Friday, March 18, 2011

Democrats Carry Day At Cooperstown Polls

Ellen Tillapaugh Leads Ticket
Both Sides Say Police Merger Idea Key Issue


Jim Kevlin/The Freeman’s Journal
Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, who led the victorious Democratic ticket, shares congratulations with runningmates Jeff Katz, left, and Dr. Walter Franck, during a victory celebration at the Abbates.  Her husband, Gary, former CCS high principal, is behind her.
Everyone agreed that the village Democratic and Republican parties had put together the strongest slates in years.
But when the dust settled on Election Night, Tuesday, March 15, the Democrats had carried the day decisively, winning all four open seats on the Village Board.
And both elated Democrats and disheartened Republicans agreed:  The election swung on Mayor Joe Booan’s idea of exploring whether to contract with the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department for police services and close the village’s department.

• For the two three-year trustee vacancies, Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch lead the ticket with 434 votes; incumbent Jeff Katz was second (279), followed by the Republicans, Matt Schuermann (226) and Jim Potts (216).
• For the one two-year term, Walter Franck got 429 votes; Phil Lewis’ 233.
• For the one one-year term, it was Jim Dean with 366 to Joan W. White’s 194.

“Shared services: It’s still the best road for us to go down,” said the mayor, standing on candidate Jim Potts’ front porch on Leatherstocking Street as the Republican gathering was breaking up.
“A lot of elderly were concerned about the police,” said Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, who garnered the most votes that day, at a victory party at chairman Richie Abbate’s Westridge Road home.
“People would mention the mayor, and they would mention the police issue,” Dean said of his experience going door to door.
But Democrat Walter Franck, the second-largest vote-getter, said the mayor had been thinking “out of the box,” and more of that kind of thinking is warranted.
When the polls closed at 9 p.m., the machine counts were quickly available.  With 168 absentee ballots to be counted, Kuch, Franck and Jim Dean clearly had winning margins.
Not so in the Katz-Schuermann race; they were separated by only 53 votes.  The absentee ballots were opened and counted, a time-consuming process, with Abbate standing by. At 10:32, the phone rang at the Westridge Road home.  Abbate was at the other end.  Katz had it.
The group gathered around the kitchen table broke into smiles and applause.
Strictly speaking, the Democrats will dominate the seven-member Village Board that will be sworn in April 4 – Booan and Deputy Mayor Willis Monie are the sole Republicans.  The one other incumbent, Lynne Mebust, is a Democrat.
However, Kuch, Franck and Dean each immediately declared that village residents are sick of the partisanship of the last couple of years, and they vowed to approach each issue with open minds.
“People are looking for new ways to bring people together,” said Franck.
“All this is new to us,” added Dean, noting that, except for Katz, it is the first time these Democrats have won elective office.
Both the ascendant Democrats and Booan said they planned to focus on the repair of streets, roads and infrastructure, the mayor’s prime focus.
For his part, Katz said “I’m happy to be reelected.  I do love the job.  I do take it seriously.”
He said he believes the mayor has been secretive, both in his approach to the police-service issue and in preparing the budget.
For his part, the mayor was conciliatory, saying it is his responsibility to work with whomever is elected trustee, and he intends to do so.
“It’s my job to lead the trustees,” he added.  “And I’m going to do that.”
All the Democrats had high praise for their chairman, saying he had worked to put together a strong ticket, and made sure the subsequent campaign was organized and disciplined.
“I didn’t like the direction the village was taking,” he explained.

Jim Kevlin/The Freeman’s Journal
Successful candidate Jim Dean, left, reflects on the evening’s events as the final tallies are phoned in.

Please, Trustees New And Old, Get Along For Good Of All

Jim Kevlin/The Freeman’s Journal
IN THE FINAL HOURS:  With Election Day at hand, Kate Donnelly, Lindsey Trosset, Margaret Schuermann and Kate Trosset helped host the Republican rally Sunday afternoon, March 13, at the redone Agway on Railroad Avenue.

Congratulations to Jim Dean, Walter Franck, Jeff Katz and Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, the successful trustee candidates on Tuesday, March 15, in the village elections.
But everyone should offer appreciation and thanks to Phil Lewis, Jim Potts, Matt Schuermann and Joan White for ably competing. 
Regrettably, not everybody can win.  But it’s been widely recognized that the combined slates comprised the most impressive field of candidates in memory.
Well done to you all, and to the Democratic and Republican chairs, Richie Abbate and Mike Trosset respectively.

Now the work begins, and it is formidable.
Mayor Joe Booan has taken a new approach this year to budgeting, and the result must be filed with Village Clerk Teri Barown by Monday, March 21.
In recent years, department heads submitted their budgets, and trustees have gone through the compiled document line by line, cutting here, adding there, then starting again when the percentage increase appeared to high.
This time, the mayor met individually with department heads, who surely have the best understanding of the tasks at hand and the resources required to accomplish them; Booan brings the rigour of priorities.
The mayor appears to be aiming for a stable tax rate yet again, at the same time intending to push forward much-needed repairs to streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure, central to his successful campaign in 2010.
Booan will present what is truly a “mayor’s budget,” subject, of course, to review and revision by the whole Village Board before a final document is adopted by the end of May.

That’s just the beginning of the beginning.
It surfaced at last month’s Village Board meeting that there is no salary scale, per se, for village employees.  A system of reviews and raises needs to be put in place, so workers have a sense of what they can expect if they perform above, below or at par.
Also, the trustees need an understanding of what a standard benefits package is these days, to guide decisionmaking.  The trustees may decide to be more generous than the standard, and this may be fine; but they need a starting point.
At the League of Women Voters’ candidates night, resident Stephanie Bauer observed that the candidates included a predominance of “bosses,” an interesting point.  Among those elected, Dr. Franck managed a $30 million-plus budget at Bassett, and that experience is needed.
Understanding how large operations work is good, not bad.  People with an understanding of best practices in large entities is what’s needed right now.  The Village of Cooperstown, with its $5 million budget ($1 million raised locally) is relatively small, but certainly well beyond the Mom and Pop stage.

Pointing this out, and noting that village has been unclear at various points about how much money it may or may not have, has been considered implied criticism by some.
In that light, consider an story on NPR’s “Planet Money” the other day, about Gordon Mann, a consultant to the State of Pennsylvania, who individual towns and cities can call in when they realize their finances are out of control.
Allentown, York, Johnstown, Easton, Scranton and Reading have all turned to Mann.  In Reading, “hundreds and hundreds” of checks were found in a shoe-box in the zoning office; no one had gotten around to cashing them.
The point is that we can do better than that.  Why shouldn’t Cooperstown be the trailblazer in this area, as it has been in so many others?
To do this, mutual respect is necessary.  Please, trustees, new and old, embrace a new beginning.  Accept, for the shortterm, that everyone’s motivations are above board.  Avoid one-upmanship.  Instead of criticizing or clashing, bite your tongue; if it’s still an issue at the next meeting, make your point then.
Happily, this very sentiment was made emphatically by successful candidates and Mayor Booan on election night.
While Cooperstown has generally been well-served by its community leaders over the decades, we’ve hit a bit of a rough patch lately.  With this brainy and varied Village Board in place, let’s start making up for lost time.

Diane Greenblatt, left, and Rosemary Abbate roll meatballs for the Democratic Party’s spaghetti dinner Monday, March 14, at the Vets’ Club, to benefit the Cooperstown Food Bank.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


To the Editor:
I am writing in response to Grace Kull’s letter regarding her experiences with the Cooperstown Police Department. While I find it admirable that the police department responded quickly and kindly, it would seem to me that the better option would have been a call to our 911 call center so that they could have dispatched the appropriate help. Ms. Kull’s experience has no relevance on the debate regarding the future of our police force.
The threats to the Village of Cooperstown are no graver than they were 50 years ago. Certainly, times have changed, but our community is still a close-knit assemblage of caring, neighborly people who work together for the betterment our all. Back then we had two officers who handled the policing needs of the village. Then our two officer force had one police car (and it wasn’t a gas-guzzling SUV). We did not have 24/7 village police force coverage, but we knew, as we would today, that the sheriff was close by and the State Police force was also at our disposal. We felt secure, and we were kept safe.
Obviously, it is comforting knowing that we have a local police force available in the event of the unforeseen, but today the real threat, with government budgets near collapse, is that the village government cannot continue to spend all of its resources (your tax dollars) on payroll and benefits while it neglects its roads and infrastructure.
Nor can we continually turn to the taxpayers of the village and ask them to dig deeper into their already strained personal budgets. School districts, state and federal governments (not to mention prices at the gas pumps) are all already doing that. We cannot kick this can down the road any further. The day has come to make the tough decisions, find ways we can save, and reallocate resources while causing the least amount of pain.
There is a slate of candidates for trustee who are especially skilled in fiscal management and have the fortitude to make these tough decisions, and to help Mayor Booan return the village government to fiscal soundness. Matt Schuermann, Jim Potts, Phil Lewis and Joan White have vowed to restore the priorities that will allow the village to fix roads, maintain sidewalks and repair infrastructure while making sure that village residents are safe and secure.
Vote for the winning team. Vote for Matt Schuermann. Vote for Jim Potts. Vote for Phil Lewis. Vote for Joan White.
I am not resident of the village but I have lived in the Town of Otsego all my life.  You need put in office the residents who care about the Village of Cooperstown and want to keep it a nice place to live.
Fly Creek

LETTER: Vote for What is Best for our Village and its Future

Dear Editor
    It wasn’t all that long ago that I wrote in support of maintaining 24/7 police coverage in Cooperstown.  I thought anything less was a pretty foolish idea then, and dissolving our entire department is even more foolish now.  With the juggernaut of hydrofracking in Otsego County looming on the horizon, and the unpredictable burden this will put on our Sheriffs Department, turning over the protection and safety of our village to an outside agency, regardless of their prowess (this is not an attack on the Sheriff and deputies), is shortsighted, and the process so far employed is certainly questionable.  Very cogent arguments for keeping our own police force have been made by several writers over the past few weeks.  But I think the most important aspect of this is that our village trustees have control of our own department, and ultimately, have no control over county law enforcement.  When the chips are down, we will have to rely on an agency we basically rent.

            But there is also the “elephant in the room” that our mayor is hoping residents will ignore.  In several articles, a prepared public statement at the last meeting and a taxpayer-supported mailing to village residents, Mayor Booan has denied that his only recently public crusade has anything to do with his personal animosity toward our very capable Chief of Police.  With apologies to William Shakespeare, “The lad doth protest too much, methinks."  When this comes to public referendum, which we should demand, vote for what is best for our village and its future, not for the few dollars this scheme might  save.

David Pearlman

LETTER: Ideal Candidate? Jame Dean

To the Editor:

If ever there was an ideal candidate for a one year term in Cooperstown, it's Jim Dean. The Village needs Dean this year more than ever. The DEC will issue its hydrofracking regulations this year - in as little as 120 days. The Village is not prepared - it has no road use ordinance - so a frack truck convoy could go down any Village street  - Lake Street, Main Street, you name it, none are protected.  Jim Dean has been an outspoken opponent of hydrofracking, and this is the year to be focused on it.  Most Village residents live in the township of Otsego - and Otsego has no road use ordinance. Jim Dean is an articulate advocate for such ordinances. Absent those protections, the roads coming into Cooperstown - East Lake and West Lake, River Road - could turn into frack truck freeways. We need strong leadership on these issues. This year more than ever. Or the Village could end up without a police force when it is overrun by frack truck convoys. No need to wait and see on any of this. Or will see that you shouldn't have waited. Be safe, not sorry. Vote Dean.

James Northrup

LETTER: Ask Not to Duck the Issue of Hydrofracking

To the editor,

In regard to the March 4 editorial asking the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce not to duck the issue of hydrofracking:

Brewery Ommegang first asked to address the chamber board on this issue early in December, 2010. In response to our request to go before the entire board, the chamber said it requires this to move through the committee system. The chamber's Business Action Committee subsequently heard a presentation from both Ommegang and Gastem on Jan 24.

However, the Feb 27 Business Action Committee meeting, which was to further address the issue, was canceled with less than one day's notice and rescheduled for a month later. The reason given was that further perspectives from land owner's coalitions and environmentalists were not available. Otsego County environmental advocates as well as members of our business coalition of 200+ members have been and remain available.

This is urgent. Gastem is preparing to drill multiple new wells in Middlefield in the near future, and other companies may be right behind them. Once drilling begins it is much more complicated and expensive to address. From our perspective the Otsego County Chamber is wasting valuable time.  Whether it's deliberate or not makes no difference, as the drilling companies are moving ahead and they are not going to reschedule their drilling.

We too ask the Otsego County Chamber to get out in front on this issue, to address it openly and widely, and to do so sooner rather than later. We too encourage the Otsego County Chamber to acknowledge the timeliness of the issue and to move with a greater sense of urgency.
Thank you,
Larry Bennett
Brewery Ommegang

Voters Go To Polls Tuesday In Watershed Village Race

Mayor Booan’s Dream Team, Strong Democratic Slate Vie


Eight candidates – four Republicans, four Democrats – are vying for four seats on the Village Board in the Tuesday, March 15, elections.
The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. in the firehouse on Chestnut Street.
There are two three-year terms being sought by Democrats Jeff Katz and Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch, and Republicans Matt Schuermann and Jim Potts.  (Vote for two.)
There is one two-year term being sought by Democrat Walter Franck and Republican Phil Lewis.  (Vote for one.)
And there is one one-year term being sought by Democrat Jim Dean and Republican Joan White.  (Vote for one.)
At the League of Women Voters’ debate Monday night, March 7, only Katz said he supports expanding paid parking to Main and Pioneer streets, a controversial subject for the past three years.
Given the temper of the times, all the candidates spoke of reducing expenses, with the Republicans pointing out that village revenues have risen 65 percent in nine years.
Some political observers see Tuesday’s vote as a bit of a referendum on Mayor Joe Booan’s administration to date.  
The ONC BOCES administrator, one of a bloc of trustees seeking to better understand village finance, was elected to the top job last March on a pledge to improve village streets and sidewalks.
Controversies over the past year have included paid parking, management of village police and an effort to bring the Gateway project, seven years in the making, to a conclusion.