ONEONTA — In a two and a half hour meeting, the issue of housing was forefront as the Common Council struggled to come to agree on the choice of an out-of-city resident as part of the housing commission on Tuesday, July 20.
This appointment was narrowly approved, 4-3, with Kaytee Lipari Shue, Len Carson and Scott Harrington being the dissenting votes.
The motion to appoint Audrey Benkenstein, with the addition of Oneonta resident Peter Friedman, was brought up for a second time after being voted down during the last common council meeting, something that Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig told AllOtsego.com last week was “mystifying,” since Lipari Shue had pushed for a non-city resident to be on the Arts Commission.
The main point of contention was that Benkenstein was not a Oneonta resident. However Herzig pointed out her appointment was voted down “only minutes after approving a Cherry Valley artist” for the Arts Commission.
Herzig said the Arts Commission held real power whereas the Housing Commission was an advisory position, and therefore those appointed to the Housing Commission were not considered officials with any kind capacity to approve anything.
ONEONTA — A committee including mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson approved final changes to the Community Advisory Board police review document, which will sent back to the original CAB members followed by a public hearing.
The process should take about a month to complete, according to city officials.
The Community Advisory Board met Tuesday, July 13, at City Hall to follow up on the document, which was prepared in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for police departments to recommend “best practices” that align with community values. That order and a review Herzig had ordered before Cuomo’s order, were in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of Floyd’s murder in April.
ONEONTA — The Common Council met in person Tuesday, July 6, with an atmosphere of visible joviality and relief after spending a year meeting via Zoom.
“This is something we haven’t done in a long time,” Mayor Gary Herzig said, which elicited some appreciative chuckles.
Some of the agenda items passed included motions authorizing the acceptance of a state grant for the development of Hartwick College’s Grain Innovation Center, which would be located at the future Lofts on Dietz Street, as well as motions that appointed candidates to the recently formed Public Arts Commission and the Housing Commission.
Election Day is still six months away, but in the past few days it’s been off to the races, the local races.
With Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s announcing his retirement last week, three candidates immediately emerged to succeed him, a Democrat and two Republicans.
Leading up to Tuesday, March 2, the first day nominating petitions can be circulated, a similar outpouring occurred in races for the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
Get used to it.
The early entries, a half-year in advance of the elections, are required by changes implemented in January 2019 by Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature, then newly in control of the Democrats.
State and local primaries were moved from the second Tuesday in September to the fourth Tuesday in June, to align with federal elections. The idea, Democrats said, was to save money and to increase turnout for local elections.
However, with petitions in local races due to be filed with the county Board of Elections between March 22 and 25, it also extends the campaign season for local offices from four to
ONEONTA – Mayoral candidate Len Carson announced a few minutes ago that he received the city Republican Committee’s endorsement this evening to run for the city’s top office in the Nov. 2 elections. The committee chair is Susan Lettis.
Carson said both he and Craig Gelbsman, who has also indicated he is interested in running for mayor, were at the caucus. After receiving the endorsement, Carson said he asked Gelbsman if he intended to continue in the race, but Gelbsman was noncommittal one way or the other.
ONEONTA – Republicans Len Carson and Craig Gelbsman confirmed today they intended to run for mayor to succeed incumbent Gary Herzig, a Democrat, at the end of the year.
If both candidates continue, it would ensure a Republican candidate June 22. A primary may also be shaping up on the Democratic side.
Common Council member Mark Drnek announced Wednesday he is running for mayor as a Democrat. Republicans said they’ve heard of a second Democratic possibility, which would cause a primary for that party as well.
It was 2013. The issue was fracking. And four prominent local Republicans knocked on Vince Casale’s door.
“It was conveyed to me that the party was in some trouble,” said Casale, who last week advised the Republican County Committee he is resigning as chairman.
“My work is done,” he said. “It’s time for a change.”
He recommended Lori Lehenbauer of Worcester, Republican county elections commissioner, as his successor.
His seven years spanned the tenures of four of his Democratic counterparts.
In 2013, the first Democrat elected to countywide office in memory, Dan Crowell, was running for reelection unopposed, Casale recalled.
There was a shortage of candidates and, “when people were asked to run, they were just left to themselves.”
The committee had been using raffles to raise money – that was illegal, it turned out, leading to a sizable fine.
“At the time, I was consulting,” Vince recounted the other day – he still operates the Cooperstown-based Casale Group with his wife, Lynn Krogh, most recently helping guide state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker’s campaign. “I was very happy.”
But the GOP contingent told him, “We need to win races. You know how to win races.”
Remembers Casale, “With the blessing of Senator Seward, I was good to go. I took over in September,” two months before the fall elections.
“The first thing we do is run polling,” a first in local races. It discovered not only newcomers, but longtime incumbents were in tight races, he said. “It’s going to be a drubbing like we’d never seen.”
Fracking had damaged the Republicans, but by then it had been discovered there was too little natural gas here to frack. The issue “was just at or past the peak,” Casale said.
“I told the candidates: Don’t mention it. It wasn’t that we wanted it or didn’t want it. It was political survival,”
The new message: Republicans will protect your tax dollars.
“Rick Hulse was down by over 20 points when we first did that poll,” said Casale. “I remember him cutting it to 14 points. I had him down to 7 points. ‘If we only had one more week,’ I told myself.
“I went into Election Day thinking we would lose the Town of Otsego,” including most of Cooperstown, he said. “We ended up winning by 10 points.”
Republicans Janet Quackenbush and Craig Gelbsman also won in Democratic Oneonta, and Len Carson, the retired fire captain.
Casale, then 40, was no stranger to politics. At age 5, he was handing out pencils at county fairs on behalf of his father, Assemblyman Tony Casale of Herkimer.
During school breaks, young Vince would ask to accompany his dad to Albany.
A music major, he taught for a few years before joining Herkimer Arc, then the community college, as development director.
He started the Casale Group in 2007. His first campaign: Cooperstown’s Mike Coccoma, for state Supreme Court. The next year, John Lambert for county judge. “The company just kind of grew,” he said. “I had a decision to make: Continue as is, or make the jump.” And jump he did.
This year, he managed the elevation of county Judge Brian Burns of Oneonta to replace the retiring Coccoma, and the campaign of county Rep. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, to succeed Seward, keeping both influential positions in Otsego County.
Now, he and Lynn are busy, but looking forward to 2022, the next gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.
“There has been local interest,” said Len Carson, Fifth Ward, who made the motion to table the vote. “It is in our best interest to hold our position and let negotiation happen between them, rather than settle.”
COOPERSTOWN – If Onondaga County got a special dispensation from Governor Cuomo to open its car dealerships, why shouldn’t Otsego County?
That’s the question the Otsego County board wants answered by the time it next meets at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 20.
Acting on a suggestion by Republican Oneonta City Council member Len Carson, his county rep, Democrat Danny Lapin, today championed his constituent: “If Onondaga got a special dispensation, let’s see what they did. Maybe it could apply to us.”
ONEONTA – Citing the $117 million that car dealerships put into the local economy, Common Council member Len Carson, Fifth Ward, is asking the county Board of Representatives to restart car sales in Otsego County.
A former county board member himself, Carson told Common Council this evening he has sent a letter asking his former colleagues to petition Governor Cuomo to allow Otsego County to re-open car dealerships.
Veterans’ organizations still have a way to go in accepting women in their ranks, Beth Akulin, commander of VFW Post 1206 in Oneonta, inset at right, said during her address at Veterans Day ceremonies at the top of Neahwa Park’s Memorial Parkway at 11-11-11 this morning. While there are 1.3 million female veterans today, she said, “I have been yelled at for parking in a veterans parking place, or because I ask for a military discount, because they assumed my husband served and not me. It is important: People need to know and recognize that women have served and done the same job as men.” she said, “Veterans come in all sizes, shapes and genders. We need to thank all of them.” Top photo, the Oneonta Vets Club honor guard – from left, American Legion Post 259 Commander Terry Harkenreader, and veterans Len Carson, Wayne Gregory, Gary Walters, Bruce Von Holtz, Bernie White and Jim Williams – carry the colors to this morning’s commemoration. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
By JIM KEVLIN & LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
The Republicans rained on the Democrats’ parade on Election Night, Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Republican Rick Brockway won Laurens-Otego’s District 3, 697-548, turning back a Democratic effort to take control of the county board for the first time in memory.
“Otsego County is red,” declared a jubilant Republican County Chairman Vince Casale. “It has always been red. It will always be red. People in Otsego County will always reject the extreme liberal agenda that is attempted to be forced upon them.”
County Democratic chairman Aimee Swan had this riposte: “Otsego County is purple. Otsego County voted for (Congressman Antonio) Delgado in 2018. Democrats can win here. Democrats do win here. And Democrats will win here. If Otsego was so red, we would not have a split board.”
During a victory celebration at the Oneonta Vets’ Club, Brockway said, “I’m exhausted. I’m glad it’s over. And I feel really good.” He added, “My family’s always been in politics in Laurens. I was a councilman for eight years. It’s a logical step to go to the county.”
If the margin in District 3 holds, Brockway’s victory over Democrat Caitlin Ogden assures the Republican, allied with Conservative county Rep. Meg Kennedy, Mount Vision, will continue to control county government for another two years.
However, Kennedy can ally on individual issues with the Democrats and shift the majority in that direction, as she likely will as main architect of the county manager form of government.
The county board was expected to vote Wednesday, Nov. 6, on approving a public hearing for its December meeting, after which the concept of professional management could be implemented.
The Democrats had appeared bullish about Ogden’s chances – a Laurens resident, she is a grantsman at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown – particularly following a stealth write-in campaign that knocked Brockway off the Independent line in the June 26 primary.
Brockway, a farrier and newspaper outdoors columnist, would succeed Republican Kathy Clark, a former county board chairman.
In other county races, as expected, incumbent Democrat Michele Farwell, District 2, decisively held her seat over Marcia Hoag, 636-246. And Democrat Jill Basile, District 14, beat Libertarian Wilson Wells, 199 to 48.
“This community has served my family well,” said Basile. “And now, I can serve them back.”
In the City of Oneonta, Republicans Len Carson won the Ward 5 Common Council seat, and Scott Harrington, Ward 6, doubling GOP representation in City Hall. Both are former Otsego County Representatives.
“My goal was always to get here,” said Carson. “I’m going to work hard, not just for my ward, but for the whole city.”
Both pledged to hold Town Hall meetings. “The best way to represent is to get feedback,” said Harrington. “I want to be very open.”
In other races in the Democratic city, two Democrats beat two Republicans: It was Kaytee Lipari Shue over Jerid Goss 157-22, and Mark Drnek over Josh Bailey 102-73.
“This is something I’ve always dreamed about,” said Shue. “I got to shake the mayor’s hand and we started our partnership together. 2020 will be here before I know it!”
And in the Town of Richfield, a Republican triumvirate, Nick Palevsky, Fred Eckler and Ed Bello Jr., turned back one Democrat and two other non-affiliated candidates tied to the Protect Richfield neighbors.
In Richfield Springs, while Palevsky, the former supervisor, led David Simonds, 296-291, the Republican pointed out its only five votes.
“I hope it holds,” he said, noting there are 100 absentee ballots out there. “That’s the only thing I can say right now.”
Usually, it takes a week to count the absentees and affirm the results; this year, he said, with all the changes the state Legislature made in election laws this year, it is expected to take two weeks.
Of Palevsky’s fellow Republican runningmates, incumbent Fred Eckler, with 326, was reelected, as was newcomer Ed Bello Jr., with 363.
Simonds runningmates, Democrat Jeremy Fisher (203) and incumbent Kane Seamon (284), who lost the June 26 Republican primary, both lost by sizeable margins.
Palevsky was drawn into the race for supervisor by a comprehensive plan and zoning code developed by adherents of the Protect Richfield moving to stop the five-turbine Monticello Hills Wind Farm.
Editor’s Note: Len Carson, the former county rep from Oneonta and DC Marketing president, circulated a video of Michael Shellenberger’s 2016 Ted Talk, “How Fear of Nuclear Power is Hurting the Environment,” to Citizens Voice, the local businesspeople’s group, for discussion at its Wednesday, March 13, meeting. Shellenberger was one of Time magazine’s 2008 “Heroes of the Environment,” but in 2015 helped found Environmental Progress, seeking to prevent California’s closure of its nuclear plants. This is an excerpt. To see full video, type “shellenberger” in the search line at www.allotsego.com
Clean energy has been increasing… But when you look at the percentage of global electricity from clean energy sources, it’s actually been in decline from 36 percent to 31 percent. And if you care about climate change, you’ve got to go in the opposite direction to 100 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources, as quickly as possible. Now, you might wonder, “Come on, how much could five percentage points of global electricity be?”
Well, it turns out to be quite a bit. It’s the equivalent of 60 nuclear plants the size of Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear plant, or 900 solar farms the size of Topaz, which is one of the biggest solar farms in the world, and certainly our biggest in California. A big part of this is simply that fossil fuels are increasing faster than clean energy. And that’s understandable. There’s just a lot of poor countries that are still using wood and dung and charcoal as their main source of energy, and they need modern fuels.
But there’s something else going on, which is that one of those clean energy sources in particular has actually been on the decline in absolute terms, not just relatively. And that’s nuclear. You can see its generation has declined 7 percent over the last 10 years. Now, solar and wind have been making huge strides, so you hear a lot of talk about how it doesn’t really matter, because solar and wind is going to make up the difference. But the data says something different. When you combine all the electricity from solar and wind, you see it actually barely makes up half of the decline from nuclear. Let’s take a closer look in the United States.