Anticipating 36-year state Sen. Jim Seward’s retirement, Bassett President/CEO Tommy Ibrahim “asked me to join his team” when the two met for the first time last fall, the senator said.
Conversations continued, and Friday, Feb. 12, Ibrahim made it official: Seward has joined the hospital network as a “strategic affairs liaison,” offering advice on a part-time basis on how it can interact with Albany to obtain the best outcomes.
In an interview, Ibrahim reported that Carolyn Lewis, former county economic development director, has been promoted from a Friends of Bassett role to director of public & legislative affairs, leading the hospital’s lobbying effort, and Seward’s expertise will be available to her.
“As a senator,” Ibrahim said, Seward “was a strong advocate of programs that support the health and well-being of the people in our region. (This) is a natural extension of Jim’s life and career.”
For his part, Seward pointed out that state Ethics Law prohibits state legislators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after leaving office; but he can approach his contacts in the Executive Branch, which includes the state Department of Health and other agency systems that Bassett depends on.
And he knows who makes what decisions.
“I was very impressed with Tommy,” said Seward. “Since coming here, he’s put together a new management team. They’ve been developing a vision and a plan going forward. I look forward to doing whatever I can to assist the Bassett leadership.”’
Seward, who represented Otsego County in Albany for 36 years before retiring Dec. 31, said, “I’m ready to tackle new things. But I’m also glad to do this on a part-time basis. I do want to smell the roses a bit, too.”
ALBANY – On the news of former state Senator Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s passing, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, today issued a statement praising him as “a mentor, a friend and a dynamic public servant.”
“Joe was a fighter through and through who stood up to every challenge he faced,” Seward said. “The Capital District as well as all of New York State will reap the benefits of his dedication for generations to come.
“My sympathies to Joe’s family and friends, he will be greatly missed.”
ILION – The Mohawk Valley Nine, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators representing Otsego, Herkimer, Madison, and Oneida counties, today pledged their support to Remington Arms’ employees at the plant here that’s about to be auctioned off.
“We stand ready to work with the new owners,” the legislators said in a statement, “and will be reaching out to them immediately, to ensure the company will flourish and expand. Remington is more than an economic driver, it is a way of life in our region and the company’s future success is vital to everyone in the Mohawk Valley.”
Local members include state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and Assemblymen John Salka, R-Brookfield, and Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, who represent all or part of Otsego County. The plant employs many in-county employees, particularly in the Richfield Springs area.
ALBANY – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, today announced passage of state Senate Law 6420, assisting a retired Otsego County teacher who the New York State Teachers Retirement System was forcing to repay nearly $64,000 due to an NYSTRS’ computation error.
The law requires the retirement system to “shoulder the responsibility” for its error, Seward said. Companion legislation introduced by state Rep. John Salka, R-121st, passed the Assembly. The law must now be signed by the governor.
ONEONTA – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has joined a bipartisan group of state legislators urging an investigation of why jobless New Yorkers can’t get benefits to which they’re entitled.
“While some of the millions of the state’s unemployed have begun receiving benefits, millions more have not only not received benefits but can’t get through to the Department of Labor by phone or email,” according to a statement from Seward and three other Central New York solons.
I want to start this week’s column with a heartfelt THANK YOU to all who have reached out to me and my wife Cindy over the past few weeks as we both battled the Novel Coronavirus. Your well wishes and prayers meant a great deal and gave us both strength during our fight against this sinister virus.
As the pandemic continues there are so many on the front lines that are deserving of our respect, admiration, and thanks. Nurses, doctors, first responders, police, corrections officers, grocery store and pharmacy workers, truck drivers, and many others are risking their health and spending countless hours away from their families to help our state and nation endure through these difficult times.
I understand many are struggling with health and economic issues. There are no easy solutions moving forward and additional aid will have to come from the state and federal levels to help with our recovery.
Already, I have joined with my Senate Republican colleagues to push for a couple of key actions.
First, a letter was sent to the U.S Department of Agriculture calling for assistance for our farmers.
Agriculture is New York’s top industry and vital to our health and way of life. Unfortunately, in the best of times, farming can be a struggle and the Coronavirus is taking a devastating toll on many farms.
The letter reads in part:
“New York dairy farmers need urgent assistance. To be clear, they are not looking for a handout, and they are not in this grim position because of their own failure. Government action to respond to COVID-l9 — while necessary — has artificially eliminated the natural demand for dairy products, so it is the duty of government to rectify the situation and help dairy farmers remain financially viable in this difficult time. For this reason, we look to USDA for help.”
The recently passed CARES Act appropriates $9.5 billion to USDA, and we urge you to use that funding for direct financial assistance to farms who have faced harm because of COVID-l9.
Additionally, we urge the Department to make purchases of dairy products like fluid milk, butter, cheeses, and dry milk powders. Direct commodity support and export assistance would also help farms manage their decreased domestic demand.
At a time when so many Americans are out of work, more individuals are turning to food pantries for their next meal. However, many food pantries lack cold storage space to keep milk products fresh.
This is an excellent opportunity to create a voucher program for people in need through the Milk Donation Program, as authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, to facilitate the distribution of donated milk through grocery stores and other venues. Doing so would help poor Americans keep food on the table, and also add demand for dairy farmers.
Late last week, the USDA announced $16 billion in direct support for farmers in need. Another $3 billion will be used to purchase meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables with excess food going to food banks. This is a big win.
Additionally, I am calling on the governor to release scheduled raises for essential state workers. The state is delaying the 2 percent raises for 80,000 individuals who are on the front lines, and in some cases, performing very dangerous jobs.
The letter reads in part:
“Recognizing this service in these unprecedented times, then, I appreciate this opportunity to urge you to immediately provide an exemption for essential workers unable to work from home, and unable to take adequate social distancing precautions on the job, from your freeze of their scheduled two-percent salary increase. These include corrections officers, law enforcement officers, nurses and other public hospital staff, and direct caregivers in nursing and group homes, and mental health care facilities.”
These are just a couple of elements. I will be highlighting many others as we continue to respond to this health crisis.
MILFORD – As with everything since the coronavirus arrived in Otsego County, things moved quickly.
When the last edition of this newspaper went to press on Tuesday, March 31, the news was state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and his wife, Cindy, had been stricken with COVID-19.
It was announced the day before that the senator was being treated at Albany Medical Center, and Cindy was recuperating at their Milford home.
Duncan Davie, Seward’s long-time chief of staff, said the senator was still in ICU this Tuesday. April 7. He spoke with the senator, and “he struck me as someone who’s gone through a great deal. He’s got a road to recovery that will take some time.”
After the initial report on March 30, the senator, a Milford native who has represented Otsego County in the state Senate since 1985, took a turn for the worse and was placed on a ventilator in Albany Med’s intensive care unit.
That wasn’t widely known, until Cindy Seward broke the silence at 8:32 a.m. Saturday, April 4, on the Milford Community Group Facebook page. She revealed her husband was in a medically induced coma and had been on a ventilator since 5:30 a.m. that Thursday.
“His condition had deteriorated quite rapidly and became dire,” his wife of 46 years reported. “I spoke with the doctor last evening and Jim is responding to nurse commands and his condition is slightly improved.
“The next few days are crucial,” she continued. “My children and I were able to see him and speak to him once via Webex, thanks to the kindness of the doctors and nurses there.”
That dire report set off a flurry of comments among the Milford group, mostly expressions of prayerful best wishes.
After a day of worry among his friends and supporters, who at this point were expecting the worst, stunning good news arrived with Cindy Seward’s next posting at 6:48 p.m. that evening.
“I just spoke with my husband,” she wrote, “and needed to share with all of you wonderful people who have sent prayers and love: His ventilator was just removed! Of course, he will still need monitoring, but I thank you all for your outpouring for us!”
Which set off another outpouring from around Seward’s nine-county 51st Senatorial District on the Milford page and www.AllOTSEGO.com.
“Praise God for giving you the strength to fight this terrible virus and that strength to continue fighting thru your cancer battle,” wrote Maria Guerra, Richfield Springs.
“Stay strong my friend!” declared Vinnie Avanzato, Oneonta, the former Stella Luna proprietor.
“You are one strong individual,” wrote Norman Buckland, Oneonta. “That’s why we elected you to show us the way. But I never wanted it to be like this. Thank you for hanging in there.”
ALBANY – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, this afternoon released a list of state websites to help his constiuents to connect with state services to fight the Coronavirus infection, or to deal with its impacts, such as job loss.
ONEONTA – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, will be the Otsego County Chamber’s Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Distinguished Citizen of 2020, and Custom Electronics the NBT Bank Distinguished Business Of The Year, the chamber announced this afternoon.
Seward and the high-tech battery company will be toasted Thursday, May 7, in the Foothills Atrium, beginning with a cocktail hour at 5:45 p.m.
One of the more controversial pieces of legislation signed into law last year was the “Green Light” Law, allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses.
Presented by its supporters as the “same law” adopted in other states, New York’s version contained a provision that prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other border-protection agencies from accessing records contained in the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – something no other state does.
I voted against the “Green Light” Law because the thought of giving a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law was inconceivable.
Now we are seeing additional consequences of this bad public policy – putting law enforcement agents
and the public at risk while shielding criminals from detection.
Recently, I joined with members of the state Senate and Assembly for a special DHS briefing detailing how New York’s law is blocking law enforcement agencies from receiving critical information.
According to a fact sheet provided by DHS:
• New York State’s “Green Light” Law prevents U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) from accessing all New York DMV information. This includes driver’s license information essential to our law enforcement and national security missions.
• By restricting access to all DMV information, the “Green Light” Law stands as a dangerous and unnecessary roadblock to ongoing federal investigations into a broad range of criminal activity, and severe impediment to our officers and agents in the field.
• ICE is not asking the State of New York to provide a list of illegal aliens, or to identify which individuals in its database are here illegally. ICE needs access to the information – just like all other law-enforcement agencies that work in the state – whether the subject of our inquiry is a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or illegal alien.
• Seventy percent of joint terrorism task force disruptions stem from arrests for immigration violations, yet the agency responsible for those arrests is now frozen out of New York DMV databases. This is a pre-9/11 mentality in a post-9/11 world.
•ICE’s need to access DMV records is essential to supporting criminal investigative efforts not only in New York, but also across the country and around the world. Our ability to identify and dismantle transnational criminal organizations – whether they’re flooding our communities with killer drugs like fentanyl and meth, trafficking weapons, peddling sensitive military technology, or selling women and children into miserable lives of sexual servitude – depends on getting the right piece of information into the right hands at the right time. And often, that piece of information is as simple as a license plate, and address, or a photograph.
The statistics back up the importance of the long-standing, cooperative relationship between ICE and state DMV. On a daily basis, ICE uses DMV data to fight a substantial number of crimes including drug smuggling, human trafficking and violent gang activity. In 2019, ICE arrested 149 child predators, seized 6,487 pounds of illegal narcotics, identified or rescued 105 victims of human trafficking/exploitation, and arrested 230 gang members – in New York alone.
The new law has also handcuffed local law enforcement. The state Sheriffs’ Association recently issued a letter to the governor and legislative majorities pointing out that for the sheriffs to keep their own officers safe by allowing access to DMV data, they had to sign non-disclosure agreements that jeopardize their federal partners.
Sharing of information is a critical component of law enforcement. New York State has taken an irresponsible action by enacting a law that blocks information from those who need it most. The “Green Light” Law has a number of flaws and must be repealed immediately.
ALBANY – State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, today joined other members of the Senate Republican Conference in bringing an amendment to the floor to repeal of the so-called “Green Light” Law, his office announced a few minutes ago.
With all members of the Democratic majority voting against repeal, the measure failed.
“I voted against the ‘Green Light Law’ last year because the thought of giving a driver’s license, a secure identification document, to someone who is intentionally breaking the law was inconceivable,” Seward said in a statement after the vote.
MIDDLEFIELD – It was a day for reporting nightmares.
Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner reported his officers apprehended a possible shoplifter, but were unable to hold the suspect under New York State’s criminal justice reforms. “Even before we are done” with the paperwork, the store owners called again. “The shoplifter was back in their business,” the chief said.
All police agencies need informers to crack drug cases, said Schoharie County Sheriff Roy Brown. Now, under new discovery provisions, “your informants will be disclosed before suspects can come to trial.” Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie, said an informer on the MS-13 Puerto Rican gang was identified through disclosures required under the state reforms, and was killed.