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sustainable otsego

KUZMINSKI: Home Rule In Constitution, But Limited

COLUMN

Home Rule In

Constitution,

But Limited

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

I’ve been commenting in recent columns on the first two Principles of Sustainable Otsego:  Sustainable Living and Economic Independence. In this column, I want to take up the third and last principle: Home Rule.

“Home” is where we live with family, friends, and neighbors. Its scale is small enough to sustain in-depth relationships with people and places. Home has the capacity to inspire love, not least because it embodies a complexity of human experience not otherwise available.

The largest political unit with which people identify, and which preserves this sense of community, is the county, where people from different backgrounds and neighborhoods are still able to come together on an individual, face-to-face basis for the services, commerce, education, recreation, spirituality and government which make up everyday life.

KUZMINSKI: Do We Give More Than We Take, And Does It Matter?

COLUMN

THE VIEW FROM FLY CREEK

Do We Give More Than

We Take, And Does It Matter?

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Jane Jacobs “Death and Life of American Cities” helped spawn the historic preservation movement.

In my last column, I discussed “Sustainable Living” – one of the three principles of Sustainable Otsego. Today I want to consider the second principle, “Economic Independence.” I’ll take up the last principle, “Home Rule,” in a later column.

The phrase “economic independence” is bandied about these days by politicians and pundits alike. But what would real economic independence look like? How could we measure it?

The issue was clarified some years ago by the insightful economic and social critic, Jane Jacobs, in her influential book. “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.”

Her key idea is what she calls “import replacement.” Insofar as a community imports more goods and services than it exports, it runs what’s essentially a trade deficit. Money drains out faster than it pours in.

We usually think of trade deficits as a national issue, but they are in fact a good indicator of the economic health, or the lack thereof, of any community.

So let’s take Otsego County.

Only Grassroot Activists Can Save Our Planet

THE VIEW FROM FLY CREEK

Only Grassroot

Activists Can

Save Our Planet

By ADRIAN KUZMINSKI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Sustainable Otsego has been both a social network and political action committee since its founding in 2007. Over that time, it has advanced three principles around which local life could be organized:

  1. Sustainable Living.
  2. Economic Independence, and
  3. Home Rule.

Today let me address Sustainable Living; I’ll take up the other two in later columns.

Sustainable Living turns out to be a lot harder than many of us thought. The very word “sustainable” has been corrupted by phrases like “sustainable growth” and “sustainable capitalism.” Thanks largely to corporate propaganda and misinformation, it is less and less clear what terms like “sustainable” or “green” mean.

If it means anything, sustainable living means living on renewable resources on a finite planet.

At least that was the idea when the term “sustainability” went mainstream in the early 2000s.

Energy analysts had begun to worry about “peak oil” decades earlier, but by the early 2000s compelling evidence of limited conventional oil reserves, as well as of the depletion of other resources (fertile soils, clean water, essential minerals, species diversity), brought the issue of sustainability to a larger public.

The idea of sustainable living was a response to this brewing eco-crisis. It meant avoiding practices that led to pollution and a deteriorating natural world. The idea was to recycle everything, go organic, and use less energy and resources. We were supposed to lower our “carbon footprints” to minimize global warming and mitigate climate change.

Sustainable living became no less than a moral movement, a kind of secular religion where

Nature takes the place of God, cooperation takes the place of competition, holistic thinking replaces partial thinking, and harmony and compassion replace strife and tribalism.

That was a profound cultural moment, and it changed important human behaviors. It’s been the main force behind the progress made in recent years towards surviving on this planet. The hope was to maintain something like the middle-class lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.

The plan was to do it by replacing fossil fuels with eco-friendly renewables, poisonous chemicals with “natural” ingredients, and accumulated waste by recycling and composting.

But it didn’t quite work out that way, at least not yet. New technologies (fracking) expanded access to oil and gas reserves, postponing “peak oil” indefinitely, while locking in our reliance on fossil fuels through low prices. Recycling has yet to absorb the vast waste stream, and organic alternatives, popular as they are, are far from replacing cheap, chemically based products.

In the meantime, the methane and CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by continued fossil-fuel use has brought us to the verge of uncontrollable climate change.

The easy steps of sustainable living – buying a Prius, recycling, eating organic food, switching to

LED lighting, etc. – are no longer enough. We need structural, not just personal, changes.

Our continued post-fracking reliance on cheap fossil fuels has allowed the oil and gas industry to dominate the political system, frustrating the transition to renewables. Corporate-led deregulation has rolled back the environmental standards necessary to fully promote organic products and eliminate waste. Indeed, under Trump we’ve gone backwards on all these fronts.

At this point, only upheaval from below seems likely to change national politics. And that will happen only when the urgency of the biggest threat – climate change – reaches a critical threshold in most minds. Because of it, we’ve witnessed in recent months massive wildfires out West, catastrophic floods in the Midwest, melting glaciers and polar ice packs, another record heat wave in Europe, accelerating wildlife extinctions – the list goes on.

The floods a few years back gave us a taste of what can happen here, though climate change for us so far has been mostly incremental and cumulative, rather than sudden and overwhelming.

But it’s not any less significant for that. Hundred-year floods now occur a lot more than once a century. Storms and power outages are more common. The growing season has lengthened.

Winters are milder. Tornados, once unheard of in our region, now occur repeatedly.

If you experience the weather mostly when walking to and from your car, it’s easy to dismiss all this as some kind of delusion, a fake crisis. But if you’re a farmer, a gardener, someone who works outdoors, or manages infrastructure (powerlines, roads, etc.) exposed to the weather, you’re more likely to recognize that climate change is happening right before your eyes.

Sustainable living is both more important than ever, and even harder to achieve. To recognize its challenge is to feel its urgency, and especially the vital need to replace fossil fuels with renewables.

This is evident in the deliberations of the new Otsego County Energy Task Force, where climate change concerns and economic-development issues are coming together for the first time locally.

In response to this growing crisis Sustainable Otsego has evolved into a political action committee focused on local government. Given the failures of our major parties nationally and locally, Sustainable Otsego remains resolutely non-partisan. Visit us on Facebook, and at sustainableotsego.net.

If we’re to respond successfully to climate change from below, it will be because local grassroots activists – conservatives and liberals alike – insist upon it. Only they can force our representatives – local, state, and national – to do what’s necessary to secure the transition to sustainable living. No one else is going to do it.

Adrian Kuzminski, retired Hartwick College philosophy professor

and co-founder and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.

 

‘Non-Partisan’ Sustainable Otsego Again Endorses Only Democrats

‘Non-Partisan’ Sustainable Otsego

Again Endorses Only Democrats

COOPERSTOWN – Sustainable Otsego, “an authorized non-partisan political action committee,” has again endorsed all Democrats in the Nov. 6 election.

The environmental group endorsed:

  • Democrat Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck vs. U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook.
  • Democrat Joyce St. George, Margaretville, vs. state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.
  • Democrat Chad McEvoy of Westford vs. Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, JULY 18
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, JULY 18

Tour Oneonta’s Downtown

Revitalization Then & Now

14-19eventspage

WALKING TOUR – 7 – 8 p.m. Bob Brzozowski & Gary Wickham lead walking tour, “Downtown Revitalization Then & Now” through Main & Market Streets. Learn urban renewal plans of 1970s to today’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Admission by Donation. Oneonta History Center, 183 Main St., Oneonta 607-432-0960 or visit www.facebook.com/OneontaHistory/

TOWN HALL – 7 p.m. Meeting features Antonio Delgado (Running for Congress), Joyce St. George (Running for State Senate), & Chad McEvoy (Running for State Assembly). Sponsored by Sustainable Otsego. Free, open to the public. Templeton Hall, 63 Pioneer St., Cooperstown.

EDITORIAL: If We Want Solar Energy, Let’s Get Serious About It

Editorial, May 5, 2018

If We Want Solar Energy,
Let’s Get Serious About It

If we care about solar energy, it’s time to get serious about it, don’cha think?

Happily, Otsego 2000 may be doing just that, having taken a leadership role among local environmental groups on this matter. On Feb. 24, its board adopted a resolution that reads, in part:
“Climate change, driven in large party by fossil-fuel use, is a significant threat to our region and way of life.

“We call for and support energy conservation and efficiency to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the necessity or expanded fossil-fuel infrastructure and delivery systems.
“In addition, we call for and support smart development for renewable energy sources to meet the goals adopted by New York State for greenhouse-gas reductions.”
Caveat (conservation first), then support.
The resolution continues in the same vein. It supports rooftop solar panels. And solar farms, but again with caveats: Put them on “previously disturbed areas,” protect farmland, “protect historic, cultural and scenic resources,” maintain conserved lands. This is fine, and clearly in synch with Otsego 2000’s overarching mission – to protect, not develop.

But if, in fact, we want solar energy around here, a more affirmative strategy is necessary.
The most significant solar project proposed so far in Otsego County – thousands of panels on 50 acres north of Morris – is on hold, according to Chet Feldman, spokesman for Distributed Solar, Washington D.C. As he explained it, a PSC ruling last year on economical proximity to power lines, and federal tariffs made the project “not conducive,” at least for the time being.
Promisingly, Feldman said “We’re always looking forward to doing business in New York.” So it, or another project, may still happen.
So far though, solar power locally is limited to boutique uses: People who can afford it equipping their homes with panels. Otherwise, the Solar City installation near Laurens, by county government for county government, is the only functioning solar farm in the county. (Thank you, county Rep. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, now retired, for pioneering it.)
If Otsego 2000, Sustainable Otsego, OCCA and other environmentally focused entities – goodness, even the Clark Foundation – really wants solar power widely used here, they need to say so and go after it, without the caveats.

Ed Lentz, Butternuts Valley Alliance chair (now New Lisbon town supervisor), surveys the 50 acres where Distributed Solar planned a solar farm. It is off the table for now.


If it chose to be, muscular Otsego 2000 certainly has the clout to get it done.
Meanwhile, Otsego 2000’s executive director, the able Ellen Pope, has taken the new policy seriously, attending a forum March 27 organized by Scenic Hudson, and – she reports – well attended by municipal officials from around the state.
It’s complicated. Large installations – 25 megawatts and up – fall under state Article 10 regulations for siting electric-generating facilities, signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2011. Below that, a good town plan can guide where things happen, or don’t.
Attendees were advised, “plan for the town you want.” Of course, we all know that means: Keep everything the way it is. If we really care about global warming, about renewables, about humankind’s survival, that probably won’t fill the bill.
The Otsego 2000 policy dwells on what needs to be protected. But let’s turn it around. Let’s identify appropriate sites – sure, brownfields (Shur-Katch in Richfield Springs, maybe), former landfills, acreage shielded from public view – those black panels are ugly – and so on.
It might make sense to rule solar farms out, period, in the extra-protected Otsego Lake watershed. It makes sense to extra-protect a national environmental icon. But that leaves plenty of space elsewhere in Otsego County.
The Morris installation, tucked in the beauteous Butternut Creek Valley, would have been an eyesore, and perhaps polluted the creek, too. The county’s Solar City site is in a former gravel pit – ideal.
If Otsego 2000 could identify ideal spots for solar farms – a half dozen, a dozen, even more – and put the regulations in place to enable them, it would be doing our 60,094 neighbors (as of last July 1, and dropping) a favor. When a solar developer shows up, no problemo, with enhanced tax base and jobs to follow.
Plus, an itty bit, we might even help save Planet Earth.

Anti-Trump Activists Divert Anger At Faso

2018 RACE ALREADY JOINED

Anti-Trump Activists

Divert Anger At Faso

Sustainable Otsego moderator Adrian Kuzminski, seated against far wall, addresses some 75 local anti-Trump activitist who gathered at Brewery Ommegang last Thursday, looking for ways to collaborate. To the right of Kuzminski is Cooperstown Trustee Lou Allstadt, the climate change activitist, and former county rep. Ed Lentz, Garrattsville. (Jim Dean photo)

Grass-Roots Organizations Form,

Collaborate Around 19th District

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.COM

John Faso at the Otsego County Chamber annual banquet last March.

With the 2016 campaign just over, the 2018 campaign in Otsego County’s 19th Congressional District is already starting.

Multiple grass-roots groups in Otsego County that have sprung up since Donald Trump’s election as president Nov. 8 are planning to rally with perhaps “several thousand” of like-minded people at Congressman John Faso’s Kinderhook office this weekend.

Shortterm, the goal is to convince the 19th District congressman to, one, host “town hall meetings” in each of the counties in the district, and, two, to work to assure central guarantees in the Affordable Care Act.

“I do feel strongly: We need to find some way to work with Faso, because he can do a lot of damage in these two years,” said Pam Kline of Indivisible CD19 NY, which is reaching across the 19th District to bring activists to Kinderhook.

Like Charleston, Offer Free Trolleys

Like Charleston, Offer Free Trolleys

Edition Of Thursday-Friday Sept. 25-26

To the Editor:

A modest proposal:

I recently happened to visit Charleston, S.C., which, like Cooperstown, is a noted tourist destination. And, like Cooperstown, or any similar tourist town, they have a parking problem. Charlestown, however, has done something which Cooperstown might consider, namely, establishing a free trolley service.

Being able to jump on and off a trolley making the circuit of the main local sites without having to dig into one’s pocket to pay was a real convenience. No fussing about exact change, etc. And surprisingly, being free was a real incentive, even though the money saved had to be minimal. It ran about every 20 minutes; there was a printed schedule at every trolley stop.

I don’t know how Charleston funds its trolley, but Cooperstown might do so by charging a small parking fee at the peripheral parking lots, maybe $5 for the day. If the trolley circuit was expanded to hit ALL the main spots in and around the village – the Clark Sports Center, Bassett Hospital, Fairy Springs, Main Street, Lake Street, The Otesaga, The Farmers’ Museum, The Fenimore Art Museum, the courthouse and County Office Building, Railroad Avenue, Chestnut Street, Price Chopper, etc. – it might prove even more useful than at present.

Locals would be more likely to take advantage of it, as well as visitors staying at The Otesaga or in village B&Bs who would not be using the peripheral lots.

Tourists would be happy to pay the parking fee if they knew that they had the use of a free trolley. And it could provide a real service for village residents living on or near the trolly routes.

ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Moderator
Sustainable Otsego

COOPERSTOWN CONSIDERING COMMUNITY SOLAR PROGRAM

COOPERSTOWN CONSIDERING

COMMUNITY SOLAR PROGRAM

Village Trustee Lou Allstadt, in center with back to camera, told a Sustainable Otsego program this evening the village is discussing a "community solar program" with the town.  Speaking is economist Jannette Barth.  At right is Sustainable Otsego Moderator Adrian Kuzminski, who emceed.  (Jim Kevlin/allotsego.com)
Village Trustee Lou Allstadt, in center with back to camera, told a Sustainable Otsego program this evening the village is discussing a “community solar program” with the town. Speaking is economist Jannette Barth. At right is Sustainable Otsego Moderator Adrian Kuzminski, who emceed. (Jim Kevlin/allotsego.com)

COOPERSTOWN

The Village of Cooperstown and Town of Otsego have begun discussing a “community solar program,” Village Trustee Lou Allstadt, the clean-energy advocate, told a program sponsored by Sustainable Otsego in the county Courthouse this evening.

The idea of the program, described earlier by Jessica Azulay, with the Alliance for a Green Economy, would be to create a community solar farm that would share the energy and cost savings community wide.

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