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.
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.
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.”