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.”