News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.



Consider Joining Good Samaritans


Inspired By 5 Heroes At Fire Scene,

Consider Joining Good Samaritans

What’s happened in the past week is another opportunity to be impressed about the brave men and women who respond, in dark of night and bright of day, any hour, any day, when fires and accidents happen in Otsego County.

Training and experience have made mishaps so rare, we forget – certainly the public, but volunteers and ambulance squad members, too – that every fire call and crash creates danger. These hundreds of people are, happily, rarely injured seriously – although sprains and cuts and minor burns are routine.
Yet every call creates an opportunity for injury.

Such a rare call came at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, when firefighters from Middlefield, Cooperstown, Westford, Cherry Valley and Milford responded routinely, without a second thought, to what turned out to be a raging fire in the hamlet of Middlefield.

Springfield and Mount Vision stood by. But if they – if any of the 29 volunteer departments in Otsego County – had been summoned, they likewise would have responded without hesitation.
The scene was daunting – but not beyond the experience of the seasoned volunteers: A two-story barn, in flames. Water tanks were quickly filled from nearby Cherry Valley Creek, and the firefighters deployed around the burning structure. They knew what they needed to do – and they did it.

Then, the unexpected. “There was an explosion, a ball of white fire,” said Cooperstown First Assistant Fire Chief Mike Malloy. “These guys didn’t have anywhere to go.” They were simply engulfed. The barn, it seems, was being used as a garage.

Malloy supposes the fireball was created by the explosion of an acetylene tank. Then a second explosion, then “three, four, five, six,” he’s unsure how many.

As we know now, five fire-fighters were injured, including Cooperstown’s Fire Chief Jim Tallman, a youthful 42-year member of the department. John Sears and Ryan Smith, two Middlefield firefighters, were likewise transported to Bassett Hospital.

So were Scott Monington, an officer at the Otsego County Correctional Facility, and Jon Roach, a patient-care tech at Bassett, but they were quickly transferred to the burn unit at Upstate Medical Center, Syracuse, where they would spend the next four days.

Then, what joy and affection erupted Sunday afternoon when Scott and Jon were transported back to town by two of their CVFD colleagues and greeted by a parade of fire trucks outside the Clark Sports Center.

Transported over Murphy Hill to the scene of their travails, the recovering men were greeted again by grateful firefighters and neighbors at Middlefield hamlet’s four corners.

It must have taken a while to get that together? Not so.

The idea had come to mind Saturday evening. The county’s Emergency Services deputy director, Victor Jones, suggested it to Glen Falk, the Cooperstown department’s vice president, and they immediately implemented.

They sent out an invitation to all departments that had been at the scene. They came, joined by others, Fly Creek and Hartwick among them.

Dispatched to Syracuse, Emergency Squad Capt. Eric Pierce and EMT Joel Bostwick shaved their heads in solidarity with the two injured men.

It was an inspiring afternoon.

The community, of course, responded, as it always does. accounts quickly raised $20,000 to ensure Scott and Jon get through this with no out-of-pocket medical expenses. Further fundraisers are planned.

Financially, the departments are well supported by the towns they serve. State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and other legislators have sought out state money when necessary for an engine or ambulance – even a new building. In Cooperstown, Jane Forbes Clark is a well-known benefactress of the department.
What’s lagging is people like the injured men who arrived to a heroes welcome, and the men and women who greeted the returning heroes.

Every fire company in Otsego County can’t fully fill its ranks. Yes, there are reasons – commuting patterns, outmigration, and more – but those reasons don’t apply to everyone. This is a good time for all of us to rethink our availability. Follow the link at the top of Page A4, and volunteer if you can.

The term “hero” is devalued by overuse. But Scott Monington and Jon Roach certainly qualify.
They didn’t expect to be injured last Wednesday night. But they were and they took it. And it’s not too much to say every man and woman at the scene, while not expecting to be injured, accepted that they might be. That’s a hero. Individuals putting themselves at risk for friends, neighbors – and for people they don’t know. Special people indeed.

Of course, the words of Fred Lemister, the first among equals, at last month’s reception honoring the 9,400 calls he responded to over a 48-year career, echoed.

“You are a unique breed, people,” said Fred. “Don’t ever forget that. You are different. Fortunately different. You are not like most people, and be thankful for that.

“Life is a gift, people,” he continued. “And we need to give back for that gift. You people here have given back for that gift.

I look upon you as being Good Samaritans, as helping other people in need without any thought of reward. “You are indeed doing God’s work.” Yes, they are. Join them. You won’t be sorry.

Good News, Jobs Aplenty; Bad News, No Housing


Good News, Jobs Aplenty;

Bad News, No Housing

Anyone who’s paying attention around here has come to a double conclusion:

►One, pretty much every employer, big or small, has vacancies that can’t be filled.

►Two, if new employees are hired, they often can’t find a convenient, affordable place to live.
No workers. No worker housing. A double bind.
If misery loves company, then economic developer Jody Zakrevsky, CEO of Otsego Now, went to a jobs forum hosted by Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19, last week at SUNY Cobleskill, and came back with good news: All 11 counties in the 19th Congressional District are in the same boat.

“Columbia County is facing similar challenges,” said F. Michael Tucker, president/CEO of that county’s Economic Development Corp., whom Zakrevsky said had the most to tell Delgado about the challenge. In a way, it’s even moreso.

Tucker said his county’s had the lowest unemployment in the state for 22 months in a row.
Plus the biggest city, Hudson, has become a magnet for New York City folks looking for a weekend getaway. There are 4,500 second homes in that county, and the resulting gentrification is pushing home prices higher than around here.

There’s more good news, though, Tucker said: The state’s Division of Housing & Community Renewal is aware of the conundrum, and has $150 million in grants available to communities that recognize the problem.

Even more good news: Otsego County’s two largest communities, the City of Oneonta and Village of Cooperstown, have happened onto the route to the solution.

In Oneonta in particular, then-Mayor Dick Miller realized there was a hole in the Bresee’s Department Store renovation: The cost was so expensive, rents to allow a developer to make a profit would be more than most people could afford.

City Hall obtained state and federal grants and closed the gap. The resulting four-story apartment complex has been full and profitable for seven years now, and developer Chip Klugo completed the renovation of the building next door, former Stevens Hardware Store, last November. Mayor Gary Herzig, Miller’s successor, gets it, too, and is using grants to make the Lofts On Dietz, Kearney & Son’s 64 apartments and artists’ lofts, doable as well.

In Cooperstown, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch’s plate is full. The village will complete the $2.2 million last leg of a multi-year downtown upgrade this spring, and the $5.7 million Doubleday Field redo later in the year.

However, she’s looking beyond that to adopting the Oneonta model. Village Hall obtained a $1 million CDBG (community development block grant) through the Division of Housing & Community Renewal for the Cooperstown Distillery Expansion, which may be complete as soon as March (with a ribbon-cutting in May).

Once the village proves to the state it can administer CDBGs, Tillapaugh foresees applying for grants and partnering with developers on housing projects as well.

According to Tucker, you just can’t wait to be discovered: Communities need to determine what kind of projects are desirable, then seek out developers who have done similar projects elsewhere, as Miller did with Klugo, and Herzig with the Kearneys’ Lofts.

Almost inevitably, there will be some community opposition, as with the Lofts, and neighbors’ lawsuits, as with the Lofts. Resolve them if you can and move forward.

On hearing about the current conundrum – jobs you can’t fill and, if you can, no housing for the new employees – you might be tempted to get discouraged. No reason to, said Tucker:

A recent Columbia County middle-income apartment complex was finished and immediately filled.
It can happen here, too. Don’t look too far down the road. Do a project at a time: Bresee’s, Stevens, The Lofts, Springbrook’s housing in the Ford Block, above Key Bank, and then – be still beating hearts – the old (but marble-stepped) former Oneonta Hotel.

Cooperstown has done similarly with its downtown upgrades, one project after another – the rain gardens, the Pioneer Street sewerage, the sidewalks, the streetlights – eventually it gets done. Next, appropriately sited apartments.

Tucker pointed to what’s a three-legged stool: Jobs, housing – and job training, and there’s money for that, too, although much is already happening at our local ONC BOCES.

Today’s good-news screaming headline is, THERE’S PLENTY OF WORK. Check this week’s JOBS supplement, inside this edition. Once new paychecks are being cashed, things start to happen.

Are Fossil Fuels Part Of Climate-Change Answer?


Are Fossil Fuels Part

Of Climate-Change Answer

Some of you may have heard our Adirondack neighbor Bill McKibben’s NPR interview a year or two ago.

Unless all buildings in the U.S. are made energy-efficient by 2030, the war against Global Warming will be lost, he said.

The interviewer asked, is that possible? No, said McKibben, who is among the nation’s foremost
advocates of stemming greenhouse gases. In different words, McKibben is saying, we’re lost.

Too much of the discussion of the future of the earth is fear-filled and hope-less.

In reality, much research is underway not just toward creating a sustainable future, but into cleanly burning fossil fuels.

If that’s possible, we would preserve a huge investment in infrastructure that today provides 81 percent of the nation’s energy needs, and it’s portable and convenient.

Living here in Otsego County, we forget the scale of the energy challenge. But visit New York, Chicago or Miami – it’s a big, energy-guzzling world out there, friends.

Still, with fracking, the U.S. has achieved energy independence in the past decade for the first time since the end of World War II. This is desirable, but, of course, not if it destroys us.

Perhaps it doesn’t have to. So today, at the bottom of this page, we begin an occasional series, “Can Fossil Fuels Save Us?”, with a report from Stanford University of what its scientists are doing to emeliorate greenhouse effects.

Many similarly credible reports are available from research universities across the country, and the series will tap into them. And this newspaper has many credible readers that assess these inputs independently, and provide a counterbalance if necessary.

All but a tiny fringe of our fellow citizens accepts that Climate Change is real. That debate’s over. The focus is shifting to how much, how soon, and amelioration.

With Governor Cuomo proposing a $33 billion five-year green energy plan (despite the $6 billion budget), with the Otsego County Energy Task Force planning our local energy future, and with four-mile-square solar farm proposed at West Laurens (and many more to come), is it likely that renewables alone don’t need to be the whole solution?

Travel with us. Let’s not succumb to McKibben’s despair.

‘Sanctuary County’ Idea Understandable, Unwise


‘Sanctuary County’ Idea

Understandable, Unwise

What goes around comes around.

When it does in this context, you have to wonder: Is a jurisdiction – 560 in 2018 – declaring itself a “sanctuary city” or town, county, village, etc., about anything such a good idea?
Now, a Facebook drive is underway to make Otsego a “sanctuary county” – the idea is local authorities would simply not enforce New York State’s SAFE Act and its gun-control provisions. The effort was launched by Oneonta sportsman Kaleb White and is championed by newly elected county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-Laurens.

The initiative, of course, brings to mind the national sanctuary city movement to resist
immigration laws, and the Village of Cooperstown dipping a toe in those waters in April 2017.

The village policy, passed unanimously by the Village Board, said its police department would not “participate in the Delegation of Immigration Authority provided through Section 287(g) of the Immigration & Nationality Act (1996).”

And it would be “general practice … not to inquire about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses or others who call or approach village staff seeking assistance.”

At the time, then-Mayor Jeff Katz denied the policy in any way put the Village into the sanctuary-community fold. At base, however, it adhered to a central tenet of the sanctuary: Community leaders declaring an intent to not enforce laws they disagree with.

It’s a slippery slope.

Fast-forward to the weeks since the Nov. 5, 2019, election, when Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, buoyed by his party winning control of both houses of that state’s legislature, declared he would reintroduce a package of “common sense” gun legislation that had been held up by Republican majorities.

Within weeks, all but six of Virginia’s 95 counties declared themselves “sanctuaries” against any forthcoming “unconstitutional” gun legislation, with towns and cities driving the total over 100.

The state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, has stated the sanctuaries have “no legal effect.” Seriously, though, what’s the Commonwealth of Virginia to do? Invade 89 counties to seize bump stocks, (at the point of a gun, no doubt)?

There’s a flip side to this, evident here in New York State’s “Green Light” Law, opposed by 62 percent of the electorate. It was passed anyway.

Sure, there’s room for profiles in courage, but each time a legislative body passes a law in the face of widespread opposition, it erodes its authority and credibility. It drains its reservoir of good will.

At the extreme, of course, were Parliament’s Townshend Acts, including a tax on tea, which led to the Sons of Liberty’s Boston Tea Party on Dec. 16, 1773, triggering Lexington and Concord the next spring and the American Revolution.

In Otsego County’s case, all our assemblymen and single senator are Republicans, and the Democrats, mostly from the New York City metropolitan area, control state government. Are thus unfunded mandates this taxation – certainly, governance – without representation?

Another example: When the state Legislature raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 last summer – another controversial move – it pledged to cover any associated costs. County Attorney Ellen Coccoma told the Otsego County board at its December meeting, the state – now facing a $6 billion budget – has now decided the counties must pick up those costs.

If this keeps up, will Upstate counties at some point declare themselves “sanctuaries” against all state mandates?

This is just spit balling, of course, so let’s back up.

New York’s SAFE Act is one of the most stringent pieces of gun-control legislation in the nation, so you can understand that people who own guns or hunt will object to it.

But while the impetus to declare “sanctuary counties” where the SAFE Act would not be enforced may be understandable – here, and in Delaware and Wyoming counties so far – it is unwise in that it erodes respect for law and order. The Otsego County board will probably reject the idea, and should.

Wisely, under Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch’s administration in Cooperstown, the link to the Village Board’s April 2017 policy has been removed; actually, you can’t seem to find it on the website at all.
Asked about it, Mayor Tillapaugh offered to dig it out of her PC and send it along.

This is an evolution in the right direction. It would be better, if they wished, for trustees to pass a resolution decrying particular immigration policies, perhaps for no other reason – Tillapaugh explained – than the village’s reduced police department simply lacks the person-power to collaborate in ICE investigations.

But for any public body – the Otsego County board, the Cooperstown Village Board, or whatever – to simply declare it won’t obey the law is ill-considered at least and, at worst, criminal.

On County Manager, Now Hard Work Begins


On County Manager,

Now Hard Work Begins

By the time you read this, it’s very likely Otsego County will have created a job of county administrator, joining all but a handful of counties around New York State.

Heading into the Wednesday, Dec. 4, monthly meeting of the county Board of Representatives, the momentum to professionalize government was clear.

Six of the seven Democrats were firmly in favor, plus two Republican leaders – chairman David Bliss and Schenevus’ Peter Oberacker.

Add in Meg Kennedy, the Hartwick Conservative who chaired the committee that firmed up the idea, and it’s a go and then some.

The final tally may include that seventh Democrat,
and perhaps two of the other four Republicans. Only Republicans Ed Frazier and Kathy Clark have been outspokenly against the idea that it takes a pro to administer a $120 million operation.

That said, the nays – Frazier, in particular – have raised cautionary issues in two Letters to the Editor published on

One, it’s a big job. Two, a manageable expense – salary and benefits are expected to cost $150,000 a year – can get out of control.

Greene County, Frazier reported, “realizing one person couldn’t fulfill all the requirements of the position, … hired a deputy. There, annual spending for the office is now in excess of $350K.”

He concludes, “We have a lot of other line items in the budget that we could spend $350K on.” (Among them, perhaps $40,00-70,000 in costs being absorbed by the Susquehanna SPCA; but that’s for another day.)

Still, the consensus grew behind hiring a county manager as county reps recognized there’s too much to do, and much of it is too complicated for 14 non-expert citizens to accomplish at one monthly meeting and a half-dozen committee meetings in between.

It’s OK if you don’t want – or need – to do anything. But the Energy Task Force, a crisis in rural ambulance service, a complex (and, it’s hoped, cost-effective) renovation of county buildings, a possible new multi-entity highway garage, a stubborn (but, thankfully, not too big) homeless problem, changing tech needs, not to mention day-to-day administration.

It’s a lot; that’s hardly all.

To avoid mushrooming costs – that’s the county board’s job going forward: to prevent empire-building.
Accepting the county manager can’t do EVERYTHING is essential to his/her success. That means recognizing all things aren’t equal and setting priorities.

Further, there’s a lot of staff, brainpower and energy in place now, in 24 department heads and their deputies, in the Planning Department in particular, in the clerk of the board’s office, etc., that can be repurposed or “tasked” as necessary.

Not easy, but possible. It’s impossible now.

Attention will now shift to finding the right guy/gal.

Happily, at chairman Bliss’ insistence, the job description is wide enough to ensure a deep field of candidates.

If an MPA, fine. But brains, experience, healthy ambition, diplomacy (in dealing up to 14 bosses and down to department heads) are essential qualities.

If the vote goes as anticipated here, it’s only the beginning.

From All, Best Wishes For A Speedy Recovery


From All, Best Wishes

For A Speedy Recovery

$10 MILLION MAN: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, is flanked by, from left, MVREDC chairman Robert Geer, Empire State Development Corp. President Howard Zemsky, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, when the City of Oneonta was named the first DRI community on July 20, 2016. (Ian Austin/

Editor’s Note: This editorial is reprinted from this week’s editions of Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal, on newsstands now.

The news that state Sen. Jim Seward’s cancer is back – his office issued a press release Wednesday, Nov. 6 – brings two immediate reactions.

One, fingers crossed. Advances in cancer-fighting research can mean five years, 10 years – and more – of active living. Everyone’s got a story of a happy outcome.

Two, reflections immediately come to mind on the ongoing Seward Era of Otsego County politics. It’s been a charmed one, and to reflect on it underscores how his recovery will be good news for all of us.

Just think about this decade, the State Sen. Jim Seward Decade, if you will.

Reps Ready To Balance Credentials, Experience


Reps Ready To Balance

Credentials, Experience

As the City of Oneonta has demonstrated, moving to a city manager – or county manager, the issue of the day – can be “fraught.”

(That’s the word of the day – or year – all of a sudden, every reporter is finding every situation “fraught,” filled with possibilities for undesirable outcomes.  It’s the “Where’s the Beef?” of 2019.)

Wednesday, Nov. 6, the Otsego County Board of Representatives, after almost two years of study, was scheduled to vote on a job description and resolution to create the job. The resolution would set a public hearing for the next meeting, Dec. 4, and at that point the county reps could vote.

Before then, county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, who has championed the effort as chair of both key committees, Intergovernmental Affairs and Administration, said two public information meetings will brief citizens on the innovation and allow discussion and input.

The county board chair, David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, supports creating the county-manager job, but said he wants to make sure the job description is non-specific enough to give the county reps a big enough talent pool and flexibility in picking the right person.

As it happens, two local examples exist that allow lessons to be drawn.

In Oneonta, the city Charter Revision Commission that met in 2009-10 was determined to prevent the hiring of a “good ol’ boy” from the local power structure for the job.

So the job description specifically requires an MPA – a master’s in public administration – which narrowed the talent pool, and may have contributed to the failure of the first two city managers, before the position was stabilized under George Korthauer, a veteran administrator from Petoskey, Mich., who’s been able to pretty much avoid controversy in his two years on the job.

It’s been argued the MPA provision prevented executives like Joe Forgiano, then-retiring executive vice president at MeadWestvaco, Sidney, from being considered. (It’s unclear if he was ever asked if he was interested.)

But you can think of other eminent Oneontans, people like retired SUNY Oneonta president Alan Donovan or former mayor John Nader, who, lacking an MPA, might have stepped in nonetheless and performed superbly.

Then there’s Village of Cooperstown, where Teri Barown was seamlessly promoted from village clerk, and has been effectively operating since with nary a ripple.

The village administrator position had been created in the 1990s, but never filled. And in September 2016, recognizing more day-to-day oversight was required with downtown projects multiplying, Mayor Jeff Katz and the trustees simply promoted her.

It’s worked out great, (plus the village saved some money). Barown knew the trustees, knew what they wanted and what they would resist. She is knowledgeable, diplomatic, with a fine-tuned sense of customer service.

No problemo – not a one.

With such lessons to draw on, Chairman Bliss brings a commonsense outlook to the county manager job description.

Crafted with the help of NYSAC, the state Association of Counties, it’s not surprising the MPA provision is included, and others as well. That’s the sea NYSAC swims in.

But a range of work experience combined with a range of credentials appears to tilt toward the Cooperstown model rather than the Oneonta one.

That’s good, because too much narrow-gauged professionalism can also, little by little, squeeze out democracy.

School superintendents are a case in point: For instance, every school board resolution begins with “on the recommendation of the superintendent of schools,” as if boards of education can do nothing that their hired manager doesn’t suggest or endorse.

Given the requirement that superintendents implement ever more precise and far-ranging law and regulation, even they lack much leeway in determining what local schools teach and how.

And remember, 30 years ago, when voters could reject school budgets and spending would
actually be cut. Today, schools are required to provide so much of what goes on in schools, local boards of education can only cut things like the basketball team, which nobody wants.

You don’t need to go to Washington D.C. to find Donald Trump’s “deep state.” It’s alive and well at 89 Washington St., Albany, the state Department of Education, and in every school district in the state.

Also to watch for: Oneonta’s city manager system – to give him credit, Korthauer’s professional, low-key approach has settled things down – seems to have sapped Common Council’s motivation; committee meetings are routinely cancelled due to lack of a quorum, and it’s been months since any Council member has proposed a notable initiative. (Maybe the new cadre elected Tuesday, Nov. 5, will change that.)

The advantage of the existing county board is that it’s close to the people, and responsive … although not always as efficient as it might be.

It’s that inefficiency – Vice Chairman Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta, mentioned expensive change orders on county jail renovations that keep surprising the county reps. A county manager, presumably, would put a better chain of command in place.

Kennedy, who is learning about statewide networking after recently joining NYSAC’s board, hopes the county manager will be able to seek out best practices and novel initiatives statewide to help fix local problems – with our challenged rural emergency squads, for instance.

Following the Teri Barown model, is there someone already at the county who could step up to the job, MPA or not? Karen Sullivan, the planning director who ends up in charge of much of county innovation, would certainly be a contender (although she says she doesn’t want what, at least at the beginning, will be a daunting job.)

Acting Treasurer Alan Crisman, IT Director (and Milford village mayor) Brian Pokorny, Personnel Director Penny Gentile, even current Clerk of the Board Carol McGovern come to mind as promising prospects after a sufficiently rigorous interview process. Working for an MPA while on the job might be a sensible requirement.

Bliss and county Rep. Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, a former vice chair, are also concerned about mission creep. A county manager, budgeted at $150,000 a year, might conclude he or she needs a deputy, then secretarial help, and before you know it we’re up to $250,000.

Bliss is determined stay on top of that. After all, the county already has $116 million worth of brain- and firepower. That should be enough.

At base, the world’s a complicated place – and that goes for local government as anywhere else. The right amount of expertise and executive ambition could serve the county well.

It’s not a slam dunk, no guarantees; but Coach Bliss understands the vagaries involved in playing the game. And to listen to him, we can hope for, not a NYSAC cookie-cutter solution, but one that can pursue local opportunities while reducing local challenges.

The point, in the end, is a happier, more efficient Otsego County.

How Can We Make 8th Most Vibrant Arts County Thrive?


How Can We Make 8th Most

Vibrant Arts County Thrive?

What? In a United States that some insist on characterizing as a burning dumpster, can there be good news?

Well, here it is: Oneonta, as Otsego County’s “urban core,” has been ranked the eighth most-vibrant small community in America in Southern Methodist University’s fifth annual Arts Vibrancy Index Report.

According to the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder, there are 16,360 towns in the U.S. Not all of them, of course, are “small communities.” Still, eighth puts Oneonta and Otsego County in a very elite sliver of arts-oriented locales.

And, of course it is.

It is home to the Catskill Symphony Orchestra, which thrives while such cities as Honolulu, Syracuse and Albuquerque have lost their orchestras. Shock of shocks, even one of the nation’s “Big Five,” the Philadelphia Orchestra, went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.

There’s the $8 million Foothills Performing Arts Center, owned free and clear, which – hindered by the Great (and long) Recession – is finally getting traction under the steady leadership of Executive Director Bill Youngs and board chair Roxanna Hurlburt.

Over a typical academic year, Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta offer a vast range of top talent from around the nation at the Anderson Arts Center and Goodrich Theater respectively, and in their art galleries.

Oneonta theater troupes? Four, count ’em: Orpheus, Bold Theatrics, Bigger Boat and Stuff of Dreams. Does any similar-sized community have so many. And three dance troupes – Elite, Donna Decker and Jillian’s.

All this in a small city of 14,000.

Beyond the “urban core” of Oneonta, DataArts goes on to single out the Cooperstown museums – the Fenimore and Farmers’ – the Glimmerglass Festival, all nationally known and appreciated. All three are strong, and The Fenimore, beginning this summer with Herb Ritts’ photos from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, began reaching out to a whole new audience, younger, hipper – the future, if you will.

(For whatever reason, Brewery Ommegang has dropped its summertime popular-music concerts, but performers like Norah Jones and Elvis Costello proved there’s a wide draw, at least in summer months.)

Below the Big Three, there are thriving entities like Linda Chesis’ Cooperstown Summer Music Festival, Cherry Valley Artworks’ full series of professional performances at the Star Theater, plus its semi-annual Sculpture Walk.

Gilbertsville’s Major’s Inn has a concert series through the summer, plus arts-related programming year-‘round. (Oneonta filmmaker Joe Stillman is showing his latest documentary, on LBJ’s attorney general, the humanitarian Ramsay Clark, at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday at the Major’s as a fundraiser for the historic venue.)

That reminds us of Barton Kaplan’s Magic Mountain Music Farm in the hills between Gilbertsville and Morris: Top music students from New York City and beyond practice intently for the summer and put on a weekend of performances in a Gllbertsville church.

The monthly Coffee House at the Schuyler Lake Methodist Church – folks with guitars and more – is another example of a decentralized artistic fervor. Here’s another: The Church in Mount Vision, which has been presenting plays all summer long for three years now.

This is hardly comprehensive, and it underscores what a great idea Oneonta’s ArtSpace project is – 66 studio-residential units in a four-story building due to rise on the city’s Dietz Street next year.

The point: While we bemoan what we don’t have – yes, we’re out of natural gas and electricity, if anyone wants to open a factory here – we should be developing what we do.

The DataArts ranking brought to mind former Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller’s Arts Summit in January 2011 at Foothills – it was terrific. There must have been 100 artists and arts enthusiasts there.
Miller was his usual droll self, telling the bubbling gathering, ““I’m not in it for the arts; I’m in it for the economy.”

But he had a point. He offered $200,000 from a City Hall budget surplus – yes, those WERE the days – to help get a comprehensive effort to promote arts off the ground. It never got any traction, but why shouldn’t it?

County Rep. Meg Kennedy, R-Mount Vision, is leading up a countywide Energy Task Force. Why not a countywide Arts Development Task Force?

It wouldn’t have to be government based; there’s plenty of arts leadership clout around here. Something like the 55-member Energy Task Force might be too much. But how about a six-member task force with heavy hitters like The Fenimore’s Paul D’Ambrosio and SUNY Oneonta’s Janet Nepkie, who created the college’s amazing Music Industry major. It could be privately run.

Now, arts is a summer magnet. How about a summer and fall magnet? Then maybe a summer, fall and Christmas magnet? Then add in a winter carnival component.

As SMU DataArts documented, we have what it takes to be much more.

All Richfield Folks, Not Just A Faction, Should Map Future


All Richfield Folks,

Not Just A Faction,

Should Map Future

Developed by opponents of the Monticello Hills Wind Farm, the proposed Town of Richfield Comprehensive Master Plan does indeed block “industrial wind.” It also sets aside an estimated 85-90 percent of the town’s land mass for agriculture uses and
single-family homes.

As it stands, regrettably, the Town of Richfield’s proposed Comprehensive Master Plan hasn’t yet accomplished its mission.
So the Town Board – it meets on the second Monday of each month, and may act on the plan in either April or May – should put it on hold, at least for the time being, until the community’s will can be dispassionately determined and the plan revised to reflect it.
A Comprehensive Master Plan’s goal is to capture the aspirations of a community and write those goals down so they can be systematically pursued; Richfield’s has been captured by a faction, judging from interviews recounted in this newspaper’s last edition.
So all townsfolk of good will – and their leadership – should stop, reflect and try again.

Here’s the story, as best we could determine it.
When the six-turbine Monticello Hills Wind Farm was proposed in 2012 on the town’s west end, some neighbors objected.
According to Dan Sullivan, one of the founders of the resulting Protect Richfield, which sued to block the wind farm, the neighbors found town government had little interest in their concerns.
Town government, they concluded, was under the control, primarily, of people living in the Village of Richfield Springs and other parts of the town, many of whom saw the wind farm as
welcome tax relief.
The suit would eventually fail, but when Otsego Now’s effort began in August 2015 to update the town and village existing comp plans for economic-development purposes, the neighbors saw it as another opportunity to protect their neighborhood, and got involved.
Others began seeking appointed or elective office on the key town boards and commissions.
By the time the draft of the updated
Comp Plan went to public hearing March 12, wind-farm opponents controlled the Zoning Commission that prepared it, the Planning Board that must review it, and the Town Board that must approve it.
As you might expect, the plan prohibits “industrial wind farms.”

That, however, was not the limit of Protect Richfield’s vision: For 95 percent of the town’s land space, the updated Comp Plan envisions only farms, single-family homes and agri-tourism.
After the public hearing, Andela Products President Cynthia Andela said, she met with Sullivan, and obtained two concessions:
►One, a “Route 20 overlay” in the plan, which limits development to 500 feet on each side of the center line, was expanded to 1,000 feet, although she’s not sure even that is enough.
►Two, “home occupations” permitted in rural parts of the town – that includes such activities as building contracting – were limited to three employees each, and Sullivan agreed to lift that limit altogether.
But she was also concerned that a limited commercial-industrial zone around the village itself, where municipal water, piped-in natural gas and sewerage are available, isn’t big enough to accommodate future growth.
And, she said, other sites should be considered for such development, perhaps around the NYSEG substation on Federal Hill, which Otsego Now thought promising enough to put down $50,000 on a right of first refusal.

The point is: Comprehensive Master Plans are intended to map a route to achieve the will of the community, and the Town of Richfield plan fails to do that.
Yes, it fills the goal of the resurgent west end to block wind farms, but even with wind, is there another area of town where turbines might help deliver tax relief?
Even Otsego 2000, the environmental group – Sullivan is a board member – is touting Richfield, where natural gas is already available for development, over the City of Oneonta’s D&H yards. Doesn’t it make sense to expand the commercial zoning around the village?
With Richfield Springs Central School’s K-12 enrollment at 425, isn’t there a desire for more single-family homes for young families with children, and jobs for the parents?
And is the potential for lovely Canadarago Lake sufficiently reflected in the plan?
As to agriculture, a couple of weeks ago, in response to a question from Otsego County’s Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19th, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue painted a bleak picture of dairy farming in Upstate New York. “We’re not compelled to keep anyone in business if it’s not profitable,” he said. Does any local community want to hitch its wagon to that star?

As it happens, there’s something that people of good will can do about all this: Run for town office this Nov. 5.
But time is running short: Petitions to run for town supervisor or the two Town Board vacancies must be submitted by April 1-4. The good news is, only 16 signatures are required to run as a Democrat, 33 as a Republican, two as a Conservative, five as an Independent, and less on other lines.
To their credit, Protect Richfield members were motivated to get involved in town government. But town government should be everyone’s. And Protect Richfield’s success is an inspiration others can follow. Individuals do make a difference.
In the Town of Richfield, as everywhere in a Democracy, everyone should help chart everyone’s future.

The Pride, Exhilaration Of Championship Run Belong To All Of Us Forever


The Pride, Exhilaration

Of Championship Run

Belong To All Of Us Forever

Overwhelmed by winning the title, Hawkeye MVP guard Jack Lambert hugs his dad, Head Coach John Lambert, as center John Kennedy consoles them. (Ian Austin/

A columnist – a dad, too – wrote in Psychology Today a few years ago:

“My hope is that their involvement in sports will help to build their character in positive ways. I’d like them to learn to cooperate with others, work together for a common goal, respond appropriately to victory and defeat, and grow in virtues like courage, humility, patience and perseverance.”

Why did the CCS Hawkeyes varsity basketball team come to mind?

One, because they just claimed the first-ever state championship in a highly competitive sport.  Not everyone plays golf, or even football.  But it’s the rare American boy who hasn’t spent many an hour playing pickup basketball, dribbling and shooting and, from time to time, spraining an ankle.

But, two, because this Hawkeyes basketball team stuck to business, stayed cool when challenges arose, worked hard on their skills, and supported each other on the court the way the best teams do.

Please, County Reps And Trustees: Get Chief Covert Help He Needs

Please, County Reps

And Trustees: Get Chief Covert

Help He Needs

Village Police Chief Mike Covert surveys a box full of medications and devices he must use daily.


How often do any of us, over the course of our lifetimes, get the opportunity to save another human life?
But the Otsego County Board of Representatives and Cooperstown Village Board have been presented with that opportunity in the case of Mike Covert, 58.
Covert, a 25-year county employee (mostly as a deputy sheriff) and village police chief since 2013, has suffered the health travails of a modern-day Job in the past year, from kidney failure to a triple bypass to failing eyesight and deteriorating disks in his neck.
In the midst of this, he received wo

In City Of The Hills, Candidate Avalanche

In City Of The Hills,

Candidate Avalanche

In Oneonta, go figure.Five Common Council members retiring – not a record, Council member Dana Levinson reminded us: there were six retirements in 2016, but an exodus nonetheless.And the resulting ferment: Len Carson confirmed Thursday, Feb. 21, he was running in Ward 5, and within days, 11 more candidates emerged. Most were Democrats in that Democratic enclave, but three were Republicans, signaling party politics – missing since 2011 – may be coming back to life in the City of the Hills again.Undoubtedly there will be more candidates forthcoming – petitions to get on the ballot in the June 25 primary aren’t due until April 4 – so keep track of the day-to-day developments on

Congressman Emerging As Moderate, Balanced


Congressman Emerging As Moderate, Balanced

In moderate, nuanced responses to some blunt questions, Antonio Delgado showed he’s no Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

If anyone was looking for a bomb-thrower – Urban Dictionary: “A colloquial term used to describe people who stir up trouble” – Antonio Delgado isn’t he.
That had to be the conclusion of any objective ear at his Feb. 18 “Town Hall” in Cooperstown Village Hall, where one speaker, opining President Trump is “mentally ill,” asked the freshman congressman if he would vote for impeachment.
The reply was perfectly circumspect: “I’m going to do whatever the truth requires me to do. This process has been thorough and extensive, but I intend to read the Mueller Report and make my decision from that.”
No one’s painting oneself into a corner here.




HOMETOWN ONEONTA – After his address, “County Manager or County Executive?” in December 2017 at Springbrook, Gerry Benjamin, director of SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center, discusses pleasures of local governance with Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig.
Rocky spent, and eventually New York State became uncompetitive

It all began with a technological breakthrough – in Syracuse. Air conditioning. Air conditioning used to be very expensive. Installation as well as maintenance were something not everyone could afford. However today, according to Coolest Gadgets the best AC units won’t break the bank anymore.
Its development by General Electric in that central New York city opened the way for the industrial development of the South and Southwest, and the decline of the Mohawk Valley, which post-WWII was the most powerful and prosperous manufacturing corridor in the history of the world.
“We invented a technology that allowed industry to shift internally,” particularly in textiles, an irony noted by Gerry Benjamin, director of New Paltz’s Benjamin Center, formerly the Center for Local Government. He’s perhaps the wisest and most insightful observer of New York State government and politics, drawing on more than a half-century of involvement.
He was posed the question, What’s the matter with New York? Coincidentally, that very morning Amazon announced it was abandoning building its HQ2 in Long Island City, on the shores of the East River across from Manhattan, and taking 27,000 jobs, most in the $100,000 range and up, somewhere else.
Benjamin was rueful: “25 to 40,000 jobs are being declined downstate – while Upstate has no work. It’s a contextual fact.”

Statistics Here And Nationally Indicate: Heroin Tide Is Ebbing

Statistics Here

And Nationally

Indicate: Heroin

Tide Is Ebbing

Editor’s Note: This column, by LEAF Executive Director Julie Dostal, is the final in a 12-month cycle of columns by Otsego County Opioid Task Force members, and the news is good. Read on!

Julie Doestal

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
I did not know when this day would happen, but it finally has. It looks like we have just begun to turn a corner in the public health crisis of opioid addiction, overdose and death.
It is not over and we cannot let our guard down.
However, by most measures, things are getting better in New York State and in our county.
The Otsego County Coroner’s Office reports a 90-percent drop in opioid overdose deaths since 2016. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that opioid related deaths in New York State have dropped 15 percent since last year.
In light of the 72,000 people that died from
overdose in the U.S. last year, our local and state numbers are the hope we needed to see.
So, what changed to make the difference? Actually, a lot of things changed.
It was vital that we as a society began to accept that addiction is a disease. It is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disease with too-often fatal consequences.
I’m not sure we’re there as a society, but many of our systems now are.
The government has come to understand it can play a major role through sound public health policy.
Firefighters, EMS and police are carrying the life-saving overdose antidote most commonly called Narcan. Community members are responding to training opportunities, films related to the crisis and other community forums to educate themselves on the issue.
Healthcare has changed its approach to helping the person with a substance use disorder. They are no longer “those people,” but instead are “our patients.”
Individuals can now receive addiction care by walking into their Primary Care. Emergency departments can begin medication-assisted treatment right on the spot.
Insurance carriers are being held accountable for covering addiction in the same way that they would cover any other chronic illness. No longer must a person with opioid use disorder “fail first” at outpatient treatment before being admitted into a longer-term treatment facility.
The Otsego County Opiate Task Force has been active in our communities to support, advocate, and participate in these changes.
Although we can’t take credit for the changes, we have been working
hard to be part of the solution. There is still much work to do.
The truth is, we have an addiction crisis, not just an opioid crisis. But, we
are happy to take the glimmers of hope where  we can find them.




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