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News of Otsego County

letter to the editor

NORTHRUP: Proposed apartments better than existing eyesores

LETTER from CHIP NORTHRUP

Proposed apartments better than existing eyesores

To the Editor:

A new apartment building has been proposed at 10 Chestnut between Main and Lake. Simple Integrity proposed much the same thing two years ago. I was the only person at the hearing that spoke in favor of it—on the simple premise that what they proposed was clearly an improvement on what’s there now—a dilapidated building.

The first and foremost utilitarian test on the redevelopment of property in the village should be that if it’s better than what it replaces, the village should look favorably on it—because if the application is denied, what’s there now will remain a useless hole in the tax rolls. There is no practical mechanism in the village to tear down derelict structures, so the village has a lifetime supply of neglected buildings that will remain neglected until someone proposes to remodel or replace them with something better. When that happens, the trustees should work with the proponent on the proposal— provided it’s allowed within the zoning ordinance—since the alternative is for the buildings to remain eyesores.

Chip Northrup
Cooperstown

CONWAY: Editor’s should write editorials

LETTER from PAUL CONWAY

Editor’s should write editorials

To the Editor:

To the question of whether All-Otsego’s new Editor-in-Chief should (continue to) use the editorial page to express positions on a variety of topics: Of course he should. He must!

It would be an abrogation of his responsibility not to provide editorial guidance to area citizens.

Editorials are widely anticipated to inform, educate, and — maybe least of all — persuade citizens on issues they might otherwise ignore or take for granted. The paper would be far less interesting and less useful without them. As to whether the editor might be too liberal or conservative for many readers, the question is irrelevant unless the editor is politically timorous. Many
issues such as infrastructure, reparations, or correcting misinformation deliberately spread in other media, are not necessarily ideological nor are they “yes or no” issues.

As a Political Science professor in past years I urged my students to realize that citizens need to see and hear thoughtful views to the left and right of positions that they might view as moderate.

There may be many more than two reasonable arguments they should consider. The old cliche, “the devil is in the details”, is often apt on many presumably ideological issues. Editorials
can help readers like me get beyond generalities and my preconceived positions. As a long time reader of newspapers, I turn to the editorial page for enlightenment and look for clarity, conviction, and sometimes even courage on the part of the Editor-in-Chief.

Paul Conway
Oneonta

NORTHRUP: Many Owe Their Lives To Muslim Immigrants
LETTER from CHIP NORTHRUP

Many Owe Their Lives

To Muslim Immigrants

To the Editor:

The COVID vaccine I got today was invented by a husband and wife team of Turkish Muslim immigrants.

They live modestly in an apartment and ride their bicycles to work at their company, BioNTech. They were the first to decode the C-19 virus and developed the vaccine made by Pfizer.

So, like many people the world over, I owe my life to a Turk. Maybe you will too.

Somehow this does not come as a complete surprise. The prescription drugs I take are made in Turkey. Turkish Muslim immigrants work in the factories that built our cars. A Turkish immigrant founded the company that makes our yogurt. Our favorite waiter at the Mingo is a Turk. The doorman at the Harvard Club is a Turk.

The steel in our boatshed was made in Turkey, as was my shotgun’s stock. The laptop I write this on was made by a company founded by the son of a Syrian Muslim immigrant, Steve Jobs.

And so it goes. So much for Trump’s “travel ban on Moslems.” Something that Joe Biden, the great x3 grandson of an Irish immigrant, got rid of on Day 1.

If you’re lucky enough to make it to the end of 2021, thank a Muslim. Tell them “Allahu Akbar.” It means “God is most great.”

Imagine that.

CHIP NORTHRUP
Cooperstown

WHELAN: These Facts Correct: Guns Are Killing Us
LETTER from MARY ANNE WHELAN, MD

These Facts Correct:

Guns Are Killing Us

To the Editor:

In his most recent letters to the editor on the subject of gun regulation, Mr. Brockway seems to have the shoe on the wrong foot when it comes to factual statements, a particularly bad error for a blacksmith.

In addition to his past claims that the Democratic presidential candidates all wanted to take your guns away, which he surely knew to be false – none of them had ever said any such thing – he has now decided that Kirsten Gillibrand wants to put you in jail for not surrendering them. Oh please.

And with regard to the consequences of the Australian gun buy-back program, the statement that there was a 400 percent increase in gun violence as a consequence was long ago flagged by Facebook as false information. In fact there has been a decrease in gun-related shootings and crimes of violence since the measures taken in Australia.

Here are some facts for him, and if he disagrees with them he can argue with the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine and Pediatrics, which is the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

From Pediatrics, 2019: STATE GUN LAWS AND PEDIATRIC FIREARM-RELATED MORTALITY: “States with laws requiring universal background
checks for firearms purchase in effect for equal to or more than five years had lower pediatric mortality rates.”

From Pediatrics, 2017: “The shooter playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of both older and younger children.”

From the New England Journal of Medicine, 2018: Fifteen per cent of all deaths in children and adolescents were firearm related. Of all firearm deaths at all ages, 26 percent occurred among children and adolescents.

In March and April of 2020, gun sales soared, a typical American response to feeling threatened, this time by a virus – perhaps people thought they could shoot it – and pediatric deaths from unintentional shootings by children increased by 45 percent compared to the rates in the preceding three years, as more guns became domestically available.

These facts add up to an appalling number of firearm related deaths, many of which could be prevented by banning assault weapons, reducing permissible magazine loads, and requiring safe storage and documentable ownership.

Screening out mentally unstable persons from access to ownership is also entirely appropriate, and in fact has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Second Amendment was never meant to confer any right to indiscriminate ownership or use.

Mr. Brockway for some reason refers to deaths occurring in urban “war zones” as being “questionable”. What in the world does that mean?

And what is the relevance of opioid-related deaths, DWI deaths, or the Twin Towers? I’m glad not to be blamed (as a physician) for contributing to the opioid epidemic, but I would never take legislation intended to prevent over-prescribing personally.

The fact remains that firearm related deaths can be reduced by sensible legislation; that sanctuaries are for people, not inanimate objects, and that the courts of New York have held that nothing in the SAFE Act is in conflict with the Second Amendment.

It does not impede target practice or traditional hunting. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is. If you don’t like it you could try to overturn it by legal means – Adrian Kuzminski, in a recent piece in this paper, offers the model of appeals to the principle of “Home Rule” – but as a state law it does surely confer an obligation for enforcement, both on the part of county board members and the police, as it stands.

And you don’t need assault weapons – which were not even conceived of by the framers of the Second Amendment – to hunt, target shoot, or protect yourself in your own home. It’s fine that Mr. Brashear and his friends and family wouldn’t want to be around people who don’t respect their firearms, but it should also be a legal obligation to register them, keep them safely away from children and adolescents, and take full responsibility for their use and transfer, which obviously isn’t happening now. What are the objections to that?

MARY ANNE WHELAN, MD
Cooperstown

STAMMEL: After Vacancy Rift, Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding
LETTER from ANDREW STAMMEL

After Vacancy Rift,

Bi-Partisan Trust Needs Rebuilding

To the Editor:

The run of bi-partisanship on the county Board of Representatives has been interrupted by the Republican caucus’ recent efforts to steamroll through a replacement for Representative Oberacker.

During my two and a half terms on the county board, cooperation between parties has ebbed and flowed. Since the 2017 election it has been split 7-7 between Democrats and Republican-affiliated members.

Thankfully, a bi-partisan governing coalition and leadership team was ascendant and the board increased its productivity and collegiality. There was an understanding that it was in the county’s interest for the party caucuses to work with each other. Representative Bliss has been selected as chair three years running, in votes that relied on support from both parties.

Some cracks began to show in January 2020 as the leadership team became fully Republican after two years of shared leadership with a chair and vice chair from different parties. But cooperation mostly continued until this month.

With Representative Oberacker’s recent election to state Senate, he is set to take office in January 2021. This will create a vacancy in his county district because his board term runs through December 2021.

The board’s Rules of Order and local law clearly outline how to fill vacancy, within 30 days and with nominees submitted by both major parties, to be voted on by the Administration Committee and then the full board.

Unfortunately the Republican caucus apparently coordinated to prevent Democratic input into this process, rejecting bi-partisanship.

Representative Oberacker inexplicably submitted his resignation letter a month and a half prior to commencing his new position, unexpectedly vacating the board prior to important votes on the annual budget and other matters.

His resignation letter was dated Nov. 13 to take effect the 16th; but it was not received by the board clerk until Nov. 17 (according to the date stamp). The clerk did not share the resignation with the Board members until the 18th, a day after the local Republican Committee met to nominate a replacement.

Upon receipt of the resignation letter, the Democratic board members inquired with board leadership about the process for moving forward and how the Democratic Committee could submit a name (the committee had a regular meeting scheduled for the 19th).

These inquiries were ignored by leadership, and the Administration Committee voted on the morning of the 19th, along party lines, to approve the Republican nominee.

Does this sound like collegial bi-partisanship? It sounds like a fishy partisan power move to me, contrary to the letter and spirit of county law.

The county board now has seven Democratic members, six Republican-affiliated members, and one vacancy. Democrats have a plurality in weighted voting on the board but neither party has a majority. Bi-partisan cooperation will be required to move forward on any items, including the filling of this vacancy.

It had been my expectation that the board would fill the vacancy as I believed that to be in the county’s best interest. I also expected that the board would choose a Republican, as this is historically a conservative district.

But now I ask myself what the Republican plurality would do if the shoe were on the other foot. Would they keep open a vacancy in a traditionally Democratic district and press their advantage to maintain their plurality and greater control over the Board?

If you had asked me a year ago, I would opine that the Republicans would probably do the right thing and fill the vacancy. Today, after their latest maneuvers, I’m not sure.

The success of our county and board depends on restoring bi-partisan respect. With the county still fighting a pandemic and dealing with a likely double-dip recession, we need a high-functioning and fully staffed board.

Although the timing of the filling of this vacancy is unknown, I do not plan to keep the position vacant for over a year and I expect some of my Democratic colleagues feel similarly. But we also need the GOP caucus to work to rebuild bridges and trust.

Like any relationship, this one requires work and good faith on both sides. I hope the holidays and New Year allow my Republican colleagues to reflect on their recent actions and consider how they can contribute to restoring trust and collegiality.

ANDREW STAMMEL
County Representative
District 4, Town of Oneonta

KUZMINSKI: SAFE Foes, Pay For Challenge
LETTER from ANTOINETTE KUZMINSKI M.D.

SAFE Foes, Pay For Challenge

To the Editor:

If gun enthusiasts wish to challenge the constitutionality of New York State gun laws, the ensuing court cases should be done on their own dollar.

This will end up in the taxpayers’ lap if the county Board of Representatives agrees to a “gun sanctuary.”

For the county board to take on this role would be financially highly irresponsible, especially in light of the budgetary constraints which just forced layoffs of 58 employees.

ANTOINETTE KUZMINSKI M.D.
Fly Creek

GROFF: And Of An Era: The Groff Era
LETTER from JERRY GROFF

And Of An Era: The Groff Era

The latest Groff family photo includes dad Jerry (at the back); best-selling novelist Lauren (second row, third from left); mom Jeannine (next to Lauren); physician son Adam (second row, right), and Olympic tri-athlete Sarah Groff True, (lower left).

Editor’s Note: This a letter of appreciation to the communities from Dr. Jerry Groff, who recently retired after decades among the hospital’s leadership.

Today is Thanksgiving 2020. The historic challenges and losses in the past year remind us to take extra time to give thanks for the things that have been good in our lives.

I completed my 37-year career at Bassett in October, and with that came the final move from Cooperstown to be close to family in New England. In 1977, when we arrived in town, Adam was a 1-year- old toddler, Lauren was born at Bassett Hospital the next year, and Sarah was small when we returned in 1986.

The Cooperstown community of friends became our extended family. Jeannine and I will always be grateful for your warmth and caring.

Bassett Hospital has been my professional home and I still believe in its mission. Since the usual farewells were not possible, let me say that among the great privileges of my career are the trust of my patients and the dedication of my colleagues.

It is my sincere hope that the tradition of Bassett continues into the future.

The Groff family will visit Cooperstown whenever we can (speaking of which, who has housing for Hall of Fame weekend?!). When we do come back, it will surely feel as though we never left.

Thank you.

JERRY GROFF

TALLMAN: CFD Foregoes Donations In Pandemic
LETTER from JIM TALLMAN

CFD Foregoes

Donations In Pandemic

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Cooperstown Fire Department, I would like to let you know we will not be doing our annual Equipment Fund Drive this year. Due to COVID-19 and the economic impact it has had on us all we feel that we should forgo asking for donations.

Through your generous past donations we have been able to purchase the most necessary equipment we needed to replace. Although the prices of goods continue to skyrocket during this pandemic time, we felt this was the right decision to make.

We thank you for your past donations and, of course, the department will continue to gratefully accept donations if your circumstances permit.

JIM TALLMAN, Chief
Cooperstown Fire Department
(Editor’s Note: Regardless, donations may be mailed to Cooperstown Fire Dept., P.O. Box 1, Cooperstown NY 13326)

He Fired Them; Fire Him

LETTER from KENNETH J. KAVANAGH

He Fired Them; Fire Him

To the Editor:

The list never ends.

General John Kelly (former Chief of Staff), General Jim Mattis (former Secretary of Defense), Rex Tillerson (former Secretary of State), Richard Spencer (former Secretary of the Navy), John Bolton
(former National Security Adviser) and on and one.

The common denominator through them all is “former.” They were ALL wrong and summarily in time dismissed. In each and every case, Trump was always right. After all, when is he ever wrong?

His selections of incredibly able people to his cabinet, followed by his summary firings, underscore the futility with which he has governed this country for the last four years. Sadly there is no room
whatsoever for disagreement even to the extent of a difference of opinion. It is the king’s way or else.

But, in point of fact, the emperor definitely has no clothes, nor the common sense to engage the expertise of advisers who know far more than he ever will. He chose them and dismissed them.

Now it’s our turn to dismiss him. Vote!!

KENNETH J. KAVANAGH
Cooperstown

County Reps Take Oath To Uphold State’s Laws

LETTER from MARY ANNE WHELAN

County Reps Take Oath

To Uphold State’s Laws

To the Editor:

Considerable attention is being paid to the anticipated request by county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-West Laurens, that the county board adopt a resolution declaring our county a “gun sanctuary,” by which is meant a declaration that the police need not enforce the state’s SAFE Act.

This is, to begin with, an inappropriate request. As a county representative, Brockway took a signed and sworn oath to support the laws of the State of New York. If he can’t do that he should resign.

Undermining law enforcement by supporting a declaration of “no need to enforce” a law is disrespectful to the state Constitution, to law enforcement and to the citizens law enforcement protects.

The argument that the SAFE Act violates the Constitution is not valid.

It has repeatedly been upheld in the state courts, and for that reason has never reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in turn, upholds the right of individuals to bear arms and also the right of states to regulate them.

It is not an open-ended invitation for anyone, anywhere, in any state of mind, to possess any kind of
firearm they choose to have and do with it whatever they want. Sadly, responsible gun ownership is not
universal and cannot be left to individual decision-making.

People leave guns where children can play with them, disaffected teenagers can readily get their hands on them and shoot schoolmates, and mentally impaired persons can band together under some catchword messages about liberty and justify their violent impulses.

Here in Cooperstown, there have been two school shootings; and in Richfield, grandparents shot to death by their grandson. Their parents should have known better than to leave guns around. They should not have been able to buy them, on their own, or to get someone else to buy them for them.
Liberty – in the sense of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – is, in fact, more often violated by firearms than by any other cause.

Twenty-five children a WEEK are killed by firearms. More are injured.

They are a favored instrument of domestic violence and abuse, and of suicide and murder-suicide. What
happened to these lives, liberties and the pursuit of their happiness?

I have had two friends shot to death when they cheerfully answered their door on a Sunday morning.

They were expecting piano movers. Instead, a grudge-bearing psychopath who never should have had a gun killed them. Is it a civil right to be able to answer your door without defensively carrying
a weapon against the chance of such an event? Where were my dead friends’ civil rights?

America is a gun culture. Our history glorifies it. Our children grow up buying into it. As a pediatric neurologist I saw, in one afternoon, three unrelated children – boys 4 years 3 months, 4 years 3 months, and 4 years 6 months of age – because their mothers were afraid of them. One of them said, “Dr. Whelan, he says he’s going to get a gun and shoot me and I’m afraid of him.”

I asked if there were a gun in the house. “Yes, but it’s in our bedroom, and he knows he’s not supposed to go in there.” Oh, fine.

Teaching school in Africa in 1961, the first question asked in my class was from an 8-year-old boy:

“Where do people in America keep their guns?”

Most people who object to the SAFE Act probably haven’t read it. They probably can’t tell you what the First and Third Amendments are either, because, really, they don’t care about the Constitution: they just want their guns.

Look: Nothing in the SAFE Act prohibits hunting, as some like to claim. It puts some background checks for criminality and mental illness in place for sales (there should be more). It bans assault weapons, including semi-automatics, unless “grandfathered” in and registered, and it bans loading more than 10 rounds at a time.

It requires reporting if guns are lost or stolen. If you share a household with someone convicted of a felony or domestic violence, you are supposed to keep guns in a safe place. (Something that should be extended to households with children also).

None of these provisions are unconstitutional. Which of them offends you?

Putting it about that Democratic candidates want to “take your guns away” is known by those who say it to be untrue: it is said anyway, which makes it dishonest.

Claiming, as the NRA does, that the answer to guns is more guns, is just factually incorrect. Insured claims for firearm-related injuries actually go down during NRA conventions – these are multi-day events in which thousands of gun enthusiasts, and their guns, are effectively taken off the streets. So it’s safer out there!

Stop waving the flag around.

It’s not your flag: it’s ours. I grew up with guns. We had a shooting range in our basement. I was a pretty good shot. But I consider it my civil right not to live in place where law enforcement is flouted and reasonable legislation denigrated in the name of the Constitution. The second and third words of the Second Amendment are: WELL REGULATED.

MARY ANNE WHELAN, M.D.
Cooperstown

Sam Goodyear Plans Tribute To Chuck Schneider Saturday
LETTER from SAM GOODYEAR

Sam Goodyear Plans Tribute

To Chuck Schneider Saturday

To the Editor:

Along with countless members of our community, I was saddened to read of Chuck Schneider’s death. It stirred multiple memories, as I had the privilege of singing in several Glimmerglass operas and Orpheus Theatre musicals under his direction.

In every instance, seeing him in the pit made me feel safe and secure.

I felt that he was not only keeping his eye on the production as a whole, but me personally.

And then there were all those memorable Catskill Symphony Orchestra concerts. I remember
seeing whole families in attendance, parents and children, and thinking what a rich experience was being provided among us.

Working so hard under considerable pressure to navigate highly complex waters cannot have been easy, yet I never once, not one single time, saw Chuck lose his considerable cool. Always calm, always patient, always cordial, he maintained his cheerful and generous nature for the benefit of art.

From 1 to 5 Saturday afternoons, I host a classical music program called “Play It Again, Sam,” on WSKG Public Radio. It can be heard at 105.9 FM in Otsego County, and is streamed live on the internet at wskg.org (click Listen Live-WSKG Classical).

I will devote the 4 o’clock hour this coming Saturday, Oct. 24, in tribute to our maestro in thanks for the
inestimable pleasure and enrichment he brought to us all.

SAM GOODYEAR
Binghamton

County Reps Take Oath To Protect Constitution
LETTER from GARRETT deBLIECK

County Reps Take Oath

To Protect Constitution

To the Editor:

It serves as a necessary reminder to some that America is a representative republic based on Constitutional law. This is exampled by the requirement that every elected official must swear an oath to “support” or “protect” the Constitution of the United States before taking the seat that he/she was elected for.

As such, the Otsego County Board of Representatives is by no means an exception. It has even been brought to my attention that some representatives chose to substitute the Bible with the Constitution itself. To these individuals, one would expect an ever-more committed reverence to uphold and support the Constitution to which our American Republic is based.

It should come as no surprise that the Bill of Rights is an intrinsic part of American law. When an oath is violated, it is called perjury.

As I have stated before, our organization, Otsego 2AS, does not stand upon a partisan platform but, rather, a Constitutional one. Either one embraces the Constitution, or one does not. Thus, either the county representatives will embrace their oath, or they will perjure. It is just that simple.

The oath is no trivial matter.

In essence, it is what separates our republic from behaving as an unscrupulous banana republic, where whatever the powerful desire is what is pursued. It is the sworn duty of the elected officeholder to render themselves restrained and accountable to such oath made. In this case, the oath is to support the Constitution. Therefore, transgressing the Constitution clearly violates this oath.

As Chief Justice Marshall stated in Marbury vs. Madison (1803): “A law repugnant to the Constitution is void; and that courts, as well as other departments are bound to that Instrument.”

The 2AS Resolution embraces this ruling as a necessary step to reverse the course of Constitutional infringements. It is with profound satisfaction that Otsego county board does harbor fighters for freedom in standing upon their sworn oath.

In saying this, I cannot see anyone more qualified for state Senate than Peter Oberacker. It is never an understatement to say that doing the right thing is never easy. Likewise, I commend many sitting in our county board who truly desire to uphold their sworn oaths of office.

Yet the 2AS movement would never have been necessary had the New York State government not embarked upon the unconstitutional path of perpetual firearm infringements. It is to this where
fighters for freedom must endeavor to straighten a lost government back to its sworn principles.

I have no doubt that Peter Oberacker will continue this restoration of a current state banana republic back to its Constitutional basis.

GARRETT deBLIECK
Unadilla

PIETRAFACE: No SUNY Campus Mandated Tests

LETTER from WILLIAM PIETRAFACE

No SUNY Campus

Mandated Tests

To the Editor:

As a retired SUNY Oneonta professor of biology, I have been following the local and national coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak on the campus. Here are some thoughts on the coverage.

SUNY Oneonta’s planning for reopening for the fall semester began in April with widespread input from all stakeholders on campus. The Local Control Group, which includes representation from the City of

Oneonta and the Otsego County Department of Public Health, also provided input.

At this time there were many questions about COVID-19 testing, including who should be tested, availability of tests, cost of testing, and reliability of testing procedures.

The draft plan for the fall 2020 semester, which did include a statement saying that prior to returning “students must attest to having no COVID-19 symptoms and no known infection” but no mandatory testing, was submitted on June 1 and subsequently approved by SUNY, the state Department of Health, and the State of New York in July.

Sixty other SUNY campuses also had their plans approved requiring no mandatory testing.

As students began returning to colleges and universities around the country, we began to hear of COVID-19 outbreaks on their campuses. Since the coronavirus does not discriminate, all types of schools were affected including public and private, big and small, elite and non-elite.

As the semester began here for SUNY Oneonta, a small group of students, making up less than 1 percent of the SUNY Oneonta student population, held an outdoor gathering off campus.

This led to 672 positive COVID-19 cases since Aug. 24, the disruption of campus life for over 7,000 students, faculty, and staff, and untold loss of revenue for the businesses and restaurants in the City and Town of Oneonta.

One possibility for the rapid spread of infections among this student population, and in other rapid epidemiological events around the country, could be that the coronavirus mutated into a new strain. Epidemiologists are now looking into just such a possibility.

Fortunately, there has been no community spread as reported by the county Department
of Public Health and no deaths. Unfortunately, the reputation and credibility of SUNY Oneonta and its administration has been called into question.

SUNY Oneonta has faced many challenges since its beginnings in 1889 as a State Normal School. I am confident that going forward the college will continue to maintain the quality of education and student life that SUNY Oneonta has become known for.

SUNY Oneonta merits strong support as it faces this newest challenge.

WILLIAM J
PIETRAFACE, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Biology
SUNY Oneonta
Oneonta

STAMMEL: Don’t Walk Away From Education

LETTER from ANDREW STAMMEL

We Shouldn’t Walk Away

From Educational System

To the Editor:

The prosperity of Oneonta is inextricably intertwined with the success of its colleges. The fact that SUNY Oneonta’s reopening did not succeed as planned and hoped is a tragedy for our community in a year that challenges us all.

The shutdown is devas-tating for our students who have looked forward to their college experience; heartbreaking for the 1,000 SUNY employees who have worked since March to keep our students safe and provide a semblance of a college experience; frightening for our local business-owners; disappointing for residents who appreciate the vitality students bring; and challenging to taxpayers whose governments have just lost a large source of non-local revenue.

Some anxious residents have opined that with the sacrifices we have all made this year to keep the virus at bay, any increase in population density was unacceptable, be it from tourists, weekenders, or students.

I have elderly and vulnerable friends and family locally and can understand and empathize with this perspective.

The good news is that at this early stage, the outbreak appears to have been contained to students, due to the quick and decisive actions of SUNY, the rapid deployment of state resources, cooperation of community members, and ongoing heroics of our underfunded County Department of Health. Out of hundreds tested, no employees have tested positive and there’s no evidence of community spread yet.

While SUNY Oneonta began the school year with 97 percent of classes online, it joined the majority of colleges across the country in developing a hybrid plan that would allow for some level of in-person experience. This reflects a very American “can-do” attitude that with science and problem-solving, we can engineer our way around unprecedented challenges.

“Monday morning quarterbacking” is also an American pastime and the failure of the reopening has led to a misguided and gratuitous blame game by some local politicians and media (not this paper, to my knowledge). Kudos to those elected officials, administrators, and others who have maintained a positive forward-looking attitude, looking for collaborative solutions to protect folks and rebuild trust and relationships between the college and community.

In my conversations with contacts at several colleges, it’s clear to me that SUNY’s planning began earlier and was at least as collaborative, thorough and transparent as other institutions. From March – July, planning efforts invited input from all members of the college community and resulted in hundreds of pages of draft and final planning documents.

A proposed plan was submitted to and approved by the state and has been posted on the college web page for about two months. If your elected official is now one of the furious finger-pointers, ask them how they proactively contributed to crafting a safe reopening plan over the past six months or if they waited to retroactively criticize.

Any successful reopening will rely on three elements. Yes, a good plan must proactively be crafted (and no plan is perfect). Second, there needs to be widespread compliance with the plan and adherence to social distancing by students and employees. Finally, there is an element of luck or God’s will, whichever your persuasion.

Was an infected person a biological “super-spreader”? Did the wind or humidity contribute to spread on a given day? Did a bystander witness a party and report it to authorities in time? While humans like to believe our plans dictate results, much will be out of our control.

Every local college has had some level of outbreak already. This year may prove that for demographic and situational reasons, a residential college experience during a pandemic is unlikely to succeed.

Experience has shown the largest outbreaks are occurring in residential settings (nursing homes, jails, military, summer camps, sports teams, and colleges). Additionally, young people across the country have proved to be the least like to adhere to social distancing.

Despite the risks, does it mean we should not at least try to reopen our educational system? That is a question for every school and community. As K-12 schools across our area consider various reopening scenarios, I urge them to learn from our lessons. Be clear-eyed and accept that we are in a global pandemic and the virus is seeded throughout our area and outbreaks will occur as social distancing is lessened. Craft your outbreak prevention and response plans with care and humility. And finally, have the wisdom and strength to acknowledge when a situation has escalated beyond your control and shut it down, accordingly.

We all mourn the loss of normalcy this year and hope for a swift return to our old lives. Until that time, the best way to protect your loved ones and community is to wear masks, social distance, and practice good hygiene.

ANDREW STAMMEL
Town of Oneonta
County Representative: District 4
Town of Oneonta
Stammel, SUNY Oneonta
Title IX coordinator, said he submitted this letter from the perspective of
an elected official and private citizen,
not as a SUNY spokesman.

KAVANAGH: Good News? The Truth Will Do

LETTER from KENNETH KAVANAGH

Good News? The Truth Will Do

To the Editor:

Consider this hypothetical.

You go to your doctor. You have stomach pains that linger and simply won’t go way. After examination he tells you not to worry, you’ll be fine.

The pain continues and weeks later you get a second opinion. This time it’s not couched with “good news.”

How would you feel about that? Your regular physician did not want to cause any upset. The physician offering the second opinion wanted only to be frank and candid, thereby making a plan to initiate toward recovery.

I believe we all know the answer. Trump did not want to “scare us.” Really? Was it us or his beloved stock market that he wanted to calm and pacify.

He doesn’t want to scare anyone, yet he has no reluctance whatsoever in telling tall tales of tanks coming down Main Street, stock market crashes and rampant crime.

The hypocrisy is just overwhelming!

KENNETH J. KAVANAGH
Cooperstown

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