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February 10, 2012

In These Otsego Hills: The losses are adding up ...

It is with sadness that we note the passing of long  time friend, and distantrelative, Jane Patrick. Over the years we have worked with Jane in a number of organizations including Women’s Club and the Community Advisory Committee at Bassett. And, of course, in later years we joined her, along with the other Dinner Belles, for any number of delicious meals. But we do think that our favorite memory that we shared with Jane was when we discovered, having both married Cooperstown natives, that we shared Cooperstown Christmas plans.

As Jane told the story, the first Christmas after she married Pat, she asked him what their plans were going to be for the holiday. To this she reported that Pat replied that he didn’t know what she was going to do, but he was going to Cooperstown. And so it was off to Cooperstown for the holiday. We note that our experience with Christmas was much the same. And of course, after spending Christmases here, eventually we both moved here with our native Cooperstonian husbands, who were, we think, second cousins once removed. We, along with many, many others, will miss Jane. To her sons, John and David and their families, and her many friends we extend our sympathy.

And to our soon-to-be former mayor we wish to extend a big thank you for serving the village in a most difficult job in an atmosphere which often seemed to be completely lacking in civility. In fact, we were stunned by many of the online comments made about the story in The Daily Star announcing the mayor’s decision not to seek reelection.

It confirms our fears that Cooperstown is no longer the community to which we moved in 1982. And we fear we are the poorer for it. In fact, we would be hard pressed to find any remnants of the community we joined then. And while we realize that life is ever changing we do wish we thought it was ever changing for the better.

Unfortunately we do not think that is the case and have thus come to the conclusion that Cooperstown is now but a place to live, having lost its unique character which made it special for us. The community has become quite divided over a number of issues that have arisen in the past few years. And given the divisive nature of these issues, we don’t hold much hope of ever regaining what we have long thought was a wonderful sense of community. In fact, it might seem that the most perfect village has developed cracks in its veneer.

In fact, we were discouraged by many of comments we received regarding the column we wrote two weeks ago on the documentary, The Empire State Divide. We are accustomed to receiving comments from people we know. However, we do not believe we have ever received so many comments from people we do not know. Nonetheless, we were not surprised by the e-mail from a father in Oneonta who lamented the fact that his 23-year-old son had had to leave the area to find work.

The son’s degree from BOCES as a state-certified welder did not get him a job locally with which he could support himself. Instead he is now working for the gas industry in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

We also received an e-mail from a banker who wrote: “... Having worked in agricultural and business lending the last 29 years I have firsthand witnessed the shrinking of the farming sector and also the shrinking of the business sector.

It is very alarming to our farming and business communities experiencing some of the knee jerk reactions via the addition of more layers of government regulations that is impacting existing businesses and chasing away any business that may have considered coming to our county.

Our hard-working farmers and business owners are only trying to survive and keep their doors open. Another sad fact is the loss of our youth, that we pay dearly to educate, only to have them leave as there is no opportunity.”

However, we think the most discouraging comment we received came from a farmer in the region who wanted to let us know how much he appreciated the column. He then explained how frustrated he was that people from Cooperstown in general, and a local organization in particular, had seen fit to weigh in on the proposed windmill farm in Jordanville. He firmly believed the windmills would have been beneficial to his area. He even offered to meet with people from here to explain his point of view, even going so far as to offer a tour of his area. No one accepted his offer. Needless to say, his opinion of Cooperstown is anything but positive; mentioning that he really wished the people in Cooperstown would mind their own business. And we can’t say we blame him.

However, as depressing as we find many of the current opinions of Cooperstown to be, we were amused by the story that ran on January 27, 2012 in The Daily Star, titled “Sen. Gillibrand introduces Baseball Hall of Fame coin act.” It seems the Senator introduced into the Senate the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act to honor the Baseball Hall of Fame’s75th anniversary in 2014. In the article she was quoted as saying that Cooperstown is a “...truly magical place in upstate New York.” Based on the comments we have heard of late, we suspect designating Cooperstown as a “magical place” might be a matter of opinion.

Nonetheless, we can always hope that in the not too distant future we may once again think of Cooperstown as something more than just a place in which to live.

PLEASE NOTE: Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105 Pioneer Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326, by telephone at 607-547-8124 or by e-mail at cellsworth1@stny.rr.com

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