Editor’s Note: This position paper was prepared by Liane Hirabayashi and Julie Sorensen, co-presidents, League of Women Voters of the Cooperstown Area and Steve Londner, Chair, Steering Committee, League of Women Voters of the Oneonta Area.
“No, I brought my own bag,” many shoppers are telling store clerks when asked “Do you need a bag?” And more shoppers will be giving the same reply starting in March 2020 when the New York State Bag Waste Reduction Act goes into effect. This new law bans — with some exceptions— the use of plastic bags by merchants and others to hold purchases.
The League of Women Voters of the Cooperstown Area and the League of Women Voters of the Oneonta Area believe this ban on plastic bags is an important step toward the goal of reducing solid waste and environmental pollution. We are, however, disappointed that paper bags were not included in the ban because when it comes to waste reduction, paper bags have as many problems as plastic bags do.
In general, the public does not perceive paper bags as being as bad for the environment as plastic bags, but that is not the case. As Eric Goldstein of the National Resource Defense Fund in New York noted, “The transportation of paper products from forests to pulping mills to retail outlets consumes large amounts of fossil fuel and emits ground level air contaminants. And the paper-making process itself is energy intensive and a major source of water pollution.”
Paper bags are costlier to transport at the beginning of their lifecycle, but the cost incurred at the end of the paper bag’s lifecycle should concern us as well.
Using paper bags does not decrease the amount of waste we generate. Paper bags that are not composted may leave our homes as recyclable material, but if the bags are contaminated or are simply not recycled, they end up in the landfill. In either case—being sent to the recycling processor or to the landfill—there is a short-term cost to transporting the bags to their final destination, a cost that is paid by the taxpayers of this county. As for the long term, every single paper bag that is not recycled is taken to the landfill, and each bag placed in that landfill brings us closer the day when the landfill will reach capacity and be closed.
Even as they were writing the law, New York State legislators seemed to recognize these problems associated with paper bags and agreed to a solution of sorts: a provision to impose a 5¢ fee on paper bags. This fee would reduce waste by encouraging people to use their own reusable bags when shopping and not to merely replace plastic bags with paper bags. The 5¢ bag fee would not be imposed on the most vulnerable in our community and a portion (2¢) of the funds collected would be used to buy and distribute reusable bags among this population. The remainder of the fee would support statewide environmental projects.
Unfortunately, in designing this solution the legislators did not require statewide compliance with the 5¢ fee. It is up to each county and municipality to decide whether or not to charge this fee—a fee that will discourage people from replacing plastic bags with paper and encourage them to use durable reusable bags.
Beginning in the 1970s, before there were deposits on bottles or systems in place for recycling cans, plastics, and paper, the Leagues in our county began their efforts to support policies that promoted the reuse and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes. More important, we have supported all efforts to promote policies that reduce the generation of waste.
Otsego County as well has recognized the importance of waste reduction in its 2018 Solid Waste Management Plan, and the residents of the county clearly support these waste reduction goals. Many citizens participate in the successful Hazardous Waste Days and Earth Day Collections held in the county. Since the installation of the densifier at the ARC Otsego Re-use Center approximately 2,000 pounds of polystyrene has been collected. Clearly, people here support promoting a cleaner environment.
No doubt, when the ban goes into effect, many of us will forget our reusable bags, and pay the fee. Over time, however, that little nudge of paying the 5¢ fee will change our habits, and carrying reusable bags into stores and markets will become second nature, just as recycling cans, bottles, and paper has.
The League believes that replacing plastic bags with paper bags is not a solution to waste reduction. The Board of Representatives should step up and rectify the situation by implementing the 5¢ paper bag fee in Otsego County. Imposing the fee will be good for our environment and will support Otsego County’s overall waste reduction goals.
NORTH EDMESTON – Joyce H. Hickling, a woman of wide interests, passed away on July 8, 2019, in the loving arms of family, and friends at her home on Sunnyview Dairy in North Edmeston.
Joyce was born was born on Aug. 14, 1947, in Syracuse, raised in Manlius, and educated at Fayetteville-Manlius Central School in Manlius. Joyce attended Eastern Baptist College in St. Davids, Pa., where she met her husband, Lawrence Hickling. They married on Aug. 17, 1968, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary last year.
How can we debate the issues of our Democracy in a civil way, particularly in the current atmosphere? Today, that was the question before “A User’s Guide For Local Democracy,” a morning of presentations and discussion in Springbrook’s Family Center, organized by the Cooperstown and Oneonta chapters of the League of Women Voters. Tom Pullyblank, above, Catholic Charities director of Planning & Mediation Services, outlined discussion circles – literally, chairs in a circle – and how a moderator can assist a group in reaching a consensus. CGP Professor Will Walker, seated at left, detailed how open-ended questioning has helped his students elicit valuable and detailed oral histories across cultures. He also introduced students Georgia LeMair and Kirbie Sondreal, seated to his left, who have used Walker’s methods to develop community conversations: In Cooperstown, for instance, on Women’s Suffrage and the Centennial of the 19th Amendment. Inset is the New York State’s executive director, Laura Ladd Biermann, who conducted a training session on keeping debates on topic. “The moderator is in charge,” she said. “If it gets out of line, you’re the one who has to bring them into line.” Cooperstown’s Maureen Murray and Oneonta’s Steve Londner organized the program. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
WORKSHOP – 8:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. The League of Women Voters hosts a “User’s Guide for Local Democracy” workshop. Free, pre-registration required. Springbrook Family Engagement Center, Rt 28, Milford. Info, registration, (607) 547-2853, www.LWVoneonta.org.
Editor’s Note: This report was issued Monday, April 22, after the League of Women Voters of the Cooperstown Area surveyed the use of plastics in downtown Cooperstown.
By MELINDA HARDIN & MAUREEN MURRAY
Special to The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
COOPERTOWN – Our Planet Earth cannot digest plastic. With that fact in mind the League of Women Voters of the Cooperstown Area has partnered with other local environmentally conscious organizations, to encourage local retail merchants and restaurants to reduce or eliminate the use of plastics. “We also want to educate consumers about eco-friendly shopping and eating out behaviors”, said League member, Melinda Hardin, who initiated this project.
Over the past two weeks, League members visited 48 local merchants and restaurants and completed a brief face-to-face survey on the use of, and interest in, reducing or eliminating the use of plastics and non-recyclable or non-compostable materials, as well as barriers to eco-friendly practices.
MILFORD CENTER – Oneonta and Cooperstown’s League of Women Voters chapters are planning “A User’s Guide for Local Democracy: Skill Building for Active Organizations and Individuals,” 8:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Springbrook’s Family Engagement Center on Route 28.
Panelists will include Laura Ladd Bierman, executive director the League of Women Voters of New York State.
The workshop is designed to build attendees’ skills and confidence in planning and holding successful public and organizational events and meetings, according to a press release. “We will look at ways to be more effective in listening to divergent opinions, and contending with stridency, in the search for meaningful consensus,” the release said.
TRIVIA BINGO – 7 p.m. Test your knowledge of history with the League of Women Voters in a trivia contest. Prizes, snacks available. Cooperstown Fire Hall, 24 Chestnut St., Cooperstown. Info, firstname.lastname@example.org
To the Editor:
The League of Women Voters, Cooperstown Area urges the citizens of the Village of Cooperstown to vote in the village election Tuesday, March 19. Polls are open noon-9 p.m. at the Cooperstown Fire Hall on Chestnut Street.
There are three open trustee seats: two for three-year terms; and one for a one-year term to complete the final year of the seat left vacant when Ellen Tillapaugh became mayor. Richard Sternberg and Jeanne Dewey, current trustees, are running for the two three-year terms. MacGuire Benton is running for the one-year term.
Because there are no challengers this year, these are the sole candidates for the seats. Therefore it is a “no contest” election year. Often, when there is a “contest” for seats, the League of Women Voters, Cooperstown Area, will host and organize a debate so that citizens may have an opportunity to hear the candidates respond to issues and ask questions directly of them. Because there is a single candidate for the seats this year, there will be no debate. However, the League strongly encourages all citizens to make their voices heard and exercise their right to vote.
Another method for participating in local government is to attend the meetings of the Village Trustees. Meetings are open to the public and occur on the fourth Monday every month, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Village Hall, 22 Main St. The floor is open for public comment at the beginning of each meeting, when citizens have the opportunity to voice their concerns.
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.
COOPERSTOWN – County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., ended this evening’s rowdy League of Women Voters’ debate in the packed Fenimore Museum Auditorium with a blockbuster.
Having faced criticism from his challenger, retired state trooper Bob Fernandez, on how Devlin handled the case of his prison-guard son, Ros, the sheriff read a letter in which a recently departing deputy exonerated the younger man:
“As I leave for another opportunity, I feel I must clear the air on an alleged incident that occurred on Jan. 5, 2017,” Devlin read from a sheet of paper that bore the signature of a James Raso. “I was in the room when this incident allegedly occurred. At no time did Ros Devlin make any statements that have been alleged.”
Asked about the Raso letter as the debate broke up a couple of minutes later, Fernandez answered, “B*** S***.” He went on to say that the letter could have been extracted under pressure, in exchange for a good reference, and noted it wasn’t given under oath.
CANDIDATES NIGHT – 7 – 9 p.m. Candidates for the village elections debate issues and answer questions from the audience. Moderated by the League of Women Voters. Village Meeting Room, Cooperstown Village Library. Call 607-547-2853 or visit www.facebook.com/LWVoftheCooperstownArea/
BOOK CLUB – 6 – 7 p.m. Mindfulness club discusses “Being Peace” by Thich Naht Hanh. The Green Toad Bookstore, 198 Main St., Oneonta. Call 607-433-8898 or visit www.facebook.com/TheGreenToadBookstore/