HOPSEGO – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Family friendly festival featuring activities, fun, games, opportunities to learn local history and craft brewing. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1450 or visit www.farmersmuseum.org/Hopsego
Judges generally are loath to get involved in situations that should be resolved through the political process. But once in a while their hand is forced.
Such seems to be the case shaping up in the now years-long standoff between Oneonta City Hall and the Town of Oneonta Board of Fire Commissioners over what the town should pay to be covered by professional firefighters in the city’s Oneonta Fire Department.
In December 2016, with the city-Fire District contract expiring, the dispute ended up in state Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma’s Cooperstown courtroom.
Unable to broker an agreement, Coccoma imposed a two-year contract, with the Town Fire District paying $1.1 million a year for the OFD’s services.
He also instructed both sides to choose a mutually agreeable mediator to propose a fair outcome, and they settled on VFIS (Volunteer Firemen’s Insurance Service), based in York, Pa., the nation’s foremost arbiter of this kind of thing.
The resulting report allocated 64.2 percent of the cost of operating the OFD to city taxpayers, and 35.8 percent to Town Fire District ratepayers, which include the big boxes on Southside Oneonta (in the town).
The outcome, according to city Mayor Gary Herzig, was in the neighborhood of the $1.1 million Coccoma had already decided upon. City Hall accepted the report; the fire commissioners did not.
Since, much has happened, but the bottom line is: No progress.
As he’s said all along, Mayor Herzig says today he is agreeable to a settlement tomorrow.
The traditional formula has been roughly: The city pays two-thirds; the fire district pays one-third.
“We’re comfortable with that formula,” said Herzig, referring to the VFIS numbers. “The outcome is very similar to the formula that’s been used for the past 20 years. (The VFIS formula) is more complicated. The bottom line is not very different.”
Because the fire commissioners’ leadership stopped calling back, he continued, City Hall has stopped trying.
“We’ve said now for months and months, our door is open. We’re willing to sit down and negotiate at any time. The response we get is: ‘We will not negotiate with you. What you’re doing, it’s illegal.’ I have no idea what they mean.”
The new fire commissioners, Al Rubin and Michelle Catan, thought they had found a solution in appealing to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to audit the situation and recommend a solution. But it seems that DiNapoli, sensibly, was reluctant to allocate resources to a local situation with no statewide implications.
Rubin believed including OFD’s ambulance service revenues – due to insurance payments, EMS runs at a profit – would open the door to a deal. But Herzig said the revenues are part of the $4 million OFD budget – there’s no secret pot of money to be discovered. If you push in here, it comes out there.
In the end, it’s hard to escape the arithmetic: one-third to the Fire District, two-thirds to City Hall.
Which brings us back to where we started.
The judge directed the parties to bring in a mediator. That was done. A formula was recommended by the foremost experts. Still, the deadlock continues.
At the end of this year, five months from now, Judge Coccoma’s order expires. If he fails to extend it, most of the Town of Oneonta (minus that covered by the West Oneonta volunteers) will be without protection.
At one point, the commissioners said they would start their own department; that seems impractical. Otsego County’s impressive local volunteer departments have built expertise over decades, even generations. You can’t just snap your fingers and duplicate that.
The other option would be to contract with a volunteer department. But volunteers, trained as they may be, are mostly working fulltime jobs, some out of the area. Can they be expected to stand ready, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for another Christopher’s inferno along Otsego County’s foremost commercial strip?
The VFIS report – you can Google it at www.allotsego.com – reports the Insurance Services Office rated the OFD service are 2/2Y, put it among the top 3 percent best in the nation. Businesses in the Fire District (and city) are seeing low insurance rates as a result.
Judge Coccoma was right to impose a two-year settlement; the alternative was an unacceptable threat to public safety. Not to pre-judge the judge, but what option does he have if the fire commissioners and city officials appear before him again at year’s end?
We’re all adults here. Life is compromises. The fire commissioners have no option but to make the best deal – somewhere in the vicinity of one-third vs. two-thirds – and move on.
Congratulations on winning the Democratic nomination for Congress in New York’s 19th Congressional District.
You’ve got a tough fight ahead against a smooth and wily opponent. I’m one of many who would like to see Representative John Faso defeated. He is a bought and paid for ex-lobbyist with big hardcore far right support.
The Mercer family, investors in Breitbart News and supporters of Steve Bannon, gave a half-million dollars to the pro-Faso PAC “New York Wins” in the last election, helping put him over the top.
All told, the Mercers spent over $25 million in 2016 supporting far-right candidates PACs, and organizations across the country, including New York State. Their agenda of radical privatization requires the destruction of public institutions and entitlement programs. That means lowering the standard of living for most people while concentrating wealth in fewer and fewer hands.
The Mercers are the .001 percent, and Faso is the guy they’ve hired to represent us in the 19th CD in
All that ought to be a slam-dunk for the Democrats, but not unless they act on it. This is an opportunity for you, Mr. Delgado, to take up the challenge. Faso needs to be called out on his right-wing, pro-corporate, anti-people agenda.
The Democratic leadership unfortunately has enabled, even embraced, much of that agenda. Beginning with the Clinton years, they abandoned labor unions and sided with corporations, supporting trade agreements that outsourced jobs, and tax breaks that favored corporate development over public service.
They continue “to talk the talk” about fighting for their constituents, but they no longer “walk the walk.”
You and the Democrats aren’t going to win this election by supporting a status quo that is working for fewer and fewer people. Defending the status quo is Faso’s job, not yours. You need to challenge the system, not claim that you can work it better than he can, or that it’s not so bad.
You have to show voters that Faso is the local agent responsible for people’s growing insecurity.
You need to expose the sham property-tax reduction he tried to pawn off on voters by gutting local healthcare funding. You need to alert voters to his duplicity in
voting to repeal Obamacare, after promising otherwise – something he’s likely to do on Social Security and other entitlements.
You need to remind voters of his support for deregulating Wall Street and destabilizing the economy.
And then there’s Trump. He’s a demagogue who’s been left free to exploit the insecurities and fears of the people whom the Democrats have left behind, and Faso seems 100-percent behind that.
Trump and Faso’s agenda is the same as the Mercers’: Privatize everything in sight.
You’ve got to do what other Democrats haven’t done. They have not attacked the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, the culprits blocking the kind of universal, affordable healthcare enjoyed by citizens of almost all other developed countries.
They have not broken up monopolistic corporations, whether it’s Amazon, the Wall Street banks, Google, or Walmart, which collectively have killed off small business, the backbone of the economy.
The Democratic leadership has not fought to reduce military spending, which is funding immoral wars abroad and bankrupting our government, while sucking up tax money that should go to social services and infrastructure.
They have done little to get us off fossil fuels and onto renewables, allowing for the acceleration of greenhouse gases and the destabilization of theclimate.
And they have completely failed to get money out of politics, leaving us stuck with a corrupt, pay-to-play system, for which Faso could be the poster boy.
You don’t want to be part of those failed strategies.
If you fudge on these issues, you’ll lose; if you face up
to them, you have a chance to win.
But there’s an even bigger challenge. There’s little doubt that the benefits of American imperialism since World War II have run their course. Globalization led by unrestrained corporate power is no longer a tide that lifts all boats. It only lifts the yachts.
We can no longer economically dominate Europe and Asia, nor can we afford our massive global military machine.
Those days are over.
If globalization has a future, and I hope it does, it has to be more inclusive economically. In the meantime, America must figure out its own identity in a new, multi-polar world.
Now is the time to put our own house in order, and rethink what we’re doing. We need a new definition of American Exceptionalism, one that rejects racism, bigotry and narcissism in the name of a common understanding of the deepest American principles: democratic accountability, Constitutional rule, economic justice, and the greatest possible liberty that’s consistent with mutual respect.
Then we can redefine our place in the world. The Republicans aren’t going to do that, but you might. It could be our last chance.
Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.
MUSIC AT THE MANSION – 6:30-8 p.m. Free event features open mic for solo and small ensemble musicians followed by an intermission and then a featured performance. Community Arts Network of Oneonta, Wilber Mansion, 11 Ford Ave., Oneonta. Info, www.canoneonta.org/calendar/
HISTORY PROGRAM – 6:30 p.m. Dr. John Davis, retired physician & hospital historian, presents on Dr. M.I. Bassett & The History of Bassett Hospital. Kinney Memorial Library, Cty. Hwy. 11, Hartwick. Info, www.facebook.com/OtsegoIsHistory/ , Deb Mackenzie, (607) 293-6635, Harriett Geywits, (315) 858-2575.
HISTORY PRESENTATION – 6:30 p.m. Tom Heitz opens history season with some stories from WWI about shell shocked aviators recovering at Bassett Hospital and the good-natured hijinks they got into with the Cooperstown community. Event is free and open to all. Includes light refreshments. Kinney Memorial Library, Co. Rt. 11, Hartwick. Info, Deb Mackenzie, President Otsego County Historical Association, (607)293-6635
ART RECEPTION – 5-7 p.m. Opening of “Off Your Walls: A Tribute to Lisa Rodewald” and “The Fabric of Life: Textiles From
Around the World” art exhibits. Cooperstown Art Associeation. Info, www.cooperstownart.com