News of Otsego County

Julie Dostal

News from the Noteworthy: Drink Responsibly

News from the Noteworthy

Drink Responsibly

If I were walking around Oneonta, Richfield Springs, or Cooperstown with a microphone doing random street interviews, I might ask the question, “What is responsible drinking?” I can tell you that the likely outcome of my attempt at reporting would result in a wide range of responses and interesting conversations.

The phrase “responsible drinking” has become ubiquitous in our culture. I will admit, my ears are finely attuned to it because of the work I do. However, I don’t think that’s the whole story. When we tell each other things like, “just drink responsibly” or “all things in moderation” we are essentially using phrases that are interpreted by the listener through their own lens of responsibility and moderation. We may mean one thing, while the other person hears something different.

Oneonta ‘Festival’ and county ‘trail’ light up the holiday season

This year’s Festival of Lights has over 40 displays for your enjoyment.

Oneonta ‘Festival’ and county ‘trail’ light up the holiday season

By Kevin Limiti

The Christmas season is officially here, which means holiday music, gathering with family, opening gifts, and waiting for Santa Claus.

But there is nothing that screams holiday spirit more than what the Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism/Addictions Foundation (LEAF) is doing to draw attention to the great light displays local residents proudly show off in Otsego County.

And it’s all for a good cause: LEAF created the ‘Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail” three years ago as a safe way to promote sober driving.

News from the Noteworthy: Prepare against holiday disappointment

News from the Noteworthy:
Prepare against holiday disappointment

Deck the halls! Light the candles! Hang the lights! Prepare the feast! And then wait with excited anticipation of family and friends coming over to share the celebrations of the season.

Whether you observe Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or a blend of traditions, the hopes for joy and peace are high in the hearts of most.

Then, for some of us, there are the thoughts of “that” guest or “that” situation everyone knows can turn delight into disappointment. We hope it will be different this year, and sometimes it is. For the most part, though, the disruption is fairly predictable. This is a real circumstance that many families deal with year after year.

How do you break that cycle? Can anything be done to increase the chances of a peaceful, happy gathering?

Gratefully, there are ways to disrupt a disruptive pattern. Because it is so common, a lot has been written on it. You can find lots of suggestions beyond the ones listed here. Generally, within families, a few themes can set off uncomfortable interactions. You probably know what they are: discussions of controversial topics, intoxication, and old family disputes.

Knowing that, here are a few strategies that you can try. They take a little planning, you will need to be vigilant for signs of trouble, and you will likely need some allies.

But remember, the goal is a joyful, fulfilling gathering.

1) In an upbeat way, create a family agreement about non-festive topics and turn it into a game. Before the gathering, make a “swear jar” (or a Krampus jar?) and list the non-festive topics like politics, religion, vaccines, social issues, etc. You may want to pre-arrange to have a few allies who will quickly agree to the game. And when someone brings up a topic on the list, they get to put a dollar (or a quarter) into the jar and come up with a new topic. It can be fun if everyone buys in and quickly catches someone veering off into controversial territory. At the end of the gathering, draw a name for who gets the contents of the swear jar.

2) If you plan to serve alcohol, do so in limited quantities. For some people, alcohol consumption results in a relaxed, jovial response. For others, it can result in a more emotional, agitated, or aggressive
response. So, put away the alcohol in the house to limit access and make delicious low-alcohol punches or festive drinks. Be sure to include alcohol-free options as well. Actually, serving no alcohol at a gathering is perfectly okay. No need to explain yourself — it’s your party. You’re allowed to serve what you wish.

3) Have a strategy in place for heading off a conversation that might be drifting into the red zone. Announce that you are honoring the spirit of giving and that you have some surprises for the gathering that will be handed out at unexpected times. Have small grab-bag gifts for guests and at random times (or when the mood starts to shift), have one of the kids pull a name from a basket for who gets to pick the next gift. Be creative. Sometimes even small redirection strategies can help stop an uncomfortable situation before it starts. They’re also fun.

These are not the last word in ways to keep spirits bright. They are just a few suggestions to start new traditions and slightly change the dynamics of potentially explosive situations. Taking a bit of our control back in what has felt like an out-of-control situation is a major step forward.

May your holidays be merry and filled with peace.

Julie Dostal is executive director of The LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

DOSTAL: Legal Marijuana Offers Harmful, Empty Promises

Legal Marijuana Offers

Harmful, Empty Promises

By JULIE DOSTAL • Special to

This is not your parents’ weed.  Information and data from states that have legalized marijuana should give New Yorkers reason to pump the brakes on taxed, regulated recreational use.  Legalization of the 2020 version of cannabis is not about consenting adults discretely smoking a joint in the privacy of their home.

It is about an industry-driven, full-on commercialization with pot shops, pot advertisements, pot sponsorships, and pot fundraisers.  All of these to sell pot brownies, gummies, cookies, vapes, sodas, infused wines, distillates, concentrates, ointments, and vapes. If we legalize cannabis for recreational use, prepare to be inundated with highly concentrated cannabis products that do not remotely resemble the weed most readers might remember.

We as a community need to view legalization with eyes wide open.  This is about a billion dollar industry whose primary concern is NOT your health or the health of your children.  It is about dollar signs in an untapped market.  There are multiple promises that the industry and its advocates have touted related to the commercialization of the drug.  The public should know that nearly all of the industry’s public health promises have been disproven in the states that have legalized recreational use.

Examples include:

Promise: Youth use rates will go down

Reality: Youth rates of cannabis use are increasing

Promise: The black market will disappear

Reality: Black markets are thriving in legal states by selling street pot cheaper than taxed pot

Promise: Social justice issues will be resolved and fewer minorities will be arrested

Reality: Arrest rates for minorities are disproportionate in legal states and increasing

Promise: The cannabis supply will be safer

Reality: Commercialized cannabis, up to 99.9 percent THC, is a drug with far more harms than the 5 percent THC version of pre-legalization

Promise: Legal marijuana will make people safer

Reality: Marijuana-related traffic fatalities have increased significantly in legal states

Promise: People cannot become addicted to marijuana

Reality: Cannabis Use Disorder (Addiction) is an actual diagnosis

Promise: Legalized marijuana will reduce death from opioid overdose

Reality: This early assumption was disproven by a 2019 study.

Revenue projections are also not as promised.  None of the NY tax-bonanza predictions include the costs associated with police for increased traffic enforcement, hospitals for increased emergency room visits, government departments for increased oversight, poison control for increase calls for pediatric consumption, businesses for diminished job performance, or mental health for increased incidences of psychosis (all of these have occurred in legal states).  Those are not costs that will be borne by the billion dollar cannabis industry.  Those are costs that will land on tax payers.  In Colorado, tax payers spent $4 to mitigate the cannabis-related harm for every $1 gained in tax revenue.  But, those numbers don’t make national news.

Let’s pump the brakes, New York.  Our youth, our health, our traffic safety and our mental health are far more important than a questionable revenue stream.  We did the right thing last year with decriminalization.   The next step does not have to be opening the doors to a billion dollar industry whose entire job is to make stockholders happy.  Commercialization does not have to be inevitable.

Julie Dostal is executive director of The LEAF Council on Alcoholism & Addictions, Oneonta.

DOSTAL: Thanks For Lighting Up Our Christmas

Thanks For Helping

Light Up Our Christmas

To the Editor:

The 2019 Great Otsego Light Trail would like to thank all who participated in the trail this year.

You made our holidays much brighter with a total of 18 displays! You are all delightful and your displays were a joy for all!

We would also like to thank our community partners:, The LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, WZOZ 103.1 FM, and CNY News. We’ll see you next year!

Light Trail coordinator

This Year, Enjoy Lights-A-Palooza!

This Year, Enjoy Lights-A-Palooza!

Julie Dostal chats with Kevin Comstock about his display at 42 Maple St., Oneonta. (Ian Austin/

by LIBBY CUDMORE • Special To

ONEONTA –Julie Dostal knows the importance of family traditions at the holidays.

“When I was growing up (in Atlanta), my mom and dad piled us all in the car and drove us around town to ooh and aah at the Christmas lights,” said LEAF Inc.’s executive director “I know a lot of people who have that same awesome memory with their families.”

Now, LEAF is putting together The Great Otsego Holiday Light Trail, a map that will coordinate all of the best holiday lights across the county, from Richfield Springs to Sidney.

“Every year, people post all these incredible light displays on Facebook,” she said. “And I thought, all this needs is for someone to coordinate where all of them are so people can drive around and see the displays for themselves.”

The map, which can soon be accessed from, can download to your cell phone and sync with a map, so you will be able to drive from one to the next without getting lost.

“You can do it in sections,” said Dostal. “Or if you want to do a holiday Lights-a-Palooza and get them all in one night, it’ll be easy to navigate on your cell phone.”

The map will debut on Thanksgiving Day, but to make the trail really glow, they need your help. “When you see a fantastic lights display – I’m talking one with thousands of lights and inflatables and everything – take a picture of it, write down the address and put it on our Facebook page,” she said. “We’ll add it to the map!”

The first on the map is Kevin and Christy Comstock’s home at 42 Maple St., Oneonta, which over the last decade has become a wonderland of colorful inflated characters.

“When my son Zachary was little, he saw an Eeyore inflatable in Kmart that he really liked,” said Kevin. “Since then, we’ve slowly built up the collection.”

The yard now has eight inflatable characters, including a giant BB-8 in the “Star Wars” section, which also features Yoda – dressed as Santa – and Darth Vader.

He and Christy stock up on discounted inflatables at the end of every season. “New this year are Mickey and Pluto,” he said. “We put them out as soon as we take down our Halloween inflatables, but we got started late this year because of the weather. It’s not fun to put them out when it’s zero degrees.”

But weather, he said, is why they leave them on 24 hours a day. “If we turn them off and they get snow on them, it’s hard to inflate them and you risk the motor burning out,” he said. “Plus it really embarrasses the heck out of Zachary, so we keep doing it. He’s 14 now, so he comes home from school and they’re all out there.”

“When people put all this work into these displays, they want people to come by and see them,” said Dostal.

And don’t be shy about getting out of the car to snap a selfie.

“Kids always want to get their picture taken with them,” said Kevin. “It’s fun.”

Riders Roll Out ‘Dry Run’ Patch


Legion Riders Roll Out

With ‘Dry Run’ Patch

Seventy-six of American Legion Riders, Nam Knights and The Red Knights, took off from Oneonta’s American Legion Post 242 this morning on the 2nd annual Foliage Ride, to benefit LEAF. The ride also drew attention to a new “Dry Run” patch adopted this year, signifying their rides are alcohol-free. Created by the riders Assistant Director Chris Chase, the patch is gaining popularity in the region, and efforts are being made to have it go nationwide. “Veterans are our treasure!” said LEAF Executive Director Julie Dostal, seen above with, from left, Chase, Chris Dennis and Rob Martinez. “The fact they are willing to do this and keep them all safe is phenomenal.” Other chapters are already having their own custom “Dry Run” patches created to promote happy, safe and sober riding. (Ian Austin/

Dostal: There Are ‘Misconceptions’ About RSS Project

People Who Would Live

In RSS Are Committed

To Recovery, Dostal Says

LEAF Director Responds To Neighbors Organizing

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

Julie Dostal

ONEONTA – In response to the formation of “Sixth Ward Neighbors United,” LEAF Executive Director Julie Dostal said there are “misconceptions” about the proposed Rehabilitation & Support Services housing development and the 14 units set aside for people in addiction recovery.

“Those people get to move into those units because they have engaged in a treatment or recovery provider to qualify for housing,” she said. “They have already made a life decision toward getting better.”

Brenner, Burns Honored For Work With Recovery Community

Brenner, Burns Honored For

Work With Recovery Community

Julie Dostal, Executive Director of LEAF, left, and Deborah Berrios, Director of FOR-DO, right, presented awards to Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner, and Otsego County Judge Brian Burns (award accepted by Court Attorney Nathan Getman) at the 9th annual Here Comes The Sun Recovery Awards Dinner on Friday evening. Chief Brenner received the Robert S. Sioussat Appreciation Award for outstanding contribution and service to alcohol, tobacco and other drug problem prevention, while Judge Burns received the FOR-DO Amethyst Award in recognition of his efforts to support the local recovery community. (Ian Austin/


Comprehensive Steering Committee Revises Vision Statement

Comp Plan Committee

Revises Vision Statement

Oneonta resident Al Rubin, a member of Oneonta’s Comprehensive Master Plan Revision Committee, discusses the wording of the current vision statement, which appears at the beginning of the comprehensive plan. Rubin is the chair of the steering committee tasked with creating the comprehensive plan.  At right is committee member Seth Clark. (Parker Fish/

By PARKER FISH • Special to

LEAF Director Julie Dostal reads the revised vision.

ONEONTA – The city’s Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee agreed nothing should be left to interpretation in new plan:  It met for an hour tonight to simply re-word the vision statement.

The vision statement summarizes the characteristics of the city, and what the future should be. In essence, the vision statement summarizes the entire comprehensive plans in a few short sentences.

“In my line of work, this is what we would call a mission statement, rather than a vision statement,” said LEAF Executive Director Julie Dostal, committee  member.

Day 1 of Otsego Health Fair Already ‘A Phenomenal Success’

Day 1, And Otsego Health Fair

Already ‘Phenomenal Success’

At the first Otsego County Healthy Living Expo today, organizer Mathew Johnson, left, and Julie Dostal, right, look on as Bassett physician Richard Brown briefs state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, on National Take Back Week, an initiative to collect outdated prescriptions. Inset photo, Allistair, left, and Alex Scorzafava, center, present Michael Gardner, Milford, with a brand new bicycle provided by New York Central Mutual; the company will be giving out another 25 bike tomorrow (Saturday), when the Expo resumes from 10 to 4 in Foothills’ Atrium.  The event features 40 local organizations providing information on healthy living. Visitors can get information and resources, plus fresh produce courtesy of Pathfinder village.  You can pet animals from the Utica Zoo, listen to guest speakers, or have your feet checked for weight distribution.  (Ian Austin/


‘Recovery Friendly Oneonta’ Supporters Address Council

‘Recovery Friendly Oneonta’

Supporters Address Council

Julie Dostal, Executive Director at LEAF, stands before Common Council this evening to stress the importance of having Oneonta be a community that embraces and supports those in recovery. Members of Catholic Charities, FOR-DO, The Chamber of Commerce as well as Chief Doug Brenner and Council member Melissa Nicosia spoke in strong support of the resolution. Originally Common Council had planned to vote on a resolution to have Oneonta become a ‘Recovery Friendly’ community, but removed it from the agenda due t some public confusion. “Some people had concerns that Oneonta being labeled ‘a recovery community’ would have a negative impact and draw more addicts. ” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “This isn’t about a label or a name on Oneonta. It us about recognizing successes and pulling together to solve a problem. The resolution was a vision statement, a vision I believe in.” We went on to say that they felt they had not been clear on the what the vision was and therefore decided to remove it from the vote until they had. (Ian Austin/


Dostal ‘Drive, Devotion’ Cited At State Capitol Ceremonies

Dostal ‘Drive, Devotion’ Cited

At State Capitol Ceremonies

Julie Dostal and Senator Seward pause outside the state Senate chambers this afternoon, where “Women of Distinction” ceremonies were held. (Jeff Bishop photo)

ALBANY – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, praised 2017 “Woman of Distinction” Julie Dostal for her “drive and devotion” this afternoon at state Capitol ceremonies.

Dostal, executive director of LEAF, the Oneonta-based drug-fighting agency, was among “Women of Distinction” from across the state who are designated annually by their state senatros.

“Julie Dostal has made it her life’s work to help others and it has been my privilege to partner with her on a number of occasions,” Seward declared. “Her drive and devotion are remarkable and the community at large is the beneficiary of her ongoing efforts.”

LEAF’s Julie Dostal Woman Of Distinction

LEAF’s Julie Dostal

Woman Of Distinction

She’ll Be Honored At State Capitol May 9

Julie Dostal

ALBANY – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, announced a few minutes ago that Julie Dostal, executive director of Oneonta’s LEAF, the addiction-fighting organization, has been selected as a 2017 New York State Senate “Woman of Distinction.”

She will be honored on May 9 at an Albany reception at the Capitol along with other “Women of Distinction” from across the state.

“Women like Julie Dostal make a profound, positive difference in the lives of others and are a prime reason why New York is so special,” said Seward.  “Julie has made it her life’s work to help others through the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions and it has been my privilege to work with her on a number of occasions.

After 3 Overdoses, Police Fear ‘Bad Batch’ Heroin

After 3 Heroin Overdoses,

Police Warn Of ‘Bad Batch’

Oneonta Common Council gasped tonight when Acting Police Chief Doug Brenner told them of a young woman who overdosed in the Fox Hospital bathroom while her boyfriend was being treated for his overdose. They were two of three heroin ODs on Friday night, prompting concerns that a “bad batch” could be on the streets. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – With three heroin overdoses on Friday, March 17, police are concerned that heroin laced with fentanyl or other narcotics may be on the streets of Oneonta.

“The first call we got, a young man was already blue and his girlfriend was doing CPR on him,” said Acting Police Chief Doug Brenner. “Officer Luke Harvey was able to administer Narcan, and he began to wake up.”

It was the first time an officer had used Narcan to revive an overdose victim, and Brenner was pleased that their efforts were successful.

The man was transported to Fox Hospital by ambulance and his girlfriend rode with him. But police soon got another call from the hospital. “While the doctors were treating him, the girlfriend went into the bathroom and overdosed,” said Brenner.

A third overdose call came in that same night, and the EMS squad transported him to the hospital as well. If you are struggling with addiction then you can seek help at places like WeRecover, you’re not alone.

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