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News of Otsego County

elections

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO: Beginning Bird Watching 06-22-21
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for TUESDAY, JUNE 22

Beginning Bird Watching

14-19eventspage

PRIMARY ELECTIONS – 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. Come vote in the primary elections. 607-547-4247 or visit www.otsegocounty.com/departments/board_of_elections/index.php

BIRDING – 8 – 9 a.m. Learn about beginner bird watching. Registration required. $1 donation requested. Presented by the Cooperstown Senior Community Center. Brookwood Gardens, 6000 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-547-8471 or e-mail coopseniorcenter@gmail.com

Trump 2020 Billboard Going In April, Rome Sign Reports

Trump 2020 Billboard Going

In April, Rome Sign Reports

New Customers Bring Controversy To End

For the portion of the public upset by the “Trump 2024” sign on Route 28 north of the Village of Milford, help may be on the way.

Anna Johnson, Rome Sign Co. business manager, said the billboard’s current renter has a contract that runs out in April, and a new customer has picked up the contract, so “Trump 2024” may be gone by the end of that month, “depending on the weather.”

Meanwhile, the company has a contract with the “Trump 2024” customer – it was “Trump 2020” until the Nov. 3 election – that it is bound to honor, and will honor, Johnson said.

Meanwhile, “everyone’s called me” about it, she said, particularly since the Milford Town Planning Board last month threatened to fine the village if it wasn’t removed. (The billboard is in the town, but on property owned by the village.) It turns out the town Planning Board lacks jurisdiction to fine anyone.

Over the period of controversy – the billboard’s been up for a couple of years – Johnson said she’s been approached a couple of times by people offering to take out long-term contracts, simply to get the message removed.

ONEONTA COMMON COUNCIL: So Where Do You Stand? Democracy? Insurrection?
LETTER from ONEONTA COMMON COUNCIL & Otsego County Board of Representatives

So Where Do You Stand?

Democracy? Insurrection?

To the Editor:

The violence in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, which led to the deaths of five people, have clarified the one question that needs to be asked of our country, state and regional representatives: Are you for the democratic process or are you for insurrection?

There is no longer any nuance, thanks to the actions of a group of pro-President Trump protesters who chose to break into the U.S. Capitol, loot it, call for the deaths of both the sitting Vice President Mike Pence and the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and kill Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

Their attempt to overthrow a free and fair election — the election managers of all 50 states (who are a mix of Democrats and Republicans) have found no evidence of fraud — has made it abundantly clear that there is a faction of Americans and elected officials who only trust an election when their side wins.

While we shouldn’t have to point this out, we will: That isn’t what democracy is. These actions are abhorrent.

Remaining silent is the equivalent of condoning the actions of a minority that believes violence and destruction have a place in America.

This is a question we never thought we’d need to ask our fellow elected officials to publicly answer, because we mistakenly thought the answer was obvious: Are you for the democratic process or are you for insurrection?

We support democracy and call on all of the City of Oneonta, Otsego County, and our state representatives to make their positions clear.

Clark Oliver, Dist. 11
Adrienne Martini, Dist. 12
Danny Lapin, Dist. 13
Jill Basile, Dist.14
Otsego County Board
of Representatives

Luke Murphy, 1st Ward
Mark Davies, 2nd Ward
David Rissberger, 3rd Ward
John Rafter, 7th Ward
Mark Drnek, 8th Ward
Oneonta Common Council

LEMONIS: Treat All Writers With Respect
LETTER from ANITA LEMONIS

Treat All Writers With Respect

To the Editor:

As a former long-time resident of Otsego County, I still appreciate our community’s hospital workers, responsible gun owners and polite neighbors – even when we don’t always agree.

Unfortunately, these are things Rick Brockway doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate.

I was struck by the angry and personal tone in one of Brockway’s latest rants when he attacked long-serving public health providers, including Mary Ann Whelan, for recognizing that gun violence is a national health issue.

Brockway should realize that he only won his last election by 150 votes. Given the area is Republican leaning and that his family members are well-positioned in the area, this 150-vote win isn’t much to brag about.

Rather than spreading misinformation and inflaming the community he represents with buzz words (illegal immigrants, Nancy Pelosi), he should appreciate the hard work of the doctors, volunteers and members of the local League of Women’s Voters who care for our community.

I hope people remember his ingratitude at the next election.

ANITA LEMONIS
Vancouver, B.C.

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair

Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Vince Casale and wife (and fellow consultant) Lynn Krogh with a wall of memorabilia. (Jim Kevline/AllOTSEGO.com)

It was 2013. The issue was fracking. And four prominent local Republicans knocked on Vince Casale’s door.

“It was conveyed to me that the party was in some trouble,” said Casale, who last week advised the Republican County Committee he is resigning as chairman.

“My work is done,” he said. “It’s time for a change.”

He recommended Lori Lehenbauer of Worcester, Republican county elections commissioner, as his successor.

His seven years spanned the tenures of four of his Democratic counterparts.

In 2013, the first Democrat elected to countywide office in memory, Dan Crowell, was running for reelection unopposed, Casale recalled.

There was a shortage of candidates and, “when people were asked to run, they were just left to themselves.”

The committee had been using raffles to raise money – that was illegal, it turned out, leading to a sizable fine.

“At the time, I was consulting,” Vince recounted the other day – he still operates the Cooperstown-based Casale Group with his wife, Lynn Krogh, most recently helping guide state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s campaign. “I was very happy.”

But the GOP contingent told him, “We need to win races. You know how to win races.”

Remembers Casale, “With the blessing of Senator Seward, I was good to go. I took over in September,” two months before the fall elections.

“The first thing we do is run polling,” a first in local races. It discovered not only newcomers, but longtime incumbents were in tight races, he said. “It’s going to be a drubbing like we’d never seen.”

Fracking had damaged the Republicans, but by then it had been discovered there was too little natural gas here to frack. The issue “was just at or past the peak,” Casale said.

“I told the candidates: Don’t mention it. It wasn’t that we wanted it or didn’t want it. It was political survival,”

The new message: Republicans will protect your tax dollars.

“Rick Hulse was down by over 20 points when we first did that poll,” said Casale. “I remember him cutting it to 14 points. I had him down to 7 points. ‘If we only had one more week,’ I told myself.

“I went into Election Day thinking we would lose the Town of Otsego,” including most of Cooperstown, he said. “We ended up winning by 10 points.”

Republicans Janet Quackenbush and Craig Gelbsman also won in Democratic Oneonta, and Len Carson, the retired fire captain.

Casale, then 40, was no stranger to politics. At age 5, he was handing out pencils at county fairs on behalf of his father, Assemblyman Tony Casale of Herkimer.

During school breaks, young Vince would ask to accompany his dad to Albany.

A music major, he taught for a few years before joining Herkimer Arc, then the community college, as development director.

He started the Casale Group in 2007. His first campaign: Cooperstown’s Mike Coccoma, for state Supreme Court. The next year, John Lambert for county judge. “The company just kind of grew,” he said. “I had a decision to make: Continue as is, or make the jump.” And jump he did.

This year, he managed the elevation of county Judge Brian Burns of Oneonta to replace the retiring Coccoma, and the campaign of county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, to succeed Seward, keeping both influential positions in Otsego County.

Now, he and Lynn are busy, but looking forward to 2022, the next gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

Democrats Back Away From Coup

Democrats Back Away From Coup

Control At Hand, But ‘It Wouldn’t Be Fair’

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Democratic county reps this week were one vote away from shared control of Otsego County’s $120 million government for the next 14 months.

They could have shared fully in who becomes the board’s chair and vice chair.

They could have split committee chairmanships.

They could have required consensus on every important decision as the county emerges from the COVID-19 threat.

Still, “I don’t think it would be fair to leave a district without representation,” said county Rep. Jill Basile, D-Oneonta, a comment echoed by other Democrats on the county board.

“It would be a bad thing for the voters of (predominantly Republican) District 6,” said Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, “because it means they wouldn’t have representation for a year in all likelihood.”

Whether that sentiment carried the day will be known by the time you read this article. (Check www.AllOTSEGO.com)

The county Board of Representatives was scheduled to vote Wednesday, Dec. 2, on whether to appoint Oneonta businesswoman Jennifer Mickel, a Town of Maryland resident, to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker as county rep from District 6 (Maryland, Worcester, Westford, Decatur.)

But with Republican Oberacker’s Nov. 16 resignation from the county board, neither the GOP nor the Democrats had a majority.

If Democrats, as a bloc, withheld their votes, Mickle couldn’t be elected. But neither could anyone else.

A Democratic nominee, former Worcester town supervisor Diane Addesso, appeared before the board’s Administration Committee on Monday. But since Admin has already endorsed Mickle the

Thursday before, Martini withdrew Addesso’s nomination before a vote.

If Mickle wasn’t approved, here are three possible outcomes:

• SCENARIO ONE: District 6 might now remain without a county rep until the board’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 1, 2022, after the November 2021 elections.

• SCENARIO TWO: Governor Cuomo might order a special election, but that’s rarely done, said Martini.

• SCENARIO THREE: The county board has 30 days after Oberacker’s nomination – until Dec. 16 – to name a successor. If Republicans and Democrats can agree on that person, a special Admin meeting could be scheduled, and the county board could approve him or her when it meets Dec. 15 to pass the budget.

County board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, said he wasn’t sure what would happen at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Later in the day, he planned to call Rep. Andrew Marietta, D-Cooperstown/Otsego, who the day before was quoted as saying Democrats would vote as “a bloc,” but declined to clarify what that meant.

“I would hope (Democrats) would endorse Jennifer Mickle,” he said. “I’m in favor of her. I think she would be a good representative. Plus, Pete has endorsed her.”

Some of the Democratic unhappiness goes back to last Jan. 1, when the Republican majority reelected David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Middlefield, as chairman, and Meg Kennedy, a Conservative allied with the Republicans, as vice chair, according to county Rep. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta.

The move broke recent precedent: A Democrat, Gary Koutnik of Oneonta, had served several terms as vice chairman.

“It was disappointing,” Lapin said. “Even though Meg Kennedy makes an excellent vice chair and Dave an excellent chair. It was backsliding.”

He planned to vote “no” on Mickle. “It’s not Republican or Democrat,” he said, “it’s picking the best person for the job.”

The parties’ county chairman offered their assessments.

“This is one of those times you put governance above politics,” said GOP Chairman Vince Casale. “I don’t think it’s in the interest of good government to allow residents and taxpayers in four towns to go without representation for an entire year.”

Democratic County Chairman Clark Oliver said he hasn’t sought to pull his party’s reps behind one position or another. “That’s why I’m proud to be a Democrat,” he said. “We have smart people who work with their own constituents on their own accord, and vote the way they think.”

STAMMEL: After Vacancy Rift, Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding
LETTER from ANDREW STAMMEL

After Vacancy Rift,

Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding

To the Editor:

The run of bi-partisanship on the county Board of Representatives has been interrupted by the Republican caucus’ recent efforts to steamroll through a replacement for Representative Oberacker.

During my two and a half terms on the county board, cooperation between parties has ebbed and flowed. Since the 2017 election it has been split 7-7 between Democrats and Republican-affiliated members.

Thankfully, a bi-partisan governing coalition and leadership team was ascendant and the board increased its productivity and collegiality. There was an understanding that it was in the county’s interest for the party caucuses to work with each other. Representative Bliss has been selected as chair three years running, in votes that relied on support from both parties.

Some cracks began to show in January 2020 as the leadership team became fully Republican after two years of shared leadership with a chair and vice chair from different parties. But cooperation mostly continued until this month.

With Representative Oberacker’s recent election to state Senate, he is set to take office in January 2021. This will create a vacancy in his county district because his board term runs through December 2021.

The board’s Rules of Order and local law clearly outline how to fill vacancy, within 30 days and with nominees submitted by both major parties, to be voted on by the Administration Committee and then the full board.

Unfortunately the Republican caucus apparently coordinated to prevent Democratic input into this process, rejecting bi-partisanship.

Representative Oberacker inexplicably submitted his resignation letter a month and a half prior to commencing his new position, unexpectedly vacating the board prior to important votes on the annual budget and other matters.

His resignation letter was dated Nov. 13 to take effect the 16th; but it was not received by the board clerk until Nov. 17 (according to the date stamp). The clerk did not share the resignation with the Board members until the 18th, a day after the local Republican Committee met to nominate a replacement.

Upon receipt of the resignation letter, the Democratic board members inquired with board leadership about the process for moving forward and how the Democratic Committee could submit a name (the committee had a regular meeting scheduled for the 19th).

These inquiries were ignored by leadership, and the Administration Committee voted on the morning of the 19th, along party lines, to approve the Republican nominee.

Does this sound like collegial bi-partisanship? It sounds like a fishy partisan power move to me, contrary to the letter and spirit of county law.

The county board now has seven Democratic members, six Republican-affiliated members, and one vacancy. Democrats have a plurality in weighted voting on the board but neither party has a majority. Bi-partisan cooperation will be required to move forward on any items, including the filling of this vacancy.

It had been my expectation that the board would fill the vacancy as I believed that to be in the county’s best interest. I also expected that the board would choose a Republican, as this is historically a conservative district.

But now I ask myself what the Republican plurality would do if the shoe were on the other foot. Would they keep open a vacancy in a traditionally Democratic district and press their advantage to maintain their plurality and greater control over the Board?

If you had asked me a year ago, I would opine that the Republicans would probably do the right thing and fill the vacancy. Today, after their latest maneuvers, I’m not sure.

The success of our county and board depends on restoring bi-partisan respect. With the county still fighting a pandemic and dealing with a likely double-dip recession, we need a high-functioning and fully staffed board.

Although the timing of the filling of this vacancy is unknown, I do not plan to keep the position vacant for over a year and I expect some of my Democratic colleagues feel similarly. But we also need the GOP caucus to work to rebuild bridges and trust.

Like any relationship, this one requires work and good faith on both sides. I hope the holidays and New Year allow my Republican colleagues to reflect on their recent actions and consider how they can contribute to restoring trust and collegiality.

ANDREW STAMMEL
County Representative
District 4, Town of Oneonta

Are We Doing Political Debates Right? Let’s Talk About It

Editorial for November 2, 2018

Are We Doing Political Debates

Right? Let’s Talk About It

The Freeman’s Journal – When League moderator Barbara Heim challenges audience members to step up if they can do better at the Oct. 22 Devlin- Fernandez debate, Tom Leiber offers to do so.

League of Women Voters’ moderators lost control of the Monday, Oct. 22, debate between the incumbent Otsego County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., and his challenger, retired state trooper Bob Fernandez.
Not the candidates – the League, to the point where moderator Barbara Heim of Oneonta threatened at least twice to shut it down and send home the 150+ attendees who packed The Fenimore Museum Auditorium, filled folding chairs in the aisles and crowded into the hallway, trying to hear the goings-on inside.
The dramatic highpoint came when Heim challenged the crowd: If you think you can do a better job, come up here. At that point, Tom Leiber of Oaksville, a pal of Fernandez going back to their high school days on Long Island, jumped up and volunteered.
That prompted the League’s debate organizer, Maureen Murray of Cooperstown, to jump up and, again, threaten that, if people misbehaved, she would kick everyone out.
Yes, the attendees – Devlin and Fernandez’
adherents alike – were pumped. Clearly, the League – this was the first co-organized by the Oneonta and Cooperstown chapters – didn’t know what to do.
And, of course, that was contrary to its
central mission: To help Democracy work. Why mistreat citizens interested and engaged enough to drive out, many from 22 miles hence, on a chilly, rainy night to participate in representative democracy?
Active citizens is what we all want – the League,
too – not what anyone wants to discourage.

Happily, in this season of debates leading up to the Nov. 6 mid-terms, the voting public was treated to an excellent contrasting example: The 19th District Congressional debate on WMHT, Troy, on Friday, Oct. 19, between incumbent U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, and the Democratic challenger, Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck. It was co-sponsored by Albany Times Union.
As you might expect, the experienced moderator, Matt Ryan, host of the station’s Emmy-winning “New York Now” program, was comfortable appearing before a crowd. He had three seasoned journalists – the Times Union reporter David Lombardo and Senior Editor for News Casey Seiler, and Karen Dewitt from WAMC and a 10-station network of NPR stations.
At the outset, Ryan welcomed the audience to applaud “one time” when the candidates were introduced, then to refrain for a logical reason: “So we can ask more questions” within the one-hour limit.
Each candidate was given 90 seconds to answer to a question;
the rival 45 seconds to react – and that was it. Ryan halted any candidate who then tried to jump in. However, given the brisk pace, a candidate who may have felt shortchanged had a chance to expand his comment in responses to later questions.
Blood was drawn. Delgado tried to pin “racist” ads on Faso. Faso noted Delgado moved to the 19th from New Jersey two years ago, then immediately registered to run for Congress.
By the end audience members were given ample insights to help guide their votes, which is the point

In an interview with WMHT’s Ryan, it became clear that, even with a pro, soft skills are essential.
A time clock flags the candidates at 30 seconds, 15 seconds and zero, when bell rights softly, so no candidate is surprised. Ryan says he won’t just cut candidates off in mid-sentence. He gauges whether a candidate is just wrapping up and, if so, will give him a few seconds. If it looks like the candidate is warming up the topic, Ryan will politely – important word – move on.
The set-up of the room is important, too. Remarking on the argumentative Cuomo-Molinaro gubernatorial debate a few days later, he noted the candidates were too close to the moderator, allowing them to dominate. At the WMHT debate, Ryan was at a lectern, with candidates seated on one side, reporters on the other, establishing an air of formality.
Likewise, with proceedings being aired on live TV, candidates and audience alike tend to be better behaved, Ryan said. Locally, the debates have been videotaped for rebroadcast in the past, but that didn’t happen this time.

Bottom line, mistakes were made by people of good will. But a repeat should be avoided. The League organizers would be wise to convene a conversation of stakeholders – League organizers, the county Republican and
Democratic chairs, a winning and a losing candidate, representatives
of the press, and frequent attendees from the public – after Nov. 6 to talk through the whole approach. Maureen Murray was intrigued by such an idea.
Some additional issues:
• Two Otsego debates were cancelled because one of the candidates, Assemblyman Magee in the 121st District then Delgado, demurred. Thus, one candidate’s refusal to debate can prevent another from communicating his/her message to voters. That’s not right.
• A media representative from this newspaper was removed from the panel because a candidate objected. The reason given: the newspaper had endorsed the other candidate in the primary. The League shouldn’t punish a free press for making endorsements; the candidates shouldn’t control the League’s debate.
• Should the League have the exclusive franchise on local political debates? Maybe it could take the lead in forming an independent entity – it would include League representation, of course – to make sure all the local expertise available is brought to bear.
In commenting on AllOTSEGO’s
Facebook page, former Hartwick Town Supervisor Pat Ryan ended her critique with: “This opinion in no way is meant to disparage all of the good work the League does in supporting our right to vote and be informed on the issues!”
But, she added, “Let’s talk about the ground rules for the
Lincoln/Douglas debate, which was a true debate!” A true debate, indeed: frank, content-rich,
pointed and sufficiently polite, leading the best candidate to
victory at the polls. Indeed,
that’s the goal.

KUZMINSKI: Gerrymandering Takes Away Our Right To Representation

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for November 2, 2018

Gerrymandering Takes Away
Our Right To Representation

Adrian Kuzminski

The most remarkable thing I’ve seen in this year’s midterm
election campaigns is Chad McEvoy’s op-ed in the New York Times. The headline says it all: “If I win my district, I’ll get rid of it.”
That’s the 101st Assembly District, a model of gerrymandering, which snakes in a narrow strip from New Hartford near Utica through part of Otsego county to the Hudson Valley.
Its shape guarantees that almost nobody living in the district is connected to anyone else in it. Its only purpose is to provide a safe seat for a politician who can be sure that his atomized constituents have no voice of their own.
Chad is running to overturn this kind of all too familiar nonsense.
The 101st district is an egregious case of gerrymandering, but in fact most of our legislative districts work exactly the same way. Most people couldn’t find their state legislative or Congressional districts on a map, or even name them accurately.
The districts overlay and cut across one another in insane fashion. People in one Congressional district are guaranteed not to be together in the same state Assembly or Senate districts.
Divide and conquer is obviously the rule.
Most districts are spread over a large number of communities almost entirely unique in terms of jobs, industry, schools, social services, and so on. That means our local communities are NOT represented in Albany or Washington.
The heart of your community is where you live and work. It includes your neighborhood, the town where you do most of your business and shopping, and the school district where your kids go. For most people – except for those commuting to distant jobs (say 20 miles or more) – these functions mostly overlap.
Call it home.
The largest local unit which people recognize and more or less identify with is the county, which administers social services, collects taxes, provides public safety, manages code enforcement and waste disposal, maintains major local highways, carries out environmental and planning responsibilities, and coordinates local towns which enjoy home rules under the state Constitution.
People know their counties; counties are the largest political entities which still function as communities. The county should be the political district that is directly represented in Albany, if not in Washington.
New York has 62 counties and representatives elected from each of those counties could comprise at least the state Assembly, if not the entire state legislature. That would be one way to upset business-as-usual in Albany and put the public back
in control.

This map of the “spaghetti district” accompanied the New York Times op-ed. For full column, Google “chad mcevoy nytimes.

Of course, counties differ widely in size. The largest county in the state – King’s County(Brooklyn)– has a population of 2,504,700, while the smallest – Hamilton County, in the Adirondacks – has 4,836 residents. But just as towns are represented on the Otsego county Board of Representatives by weighted voting, counties could be represented in Albany the same way.
The larger number of smaller, more rural counties would naturally work together to offset the clout of the fewer number of larger counties.
As far as Congressional districts go, in densely populated areas (like New York City) they should be drawn to be within counties as much as possible. In less dense areas, like Upstate, they can be drawn to include whole counties as closely as they can.
The point is that the interests of, say, Otsego county, would have a direct voice in Albany, something that is NOT currently the case.
In fact, our communities
are not directly represented anywhere at all.
This lack of representation
goes a long way towards explaining why a place like Otsego county has long suffered chronic economic decline and social malaise.
Let me close with a couple of personal endorsements of local candidates who recognize the need for the kind of fundamental change I’m talking about.
One is Chad McEvoy in the 101st Assembly District, as discussed above. Chad wants to strengthen local education, supports single-payer health care for New Yorkers, and advocates universal broadband and green energy as economic drivers.
The other candidate I’m voting for is Joyce St. George in the 51st Senate district. St. George – a feisty, anti-corruption investigator and local business woman who also supports single-payer health for all New Yorkers – is running against our long-time senator Jim Seward, who represents the status quo.
Seward has made a career of recycling taxpayers’ own dollars back to them as perks for which he can take credit; his so-called “economic summits” have gone nowhere; and his environmental record is among the worst in Albany – he’s been consistently rated near the bottom of New York legislators by the watchdog group Environmental Advocates. If you think we can do better on these issues, vote for St. George.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor
and Sustainable Otsego
moderator, lives in Fly Creek.

Who Lost Otsego Manor?

Editorial for September 21, 2018

MISTAKES WERE MADE.

WHO MADE THEM?

Who Lost Otsego Manor?

Robert Banta, right, with family,including daughter Kathryn Reinhardt, second from left, who wrote the Letter to the Editor published below.

It’s pretty clear to everyone by now that the sale of Otsego Manor in Jan. 27, 2014, was a mistake.
That was punctuated with numerous exclamation marks Wednesday, Sept. 12, when Focus CEO Joseph Zupnik and his chief financial executive, Daniel Herman, pleaded guilty before Otsego Town Justice Gary Kuch in the Fly Creek courtroom.

Under a plea agreement, Zupnik and Herman admitted to only one of the eight counts against them, one involving patient M.P., left in a chair for 41 hours over Labor Day Weekend 2016. The specifics, as detailed by the Attorney General’s Office, appear at right.
More serious, in that death resulted, may have been the count involving Robert Banta, former longtime county Soil & Water

Conservation District chairman, so admired that the district’s headquarters on Route 33 is named in his honor. Admitted to Focus, he fell twice the first night there, and died at Bassett Hospital a few days later.
Some may wish the penalties were harsher – avoiding jail time by their guilty pleas, Zupnik and Herman will be sentenced Oct. 10 to a term of community service, plus fines and expulsion from administering nursing homes that get federal Medicaid funding. Further, these criminal convictions should have nursing home owners who are inclined to cut corners to think again.
Still, should the responsibility for the Focus fiasco – the widely recognized deterioration of care for some of our county’s most vulnerable citizens – be left at that?

Herman
Zupnik

Retired banker Bill Dornburgh, a member of the county Health Facilities Corp. set up by the county Board of Representatives to shelter itself from attempts to block Otsego Manor’s sale, recalls telling Zupnik that the sale price – $18.5 million – was too high, that Focus could never cover its investment.
Dornburgh voted nay on the sale to Focus. So did two other members of the Health Facilities Corp. – Dr. Don Pollock, the retired Bassett physician, and Carol Kirkey, whose husband Terry passed away at what was still Otsego Manor in February 2013.
But the four others voted aye: county Reps. Kay Stuligross, Democrat, and Don Lindberg, Republican; Kim Muller, former Oneonta mayor and, until the end of this month, chair of the county Democratic Party; and Oneonta contractor Rick Eastman. They are certainly public-spirited citizens to take on a thankless job at no remuneration; nonetheless, they must take some responsibility for what turned out to be the wrong decision, predictably so. Dornburgh was right.
Was there simply no corporation or institution in our vast United States of America capable of effectively administering our county nursing home?

On May 15, 2013, the county representatives voted unanimously for the creation of the Health Facilities Corp., which allowed them to wash their hands of the 4-3 vote to sell Otsego Manor to Focus the following Jan. 27. Shouldn’t those men and women bear some responsibility for the eventual outcome, too?
Most of the county reps then have now moved on; the two most directly involved, Stuligross to retirement near Philadelphia, and Lindberg to election as Worcester town supervisor.
Likewise, Republicans Jim Powers, Pauline Koren and the late Betty Ann Schwerd have left the board, as have Democrats Rich Murphy, since passed away, and Beth Rosenthal, John Kosmer and Linda Rowinski.
Three remain in office today: Republicans Ed Frazier and Kathy Clark, and Democrat Gary Koutnik.
It’s been noted here before that the very nature of the Otsego County Board of Representatives – 14 members, elected by a couple of hundred people from individual districts, yet making decisions for all of us – shelters individual reps from accountability.
You can snub your nose at the 60,636 of us as long as you keep the few hundred neighbors in your camp.
The decision to sell the Manor affected all of us; yet no one – except, thankfully, Zupnik and Herman – have paid any price. This is one reason why a county executive is being considered: to centralize accountability, and thus, responsibility – blame AND credit.
Now, that barely exists.
Still, Frazier, Clark and Koutnik are up for reelection next year. If the electoral process is working at all in Otsego County, they should be challenged, and the challenger should ask: Who lost Otsego Manor?

Polling For Primaries Begins!

Primary Voting Underway

Darlene Cruciani, Oneonta, places a voting sign outside of Foothills shortly before polls opened at noon today. Polling locations will remain open until 9 p.m. tonight for the Democratic and Republican primaries. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
KUZMINSKI: Populism As American As Apple Pie

Column by Adrian Kuzminski, September 7, 2018

THE GOAL: ECONOMIC, POLITICAL FREEDOM

Populism As American As Apple Pie

Ever since the last presidential election the words “populist” and “populism” have been widely bandied about, mostly as pejorative terms.
A populist politician, we often hear, is a demagogue who wins votes by inflaming the resentments and emotions of ordinary people at the expense of rational thought. Those who fall prey to populism are no more to be trusted, critics suggest, than the politicians said to manipulate them.
It’s a curious feature of populism that it defies the normal left-right political spectrum. These days we have left-wing and right-wing populists.
In the last election, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were both called populists. And historically, we’ve had left-wing populists like

Huey Long
George Wallace

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