Category Archives: Valley Viewpoints

Valley Viewpoints: Changing the culture

by Michael C. Backus, Oswego County Clerk-elect

There was little doubt in my mind that come Jan. 1 I would face many challenges as the newly elected Oswego County clerk. Anytime any institution transitions from long-time established leadership to a new administration there will be a lot of discussion regarding the best path forward.

I am thankful to everyone who has reached out to give their input regarding the office. This newspaper in particular has been very vigilant in its monitoring of the office and through its reporting clearly has “its” own opinion.

One thing that I greatly appreciated on the campaign trail was the opportunity to share ideas with Phil Vasho. Since the election, I have greatly appreciated my former opponent’s willingness to set the election aside and help get this office back to business.

We have shared some great ideas and frankly have agreed on many ways forward for the office. I have invited him to regularly stop by the office and I hope to keep up the conversation in the days, months, and years to come.

When George Williams, our former county clerk, passed away the office was thrust upon the shoulders of Deputy Clerk Georgiana Mansfield who has, since George’s passing, served as acting clerk. That is not an easy task for anyone.

Certainly there are things that could have been handled differently as all people have different opinions on how to handle any given situation. I have spoken with Georgiana as acting clerk regarding the most recent situation that was reported by this newspaper. She, along with the employees involved and the Oswego County Personnel Department, are working through the situation.

It did not go unnoticed that several legislators quoted by this newspaper questioned the supervisory nature of management in the clerk’s office. I thank many who have reached out to me regarding this situation with management and their concern over current staff’s ability to supervise the office.

There are many things that I will be reviewing once sworn into office Jan. 1 and certainly the interaction between all employees, supervisory/management or not, will be one of them.

It is my goal, as I stated during my interview with this newspaper during the campaign, to change the culture in the office to a much more open, inviting experience for both the taxpayers and the employees.

All I ask is for the opportunity to witness it all with my own eyes once sworn into the office the voters of this county elected me to in November.

I know I have a job to do and I look forward to working with each and every one of you as you interact with the Oswego County Clerk’s office.

Valley Viewpoints: Dollars and sense

by Marilyn Nye, DSS Case Worker (retired) Pennellville

I am a retired caseworker and it has come to my attention the commissioner of Oswego County Social Services has been forced to cut programs that will hurt children and their families and will likely put these families in danger.

Oswego County is poor and rural, which presents unique problems for Social Services to provide assistance to families. Their goal is to keep families together and function at a level that keeps children from being at risk of harm or being removed.

One of several agencies that have proven to be successful in providing services to assist families is the Youth Advocate Program. It’s delivery of services is to the entire family.

Most of the families accept the services willingly since it is a program designed to make changes within the family in a social atmosphere.

Families volunteer for the program and activities are designed to encourage participation. They also offer programs for children and parents to learn techniques on managing their anger, help with school problems (including truancy), provide work support, assist in family financial problems, and assist families in navigating other systems such as family court.

The Youth Advocate program staff goes to the homes of these families and either provides the service in the home or transports the child and or family to the event. This is essential, since many of the families live out in the country and many don’t have the transportation.

The Youth Advocate Program is cost effective, and has a long track record of proven success and it is the only program available to families 24 hours a day. No other program in Oswego County has the ability to meet the family at their level and work side-by-side with a family to affect positive change when the family needs it most.

Cuts are immediate and severe and will have a negative effect on families and the funding cuts will reduce the available services provided by county contracted agencies. The Youth Advocate Program alone has taken a 50 percent cut in funding in the past year.

Jobs are being lost and dedicated, trained individuals will be looking to other careers. It means the needed services will no longer be provided to the families who are most vulnerable and most in need, and those most capable individuals will no longer be there to provide the service.

If the Oswego County Legislature and Social Services want to keep families safe and intact they need to reconsider programs and reinstate the money needed to utilize services such as the Youth Advocate Program. This is about dollars and sense.

Valley Viewpoints: Years of experience

 by Theodore B. Galvin, Chairman First Fire District, Town of Granby

I am writing this article in regards to the upcoming election for commissioner of the First Fire District Town of Granby election. This will take place Dec. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Granby Center Fire Dept. 1400 Co. Rte. 8.

I support the re-election of Dave Okoniewski. Dave has been a member of this Department for 40 plus years and a board member for 20 years. As a board member, he has been very instrumental in budget process. In fact this year, he and our treasurer found ways to cut the budget by $5,000 for the preliminary draft.

All of the board members agreed to the cuts, thus saving the taxpayers a considerable increase. This man puts in countless hours, doing maintenance, cleaning, and everyday upkeep of the fire station, with no compensation, just dedication to the fire district he serves.  I met Dave 26 years ago when I joined the Granby Fire Department and found him to be a very knowledgeable person, willing to take the time to teach and explain the bi-laws of the department. As a board member, he has always reached out to answer any questions posed to him.

Dave is now in his mid-sixties and continues to be one of the most active firemen in all aspects; calls, fund-raisers, meetings and anything else that needs a volunteer worker. Taxpayers needs have always come first, this he has always served his position as commissioner with that in mind. So I have to ask you… do you want someone with 40 plus years of experience and knowledge, or someone who has only been with the department for one year.

Valley Viewpoints: Stone Soup success

by Lois Luber, United Way of Greater Oswego County

I extend a heartfelt thank you to all those who lent their support to the United Way’s Annual Stone Soup Luncheon. The event was an excellent reflection of the theme of this year’s United Way campaign, “It’s our community and it’s personal.”

I also offer a gracious thank to our many community volunteers who helped make the luncheon possible; Kathy Fenlon, Kathy Cummins, Mary Kay Donovan, Roxanna Gillen, Joleen DiBartolo, SUNY Womens’ Hockey Coach Diane Dillon, Assistant Coach Chelsea Walkland, and players, Tori Trovato, Jocelyn St. Claire, and Erin Ganley, Becky O’Kane, Deb Deeb, Ali McGrath, Bernadette Costello, Jackie Thorpe, Dan Hoefer, and of course St. Joseph’s Parish for hosting our luncheon.

Their desire to support our local food pantries is a wonderful expression of dedication to their community, their concern for others and their willingness demonstrates that when it comes to supporting United Way, it’s our community and it is personal. Our Stone Soup Luncheon raised more than $1,100 and collected dozens of boxes of non-perishable foods our local food pantries.

Thank you for being a part of our seventh annual Stone Soup Luncheon. It was great to see the smiles on familiar faces and first timers as they brought in their food donations. This event shows the caring nature of our community at its best!

Valley Viewpoints: Disappointed

by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Bell of Granby

Being a resident of Granby, my wife and I decided to go to the public budget meeting. What a very disappointing meeting it was. Questions were asked, but no town council person would answer.

Is there not a public meeting? Every person attending spoke against pay raises. I believe the name plates are Lorie Blackburn, Susan Richardson, Joe Cortini, who sat up there and represented my wife and I. What a sad group of people. Not one answer.  What I understand now is this group passed the budget. After all spoke against raises, all got raises. Do they sit there with ear plugs? We, the taxpayers pay them $3,200 a year. For what?

If any one of them run again to sit in that seat, believe me, my wife and I will be the first in line to vote against these three people. We need people to listen to the taxpayers. Not just give away our tax dollars while sitting there smirking about how we feel, like Ms. Richardson was doing at this meeting. How rude!

I have spoken with people from other townships and have learned that they don’t get raises before their term is over and certainly not within the first year. You need to know your job, prove yourself and be there. Granby’s highway superintendent does not have to meet this criteria, but deserves a raise, why? This is very disappointing to see. All our tax dollars being thrown away.

Valley Viewpoints: Food stamps

by Ralph Riker, Florida

I think Carol Thompson’s article, “The face of welfare isn’t always one of abuse,” published in the Nov. 1 edition of The Valley News, is well written and true.

We never know what the people are going through in a grocery line when they lay down the food stamps. More than likely, it is something they don’t want to do.

Some of us have wild imaginations and think they are all lazy and love it. There will always be some freeloaders, but how do we have the everlasting gall to make a judgement without knowing the facts?

That’s known as prejudice.

Unfortunately, that is probably the way it will always be because we see these things first hand and complain about them promptly. We don’t see the millionaires and billionaires in everyday life to complain to because they’re hidden away in faraway places where nobody can find them and they protect themselves with gates.

They have most of the riches of the world, according to Forbes Magazine. Ten percent of the richest own 85 percent of the wealth, worldwide, and that’s an old figure. The ones in the United States, since they have most of the money, use it to their advantage to buy people in Congress, to create loopholes in the tax law to make it advantageous for them to buy people overseas where the labor is cheap with no environmental controls and lots of tax shelters. Real patriotic!

Where did Nestle go…South America? Where did Smith Corona in Cortland go…Singapore? The list gets long from around the country. Then they ship all their goods back to the USA and expect us to buy them — after they gave our jobs away overseas and now we don’t have any money to buy their stuff. The idea of moving businesses overseas started many years ago and, at first, didn’t affect only a few thousand people but as the years went by, it snowballed into what it is now. We have reached a point where most of the country’s riches are being transferred to the people who already have most of it anyway.

Also, computers, which can be a very useful tool in keeping records, have also been used to control robots, which take away jobs in addition to the jobs going overseas.

We’ve seen on the news where a car is assembled in Detroit by mostly robots. They don’t talk back to the boss. They don’t ask for a break. They don’t have to eat lunch. They don’t get sick. They don’t get health benefits. They work for any wage. They’ll work around the clock every day of the week and every week of the year.

Who could ask for anything more?

When I see billionaires moving their companies back to Fulton, when I see them moving back to Cortland, Detroit, Cleveland, New York; when I see them stop using overseas tax shelters; when I see them stop being so greedy, then — and only then — will I complain about people with food stamps.

They have their own Golden Rule, which is “those who have the gold, make the rules.”

Valley Viewpoints: Garbage rates

by Frank Castiglia, Fulton

If you didn’t attend or watch the latest Fulton Common Council meeting, you missed all of these. Let me try and make this short and sweet.

Bailout bonuses — Yes, we all remember when we had to bailout Wall Street. After the bailout, Wall Street gave out bonuses to many of their workers.

Well, here in Fulton, it is the same way. The mayor and commissioner of DPW told us all that they had to raise our garbage rates because they were over budget by $50,000.

The Saturday before the public hearing, they had up to eight workers collecting leaves at time and a half. This cost the city up to $1,500.

Now, I know someone will say they aren’t the same as the Garbage Department. Well, they all work for the same city and if you can save money in one department, you can put it in another.

The answer I got regarding the Saturday collection of leaves? “If you don’t like it, I will fix it by not doing it at all.”

Partisan speeches were given and one of them was by a former councilor who just so happens to have a son who works for the city. Another was given by a young lady who works for the city herself. They both thought it was a good idea to raise the rates and one even thought we should raise taxes.

One of them said that anyone who doesn’t pay taxes in the city shouldn’t be allowed to vote on raising rates. In the same send, we should take with a grain of salt the fact that two people who have a lot to gain from raising the rates and also the taxes should be allowed to speak at these hearings.

Now someone will say I should say something about the school taxes. I agree I don’t think any taxes should be raised school or city. I further more don’t think anyone who works for the school district should be able to vote on the school budget.

We all know that can’t be done but that’s how I feel. You can ask anyone who works with me and they will tell you that I told them not ask for any raises because the district and the public can’t afford it.

That is how the city should be as well. I know that many of the unions in the city are going without raises for up to two years. That is nice but until we get some help from the state, there shouldn’t be any. That goes for union and non-union, or administrators.

At the meeting, I learned that only two people called to complain about raising the rates so either no one else cares or you just feel that you would be wasting your breath and time. Either way, it is over and down with, but it won’t stop there. The mayor said he would raise the water and sewer as well.

Valley Viewpoints: Election Day support

by Will Barclay, Member of the Assembly

I am writing to thank the voters of the 120th Assembly District for your support on Election Day.

I am humbled and honored by the support I received.

It has been a privilege to represent our region in the state Assembly and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve another term.

I look forward to representing more of Oswego County, continuing to represent Lysander in Onondaga County, and welcoming Ellisburg in Jefferson County to the district.

I plan to continue the strong tradition of constituent service from my district office.

In Albany, I will work to further reduce taxes, craft legislation that further helps protect our communities from crime, and help create a stronger economy. I will continue to be a voice for small businesses and our manufacturers.

Since being elected, I’m proud of the many accomplishments but strive to build on these accomplishments as I work with lawmakers in the legislature to strengthen our region going forward.

I would also like to thank the many volunteers and committee members who assisted my reelection.

Without their dedication and support, I could have not been successful. Thank you again for your vote on Election Day.