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News of Otsego County

editorial

Editorial: Businesses, as usual

Editorial
Businesses, as usual

Back in the mid-20th century, Cooperstown was a thriving local village, taking great care of its residents and neighbors with a Main Street riddled with all manner of shops and cafés, hardware stores and markets, a gas station, a car dealer, a bank or two and a movie theater, built in 1920, to fill up empty evenings and afternoons with glorious cinematic amusements. The Freeman’s Journal and The Otsego Farmer were on Main Street. too, welcoming all who had anything to say.

Today, with tourism now the major breadwinner for the village and high rents threatening, Main Street has changed. Many of the businesses that took care of our immediate needs in the past have rethought their uses and provisions, others have retreated to other, less central, outposts, and still others have closed their doors, their wares exchanged for Amazon boxes and envelopes outside front doors.

Editorial: Live free and die?

Editorial
Live free and die?

With the news this week that the Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville was going to “pause” operations of its maternity services because of the resignations of several members of that department who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the not unexpected consequences of the recent New York state and federal mandates for healthcare workers suddenly hit very close to home. While it is certainly difficult to envision both the future of these workers when no other work options exist under the circumstances and the potentially disastrous impact of the mandates on a notoriously understaffed profession, one cannot help but wonder what possible reason these workers have for surrendering their professions by refusing a vaccine that has been well proven as safe and effective, and is without question saving millions of people from a devastating disease and a gruesome, untimely death.

Editorial: Missions possible

Editorial
Missions possible

On its editorial page over the past few weeks, The Freeman’s Journal has commented on, among other important issues, the fog-like haze that was smoke from the western wildfires that fell on the lake and village, leaving the air heavily dangerous for long periods of time, and the latest COVID surge that is gnawing, for the most part, on our unvaccinated and younger residents — children — as well as causing new concern among our older population. None of this was any good and all of it is sad and, no doubt to some, depressing.

However, for us here in Otsego County, this distant, remote upstate almost-forgotten (or, perhaps, not yet discovered) place, there is a special glimmer; something that can bring a smile; something to lighten our load and keep us on a happier track. Otsego Lake.

Nine miles of clear, deep water that laps endlessly on steep tree-lined shores and often reflects the changing sky and clouds and forest, the lake is a home to myriad fish and feathered wildlife, a reservoir for the village of Cooperstown and a summer and winter playground for boaters, tubers, swimmers, sailors, rowers, paddlers, divers, fishermen and water, and snow-skiers. Glacier-created during the last great Ice Age, and spring-fed as well as stream-fed, this superb natural resource is the headwaters of the Susquehanna River. In the past it has played a variety of roles in the Leatherstocking novels of James Fenimore Cooper, who called his – and our – beautiful lake The Glimmerglass.

New joy in Mudville

Editorial

New joy in Mudville

There seems to be a general feeling in this country these days that getting things done and making a difference is an impossible thing. When the United States Congress itself seems unable to get anything done, what chance do small groups or ordinary citizens have to make a difference? The odds are so stacked against that happening that most people wouldn’t even think of wasting their time trying.

But sometimes even legislative accomplishments come from the darndest places.

In 2017, Cooperstown Elementary School teacher Anne Reis was leading her fourth-grade class through a study of state government in New York. During a section on state symbols, the kids learned New York had no official state sport. They concluded there should be one and it should be baseball.

Reis inspired her young charges to dream big and take action and they got to work researching baseball’s influence in and on New York’s history, economy and culture. They wrote essays on the sport’s numerous qualifications for official designation, and they sent them all to Albany.

Let’s get out of the fog

Editorial

Let’s get out of the fog

Something remarkable happened last week, Wednesday July 21, in Otsego County. It happened in other places, too — New York City, Philadelphia, Albany, Ontario, Boston — in fact in the entire northeastern part of the country.

Most people thought it was a heavy fog, typical of all the other heavy fogs that are apt to enshroud us in the mornings this time of year, only to disappear before noon when the sun burns through the atmosphere.

But it wasn’t that familiar heavy fog. It was smoke, and it came from the abundant, heavy, uncontrolled wildfires currently blazing far out west. And with it the National Weather Service sent out air quality warnings.

To date this year, more than 75 wildfires have scorched more than one million acres in 13 western states. The Bootleg fire in Oregon is the largest in the state’s history. It’s half the size of Rhode Island and so massive it has created its own weather. Of the fires in California, all but one exist by natural causes — extremely high temperatures — and they total more than 2,000 square miles of inconceivable heat, flame and threat.

And we are still in July, not August, when historically most wildfires spring up.

Series could do more to review racial issues

Series could do more to review racial issues

Our community is fortunate to have the Friends of the Village Library to organize important conversations and events like the “Looking in the Mirror” program. I have attended a few of the series including racism in education and in healthcare and had come to expect a decent program when tuning in.

On Feb. 10, I listened to The Cooperstown Reflects on Racism and Law Enforcement Series with my wife hoping for an invigorating and forward-thinking conversation.

The event had the express goals of:
1) Examine the impact of racism on our community and institutions;
2) Learn how to confront bias and inequities locally;
3) Identify actions that individuals, groups, and the community can take to address racism and create a more equitable Cooperstown.

The speakers during their presentations and the Q&A did not address, examine or achieve any of these goals. I have spent the last four months thinking about this event and pondering what can be done to jumpstart the difficult discussion that works to foster the growth and honest conversation needed if we are to address the goals of the series.

Our community must strive towards achieving these goals until we succeed if we hope to create actual change in our world. Ignoring these goals is to ignore racism which only perpetuates white supremacy by propping up the racist institutions and power structures in our community and in our country.
Below are my reflections on Racism and Law Enforcement utilizing the above goals as my guide. My intention by expressing my thoughts and feelings about this event and more largely racism and bias in our community is not to attack the speakers and attendees of The Cooperstown Reflects on Racism and Law Enforcement Series. I hope by presenting this alternative path the community will create space for a more critical analysis of the power systems that influence our lives.

1) Racism has impacted our community and institutions in such a profound manner that we cannot imagine a justice system that is not based on punishment. We instead can only see a world where being one of the earliest adopters of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 203: NYS Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative in the state means that our community is progressive and welcoming. Eager adherence to such mandates by the government shows Cooperstown’s pro-policing nature which does not work to dismantle the systems of oppression at the foundation of our country.

Racism has impacted our community to the point where we allow the institutions of the police department and mayor’s office to use the majority of their time during this series to ask for more funding and support for policing in our community instead of addressing the stated goals. The influences of racism are made tangible when the “communal we” thinks that adherence to a policy calling for police to “… promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, and legitimacy …” is understandable and necessary. Giving police more money and increasing the size of our police force does not make the community a safer place.

2) I spent my time during college learning about Black studies, education and history. Even with a degree based on analyzing racism within the United States, I find myself lacking the tools needed to gracefully confront bias and inequities. The Cooperstown Reflects on Racism and Law Enforcement Series could not and did not confront bias and inequities locally nor did they offer any steps or tools to handle racist events and interactions. There was a missed opportunity to highlight activists and scholars who have accessible works that are listed on the Friends of the Village Library website such as Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Michelle Alexander, and Ibram X. Kendi or to introduce folks like Prison Industrial Complex Abolitionist Mariame Kaba who strives to create a transformative justice system in our country through organizations like Project NIA and Interrupting Criminalization. As a majority White community, we must actively struggle against the systems that benefit us the most. Recognizing that racism is not always overt actions and statements of bigotry is necessary if we hope to effectively dismantle powerful institutions such as the institution of policing which is founded in racism and white supremacy.

3) Instead of continuing to allow racism to exist in our space, we must imagine a different world for ourselves. If there is a community that can take this bold step against racism and white supremacy it is Cooperstown. The magic of myth-making is powerful enough to warp realities. The people of Cooperstown know this to be true, as the story about a simple game being born in these hills changed our world. We can use the same imagination that created the reality where people come to our town every year because they love baseball and want to share in the glory of its perceived, albeit imagined birthplace. Let that imagination envision a world where our justice system is not based on punishment and banishment and instead is based on healing and learning as a community. Removing a person from the community by locking them up in prison through our judicial system or by “canceling” them for their racist/sexist/misogynistic/unacceptable behavior does not delete these unacceptable behaviors. It destroys lives and homes while leaving a wound in communities where we could have instead taken the opportunity to learn, grow and heal.

A major action that we can take as a community to create a more equitable Cooperstown and Otsego County is to abolish the village police department and to shut down the county jail. The funding and staff can be reallocated and transferred into adjacent fields where their skills and experiences can be utilized allowing the employees to continue to serve our community in a meaningful way. Having staff transition into positions with fire departments or local EMT companies while reallocating money to mental health and other social services is a great example. Another fantastic example is the S.T.A.R. (Support Team Assisted Response) Program in Denver, Colorado, and Eugene, Oregon which sends mental health professionals instead of police to respond to emergency calls when appropriate. The road ahead will be bumpy and the temptation to settle for half measures will arise. With this in mind, we must continue ever forward, holding ourselves and each other accountable and on course. When we stumble and falter we must be gentle with ourselves and remember that change even when necessary can be difficult.
Destroying white supremacy and racism will not occur overnight however with time and with the bravery to dream of a truly changed world we, the Cooperstown community, can and will take the arduous journey together.

Josh Simpson
Milford

Cooperstown’s Critical Race Theory debate is a missed opportunity to editorialize

Cooperstown’s Critical Race Theory debate is a missed opportunity to editorialize

The question of whether AllOtsego should publish any editorial opinions was raised, weeks ago, on these pages.

The importance of timely editorial opinions for readers who are often ill-informed or baffled by complex issues was obvious after the recent, very controversial, Cooperstown Board of Education meeting. Many attended or subsequently read about that meeting. The issue was whether “Critical Race Theory” should be taught in Cooperstown or elsewhere. AllOtsego had no timely editorial on the subject. Fortunately, the Oneonta Daily Star did.

As the Star editors suggested, no one has suggested that teachers should be required to teach or believe Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is simply a theory that teachers can consider and perhaps discuss with high school students. Citizens and parents should be encouraged to google CRT online to determine for themselves whether the theory is dangerous in any way. The Star editorial suggested that teachers should not be prohibited from discussing the concept of race, or why racism exists, or whether it is systemic in our society, with their students. Presumably very few—on the political left or right—want to allow students to be politically indoctrinated. But teachers should be allowed (and encouraged) to discuss many important theories without being intimidated by hysterical parents or administrators!

Paul Conway
Oneonta

CONWAY: Cooperstown’s Critical Race Theory debate is a missed opportunity to editorialize

LETTER from PAUL CONWAY

Cooperstown’s Critical Race Theory
debate is a missed opportunity to editorialize

The question of whether AllOtsego should publish any editorial opinions was raised, weeks ago, on these pages.

The importance of timely editorial opinions for readers who are often ill-informed or baffled by complex issues was obvious after the recent, very controversial, Cooperstown Board of Education meeting. Many attended or subsequently read about that meeting. The issue was whether “Critical Race Theory” should be taught in Cooperstown or elsewhere. AllOtsego had no timely editorial on the subject. Fortunately, the Oneonta Daily Star did.

As the Star editors suggested, no one has suggested that teachers should be required to teach or believe Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is simply a theory that teachers can consider and perhaps discuss with high school students. Citizens and parents should be encouraged to google CRT online to determine for themselves whether the theory is dangerous in any way. The Star editorial suggested that teachers should not be prohibited from discussing the concept of race, or why racism exists, or whether it is systemic in our society, with their students. Presumably very few—on the political left or right—want to allow students to be politically indoctrinated. But teachers should be allowed (and encouraged) to discuss many important theories without being intimidated by hysterical parents or administrators!

Paul Conway
Oneonta

To Editorialize Or Not To Editorialize, That Is The Question

EDITORIAL

To Editorialize Or Not To
Editorialize, That Is The Question

GREG KLEIN

In the early 1990s, at my second job out of college, at a newspaper in central Alabama, I made the mistake of writing a column about church league basketball.

I had the best of intentions. I was the sports editor of a semiweekly paper in a small city that was becoming a bedroom community for the state capital and the thriving military base between the two cities. My brand, to the extent a 23-year-old, naive, fish-out-of-water reporter/editor/columnist could have a brand, was to not take sports too seriously, but to view it as a metaphor for life.

One week, I had a handful of people tell me that the best team in the local YMCA Church Basketball League, representing the second biggest church in about the 10th biggest city in the state, was acting reprehensibly in their games. They were not only winning, but showboating, running up scores and rubbing it in, then disingenuously telling their upset opponents not to get angry because, “it’s church league, baby.”

I went to watch a game to confirm the behavior and then I wrote a column that called out the behavior.

I could not have been more unprepared for the result. Although I did not mention the church or any of the players by name, I think I heard from every player on that team, as well as the church’s assistant pastor, who hosted me at his office. I also had way too many pow wows with my publisher.

Although I had gotten some threats at Auburn for being a sports editor who was not rah rah enough about the football team, I had never experienced anything like the church league basketball controversy. People read my words back to me with fury in their voices. They accused me of questioning their religion or their faith in their religion. There was a second round of controversy about how I had only watched one game. When I gave them feedback from two other games, a few of the players started outing and questioning my sources. When the YMCA’s league coordinator later introduced me to his wife, she greeted me by saying, “so, you are the one who is trying to get my husband fired.” I am pretty sure those were the only words she ever spoke to me.

New Editor Views Media Brands As Community Service
EDITORIAL

New Editor Views Media

Brands As Community Service

GREG KLEIN

I can honestly say this is a column I never thought I would write, my first as editor of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta.

I say that for two reasons: one, I spent the past decade in competition with the Iron String Press media team, while working as an editor and reporter for another news organization; two, that stint, with an Alabama-based organization I shall forever more refer to as the pension fund, did not go well.

My first play, “The Sun,” first staged in 2004, is about a small-town newspaper that is being destroyed as larger news organizations try to buy it. I spent the past decade at the pension fund thinking either irony is a cruel trick of life, or I was being blessed with an abundance of stories for the television adaptation.

The twin low points were mass layoffs on Good Friday/Passover eve and the closing of the Town Crier office and relegating the Cooperstown paper to a reprint.

As the Crier editor at the time, I took the laying off of my reporter (while I was on vacation, no less) hard and the office closing harder. I transferred to a couple of different roles at the pension fund’s daily, but it wasn’t a secret I hated commuting to Oneonta. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise in some ways as I got to know the city, its politicians and businesses, and the southern half of the county.

Still, I missed Cooperstown and the coronavirus pandemic and family issues made it harder and harder for me to commute.

I had been planning to quit the newspaper business for good this year, perhaps to go back to my dreams of making movies. Or, at least, to help other people make their movies. Last year, after years of discussions, I teamed up with a group of local film makers, businesspeople and political leaders to start a nonprofit 501c6 film commission office, Film COOP (rhymes with hoop, we are not a co-op), or more officially, The Cooperstown, Oneonta, Otsego County Film Partnership, Inc.

‘Reefer Madness’ Goes Mainstream

EDITORIAL

‘Reefer Madness’

Goes Mainstream

The 1936 movie raised the alarm, and laughs.

Maybe when marijuana vendors appear at Disney World, or when the venerable theme park comes up with a Marijuana Mile theme ride, or maybe Marijuana Maelstrom.

Then, perhaps, the Village of Cooperstown – “the pinnacle” of youth baseball camps, according to Lunetta Swartout, Cooperstown Stays proprietor, (and she ought to know) – should approve pot shops, or a “recreational cannabis dispensary,” or whatever, along Main Street in Baseball’s Mecca.

Maybe then, but now the debate is more than theoretical.

Simmering, simmering for years, marijuana legalization moved to the front burner over the weekend, when Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the state Senate and Assembly agreed on legislation “to legalize adult-use cannabis.” The Assembly and Senate approved the bill Tuesday, and Cuomo was expected to sign it.

America IS Great
Editorial

America IS Great

Over Three Generations, Oneonta’s Naders Prove It

Jaunty Sam Nader, seen here in his heyday, was a great American.

With the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the summer-long riots following George Floyd’s death and debates over race relations, we can forget: We live in a great country, where ambition and hard work are almost assuredly rewarded.

A case in point – a life in point – is Sam Nader, the respected and beloved former mayor of Oneonta, who passed away Tuesday, Feb. 9, at age 101.

When Sam Nader was born in 1919 in Oneonta’s Sixth Ward, you might have thought his prospects were limited.

His parents, Elias and Rose, had married in the old country in 1907, and had come to America in hopes of a better life. He joined the Delaware & Hudson in 1911 as a stationary fireman, tending the fire that heated the boiler and created the steam to power the steam engine – hot, dirty work.

But young Sam’s boyhood in “the Beehive,” a six-apartment house on West Broadway, next to the busy, noisy D&H yards, didn’t weigh him down. Quite the opposite.

It launched a life of joys and accomplishment (and, of course, some tragedy, too), as he related in an anecdote-filled interview on his 100th birthday in his living room at 96 River St., when he spoke:

End of Coronavirus Is Near, Multiple Vaccines Tell Us
Editorial

End of Coronavirus Is Near,

Multiple Vaccines Tell Us

For Now, Wear Masks, Social Distance, Avoid Crowds
In his Nov. 23 briefing, Governor Cuomo reported Cooperstown had the lowest COVID infection rate in the state.

You hear talk about a “second wave” of COVID-19, and it’s here. But take heart. In context, we’re not seeing the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end.

USA Today’s lead headline Monday was “Moderna seeks emergency FDA approval for COVID-19 vaccine,” and it was echoed in all the national newspapers – the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post – and many local ones that still publish on Mondays.

That was foretold last week on the front page of this paper: “VACCINE DUE: Local Drugstores Prepare To Give Protective Shots.”

Moderna was the third out of the gate, after Pfizer and AstraZeneca sought FDA approval in the past week.

Our county public health director, Heidi Bond, echoes the national predictions: We can expect to begin administering a vaccine to health workers by mid-December (still-President Trump says next week), and to the general public by April.

OK. But it’s hard to imagine the public will have to wait until spring. The supply will be taking off and demand will be rising.

In an interview in early April, when this all began, Bond told that, since 9/11, this county – among many others in New York State – conducted exercises to see how quickly the local population could be vaccinated if biological warfare struck.

The answer: Staff and volunteer nurses could vaccinate everyone in the county in four days. Four days.

The good news has been sensibly muted by the remaining threat. Public officials – our mayors, in particular, who are on the front lines – don’t want to say we’re out of the woods. And we aren’t.

Still, it was particularly heartening when Governor Cuomo, in his daily briefing Nov. 23, identified Cooperstown as the community with the lowest infection rate in the state, 0.24 percent – about one person in 400. That’s one quarter of one percent, compared to Lancaster, the Buffalo suburb, at a high of 9.68 – about one person in 10.

Cooperstown’s low rate didn’t just happen. Mayor Tillapaugh and the Village Board have been constant and unanimous in messaging: wear masks, social distance, avoid crowds.

That the village could be singled out after hosting people from around the country over the summer – fewer certainly – affirms the local leadership.

Still, countywide we’re in the midst of that predicted second wave, with daily infections hitting a one-day record of 30 last week. This past Monday, there were 19 in-county cases reported.

The City of Oneonta, after largely avoiding infections from 700-plus cases that erupted on SUNY Oneonta at the end of August, is now the epicenter of this second wave. With local bars as the flashpoints, 66 of last week’s 130 cases countywide were in the city and town of Oneonta.

Like Tillapaugh, Oneonta’s Gary Herzig has been an activist mayor, using his bully pulpit to promote safety measures, and forming the “Survive, Then Thrive” committee to do what might be done to help the local economy. Early on, he raised the alarm that things were awry at SUNY Oneonta, paving the way for COVID-fighter Dennis Craig’s appointment as interim president.

Craig is working his way around pockets of faculty resistance, building consensus around a reopening plan, aimed for now at Feb. 1, but – Craig is the first to say – subject to adjustment, depending where we are at the time.

All that said, the emerging national strategy for rolling out the vaccinations makes sense. Certainly, vaccinate front-line and healthcare workers first. Then, vaccinate everyone over 50.

The numbers suggest that will largely eradicate the plague.

As of Nov. 25, 240,213 Americans had died of COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 220,852 were 55 and over; 19,361 were under 55.

That means 92 percent of COVID’s victims have been 55 and older; only 8 percent, 54 and younger.

About 30 percent of all Americans are 55 and older, yet they make up 92 percent of victims. Vaccinate a third of the nation (110 million people of 320 million total), solve 92 percent of the problem.

It’s a cold calculation, but a practical one.

Meanwhile, nobody wants to be the last person to die from COVID. And, while the odds are much, much better for younger Americans, nobody’s completely safe. For the love of the people who love you, wear masks, social distance, avoid crowds.

EDITORIAL: Pilgrims’ Energy, Ambition Lives On Today
EDITORIAL

Pilgrims’ Energy,

Ambition Lives On Today

In Custom Electronics President Mike Pentaris, the American spirit lives. (AllOTSEGO.com/File Photo)

‘Tribute to the Entrepreneurial Spirit.” That’s what the Otsego Chamber of Commerce called its annual awards program on Nov. 12, conducted this year largely via Zoom.

That rallying call couldn’t have come at a better time, given this year’s challenges – a pandemic, a particularly divisive Presidential election, and riots in cities and challenges to the very idea of policing.

The stories the Otsego Chamber’s honorees were a tonic. Liberty lives, and a somewhat level playing field, imperfect as it may be, is still enabling success stories aplenty.
For all that, we offer Thanksgiving.

Yes, the Otsego Chamber celebration underscored that freedom, ambition, achievement and access to prosperity are alive today on our “new Promised Land,” as the Pilgrims envisioned it.

Proof it’s so was Michael Pentaris’ story: As a boy, his family lived in a shipping crate near the harbor of Larnaca, Cyprus. Recognizing her kids were smart, Michael’s mom obtained scholarships for them to the American Academy there.

A scholarship to Brescia College in Owensboro, Ky., followed, and two degrees from SUNY Binghamton. Then, a role in rescuing Graham Labs in Hobart, and guiding its acquisition by a Fortune 500 company. And then, a rise to presidency of Custom Electronics, creating ultracapacitor-maker Ioxus along the way.

In time of COVID-19, Pentaris shifted the technology in BriteShot, which enabled “Law & Order,” “Blue Bloods” and other hit TV shows and movies to be powered
on location anywhere, to AirAffair, which, in three steps, removes the virus from movie sets – any enclosed location, for that matter.

Mike Pentaris was just the beginning:

• BETTIOL DISTINGUISHED CITIZEN: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford,
had a dream of public service that led him to the pinnacle of state decisionmaking. He had hard-working parents who believed in community service, but he’s wasn’t born with a silver spoon at hand.

• BREAKTHROUGH BUSINESS: Pathfinder Village tapped the energies of its residents, many with Down Syndrome, to create Pathfinder Produce & Mobile Market, which not only provided productive labor, but turns out vegetables and food products for needy families.

• SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: Theresa’s Emporium, which has figured out how to thrive in downtown Oneonta, on the ground floor of the former Bresee’s for the past 10 years. Despite the Great Recession of 2008 and other challenges, Theresa Cyzeski continues building her business, adding lines and pursuing opportunities.

Seward’s Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Award was created by Gene Sr., whose first business was running an ice-cream truck, and who ended up developing Southside Oneonta into the commercial strip we

Gene Bettiol

all frequent today. His son, taken by cancer in his mid-40s, was a chip off the old block, promoting the National Soccer Hall of Fame, then Foothills – anything he perceived as beneficial to the community.

What’s driving people like these today isn’t so different from what motivated the Pilgrims. Freedom to pursue their dreams brought 102 of them aboard the cramped Mayflower on a dangerous ocean voyage to New England’s shores, coming ashore 400 years ago last Saturday, Nov. 21, at today’s Provincetown, Mass., on the tip of Cape Cod.

It was “new Promised Land,” in their view, where they would be allowed to pursue their beliefs and, after a dozen years in exile and penury in Holland, to improve their economic conditions.

Before going ashore, Pilgrims and crew members signed “The Mayflower Compact,” agreeing to rules of order to ensure the survival of the fledgling community. It’s said to be the first time free people mutually agreed to a form of government.

Remarkable. Also remarkable that, with COVID-19, urban riots and a bitter presidential contest, we Americans mostly let the anniversary pass with so little notice.

Revisiting Jaci Bettiol’s assessment of her father at the time of his passing in December 2017 underscores our point: The Pilgrim spirit lives today. She called his life “inspirational.”

“He lived as if he was going to live forever; going full force each day without slowing down. No one could convince him to stop and smell the roses. There were simply too many opportunities awaiting his vision.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

EDITORIAL: Unite In Making Plan Work
EDITORIAL

Unite In Making Plan Work

Doesn’t it remind you of what happened to Hartwick College President Margaret L. Drugovich?

No sooner had she arrived in 2008 on Oyaron Hill, when the Great Recession hit.

Within a few months, the fledgling president, with no chance to build a reputation or support among staff and faculty, had to begin laying people off.

The faculty balked. Criticism abounded.

Dennis Craig
Margaret Drugovich

Drugovich did what she had to do. Things settled down. The economy eventually rebounded, and Drugovich built the sterling reputation she has today.

Fast forward to 2020 and, across the valley, SUNY Oneonta President Dennis Craig.

It’s even moreso. Drugovich had a short honeymoon. Craig parachuted into the middle of a 700-plus COVID-19 infestation, one of the worst per-capita among U.S. campuses. His predecessor had departed precipitously. The New York Times’ front page was trumpeting our woes worldwide.

Craig immediately formed a COVID-19 Rapid Response Team. In a month – almost to the day – the team reported out a 22-page, single-space,
detailed-packed plan to take on the menace.

Pretty good.

So far, some of the faculty balked. But otherwise, criticism hasn’t abounded.

Just the opposite. Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig likes the plan’s focus on the safety of his constituents. Student Association President Gabby Cesaria likes the focus on a Feb. 1 reopening; she surveyed students, and 50 percent want to return to classes.

In recent decades, SUNY Oneonta has been on the make.

President Alan Donovan, now retired and an Oneonta community leader, began the drive to push up the quality of students and scholarship.

During his successor Nancy Kleniewski’s tenure, Oneonta was often mentioned, along with Geneseo and New Paltz, as one of “SUNY’s Ivies,” if you will.

During that period, the SUNY System invested heavily in the hilltop. Tom Rathbun, the level-headed assistant vice president/facilities, was spending $30-40 million a year upgrading the campus, and it looks great. (His successor, Lachlan Squair, appears to be quite an innovator, making SUNY Oneonta an innovator in Upstate Medical’s novel “pool testing.”)

And alumnus Bill Pullman starred in “Independence Day.” You can’t get much better than that.

SUNY Oneonta dropped the ball when COVID-19 arrived. That was then; recent, but then.

This is now.

The SUNY Oneonta community must want to return to what it was, a campus on the make. With its particular COVID mess behind it, the SUNY Oneonta community should strive, as one, to be a Model of the Reopening.

With two anti-COVID vaccines coming online, with the wide local acceptance of masks and social distancing, with the high-level of community sensitivity to COVID, it can be done.

The online petition – only a fraction of the faculty, some 71 out of 500 professors and instructors, have signed it – takes on Craig and Provost Leamor Kahanov personally.

While no doubt well meaning, the petition drive seems to be the wrong instrument at this point.

That’s misguided.

Of the many issues raised, the one about sensitivity to relatives of faculty who may have pre-existing conditions resonates most. But it’s hard to believe the administration would not seek to ensure what protection it can to people under particular threat of COVID.

No doubt the key players in the campus hierarchy are as imperfect as the rest of us, but – at this critical point in SUNY Oneonta’s history – let’s all pull together behind the people who, more than ever, need wide support.

And that includes the campus community and the rest of us, the public at large.

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