Mary Margaret Will Put People Back In Picture


Mary Margaret

Will Put People

Back In Picture

Mary Margaret Robbins Sohns was a breath of fresh air at the Thursday, March 5, League of Women Voters’ debate for Cooperstown Village Board candidates.

Village voters should open the windows Wednesday, March 18, and let that fresh air in. Polls are open noon – 9 p.m. at the fire hall.

Candidate Robbins Sohn made a plea for saving the downtown as “Heart of the Village.” ( photo)

“They never should have allowed CVS to leave Main Street!” she declared, and cut to the heart of an issue close to the heart of all Cooperstown folks: The precipitous decline of the downtown since, within a few months in 2017, both CVS and the full-service General Store closed their doors.

Yes, you can say: It’s a free country. But did anyone from the Village Board even approach CVS higher-ups to plead for the salvation of the heart of the village for the people who live here? Plus, given the number of businesses that have been turned away over the years, it rings hollow that Village Hall could have done nothing.

The newcomer nailed it: What is the Village Board – with her on it, let’s hope – going to do to bring life back to the downtown?
Canajoharie is a case in point. A half-dozen years ago, state grants allowed façade improvements and new signage throughout the downtown. New restaurants opened – briefly.

Drive through that village today, and you’ll find even more empty storefronts than before the revitalization started. As base, the beautification of downtown Canajoharie accomplished nothing, because the underlying economics hadn’t changed.

The loss of the downtown anchors begs the question: Will we complete $10-million-plus on Main Street improvements only to
realize there’s no viable downtown left, except for one four-day weekend?

Over the course of the evening, did anyone else get the nagging sense: What about the rest of us?

Milo Stewart, himself a former trustee, pointed out the village’s mini-plow is used to clear snow at corners and around hydrants, then is driven down the middle of the street to avoid actually helping out shoppers and merchants.

There needs to be “a level of personal responsibility,” said incumbent MacGuire Benton.

“Everything we do is for the residents,” said Joe Membrino, the other incumbent.

Robbins nailed it: “If we’re going to burn the gas, we might as well burn it for the people.”

She pointed out other villages – Cherry Valley, for instance – plow sidewalks, and others still have municipal garbage pickup. We haven’t had those kinds of conversations since Mayor Joe Booan left office eight years ago.

The evening ended with a poignant cry.

Mary Marx – you may have seen the handmade woolen wear she vends weekly at The Cooperstown Farmers’ Market – pointed out that for the past two years, Pioneer Alley has been closed off during Hall of Fame Weekend.

That’s caused the market to be cancelled on the busiest weekend of the year, losing vendors hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

“Can you help us?” she asked.

Membrino said it’s “a tough problem. Barriers are up for crowd control. There are also layers of security far beyond our jurisdiction.”

Benton, while “a big supporter” of the market, said “some things just aren’t feasible.”
(Question: Village Hall has a seat or two at the table with Homeland Security and the rest of the planners as Hall of Fame Weekend has been turned into an armed camp. Have any of our village trustees ever pushed back?)
Again, Robbins nailed it: “I love ideas. Main Street is cleared off. There’s a huge space in the middle of Main Street. The farmers’ market would be amazing in the middle of Main Street.”
Incumbents, on the dais and in the audience, likewise found that impossible.

Here’s another (probably impossible) idea: Villagers have endured six years of constant construction. It’s astonishing how much has been done. Much credit is due to Mayors Tillapaugh and Katz, and trustees.

But it’s time for a deep breath.

How about a “Year of the Cooperstownian,” if you will? For 12 months, leave everybody alone, with no new blinking lights, intrusive parking innovations, ideological diktats from Village Hall on how “we all” think (or should) about this and that. Better, how about rolling all of that back?

It was mentioned that since paid parking, there has been no tax increase. Let’s hope not: It equals 20 per cent of the tax levy. How about a tax cut? In short, can the Village Board, for just one year, focus on making Cooperstown a more pleasant place to live?

And, yes, all the brainpower on the Village Board, can figure out how to revive Main Street. Let’s do it.

Person by person, it IS a great Village Board, hindered by group think, a common result of monopoly. Here’s a chance to shake it up.

Vote for Mary Margaret Robbins Sohns. Judging from the debate, she’ll try – on people’s behalf.

And, once in a while, she’ll win – and so might the rest of us.

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