 in 2015 when there were 290 death certificates prepared for residents outside of the village.

As per the old agreement, the town pays $250 annually and gets remitted the fees for certificates from its residents.

Kiernan

The village must keep and maintain the records, but Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said it is not adding up for village residents. “This is not sustainable,” she said. “This is a village tax, subsidizing service for the town of Otsego.”

In other business: COVID $ disapoints; Glen project gets permit

In other business: COVID $
disapoints; Glen project gets permit

By GREG KLEIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

• The village has received $89,000 from the federal government as part of the corona-virus relief package. Tillapaugh said it is much less than she anticipated or the village lost in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic and shutdown. The assignments were based on population, a formula that did not favor Cooperstown, she said. The village will receive a similar amount in 2022 as part of the package.

• The trustees unanimously approved a special-use permit for a multi-unit dwelling at 20 Glen Ave. No one spoke about the matter in the public hearing.

WAYNE MELLOR: What’s the cost of zero-carbon energy

LETTER from WAYNE MELLOR

What’s the cost of zero-carbon energy

Wayne Mellor

I received several thoughtful comments from our readers concerning the last column and would like to address them.

The investment bank Lazard published the most recent Lazard’s “Levelized Cost of Energy and Storage” in late 2020. The comprehensive report includes all the costs of creating and storing a megawatt of power including land, construction, operating and maintenance.

According to the Lazard report, new, unsubsidized utility scale power sources have the following midpoint levelized costs per megawatt hour: solar $34, offshore wind $86, on-shore wind $40, nuclear $164 and combined cycle gas $59.

It is pretty easy to see that money drives political decision-making especially when deciding between new nuclear, wind and solar power. Offshore wind is relatively expensive, but unlike solar, it can occasionally generate base load power. The public is less likely to resist offshore wind, and one of the windiest places in the U.S. is off Long Island.

Oneonta Common Council has contentious vote on housing commission appointment, confirms new fire chief
New Fire Chief Brian Knapp shakes hands with Len Carson, right, with outgoing Fire Chief J. Michael Mancini, seated, attends the Common Council. (Kevin Limiti/AllOtsego.com).

Oneonta Common Council
has contentious vote
on housing commission appointment,
confirms new fire chief

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA In a two and a half hour meeting, the issue of housing was forefront as the Common Council struggled to come to agree on the choice of an out-of-city resident as part of the housing commission on Tuesday, July 20.

This appointment was narrowly approved, 4-3, with Kaytee Lipari Shue, Len Carson and Scott Harrington being the dissenting votes.

The motion to appoint Audrey Benkenstein, with the addition of Oneonta resident Peter Friedman, was brought up for a second time after being voted down during the last common council meeting, something that Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig told AllOtsego.com last week was “mystifying,” since Lipari Shue had pushed for a non-city resident to be on the Arts Commission.

The main point of contention was that Benkenstein was not a Oneonta resident. However Herzig pointed out her appointment was voted down “only minutes after approving a Cherry Valley artist” for the Arts Commission.

Herzig said the Arts Commission held real power whereas the Housing Commission was an advisory position, and therefore those appointed to the Housing Commission were not considered officials with any kind capacity to approve anything.

Community Advisory Board document on OPD best practices set to be reviewed

Community Advisory Board
document on OPD best practices
set to be reviewed

By KEVIN LIMITI• Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA — A committee including mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson approved final changes to the Community Advisory Board police review document, which will sent back to the original CAB members followed by a public hearing.

The process should take about a month to complete, according to city officials.

The Community Advisory Board met Tuesday, July 13, at City Hall to follow up on the document, which was prepared in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for police departments to recommend “best practices” that align with community values. That order and a review Herzig had ordered before Cuomo’s order, were in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of Floyd’s murder in April.

Views Around New York State: July 8, 2021

Views Around New York State

Suing Georgia over voting rights is just the start

From The Albany Times-Union:
Georgia was among a host of GOP-controlled states that in the aftermath of Republican Donald Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden for the presidency have intensified efforts to pass laws brazenly aimed at suppressing votes by people of color. Georgia and its defenders offered the weak defense that some of the provisions it passed will expand voting rights, as if a little window dressing is supposed to make up for its draconian measures.

Those measures, as outlined by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke, included a raft of restrictions on absentee ballots, including shortening the time to apply for them and imposing new ID requirements. As Clarke noted, Black voters used absentee ballots at a much higher rate last year than white ones.

The Georgia law — which grew from three pages to 90 on its way from the state Senate to the House, where it received a mere two hours of debate — would also cut, from 100 to around 20, the number of ballot drop boxes that were popular in the metro Atlanta area where, not coincidentally, the state’s largest Black voting-age population resides. And infamously, the law made it illegal to give people waiting in long lines — which voters in high-minority areas tend to face — food or even water.

That’s just one state. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University counted as of mid-May nearly 400 bills with restrictive voting provisions around the country.

These laws aren’t happening in a vacuum, but in the echo chamber in which Trump’s lie of a stolen election and his fiction of massive voter fraud keeps getting repeated by Republican lawmakers as if it is true in order to justify such anti-democratic schemes. … So they’re passing these laws in statehouses, and using the filibuster in Congress to block federal legislation to protect voting rights.

There are still laws that apply here, and it’s encouraging that Attorney General Merrick Garland announced at the same time as the Georgia lawsuit that the Justice Department will fully use the Voting Rights Act and other statutes to push back on voter suppression and intimidation wherever they find it. In the absence of a new commitment in Congress to this most fundamental right in a democracy — the right of the people to choose their leaders — the battle is never ending, to this nation’s shame.


Safety versus justice is a false choice

From The Albany Times-Union:
Some people deal with criticism by showing why it’s unfair. Then there are those, like Saratoga Springs Assistant Police Chief John Catone, who seem to go out of their way to prove their critics’ case.

Catone, joined by Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton, went on a tear that sounded so many wrong notes when it comes to complaints of systemic racism in the criminal justice system that it was hard to keep track. … (Catone) delivered a rant filled with racist dog whistles, punctuated by what came off as a threat to summon the collective forces of the city’s historically white power establishment to put an end to what he called “a narrative of lies and misinformation.”

Let’s start with the most important thing of all: It is not the job of those in law enforcement to shut down speech they don’t like. That threat alone should be enough for Catone to turn in his badge and gun and retire early. And for sitting by his side, nodding in apparent agreement, Dalton should resign, and drop her bid for mayor.

We are in no way defending any violence that has taken place in Saratoga Springs, including a brawl Saturday night on Caroline Street and some alleged recent muggings in Congress Park. We in no way support demonstrators carrying bats, as one organizer acknowledged some did in the past.

We do support people’s right to demonstrate, to express their views that there are racial problems in their police department, and to petition their government for redress of their grievances. If that discomfits some in a community that thrives on tourism and its image as a charming, gentrified, historic American city, well, that’s the First Amendment for you.

Catone doesn’t seem to see it that way. He railed about how critics of his department were “trying to push a narrative from a national stage” — a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement — and talked of “gangs from Albany” — read: young men of color — coming up to Saratoga Springs to sell drugs and cause trouble. In wrapping all this into one speech, he conflated drug gangs and Black Lives Matter activists, an outrageous rhetorical slander whether he intended it or not. …

For good measure, he blamed criminal justice reforms passed by the state Legislature, which included ending a system in which low-income people unable to make bail were jailed without trial while those of means could readily buy their freedom.

So it’s police against “them,” and everyone has to pick sides? This is Assistant Chief Catone and Commissioner Dalton’s idea of a unified community?

What they present is the false choice that so many misguided or opportunistic politicians and demagogues offer: that it’s either law, order, and unquestioning support of police, or chaos.

A truly strong society — whether it’s a small city or the richly diverse nation it’s a part of — must be both safe and just. For all.

First in-person common council since COVID celebrates recent achievements
Gary Herzig, left, and Greg Mattice award Lou Lansing the ‘Employee of the Quarter’ award for her work on parks in Oneonta. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego.com).

First in-person
common council
since COVID celebrates
recent achievements

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

ONEONTA The Common Council met in person Tuesday, July 6, with an atmosphere of visible joviality and relief after spending a year meeting via Zoom.

“This is something we haven’t done in a long time,” Mayor Gary Herzig said, which elicited some appreciative chuckles.

Some of the agenda items passed included motions authorizing the acceptance of a state grant for the development of Hartwick College’s Grain Innovation Center, which would be located at the future Lofts on Dietz Street, as well as motions that appointed candidates to the recently formed Public Arts Commission and the Housing Commission.

CONWAY: Cooperstown’s Critical Race Theory debate is a missed opportunity to editorialize

LETTER from PAUL CONWAY

Cooperstown’s Critical Race Theory
debate is a missed opportunity to editorialize

The question of whether AllOtsego should publish any editorial opinions was raised, weeks ago, on these pages.

The importance of timely editorial opinions for readers who are often ill-informed or baffled by complex issues was obvious after the recent, very controversial, Cooperstown Board of Education meeting. Many attended or subsequently read about that meeting. The issue was whether “Critical Race Theory” should be taught in Cooperstown or elsewhere. AllOtsego had no timely editorial on the subject. Fortunately, the Oneonta Daily Star did.

As the Star editors suggested, no one has suggested that teachers should be required to teach or believe Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is simply a theory that teachers can consider and perhaps discuss with high school students. Citizens and parents should be encouraged to google CRT online to determine for themselves whether the theory is dangerous in any way. The Star editorial suggested that teachers should not be prohibited from discussing the concept of race, or why racism exists, or whether it is systemic in our society, with their students. Presumably very few—on the political left or right—want to allow students to be politically indoctrinated. But teachers should be allowed (and encouraged) to discuss many important theories without being intimidated by hysterical parents or administrators!

Paul Conway
Oneonta

SIMPSON: Series could do more to review racial issues

LETTER from JOSH SIMPSON

Series could do more
to review racial issues

Our community is fortunate to have the Friends of the Village Library to organize important conversations and events like the “Looking in the Mirror” program. I have attended a few of the series including racism in education and in healthcare and had come to expect a decent program when tuning in.

On Feb. 10, I listened to The Cooperstown Reflects on Racism and Law Enforcement Series with my wife hoping for an invigorating and forward-thinking conversation.

The event had the express goals of:
1) Examine the impact of racism on our community and institutions;
2) Learn how to confront bias and inequities locally;
3) Identify actions that individuals, groups, and the community can take to address racism and create a more equitable Cooperstown.

The speakers during their presentations and the Q&A did not address, examine or achieve any of these goals. I have spent the last four months thinking about this event and pondering what can be done to jumpstart the difficult discussion that works to foster the growth and honest conversation needed if we are to address the goals of the series.

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