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News of Otsego County

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SIMPSON: Series could do more to review racial issues

LETTER from JOSH SIMPSON

Series could do more
to review racial issues

Our community is fortunate to have the Friends of the Village Library to organize important conversations and events like the “Looking in the Mirror” program. I have attended a few of the series including racism in education and in healthcare and had come to expect a decent program when tuning in.

On Feb. 10, I listened to The Cooperstown Reflects on Racism and Law Enforcement Series with my wife hoping for an invigorating and forward-thinking conversation.

The event had the express goals of:
1) Examine the impact of racism on our community and institutions;
2) Learn how to confront bias and inequities locally;
3) Identify actions that individuals, groups, and the community can take to address racism and create a more equitable Cooperstown.

The speakers during their presentations and the Q&A did not address, examine or achieve any of these goals. I have spent the last four months thinking about this event and pondering what can be done to jumpstart the difficult discussion that works to foster the growth and honest conversation needed if we are to address the goals of the series.

Charlotte Perry Koniuto, 80 Sept. 29, 1940 – Jun. 13, 2021

In Memoriam

Charlotte Perry Koniuto, 80

Sept. 29, 1940 – Jun. 13, 2021

MILFORD – Charlotte Perry Koniuto, who served as the Otsego County Clerk and was an active member of the Republican Party, passed away unexpectedly late Sunday night, June 13, 2021, at Basset Medical Center in Cooperstown. She was 80.

Born Charlotte Jean Perry September 29, 1940, at home in the Town of Minden near Canajoharie, she was a daughter of Melvin David Perry, Sr. and Dorothy (Madison) Perry.

In 1950 Charlotte and her family moved to the Cooperstown area, where she attended a one-room schoolhouse in Bowerstown until it consolidated with Cooperstown Central School. After graduating from Cooperstown High School with the Class of 1958, she attended the University at Buffalo, and then returned to Cooperstown to work for the next seven years for Attorney Robert C. Tennant.

BUTTERMANN: Reform Marijuana laws on principles, not politics

LETTER from DAN BUTTERMANN

Reform Marijuana laws
on principles, not politics

To the Editor:

New York is now the 17th state in the union to legalize marijuana. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA, Senate Bill S854A; Assembly Bill A1248) passed with only Democratic
votes – no Republicans voted for it.

The Republicans claim their opposition was because the bill was badly written, and that it will serve as a kind of gateway for marijuana into our state. Marijuana is already here, and is not
going anywhere. According to the Washington Post, 55 million Americans have used marijuana at least once in the last year, and a Pew Research Center Poll found that 67% of Americans favor legalization.

Before moving on though, you should know that I have never tried marijuana and do not plan to now – legal or not. My comments going forward are about the policy and politics related to this legislation.

The Republican conference insists they vote independently, and that Democrats vote in lock step with party leadership. Not true. For this bill, three Democratic Senators and six Assembly Members voted against it. Despite this vote tally, is the push to legalize marijuana really just a Democrat initiative? No. Have Republicans led on this issue? Yes!

Montana just passed a legalization bill too, and their legislature is dominated by Republicans. I suspect our state matches national sentiments, and most New Yorkers favored the change, including Republicans and elected Republican representatives. The problem facing Republican legislators is that they are in the minority and do not get credit like the majority does. If the balance was flipped in New York, I bet Republicans would have led the passage of the MRTA. Public support would have been on their side too. The legislation acts upon the opinion shared by most New Yorkers that a legal framework to regulate and control marijuana is the right way forward. This is not a money grab by the government. The estimated tax revenue will amount to about .001% of the total budget – not a noticeable impact, but there will be a noticeable impact on our state’s ability to prevent access to it. Yes – legalization can help control distribution by using the revenues to support programs that keep it away from minors. I definitely want that to happen.

The Republican vote on this legislation was more a vote opposing the majority than a vote on the bill itself. It is unfortunate that they viewed the bill in this way. Progress is not bound to a party. Progress is bound to the ideas that make our society better, and those that make them happen. Our state still needs more change to bring families and businesses back, especially to Central New York. Next time, let’s hope members from both parties will view proposed legislation on merit and not on party politics.

Dan Buttermann
Oneonta

BECKER: Republic Under Challenge; Signals Are All Around Us
LETTER from BRUCE BECKER

Republic Under Challenge;

Signals Are All Around Us

To the Editor:

When millions of Americans understand that the past two elections (presidential and Georgia Senate run-off) were taken (not won) by a party that wants to control us no matter what it takes, it’s scary.

The outcome of the presidential election was planned for a long time. Add to this that this party is financially supported by powerful globalists working toward a one world system and not a strong independent USA, that up to now, has been the gatekeeper for much of the World. Now it gets scarier.

Can this movement be reversed? It is going to take a tremendous shift of voting to the Republican candidates, because close outcomes will just get taken again.

There has been a trend from the ’60s that has changed many voters’ views, which has brought us here.

First, we have taken religion out of the schools, plus put it on the back burner everywhere else possible.

Second, we no longer teach our youths the fundamentals/principles this country was founded on, which brought and preserved the freedom we have been blessed with.

Third, most of our media has moved to the left, so many voters only work with what they are giving us, which has gotten just as corrupt as the D.C. swamp.

Fourth, our Judiciary system has been pushed further and further to the left. It’s amazing what our courts look the other way on now.

Americans love our country and must realize to save our great country we have a big challenge ahead. Currently we have one party controlling us that over time have become secured by outside forces.

I believe our great Lord has watched us waiver from him and he is sending us a signal. Either we recognize his warning and change our ways, or our country will be taken. We have a fight on our hands just like the founders of this country did with the British.

BRUCE BECKER
South New Berlin

Campaigns Off To Fast Start In ’21

Campaigns Off To Fast Start In ’21

Revised Calendar Requires
6-Month Campaign Season

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

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
six months.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Dr. Seuss Joins Mr. Potato Head
FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Dr. Seuss Joins Mr. Potato Head

If you haven’t heard, Dr. Seuss is being canceled.

The same boneheads who claim that the “mister” in Mr. Potato Head is overly “exclusive,” that Aunt Jemima syrup encouraged racial stereotyping, that math is a vestige of White supremacy and that gender reveal parties are “transphobic,” want you to find racism in the pages of “Hop on Pop.”

This is absurd, of course, and makes Democrats who applaud such virtue signaling look stupid. But the urge to condemn people who challenge the woke mob and cancel every icon of American life – the founders of our nation, the historical monuments that adorn our cities, the books we grew up reading – has reached a tipping point.

Even the famously left-wing Bill Maher is calling for an end to the excess, telling his TV audience, “Cancel culture is real, it’s insane and it’s growing exponentially.”

LIZ PEEK,
Fox News

Herzig To Retire

Herzig To Retire

Despite COVID-19, Much Let To Do,
Mayor’s Decision Firm: It’s Time To Go

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

With would-be successors able to circulate petitions in the next few days, six-year Mayor Gary Herzig Tuesday, Feb. 23, announced what many expected and others anticipated with regret: He will retire when his term ends on Dec. 31, 2021.

“During the past six years, by working together, the people of Oneonta have achieved remarkable progress,” he said in a statement, “in developing new housing options, supporting our local businesses, and strengthening our infrastructure while continuously improving upon our high quality of life.

“Even an unprecedented pandemic was not able to slow us down,” he said.

He vowed to spend his final “10 months working harder than ever” on opportunities that “will certainly present themselves in the post-COVID world.”

The political community was prepared for the announcement, with Common Council member Luke Murphy, in charge of the Democratic campaign, saying he expects a candidate, perhaps a woman, will announce by the end of the week.

NORTHRUP: Impeachment Burnished At Least One Politician
LETTER from CHIP NORTHRUP

Impeachment Burnished At Least One Politician

To the Editor:

We saw something this week in the Impeachment trial that is a rarity – a politician who followed the law, not his party line.

The idea of being faithful to the law is the essence of the inscription at Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans held the line against the Persian army. Herotodus mentioned the plaque commemorating
the battle: “Go tell the Spartans that we 300, ever faithful to their laws, here died.”

They didn’t say ever faithful to a person, or to their party, but to their laws.

Senator Cassidy (R-La.) voted that the impeachment trial is indeed Constitutional (which it is) against the wishes of his party. He then heard the evidence and voted to convict Trump.

What Senator Cassidy did was courageous, because, like the Spartans, he was ever faithful, “Semper Fidelis” to the law. Not to a party, nor a leader, but to the law. Here’s to that. Go tell the Cajuns.

CHIP NORTHRUP
Cooperstown

County Board Split On How To React To Capitol Attack

‘False Equivalency’ Or Not?

County Board Split On How To React To Capitol Attack

Editor’s Note: For an hour at its monthly meeting, Wednesday, Feb. 3, the Otsego County Board of Representatives debated two resolutions: H, condemning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. And G, condemning both the attack on the Capitol and summer-long riots that followed George Floyd’s death.

RESOLUTION NO. G

RESOLUTION: CONDEMNING VIOLENCE IN THE UNITED STATES AND REAFFIRMING THE BOARD’S COMMITMENT TO THE RULE OF LAW, FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS, AND THE PEACEFUL TRANSFER OF POWER

Introduced by Republican Reps. Ed Frazier, Dan Wilber

Reps. Dan Wilber, left, and Ed Frazier.

WHEREAS, on January 6, 2021, pursuant to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, the House of Representatives, and the Senate met at the United States Capitol for a Joint Session of Congress to count the votes of the Electoral College; and

WHEREAS, the results of the 2020 election were lawfully certified by Republican and Democratic election administrators in all fifty states; affirmed in dozens of court cases; and formalized by the vote of the Electoral College; and

WHEREAS, thousands of individuals sought to and did, in fact, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts; and

In Troubled Times, Let’s Try ‘The Seward Way’
EDITORIAL

In Troubled Times, Let’s Try ‘The Seward Way’

State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Schenectady, right, sat next to “Gentleman Jim” Seward in the Senate chamber for decades, and praises his colleague’s levelheadedness along with a commitment to serve his Otsego County centered district.

In reflecting on Jim Seward’s tenure as our state senator, one vignette always comes to mind.

It was the fall of 2006, and Cherry Valley’s Pam Noonan, on a Sunday afternoon at her home on Montgomery Street, was hosting opponents of Reunion Power’s 24-turbine wind farm proposed for East Hill.

Senator Seward had been invited and, prior to his arrival, attendees expressed some vexation that the senator, with his interest in jobs and tax-base enhancement, would not support the opposition.

The senator arrived and, as he always does, listened intently to his constituents’ concerns, not exactly Sphinx-like, but without letting on too much about what he was hearing and thinking.

The outcome, a few weeks later, was Seward’s reaffirmation of support for the state’s “Home Rule” doctrine – whatever powers are NOT given to Albany in the state Constitution devolve to localities.

Influenced by that or not, the Town of Cherry Valley adopted strict guidelines governing windmills, and Reunion went away.

But the Home Rule concept moved to center stage: A few years later to the state Court of Appeals, which ruled the Town of Middlefield, using its zoning powers, could block Cooperstown Holstein’s fracking plans.

What observers learned at Pam Noonan’s that afternoon was this: Seward’s prime interest wasn’t in ideology or partisanship – it was in representing his constituents.

Over the years, many praiseful words about state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, have appeared in this space.

We are proud to say that, throughout the current ownership, we’ve had the honor of endorsing him for reelection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The central reason for this was, again, not partisanship or ideology, but because of Seward’s main focus: To serve the people of his 10-county Central New York state Senate District but, foremost, to serve its centerpiece: Otsego County, where he was born, raised, educated and built his political career.

Another word that comes to mind is “nurturing.” Jim Seward sought to nurture his constituents, to protect them, to enhance their opportunities for a better life, to solve their problems on the macro and micro level.

Jim was stricken with cancer in 2016. When it recurred in the fall of 2019, he – weakened by one disease – was stomach-punched last March by deadly COVID-19 and almost lost his life. Then, the people he would nurture for 34 years nurtured him in return.

At the time, the outpouring of support and love on social media and www.AllOTSEGO.com was specific and impressive. People spoke about what he’d done for them, and they praised him, offered support to him and his family – wife Cindy, son Ryan and daughter Lauren, and granddaughters Nora and Vivian – and prayed (effectively, you might argue) for his recovery.

There are many examples to follow in the dozens of tributes to the retiring senator that appear in this week’s newspaper. We can enjoy them. But we can also be guided by them. Thanks, senator.

Eileen Lishansky’s tribute is a favorite. Approaching Seward with a sticky issue, he picked up the phone and started setting it right. “From that day on, whenever my husband or I would meet him in the community he addressed us by name,” she wrote.

It’s that personal touch, which grew out of who he is. Several tribute writers note, he likes people. Or that he’s not an angry man, and that doesn’t have to win every fight: He’s willing to talk things through, to take the long view.

In return, people like him. If you’re ever seen him walk across a crowded room, it’s a miracle he ever gets to his next appointment: Every half-step, someone wants to shake his hand, make a plea or give him an attaboy.

One of the people who knew him best is former state Sen. Hugh Farley, a Republican from the Capital District, now retired to Port Richey, Fla. They sat side by side in the Senate chamber for decades, and Farley saw Seward in action. (Only John Marchi of Staten Island, who served 50 years, was in the Senate longer than Seward, Farley said.)

“He got along with people,” said the retired senator in an interview from his Florida home. “It makes for a much better situation if you don’t get personal in your partisanship. He was always a gentleman. I never heard him confront or insult anybody. I was very proud of him for that.”

As we bid Senator James L. Seward farewell from his current job – thankfully, he plans to stay active in a manner still to be revealed – the dozens of complimentary tributes that appear in this edition give us pause for rumination.

We’re in a period of intense partisanship, where we believe we’re right and the other guy is wrong – or worse, immoral. In reflecting on Jim Seward’s 36 years serving all of us, we realize it doesn’t have to be that way.

We can disagree without insulting. We can believe strongly, without demonizing the other. We can have a diverse country – diverse lifestyles, diverse culture, diverse thinking – by being who we are and accepting that others may be different. No sweat.

It can be done. Jim Seward’s life to date proves it.

LEMONIS: Treat All Writers With Respect
LETTER from ANITA LEMONIS

Treat All Writers With Respect

To the Editor:

As a former long-time resident of Otsego County, I still appreciate our community’s hospital workers, responsible gun owners and polite neighbors – even when we don’t always agree.

Unfortunately, these are things Rick Brockway doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate.

I was struck by the angry and personal tone in one of Brockway’s latest rants when he attacked long-serving public health providers, including Mary Ann Whelan, for recognizing that gun violence is a national health issue.

Brockway should realize that he only won his last election by 150 votes. Given the area is Republican leaning and that his family members are well-positioned in the area, this 150-vote win isn’t much to brag about.

Rather than spreading misinformation and inflaming the community he represents with buzz words (illegal immigrants, Nancy Pelosi), he should appreciate the hard work of the doctors, volunteers and members of the local League of Women’s Voters who care for our community.

I hope people remember his ingratitude at the next election.

ANITA LEMONIS
Vancouver, B.C.

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

Scrappy, Innovative GOP Chair

Resigns, Focuses on Consulting

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Vince Casale and wife (and fellow consultant) Lynn Krogh with a wall of memorabilia. (Jim Kevline/AllOTSEGO.com)

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.

Let’s Call It: ‘Profiles In Fairness’
EDITORIAL
3 Democrats Prove They Believe In Bipartisanship

Let’s Call It: ‘Profiles In Fairness’

Andrew Marietta

It’s a bit of a Christmas story, coming out of the Otsego County Board of Representatives, of all things.

It involves at least four of Pope Gregory’s “Seven Virtues” – Charity, Patience, Kindness and Equanimity. (The Seven Deadly Sins, of course, have a higher profile.)

Famously, talk is cheap, when it comes to bipartisanship (and generally). But three county representatives – Andrew Marietta, Andrienne Martini and Andrew Stammel – talked that talk AND walked that walk in recent days.

Adrienne Martini

The winner: Objective governance for the good of all 59,493 of us,

Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Working Family Party member, small “i” and Big “I” i(I)ndependents, Libertarians, etc.

By the county board’s December meeting on the 2nd, it was clear the Republicans had put themselves in a trap that could have lost them majority control for only the second time since the Board of Representatives was created in the early 1970s.

No need to relive every particular, but when state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker resigned Monday, Nov. 16, the Republicans fast-tracked the succession.

Andrew Stammel

Democrats only found out about plans to seat Oberacker’s hand-picked successor, Jennifer Mickle, the day before the Thursday, Nov. 19, Administration Committee meeting, too late to come up with their own candidate.

The Admin Committee, 3-1, on party lines, then approved Mickle, (who, aside from the controversy, appears to be an able candidate). Without Admin approval, Democrats needed a 2/3rd majority to have their candidate even considered by the full board.

For a while, it looked like ill-will and recriminations would be the gifts under the county Christmas tree this year.

The Republicans, it seems, hadn’t fully considered how this might play out: With Oberacker’s seat vacant, neither party had a majority under the county’s complicated weighted-voting system.

So neither party could fill the vacancy without at least one vote from the other party.

And the Democrats, at least some of them, were incensed, and in no mood to play nice.

If the vacancy stood, the Republicans couldn’t have appointed the board’s chair or vice chair Jan. 2 at the annual reorganizational meeting. Or name the committee chairs, or control committee membership.

All decisions would have had to be bipartisan.

Out of power since 2008, the Democrats now held all the cards.

Including the fairness card. Not fairness to the Republicans, but to the 3,456 voters in Oberacker’s District 6 (Maryland, Worcester, Westford and Decatur).

At the Dec. 2 full county board meeting, Marietta, Martini and Stammel were profiles in fairness. All decried the rushed (and partisan) process. But Martini put it this way: “Leaving that district without representation for a year just doesn’t sit well.”

So the three Democrats handed control of the county board – at least until Nov. 4, 2021, the next Election Day – back to the Republicans.

(Also kudos to the board’s sole Conservative, Meg Kennedy, who scheduled a second Admin meeting to interview the Democratic nominee, former Worcester supervisor Diane Addesso, a goodwill gesture, even though it was too late to make a difference.)

To end where we began: Talk is cheap.

Most Democrats and some Republicans have been touting bipartisanship in board deliberations.

But Marietta, Martini and Stammel have shown that, to them, it’s a way of governing, worth more than numerical control.

Well done. Let’s hope, at least for the next year, bipartisanship will rule.

We’ve been here before, with an opposite outcome: In 2006, the Republican representative from Worcester, Don Lindberg, allied himself with the Democratic minority and achieved the board’s chairmanship.

The anger generated by that deal prevented any friendly compromise for the next two years. A recurrence has now been prevented.


‘…Leaving that district without
representation for year…doesn’t sit well.’

Editor’s Note: These were the comments from county Rep. Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta, prior to voting for the Republican nominee to succeed state Sen.-elect Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, on the county board.

‘I agree with (county Rep. Clark Oliver, D-Oneonta) that the process was a little bumpy, and there were problems with it. It’s also not a process we do on a regular basis. If it should happen again in the near future, I hope that we will remember what we’ve learned.

“I’ve gone back and forth on how I’ll vote. Ultimately I come down where (Rep. Keith McCarty, R-East Springfield) does, which is leaving that district without representation for a year just doesn’t sit well.

“We only have 30 days from Representative Oberacker’s resignation to fill the seat by board vote. In a perfect world, the Governor could call for a special election, but the odds of that ever happening are low.

“Additionally, the county would have to bear the cost of having a special election, which is an expense we cannot afford right now. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and it is getting worse in our county.

“The board needs to have a voice from every single district as we face the next few months, which might be even more bleak than the spring was.

“The candidate who was appointed will be up for election in November and her constituents will have a year’s worth of her votes to consider. I hope all parties field a candidate for this seat then so that the voters can decide.

“Because of all of this, I will vote yes on this nominee.”

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: Public Banks, ‘Greenbacks,’ Might Close Gap Between Rich And Poor

Column by Adrian Kuzminski for December 14, 2018

Public Banks, ‘Greenbacks,’ Might
Close Gap Between Rich And Poor

Adrian Kuzminski

I brought up the Green New Deal in my last column as the only political agenda I’ve seen which, whether we agree with it or not, at least tries to measure up to the magnitude of the two biggest problems we face: climate change and economic insecurity.
Let’s take a closer look.

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103