We interviewed City of Oneonta mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson for the AllOtsego Report Mayoral Election edition.
Click here to listen to our interview with Mark Drnek.
Democratic candidate for mayor, Mark Drnek, represents the Eighth Ward of Oneonta and is the owner of Sweet Home Productions and host of the syndicated radio show Blue Light Central.
Click here to listen to our interview with Len Carson.
Republican candidate for mayor, Leonard Carson, represents the Fifth Ward of Oneonta and is a former fire captain for the city as well as a former Otsego County Representative for District 13. He is also the co-owner of DC Marketing.
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.”
Effective Tuesday, Aug. 10, all city buildings will require masks due to the CDC’s recommendations on the spread of the delta variant.
Otsego County is considered an area with high transmission, and therefore the CDC recommends wearing masks while indoors.
“While we are all weary of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, wearing a mask at work and arounds friends and family helps to prevent the most vulnerable of them from being infected and helps stop the pandemic,” said a press release issued by the City of Oneonta. “The safest and most effective way to put the COVID virus and these restrictions behind us is to reduce the current pool of unvaccinated persons in this country. I urge all eligible persons who have not yet become vaccinated to do so now.”
ONEONTA — The City of Oneonta’s new fire chief appropriately comes from a long line of firemen.
A Schenevus native and fourth-generation firefighter, Brian Knapp started his position as the Oneonta fire chief officially Sunday, Aug. 1. “Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a firefighter,” Knapp said Monday, Aug. 2.
Knapp’s great-grandfather was a firefighter in West Laurens, and both his grandfather and his father were firefighters in Schenevus.
“It was part of the family, the fire service,” Knapp said. “It’s just always something I wanted to do.”
Knapp was a volunteer firefighter in Schenevus before starting at the Oneonta Fire Department as an on-call firefighter in 2004. He became a part-time firefighter within six months and was promoted to full time in 2006.
“Everyone typically gets into this job to help people,” Knapp said. The rescued people are “probably (in) their worst hours of the worst days in their lives and we’re there to help them with their problem.”
ONEONTA – The city of Oneonta has promoted Greg Mattice to fill the position of city administrator.
Mattice, who has been with the city since 2010 and has been the city engineer for about half of that time, was approved for his new position by the city’s Common Council Tuesday, April 20.
The administrator position is a revised position in the city, an attempt to turn the autonomous city manager into an employee for the council and mayor. George Korthauer resigned as city manager in January 2020, about six months before his three-year term was set to expire. In the aftermath, city officials said they had not had a good track record with managers and wanted to reform the position.
The new position, which was created at a special meeting in October, was designed to have less power and independence than the city manager position.
Mattice was a member of the Otsego County’s Energy Task Force and in 2017, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig gave him the key to the city in appreciation of his efforts in keeping the city safe during winter storm Stella.
“I know that both the department heads and the council are both looking forward to working with you in that role,” Herzig said. “We are very excited to have you in this role.”
Mattice, who will begin in his new role July 1, will make $110,000 a year.
Editor’s Note: Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, is retiring from the county board to focus on chairing the city Planning Commission, and to share his reflections on development and environmentalism through his blog, (accessible by Googling “danny lapin blog”.) This is an excerpt to his introduction to the blog.
One of my best friends in graduate school lovingly coined the topic of local government the “most important thing nobody cares about.” This was, of course, after hearing me prattle on about tax rates, land-use regulations, and urban planning in general for hours on end over the course of our two-year program in bucolic Upstate New York.
The decisions made by our local government affect us a lot more than we might think. Most apparent is in the layout of our road network and built environment. Those decisions were likely guided by a zoning code overseen by a local Planning Commission.
Decisions on how parks are designed, when basketball courts are opened or closed, and whether a new dog park should be built in town are controlled by local governments. Decisions on when to plow our roads, inspect the safety of our buildings, and how best to respond to emergencies are largely undertaken by… you guessed it… local governments.
Too often, I hear that town/village/city meetings are “boring” or that “nothing” gets done. People question whether they should take time away from their families, jobs, or other commitments to attend meetings.
I created this blog to break down key issues facing the city ranging from Downtown Revitalization to housing, taxes, sustainability, and beyond. I did this because I want us all to effectively evaluate each candidate based on the merits of their vision. Ultimately, who each reader chooses to support is up to them, however – it is my hope that this blog will play a small role in helping people understand the key issues facing our community.
So why create a blog now? In 2016, the City of Oneonta received a $10 million grant through the state Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This grant is intended to transform our downtown through the implementation of several small-to-to medium-sized projects. In the five years that have transpired, façade improvements are starting to pop up Downtown, a new marketing campaign was launched, and dozens of units of new housing are likely to come online in our community.
As the planner/engineer and creator of “Strong Towns,” Chuck Mahron, says change is at its strongest when it comes incrementally from the bottom up. As citizens, we get to act as glorified job interviewers as we select who will be Oneonta’s next mayor. The first step to the interview process is for us to figure out what are some of the key issues facing our city. It’s time to step beyond the
dinner table where many of us has an idea of what Oneonta needs, enter the public square, and debate these issues in the open.
Bob Wood was dealt a winning hand when elected Oneonta town supervisor in 2008, and he played the hand well.
He announced his retirement last Friday, March 5 – 299 days to go until Dec. 31, he said – and expressed satisfaction that $12 million in projects – $3-plus million for a new town highway garage and $8-plus million for the long-awaited Southside water project – will be completed by the time he leaves office.
Of course, there are many other successes since 2008 that Bob Wood can point to – the expansion of the Browne Street (Ioxus, Northern Eagle Beverage) and Pony Farm commerce parks, the growth of All Star Village, Brooks BBQ’s bottling plant to be expanded and relocated in an East End shopping plaza.
But keeping the tax rate low – $10 per thousand for town, school, county and other property levies, as compared to $20 in the city – may be his foremost accomplishment. And that, arguably, led to everything else.
Following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last spring, Governor Cuomo issued an order requiring all 330 communities in New York State with police departments to form Community Advisory Boards to review “policies and procedures” by that date.
That covers three governments in Otsego County:
• The Village of Cooperstown: Monday, Feb. 22, the Village Board approved its “Police Reform Plan” more than a month ahead of schedule, having completed the review and taking it to public hearing. The findings can now be forwarded to the Governor’s Office.
ONEONTA – Unanimously, Oneonta Common Council approved an ordinance requiring masks be worn at all times downtown and in any public space when social distancing cannot be maintained, such as crowded neighborhood streets or parks.
Last month, Mayor Gary Herzig vetoed the city’s original proposed law, which codified the state’s public health law and required masks be worn in private homes when there was no social distancing.
As SUNY Oneonta students begin arriving today, that’s the “tip line” number, the City of Oneonta’s dedicated hotline for citizens to report concerns over gatherings that are seen as jeopardizing public health doing this time of COVID-19 threat.
You can call the number, which was announced today, or you can send a text.
COOPERSTOWN – Rebounding from the year-long investigation of Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr.’s son, Otsego County may have gotten a head start in meeting the wide-ranging reforms coming out of Albany, said county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield.
Last year, the county already upgraded pre-employment testing for correctional offices, deputies, parole officers – “anyone who carries a gun,” said Bliss, when asked about Governor Cuomo’s executive order and new laws the state Legislature enacted last week in the wake of national tumult caused by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while being taken into custody.
“Yes and no,” Bliss replied when asked of former correctional officer Ros Devlin’s situation – an outburst in the county jail’s break room that eventually led to his resignation – prompted last year’s reforms. “It was probably instigated because of that, but it wasn’t a direct result,” he said.
Interviews this week indicated the three largest local governments – the county itself, the City of Oneonta and Village of Cooperstown – are already considering specific steps to respond to the new directives.
Over the past several days, Governor Cuomo signs several pieces that quickly moved through the state Legislature last week, including banning chokeholds, opening police disciplinary records for public review, and more.
He also issued an executive order requiring police departments to work with their local communities on “a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies and programs,” and to submit it to Albany by next April 1 or lose state funding for law enforcement.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, a Democrat, said Cuomo’s executive order “works hand in hand with what we’re trying to do, so I think it will be helpful.”
Herzig and OPD Chief Doug Brenner have proposed a Community Advisory Board to review police policies and practices. The mayor plans to discuss the concept with Common Council’s Planning Committee June 29, and bring it before the full council when it next meets on July 7.
In Cooperstown, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, also a Democrat, said “I 100 percent think it’s a good idea.” As for the April 1 deadline, she said, “The village doesn’t receive police department funding from the state, but that doesn’t negate this.”
Tillapaugh said she’s planning “a community group. That’s always the best thing, when you involve the community.” In addition to herself, the group might include the village’s two officers, a mental health expert, someone from Bassett, “a faith leader,” and a selection of village residents. A new police chief, when hired, would also be included.
For his part, Bliss said, “The executive order – it will mean what we are already doing,” said Bliss. “We already have a review in process. We haven’t had any accusation of those types, which I hope means we’re doing this well.”
He said he will ask county Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Burlington, who chairs the county board’s Public Safety & Legal Affairs Committee, to take the lead in meeting the governor’s order and implementing the legislation. Wilber did not return calls.
Sheriff Devlin said he’s participated in several conference calls set up by the state Sheriff’s Association, and is waiting for guidance from the association on how to move forward.
“We already review policy and procedures, annually or every other year,” he said, “and go by the best practices. A lot of those things (enacted last week) are already occurring.”
The sheriff said no complaints against the department are pending right now. “You get complaints from time to time, he said. “Those are investigated. Knock on wood, fortunately we haven’t had a use of force incident in some time.” They usually occur when a suspect resists being taken into custody, he said.
ONEONTA – Mark Davies, Ward 2, and Kaytee Lipari Shue, Ward 4, will both appear on the Democratic ballot line for Oneonta Common Council this November after hammering opponents Seth Clark and Jerid Goss in today’s primary.
Both were endorsed by the city Democratic Committee.
Without write-ins counted, Davies received 95 votes to Clark’s five, and Shue got 49 votes to Goss’ 11. However, both Clark and Goss will run on the Republican and Independence lines in November.
ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig will announce the recipients of the $2.3 million in Downtown Improvement Funding as part of his State of the City address at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5.
“The grant applications from our business owners far exceeded all expectations,” said Herzig. “That so many demonstrated a willingness to invest their time, energy, and resources into building a better downtown is very exciting. The award announcements, along with the State of the City address will now mark the transition from Downtown Revitalization planning to implementation.”