Historic Preservation Is Reviving Downtowns And Can Here, Too
Pessimists consider themselves realists.  In truth, pessimism is often just ignorance.  That’s a little harsh.  Perhaps it’s just insensitivity to possibilities.
Nonetheless, it was a breath of fresh air to spend a recent afternoon with the knowledgeable Elise Johnson-Schmidt, the Corning architect and former executive director of the Market Street Restoration Agency there.
Corning has been a charming place to visit for decades, but so are Cooperstown, Oneonta and other Otsego County communities.  Yes, Corning is headquarters of Fortune-500 Corning Inc., but Cooperstown hosts the National Baseball Hall of Fame and first-rate museums, and Oneonta hosts two now-thriving colleges, Hartwick and SUNY Oneonta.  (And, it should be added, a Corning plant.)
So if Johnson-Schmidt envisioned and implemented an effort to return housing to the upper stories of Market Street buildings in Corning, there’s no reason why she can’t do the same here.  She is allied with Klugo Enterprises of Corning, which won the contract to redevelop the former Bresee’s Department Store into, yes, stores on the first floor and, yes, apartments on the second, third and fourth.
She also spoke at that all-day seminar Otsego 2000 sponsored last fall on redeveloping upper stories in buildings on Cooperstown’s Main Street, which informed a series of recommendations the village Planning Board forwarded to the Village Board a month ago for consideration.

Independently, village Planning Board chair Charlie Hill and such board members as Richard Blabey had been studying what can be done to energize a stagnating Main Street, so Johnson-Schmidt was singing their song.
Among the recommendations on the trustees’ desks is to remove requirements that apartment owners provide dedicated parking spaces for their tenants, spaces that in Cooperstown simply don’t exist.  Private enterprise, Hill and Blabey have posited, will fill the void; until the market catches up, the village can lease tenants or landlords spaces in the Doubleday Parking lot.
When Hill asked the folks in the county Real Property Office what might be done, he was told the state enables localities to abate taxes on improvements to commercial properties, 100 percent for eight years, then bringing them up to full valuation 25 percent a year for the next four years.
Absent that, the property-tax system discourages property owners from upgrading their buildings:  For now, in addition to paying for often-costly renovations, property owners are immediately penalized by seeing their property taxes rise.
This would require each locality – the village and Town of Otsego, or the City of Oneonta, plus the school districts – to adopt the enabling legislation.  Longterm, it’s a great idea, since – beginning a dozen years from now and beyond – rising tax revenues will, over time, more than make up anything that wasn’t levied shortterm.

Whether or not the localities act, Johnson-Schmidt said three components are now in place that make the redevelopment of upper stories possible, as well as essential to create the cash flow necessary to make historic downtown buildings financially viable:
One, revisions to the state building code.  For instance, sprinkler systems may be installed when a second egress from an apartment is impossible.
Two, New Markets Historic Tax Credits allow 39 percent of the cost of certified upgrades to be deducted from a developer’s (or investors’) tax bills.  (Earlier tax credits for historic renovations were eliminated during the Reagan Administration, putting an abrupt halt to an exciting era of downtown redevelopment.)
Three, Restore New York grants, enacted during the Spitzer Administration, provide funds to close the gap between the cost of renovations and what a private developer can invest and still anticipate a profit.  Oneonta’s effort has taken full advantage of these to make the Bresee’s project viable.
The beauty of this combination is that everyone wins.  Decrepit (or merely under-used) heritage buildings, often displaying workmanship that simply can’t be duplicated today, find new life.  Neighborhoods around these buildings likewise revive, with housing creating a demand for services – food and hardware stores, for instance – that have moved out to the malls or the periphery.  As the demand for housing grows, existing apartment houses can be improved, higher rents paid, and tax revenues grow.  Any investment – and tax credits, grants and abatements are investments, not expenses – are eventually outstripped by new revenues.  Everyone wins.

In Corning, the effort has created 41 trendy apartments in spaces that were vacant a decade ago, and momentum continues to grow.  A fancy restaurant – Tony R’s, opened in 2007 –occupies several storefronts; The Cellar, a tapas bar, is offering 40 wines by the glass, 75 by the bottle.   Boutiques, high-end service businesses and smart cafes abound.
If Bresee’s, why not those vacant floors that extend west along Main Street from Oneonta’s Muller Plaza.  If not the old opera house in Cooperstown, why not the upper floors of that village’s landmark KeyBank building?
Optimism?  Pessimism?  Fiddlesticks.  Let’s simply sensitize ourselves to the possibilities … and act.

Justice, Proportionality Now In Judge Burns’ Hands
Who doesn’t wish that the clock could be turned back to the day before Good Friday 2010 and that Anthony Pacherille, then barely 16, had shared with a parent, relative or friend that he was reaching the end of what he could bear?
Anthony’s father says the boy had undergone two years of intensive bullying in the halls and lunchroom of Cooperstown Middle/High School, so intensive he had decided life was no longer worth living and, perhaps, that he would take one of his tormentors with him.
Pacherille’s father ticked off some names, who happen to belong to members one of the CCS sports teams, and it may just be that Wesley Lippitt, 17, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time that Friday afternoon in Cooper Park.
Other young people may have been able to withstand what Anthony could not, and it has been shown by now that the boy was struggling with a psychological malady, perhaps bi-polar disorder, which can manifest itself when the sufferer is in mid-teens.
Since then, we have learned many dismaying things about the Cooperstown community, as America’s Most Perfect Village sought to show it isn’t racist, it isn’t homophobic, it isn’t a refuge for bullies.  Anthony was the perfect scapegoat, and Cooperstown hung all its community’s fears and sins on him.
 It hasn’t been pretty.
But that was only part of the response.
Anthony’s father, Tony, has fearlessly and constantly argued his son’s case.  Children, of course, take a parent’s love and commitment for granted, but his steadfastness has been exceptional and unstinting to those of us who know it’s not always so.
Likewise, our neighbors who knew Anthony best, his fellow parishioners at St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Catholic Church, have prayed for him, lobbied for him, even placed “Save Anthony” signs on their many lawns throughout the village.
And loved the boy, too, as the open weeping of men and women alike indicated as Anthony entered a guilty plea Friday, April 29, that could bring him 11 years in a state prison.
How many pastors would have been as outspoken, determined and attentive to his lost sheep as Father John P. Rosson?  Few enough, we venture to say.
We can be both frustrated by the community’s smugness and inspired by its caring.

From the beginning, it was evident that a humane solution for a troubled boy accused of a felony was not readily available in New York State’s justice system.
Anthony, nine days from being 15 years old when the shooting occurred, has to be tried as an adult.  The hate-crime allegations, the outgrowth of a rambling suicide note that was scary in parts and poignant in others, more than doubled the potential sentence to over 20 years.
On the one hand, if an insanity defense failed, a tender boy with no record would be injected into the belly of the beast, the state’s prison system, to fend for himself.
On the other, if he were released into a psychiatric hospital, a physician could determine in two weeks, or two months, or a year that, under treatment and medicated, Anthony could be released.  Back home, he lets his medication lapse, and things are right back where we started from.
The best answer, of course, would be confinement in a secure psychiatric facility with no release without a full vetting by a range of psychiatric specialists and county Judge Brian D. Burns’ approval, then intense supervision on the outside, perhaps with electronic monitoring, perhaps with the requirement that Anthony stay outside a 50-mile limit from the site of the crime.
When you watch the jurist from Oneonta preside, it’s hard not to be impressed by his respectful treatment of all concerned.  He is a family man himself, with sons of his own about Anthony’s age.  This cannot have been an easy case.
The final outcome of Anthony’s case – absent appeals, which Tony Pacherille says will occur – will be in Judge Burns’ hands at the July 22 sentencing.  No doubt this case’s dilemmas have kept him awake nights.
Can he find that middle way?  St. Mary’s and congregations countywide should now pray that he can, and the rest of us can only hope that he will.  After all, this may be a matter of life or death.  Can Anthony survive the next decade in a state prison?
Happily, Wes has survived the flesh wound he suffered and the lively, cheerful lad is no doubt looking forward to his senior year.  This could have been a huge community tragedy, but it isn’t.  It’s hard to argue that Anthony, already a year in Otsego County Jail, hasn’t been punished enough, (although psychological treatment and rigorous security are essential in any resolution.)

You may have seen Madame Nhu’s obituary in the New York Times the other day.  A few years after her family was evacuated from Vietnam, her younger brother, angry at being disinherited, strangled both his parents to death.  He was hospitalized, released seven years later and has been out of the public eye since.
Every day, you can read similar articles suggesting Anthony’s prospective punishment is unduly harsh.  Let’s believe, as this case moves to its conclusion, that justice and proportionality are possible.

Art Just A Frill?  Anti-Gambling Entries Show How It Can Brings Issues To Life
When you think of the Caves of Altamira in northern Spain, with its paintings of hunters and bisons dating back 18,000 years, you have to conclude art was always important to humankind.
But in tough budget times – don’t school boards always cut art and music first? – we forget that.
Then something like LEAF Inc.’s anti-gambling-art contest smacks us in the back of the head.  The $1,000 grand prize will be awarded at a reception, 6-10 p.m. Friday, April 29, at the UCCCA gallery, 11 Ford Ave., but organizer Carol Mandigo released the finalists in advance.
Some of those finalists are pictured on this page, and they speak for themselves in many ways.  Dramatically, shining the light on problem gambling.  Rhetorically, causing us to question our presuppositions of gaming as an innocent sport.  Imperatively, in directing us to do better.
The evening also features a poetry-reading competition, again on the anti-gambling theme.
Of course, we all know gambling can be a harmless pastime for some, an occasional glass of chablis, or it can be an all-consuming scourge, a fifth of bourbon a day.  The art entries, however, certainly raise the caution flag.  (You can take the Gamblers Anonymous self-diagnosis test on Page A7)
It used to be a truism that if people want to gamble, they’ll find away.  The problem with glitzy casinos, however, is that they’ve drawn upstanding people to the shows and restaurants who only then discovered they had a problem.
It’s regrettable that, as a nation, we’ve embraced gambling to fund such societal obligations as education, which used to be paid for by progressive taxes equitably levied.  It’s a sorry state of affairs, particularly since revenues always end up in the general fund.
So LEAF is doing what needs to be done – and what too few are doing.
A spinoff benefit of the anti-gambling-art contest, however, is to underscore the vitality of the arts, particularly significant given Mayor Miller’s strategy of building economic development on an arts cornerstone.

Consolidation Offers Firefighting Benefits
There’s been a little agitation lately about how the Oneonta Fire Department could benefit from one or two additional firefighters.
Hartwick professor Norma Hutman’s death Saturday, Feb. 24, when her home at 540 Main St. burned, and the gutting of the Realty USA office at 447 Main have added urgency to the question.
This comes at a time when the state’s new budget may result in 10,000 layoffs if savings cannot be found, and where NYSUT is predicting state-aid cuts will require that 5,000 teachers be laid off.
Given the atmosphere, it’s may be hard to find any government entity interested in adding positions right now.  That said, there’s often opportunity in adversity.

All things being equal – much of the increase in calls, for instance, are due to a busy EMT squad – who wouldn’t object to more firefighters?
In truth, though, there are many more trained firefighters within 15 or 10 or even five miles of the city than the 27 firefighters now authorized by City Hall, plus nine call firemen.
Look no farther than West Oneonta and Pindar’s Corners, which have well-equipped fire departments with trained and enthusiastic firefighters.
What better way to begin evolving into Greater Oneonta than to ally the firefighting efforts in the vicinity?
It would work for the volunteer squads, who would benefit from the professional department’s experience.  The city department would get to know the volunteers well, and thus generate a source of future hires when vacancies occur.
And everyone would be able to improve firefighting capacity by sharing and efficiencies.  Win, win, win.
In the city, Al Colone and Bill Shue have created AMUC, (Advocates for the Merging of Upstate Communities.)  This would be an excellent first project for them to take on.  Interested firefighters and others can reach them at albert@colassoc.com

However We Got Here, New Bank’s Success Will Benefit All
Since it seems everyone involved is under a gag order from the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, it’s a little hard to figure out what happened at Wilber National Bank over the past year.
First, the president & CEO  abruptly resigned last Aug. 6 at a board meeting.  Then, within weeks, it was announced that Community Bank System, based in the Syracuse suburb of Dewitt, would be acquiring Wilber.
Friday afternoon, April 8, papers were to be signed finalizing the $102 million acquisition that will bring an end to a venerable Otsego County institution, founded in 1874 in Milford and now expanded into seven counties.
Being a small county consisting of small communities and one small city, few secrets remain secrets and scenarios do abound, and this is a condensation of the most commonly repeated ones.
After the economy dipped in 2008, longtime customers began approaching the bank:  They could no longer meet their full  obligations.  Fine, some were told: Pay the interest and catch up when the economy rebounds.
When an inspector from the Office of the Comptroller showed up and became aware of the practice, he ordered it ended.  Receiving resistance, he ordered a managerial shakeup and told the Wilber board to prepare to be absorbed.  

The Office of the Comptroller then acted as matchmaker with Community Bank System, which has $5.5 billion in assets compared to Wilber’s $870 million.
Another contributing factor, one scenario has it, is that Wilber lacked the administrative firepower to keep up with the chunks of new rules arriving monthly from bank regulators in the wake of the banking crisis.  Banks simply have to get bigger to comply.
(Ironically, the crisis was a big-bank one; community banks like Wilber generally avoided the smash-up.)
A spokesman for the Comptroller declined to discuss what may or may not have happened, so it’s hard to know with any certainty.  Sure, the regulators are there to ensure consistency, that all customers are treated the same.  Still – if this scenario holds – it seems like a harsh outcome.

When the news of the Wilber sale first surfaced, Rob Robinson, president of the Otsego County Chamber, praised the bank’s central role in community development in recent years and expressed fears it would be diminished.
The Wilber chief executive, after all, was president of the county Industrial Development Authority when all this began, and Wilber had been front and center for decades on virtually every major community undertaking.
The late Al Farone, the Oneonta attorney, was the major Wilber stockholder by the end of his life, and his bequests – to the city’s St. Mary’s Catholic parish and school in particular – continue to benefit local entities.
And that’s the shame of it.  Congressman Tim Holden, from Saint Clair, Pa., used to say, “I’m the only person in Congress who wakes up every morning and says, What can I do for Schuylkill County today?”
And so it is.  Undoubtedly, no executive in Dewitt will be waking up every morning saying, “What can I do for Colliersville” – or Cooperstown, or Decatur, or Hartwick – “today?”
Happily, senior management remains in place in bank headquarters at 245 Main, Oneonta.  When the Cooperstown branch reopens Monday, April 11, as Community Banks, branch manager Janice Eichler will still be greeting customers with a smile, as she always has, as will managers through the Wilber system.
Some of Community Banks’ fees are lower than Wilber’s, according to Joe Sutaris, Wilber interim CEO who will be the new bank’s chief executive in the region, so that will benefit local customers.  Plus, Community’s e-banking options are more sophisticated than Wilber’s.
And there are other competitors – Norwich-based NBT, for instance, and the Bank of Cooperstown –  that are seeking to position themselves as truly local options.
So the pudding remains to be et, as Jed Clampett might say.
The acquisition led to 63 back-office layoffs, since those duties accounting, human services, etc. – can now be performed in Dewitt.  But if the hold-over managers can gain the full confidence of their new bosses and can show results – better, sterling results – the bank will be positioned not only to serve its stockholders but to resume its traditional role as one of our foremost business citizens.
Who knows?  Perhaps even THE foremost one it has been.
No One Told Pentaris, Ulukaya It Couldn’t Happen Here
The chapter on post World War II in Milton M. Klein’s history, “The Empire State,” is titled “Top of the World,” and we were.
IBM was entering the computer age in Poughkeepsie and Endicott. GE was burgeoning in Schenectady and Syracuse.  General Mills’ flour and Bethlehem Steel kept Buffalo flourishing.  Likewise, Kodak in Rochester.
And it wasn’t just the big cities.  In Elmira, there was Remington Rand.  In Cortland, Smith Corona.  In Sidney, Bendix.  Amsterdam and Gloversville were the U.S. carpet capitals.  Dairy flourished, providing fresh milk overnight to New York City and the Eastern Seaboard.
SUNY grew and grew.  The state Thruway, mile by mile, spanned Tarrytown to Dunkirk.  Kraft was everywhere.  Fruit and vegetable farms flourished, from apples above Lake Champlain to cauliflower in Pierstown.
Today, we hear a lot of defeatism, confirmed by the latest Census figures, released last week, which would have had our Otsego County population dropping if not for 760 more students at Hartwick and SUNY Oneonta.

Amid all this, two local men – recent immigrants both – have bucked the popular wisdom that Upstate New York is done.
Mike Pentaris of Oneonta, raised in dire poverty on Cyprus, rescued D.M. Graham Labs in Hobart, guiding its sale to Mallinckrodt, then Tyco.  Today, as Covidien, the local plant recently completed the largest methadone vault in the world, and is one of the largest two-county employers.
His challenge complete, Pentaris moved on a few years ago to Custom Electronics in Oneonta – he is now president – where he developed and spun off Ioxus, which makes ultracapacitors, a key component in electric cars and any efforts to upgrade the National Grid.
Meanwhile, Hamdi Ulukaya, a native of eastern Turkey and scion of a dairy and cheesemaking family there, took over Kraft’s former Phoenix Plant in South Edmeston, just across Unadilla Creek from Otsego County.
In 2005, he moved to Cooperstown – conveniently located between Phoenix and his feta-making plant in Johnstown (he now lives in Norwich) – and began manufacturing Greek-style yogurt with just six employees.
Today, he has 600 employees making Chobani yogurt, which is about to become the largest-selling such product in the United States.  He expects to announce construction of a second plant – elsewhere, probably, given the 3 million gallons of milk required daily has tapped out the region – any day now.

What have the rest of us been missing?  In our defeatism, we fail to recognize the opportunities around us.  (Temple University founder Russell Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds” speech comes to mind:  Visiting Baghdad, he heard the story of Al Haphid, who traveled the world seeking diamonds only to eventually discover a diamond mine in his backyard.)
The truth is, many of us are satisfied with the deteriorating status quo.
Another quick story:  The Otsego County IDA had planned to raise a spec building just south of Richfield Springs.  To do so required creating a water district.  That, however, would have required strict accounting, and homeowners who had been illegally hooking into the main for the last half-century would have had to start paying.  The project collapsed for that reason.  Shame on us.
How many of us would have told Mike Pentaris that Graham Labs was finished?  Or that ultracapacitors couldn’t be fabricated Upstate?  Or told Hamdi Ulukaya dairying was finished here?
Thank goodness that, despite jingoism and zenophobia, immigration to the United States continues strong.  Yankee ingenuity?  Tapped out.  Mediterranean ingenuity?  That’s more like it.
Welcome, guys, and much continuing success.  As for the rest of us, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/But in ourselves.”

Oneonta Action Clarion Call For Community-Sensitive Policing
You’ve at least clicked past red-headed David Caruso as very brash and rude Lt. Horatio Caine on “CSI: Miami.”
The way he treats the public – everyone is a potential suspect – is astonishing, and you have to wonder what kind of influence that kind of depiction of a top detective must have on the cop on the beat, and youngsters who will be future cops on the beat.
Living in country towns as we do, we may look back nostalgically on “The Andy Griffith Show,” with the wise and cheerful country cop helping the townsfolk over various rough spots.
But the reality is that law enforcement in the United States has been evolving in a user-unfriendly way, even more so and more quickly since 9/11.
Some of this is truly a concern about public safety, some of it a heightened respect for due process, but as often as not it simply reflects an evolving paramilitary culture that refers to members of the public as “civilians.”

There have been multiple manifestations of that lately in our three major local police agencies, the Oneonta Police Department, Cooperstown village police and the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department.
Interviewees from the Oneonta Charter Revision Commission were quite astonished to discover that ranking officers felt they were largely independent of the “civilian” administration and authority.
The recent OPD record is peppered with situations that are questionable at least, from officers implicated in improper relations with underage girls, to the arrest of a mayoral candidate during a campaign, to a police campaign against a sitting city judge some considered too “liberal,” to the latest case, allegations of brutality during an arrest in January.
In Cooperstown, Police Chief Diana Nicols has bluntly declared her independence from Mayor Joe Booan, who was duly elected by a sizeable majority to the village’s top “civilian” position in March 2010.  She is now suing the village and the mayor personally.
Nor did it help the police department’s standing when, after an officer with crossing-guard duties resigned, the crosswalk in front of the elementary school was left unmanned, without notice, requiring the elementary principal to scoot out and direct traffic as best she could.
County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., didn’t have a particularly good 2010, removing the 16-year-old shooting suspect Tony Pacherille from his Bassett hospital bed before he was formally discharged, then denying the boy access to his priest for months before the state Commission on Correction intervened.
The other week, a widely admired Cooperstown resident, Hilda Wilcox, the respected SUNY Oneonta adult-ed instructor, read a statement to the Village Board describing rough treatment received from the undersheriff, then his deputy, when she called with a procedural inquiry.  Did an officer really use strong language on this gentle lady?
Can it be true that, when an inmate’s term is up, he or she can be unceremoniously dumped outside the door of the county jail in Middlefield in the clothes they were admitted in, despite season or weather?
Redmond, Nicols and Devlin are undoubtedly good cops, or they wouldn’t have risen to the pinnacles of their departments.  But are they good public servants?  Are they, as they should be, community leaders who can think outside the law-enforcement silo about the good of our local society at large?

In this context, what transpired at Oneonta City Hall this week is quite astonishing, in a very promising way for we “civilians.”
In the wake of January’s brutality charges, Mayor Dick Miller and Common Council brought in a retired state police internal affairs director to review, not just the one incident, but procedures, communications, morale, the chain of command – everything that makes a police department work, or not.
When Common Council received its first briefing Monday, March 7, Police Chief Joseph Redmond resigned.  The mayor’s resulting statement suggested the chief, who is eligible for retirement, simply was unwilling to pursue the necessary cultural changes the investigation calls for.
Lt. Dennis Nayor was immediately made officer-in-charge, “reporting to the mayor and Common Council”; Miller’s statement makes it explicit.  A temporary chief is being sought, and a search will be launched for an experienced professional, a process that could take 12 months.
Otsego County has not been well-served as it might be by its police agencies, which are expensive, clannish, insufficiently strategic and dismissive of the public that pays the salaries.
At best, the Oneonta situation should be cause for reflection on the part of Chief Nicols and Sheriff Devlin.  Do they have a burning desire to truly serve their communities and county as a whole, or just parochial, airless law-enforcement prerogatives?
A good place to start:  County Judge Brian Burns has declared heroin “the biggest problem in the next 10 years.”  Where’s the plan?  And it’s not sufficient to merely say it’s under investigation.
At the very least, immerse every officer in training on the central importance of community relations.  It’s people, above all, that policing is all about.
Miller’s statement goes on:  “The mayor and Common Council are committed to providing the community not with a good police department, but a great police department.”
We’ve seen police edge from Andy Griffith toward Lt. Horatio Caine, not just here, but nationwide.  At a local society, we can’t control the nation, but we can make a difference between Unadilla and Cherry Valley, and Monticello and Worcester.
Do Chief Nicols and Sheriff Devlin have the capacity to be great?  We believe so.
Close to retirement, Chief Redmond stepped back from the challenge.  But Nicols and Devlin are young, energetic, with the best of their careers yet to come.  Seize the day.
Otsego Chamber Shouldn’t Duck Conclusion On Gas-Drilling
The Otsego County Chamber is going through a structured study of the issues surrounding hydrofracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation that undergirds this county.
And this is good.
On Jan. 27, the chamber’s Business Action Committee invited both sides to present their arguments – Brewery Ommegang President Simon Thorpe, representing the anti-fracking point of view for the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, and Orville Cole, president of Gastem, Inc., the gas explorer.
And that is fine.
The Feb. 24 committee meeting was postponed until the end of March, according to Otsego Chamber president Rob Robinson, because further perspectives – the landowners’ association and environmentalists among them – weren’t immediately available.
All the better.
Earlier, Robinson said the options being considered were “endorse, to not endorse, or leave it alone.”
Again, this is within the Otsego County Chamber’s purview.  It is under no obligation to express an opinion on anything.
All that said, hydrofracking for natural gas could, potentially, be a great boon for Otsego County landowners, (if they have obtained, or do obtain, leases that ensure sufficient royalties and protect their rights.)
Likewise, there’s money to be made, at least shortterm.  If you haven’t checked out Marie Lusins McLachlan’s Web site – www.otsegocounty.com/depts/pln/EconomicDevelopment.htm – it’s worth a visit.
The idea is to duplicate the national Don’s Directory of the Oil & Gas Industry, and the local site lists more than 100 business categories –  archeologists to welders – that could garner business.
Then what?
“We’re burning the furniture to heat the house,” John H. Quigley, Pennsylvania’s environmental commissioner until a month ago, was quoted as saying in the three-part series on hydrofracking that is appearing this week in the New York Times.  (Check www.allotsego.com for links to the series.)
The Times series paints a not-very-pretty picture of gas-producing regions:
“Drilling derricks tower over barns, lining rural roads like feed silos.  Drilling sites bustle around the clock with workers, some in yellow hazardous-material suits, and 18-wheelers haul equipment, water and waste” – some of it radioactive – “along back roads.
“The rigs announce their presence with the occasional boom and quiver of underground explosions.  Smelling like raw sewage mixed with gasoline, drilling-waste pits, some as large as a football field, sit close to homes.”
In Pennsylvania, “Ground Zero” for drilling, waste-water plants are overwhelmed and rivers are being tainted.  A long-term fear, of course, is whether groundwater will be contaminated.
Given that tourism is such a mainstay of the Cooperstown economy, you can understand why that chamber of commerce took a stand against gas-drilling.  (Ommegang, which hosted 25,000 visitors last year, is just over the hill from the Town of Middlefield’s Beaver Meadow section, a hot-bed of exploratory drilling.  The same aquifer runs underneath both – and northward under Otsego Lake.)
Oneonta’s economy is more varied, what with the colleges and some manufacturing.
The long and short of it, there are varied interests.
Still, it would be a shame if the Otsego County Chamber study committee were to duck any decision.
If disaster looms, it should be so stated.  If prosperity beckons, so be it.  If shortterm boon is longterm bane, we need to go forward with our eyes open. 

First Consolidation Will Take Uncertainty Out Of Mergers
A disinterested Cooperstown observer noted the other day about Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller, “Why are they picking on him?  He’s just trying to do something.”
The context was the furor – now calmed a bit – over “Oneonta, Life Enjoyed,” the brand developed to help City Hall market the “City of the Hills” to a wider geographical audience.
At base, the brand is serviceable to the purpose.  Nothing to get excited about.
It’s an interesting time to cover the mayors of Otsego County’s  biggest communities, Miller in Oneonta and Joe Booan in Cooperstown.  Both are “trying to do something.”  (Fellas, here’s a tip:  Doing nothing’s a lot safer.)

In Cooperstown, Booan is proposing – here’s a hot potato – contracting with the county Sheriff’s Department for 24/7 police coverage, allowing the dissolution of village police.
The mayor points out that village police costs about $500,000 a year.  That’s $555 a year for each of Cooperstown’s 900 households.
In preliminary conversations, Booan and Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., have concluded deputies could provide the coverage for half the cost.
Two things are probably true.
First, with state police, Devlin’s force, Encon police, SUNY police, and city and village police, even the Oneonta Jobs Corps’ traffic-control duties, we are likely paying for much more policing than we need.
Two, there is no overall law-enforcement plan for Otsego County.
Such a plan could define the optimum force, deploy it more efficiently and eliminate expensive duplication.
Regardless, village residents no doubt find it a little scarey to exchange a police force they “control” for one overseen by someone from Milford who may not share the priorities of those living between Walnut Street and Lake Front Park.

Mayor Booan originally was hoping to get this resolved in time for this year’s village budget, but that seems unlikely, given the need to line up the county Board of Representatives, build support on the Village Board and sell the idea to the public, which must vote on dissolution.
Better to wait a year and do it right.
Outside Utica, the Town of Whitestown and villages of New York Mills, Oriskany, Whitesboro and Yorkville have applied for a $50,000 General Efficiency Planning Grant from the state Department of State to study the idea.
Money’s available, even in these tough times, because Governor Cuomo, as did his predecessors, sees there’s money to be saved.  Let’s get the grant, get a professional to study the pros and cons, then act on the merits.
Once a single merger can be successfully achieved, others will follow.  A greater Cooperstown that includes the towns of Otsego and Middlefield, and maybe Hartwick.  A greater Oneonta, town and city together, as Mayor Miller is encouraging.  Perhaps one county school district with local elementary schools and 2-3 high schools.
There’s much to be done that needs to be done.  Let’s get started.
Full OPD Review May Help Everyone
If lightning strikes more than once, start asking questions.
Such has been the case with the Oneonta Police Department, which is embroiled in its third imbroglio since Mayor Miller took office in January 2010.
At the time Miller was sworn in, the scandal concerning allegedly improper interactions between three officers and teen-age girls was winding down, and the mayor gave OPB a pass.
The Oneonta Police Benevolent Association had endorsed attorney Mike Getman for city judge – is that proper when officers then have to argue their case before an impartial bench?  When attorney Lucy Bernier won, OPD was soon in a public fight with the jurist.
Last month, a suspect brought a complaint of police brutality.
On its own, the case may not have warranted the mayor and Common Council bringing in the State Police’s retired head of internal affairs for a broad-gauged review of personnel, practices and leadership.
But it was the third lightning strike.  It’s time, and citizens can hope for a thorough, impartial study and recommendations to make OPB as good as it can possibly be.
Potentially, everyone wins.
If County Board Conflicts Are Intolerable, There’s Ballot Box
Neither Sam Dubben or Jim Powers are unknown quantities to the Otsego County public at large. 
Both Republicans, Dubben is current chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives; he replaced Powers in that spot two years ago. The two have lengthy careers in elective office. 
At least a year ago, Dubben disclosed he has signed a lease to allow natural-gas drilling on his Town of Middlefield farm. 
Dubben this year appointed Powers to chair the county board’s Gas Advisory Committee.
In a subsequent conversation with Nicole Dillingham, Otsego 2000 president, Powers disclosed that his South New Berlin farm is among the properties the Unatego Area Landowners Association has assembled to strengthen its negotiating position for gas leases.
Powers further told Dillingham he favors gas drilling in Otsego County, and intends “to vote pro-drilling on all matters before the committee.”
On Feb. 7, Dillingham reviewed all this in a letter to Dubben advising him of the conversation.  It urges him to reconsider the Powers appointment, and asks that the successor be – and be appointed by – someone who doesn’t stand to gain personally from gas drilling.
She further asked Dubben to seek legal advice from County Attorney Ellen Coccoma on how the county board’s Code of Ethics might apply in this case.  And she asks the chairman to direct all county board members to disclose “any financial interest with respect to gas drilling in our county.”
It was a strong letter, and an excellent one. 
All this is good, but there’s a parallel way to look at what’s going on and what might be done.
In Dubben’s case, he did disclose his conflict and, in public forums since then, at least has shown an understanding of public concern about gas drilling.   And he’s conferring with Coccoma.
As for Powers, it should come as no surprise that he supports gas drilling; it would be a surprise if it were otherwise.  He hadn’t disclosed the potential for personal gain, but now he has.
Whatever Coccoma’s finding, it would be nice to think that, going forward, individual representatives would recuse themselves from discussion and voting on issues that benefit them directly.
It can further be hoped that Powers – and all the county legislators – would be swayed by the facts as they emerge, rather than be locked in to a pro-drilling stance no matter what.
But, mostly significantly, there is a political dimension to this question.  By expressing himself so forthrightly, Powers – if he wants to keep his seat; maybe he doesn’t – must believe that a majority of his constituents agree with him.
He may be right, but given that the town board in New Lisbon (adjacent to Powers’ second district) now consists of Democrats and one Green Party member, he may be wrong.  Or perhaps public opinion is in transition.
Whatever way, Otsego County is a democracy.  If the anti-drilling coalition – Otsego 2000 and a dozen other entities – is dissatisfied with the service and representation it is receiving, it should challenge the incumbents with candidates of their own, or endorse candidates in the fall races.
The anti-drilling groups may be right on the merits when it comes to the intrusive hydrofracking process – in this space, it’s been declared that they are – but unless they can provide a choice and convince a majority of their fellow citizens that they are right indeed, they will not win the day.
At least, they won’t win the day through the county Board of Representatives.

In Economic Cloud, Is There Silver Lining
Of course, it’s easy to quibble about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s – or any governor’s – budget message.
A $96 billion budget, even one cut by $10 billion, funds so many jobs, schools and agencies with such varied impact that someone’s ox is bound to be gored.
In this space, we’ve consistently questioned how it makes sense to cut expenditures in the middle of a recession, but it seems we’re not all Keynesians any more.
Likewise, when you read that Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein paid himself a $12.6 million stock bonus for 2010, a 40 percent raise over the year before, you have to ask, Why not raise taxes on Wall Street’s top earners?  Why not, Andrew?
That said, there are benefits to periodic dips – although not as long, widespread and extreme as this one.  For instance,  having to get by with less can start people asking, Is there a better way?
Such is the case in Cooperstown, where Mayor Joe Booan is proposing dissolving the village Police Department and contracting with the county Sheriff’s Department for service.  He anticipates $250,000 can be saved, a quarter of the tax levy.  And so in Oneonta, where Mayor Dick Miller is proposing the consolidation of city and town.
Clearly, there are many other opportunities.  How many highway garages are there, for instance, in a 5-mile radius of City Hall or of Cooperstown’s 22 Main?
Likewise, schools.
In the ONC BOCES, only the Stamford, Jefferson and South Kortright districts are in conversations about consolidation. 
One of Cuomo’s whipping boys is superintendent salaries.   While the governor makes $179,000, the Orange County BOCES superintendent makes $400,000; the Syosset schools superintendent, $386,868.
No doubt we would be surprised to learn what superintendents are making in these parts.  Of more concern:  Do we have more administration than we need?
In the old days – here we go – supervising principal was top job in local districts.  Now there’s a superintendent, a principal or two, a business manager.
Could these functions be shared?  Could they be shared among districts?  One superintendent, say, for Laurens and Morris?
The point is not to mount a witch-hunt.  Superintendents and principals are some of the most revered members of our communities.
The question is, Can we do the same, in schools, in town governments, in perhaps merging Otsego and Delaware counties into one entity? (They used to be.)
Now, fellow Otsegians and Delawarians, is time.

If Catholics Support It, St. Mary’s Can Be Saved. And Should
Near the end of “True Grit,” the Oscar-nominated movie now showing at the Southside Mall Cinemas, Mattie Ross arrives at “The Cole Younger & Frank James Wild West Show” for a hoped-for reunion with Rooster Cogburn after 30 years.
Cole Younger stands respectfully, hat in hand: “It grieves  me to tell you that you have missed Rooster.  He passed away, what, three days ago, when the show was in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  Buried him there in the confederate cemetery ... What was the nature of your acquaintance?”
“I knew the marshal long ago.  We too had lively times,” she answers. “Thank you, Mr. Younger.”
Then she turns to Frank James, who’s been sitting the whole time, staring at her and chewing tobacco.
“Keep your seat, trash,” she says, and turns on her heel and walks away.

These days, of course, with the much-decried coarsening of American society, we routinely accept behavior unthinkable a generation or two ago.
The opposite – respect for elders, a given in civilized societies – emerged in interviews with the parents, teachers and alumni as one of the virtues espoused at St. Mary’s School in Oneonta, which is threatened with closing unless it can raise its enrollment from 50 to 70 students.
Alex Shields, the former county representative from Richfield Springs who was raised in Oneonta, recalls spending a day with a friend at public school.  When a teacher entered the classroom, young Alex leaped to his feet and said, “Good morning,” a routine signs of respect at St. Mary’s.
All these years later, Alex still remembers his surprise that all the other students kept their seats.
Kitty (Signor) Townsend, a St. Mary’s grad who later returned as a teacher, remembers how, when she and her sister, Joanne, would go into the kitchen for a snack, her grandmother, who was living with the Signors on Franklin Street, would turn the TV channel to the Mets.
When the girls would return, they wouldn’t dream of switching the channel back.  (In the end, their parents got a small TV for grandmom, and everyone was happy.)

In the hall outside “True Grit” the other night was a contingent of St. Mary’s parents, spreading the word about what their children’s school has to offer.
“St. Mary’s is not just a school, it is a joy,” said Dawn Schuman, who was there with husband Eric and their 5-year-old twin daughters, Simone and Sabonne.  “Kids run into school; they cry when there’s a snow day.”
The parents talked about “myths” regarding Catholic school, including that students don’t have to be Catholic – not the case... the facility on Route 7 east of Oneonta is open to all.
Certainly, there’s a secular interest in educational diversity – an economic-development one – not just in the case of St. Mary’s but the other Christian schools, Brookwood, the Montessori school in Toddsville, as well as the best public schools we can afford.
The lack of a Jewish school has been known to discourage some folks from moving here.  The more educational options our two-county community can offer, the better.

Still, the burden of St. Mary’s success lies with Otsego and Delaware county Catholics. 
Since St. Mary’s has a sizeable endowment – from, among others, the late attorney Albert Farone, the largest Wilber Bank stockholder at the time of his death – the challenge isn’t financial.
With 12 Catholic parishes in the two counties, each has to come up with less than two students each for St. Mary’s to achieve its target for survival.  There certainly is a role here for salesmanship on the part of the pastors.
Further, that the Catholic Sacred Heart Home Schoolers, which counts 50 students in its ranks, is prayerfully considering whether to join ranks with St. Mary’s, is excellent news.
At the diocesan level, the “Covenant to Educate” initiative has contracted with an advertising agency and a broad-gauged campaign is planned to tell the Catholic school story.
Certainly, a parochial school education isn’t right for everyone.  That said, judging from how enthusiastic participating parents are with what’s being offered, St. Mary’s in Oneonta is filling an important educational niche.
Any parent interested in learning more should call Principal Patricia Bliss at 432-1450. Also, an open house is planned shortly.  If you think St. Mary’s might be right for your children, plan to attend. 

How To Develop The Arts Is A Question, But Whether To Provokes Emphatic ‘Yes’

The mayor’s Arts Summit required some cerebration, but it was fun, too, as the expressions of three laughing ladies – from left, Carmella Marner, Franklin Stage; Zena Gurbo, Main Street Gallery, and Alderwoman Liz Shannon – suggest.

There’s Jacey Lambros, high-kicking with The Rockettes.
There’s Clarke Oliver, just back from performing in the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
There’s Jack Beal and Sondra Freckelton, artists of national renown just over Franklin Mountain (with an Oneonta address).
There’s the great Jerry Jeff “Mr. Bojangles” Walker.
That just scratches the surface of the homegrown talent Oneonta churns out – dancers, singers, painters, filmmakers, authors, potters, photographers, fashionistas.
Yes, indeed, Mayor Miller’s idea of harnessing all of that creativity systematically, strategically, to evolve Oneonta into an arts magnet, drawing thousands of people regularly from 100 miles around, simply makes a lot of sense.
It makes sense from a, dare we say, “Life, Enjoyed” perspective, but also from an economic one.  “I’m not in this for the arts,” he says.  “I’m in this for the economy.”
As Miller has pointed out frequently lately, local money passing from hand to hand adds little to the general prosperity.  Money coming in from outside the market that then, in increasing amounts, passes from hand to hand – well, that’s more like it.
He recounted to the Arts Summit he convened Saturday, Jan. 22, at Foothills Performing Arts & Civic Center – 86 representatives of the creative community – that two strategic plans in the 1990s saw the potential of the local arts community.
Then nothing happened.
In effect, the leadership let the arts community down.  Not because the arts are faltering.  “Many people in this room have already succeeded,” actress Lisa Sidoli told the gathering.  Because the aggregation can achieve so much more.

Mayor Miller may have regretted saying at the Art Summit’s outset that the City of Oneonta has $2-3 million in unencumbered debt that it could use to organize the arts community and promote it regionally.  (The five-year budgeting now in place gives us an understanding of our true financial picture:  We don’t have to panic.)
By the end of the session, proposals for an “art czar” and an Office of Culture & Art seemed to be farther than the mayor wanted to go.  But the die’s been cast; the game is on.  There needs to be follow through.
The mayor also seemed reluctant to tie the undertaking too closely to financially struggling Foothills – he recently named himself interim chair to try to get that straightened out.
He shouldn’t be reluctant.  The citizens of New York State, us included, have already invested $7-8 million in what is only a half-step from being a superb facility.
There’s space for everyone – for plays, for music, for studios, for art exhibits.  It’s been paid for.  Let’s all use it.
One very promising idea is build a half dozen “Life Enjoyed Weekends” around events that are already big successes.
Take OH Fest, or SUNY and Hartwick parents weekends, or even the Grand & Glorious Tag Sale.  These events already draw the locals.  Why not add a concert Friday evening at the Oneonta Theatre; one Saturday at Foothills. 
Why not dining and entertainment packages at The Autumn or the Yellow Deli or Dave Zummo’s soon-to-open steakhouse?  And lodging packages at the Clarion or Hampton Inn.  Why not one big package that brings all these elements together.
Then promote the packages regionally.

The mayor expressed the opinion that Main Street has come about as far as it can with the money already in the economy.  Perhaps, although we can hope that a revived Bresee’s – shops, offices, housing – will continue the positive evolution.
But, certainly, the more money the better.  If Oneonta can be fast-tracked into an Ithaca, or Saratoga Springs, or Burlington, Vt., why not?
Exciting times.

Let’s Not Falter: Oneonta Indeed Can Have It All
‘If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.”
We Googled that and up came the name, William Arthur Ward, an inspirational newspaper columnist – no, that’s not necessarily a contradiction in terms – and college administrator who lived in Texas and died in 1994.
The opposite is equally true.  If you can’t imagine it, you can’t achieve it.
Those thoughts were brought to mind by Mayor Dick Miller’s first State of the City address, delivered Tuesday, Jan. 18, shortly after completing his first year in office.
The accomplishments – the one that leaps out:  truly understanding City Hall’s financial situation and responding to it with a rolling five-year plan already bearing fruit – are impressive, and give Miller’s imaginings credibility.
He foresees Oneonta – city and town – as a thriving regional hub, thriving in the face of Upstate’s decline and Albany’s budget challenges.  But, he tells us, it won’t just happen.
The landlocked city needs to merge with the town (and other municipalities around Otsego County need to do the same), and Miller identifies Cuomo Administration initiatives that would make that adjustment more attractive than ever.
And, if prosperity means bringing in new money, not just moving local money around, we need to promote our fair City of the Hills to the rest of the world.  Let’s close the door on the unproductive debate about “Oneonta, Life Enjoyed.”  We don’t need to use it locally, but it is the serviceable foundation of a potent promotional campaign.
Miller put it in a perspective we can all embrace:  “I love Oneonta the way it is, but I know that we can – and should – make things even better in our own lifetime and for those who come after us.  Simply hoping that we can survive without things getting worse is a breach of our responsibility to the future.”
“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths;  feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”
Another quote from William Arthur Ward, which captures Richard P. Miller, Jr., who happened on Oneonta when he was called to Hartwick College’s financial rescue a decade ago.  A friend, indeed.
A regional hub: The reality is we already are. 
A local banker observed the other day that national chain stores run the numbers, find them satisfactory, but on opening a local outlet, discover the results are even better than anticipated.
That’s because Oneonta is already the shopping center for a region that includes Cooperstown, Delhi-Walton, Sidney, Norwich and Cobleskill.
To go from regional hub to “prospering” regional hub is simply a matter of effective strategy.
If anything, Mayor Miller’s vision, realistically, is not optimistic enough:  Ioxus, fledgling manufacturer of ultracapacitors, the next big thing in energy, just leased the former National Soccer Hall of Fame and plans to hire 200 people in the next few years.
(Quick review:  A capacitor – in a flashlight, say – is what connects the battery with the bulb.  An ultracapacitor recycles the power back into the battery.  Think of the applications for electric cars and the national grid.)
Ioxus jobs are manufacturing jobs, in addition to many white-collar engineering and professional jobs.  We can indeed have it all:  The arts, tourism, higher-education and other sectors Miller heralds, plus manufacturing.
A happy place indeed, at an exciting juncture.  As the second half of William Arthur Ward’s first quote has it, “If you dream it, you can become it.”

It Turns Out We Can’t Depend On Cuomo’s Business Initiative
It sounded great.
Governor Cuomo would create 10 business-development zones statewide.  Each would develop a strategic plan and propose projects based on that plan.  The projects would then compete for a $200 million pot of state economic-development money.
Initially, yes, it sounded great, since now, to get state funding, every local business-development initiative has to go to Albany, then to a skyscraper on Third Avenue, to compete with every other project in the state.
Too cumbersome.  Too diffuse.  Plus, if Otsego County has a big fish on the line, the top-down process ensures it will end up on the line of a more populous, more politically connected area  before it’s pulled into the boat.
So Cuomo’s plan sounded great.  We could put together a geographic package that made sense – say, Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie and Chenango counties.  The strategic plan could tightly focus on common interests.
A few million dollars could make the difference in putting together a world-class commerce park along I-88, creating jobs-of-the-future easily accessible to people from Norwich to Cooperstown to Cobleskill.

That’s right, Andrew, build us up just to let us down.
When the 10 business-development regions were unveiled the other day, they proved useless to the Greater Oneonta/Cooperstown area.  Otsego County was lumped in with the Mohawk Valley.  Delaware is at the tail-end of the Binghamton region.
Can’t you see it:  We can spend the next 18 months developing a strategic plan that identifies redeveloping Griffiss Air Force Base as the top priority of “our region.” 
Useless.  Except for our Route 20 towns, the Mohawk Valley’s fate is not ours.  Ditto with Delaware County and Binghamton.
What would really be regrettable is if Cuomo’s concept also holds captive “The Power of SUNY,” the university system’s parallel economic-development initiative.  (Its “six big ideas” are “SUNY and the Entrepreneurial Century, the Seamless Education Pipeline, a Healthier New York, an Energy-Smart New York, the Vibrant Community and, finally, the World.”)

But wait a minute.  Let’s not despair (again).
Why can’t Greater Oneonta/Cooperstown develop its own community-based strategic plan?  Include Norwich and Cobleskill, for sure, but let’s be clear:  Our interests as a community center on Oneonta and its colleges, plus SUNY Delhi; Otsego Lake and the Clark Foundation entities, and Bassett Healthcare.
Let’s hope and expect people like Bassett’s Bill Streck, SUNY Oneonta’s Nancy Kleniewski and state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who have the clout to bring together Greater Oneonta/Cooperstown’s key players to create the strategic plan, will do so.
Let’s decide on our priorities.  Let make our plans. Let’s identify priority projects.  Let’s make them compelling. And then let’s sell those plans -- again, with the people like Streck, Kleniewski, Seward and, heavens, Jane Forbes Clark -- to the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regional councils.
Let’s make those plans so compelling that the counties of Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie will apply their bonding capacity to making them happen, regardless of what Cuomo and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher conclude at the macro level.
Let’s not leave our local fate to the whims of others.  No one cares like we do.  Let’s plan, decide and act on our own behalf.

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.