State Zigged To Democrats,
But County Zagged To GOP
The Wall Street Journal headline was sly: “Blue Wave Breaks Softly.”
The article reported that, as of Nov. 6, Election Night, Democrats gained 27 Congressional seats in the midterms, regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
That pales compared to Democrats losing 63 in the first Obama midterms in 2010, and losing the House as well; still, even one-vote control is control. (As canvassing ensued, it looks like Democrats may end up with plus 35 to 40 new seats; still, not the GOP Armageddon some were salivating over. And Republicans increased their margin in the U.S. Senate.)
Whatever – nationwide. But when you look at New York State government, the Blue Wave broke hard Upstate, not least over Otsego County, with some unnerving implications.
The state Senate zigged, turning from enduringly Republican to Democratic, a feat accomplished for only two years in a half-century.
But Otsego County zagged: With the loss of Democratic Assemblyman Bill Magee of Nelson, the one state senator and four assemblymen representing our county are all Republicans, about to dive into a Democratic sea.
That can’t be good.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who will be operating without Magee’s steady support in the Democratic House for the first time since 1991, said he’s used to working in a bipartisan manner.
In an interview, he used the term “equitable distribution” twice, hoping the Democrats will extend the concept that has allowed the state’s largesse to be enjoyed statewide.
That would be great, but we’ll see.
More of an issue than Democrats and Republicans is Upstaters vs. downstaters, Seward observed. Only three of the state’s 30 senators are from north of Westchester County. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
The GOP county chairman, Vince Casale, addressed the legislative picture. Now in control of Assembly, Senate and Governor’s Office, he predicts Democrats will seek to legalize marijuana as soon as January, and will press for adoption of the NY Plan, Medicare-like coverage for all Empire Staters – exciting, but perhaps bankrupting.
Depending how hard and fast the Democrats push, what went around in 2018 may come around in 2020.
Meanwhile, even local Democrats are a bit uneasy. Richard Sternberg, the Cooperstown village trustee who is also a member of the state Democratic Committee, said he hopes that, since our mayors are Democratic (Oneonta’s Gary Herzig and Cooperstown’s Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch), the funds will keep flowing.
And, as architect of Democratic gains on the Otsego County Board of Representatives last year, Sternberg is looking ahead to creating a majority next year; he’s only one seat short.
Given the new Albany reality, becoming aligned with the ruling party only makes sense, his remarks suggested.
If anything, we here in Otsego County compounded the zag by voting heavily for Marc Molinaro, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican challenger.
Arguably, Cuomo’s done more for Otsego County than any governor in decades, Democrat or Republican, and did so by embracing an all-American principle: competition.
The governor’s concept – divide the state into 10 regions and make them compete for state economic-development funding, and may the best ideas win – was brilliant.
In the past five years, Otsego County has competed and competed well, winning millions annually through CFAs; (the next round of “consolidated funding application” grants is due to be announced in December). Plus, remember Oneonta’s DRI.
In the world of New York State realpolitik, here’s more good news in the returns.
While the county as a whole supported Republicans, Oneonta and Cooperstown are strong Democratic enclaves, supporting Senator Seward, the county’s favorite son, but breaking blue on everything else.
Oneonta, for its population, and Cooperstown, for its iconic status, are not to be ignored, whatever party controls the state political apparatus.
Whoever’s in charge in Albany, there’s a lot to be done here, so fingers crossed.
Upstate’s recovery from the Great Recession is the weakeast of any U.S. region. According to a recent study. You can examine all the nooks of Upstate’s economy. Most every one is daubed with lackluster. Papered with anemic. Writ large with blah.
Upstaters grew accustomed to this long ago. Our motto should be “We’re Number One at being Number Fifty!”
Most of us know what would help revive Upstate. Lower taxes would. Fewer regulations would. Fewer mandates from an out-of-touch Albany bureaucracy would. A much slimmer state government would. Because the slimness would suck less money from Upstate taxpayers. The slimness would reduce the number of state government fingers in Upstate pies.
We tend to lead the nation in taxes and regulations. We lead the nation in making life difficult for businesses large and small. Don’t you wish we could lead the nation in something else?
There is one move that would help Upstate.
Getting rid of downstate would.
The idea excites few. Lethargy pervades. (Maybe we lead the nation in lethargy too?) This is because upstaters know downstaters in the legislature would never allow us to split. And downstaters call the shots.
In other words, the guys who know and care nothing about Upstate decide Upstate’s fate. A good example of this is that Greens in the Big Apple are major voices in blocking fracking in our Southern Tier. Can you imagine Upstaters blocking projects on Staten Island? Upstaters opposed to tree-culling in the Hamptons? C’monnn.
Downstaters really do know nuttin’ about upstate. This is more than a laugh line at a party. Folks in Glen Cove and Oyster Bay really think Jamestown is only in Virginia. Utica really is another country to denizens of Commack. Syracuse and Binghamton are Fuhgettusville to dwellers of Brooklyn.
Oh yeah? Well, vice-versa to you too, buddy! Really. I mean, tell me all you know about the latest problems in Amityville and Islip.
Truth is, we don’t know and we don’t care that we don’t know. We feel so little allegiance to each other.
We New Yorkers have scant connections. We have no state TV or radio network. No statewide newspaper. And Upstate doesn’t even get its fair share of the state’s greatest industry: corruption. We don’t get no respect.
Splitting the state in two would work. Surely it would.
First, we would have less corruption in government. Because no new state could ever compete with the sleaze that oozes up the Hudson to Albany from the City and Long Island. Downstaters are simply too practiced in corruption for us.
Second, an Upstate government would be sensitive to Upstate issues and challenges. Its legislators and bureaucrats would more likely know how to locate Canandaigua without GPS.
Third, a separate Upstate might well end up with two political parties. As now composed, New York State has one.
Two parties, competing ideas? Hey, it might work!
This column goes to some heavies in the Big Apple. At this point I could write that they are all slobs. None of them would respond. Because none of them will have read this far. As soon as they saw the word “Upstate” they fell asleep.
A prime minister of Canada once mused that living in the attic of the U.S. was like sleeping with an elephant. The big fellow kept the bed warm, but when he rolled over…
This is the predicament of Upstaters.
If we all voted the same way and organized and outright demanded…
Oh, forget about it. Yawnsville. It would never work. We have met puny and he is us. Even in the corruption business. We could all contribute to raise a mountain of money to buy off the downstate legislators and governor. Yeah, but it would flop. Those birds are too accustomed to the big bribes. They would laugh at our paltry efforts. Not that they wouldn’t take the money.
From Tom…as in Morgan. Tom Morgan, the retired Oneonta financial adviser and syndicated columnist, lives in Franklin. His new novel, “The Last Columnist,” is available on amazon.com
Gerrymandering Takes Away
Our Right To Representation
The most remarkable thing I’ve seen in this year’s midterm
election campaigns is Chad McEvoy’s op-ed in the New York Times. The headline says it all: “If I win my district, I’ll get rid of it.”
That’s the 101st Assembly District, a model of gerrymandering, which snakes in a narrow strip from New Hartford near Utica through part of Otsego county to the Hudson Valley.
Its shape guarantees that almost nobody living in the district is connected to anyone else in it. Its only purpose is to provide a safe seat for a politician who can be sure that his atomized constituents have no voice of their own.
Chad is running to overturn this kind of all too familiar nonsense.
The 101st district is an egregious case of gerrymandering, but in fact most of our legislative districts work exactly the same way. Most people couldn’t find their state legislative or Congressional districts on a map, or even name them accurately.
The districts overlay and cut across one another in insane fashion. People in one Congressional district are guaranteed not to be together in the same state Assembly or Senate districts.
Divide and conquer is obviously the rule.
Most districts are spread over a large number of communities almost entirely unique in terms of jobs, industry, schools, social services, and so on. That means our local communities are NOT represented in Albany or Washington.
The heart of your community is where you live and work. It includes your neighborhood, the town where you do most of your business and shopping, and the school district where your kids go. For most people – except for those commuting to distant jobs (say 20 miles or more) – these functions mostly overlap.
Call it home.
The largest local unit which people recognize and more or less identify with is the county, which administers social services, collects taxes, provides public safety, manages code enforcement and waste disposal, maintains major local highways, carries out environmental and planning responsibilities, and coordinates local towns which enjoy home rules under the state Constitution.
People know their counties; counties are the largest political entities which still function as communities. The county should be the political district that is directly represented in Albany, if not in Washington.
New York has 62 counties and representatives elected from each of those counties could comprise at least the state Assembly, if not the entire state legislature. That would be one way to upset business-as-usual in Albany and put the public back
Of course, counties differ widely in size. The largest county in the state – King’s County(Brooklyn)– has a population of 2,504,700, while the smallest – Hamilton County, in the Adirondacks – has 4,836 residents. But just as towns are represented on the Otsego county Board of Representatives by weighted voting, counties could be represented in Albany the same way.
The larger number of smaller, more rural counties would naturally work together to offset the clout of the fewer number of larger counties.
As far as Congressional districts go, in densely populated areas (like New York City) they should be drawn to be within counties as much as possible. In less dense areas, like Upstate, they can be drawn to include whole counties as closely as they can.
The point is that the interests of, say, Otsego county, would have a direct voice in Albany, something that is NOT currently the case.
In fact, our communities
are not directly represented anywhere at all.
This lack of representation
goes a long way towards explaining why a place like Otsego county has long suffered chronic economic decline and social malaise.
Let me close with a couple of personal endorsements of local candidates who recognize the need for the kind of fundamental change I’m talking about.
One is Chad McEvoy in the 101st Assembly District, as discussed above. Chad wants to strengthen local education, supports single-payer health care for New Yorkers, and advocates universal broadband and green energy as economic drivers.
The other candidate I’m voting for is Joyce St. George in the 51st Senate district. St. George – a feisty, anti-corruption investigator and local business woman who also supports single-payer health for all New Yorkers – is running against our long-time senator Jim Seward, who represents the status quo.
Seward has made a career of recycling taxpayers’ own dollars back to them as perks for which he can take credit; his so-called “economic summits” have gone nowhere; and his environmental record is among the worst in Albany – he’s been consistently rated near the bottom of New York legislators by the watchdog group Environmental Advocates. If you think we can do better on these issues, vote for St. George. Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.
According to a newly released report from the Empire Center for Public Policy, “New York’s Uneven Economic Recovery: A Tale of Two States,” those of us who live in Upstate New York escaped the real estate/housing bubble that led to the economic crash in 2008. Why? Because our economy was so bad that we didn’t experience a bubble like the rest of the country. How’s that for good news?
Since the economic downturn, the Governor has claimed he has grown the state’s economy back to recovery. Have you experienced a recovery? Here’s how he’s been able to make that claim.
According to the governor, “We created 1,000,000 jobs (since 2011). New York State today has more private-sector jobs than it has had in the history of the state. Period. Unemployment went from 8.5 to 4.2 percent, and the recovery was statewide. In the old days you would see New York City doing very well, and Upstate would be struggling. Look how even the recovery is all across the State.”
The data don’t support that claim. In fact, to the contrary, it shows a sharp and growing economic divide between Upstate and downstate. According to the “Report,”, “By any standard, Upstate New York’s economic recovery has been among the weakest of any region in the country”. Only West Virginia, Wyoming and Arkansas, coal and minerals-dependent economies, have fared poorer. According to the Report, New York’s annual rate of real GDP growth has been lower than the rate for ALL states in six of his first seven years in office.
New York City, followed by Long Island and the lower Hudson valley, suburbs for the City, has enjoyed the highest rate of job growth in the state. At the same time, Upstate has gained private-sector jobs at about one-third of the national rate.
Of the State’s 62 counties,
23 of them, all but one
Upstate, have yet to recover to their pre-crash private employment levels. Knowing this, the Governor banned fracking in an attempt to court the “green community” and stopped the pipelines that could have brought much-needed natural gas and jobs to our region.
Did the unemployment rate in Upstate really drop or was it made to look that way – remember the old “shell” game? Based upon information in the Report, total private-sector employment Upstate grew by 6.3 percent since 2010. That is about one-third the U.S. rate of growth (17.8 percent) and even worse than that for downstate (21.2 percent). The Southern Tier counties ranged from having a loss of jobs to zero-5 percent growth. Guess where we fell in the ranking?
According to the Report, the 48 up-state counties saw a drop in employment “by a combined total of 87,500 from August 2010 to August 2018. Yes, the unemployment rate Upstate fell, but only because the labor force in those counties decreased by 210,000 people” – a result of fewer people looking for work because they had either given up, left the state or both. Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport
ARTISAN FESTIVAL – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Artists, Crafters, Makers from throughout the region come together to sell their works. Find handmade jewelry, textiles, soap, furniture, glass art, pottery, photography, more at Otsego County Campus, 197 Main St., Cooperstown. 607-547-9983 or visit www.cooperstownartisanfestival.info
FAMILY SATURDAY – 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Field trip for families features hands-on activities for kids, guided tours, demonstrations of the water-powered sawmill, the gristmill, and woodworking shop. Admission, $9/adult. Hanford Mills Museum, 51 Co. Hwy. 12, East Meredith. Call 607-278-5744 or visit www.hanfordmills.org
THEATER – 2 p.m. Performance of ‘Love Letters,’ by A.R. Gurney, which tells the story of Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner via the letters they exchanged over their lifetime. The Production Center of the Foothills Performing Arts Center, 124 Market St., Oneonta. Info, (607) 432-5407 or GEStevens17@gmail.com
QUILT SHOW – 11 a.m.-4 p.m.. Thru Sunday Feb. 26. Cooperstown Art Association, 22 Main St., Cooperstown. Info, www.cooperstownart.com
PLAY READING – 6:30 p.m. Reading of “Lord of the Wilderness” by local playwright Ron Nash. Telling the story of William Cooper and the founding of Cooperstown. Based on Alan Taylor’s book “William Cooper’s Town.”Fenimore Art Museum Auditorium, 5798 NY-80, Cooperstown. Info, www.fenimoreartmuseum.org
COMEDY SHOW – 8 p.m. “Not Too Far From Home “ returns to the foothills staring Aaron David Ward and his team of homegrown comedians. Foothills Performing Arts Center, 24 Market St., Oneonta. Info, foothillspac.org
TOASTMASTERS – 6:15-7:30 p.m. Speech contest with free refreshments. Come practice your public speaking in a supportive environment. The Green Earth, 4 Market St., Oneonta. Info, oneonta.toastmastersclubs.org or call (607)873-2070
DISASTER UNIVERSITY – 4:30-8:30 p.m. The Red Cross holds a training course for disaster relief. House fires to hurricanes, learn how you can aid your community in times of their greatest need. Registration preferred, walk-ins welcome. Alumni Hall, SUNY Oneonta. Info, Taylor Fanelli at (315)733-4666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLUBHOUSE – 6-8 p.m. Baking night for teens 7-12th grade. Includes free food, give-aways, and, a judgement free zone where teens can relax with their friends. Unadilla Teen Center, 16 Watson St., Unadilla. Info, Blake Stensland @ email@example.com or Jon Ramirez @ firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Family Resource Network @ (607)432-0001