Far be it from this page to look a gift horse squarely in the mouth, but open wide, equine friend:
Term limits aren’t government reform.
We do not blame Governor Kathy Hochul for saying eight is enough when it comes to years in office for a governor. Her predecessor’s bullying monomania for cementing his legacy by winning the fourth term that eluded his father was his undoing.
She calls for that same two-term limit on the lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller. She ups the ante putative Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin slapped on the table in December — his proposal would, so far, limit only the governor’s time at the helm. Neither yet loops in the state Legislature — a wise political move, given the fact that it’s the state Legislature that would have to approve the deal in the first place before sending to the state’s voters. We doubt they’d agree to vote themselves out of office, but we also think they’d be hard-pressed to carve themselves out if public pressure demanded otherwise.
A COVID-weary public confronts the conundrum daily: Is this good news? Is it bad news?
We have to admit that we’re a little bit confused.
The Omicron caseload is frightening on its surface — ridiculously high numbers on a daily basis, top-of-the-fold newspaper coverage, lead-story status.
We’re so attuned to scary numbers and frightening graphs that when we hear about record-shattering daily positive tests coming back, the first thing we want to do is retreat to our quarantine corners and hide. We worry that we’re all going to become experts in the Greek alphabet before this is finished.
But then we look past the raw data and hear the experts say that with Omicron, it’s important to take a more analytical approach. Governor Kathy Hochul, on Monday, said, “People are testing at a much higher rate. It’s shocking in the scale of the number of people who are testing positive, but we’re grateful cases are not presenting themselves as severely as they did with Delta.” She cited encouraging news out of South Africa, where Omicron first was detected — a sharp jolt in positives followed by an equally sharp decline. “We have so many more defenses this time,” she said.
New Yorkers learned late December 6 exactly which hospitals around the state would be subject to Governor Kathy Hochul’s Executive Order limiting certain elective surgeries and procedures beginning roughly 36 hours later, on December 9.
The order initially exploded out of Albany seemingly moments after South Africa’s first report of Covid-19’s Omicron variant. We recognize and appreciate Governor Hochul’s proactive effort, but there’s a big disconnect at play reminiscent of just about every Covid-19-related Executive Order her predecessor issued during the earliest and deepest days of the pandemic.
It sounds a lot like something out of Hollywood — one of those action/sci-fi movies that demand we suspend our disbelief more than usual and go along for the ride in a world where it can’t happen here.
The problem, of course, is that it can. And it is.
We had barely dried the Thanksgiving dinner dishes when word came out of the World Health Organization that it was meeting in emergency session over a newly discovered Covid-19 variant, this one seemingly originating out of South Africa. Stock markets plunged on Black Friday. President Biden and other world leaders clamped down on international travel from the nations most immediately affected. Governor Kathy Hochul wasted no time declaring a state of emergency across New York to last through January 15, 2022.
We publish this week on “Black Friday,” the day in the calendar year when the nation’s retailers would sell so much merchandise to Christmas shoppers that their operations for the entire year would stop running in the red and move into the black.
It really is not the busiest shopping day of the year — these days, that comes a couple of days before Christmas itself, when all of us wake up and realize that we’re almost out of time. But “Black Friday,” with its traditional-as-Turkey doorbuster sales now beginning weeks before the actual day itself, was such a great marketing brand that Internet merchants jumped at the chance to corner the start of the following work week as “Cyber Monday.” And it worked: that’s the day that all of us, while we’re supposed to be hard at work at our desks, are instead using office time to go to this-or-that-dot-com and load up.
We salute the Cooperstown Central School’s varsity boys’ soccer team for a 2021 season that was a resounding success, a joy to witness, and a giant step forward on our slow walk ‘back to normal.’
We send that same salute to the Cherry Valley/ Springfield boys’ varsity soccer team, Cooperstown’s girls varsity swimmers, Oneonta’s boys’ varsity cross country runners, the Head of the Fish and Head of the Charles rowers, and every other school team and athlete who got out there and played your game.
Take a bow, too, you coaches, assistants, volunteers, parents, teachers, bus drivers, car caravan coordinators, and anyone who guided and supported players along their ways, then made sure the sports stepped aside for homework and other school duties.
Ah, the autumn colors. Beautiful to view, harbingers of cozy nights indoors, and, let’s face it, quite good for our local economy.
And then they start to fall. We could debate all day long about whether it’s right to pick them up or let them be over the winter months, but let’s face it: come next spring, we’ll want our lawns to look good again for the summer to come.
We also could debate all day long about exactly how we’ll pick them up.
All politics is local, Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said in the 1980s.
So it’s a mystery that we call it an “off-year” election when local races fill our ballot, and an even greater mystery that biennial apathy replaces voter interest. We are voting to fill the offices that affect the fundamentals of our county, towns, and villages, choosing the people to whom we’ll entrust our local tax dollars as they weigh the merits of differing projects and priorities.
Granted, these local issues might not be as headline-grabbing as global warming or foreign policy. But they’re often the things we complain about when we’re talking with our friends and neighbors about the state of affairs on our streets. These races are all about local direction, development, public safety, road repair. We’re voting for people who build local relationships with state and federal officials who, in turn, exert certain measures of control over available resources.
The Freeman’s Journal, our village’s venerable newspaper of 213 years — and one of the oldest continually published weeklies in the country — has a long and complicated history, both of news and of ownership. It has chronicled the workings of our town and the opinions of our residents through the country’s wars, holidays, prohibitions and depressions, as well as through the state’s droughts, blizzards, elections, floods, tragedies, surprises and celebrations.
The Freeman’s Journal is our newspaper of record, printing legal notices, death notices, opinions, letters, events, culture, and all matter of news and amusements. It has been known to publish the weather reports and the temperatures and the amount of rain or snow that has fallen over a given week. In fact, the Journal is a true and unbiased document that reveals — and archives — the fascinating and varied story of Cooperstown. Not every village or community can boast this.
A legendary member of the Otsego Lake community has bid us farewell this week. Ownership of the Chief Uncas, the 55-foot electric launch that has continuously plied these ancient waters for just fewer than 110 years, has been transferred to the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, in Wrightsville, PA, a not-for-profit organization focused on the cultural and natural resources of the Susquehanna River and the communities along its shores.
The Chief Uncas arrived on the lake June 15, 1912, delivered to Adolphus Busch, founder of the Anheuser Busch Company, who had just eight years earlier purchased Uncas Lodge, the large house and farm at Three-Mile Point. And so began the storied history of a remarkable craft and the loving family that cared for her.
This week, as we watch the forests magically change their colors, wave fond goodbyes to the squawking flocks and ponder the stillness of the lake in its reflective glory, Susan Fenimore Cooper comes to mind. And while we were planning to offer our own reflections on the beauty of the changing season, Cooper’s enchanting treatment of the subject would be hard to top, so we let her speak for herself. It was in 1850 that her book, “Rural Hours,” was first published, and in its pages we can confirm that rather little has changed.
“October 2nd … The day was perfectly still, the lake calm and placid, the reflection of its banks more than usually lovely in its clearness, and accuracy: the changing woods, each brilliant tree, the hills, farms, and buildings were all repeated with wonderful fidelity, and all the sweetness of the natural landscape.
The bright, beautiful Harvest Moon, come to shine on our tired fields and woodlands, has passed. The leaves have begun to turn, the temperatures are dancing about, deciding which way to go, and we are, this very week, heading into the New York state hunting season, a few months of search and shoot for the many hunters of our county. They hunt not only white-tailed deer, but also other fur-bearing and feathered animals: bear, coyote, fox, opossum, weasel, bobcat, small game, migratory game birds, waterfowl, wild turkey, and they hunt with bows, crossbows, muzzleloaders, handguns, shotguns and rifles.
Last year in Otsego County, 3,088 white-tailed bucks were taken, 2,627 does, and 709 fawns, with 253,990 white tails taken in all throughout the state – the most on record – up from 224,190 in 2019.
Deer hunting is not new, although as a sport it is relatively young. Artifacts found in Germany reveal evidence of hunting 350,000 years ago, while the cave paintings in France date from 30,000 years ago. It was during the mid-Paleolithic period (the Stone Age) that early man developed the tools — of stone, bone and wood — to kill, and the age of the hunter/gatherer improved upon that of the previous gatherer/scavenger.
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.
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.
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.