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News of Otsego County

2020 general election

Let’s Call It: ‘Profiles In Fairness’
EDITORIAL
3 Democrats Prove They Believe In Bipartisanship

Let’s Call It: ‘Profiles In Fairness’

Andrew Marietta

It’s a bit of a Christmas story, coming out of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, of all things.

It involves at least four of Pope Gregory’s “Seven Virtues” – Charity, Patience, Kindness and Equanimity. (The Seven Deadly Sins, of course, have a higher profile.)

Famously, talk is cheap, when it comes to bipartisanship (and generally). But three county representatives – Andrew Marietta, Andrienne Martini and Andrew Stammel – talked that talk AND walked that walk in recent days.

Adrienne Martini

The winner: Objective governance for the good of all 59,493 of us,

Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Working Family Party member, small “i” and Big “I” i(I)ndependents, Libertarians, etc.

By the county board’s December meeting on the 2nd, it was clear the Republicans had put themselves in a trap that could have lost them majority control for only the second time since the Board of Representatives was created in the early 1970s.

No need to relive every particular, but when state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker resigned Monday, Nov. 16, the Republicans fast-tracked the succession.

Andrew Stammel

Democrats only found out about plans to seat Oberacker’s hand-picked successor, Jennifer Mickle, the day before the Thursday, Nov. 19, Administration Committee meeting, too late to come up with their own candidate.

The Admin Committee, 3-1, on party lines, then approved Mickle, (who, aside from the controversy, appears to be an able candidate). Without Admin approval, Democrats needed a 2/3rd majority to have their candidate even considered by the full board.

For a while, it looked like ill-will and recriminations would be the gifts under the county Christmas tree this year.

The Republicans, it seems, hadn’t fully considered how this might play out: With Oberacker’s seat vacant, neither party had a majority under the county’s complicated weighted-voting system.

So neither party could fill the vacancy without at least one vote from the other party.

And the Democrats, at least some of them, were incensed, and in no mood to play nice.

If the vacancy stood, the Republicans couldn’t have appointed the board’s chair or vice chair Jan. 2 at the annual reorganizational meeting. Or name the committee chairs, or control committee membership.

All decisions would have had to be bipartisan.

Out of power since 2008, the Democrats now held all the cards.

Including the fairness card. Not fairness to the Republicans, but to the 3,456 voters in Oberacker’s District 6 (Maryland, Worcester, Westford and Decatur).

At the Dec. 2 full county board meeting, Marietta, Martini and Stammel were profiles in fairness. All decried the rushed (and partisan) process. But Martini put it this way: “Leaving that district without representation for a year just doesn’t sit well.”

So the three Democrats handed control of the county board – at least until Nov. 4, 2021, the next Election Day – back to the Republicans.

(Also kudos to the board’s sole Conservative, Meg Kennedy, who scheduled a second Admin meeting to interview the Democratic nominee, former Worcester supervisor Diane Addesso, a goodwill gesture, even though it was too late to make a difference.)

To end where we began: Talk is cheap.

Most Democrats and some Republicans have been touting bipartisanship in board deliberations.

But Marietta, Martini and Stammel have shown that, to them, it’s a way of governing, worth more than numerical control.

Well done. Let’s hope, at least for the next year, bipartisanship will rule.

We’ve been here before, with an opposite outcome: In 2006, the Republican representative from Worcester, Don Lindberg, allied himself with the Democratic minority and achieved the board’s chairmanship.

The anger generated by that deal prevented any friendly compromise for the next two years. A recurrence has now been prevented.


‘…Leaving that district without
representation for year…doesn’t sit well.’

Editor’s Note: These were the comments from county Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, prior to voting for the Republican nominee to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.

‘I agree with (county Rep. Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta) that the process was a little bumpy, and there were problems with it. It’s also not a process we do on a regular basis. If it should happen again in the near future, I hope that we will remember what we’ve learned.

“I’ve gone back and forth on how I’ll vote. Ultimately I come down where (Rep. Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield) does, which is leaving that district without representation for a year just doesn’t sit well.

“We only have 30 days from Representative Oberacker’s resignation to fill the seat by board vote. In a perfect world, the Governor could call for a special election, but the odds of that ever happening are low.

“Additionally, the county would have to bear the cost of having a special election, which is an expense we cannot afford right now. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and it is getting worse in our county.

“The board needs to have a voice from every single district as we face the next few months, which might be even more bleak than the spring was.

“The candidate who was appointed will be up for election in November and her constituents will have a year’s worth of her votes to consider. I hope all parties field a candidate for this seat then so that the voters can decide.

“Because of all of this, I will vote yes on this nominee.”

Democrats Back Away From Coup

Democrats Back Away From Coup

Control At Hand, But ‘It Wouldn’t Be Fair’

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Democratic county reps this week were one vote away from shared control of Otsego County’s $120 million government for the next 14 months.

They could have shared fully in who becomes the board’s chair and vice chair.

They could have split committee chairmanships.

They could have required consensus on every important decision as the county emerges from the COVID-19 threat.

Still, “I don’t think it would be fair to leave a district without representation,” said county Rep. Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, a comment echoed by other Democrats on the county board.

“It would be a bad thing for the voters of (predominantly Republican) District 6,” said Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, “because it means they wouldn’t have representation for a year in all likelihood.”

Whether that sentiment carried the day will be known by the time you read this article. (Check www.AllOTSEGO.com)

The county Board of Representatives was scheduled to vote Wednesday, Dec. 2, on whether to appoint Oneonta businesswoman Jennifer Mickel, a Town of Maryland resident, to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker as county rep from District 6 (Maryland, Worcester, Westford, Decatur.)

But with Republican Oberacker’s Nov. 16 resignation from the county board, neither the GOP nor the Democrats had a majority.

If Democrats, as a bloc, withheld their votes, Mickle couldn’t be elected. But neither could anyone else.

A Democratic nominee, former Worcester town supervisor Diane Addesso, appeared before the board’s Administration Committee on Monday. But since Admin has already endorsed Mickle the

Thursday before, Martini withdrew Addesso’s nomination before a vote.

If Mickle wasn’t approved, here are three possible outcomes:

• SCENARIO ONE: District 6 might now remain without a county rep until the board’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 1, 2022, after the November 2021 elections.

• SCENARIO TWO: Governor Cuomo might order a special election, but that’s rarely done, said Martini.

• SCENARIO THREE: The county board has 30 days after Oberacker’s nomination – until Dec. 16 – to name a successor. If Republicans and Democrats can agree on that person, a special Admin meeting could be scheduled, and the county board could approve him or her when it meets Dec. 15 to pass the budget.

County board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, said he wasn’t sure what would happen at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Later in the day, he planned to call Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Otsego, who the day before was quoted as saying Democrats would vote as “a bloc,” but declined to clarify what that meant.

“I would hope (Democrats) would endorse Jennifer Mickle,” he said. “I’m in favor of her. I think she would be a good representative. Plus, Pete has endorsed her.”

Some of the Democratic unhappiness goes back to last Jan. 1, when the Republican majority reelected David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, as chairman, and Meg Kennedy, a Conservative allied with the Republicans, as vice chair, according to county Rep. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta.

The move broke recent precedent: A Democrat, Gary Koutnik of Oneonta, had served several terms as vice chairman.

“It was disappointing,” Lapin said. “Even though Meg Kennedy makes an excellent vice chair and Dave an excellent chair. It was backsliding.”

He planned to vote “no” on Mickle. “It’s not Republican or Democrat,” he said, “it’s picking the best person for the job.”

The parties’ county chairman offered their assessments.

“This is one of those times you put governance above politics,” said GOP Chairman Vince Casale. “I don’t think it’s in the interest of good government to allow residents and taxpayers in four towns to go without representation for an entire year.”

Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver said he hasn’t sought to pull his party’s reps behind one position or another. “That’s why I’m proud to be a Democrat,” he said. “We have smart people who work with their own constituents on their own accord, and vote the way they think.”

STAMMEL: After Vacancy Rift, Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding
LETTER from ANDREW STAMMEL

After Vacancy Rift,

Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding

To the Editor:

The run of bi-partisanship on the county Board of Representatives has been interrupted by the Republican caucus’ recent efforts to steamroll through a replacement for Representative Oberacker.

During my two and a half terms on the county board, cooperation between parties has ebbed and flowed. Since the 2017 election it has been split 7-7 between Democrats and Republican-affiliated members.

Thankfully, a bi-partisan governing coalition and leadership team was ascendant and the board increased its productivity and collegiality. There was an understanding that it was in the county’s interest for the party caucuses to work with each other. Representative Bliss has been selected as chair three years running, in votes that relied on support from both parties.

Some cracks began to show in January 2020 as the leadership team became fully Republican after two years of shared leadership with a chair and vice chair from different parties. But cooperation mostly continued until this month.

With Representative Oberacker’s recent election to state Senate, he is set to take office in January 2021. This will create a vacancy in his county district because his board term runs through December 2021.

The board’s Rules of Order and local law clearly outline how to fill vacancy, within 30 days and with nominees submitted by both major parties, to be voted on by the Administration Committee and then the full board.

Unfortunately the Republican caucus apparently coordinated to prevent Democratic input into this process, rejecting bi-partisanship.

Representative Oberacker inexplicably submitted his resignation letter a month and a half prior to commencing his new position, unexpectedly vacating the board prior to important votes on the annual budget and other matters.

His resignation letter was dated Nov. 13 to take effect the 16th; but it was not received by the board clerk until Nov. 17 (according to the date stamp). The clerk did not share the resignation with the Board members until the 18th, a day after the local Republican Committee met to nominate a replacement.

Upon receipt of the resignation letter, the Democratic board members inquired with board leadership about the process for moving forward and how the Democratic Committee could submit a name (the committee had a regular meeting scheduled for the 19th).

These inquiries were ignored by leadership, and the Administration Committee voted on the morning of the 19th, along party lines, to approve the Republican nominee.

Does this sound like collegial bi-partisanship? It sounds like a fishy partisan power move to me, contrary to the letter and spirit of county law.

The county board now has seven Democratic members, six Republican-affiliated members, and one vacancy. Democrats have a plurality in weighted voting on the board but neither party has a majority. Bi-partisan cooperation will be required to move forward on any items, including the filling of this vacancy.

It had been my expectation that the board would fill the vacancy as I believed that to be in the county’s best interest. I also expected that the board would choose a Republican, as this is historically a conservative district.

But now I ask myself what the Republican plurality would do if the shoe were on the other foot. Would they keep open a vacancy in a traditionally Democratic district and press their advantage to maintain their plurality and greater control over the Board?

If you had asked me a year ago, I would opine that the Republicans would probably do the right thing and fill the vacancy. Today, after their latest maneuvers, I’m not sure.

The success of our county and board depends on restoring bi-partisan respect. With the county still fighting a pandemic and dealing with a likely double-dip recession, we need a high-functioning and fully staffed board.

Although the timing of the filling of this vacancy is unknown, I do not plan to keep the position vacant for over a year and I expect some of my Democratic colleagues feel similarly. But we also need the GOP caucus to work to rebuild bridges and trust.

Like any relationship, this one requires work and good faith on both sides. I hope the holidays and New Year allow my Republican colleagues to reflect on their recent actions and consider how they can contribute to restoring trust and collegiality.

ANDREW STAMMEL
County Representative
District 4, Town of Oneonta

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