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.
“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.”
Hill said it was only through vaccines that businesses were able to be reopened and that children would be able to attend classes in-person.
“You seem to want kids to go back to remote learning,” Hill continued, saying the spread of the delta variant of COVID was largely because of unvaccinated adults, calling what was on the billboard “garbage.”
“Mr. Carson, how dare you endanger the children and good people of this city,” Hill said. “You’re screaming fire in a crowded theater. I think you should reconsider your run for mayor and your position on the city council.”
In addition, there were also five letters read out in the correspondence session of the meeting, which all criticized Carson similarly for spreading disinformation and possibly either discouraging individuals from visiting Oneonta or encouraging unvaccinated visitors.
One letter said the billboards “go directly against those goals” of increasing safety through vaccines. Another said the billboards were based on “non-fact based science” and asked “why would a leader in our community want to publish” the ads.
The strongest indictment of all said the billboard ads were “not only unethical but also deadly.”
Carson did not respond to these criticisms during the council meeting.
Mayor Gary Herzig said he spoke to Carson and the anti-vaccine ads had “run their course.”
In a conversation with AllOtsego afterwords, Carson said the ads didn’t reflect his views on the subject and when he researched the ads, “didn’t find fault with the information.”
“I think the best part of America is that we’re entitled to our opinions,” Carson said. “These people expressed their opinions tonight.”
He went on to say he didn’t think any mayor had ever made everyone happy, including the sitting mayor, Gary Herzig.
“Public safety has been a major part of my life. I spent 26 years in the City of Oneonta Fire Department,” said Carson, who touted his efforts to make sure no city employees were laid off when the pandemic hit. “To try and correlate between ‘I don’t care about the public’ and ‘that I wish to do harm to do harm to citizens of Oneonta’ is just an incorrect statement.”
“There have been ads that I have not agreed with personally, but have allowed to used on the digital billboard platform because it matches in line with freedom of speech,” Carson said. “When I looked at the ad I didn’t see anything illegal.”