Run To State Finals
By LIBBY CUDMORE
COOPERSTOWN – It took some time to get there, but there was no denying that basketball was in John Kennedy’s blood.
“My brother Owen, who graduated last year, played basketball for CCS,” said the sophomore center after the CCS Hawkeyes, beat the Unadilla Valley Storm 61-46 Sunday, March 10, to reach the state semi finals.
“My mom played in high school and college and my dad wrestled for Cooperstown,” said Cooperstown’s 6-foot-8 big man at center.
John had tried out for the JV basketball team when he was in eighth grade, but didn’t pass the state physical, and switched to wrestling instead.
“I loved wrestling so much,” he said. “I wanted to wrestle for all of high school. But this year, I found out I was too heavy to wrestle. So I went back to basketball.”
Kennedy, son of Owen and Mary (and nephew of county Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision), joined the summer league, and then the Hawkeyes that winter.
By PATRICK WAGER
ONEONTA – Now, the hard work begins.
What’s now called Otsego County 21-member “Energy Working Group” will convene for the first time at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, in Old City Hall.
And coming out of the Otsego County Chamber’s “Energy & Infrastructure Summit” two weeks ago at The Otesaga, the word “compromise” is in the air.
“I don’t see compromise as being a dirty word,” said county Rep. Michele Farwell, who with Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, is leading the effort. “I see compromise as being able to actually accomplish genuine movement forward. I feel that this is what my constituents look for in county government – getting the real work done.”
Still, they expect challenges. She and Kennedy both “noticed a pattern,” Farwell continued. “One side says, we need jobs. And the other side says, we need to protect the planet.”
All 21 members of the Energy Working Group – divided into four groups: Building & Efficiency, Energy Supply & Distribution, Economic Development, and Environment – are expected at the first meeting.
Also attending with be a group of “technical advisers,” from an engineer to a lawyer.
At this point, the timeline, according to Kennedy is that “the plan will be ready for SEQRA review in 18 months. Hopefully ready to adopt in roughly 24 months. An ambitious goal, but I think we can manage.”
After the initial meeting, each group will meet and select a leader who will keep a Leadership Group – Kennedy, Farwell, Oneonta Town Supervisor Bob Wood, City Engineer Greg Mattice and the OCCA’s Leslie Orzetti – apprised monthly on progress.
The Leadership Group will attend meetings on a regular basis, and continue with monthly groups.”
State Law ‘Silent’ On Issue –
So Stick To What Law Does Say
The end of what is, at best, an anomaly, may be in sight.
County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Mount Vision, says she plans to ask the Administration Committee she chairs to remove two extralegal
clauses from a policy it passed last month: “Use of Photographic Equipment and Recording Devices at County Meetings.”
The complete policy appears in the box below this editorial. The purported goal, “to allow meetings to be conducted in an orderly manner,” is unobjectionable, although no incident has occurred to spur that.
However, one provision, requiring photographers and videographers to “sign in” – to register with the government, Soviet style – is anathema to the press, and will be to the general public, too, as citizens increasingly use iPhones to record parts of meetings they find significant.
A second provision, unilateral “exclusion from the meeting at the discretion of the chair,” with no appeal or due process of any kind, is likewise worthy of Fidel Castro. Off with their cabezas!
Hometown Oneonta, The Freeman’s Journal and www.AllOTSEGO.com raised these concerns with Robert Freeman, executive director, state Committee on Open Government, an arm of the New York Department of State, and he also concluded the policy is flawed. His full statement also appears below.
County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, at the Feb. 6 meeting of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, defended the policy she developed. But when asked about the two objectionable clauses, replied, “The law is silent on this.”
Put another way, the county attorney, whom the board depends on to provide accurate legal guidance, came up with two limitations on the freedoms of press and public that are not enabled in a guiding statute, the state Freedom of Information Act, on the books since 1977.
By doing so, she also may have opened the county board to financial liability: In an amendment signed into law in December 2017, the county would have to pay legal fees if a challenge “substantially prevailed,” which Freeman’s opinion suggests is possible.
And the Coccoma Protocol, if you will, is already having a negative effect on news coverage.
As a public service, AllOTSEGO.com has been videotaping monthly county board meetings for more than two years now, but board chair Dave Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, said the videographer would probably have to register, so the Feb. 6 meeting went unrecorded.
Kennedy’s Administration Committee meets at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22.
The question it must answer: Who should control news coverage of the county board and the $110 million government it controls? Independent news outlets and citizen watchdogs, or the county board itself?
The answer’s clear.
As can happen, one anomaly can draw attention to others.
At some point, the 14-member county board surrendered its policy-making responsibilities to its six-member Administration Committee.
In this case, when “Admin” met Jan. 29, the county attorney characterized “Use of Photographic Equipment and Recording Devices at County Meetings” as a routine matter, according to Kennedy. Five of the six committee members in attendance – County Rep. Andrew Stammel, D-Oneonta, had departed – passed it routinely, and it immediately became county board policy.
Look at the county board’s makeup: Four reps are in their first term; another five in their second terms. Most, you can be sure, were unaware the authority of their elective offices had been surrendered to a committee at some time in the past for forgotten reasons.
The full board should change the Rules of Order and take its authority back. If the 14 are to be governed by a policy, it should be presented as a resolution and be voted on by the
Even the Administration Committee itself – Kennedy, Stammel and county Reps. Ed Frazier, Gary Koutnik, Keith McCarty and Peter Oberacker – no doubt agrees with that.
A final thought: Robert Freeman is available to give seminars on the FoI Act and open meetings. The county board should invite in him in to do one here. After all, you have to know the law to follow it.
The county attorney should be there, too.
HOMETOWN Views and Perspectives
The amiable Dave Bliss, who is entering his second year as chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, patently has achieved his first goal: A “change of culture” toward a more amiable atmosphere.
“I believe we have a working relationship with departments heads and other board members,” the former 24-year Middlefield town supervisor, a Republican, said in an interview assessing his first year at the helm, and looking ahead to the second.
“Democrats and Republicans are evenly split – we need to work together.”
A case in point surfaced at the county board’s organizational meeting on Jan. 2, where Bliss was reelected by a 12-2 vote.
Each month there’s a consent agenda that lumps together a few dozen routine resolutions so they can be taken care of in one vote – a huge time saver in a usually lengthy meeting.
But any county rep can ask that any resolution be removed for individual debate, as Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, sensibly did in this case on the “Climate Smart Communities Pledge,” which NYSERDA is encouraging local governments to adopt.