ONEONTA — The Common Council held a public hearing for the long anticipated vote on the Community Advisory Board Review Committee report Tuesday, Sept. 21, created in response to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that police departments create a document of “best practices” by local law enforcement with input from the community.
Only two people spoke at the public hearing, both of whom were supportive of the council passing the report.
Daniel Driver said the report gave him “confidence in how hard the OPD works with few resources, but also cause for concern” and urged the council to consider more social services for those with mental health issues and addiction. He said that police officers were being put in a “untenable position where they have to arrest or interact with folks” who have some of those issues.
“There is a lot more to be done,” Driver said.
Steve Ludner offered “personal gratitude and thanks” for those who worked on CABRC and suggested the council “modify some of the wording” to make “clear that the Community Police Board will have options for community engagement.”
We interviewed City of Oneonta mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson for the AllOtsego Report Mayoral Election edition.
Click here to listen to our interview with Mark Drnek.
Democratic candidate for mayor, Mark Drnek, represents the Eighth Ward of Oneonta and is the owner of Sweet Home Productions and host of the syndicated radio show Blue Light Central.
Click here to listen to our interview with Len Carson.
Republican candidate for mayor, Leonard Carson, represents the Fifth Ward of Oneonta and is a former fire captain for the city as well as a former Otsego County Representative for District 13. He is also the co-owner of DC Marketing.
ONEONTA — Len Carson, the Fifth Ward Common Council member and Republican mayoral candidate, received some heat at the council’s meeting Tuesday, Aug. 17, for approving billboard ads through his company, DC Marketing, that presented false information about coronavirus vaccines.
Jennifer Hill spoke at the meeting at City Hall, saying the ads were dangerous and strongly condemning Carson for his role in putting up the ads.
“It’s unconscionable that a member of the council and one who wants to lead the city to spread false information,” Hill said. “Mr. Carson did not come across as someone who would want to do that. I don’t know what changed.”
Kathy Hochul, New York’s governor-in-waiting, has made a favorable impression on Otsego County officials the past few years.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said Hochul had visited Oneonta at least a half a dozen times.
“She has been very supportive of Oneonta’s effort to revitalize and restore our economy,” Herzig said. “I think she’s a true friend of Oneonta. I hope to get her to visit Oneonta in the near future.”
Common Councilmember Len Carson, a Republican who is running for mayor this year, also had positive things to say about Hochul, who is a Democrat.
“I’m looking forward to seeing someone representing New York state that’s from Upstate. It would be nice to see the type of leadership she’s going to bring,” Carson said. “I’m very hopeful that Upstate New York will finally have a friendly ear to our concerns, rather than NYC being the one that gets the attention.”
ONEONTA — The Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta celebrated its centennial anniversary Saturday, Aug. 7, with an outdoor celebration at Huntington Memorial Park.
Cupcakes on top of books, free drinks provided by Stewart’s and plants were given out at the celebration.
The library turned 100 last year. However, because of COVID, the celebration got delayed. Mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson were also on hand, with Drnek providing the PA system for the event.
Drnek, whose ward covers the Huntington Library, said that the library was a “quality of life thing.” which is a key part of his platform and one that he hopes will attract people to the city. He said he is hoping to use “targeted marketing” to attract people from metro areas.
“There’s nothing more quality of life than what the library does,” Drnek said, who mentioned the library hosting a car show on the same day. “It doesn’t seem like a library kind of thing to do. It’s an outreach kind of thing to do.”
ONEONTA — The Common Council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 3, began with a message from Mayor Gary Herzig regarding the recent updates regarding the delta variant of the coronavirus.
“We’re all concerned about the variant,” Herzig said. “The numbers aren’t alarming but they are going in the wrong direction.”
Herzig likened it to a race between the virus and vaccinations. “Unfortunately, what we didn’t see coming is the large number of people who didn’t want to get the vaccinations.”
Otsego County has a 57% vaccination rate, Herzig said, which is lower than both the state and national average of 70%.
As of Tuesday, there were three reported new cases in Otsego County, bringing the total cases up to 31, according to the Otsego County Department of Health, making it a 2.6% seven day positivity average.
“If it continues this way, it’s not just the delta variant, we give the virus time to create new variants which could be even worse,” Herzig said. “In the meantime, if you’re not vaccinated, wear a mask and if you are vaccinated, feel free to use a mask as a safety precaution.”
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.