By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — The Common Council held a public hearing for the long anticipated vote on the Community Advisory Board Review Committee report Tuesday, Sept. 21, created in response to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that police departments create a document of “best practices” by local law enforcement with input from the community.
Only two people spoke at the public hearing, both of whom were supportive of the council passing the report.
Daniel Driver said the report gave him “confidence in how hard the OPD works with few resources, but also cause for concern” and urged the council to consider more social services for those with mental health issues and addiction. He said that police officers were being put in a “untenable position where they have to arrest or interact with folks” who have some of those issues.
“There is a lot more to be done,” Driver said.
Steve Ludner offered “personal gratitude and thanks” for those who worked on CABRC and suggested the council “modify some of the wording” to make “clear that the Community Police Board will have options for community engagement.”
Mayor Gary Herzig said “the final product that we have in front of us is actually a year in the making.”
CABRC was the result of an original report made by the Community Advisory Board, which was made up of volunteers, members of the Oneonta Police Department and council members. Herzig said the process was citizen driven.
Some of the suggestions in the CAB document included having OPD give legally releasable crime and arrest statistic information, having badges displayed on officers at all times and guidance on “use of force” policies.
Herzig said CABRC’s job, which was to go through the report and make changes, was “much more intensive a job than they anticipated.”
There were a few testy moments where John Rafter, D-Seventh Ward, said he did not have sufficient enough information on the CABRC report to vote yes, and was concerned only two people had spoken at the public hearing.
Rafter said he had some “legislative issues” with the document and what role the standing CAB would have once it was created.
Mayoral candidate Mark Drnek, D-Eighth Ward, said the board would “act as a conduit” to OPD. “They’re not doing anything other than providing information for action for the council,” Drnek said.
Mayoral candidate Len Carson, R-Fifth Ward, also expressed some doubts about the document.
“Do we really want to push this forward to be passed?” Carson asked, when members of the council didn’t understand everything in the document.
“I don’t think we’ve had an opportunity to participate in this,” Rafter said.
“To say you haven’t had a chance to actively participate is just wrong and I take offense to that,” David Rissberger, D-Third Ward, said, remarking there was a meeting on the CABRC document that was open to all councilmembers. “Your chance to have your questions answered was at that meeting.”
Eventually the discussion was tabled because Herzig said the conversation wasn’t getting them anywhere.
A vote is expected to be held in two weeks, but some councilmembers suggested another special meeting to discuss the CABRC document.
Actions by the Common Council included:
- The purchase of a street sweeper for $295,740.
- The authorization for a grant to use funds from the American Rescue Act 2021 to fund upkeep for the airport including cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services and combating the spread of pathogens.
- Funding the Applebaugh Gardens in Wilber Park for $5,000.
- The purchase of eight police tasers for $21,000.
- The approval of a grant to implement a Complete Streets project on State Route 23, State Route 28, James F. Lettis and Leslie G. Foster highways in partnership with the town of Oneonta. The project is estimated to cost $8.4 million with the city of Oneonta and town of Oneonta paying $2.3 million and $1.1 million respectively.