Someone was remarking the other day that, over almost four decades, Otsego County had two key players that could be called upon in any crisis.
One, Bill Streck, Bassett Healthcare Network president/CEO since 1984, who spent years developing contacts in Albany. A Democrat, he was a go-to guy around here, someone who could call the Governor’s Office and expect an answer.
Two, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who served in Albany from 1986 until this past Dec. 31, rising to leadership and maintaining it until the Senate shifted to the Democrats. Even then, he – like Streck – knew where the levers of power were and how to push them.
In the past year Streck, 74, and Seward, 69, both retired. In tackling the largest crisis in a century, which arguably the COVID-19 pandemic is, their departures left a void.
COOPERSTOWN – Retired state senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, has agreed to join Bassett Healthcare Network in an advisory capacity as a strategic affairs liaison, Network President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim announced this morning.
“The former senator has been a public servant of our area for decades and has an intimate knowledge of the communities served by Bassett,” Ibrahim said in an email to the Network community.
HE SERVED COUNTY 28 YEARS
NELSON – Former state Assemblyman William “Bill” Magee, who served in the New York State Assembly for nearly three decades, died on Christmas Eve, his niece confirmed, syracuse.com is reporting today. He was 81.
From 1990 to 2018, Magee represented a district that included Madison, Otsego and Oneida counties. He also was an auctioneer, running Magee Auction Service for decades.
He was a longtime chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and was considered a champion of Upstate farmers.
Annual Banquet 12/4 At Otesaga
COOPERSTOWN – The Boy Scouts of America Leatherstocking Council will honor retiring state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, at its annual Leadership Dinner Friday, Dec. 4, at The Otesaga.
Due to COVID precautions, Senator Seward will be joining via a live and interactive video feed to receive the BSA’s Community Leadership Award.
The BSA Community Leadership Award is presented to those who exemplify in their daily lives the ideals of the Boy Scouts of America as expressed in the Scout Oath and Law.
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
MILFORD – The coronavirus came on bit by bit.
“In late March, I got a cough, a hacking cough,” said state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, now recuperating at home from a narrow escape from COVID-19. “I didn’t think a lot about it.”
Then, “I started feeling quite fatigued and lethargic.”
Also suffering from a second cancer bout – the first was in 2016 – he went to Albany Medical Center Thursday, March 26, for routine chemotherapy.
“They always take your vital signs before: I was running a high fever,” he said in an interview Monday, April 27. He was tested for the coronavirus: “The next day, midday, it came back positive. They knew what it was.”
Other members of the state Senate and Assembly have acquired the virus, including state Rep. Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, who represents four Otsego County towns. (At St. Luke’s, Utica, he was taken off a ventilator this week after a month on the machine.)
“I have no idea where I picked it up,” said Seward. He noted one of his staff members – now fine – also tested positive, but, with the state Senate in session, “I didn’t spend much time in the (Oneonta) office.”
The day he tested positive, the senator’s chemo was cancelled. He reported to Albany Med’s emergency room. “Subsequently, I was admitted to the hospital,” he said.
“For a few days in the hospital, I was running a high fever. They gave me Tylenol; it would go down. Then it would go back up. After a few days, the doctors talked to me: that I should go to the ICU.”
He remembers little of what happened after that.
“I have no memory of being on the ventilator,” he said. “I was in an induced coma. I have no memory of that. Only what people have told me. What my family has told me.”
Over two days in the coma, “my numbers improved and they were able to take me off the ventilator. It was a relatively short time. Sometimes, the longer you’re on it, the worse it is.”
Back in a regular hospital room, his fever was gone. At first, he remained on oxygen, “to get my breathing back. By the time I left the hospital, I had been off oxygen for a day or two, walking about my room, anxious to get home.”
Originally expecting a single-day chemo treatment, the senator ended up spending 18 days hospitalized, from March 26 to April 13.
The senator said he agreed to an interview to be transparent to his constituents. A Milford native, Seward has represented the county in Albany for 35 years, announcing after the cancer returned that he will retire at the end of this year.
“It’s important to keep people informed,” he said. “I knew there was a lot of concern.”
For now, there’s “no timetable” for his recuperation. “I’m getting stronger every day,” he said. “For the foreseeable future, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
With what Governor Cuomo’s labeled “the PAUSE,” there are no events at the state Capitol. “It’s an opportunity for me to take advantage of this PAUSE – as it’s called – to regain my strength.”
Meanwhile, he’s working from home, participating in a lot of conference calls.
Last week, his office issued a press release, with Seward asking Governor Cuomo to release the necessary data – declining infection rates, for instance – so the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Region that includes Otsego County could begin preparing to wind down.
There’s also talk of resuming the legislative session – via Zoom. “I’ll be able to participate,” he said.
And he thanked all the people rooting for him.
“I am so thankful to, certainly my family, and for the outpouring of good will and prayers from so many people in this area,” he said. “I’ve been truly blessed with those good wishes and prayers.
“I believe that’s what pulled me through.”
MILFORD – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, may be back in his Milford home by today’s end.
His wife, Cindy, posted this afternoon on the Milford Community Facebook page: “I am on my way to pick Jim up!! And he does not require oxygen!!”
The senator came down with the coranavirus in late March and has been in Albany Medical Center for the past two weeks, the last week recuperating from treatment on a ventilator in the hospital’s ICU unit.
That Otsego County’s first couple, state Sen. Jim and Cindy Seward, contracted coronavirus is a wake-up call for the rest of us.
If it can happen to them, it can happen to any one of us.
By the nature of their public roles, the Sewards inevitably come into contact with a wide range of people, one,
it turns out, who was carrying COVID-19.
It’s the rare Otsego County person who hasn’t run into the Sewards over the years, so what’s happened to them makes the disease feel very personal.
Yes, we knew it in our heads we could get it; now we know it in the gut.
So, pay attention. Follow the recommendations: Stay 6 feet apart, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, shelter yourself and your loved ones to the degree you can.
Meanwhile, the Sewards can be assured of everyone’s sympathy and best wishes.
Let’s look forward to a time – not tomorrow, but in the near-term – when this scourge passes, and we can return to our pleasant way of life generally, including enjoying the Sewards, returned to good health.
VIPS, 140 AT STATE OF STATE
A visibly pleased state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, above, who announced last week he will retire at the end of the year after 34 years representing Otsego County in Albany, receives a standing ovation from the 140 attendees at the Otsego Chamber’s State of the State Luncheon today at SUNY Oneonta’s Morris Hall. He is flanked by Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19, right, and Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield. Insert, left, Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, gave a thundering address after soliciting from the audience three reasons why people are leaving Upstate New York: High taxes, over regulation and no jobs. “Let’s address these three issues and bring people back to New York State,” said Tague, a leading Republican prospect to succeed Seward; he would face Jim Barber, a Schoharie farmer, who has won Democratic backing. “I’d have big shoes to fill,” said Tague, then reported his shoe size as 14 1/2, triple E. Seward said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back next year.” He won’t be at the head table, he said, “I’ll be in the audience with you, asking tough questions.” Also speaking were Mayors Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch of Cooperstown and Gary Herzig of Oneonta. (Jim Kevin/AllOTSEGO.com)
VIEW FROM ALBANY
At this time of year, I normally review positive policies and new laws that have been adopted in Albany. Unfortunately, there was more bad news than good coming from the state Capitol during 2019.
One item that will benefit homeowners is a permanent 2-percent property tax cap. I have long supported this tax relief measure and have helped pass Senate legislation on a number of previous occasions to guarantee this savings tool. However, as I have said in the past, for the property tax cap to truly deliver we need to end unfunded state mandates that tie the hands of local government officials.
Unfortunately, no mandate relief measures were adopted this year. And, in fact, local governments will now have to prepare for plenty of new costs thanks to the state budget and other Albany missteps. If state officials believe a program is important, than funding must be part of the package. Forcing the costs on to local governments (and ultimately taxpayers) and then boasting about doing something good, is disingenuous.
New laws to “reform” New York State’s criminal justice system are also going to be costly – increasing expenses for local governments and putting public safety at risk. These measures, that are set to take effect at the start of the year, have received a great deal of attention in recent weeks as more and more people voice their concerns. The measures, which I opposed, include:
- Bail changes that will allow 90 percent of individuals arrested to walk free without posting bail;
- New discovery laws that put increased demands on local prosecutors and could put crime victims and witnesses in danger.
A letter I just received from the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials (NYCOM) states, “The dramatic acceleration in the timing of discovery and the expansion of the matters to which it applies will have significant cost and compliance implications for cities and villages with police departments and/or local justice courts.”
Recently, the state Sheriffs’ Association, the District Attorneys Association of New York, and the state Association of Chiefs of Police held press conferences around the state to voice their concerns and opposition to the new laws.
As I have said previously, I am open to discussing changes that could better address the way bail is utilized, but judges should still be afforded some discretion. Starting on Jan. 1, judges will have no opportunity to consider an individual’s criminal history or flight risk when it comes to a bevy of crimes including manslaughter, assault, criminal possession of a gun, and a number of drug sale offenses. Instead, these perpetrators will be released immediately without bail.
Another new law I opposed, which has already taken effect, allows illegal immigrants to receive a driver’s license. Providing a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law is inconceivable. This measure is bad public policy that could put lives in danger, rewards lawbreakers, and sends the wrong message to those who take the legal path to citizenship.
Supporters of the measure like to mention that other states already allow illegal immigrants to drive. However, those states require substantially tighter proof of identification and may impose limitations on driving to incentivize naturalization. None of those states relies solely on foreign documents for identification purposes, which is the case in New York.
One other new law that will have a major impact is the new farm labor bill. The mandates associated with the law will hurt our upstate farmers and drive up the cost of farm goods that we all purchase.
At the start of the 2019 legislative session, I pledged to advance policies to improve New York’s economy, help reduce the crushing tax burden, and combat population loss. I will continue to advocate for those priorities in 2020 and am hopeful that the mistakes of this past year will not be repeated.
The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s Summer Soirée was this evening, celebrating local businesses that promote a good and sustainable life in Otsego County. Information Systems Division (ISD Tech) of Oneonta received the Environmental Stewardship Award for its computer- and electronics-recycling program. The Clark Sports Center of Cooperstown received the Quality of Life Award for helping over 5,500 members live healthier, (including 37 members over 90, who get free memberships). Above, center, are chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan, Quality of Life sponsor Scott White, Bank of Cooperstown president, behind her at left, and George Busch, NBT Insurance vice president/sales. To to the left of Heegan, front row, are ISD partners Ron Ranc and Roxanna Hurlburt; behind, from right, are ISD’s Chris Ranc, Wilhemina Guest and Mike LaBarr. To the right of Heagan are Clark Director Val Paige and her managers, Erin Newkirk, Kathy Graham, Jim DiLiberto and Rich Jantzi. Inset, left, Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, reads citations from state Sen. Jim Seward, r-Milford, who was also represented by his aide, Mira Jergovich, commending the two organizations. The dinner, attended by 80, was in the middle of the Clark’s basketball court. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for TUESDAY, JANUARY 1
SWEARING IN – 1 p.m. State Sen. Jim Seward, Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., County Judge John Lambert, Coroners David Delker & Christian Shaefer, County Judge Brian Burns to administer the oath. Public welcome. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta.
Editorial for November 16, 2018
State Zigged To Democrats,
But County Zagged To GOP
The Wall Street Journal headline was sly: “Blue Wave Breaks Softly.”
The article reported that, as of Nov. 6, Election Night, Democrats gained 27 Congressional seats in the midterms, regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
That pales compared to Democrats losing 63 in the first Obama midterms in 2010, and losing the House as well; still, even one-vote control is control. (As canvassing ensued, it looks like Democrats may end up with plus 35 to 40 new seats; still, not the GOP Armageddon some were salivating over. And Republicans increased their margin in the U.S. Senate.)
Whatever – nationwide. But when you look at New York State government, the Blue Wave broke hard Upstate, not least over Otsego County, with some unnerving implications.
The state Senate zigged, turning from enduringly Republican to Democratic, a feat accomplished for only two years in a half-century.
But Otsego County zagged: With the loss of Democratic Assemblyman Bill Magee of Nelson, the one state senator and four assemblymen representing our county are all Republicans, about to dive into a Democratic sea.
That can’t be good.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who will be operating without Magee’s steady support in the Democratic House for the first time since 1991, said he’s used to working in a bipartisan manner.
In an interview, he used the term “equitable distribution” twice, hoping the Democrats will extend the concept that has allowed the state’s largesse to be enjoyed statewide.
That would be great, but we’ll see.
More of an issue than Democrats and Republicans is Upstaters vs. downstaters, Seward observed. Only three of the state’s 30 senators are from north of Westchester County. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
The GOP county chairman, Vince Casale, addressed the legislative picture. Now in control of Assembly, Senate and Governor’s Office, he predicts Democrats will seek to legalize marijuana as soon as January, and will press for adoption of the NY Plan, Medicare-like coverage for all Empire Staters – exciting, but perhaps bankrupting.
Depending how hard and fast the Democrats push, what went around in 2018 may come around in 2020.
Meanwhile, even local Democrats are a bit uneasy. Richard Sternberg, the Cooperstown village trustee who is also a member of the state Democratic Committee, said he hopes that, since our mayors are Democratic (Oneonta’s Gary Herzig and Cooperstown’s Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch), the funds will keep flowing.
And, as architect of Democratic gains on the Otsego County Board of Representatives last year, Sternberg is looking ahead to creating a majority next year; he’s only one seat short.
Given the new Albany reality, becoming aligned with the ruling party only makes sense, his remarks suggested.
If anything, we here in Otsego County compounded the zag by voting heavily for Marc Molinaro, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican challenger.
Arguably, Cuomo’s done more for Otsego County than any governor in decades, Democrat or Republican, and did so by embracing an all-American principle: competition.
The governor’s concept – divide the state into 10 regions and make them compete for state economic-development funding, and may the best ideas win – was brilliant.
In the past five years, Otsego County has competed and competed well, winning millions annually through CFAs; (the next round of “consolidated funding application” grants is due to be announced in December). Plus, remember Oneonta’s DRI.
In the world of New York State realpolitik, here’s more good news in the returns.
While the county as a whole supported Republicans, Oneonta and Cooperstown are strong Democratic enclaves, supporting Senator Seward, the county’s favorite son, but breaking blue on everything else.
Oneonta, for its population, and Cooperstown, for its iconic status, are not to be ignored, whatever party controls the state political apparatus.
Whoever’s in charge in Albany, there’s a lot to be done here, so fingers crossed.
EDITORIAL FROM THIS WEEK’S
FREEMAN’S, HOMETOWN ONEONTA
Editor’s Note: Below is the introduction that set the stage for this week’s editorials: Endorsing Democrats Andrew Cuomo, Bill Magee and Chad McEvoy, and Republicans John Faso, Jim Seward and Richard Devlin in the Nov. 6 election. Reasons for our endorsements are detailed in this week’s Hometown Oneonta & Freeman’s Journal, available on newsstands today. Click here and read the full report that informed the introduction below, “The Hidden Tribes of America,” which finds, despite the surface divisiveness we hear around us, most of us are people of good will, willing to listen and to seek a middle way, the basis for our democracy at its most successful.
As voters – in Otsego County, the 19th Congressional District and nationally – struggle to make the right decision in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, midterm elections, a study, “The Hidden Tribes of America,” surfaces with a conclusion that has been widely commented on nationally:
“A majority of Americans (61 percent), whom we’ve called the ‘Exhausted Majority,’ are fed up by Americans’ polarization. They know we have more in common than that which divides us: our belief in freedom, equality and the pursuit of the American Dream. They share a deep sense of gratitude that they are citizens of the United States. They want us to move past our differences.”
It the past two years, those of us with that sensibility have been screamed at by two sides that, it turns out, are fringes. On the left, “Progressive Activists,” according to the study, are a mere 8 percent of the citizenry; on the right, “Devoted Conservatives” are only 6 percent.