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July 11, 2013

Field of 5 accept Sustainable Otsego backing

By JOE MAHONEY The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Five candidates for Otsego County Board of Representatives’ seats, including three incumbent Democrats, said Tuesday they are running with the endorsement of the anti-fracking group Sustainable Otsego and are embracing the organization’s 10-point platform.

The two non-incumbents getting Sustainable’s backing are Dan Buttermann, a town of Oneonta Democrat competing against Oneonta Town Council Member Janet Hurley-Quackenbush, and Stu Anderson, a Republican anti-drilling activist challenging Rep. Kathleen Clark, R-Otego, the board’s chairwoman.

Anderson said he will change his enrollment to the Democratic Party as soon as he can.

The thee incumbents accepting the group’s endorsement are Reps. John Kosmer, D- Fly Creek, Beth Rosenthal, D-Roseboom and Gary Koutnik, D-Oneonta. The latter is unopposed this year, while Kosmer and Rosenthal have GOP challengers in the persons of, respectively, Rick Hulse Jr. of Fly Creek and Bill Glockler of Middlefield.

The board’s current make-up is evenly divided with seven Democrats and seven Republicans, although the GOP controls the majority of the weighted votes.

Seeing themselves as within striking distance, the Democrats say they believe the 2013 election gives them their best shot in years to take charge of county government. The five contestants accepting the Sustainable Otsego endorsement said they agreed with the group’s agenda, which includes new plank backing “sustainable” growth of the town of Oneonta’s Southside business area, by backing a proposed municipal water project there.

But three Democratic candidates for the county board were not in the field of hopefuls getting promoted by Sustainable Otsego.

They included Ed Lentz, a New Lisbon town board member as well as a lawyer and a farmer who is seeking the District 5 seat being vacated by Rep. Pauline Koren, R-Milford.

Lentz, who is being opposed by Jamie Waters (a Republican contractor from Milford), said he is not courting the Sustainable Otsego endorsement even though he shares the group’s stance that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas should remain banned in New York.

“I haven’t had a chance to study the entire platform,” Lentz explained when asked why he did not pursue the group’s backing.

The other two Democrat candidates running without Sustainable’s endorsement are Teresa Winchester of Butternuts, who is challenging Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, for the second time in two years, and Amy Hornburg Heilveil of Oneonta, a waitress at the Depot Restaurant, who is seeking the District 12 seat being vacated by Rep. Catherine Rothenberger, D-Oneonta.

One of the county seats seen by insiders in both parties as being in play is the one held by Kosmer, who captured the seat two years ago from Jim Johnson, a Fly Creek Republican. Kosmer’s opponent, the untested Hulse, is the immediate past president of the Cooperstown Country Club and is a management consultant.

Kosmer said he expects Republican candidates will attempt to make economic development a major issue even as they try to downplay their support for fracking.

“We’re not going to let them delink themselves from being pro-fracking to talk about economic development,” Kosmer said. “Every time they do, we’re going to say: ‘What have you done to keep Otsego County frack-free?’”

At the same time, Kosmer insisted he was not attempting to make the coming election a referendum on the gas drilling issue. He argued that sound economic development was incompatible with hydrofracking, an activity he said would only benefit the energy industry and hurt the county as a whole.

Rosenthal called for heightened emphasis on long-range planning, and suggested there should be a gardening program at the Otsego County Correctional Facility. She also said she would like to see the Sheriff’s Department look into acquiring fuel-efficient vehicles with smaller engine sizes.

Speaking for the GOP slate later, Sheila Ross, the county’s Republican Party chairwoman, said: “Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans are not beholden to narrow-minded special interests. The Republican slate is experienced and is prepared to tackle all the issues that are important to our county and the taxpayers.”

Sustainable Otsego’s “10 Point Plan” includes: Support of home rule authority for local communities,the promotion of farm-to-market agriculture, water quality preservation, making low-interest credit available for local businesses and homeowners and greenhouse gas reduction through greater reliance on renewable forms of energy.

The group said it also backs the Oneonta Southside Municipal Water Project in order to spur retail business growth in that section of the county. In addition, the plan calls for exploring the development of “municipilized” electric grids to lower energy costs, the availability of broadband services throughout the county, the establishment of a county-wide sustainability plan and the pursuit of tax policies that “do not increase income inequality.”

Adrian Kuzminksi, the moderator of Sustainable Otsego, and Kosmer both took shots at Republican-led efforts to stimulate economic development, calling them failures.

Instead of waiting for investors from outside the county to become interested in the region, Kuzminski said county leaders should be focused on promoting the talent and resources that exist here now.