Thursday, January 6, 2011

City of The Hills

MORATORIUM ON:  Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended his predecessor’s hydrofracking moratorium through the end of June.  (For excerpt of his inaugural, A4)

SWEARING-INS:  Otsego County’s new congressmen, Republicans Richard Hanna and Chris Gibson, were to be sworn in Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.  (More on swearing-ins, A3)

HELLO, HELLO:  Verizon Wireless has expanded its 3G network to improve cell-phone coverage along I-88 from Exit 13 to Exit 15, Route 7 from Route 28 to Mill Creek Road, and Route 205 from Route 7 to Airport Road.

CHICKEN, TOO:  Brooks House of B-B-Q meals will be available this summer at Oneonta Outlaw games at Damaschke Field, Outlaws co-owner Keith Rogers announced.

STUDENTS BACK:  Classes resume Monday, Jan. 10, at Hartwick College.  SUNY Oneonta students return the following Monday.

Colin Eustis, winner of the Oneonta Family Y’s annual Frostbite 5k run New Year’s Eve, heads for the finish line.  Amanda LoPiccolo led the women.

Warm Weather, 47 Acts Helped Attract Crowds


For Mark Drnek, the highpoint of Imagine Oneonta! First Night was “that Oneonta had one.  Not a whole lot of communities did.  And we’re just a small city.”
But there were many other highpoints, including the return of the 12-foot-tall puppets, once a staple of Oneonta parades; the thousands who lined Main Street; the 47 performers and 100 performances at stages around the downtown New Year’s Eve evening; and, yes, even temperatures in the high 40s, unheard of around here at this time of year.
“In terms of sheer volume and diversity, it was bigger than 2000,” said Drnek.  That was the grandmommy of all First Nights, the night when the new century was welcomed in.
Although the tally was still mounting at mid-week, Drnek estimated between 2,000 and 2,300 buttons had been sold.  At $10 apiece, $15 since Christmas, that means the final tally will be in the $20,000 to $35,000 range, plus sponsorships.
“We’ll just about break even this year,” he predicted.  While 2000 actually made about $8,000, this year’s take was pretty good, given the three-year hiatus that caused First Night’s 501c3 status to lapse, delaying fundraising.
If Drnek is considered the granddaddy of First Night Oneonta, he had plenty of brothers and sisters.  Lynn Westcott, then UCCCA director, Jim Koury, Nancy Burnett and Bobbi Harlem were on the team that worked on the first event in 1998.
At the end of 1997, Drnek had recently finished up as Oneonta’s downtown task force coordinator when he spent New Year’s Eve in Baltimore, which had First Night activities.
Drnek liked what he saw, came home and got started. After the program lapsed in 2008 – “It’s a tough thing to run,” Drnek said – people wouldn’t let him close the door.
“A lot of people look at my face and associate it with a number of different things,” he said, “but one of them is First Night.  People kept asking, are you going to do it, are you going to do it, are you going to do it?”
And so, beginning a year ago December, Drnek held a couple of meetings to gauge the interest.  He soon  had a committed corps.
Pam Strother handled Venues, finding space for acts that ranged from Indonesian traditional dancing to salsa, then made sure there was sufficient power, decorations, food.
Katherine Bashaw, Tom Clemow and Drnek collaborated on Finance, but the 501c3 renewal didn’t come through until late fall.  Rich Murphy, the county representative, did Logistics.  Alderman Paul Robinson “was our button guy, and that’s not a small thing, either,” particularly given the need to trust someone with cash.  “He’d be walking around with pounds of $1 bills.”
Valerie Adams coordinated the volunteers – the more the better.  And David Hayes, downtown coordinator, organized the parade.

Jessie Baker of Greg Lee’s Cosmic Karma Fire wows the crowd along Main Street during the Imagine Oneonta! parade.

look in PICTURES to see more from Oneonta's First night!

Mayor Focuses On 2011

Mayor Miller in his City Hall office on the penultimate day of 2010.  The right window looks out on Ford Avenue; the left one on Main Street.

2nd Council Retreat To Look At Facilities


Oneonta has quite a year waiting for it, beginning immediately.
Saturday, Jan. 8, Mayor Dick Miller has scheduled a second annual retreat for Common Council to, among other things, begin discussing a multi-year infrastructure and facility plan that would include such issues as the future of the Oneonta Municipal Airport.
Tuesday, Jan. 18, the long-awaited revisions to the city zoning code will be made public.  The changes will focus on strengthening neighborhoods, providing housing opportunities and helping businesses start or expand.
On Saturday, Jan. 22, Miller is hosting a forum for the arts community aimed at coming up with a plan for full use of the Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center, including – perhaps – studios and artist housing.
Then, by spring, the Charter Commission will reports its recommendations, which will include a rethinking of the role of mayor and perhaps the need for a city manager.  The revised charter will be on the November ballot.
Completion of the Bresee’s renovation, city/town consolidation, negotiating PILOT or similar agreements with the colleges:   These also remain on the agenda.
While looking ahead, the mayor, in an interview at the end of his first year, said he’s enjoyed the challenges to date, particularly in the “spirit of collaboration” he’s enjoyed with aldermen, city employees and the public at large.
His first area of focus – developing a computer-based five-year budget plan that allowed Common Council to adjust in advance of crises – has born fruit in this year’s 2 percent tax increase.
City revenues were greater and City Hall spent less than budgeted, meaning “we’re ahead of the game going into 2012,” Miller said, pushing back the day of reckoning a year.   (He had expected the budget surplus to be exhausted in 2012.)
A big reason was renegotiating benefit packages for city workers and retirees that kept costs level or below.
His attitude toward the mixed reaction to the “Oneonta, Life Enjoyed” brand might be characterized as acceptance.  However, he said it can and will be used to promote Oneonta outside the region.
“We have to run events here that cause people to come here,” he said.
Along those same lines, he will be asking Alderman Mike Lynch, new chair of the Facilities/Technology/Operations committee, to look at upgrading Lettis Highway and South Main entrances into the city.
He said the entrances into Saratoga Springs – manicured landscaping and fancy paving – could apply equally here.

Judge Burns Decries Rise Of Scourge

County Judge Brian D. Burns is sworn in by State Supreme Court Judge Michael V. Coccoma.  Burns wife, Elizabeth, holds the Bible while their children, from left, Meg, Kevin and Tony, look on.

Three Otsego County people died of heroin overdoses in 2010.
Heroin arrests have occurred in Oneonta and Richfield Springs high schools.
“There are hundreds of thousands of dollars of heroin here in Otsego County,” County Judge Brian D. Burns of Oneonta told a full house in the Otsego County Courthouse’s main courtroom New Year’s Day shortly after he had been sworn in for a second 10-year term.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much that’s changed,” he continued.  “Heroin was simply not a problem.  It’s going to be the biggest problem in the next 10 years.”
That the judge chose to highlight such an issue at an event that typically focuses more on ceremony and thanks suggests how severe he views the challenge.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, sworn in for a 13th term, and county Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., sworn in for a second term, kept more to form, thanking their families and supporters and discussing the challenges ahead.
Drue Quakenbush, an Oneonta high school student, sang the National Anthem at the outset, and led the audience in “America The Beautiful” at the end.
In further comments outside the building, Burns said heroin has become “as available as marijuana.”  Previously, he said, it was of poor quality, requiring it to be injected; now, it can simply be inhaled.
And no one is spared.
“Stay-at-home moms in their 40s are being arrested for selling it and for using it,” said the judge.  In another instance, a graduate student tried heroin at a college party and was hooked.
Shortterm, Burns said, the quickest response is what the district attorney and police are doing:  finding sellers and arresting them.

County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., is sworn in by County Judge John Lambert.  The sheriff’s wife, Laurie, hold the Bible.

State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, greets his aunt, Dora Fowler of Roxbury, after he was sworn in for his 13th term Saturday, Jan. 1, at the Otsego County Courthouse.  Ms. Fowler, 91, is the oldest teacher in New York State, as well as the longest serving.  At left is one of the senator’s sisters, Leona Hoag.

Diz’ Lamonica Day To Honor Oneonta Centenarian

Frank “Diz” Lamonica was in Common Council chambers Tuesday, Jan. 4, where Mayor Dick Miller issued a proclamation honoring his 100th birthday.
Editor’s Note:  Mayor Miller designated Sunday, Jan. 9, “Diz Lamonica Day” in Oneonta in honor of the centenarian.  Here is the text of the proclamation.

WHEREAS, Frank “Diz” LaMonica was born in Oneonta on January 9, 1911, the son of a family whose members immigrated to America from Palermo and Sicily, and
WHEREAS, Frank and his younger brothers, Samuel and Carl, and sisters, Marian and Sylvia, grew up on Market Street and Watkins Avenue in the City, and
WHEREAS, “Diz” worked in the family bowling alley business, becoming its President, and also of his family’s banana sales company, and during the 1940’s,  he promoted amateur boxing for the Oneonta Recreation Commission under Dutch Damaschke, training such local athletes as Butch Katanic, Kid Cuyle, Brad Blasetti, and Dom Mastro, and in 1949, opened the LaMonica Beverage Company, operating his business and serving as its President until his retirement in 1986, on West Broadway, then Fonda Avenue and, ultimately, Railroad Avenue, and
WHEREAS, Frank has a son (deceased), a daughter, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, a loving wife, Jo-Ann Bridger who he married in 1989 and with whom he lives in Emmons Heights, and
WHEREAS, over the years, “Diz” has served as a Director for Wilber National Bank, the Oneonta Athletic Corporation, owner of the Yankees and the Tigers, has been a life long member of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church and donated St. Mary’s School Chapel, sponsored a Little League team for over 25 years, been a long time supporter and contributor to Boy Scouts of America, the Oneonta Police Benevolent Association, the Oneonta County Sheriff’s Association, the Otsego County Red Cross, and   
WHEREAS, “Diz” was elected “Citizen of the Year” by Hartwick College in 1989 and was inducted into the National Bowling Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Brotherhood of Elks, the Sixth Ward Athletic Club, and the Otsego County Boating Association, of which he was an officer, and
WHEREAS, Frank “Diz” LaMonica is a world renowned Grand Master Card Holder of the Greater Oneonta Gin Rummy Association, and an all around good guy.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Richard P. Miller, Jr., on the occasion of Frank “Diz” LaMonica’s 100th birthday, hereby proclaim January 9, 2011, as “Diz” LaMonica Day in Oneonta and request that all members of the community honor, speak out and express to “Diz” their admiration and affection in celebration of the life he continues to lead.

New York Can Regain ‘Empire’ Status

Editor’s Note:  This is an excerpt from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s inaugural address, delivered at noon Saturday, Jan. 1.  He was expected to announce a wage freeze for state employees during his first State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 5.

During this campaign, Bob (Duffy, former mayor of Rochester and new lieutenant governor) and I had the opportunity to visit all 62 counties once again. And doing it in a relatively compressed period of time, it’s just a beautiful reminder of the assets that we have in this state.
From the falls of Niagara to the powerful waves of Montauk, we have it all and everything in between. We really have every asset that man or God could be expected to give to a place.
That is the State of New York, and I saw that up close and personal. I also saw up close and personal the suffering that our people are facing and the devastating toll that this economy has taken. And it cannot be underestimated.
Young people all across upstate New York who are leaving because they believe there is no economic future left. The taxpayers on Long Island who are imprisoned in their homes because they can’t afford to pay the property taxes anymore, but the value of the home has dropped so low that they can’t afford to sell the house because they can’t pay off the mortgage. The laid-off construction worker in Brooklyn who can’t find a job and is fretting about what he’s going to do to feed his family when the unemployment insurance runs out.
This, my friends, cannot be underestimated. And to make it actually worse, people then feel betrayed by their government. That they have problems, they have needs, they look to the government and they assume the government was going to be there to help them because that’s what government is supposed to be all about. And they look to the government and instead they find a government that’s part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
People all across the state, when you mention state government they are literally shaking their heads. Worse than no confidence, what they’re saying is, is no trust. The words “government in Albany” have become a national punch line. And the joke is on us. Too often government responds to the whispers of the lobbyists before the cries of the people. Our people feel abandoned by government, betrayed and isolated, and they are right.
New York faces a deficit. A deficit that we talk about all day long, the budget deficit, the budget deficit. But it’s actually worse. The state faces a budget deficit and a competence deficit and an integrity deficit and a trust deficit. And those are the obstacles we really face.
And the state is at a crossroads. I believe the decisions that we make, the decisions my colleagues make, this year will define the trajectory of this state for years to come. The decisions we make today will shape the state we leave our children tomorrow.
As governor, I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do, because I told you what I’m going to do. I told the people all across this state. This was a different kind of campaign. Bob and I put together a very specific agenda. And we said we wanted to win not with the personal mandate — This was not about electing Andrew Cuomo and Bob Duffy; this was electing a mandate for change that the people of this state endorsed overwhelmingly all across this state.
We have a very specific mandate for change that the people want. And our expectation is that the politicians and the elected officials of people are now going to do what the people voted for and what the people need.
It starts with jobs, jobs, jobs, getting the economy running once again. Getting the economy running all across this great state.
Number 2 is going to be cleaning up Albany and restoring trust because Bob is right, you have nothing without trust. Any relationship is only as good as the level of trust, and we have lost the trust. And we are not going to get it back until we clean up Albany and there’s real transparency and real disclosure and real accountability and real ethics enforcement. That’s what the people have voted for and that’s what the people deserve.
We have to pass a property-tax cap in the State of New York because working families can’t afford to pay the ever-increasing tax burden. Nothing is going up in their lives. Their income isn’t going up, their banking account isn’t going up, their savings aren’t going up. They can’t afford the never-ending tax increases in the State of New York and this state has no future if it is going to be the tax capital of the nation. We have to send that signal this session by passing a property-tax cap.
And my friends, we must rightsize the state government for today. The state government has grown too large, we can’t afford it, the number of local governments has grown too large, and that we’re going to have to reduce and consolidate.

In 2011, Let’s Start Working With SUNY On ‘New Economy’

The high hopes for Governor Spitzer exploded.  Governor Paterson’s strong start soon foundered.  After two years of the troubling Great Recession, the state now faces a $10 billion deficit.
So while every New Yorker should try to be optimistic about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s prospects, we’ve witnessed how difficult it is going to be to return our state to “Empire” status, wish as we might.
In his New Year’s Day inaugural speech, the new governor certainly captured the pain in describing “the taxpayers on Long Island who are imprisoned in their homes because they can’t afford to pay the property taxes anymore, but the value of the home has dropped so low that they can’t afford to sell the house because they can’t pay off the mortgage.”
Long Islanders, for sure, but homeowners statewide, too.
Cleaning up Albany?  Long overdue.  Right-sizing government?  Sure; economic decline has made the investments of Nelson Rockefeller’s “Golden Age” unsustainable.
A property-tax cap.  Good.  But, careful: You push in here and it comes out there, as Unatego Superintendent of Schools Chuck Molloy and other educators observed Monday, Jan. 3, at the Otsego County Chamber’s annual State of the State Luncheon.
With the Internet bubble bursting at the beginning of the last decade, the housing bubble bursting eight years later, and tepid economic growth in between, public pension funds stagnated.
Today, with baby boomers heading for retirement, school districts and localities are being required to make big hikes in local contributions during the worst economy in 80 years.  Plus, the federal stimulus that closed budget gaps is expiring.
The state’s Wicks Law, which required $9,000 doors during the recent Cooperstown Central School renovation, has been allowed to lapse in New York City.  Why not statewide?
School districts likewise can help themselves.  But in the ONC BOCES, the only talk of mergers of our many tiny districts is between Stamford, Jefferson and South Kortright, one of many long overdue.
Certainly, there’s much more.
One benefit of downturns is that they can force us to address painful choices easy to ignore when everything’s going fine.  If the governor and state Legislature can make those choices, they will be heralded.
At the luncheon, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, pointed out that Texas, Georgia and Florida, the fastest growing states, also have the lowest taxes and highest economic growth.  The energy crisis of the 1970s, of course, was also a big contributor to Sun Belt prosperity.
Sure, let’s rationalize government.  Let’s cut where we can.  But we need a concept that is only now a’borning, evident in the SUNY Albany’s NanoTech Complex and Advanced Micro Devices’ $4.6 billion computer chip under construction in Malta, Saratoga County.
SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski told the gathering, “In the next decade, economic revitalization is going to come from higher education.”
She’s exactly right.  The question, locally, is how can we jumpstart the process?  We don’t need Cuomo or state government to intensify that conversation immediately.

Mayor Miller To Oneonta Arts Community: How Can Foothills Help You?

Editor’s Note:  Here is Mayor Miller’s invitation to the local arts community setting the stage for a community forum 9-noon Saturday, Jan. 22, at the Foothills Performing Arts Center.

The broadly defined arts and entertainment community in the Oneonta area is rich and vibrant.  It is also fragmented with an opportunity presenting itself to have individuals and organizations work together to capitalize on collective resources.  As I understand it, in the late 1990’s, “arts” were to be the theme which Oneonta would promote to bring visitors to our community.  That possibility continues to exist and with the addition of the Oneonta Theatre and Foothills Performance venues, the opportunity is greater than ever.  Combined with a downtown hotel and improved retail and dining opportunities in the center City, promoting Oneonta as a day or overnight destination for people interested in the arts should be addressed. 
As Mayor, I would like to invite all interested individuals and organizations to participate in a community forum on this subject which will be held Saturday, January 22nd, 2011 from 9:00 a.m. until noon in the atrium at the Foothills Performing Arts Center.  A continental breakfast will be served.  Break out groups will discuss and present ideas on a list of topics which would include, but not be limited to:

• creating and promoting a calendar of activities
• collaborating to raise financial support
• barriers to collaboration that need to be addressed and removed
• needs of the arts and entertainment communities of Oneonta
• a cooperative housing and studio art facility

I hope we can leave the above described session with three (3) to five (5) activities upon which we can agree to move the effort forward.  Please call or email my office letting me know if you can attend so that we can plan on the appropriate size group.

Father Burns Was About People

Just after the wonderful Christmas celebrations, we learned on the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, that Father John Burns, pastor of Holy Cross Church, Morris, had passed away.
Father Burns was dean of Otsego County, appointed to that post by Bishop Hubbard to represent the diocese in the western area of the Diocese of Albany.
Father Burns was a friend of ours here at St. Mary’s, Cooperstown.  Any time he was invited, he joyfully came to parties, social events, business meetings and liturgies.  Recently, he was here for the funeral of Dennis Murray.  He came through our Open House on Dec. 19.
He heard confessions here on Dec. 22. Father John often came to assist with our confirmation students, to hear confessions or to lead the once-a-month special mass for our confirmation students.
Many have shared their feelings about this quiet man.  Some commented how his faith came out when singing, full voiced and unsparingly.
“He was gentle and kind in confession.” “He loved his vocation and the people he served.”
My own thoughts are:  John listened.  He was quiet. When he spoke, one should listen.
The week he died, John would have traveled to be with the bishop, priests and seminarians for the annual Christmas social.  I confess that I am too Christmas-exhausted to even think of the trip.
Not John. He was always there. And “there” was people.  John Burns ever sought to bring people together. 
One of the greatest comments I heard about his passing comes from the wonderful person who maintains the rectory and watched John convalesce here after this heart surgery.  She observed: “Father Burns was always busy doing the Church’s work very quietly and diligently.”
My fondest thought is how he traveled to be with us on Sunday morning, June 6, at 11 a.m., for the celebration of the Year of Priests.   Father Andrew W. Cryans of Durham, N.H., said:  “ You  can always  count on John Burns to be there when it is priesthood.” 
May the Eternal Priest embrace Him.  “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisdeck.”

Father Rosson is pastor of St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Church,

Bishop Officiates At Funeral of Father John Burns, 71, Otsego-Delaware County Dean

MORRIS – The funeral mass for the Very Rev. John R. Burns, dean of the Otsego-Delaware Deanery, was Friday, Dec. 31, at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Oneonta.  Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Diocese of Albany officiating.
Father Burns, 71, who was also pastor of Holy Cross Church, Morris, passed away Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010, at his home in Morris.
He was born in Albany in 1939, the son of Robert J. Burns Sr. and Anna (Wohlfahrt) Burns.
He was a graduate of St. Joseph’s Academy in Albany in 1957. He attended Mater Christi in Albany and St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, Canada, then was ordained at the Cathedral in Albany by Father William A. Scully.
While assistant pastor at St. Ambrose Church in Latham, he was an instructor at Mercy High School in Albany. He was assistant pastor at St. Joseph’s Church in Rensselaer and St. Agnes Church in Cohoes, then chaplain at Memorial Hospital and School of Nursing, then assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Ballston Spa.
In 1981, he became pastor of Precious Blood of Jesus Church in South Kortright, and in 1999 became pastor of his current church Holy Cross Church of Morris.  He was chaplain of the Joseph P. Molinari Council 4989 Knights of Columbus.
Survivors include his brother, Robert J. Burns Jr. and his wife, Agatha, of Canada Lake; a nephew, Robert A. Burns and his wife, Kristen, of East Greenbush, and his three great-nieces, Madison, McCayla and Macey Burns.
Burial was Monday, Jan. 3, at Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Niskayuna.
Memorial donations may be made to Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, P.O. Box 118, Morris, NY 13808.
Arrangements were with the Johnston Funeral Home of Morris.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Is Oneonta Theater The Critical Mass We’ve Hoped For?

Tom Cormier isn’t the only entrepreneur in downtown Oneonta.
The Twelve Tribes have rebranded their Common Ground restaurant as the Yellow Deli and are refining plans for the former Ford dealership at Chestnut and Market.
Latte Lounge’s David Zummo will soon be opening a high-end steakhouse in the former Sego Cafe building.  Michele Pondolfino has the thriving Green Toad Bookstore.  The Scanlons have Sport Tech figured out.
Jim Baldo and the Fiesta.  Wolf Wilde and his jewelry.  The Karma Spa and Leilani’s next door.  The Georgakopouloses enterprises – the Athens, Mama Nina’s, Capresso.  We could go on and on.
But Tom Cormier’s Oneonta Theater is the one private undertaking that can actually become an anchor, an institution – like a thriving Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center or a renovated and fully occupied Bresee’s – that can be transformative.

Critical mass is the smallest amount of radioactive material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction.  In Oneonta’s case, you wonder what the final tiny nudge will be that results in critical mass; i.e., sustained development and prosperity of the city’s center.
One morning, we’ll wake up and we’ll be there.
It doesn’t sound like Cormier and his impresario partner, Jon Weiss, need much hand-holding.  Booking John Sebastian, Roger McGuinn and John Mayall for the upcoming season may well guarantee packed houses.
The Ricky Revival – where sons Matthew and Gunnar celebrate their dad, ‘50s teen idol Ricky Nelson – is likewise intriguing.  So is the Fab Faux, led by Will Lee, bassist for “Late Show with David Letterman,” not a cover band for the Beatles, but one that seeks to recreate the experience of a live Beatles concert.
These are opportunities for the Oneonta Theater, but for everyone else as well.

Recently, an article featured Marc Kingsley, proprietor of The Inn at Cooperstown, and the win-win partnerships he is putting together there.
His “Ultimate Baseball Hall of Fame Getaway,” for instance, features insider tours of the Hall of Fame archives, conducted by one of the high priests, and featuring the actually handling – with rubber gloves, of course – of some of the sacred objects in the collection.
It happens on a Friday.  Thursday night, the 34 guests stay at The Inn, (and Friday, and maybe through the weekend.)  Friday evening, the 34 dine at Nicoletta’s Italian Cafe, hosted by one of the Hall’s experts.
Kingsley wins.  The Hall wins.  Nicoletta’s wins.  The participants win.  Local merchants win. Everybody wins.
What a concept for the Oneonta Theater and everybody else in the neighborhood.  Why shouldn’t Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center partner with Cormier?  Mayall on a Friday, someone at Foothills on a Saturday?  Sebastian on a Saturday, someone at Foothills on Friday.
Get the Clarion in the act.  Get the many downtown restaurants to participate.  Is there a Southside Mall tie-in?  Win-win.

Thomas R. Cormier, Oneonta’s new friend, was designated Hometown Oneonta’s 2010 Citizen of the Year because of his guts and drive in pursuing a novel idea.
But he also received the recognition because he is doing something that could benefit everyone.  As with all visionaries, it isn’t all about him, but about everybody.
Next year’s headline?  “Tom Cormier and the Oneonta = Critical Mass.”  And why not?

Theater Owner: ‘There Was Only One Way To Go ... Forward’

When Tom Cormier looked at decades of detritus piled a foot high in the basement of the Oneonta Theater, he figured the 1890s cellar had a dirt floor.
With the help of the non-profit Friends of the Oneonta Theater (FOTOT), the backing-breaking cleanup ensued – basement to dumpster, basement to dumpster; “we kept MOSA busy all summer” – and Cormier got a pleasant surprise:  The floor was cement.
Most of the surprises were bad ones at the historic property he had purchased in June 2009, which was at least generating an income stream from three storefronts and a half-dozen apartments.
Still, “I was actually sick to my stomach when I left the closing,” he said.  “I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.”
Luckily, “I’m a get-it-done, hardworking, blue-collar guy,” and on Saturday, July 31, the show went on – an opening gala featuring Too Many Divas, the Fokine Ballet, the Sweet Adelines, music and dance by local troupe after local group.  Then, local groups like Guava Smash played rock and roll into the wee hours.
“Opening night: That was great,” said Cormier the other day, sitting on a stool in CITIZEN/From A1
the smartly redone lobby, “seeing people smiling after all that hard work.”
Perhaps Tom Cormier and his impresario partner, Jon Weiss, hadn’t heard there was a recession on, the worst in 80 years.
Perhaps they hadn’t heard that the Upper Catskills Community Council on the Arts was in extremis, that the Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center lacked funds to finish its theater, and that Glimmerglass Opera up Route 28 had seen its state funds cut by $120,000.
But these entities depend on grants and government funding.  Hope springs eternal in the breast of entrepreneurs.  Cormier and Weiss had an idea, they were excited by it, and they were going for it.
And week in, week out, into December, the partners staged band after play after movies (movies weren’t a success, it turned out) and are still standing.
And Oneontan Jerry Jeff “Mr. Bojangles” Walker’s Aug. 5 performance sold out every seat in the place, and drew fans from Washington D.C. to Ohio, showing the theater’s potential.
For what he’s accomplished so far in a challenging economy, and what he has planned for the months ahead, Hometown Oneonta has named Thomas R. Cormier as its 2010 Citizen of the Year.
“There’s no guarantee we’ll survive,” said Cormier frankly; he’s closed the venue until spring to save on heat.  “I hope we do.”
But when you hear about next year’s lineup, there’s reason for hope.
John Sebastian, famed lead singer for the mammoth “Lovin’ Spoonful,” will launch the season April 1. Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Famer Roger McGuinn, former lead singer and lead guitarist for “The Byrds,” is booked.  John Mayall, pal to Eric Clapton, hitmaker (“All Your Love,” “Hideway”) will follow up later in the summer.
Before the Oneonta opened, agents were reluctant to book name acts, said Jon Weiss.  But now, “The theater has earned the reputation as a good-sounding, well-run place.  That’s something we couldn’t prove before we opened.”
Whatever is accomplished couldn’t have happened if Tom Cormier hadn’t taken a chance, investing proceeds from his Installation Technologies Inc. in an idea.  (The company installs satellite dishes in Upstate New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.)
That Cormier had the money wouldn’t always have been the case.
Tom was born in Concord, Mass., by far the youngest of two sisters and three brothers, and moved several times in New England and New York State while growing up.
After graduation from Jamesville-Dewitt High School, outside Syracuse, in the early ‘80s, he spent a few years in the Army National Guard, then attended Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turner Falls, Mass.
After a stint taking aerial photographs, he found himself in Florida, the owner of Deerfield Beach Photo, which he expanded and soon renamed Industrial Photo Magic.
This was the early ‘90s.  Sensormatic, the surveillance equipment manufacturer (now part of Tyco International), was located down the road.  A big conference was coming up and the planners discovered they didn’t have enough media kits.
That was in the days before you would go to your PC and knock out a few more copies, and Cormier received a call from a frantic Sensormatic executive who needed 45 kits by 9 a.m. the next morning.
“I stayed up all night and hand-delivered them at 9,” Cormier recalled.  “She was so impressed that, immediately, I had all her work.”
Word got around and soon IBM, W.R. Grace and other heavy hitters in the neighborhood were Cormier’s customers.  He pioneered digital retouching of photos, bought a high-end scanner, but saw where the business was going:  His $200,000 scanner would soon be available for $25,000.
So he sold his business to a bigger photo lab from Miami, and moved – with future wife Karen Fagan, who he’d met in Florida – to a farm his parents had bought in Orwell, Vt.
“I’d gone up the previous fall for the foliage,” he explained.  “I fell in love with the Champlain Valley.”
Pretty soon, the photo entrepreneur was a farming entrepreneur, tending a herd of 350 sheep.  He got a lesson in global interconnectedness when the Asian Stock Market crashed in 1996 and Southeast Asia dried up as a market for Australian and New Zealand mutton.  He’d been getting $2.10 a pound live weight for his sheep; suddenly, as sheep from Down Under flooded the U.S. market, that price dropped to 10 cents.
“Needless to say, I lost – terrible, terrible,” he said, shaking his head.
Tom and Karen had married, son David (now 14 and an eighth grader at Edmeston Central) had arrived, and Joshua (now 12) was on the way (Jacob, now 8, followed later), so the still-young man found himself farming in the morning, working for UPS in the afternoon, and working the third shift as a security guard at Castleton State College.
“That’s when I got into satellite.”  In the late ‘90s, Primestar – it sold both satellite dishes and cable – was hiring in Keene, N.H., and Tom drove down.  He got an installation job, but soon found himself promoted to project manager on a “massive project” in Boston.
But Tom was traveling, and didn’t want that for his kids.  In 2000, he took a job with Ken Stabler’s Communication Specialists in Fly Creek and bought a home in Burlington Flats.  And in 2006, he went out on his own, founding Installation Technologies in a back bedroom; soon, he had 8-10 staffers fulltime, and was subcontracting with 40 installers.
If Burlington Flats meant stability, so did real estate, Tom figured, and so to Oneonta.
“It has the highway right here. It’s not a scary city.  It’s a city that has room for growth,” he said.  He was intrigued by 47 Chestnut, with its storefronts and apartments, although “it happened to have this huge abandoned theater as well.”
At first, he welcomed FOTOT’s collaboration, renting it the theater space for $50 a month.  But over the winter, he recognized, regretfully, “they didn’t have the resources to be able to do heavy-duty fundraising.  That was going to take a long, long time.
“If I wanted to see it turn around quickly, I had to step in and make it happen.”
He’s received a quick lesson in theater finance.  To keep the 600-seat venue heated at 40 degrees this time of year costs $4,500 a month.  Opening the place up and throwing on the 50,000-watt stage lights costs $500.
During part of the interview, Cormier had been leading a tour though the building, up to the second-balcony, sealed off since the 1980s, which he hopes to open up again.  Wooden pews line the third-floor balcony – the peanut gallery.
In the projection room at ceiling level is an original camera, equipped to accommodate the huge rolls of film that would come through in the days of “Casablanca” and “Shane.”
Throughout, you sense pride and commitment.
“I stepped into it,” he said.  “There was only one way to go, and that was forward.”

Growth In NY 5th-Slowest, Census Finds

New York State was the fifth slowest-growing state in 2001-2010, according to the first round of Census 2010 data released Tuesday, Dec. 21.
Its population rose 2.1 percent to 19,378,102.  Breakouts for Otsego County or local municipalities are not yet available.
The slowest-growing states were Michigan, Rhode Island, Louisiana and Ohio, which all lost population.

ARTS FORUM:  Mayor Miller has invited the public to a forum on Oneonta’s arts community, 9 a.m.-12 noon Saturday, Jan. 22, at Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center.  Call the mayor’s office to RSVP.

13TH TERM:  Oneonta native and state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, will be sworn in at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1, in the Otsego County Courthouse.

NEWCOMERS:  Meanwhile, Otsego County’s two new Republican congressmen, Richard Hanna of Barneveldt and Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, paid their first joint post-election visit to the county Tuesday, Dec. 28, addressing the Cooperstown Rotarians.

ON THE JOB:  Common Council has appointed Jason Hassick as a firefighter.  It also named two call firefighters:  Lauren Michels and Maureen Gillette.

It’s going! If you haven’t seen what’s left of the Wall Street side of Bresee’s, stop by Library Park in the next few days.  You’ll be surprised.  The demolition should be wrapped up early in the New Year.

After 3-Year Lapse, First Night Oneonta Is Back – Tonight!

David Hayes’ wife, Julie, came up with First Night’s moniker:  “Imagine Oneonta.”
The name is meant to pay tribute to the arts and creativity of Oneonta, both today’s and prospective.
“Many phrases were considered,” said Hayes, Main Street Oneonta’s downtown coordinator.  “But her’s was chosen in the end.”
You can pay tribute, too, by attending dozens of activities planned from 3 p.m. New Year’s Eve with games for kids, until 2011 is rung into the City of the Hills.  A parade is at 5 p.m., and fireworks at 10:11 p.m. (signifying that 2010 is becoming 2011).  A New Year’s toast is planned at 11:55 p.m., to prepare for pealing bells at midnight.
First Night Oneonta had lapsed three years ago, but a committee, chaired by Mark Drnek of Sweet Home Productions, has been working throughout the year to revive it.
“With all the gloom in the economy, I feel the community really needed it,” said Drnek, who had been active in First Night planning for 13 years.  “I hope it will generate optimism.”
This year, First Night will feature three dozen acts and over 80 performances at different Oneonta locales.
You can take in the Hobart Fire Department Bagpipe & Drum Corps.  Or Indonesian folk music and dance at Leilani’s.  Or “Just Clowning Around.”  Juggling, puppets, antique planes.  You name it.
Hayes’ responsibility is the parade, which steps out at 5 p.m. down Main Street.  (It starts assembling at St. Mary’s at 4.)
In all, 50 entities will march, including those giant puppets, unveiled at the Christmas parade, which have been missing from the Oneonta parade scene for several years.  (They were stored for safekeeping in a garage behind Bookhout’s.)
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I really feel it will be a great, lively time for all involved,” said Hayes, adding that participants can sign up up to the last minute.
For entry to all events, buy a $15 button, available at many downtown venues.  Children under 12 get in free.
For all the particulars, visit


PUPPETS – 2:30-3:30 p.m. PoppyTown Puppets, 148 Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
FOR THE KIDS – 3-4:30 p.m., Children’s entertainment.  Oneonta World of Learning, 148 Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
SKIP WEST – 4-4:45 p.m., 148 Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
KIDS ON STAGE – 4:30 p.m.
PARADE – 5 p.m.  Line up at St. Mary’s Church parking lot at 4 p.m.
Wii BOWLING TOURNAMENT – 6-10 p.m.  The Green Earth, 4 Market St.
INDONESIAN DANCE – 6-6:20 p.m., Indonesian Folk Music & Dances. Leilani’s, 205 Main St.
STANLEY WADE SCHOOL OF DANCE – 6-6:25 p.m. Stanley-Wade Dance Studio, 140 Main St.
MIKE THE JUGGLER – 6-6:30 p.m., 148 Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
DJ WOODEN’S SOUL – 6-6:30 p.m., Main Street Baptist Gym, 333 Main St.
JUST CLOWNING AROUND – 6-6:30 p.m., The Lord’s Table, 18 Elm St.
ARANDA BROTHERS – 6-6:45 p.m., 229 Main St. (formerly Java Island)
DAVE RADUCHA – 6-6:45 p.m. The Green Toad Bookstore, 198 Main St.
LISA & AJ – 6-6:45 p.m., First Baptist Hall, 71 Chestnut St.
THE MERRY MAKERS – 6-6:45 p.m., The Yellow Deli, 134-136 Main St.
STAN FOX SWING & KLEZMER BAND – 6-6:45 p.m.  St. James Hall, Elm & Main streets.
MIKE HERMAN – 6-6:45 p.m., Clarion Hotel, 55 Market St.
SALSA LIBRE – 6-6:50 p.m., Karma Spa, 219-225 Main St.
DANA LACROIX & SOREN MOLLER – 6-6:50 p.m. United Universalist Society, 12 Ford Ave.
FIRST CLASS – 6-6:50 p.m., St. Mary’s Gym
STODDARD HOLLOW STRING BAND – 6-6:50 p.m. First Presbyterian Church Hall, 296 Main St.
JAZZ QUARTET – 6-7 p.m., Chris Wolf & Gould Jazz Quartet.  Main View Gallery, 73 Main St.
CATSKILL VALLEY WIND ENSEMBLE – 6-7:30 p.m.,First United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St.
LET’S TOKYO – 6-7:45 p.m. Oneonta Teen Center, 4 Academy St.
MARK SIMONSON’S CITY HISTORY – 6:15-6:45 p.m., History Center, 183 Main St.
BELLY DANCER CANDACE – 6:30-6:50 p.m., Leilani’s, 205 Main St.
KARAOKE - 6:30-6:50 p.m., Main Street Baptist Gym, 333 Main St.
PUPPETS –6:30-7:30 p.m. PoppyTown Puppets, 148 Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
ONEONTA DANCE CENTER DANCERS – 6:35-7 p.m. Stanley-Wade Dance Studio, 140 Main St.
REDEEMING LOVE – 6:45-7:35 p.m., The Lord’s Table, 18 Elm St.
PIPES & DRUMS – 6:50-7:10 p.m., Hobart Fire Department Pipes & Drums, St. James Hall, Elm & Main St.
RANDY’S HARP TONES – 6:50-7:10 p.m., First Baptist Hall, 71 Chestnut St.
MIKE THE JUGGLER – 6:55-7:25 p.m., Main St. Baptist Gym, 333 Main St.
DAVE RADUCHA – 6:55-7:40 p.m. The Green Toad Bookstore, 198 Main St.
DRUMMING CIRCLE – 6:55-7:40 p.m., 229 Main St. (formerly Java Island)
DAMASHA BEATHA – 7-7:25 p.m., Leilani’s, 205 Main St.
JUST CLOWNING AROUND – 7-7:30 p.m., 148 Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
ARANDA BROTHERS – 7-7:40 p.m., Clarion Hotel, 55 Market St.
THE MERRY MAKERS – 7-7:45 p.m., The Yellow Deli, 134-136 Main St.
ELITE DANCE ACADEMY – 7:05-7:25 p.m., Main View Gallery, 73 Main St.
UNITY GROUP – 7:05-7:50 p.m. Karma Spa, 219-225 Main St.
TOO MANY DIVAS – 7:05-7:55 p.m.  Unitarian Universalist Society, 12 Ford Ave.
WALT MICHAEL – 7:10-8 p.m. First Presbyterian Hall, 296 Main St.
LINDA LEVEROCK – 7:15-7:35 p.m., Texas Two-Step, St. James Hall, Elm & Main streets.
WILD MOUNTAIN – 7:15-8 p.m.  First Baptist Hall, 71 Chestnut St.
STAN FOX SWING & KLEZMER BAND – 7:15-8:10 p.m.  St. James Hall, Elm & Main streets.
FIRST CLASS – 7:20-8 p.m., St. Mary’s Gym, Elm & Maple streets
MIKE HERMAN – 7:20-8:05 p.m., Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St.
ONEONTA DANCE CENTER DANCERS – 7:30-7:50 p.m., Main View Gallery, 73 Main St.
PROFESSOR WOMBOGGLE – 7:30-7:45 p.m., Main St. Baptist Gym, 333 Main St.
ELITE DANCE ACADEMY – 7:35-7:50 p.m., Leilani’s, 205 Main St.
O’TOWN BRASS – 7:45-8:15 p.m.  First United Methodist Church Sanctuary, 66 Chestnut St.
KHALIL JADE – 7:45-8:30 p.m.  The Lord’s Table, 18 Elm St.
DJ WOODEN’S SOUL – 7:50-8:20 p.m., Main Street Baptist Gym, 333 Main St.
JUST CLOWNING AROUND – 7:50-8:10 p.m., The Green Toad Bookstore, 198 Main St.
TOM RASELY – 7:50-8:35 p.m., Clarion Hotel, 55 Market St.
REALLY OLD AIRPLANES – 7:55-8:45 p.m., 229 Main St. (formerly Java Island)
LISA & A.J. – 8:10-8:45 p.m., First Baptist Hall, 71 Chestnut St.
STODDARD HOLLOW STRING BAND – 6-6:50 p.m. First Presbyterian Church Hall, 296 Main St.
INDONESIAN DANCE – 8-8:25 p.m., Indonesian Folk Music & Dances. Leilani’s, 205 Main St.
THE MERRY MAKERS – 8-8:45 p.m., The Yellow Deli, 134-136 Main St.
JAZZ QUARTET – 8-9 p.m. Chris Wolf & Gould Jazz Quartet.  Main View Gallery, 73 Main St.
PIPES & DRUMS – 8:05-8:25 p.m., Hobart Fire Department Pipes & Drums, St. Mary’s Gym, Elm & Maple streets.
SALSA LIBRE – 8:10-8:55 p.m., Karma Spa, 219-225 Main St.
DANA LACROIX & SOREN MOLLER – 8:10-9 p.m. United Universalist Society, 12 Ford Ave.
SHASTA FLOCK – 8:15-10 p.m., Oneonta Teen Center, 4 Academy St.
DAVE RADUCHA – 8:20-9:05 p.m. The Green Toad Bookstore, 198 Main St.
JUST CLOWNING AROUND – 8:20-8:40 p.m., Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St.
DAMASHA BEATHA – 8:30-8:55 p.m., Leilani’s, 205 Main St.
PROFESSOR WOMBOGGLE – 8:30-9 p.m., Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
BRAZZTET – 8:30-9:10 p.m., St. James Hall, Elm & Main streets
SGT. PEPPER’S PHONY HEARTS CLUB BAND – 8:30-9:10 p.m., St. Mary’s Gym, Elm & Maple streets.
REDEEMING LOVE – 8:30-9:20 p.m., First United Methodist Church Sanctuary, 66 Chestnut St.
MARK SIMONSON’S CITY HISTORY – 8:45-9 p.m., Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St.
MIKE THE JUGGLER – 8:45-9:05 p.m., Clarion Hotel, 55 Market St.
KHALIL JADE – 8:45-9:30 p.m.  The Lord’s Table, 18 Elm St
KARAOKE – 8:50-9:30 p.m., Main Street Baptist Gym, 333 Main St.
REALLY OLD AIRPLANES – 8:55-9:45 p.m., 229 Main St. (formerly Java Island)
RANDY’S HARP TONES – 9-9:15 p.m., First Baptist Hall, 71 Chestnut St.
THE MERRY MAKERS – 9-9:45 p.m., The Yellow Deli, 134-136 Main St.
BELLY DANCER CANDACE – 9:05-9:30 p.m., Leilani’s, 205 Main St.
PIPES & DRUMS – 9:05-9:25 p.m., Hobart Fire Department Pipes & Drums, 148 Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
TOM RASELY – 9:10-10 p.m., Clarion Hotel, 55 Market St.
UNITY GROUP – 9:10-10 p.m. Karma Spa, 219-225 Main St.
WALT MICHAEL – 9:10-10 p.m. First Presbyterian Hall, 296 Main St.
MIKE HERMAN – 9:15-10 p.m., Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St.
TOO MANY DIVAS – 9:15-10 p.m.  Unitarian Universalist Society, 12 Ford Ave.
BRAZZTET – 9:20-10 p.m., St. James Hall, Elm & Main streets
WILD MOUNTAIN – 9:20-10 p.m.  First Baptist Hall, 71 Chestnut St.
SGT. PEPPER’S PHONY HEARTS CLUB BAND – 9:20-10 p.m., St. Mary’s Gym, Elm & Maple
O’TOWN BRASS – 9:30-10 p.m.  First United Methodist Church Sanctuary, 66 Chestnut St.
DJ WOODEN’S SOUL – 9:30-10 p.m., Main Street Baptist Gym, 333 Main St.
PROFESSOR WOMBOGGLE – 9:30-10 p.m., Main St. (formerly McLaughlin’s).
FIREWORKS – 10:11 p.m. Neahwa Park.
SHOWMOBILE – 10:30 p.m. ShowMolbile Stage on Main St. culminates in 11:55 p.m. toast to the new year.
BELLS PEAL – Midnight!  Rolling peal of bells from the churches of Oneonta.  Happy 2011!