About 250 people attended a rally Sunday, May 2, at the Otsego County Courthouse, to support the community’s Asian American and Pacific Island residents.
The “Otsego Rally for Solidarity with Asian Americans” was organized and run by a group of Cooperstown Central School freshmen, including 15-year-old Cate Bohler, who said she wanted to speak up to support her friends or anyone who is being harassed.
“As a young Asian-American girl, hearing people call COVID the China virus is hurtful,” Bohler said, reading from her prepared statement about why she wanted to stage the rally. “It is more than hurtful. It is harmful. It perpetuates anti-American sentiments and racism.”
Speakers included the students, as well as local officials, including Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh, Cooperstown Police Chief Frank Cavalieri, Otsego Town Supervisor Meg Kiernan and Otsego County Rep. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, who said he thinks he is the county’s only elected official of Asian descent. Lapin’s mom is Japanese.
“The deep-seated nature of systemic racism requires us to make continuous choices and take continuous actions to advance anti-racist ideas in the public space,” Lapin said.
The 2A Sanctuary Movement’s effort to banish all gun laws from Otsego County appears at a standstill, at least for now.
“The county board has no real authority or jurisdiction,” county Rep. Dan Wilber, last week, told the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee, which he chairs. “Enforcement is left to the district attorney and the sheriff’s office.”
Wilber said he’s conferring with District Attorney John Muehl and county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. about what comes next.
Meanwhile, he delayed further discussion until the February PSLA meeting, and – picking up on the suggestion of county Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Fly Creek – said he will consider a public forum on the matter for 2021.
For his part, Muehl said later, “I think the county should stay out of it. The courts have found it unconstitutional. I can’t enforce a law that’s been found unconstitutional.”
Devlin said the PSLA Committee is “trying to put this off on John and myself. They don’t know what to do.”
Some PSLA members were expecting a legal opinion from County Attorney Ellen Coccoma on a draft resolution when it met Thursday, Dec. 10, but received a verbal report instead.
“The way I read it now,” she said, the proposed resolution “poses to make a declaration of unconstitutionality about particular laws. That is not an authority that the county board has. Under separation of powers, that decision is given to the courts.”
Muehl and Devlin take an oath “to uphold all the laws of the state,” she added, “which does not allow them to spend money that infringes on their oath of office.”
COOPERSTOWN – Democrat MacGuire Benton confirmed a few minutes ago he plans to challenge the dean of the county board Democrats, Andrew Marietta, for the Cooperstown/Town of Otsego seat in next June’s primary.
“Primaries are the sign of a healthy democracy,” he said, adding he’s looking forward to “an exchange of ideas.” He added, “It’s early, and I look forward to sharing my platform with District 8” when it is fully developed.
For his part, Marietta, who has been working with his colleagues on creating a county-manager position, said, “I have a job that I feel is unfinished.” The 2021 county budget, recently approved, includes $50,000, with the idea the manager position can be revisited next as COVID retreats.
The county board’s Administration Committee set a poor precedent in deciding to interview candidates for state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s District 6 seat in “executive session” – that is, in secret, out of the public view.
The county attorney, Ellen Coccoma, last week advised the Admin Committee when it interviewed the Republican candidate, Jennifer Mickle, that whether to do so in public or not was optional, up to the reps. To close the door instead of opening it was the wrong way to go.
It was bi-partisan poor judgment, too.
At this past Monday’s Admin meeting to interview the Democratic nominee, Diane Addesso, at least county Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, questioned if darkness should trump light.
Then she said, oh, never mind.
Admin Committee chair Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick/Milford/New Lisbon, made the motion, and Republicans Ed Frazier and Keith McCarty, and Democrat Andrew Marietta, as well as Martini, went along.
If Mickle, Addesso and Libertarian Andrew Hamill ran for the seat, they would have had to answer questions in public from the public. Why should they get a free ride into Oberacker’s seat without having to tell the public in this limited manner why they want the job and what they would do with it?
After all, when crowned by their fellow representatives, Mickle, Addesso or Hamill would be participating in votes that will have an impact on all of us living in Otsego County.
When this sorry process is over, soul-searching is warranted by all county reps.
The state Committee on Open Government is available to conduct a training session for the board, but it’s as much a question of attitude: Does county government belong to everyone, or to them alone?
COOPERSTOWN – After tabling the measure two weeks ago, the county Board of Representatives today rallied behind Destination Marketing of Otsego County, with nine reps rejecting a resolution to reduce funding for its promotional arm from 15 percent to 24 percent.
Rep. Andrew Stammel, D-Town of Oneonta, proposed the larger cut for DMCOC, saying, “With the present state of the industry” – tourism – “we’re not going to be doing as much in this atmosphere.” Michele Farwell, D-Morris, second the motion.
The question was, “Do you think THEY will let the county administrator do the job?” They, of course, being the county Board
But the question misunderstands how the new county administrator job is envisioned.
Judging from discussions surrounding the new job’s creation, the county representatives aren’t looking for someone to tell them what to do. They’re looking for someone who will allow them to do what THEY want to do more efficiently.
The control of county government will remain in the hands of the 14 elected representatives, elected every two years from their districts, who are entrusted to act on their constituents’ behalf.\
Not such a bad idea.
For the past few weeks, a name has been circulating as a prospect for the county’s first administrator: Allen Ruffles, the Republican county treasurer who has just returned from a year-long assignment in East Africa with the New York State National Guard.
The position must first be advertised, candidates vetted and a vote taken. A better candidate may emerge. Regardless, he or she might benefit from at least a few Ruffles-like characteristics.
First, he had a varied background as a school teacher, insurance agent, banker (Key Bank’s former branch manager in Cooperstown), as well as a soldier, and the discipline that connotes. That should give him sympathy and understanding of a range of people.
Two, he’s a county native, with a family: wife Amy, daughter Mia and son Cooper, so he has a stake – a personal stake – in the middle- and long-term prosperity of the county. Being a native is not a requirement, but a candidate should have a plausible reason for coming here.
Third, he holds an elective office, so he would likely be sensitive to pressures county representatives feel, having to represent a varied voter base.
Fourth, he’s developed collegial relations with the county’s 20-some department heads, a group that – according to a survey county Rep. Meg Kennedy’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee conducted – is most resistant to the idea of reporting to a single boss.
That’s understandable: Most of us would prefer less supervision to more, but things are going to change. Ideally, he will develop the department heads into a team, focused on meeting the board’s directives.
Fifth, he has led preparation of two county budgets, and participated in two more as deputy to former County Treasurer Dan Crowell. It’s going to be a central function of the county administrator. Short-term, anyhow, his able deputy, Andrew Crisman, would ensure good relations with the Treasurer’s Office.
Sixth, Ruffles is not just experienced, but agreeable. Hard and soft skills, in whichever candidate is successful, is most important to ensuring the success of the new position. Put another way, building confidence, credibility and trust with all constituencies – the board, the department heads and the public.
Seventh, the county board, meeting Feb. 5, set the administrator’s salary at $100,000, considerably less than the $150,000 recommended to entice an out-of-county professional – $100,000 though, would be a nice raise for the county treasurer as he learns the new job.
That’s a lot of pluses.
Asked Monday about the chatter, county Rep. Andrew Marietta, the ranking Democrat, said he’d heard county board Chairman David Bliss mention Ruffles’ name in a meeting. “If Allen applied, it would be great,” Marietta said. “But it’s not a done deal.”
“I think a lot of Allen,” said Kennedy, whose IGA committee is handling the recruitment. “But it would be shortsighted of us to stop looking. There’s a lot to be gained by examining different candidates as they come forward.”
For instance, another potential candidate, former Cooperstown mayor Jeff Katz, has been mentioned for the job, and brings an impressive, albeit different, skill set.
“It’s going to be a county board decision,” Marietta said. Not a Republican or Democratic one.”
That’s exactly right. Still, thinking about someone like Ruffles helps focus on what qualities would help our county’s first top executive succeed.
I’ve driven all over New York State and worked with community organizations and their leaders, and there is a commonality that unites them all: an investment in a better future.
The same can be said for Otsego County, where success and momentum are building.
Our county has no shortage of dedicated and committed leaders who put service to their communities first and strive to improve them.
It isn’t politics that prompt people to contribute to their community. As we look to the future of Otsego County, there is great potential for making our region a draw for business development and new residents.
This future is dependent on strengthening our infrastructure and putting systems and tools in place to make Otsego County competitive and give us a fighting chance.
Our county government is a piece to this puzzle, and we are finally making an investment in county infrastructure, which has been long delayed and ignored.
Part of this process has been two years of due diligence in looking at a county administrator position (and one can’t ignore the many, many years of past discussions and debate on this topic by our predecessors), which culminated recently in the approval of a local law and position by our Administration Committee that will next be considered for approval Nov. 6 by our full county board.
This effort is increasing the momentum pushing Otsego County forward to attract new investment and interest in our towns. Politics are not what have made this possible, but partnership and unified vision.
With this in mind, I am writing to endorse my fellow county board colleagues Dave Bliss, Meg Kennedy and Peter Oberacker.
I started with them on the county board in 2016, and with their support, we have made strides to work smarter and more effectively. We may represent different parties, but our effort is a bi-partisan one.
With the upcoming election on Nov. 5, and the emphasis on party, I would ask my fellow community members from across the county to consider making an investment in keeping us on the path of improvement.
Consider not what party we represent, but the future we offer.
In addition to Bliss, Kennedy and Oberacker, I support my colleague Michelle Farwell, who has made a tremendous contribution in her first two years on the Board. And finally, I am supporting Caitlin Ogden, who is not a political pawn, but an investment in the future success of Otsego County.
MIDDLEFIELD – Tonnage and volume are still being tallied, but the car count is in, and 920 vehicles lined up to drop off paint, e-waste, prescriptions – you name it – at Household Hazardous Waste Day Saturday, Sept 21, at the county government’s Meadows Office Complex.
That was up from 500 last year, almost double, county Planning Director Karen Sullivan is reporting.
The day before, Friday the 20th, in Unadilla, it was the same story: 162 vehicles,
double the year before she said.
Sullivan credited a number of factors, but focused again at the one word she’d shouted out from the middle of the parking lot in the midst of all Saturday’s activity: “Advertising!”
This year, the planning department placed a constant stream of advertising on this newspaper’s www.AllOTSEGO.com site, as well as its two sister newspapers, supplemented by radio, additional print advertising, and the “Otsego Co. Household Hazardous Waste Event” Facebook page.
“I think multi-media, the Facebook page, and all the different ways of communicating really made a difference,” Sullivan said.
Scheduling the drop-off day two weeks later – it’s usually the weekend after Labor Day – and a continuously heightened public awareness of recycling, may have been contributing factors, she added.
It was a beautiful day – but it was a beautiful day last year, Sullivan said.
Household battery collection was up. Thirteen barrels of paint, compared to nine the year before. “Lots of fluorescent bulbs,” said the planning director. “Everything exceeded what we had the year before.”
Saturday morning, it became obvious pretty early something different was happening.
By 9 a.m., traffic was backed up ¾ miles from the Meadows all the way north on Route 33 to Route 11C. Drivers reported waiting an hour, an hour and 15 minutes, even 90 minutes to access the free disposal service.
One driver called out, “That’s county efficiency for you.” But mostly there was a good-natured, celebratory atmosphere – the Woodstock of Trash, if you will – with participants embracing the idea they were experiencing something special.
“Usually by noon, there are one or two cars,” said Senior Planner Erik Scrivener, who was directing traffic into the Meadows parking lot. He cast a glance at a line of cars that extended until it went out of sight.
The event was supposed to end at 1 p.m., but Sullivan made the decision to stay on the job until all were served. The last vehicle came through at 2 p.m., she said.
“We were in line for over an hour,” said Edward Snyder of Cooperstown, there with wife Joan, having just handed off fluorescent bulbs and batteries at the e-waste drop-off, where TVs and computer monitors were stacked taller than the crew members – grown men – from Evolution Recycling of Gloversville.
“People are a little more educated on recycling,” said Evolution’s Mason Bruse, trying to explain the turnout. “New York State’s enforcing it a lot more.”
With recycling facing new challenges – the latest, what to do about e-waste; the county is considering charging – the public may be more eager to take advantage of whatever free services there are.
Sullivan credited a front-page headline in this newspaper last week, “Fee For E-Waste Possible,” with driving business at that drop-off point.
County Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, was lined up with everybody else, and declared cheerfully, “We broke the system.”
He and his county board colleagues, he said, will have to discuss what changes may be necessary – perhaps two Household Hazardous Waste Days a year instead of one.
This year, Sullivan said, there was only enough money budgeted to do one pick-up day, but she and her staff sit down every year for a post-mortem, to discuss how things might be done better, and that might be an issue raised.
Leslie Orzetti, executive director at the OCCA, which provided 20 volunteers – many, like Antoinette Kuzminski, Andree Conklin and Martha Clarvoe, have been doing it for years – said that instructing ways to avoid piling up hazardous wastes may help ease any crunch next year.
For instance, she pointed out, e-waste is accepted at Casella’s Southern Transfer Station in Oneonta, so far for free. (The county board is considering charging a fee.)
Plus, if a can of paint is less than half-full, homeowners can open it, let it dry and harden, then dispose of it in the regular trash.
COOPERSTOWN – It appears former county rep. Craig Gelbsman of Oneonta will remain on the Otsego Now board of directors.
The county board originally appointed Gelbsman to Otsego Now as its “liaison”, intending that he keep the Cooperstown reps in the loop on what the Oneonta-based economic-development entity was up.
Then Republican Gelbsman was defeated by Democrat Adrienne Martini last Nov. 7. But when his term expired Dec. 31 he continued to sit in on Otsego Now meetings, vote on measures, and last Thursday was elected board secretary.
She was nominated and elected temporary chair of the reorganizational meeting, presiding over the transition of the chairmanship from Kathy Clark, R-Otego, to David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.
And she emerged from the morning’s decision-making as chair of the Administration Committee – Ways & Means, through which all resolutions must flow before getting to the floor of the monthly county board meeting.
Editor’s Note: This is the editorial opinion of www.AllOTSEGO.com, Hometown Oneonta and The Freeman’s Journal. Letters to the editor on political topics received after 10 a.m. Tuesday will appear on www.AllOTSEGO.com. Polls are open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7.
With all the sturm und drang over the years surrounding the Otsego County Board of Representatives – MOSA or not, road patrols or not, economic development or not – a central truth was lost: County government doesn’t work very well.
It makes sense that Andrew Marietta, the freshman county rep for Cooperstown and the Town of Otsego, would quickly recognize that. As regional director of NYCON, the state Council of Non-Profits, his job is to get struggling organizations to focus on mission and map steps necessary for success.
Locally, from Foothills to the Greater Oneonta Historical Society to merging the Smithy Pioneer Gallery with the Cooperstown Art Association, NYCON, often with Marietta in the lead, has strengthened so many key institutions we take for granted.
The road to success is simple: Identify priorities – five at a time, maybe, not 100 – resolve them systematically, then move on to the next five. The goal, progress. Simple, but requiring vision and discipline.
Shortly after taking office in 2016, Marietta salvaged the $40,000 county strategic plan that had been put together the year before by the Laberge Group out of Albany, tapping common needs among the county’s municipalities. It was headed for the shelf, but his advocacy saved it, turning it into the guiding document of the county board’s Strategic Planning Committee.
EDUCATION: Andrew has a bachelor’s degree in history and certificate in business administration from Creighton University. He has a master’s in museum studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. He also has a NYS insurance broker’s license.
PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:Andrew is a VP of Regional Development for the New York Council of Nonprofits, and for the past 14 years, has assisted over a hundred Otsego County community organizations in the areas of governance, strategic planning, marketing, human resources, revenue generation and risk management. He has worked with organizations like the Cooperstown Food Pantry, Family Service Association, Family Resource Network, Opportunities for Otsego, Girls on the Run Central New York, Cooperstown Art Association and The Smithy, Cooperstown Concert Series, Otsego County Conservation Association, Otsego Land Trust, Susquehanna Animal Shelter, Habitat for Humanity Otsego County, and many other organizations serving our community. In addition, he is a licensed broker, providing insurance assistance and guidance to local businesses. He served for six years on the Cooperstown Chamber Board, with two years as the Board President, and he rejoined the Board two years ago and now serves as the Treasurer. He understands the value of the Chamber to businesses and the community. A strong Chamber means success for everyone. He has worked in marketing and tourism, and continues to assist cultural organizations like museums and arts councils locally and all across NYS. Andrew also has his own apartment business, which includes 15 rentals offering 12 month leases and providing homes to over 20 community members. He is often working on these buildings and takes pride in providing quality housing for local and new Cooperstown residents. Andrew has invested in Cooperstown, and he understands that rebuilding our population is crucial to our area’s future success. Because of that, he only rents to year-round renters, forgoing short term profit from tourist rentals for year-round residents who add to, and become part of, our community. He understands the needs and challenges of the community and region and the importance of vision and action to bring success to Cooperstown and the Town of Otsego.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT:Andrew has been involved and dedicated to community service for decades and continues this important work in helping our community. Andrew served 4 years on the Cooperstown Central School Board. Andrew is a past Chair of the Cooperstown Winter Carnival Committee. Andrew served for 6 years on the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Board and rejoined two years ago and serves as the Treasurer. He presently serves on the Board of Mothers and Babies Perinatal Network, a service organization helping families in Otsego and surrounding counties, where he is the Vice President and serves on the Marketing and Governance Committees. He is on the Board of Cornell Cooperative Extension Otsego and Schoharie Counties. He and his wife Melissa founded and installed Cooperstown’s first Little Free Library at their Chestnut rental property. The Cooperstown Little Free Library is focused on increasing access to free books for readers of all ages and offering the opportunity to exchange books.
FAMILY:Andrew and Melissa have two children, Caroline (11) and Charlotte (7).
PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT: Andrew’s philosophy regarding Otsego County government is focused on transparency, clear communication and partnership. He has made a significant impact and brought about positive change by working with his Republican colleagues and also by promoting and sharing Otsego County government information and documents through www.facebook.com/iloveotsego. Furthermore, he strongly advocated for videotaping the County Board meetings and worked with www.allotsego.com to make this possible. And yet, there is still a lack of communication coming from our County leadership, which is problematic and creates a transparency issue, miscommunication, misinformation and mistrust. Andrew is committed to strengthening the County’s management and governance operations and building on the current bi-partisan partnership between Representatives. He understands that the operating committees need to be improved and open dialogue encouraged with County department heads. Restoring trust and confidence is dependent on communication and accessibility of information. Otsego County government can better leverage information and develop policies and procedures that will bring success to Otsego County departments, partners, local businesses and municipalities.
MAJOR ISSUES FACING OTSEGO COUNTY:
Key Reasons for Re-election of Andrew Marietta as County Representative for District 8:
Continue the bi-partisan work with my Republican colleagues on the County Board to develop and hire a County Manager/Administrator, bringing a central point of contact and management to strengthen Otsego County operations. This position will bring continuity to a County Board that changes every two years (2016 had 7 new Reps out of 14- a 50% turnover), as well as the County committee system drastically changing every year (County Chair Clark changed the majority of the committees, putting new chairs in place who were not even on their committee the previous year).
Institute term limits for County Representatives. This is key to keeping Representatives engaged and for them to maintain a high level of commitment to their public service role.
Elect a new County leader, which will open the lines of communication amongst the County Representatives and County personnel. A new County Chair is essential to the future of Otsego County. The current Chair has never outlined a vision for Otsego County or delivered a state of the County laying out aspirations and goals to address. The current County leadership has undermined the strategic planning process and given little support the finalized strategic plan. Otsego County needs a Chair that will work with all parties and department heads and fully support the implementation of Otsego County’s strategic plan.
Implement County management meetings that include County Representatives and County department heads meeting and working together as a group (no such meetings have ever happened in the history of the County).
Implement an orientation process for all new County Representatives elected, including developing a governance and operations manual outlining how the County operates and defining policies and procedures key for County Representatives. No such orientation or infrastructure exists.
Restructuring Otsego County Representatives operating committees to become more efficient and eliminate duplication and micromanagement. The County’s Administration Committee should be populated by chairs from all operating committees. This approach will strengthen committee decision making and eliminate duplication.
Reestablish OtsegoNow as an active, economic development agency for Otsego County. An actual working partnership must be created with OtsegoNow and Otsego County that involves information sharing and shared goals. This effort will also include appointing new County Representative leadership to the OtsegoNow Board that better represents Otsego County. More importantly, new County Representative leadership will proactively communicate and share information about OtsegoNow with the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
Strengthen and expand the partnership with Destination Marketing to better leverage Otsego County’s investment in tourism, including growing bed tax revenues.
Andrew first moved to Otsego County, coming to Cooperstown to attend the Cooperstown Graduate Program and then joining the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum to work in tourism and revenue development. Andrew came to learn how Cooperstown and the Town of Otsego, including our many museums and other tourist attractions and small businesses, are economic drivers for Otsego County. Andrew transitioned to the New York Council of Nonprofits, and has assisted numerous community organizations that support our social safety net and cultural activities. He came to understand the infrastructure needs of our community and how we come together to support each other. He started his own business and invested in offering quality 12 month rental housing. He came to see the importance of small business to Cooperstown and the Town of Otsego and the impact of investing in the community. He joined the Cooperstown School Board and worked in partnership with his fellow board members and the administration to achieve significant health insurance savings and better leverage Cooperstown Central School as an asset for the County. He learned the importance of education to our community and providing the tools and resources to make our students more successful and attract more residents. Andrew has the community knowledge, business experience, entrepreneurial skills, governance understanding and public service record that is required to serve successfully and effectively as Otsego County Representative for District 8.
STATEMENT: As a collaborator, I have and will continue to work behind the scenes to strengthen Otsego County government, leveraging the assets we have to achieve the best return on investment. I am dedicated to improving the quality of life and economic impact of Cooperstown and Town of Otsego by building upon Otsego County’s opportunities.I understand the planning process and have worked with organizations throughout our community to map out a vision and plan for the future.There are no silver bullet solutions for Otsego County. In all my interactions and community involvement, I have learned our success is interconnected. As a business owner, father, community volunteer, and public servant, I ask for your vote to re-elect me as the Otsego County Representative for District 8, and together, we will usher in a new era of collaboration and bi-partisanship in Otsego County government.