January 04, 2008


GOP puts Democrat in Legislature chair

Republican scuttles bid for GOP chairmanship


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Newly  elected Chairman of the Cortland County Legislature John Daniels (D-Cortlandville) recognizes a fellow legislator during his first meeting as chairman Thursday.

Staff Reporter

A trio of Democratic Cortland County legislators backed out of their party’s caucus decision, and in league with nearly all the Republicans voted John Daniels into the chairmanship for the next two years.
It took several votes, and one Republican broke ranks to sink his party’s chance to hold the chairmanship.
Local attorney Mark Suben, a Democrat, was unanimously picked as county attorney, and Clerk of the Legislature Sue Morgan — also a Democrat — was unanimously chosen to continue on in the job she has held for the past two years.
Daniels (D-Cortlandville) received the chairmanship in the third round of voting, after some legislators failed in their bid to recess the meeting until next week.
One Republican in favor of a bipartisan coalition, Tom Williams (R-Cortlandville), had the deciding vote and cast it against what could have been a Republican chairmanship in the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Little discussion accompanied the voting since the legislators moved right from their caucuses before the meeting into the voting, and then recessed back into the caucuses after failure to pick a chairman in the first five votes.
In the first round of voting, Dan Tagliente (D-7th Ward) nominated Carol Tytler (D-3rd Ward) for chair, newcomer Chad Loomis (D-8th Ward) nominated Daniels and Larry Cornell (R-Marathon and Lapeer) nominated John Steger (R-Preble and Scott).
Tytler was the choice of the Democrats following a caucus last week, but she only received eight votes in the first round, with Democrats Daniels and Loomis breaking with the party and denying her the post.
The vote on Daniels was next, but he only received six votes in the first round, entirely from Republicans with the exception of Loomis and himself.
The Republican’s pick, Steger, came closest to snagging the chairmanship with nine votes, just one short of the majority needed. He received the support of one Democrat, Dan Tagliente, and nearly all the Republicans.
Williams was called last on the roll call vote, done alphabetically, and hesitated for a moment before he voted against fellow Republican Steger.
Larry Cornell looked at his Republican colleague with a look of disbelief and both parties retreated to their caucuses.
“That’s the way politics are,” Steger said afterward.
After the meeting, Williams explained that he was in favor of a bipartisan coalition and that a Republican chairmanship could have locked up the Legislature for the next two years.
“I guess it was to shake the tree,” Williams said. “I think the government will work better if we can provide some kind of coalition.”
He had also pledged his vote to Daniels, he added, because Daniels would “be the person that would most likely work well in the center of the ring.”
The legislators returned from caucuses, this time nominating only Tytler and Daniels.
The vote for Tytler was followed by one for Daniels, and each received nine votes in the second round, with some Republicans defaulting to Daniels and many Democrats continuing to back Tytler.
Tagliente called for a vote to recess the session until next Tuesday. That motion failed, with only nine votes.
The legislators again retreated into their caucuses, and returned a short time later. This time, newcomer Kathie Wilcox (R-5th Ward) nominated Daniels, and Tytler was nominated again as well. The Republicans were unified in their support of Daniels — except for Steger — along with Democrats Loomis, Kathie Arnold (D-Cuyler, Solon and Truxton) and Daniels himself, for a final tally of 11-8.
Arnold later explained that she mistakenly voted for Daniels in that round, not realizing that if he won there would not be a vote on Tytler to follow, but she decided not to change her vote since it would not have affected the outcome.
Daniels said after the meeting that he was sorry the decision came down to a contest between himself and Tytler, and hoped she would continue to work hard on behalf of the Legislature.
“We need a bipartisan group, and I think we’ve got that,” Daniels said after the meeting. “I’m sure that there were a lot of feelings that got hurt.”
Daniels said that he and the majority and minority leaders would begin discussing committee appointments over the next couple of days.
He identified the space needs of the county as the biggest priority, especially moving quickly to move the Department of Motor Vehicles office out of the County Courthouse and onto a River Street property the county recently agreed to purchase — a project spearheaded by Tytler.
“It certainly has been difficult for us,” Tytler said. “I am a person of my word, we had a caucus, and I know that tomorrow I can look in the mirror and feel good about my efforts as a county legislator.”
She said she would continue to work hard in the Legislature, and that Daniels would “do a good job, I’m sure.”
Democratic Majority Leader Sandy Price (D-Harford and Virgil) said that she first got word that the caucus was unraveling Thursday morning, and that it was unusual that it would take three rounds of voting to install a chair.
Marilyn Brown, the preceding chair, was elected to the chairmanship unanimously in the first vote in January 2006.
“I could have worked very well with Mrs. Tytler and I know I’ll be able to work with Mr. Daniels,” Price said. “I’m glad that we kept at it until we took the vote tonight (instead of recessing).”
Price acknowledged the need for healing, but she said she hopes to be able to pull her party together, despite the strong personalities within it.
Republican Minority Leader Danny Ross said that a Republican chairmanship “would have been nice,” but that he is confident in Daniels’ leadership.
Newcomer Wilcox agreed.
“I wish it hadn’t happened. I would rather we had the Republican chair, but I think the next best thing is Mr. Daniels. He’ll be a breath of fresh air,” and would work with both parties, she said.
Wilcox said Daniels had “vowed to be fair with committee appointments,” with members of both parties well represented.




County auditor reappointed despite concerns

The county Legislature discussed Thursday holding off on reappointing County Auditor Dennis Whitt, perhaps to redefine his job description, but decided that the matter could be better addressed at a later date.
Legislator Tom Williams (R-Homer) made the motion to table Whitt’s reappointment, which was part of a slew of reappointments that otherwise were passed with little discussion.
“I am a little confused about what this office is,” Williams explained. “I see that the person in this position appears to me at least to be performing many other tasks instead of just auditing the books and dealing with the county finances.”
He pointed to County Administrator Scott Schrader’s performance evaluation of Whitt, naming the auditor a “key staff administrator,” and later identifying Whitt as acting as the chief of staff or assistant to the chairman of the Legislature.
Whitt agreed with this characterization this morning, saying that he acted as such because of authority granted to him by past chairmen. He was hired as auditor in 2004 in response to the county’s financial problems, and Whitt said that from the beginning there was an understanding that he would be involved in addressing and solving problems, rather than just identifying problems via audits.
Williams proposed either limiting Whitt to strictly auditing duties, or expanding the job description to bring it more in line with Whitt’s current duties, perhaps as a deputy county administrator.
“The new chairman will have to decide if the extended role I have is necessary,” Whitt said, not sure if it would be appropriate for the Legislature to limit the decisions of the new chairman, John Daniels (D-Cortlandville).
Legislator John Troy (D-1st Ward) explained that the Democrats had discussed the matter in their caucus and had decided that the issue might be better addressed first within the Personnel Committee.
Schrader pointed out that any county office is based on the job description dictated by the county Legislature, and that Whitt would have to alter his performance if the legislators chose to limit him.
Newly-appointed County Attorney Mark Suben said the Legislature certainly has the authority to define additional duties that the auditor could perform, outside of audits.
— Evan Geibel



DOT to close on parcels for Route 281 work

Staff Reporter

The states Route 281 expansion project is starting to have an effect on the community at large, with the Mobil Express Mart gas station at McLean Road set to close Sunday.
Signs posted at the gas station state the closing date. Chris Sweeney, director of marketing for the gas station, said the gas station has operated at that location for 27 years.
Tony Ilacqua, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the state expects to close on the property through eminent domain by Feb. 1.
Actual road construction is expected to take place in 2009 and 2010.
The state gave Mobil the option to rent the property at the intersection’s southwest corner  until the beginning of March, when the expansion project goes out to bid, but Mobil declined.
Ilacqua said the state has purchased 51 of the targeted 60 properties for the project through eminent domain.
Ilacqua did not have figures available Thursday for how much the state has paid property owners so far. He also did not know whether the state is spending as much on the acquisitions as it initially expected.
The road expansion project stretches along a short section of Route 13 north of Lime Hollow Road, and along Route 281 from Route 13 to Interstate 81’s Exit 12 in Homer.
The project will expand the heavily traveled highway into five lanes with two lanes going in both directions and a center turning lane from Lime Hollow Road to northward to Wheeler Avenue.
It will have a short four-lane section alongside the city Waterworks, and from Wheeler Avenue north to the I-81 Exit 12 on-ramp in Homer, the road will be tapered down to three lanes.
The first of the two phase, approximately $24 million project will cost about $12.3 million and run from Lime Hollow to Tops Plaza, just south of Route 222.
The state is taking various portions of land from 90 percent of properties along a 3-mile stretch of road to widen the Route 281 right of way.
Ilacqua said the remaining nine properties are expected to be purchased by early March.




At 82, famed Cortland band leader to be honored by Air Force 

Staff Reporter

Cortland native and retired Col. Arnald D. Gabriel earned an international reputation as a conductor of the United States Air Force Band, but Wednesday the honor will come from his home base as Bolling Air Force Base honors him by dedicating the band room to the 82-year-old conductor.
From 1964 to 1985 he was conductor and commander of the U.S. Air Force Band, based in Washington, D.C., at Bolling Air Force Base.
Wednesday’s ceremony starts at 11 a.m. in Hangar II in a room that will officially be christened “Arnald D. Gabriel Hall.”
One of the world’s most widely traveled conductors, Gabriel has conducted bands and orchestras in all 50 states and in 49 countries around the world. Today, he continues to conduct in his Air Force uniform.
Of all his accomplishments, he said he considers his greatest one that of conducting groups of various religions. Two years ago he conducted the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a group of more than 300 singers and  an orchestra.
He had conducted the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra in Japan, a Buddhist group and had played for Pope John Paul II in 2000 and conducted for the Islamic Shah of Iran sometime between 1958 and 1963.
“That’s a huge mark as far as I’m concerned,” he said, noting the four religions.
“I’ve been all over the world,” Gabriel said. He noted that this year in July he conducted bands and orchestras in Germany, Austria and Hungary and said he continues to conduct “because I love it. At age 82 I wouldn’t do anything else.”
Gabriel said he guest conducts 20 to 25 bands and orchestras each year. Some appearances are every year, for example this summer will be the 40th year he performs at the University of Kansas music camp and the 15th year at the New England Music Festival in Lake Placid, he said.
“This is a person with a significant commitment to music,” said James E. Gardner, chair of the music program at George Mason University in Virginia, where Gabriel taught for 10 years after he retired from the Air Force.
Gardner said he was not teaching at the university when Gabriel was there, but knew about him and his reputation when Gardner, who played violin, was in high school in the 1960s in Oklahoma. Gardner said Gabriel played a key part in the growth that occurred in the music department while Gabriel taught and chaired the department.
Gabriel, now lives in Alexandria, Va.




Dryden man hit by car while snow blowing

Police seek driver of black Subaru wagon

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — A town of Dryden man is in good condition today after being hit by a car Thursday morning while snow blowing his driveway on Fall Creek Road.
“The car struck me in the right thigh and threw me,” said Carlton R. Ryan. “My leg was swollen yesterday and I have some bruises and my finger is sprained, but nothing major. They reminded me that the thigh bone is the strongest bone in the body.”
The Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department reported that Ryan was snowblowing his driveway at 9:30 a.m. at his home at 615 Fall Creek Road, near the intersection with North Road in the town of Dryden, when he was hit.
Police determined that a black Subaru Outback and a second vehicle operated by Bonnie J. Tuttle of Homer, were headed north on Fall Creek Road and drove into the southbound lane to avoid an unidentified vehicle that was stopped or parked along side the road.
Police said while moving to avoid the stopped vehicle, Tuttle struck a southbound pickup truck operated by Walter R. Haynes of Cincinnatus, causing Haynes to veer off the roadway and hit Ryan.
“The noise from the snow blower masked all the commotion behind me and I didn’t see it coming. I was right in my own driveway heading back towards my garage when the car sent me flying. They told me it was 15 feet,” Ryan said.
“It’s a wonder I’m not seriously hurt.”
Ryan was transported to the Cayuga Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
Police are continuing the investigation and ask that anyone with information regarding the Subaru Outback or the unidentified vehicle parked along Fall Creek Road to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (607) 272-2444.
Police said both of these vehicles left the scene of the accident.
“I’m just glad I survived and I hope that something good comes out of it,” Ryan said. “People always speed on this road and it puts everyone at risk. Right before my house the solid line turns into a dashed line and my theory is that people are so antsy to get around other people. Probably this isn’t the only road that has gotten like this.”