Friday, December 30, 2011

Mayor's Letter to Common Council, October 25, 2010

Date: October 25, 2010
To: Common Council Members
From: Mayor Susan Feiszli
Re: Response to Brian Tobin’s Resolution for the position Director of Administration and Finance
Common Council:
This letter is in response to Brian Tobin’s email below regarding a Resolution agreed upon by the Common Council meeting of October 19, 2010 and my opinion on that resolution.
Based on the date of Bryan’s Gazda’s resume, he responded to a Cortland Standard ad on January 15th, 2009. This ad stated  that the “City of Cortland seeks a visionary and collaborative individual with strong leadership skills, administrative practice/planning experience and knowledge for the position of Director of Administration and Finance……Extensive communication skills, collaboration, negotiation, problem solving and analytical skills a must……..”
On February 12, 2009, Nick Mazza wrote a letter to former Mayor Gallagher which described the functions and ultimate goals that he would provide as Interim Manager to the City. Mr. Mazza stated in this letter that the most important decision any Mayor and City Council will make is the selection of a Chief Administrator. Mr. Mazza stated: “Making a wrong choice or having unclear goals or objectives can be very costly”.
As Interim Director, Mr. Mazza suggested the following to the Mayor and Council:
Assess Your Situation and Needs
“First and foremost, it is essential that the Mayor and City Council meet to evaluate the state of the City and tenure of the previous Director of Administration and Finance. Take stock and discuss what worked-and what didn’t. Be honest with each other.
Next, determine what the Mayor and City Council wants from the new Director of Administration and Finance. Certainly, there should be a discussion about the experience, knowledge, skills, abilities, personal traits and level of education that are expected. More importantly, be clear about the needs of the organization and the key priorities you wish the new Director of Administration and Finance to address. Don’t take an“I’ll know it when I see it” stance at the start of the recruitment.”

As members of the selected search committee, did Aldermen Quail, Dye and Tobin take Mr. Mazza’s recommendations into consideration?
It is understood by all that the Charter is in need of an overhaul and that ALL department heads work over and beyond what is purely written in the Charter. Can you imagine what would happen if ALL department heads said “It’s not in the charter so its not my responsibility?”
This includes a Common Council which is underpaid for the work it does. But you[Common Council] too go over and beyond what is written in the Charter for your responsibilities.
I agree that options one and two (stated below in Alderman Tobin’s email) should and need to be addressed but the person who fills that role should still go over and beyond what is simply written in the Charter.
The third option is what your Constituents, Department Heads, Staff and Mayor are waiting to hear: your decision.
The Clerk's office has copies of Council meeting notes with Department Heads and Bryan Gazda from last February.
They also have 16 pages of minutes from the time when Alderman Craig, Ferguson and Tobin met with Department Heads at a Staff Meeting on February 24th2010.
Brian Tobin stated to the Department HeadsFebruary 24th, 2010that the Council reviewed a list of fifty-three concerns after having met with the Department Heads. The City also has minutes from when the Council met with Mr. Gazda and his responses to the Councils' questions. The minutes also reflect that the Council would review those concerns and identify areas of improvement for Mr. Gazda.
EIGHT months ago you stated on record that the Council would work with the Department Heads and Mr. Gazda to resolve these concerns that you acknowledged.
NOTHING has changed and no attempt to change has been made by the Council. If anything,
the situation has gotten worse.
In my opinion, Benefit Consulting Report portrayed a true depiction of Department Head concerns. Concerns that the entire Council were aware of EIGHT months ago and never followed through with what they promised. The only responses from Council that I have received by email regarding the report are: “This is embarrassing; I hope the public doesn’t get a hold of this, this doesn’t make us look good and I don’t like it.”
Benefit Consulting report states “If Mr. Gazda stays in this role things will only continue to deteriorate from the position you are currently in.
I urge the Council to do as elected officials what is in the best interest of the City.
Susan Feiszli

From: Brian Tobin
Sent: Sunday, October 24, 2010 6:35 PM
To: Sherrie Massmann; Susan Feiszli; alderpersons
Subject: Resolution regarding BCG report
Following are my notes regarding the resolution we discussed about the BCG report. I am including the city clerk and the Mayor on this email; please reply to all with comments.
Sherrie had called and asked me Wednesday afternoon about the tail end of the meeting. She wanted to put the notes together for the meeting that was planned for Thursday. I was at work at the time, and unable to check my notes. I forgot to check them Wednesday evening, and since I was not able to get the information to Sherrie before the Thursday meeting, I put off looking at my notes until tonight (I was out of town for work all day Friday and Saturday).

Here is what I believe we agreed upon for a resolution.

The City Council will evaluate the Charter's job description that Mr. Gazda is following and gather additional data. Upon review, the City Council will recommend to either:
1. Research the possibility of restructuring city government to a city manager run organization, or
2. Change the charter to more accurately reflect the expectations of the Director of Administration/Finance position that are currently beyond the charter's description, or
3. Determine a third option for addressing the current issues regarding the current Director of Administration and Finance.

The council discussed setting October 31st as a due date for feedback from department heads to common council members. Then the council would compile the information (Brian Tobin volunteered to put together the list), and discuss the issue at a time to be determined (either at a regular council meeting or at a workshop or special session).

An email to city department heads is being drafted and should be ready to send shortly.

Brian Tobin
4th Ward Alderman
City of Cortland Common Council

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mayor's Letter

Subject:mayor's letter                   
Priority:Normal Date:Wednesday, December 28, 2011 2:43 PM                                      
Over the past 40 years, there has been a slow change in the character of neighborhoods as single-family and multi-family houses have been converted to student housing. Increased density has led to traffic, noise, parking, and garbage issues. Because of these issues, as an alderman I led the push for a moratorium in 2006 to protect our neighborhoods. Approximately 500 Cortland residents signed petitions asking the City to address these problems.
In 2008, the Cortland Common Council referred the matter to the Planning Commission, created an ad-hoc Housing Committee and retained a land-use attorney to help develop a Rental Permit and Registration Program. On many occasions, the land-use attorney recommended replacing the current “three unrelated law” with a restrictive square footage approach as the best way to proceed from a legal standpoint. He warned that the “three unrelated law” would be challenged and that it could be a long, expensive fight in the courts. In addition, there were other opinions given to the committee that the city would face problems with the rental permit program as written.
As an alderman, I expressed concern with the proposed rental permit law as written and questioned why the committee did not listen to three attorneys’ recommendations.
In July 2010, Corporation Counsel recommended “grandfathering”, rewriting zoning to include a square footage approach and cautioned Council that a potential lawsuit by the Landlords could take years to settle.
The Common Council took no action on the above recommendations. In July 2010 the landlords filed a lawsuit against the City, and State Supreme Court Judge Rumsey placed a restraining order on the Rental Permit Law. It was obvious to me the warnings of the City Corporation Counsel and the land-use attorney that helped formulate the rental permit law were coming true, namely the City was now facing a long and expensive lawsuit that should have been avoided.
At my direction in November 2010 the City’s attorney again discussed with Council grandfathering all properties and revising the zoning and code as recommended by our City Attorney, two Land-Use Attorneys, our Insurance provider, City Assessor, City Code Officer and Director of Code Enforcement.
Conflicting opinions within the Council have resulted in a failure to take action on this matter. Two Councilmen who were members of the Housing Committee that wrote the Rental Permit Law strongly advocate fighting the lawsuit. Other Council members feel the City should work with landlords to reach a compromise. Failure to act on this matter means that problems related to rental properties will continue to exist.
Attorneys for the City and the landlords have said that if the Council agrees to grandfather and issue Certificates of Zoning Occupancy to student housing created from 2003 to 2009 the lawsuit will be dropped and the restraining order on the registration part of the Rental Permit Law lifted. If this were to happen over $60,000 in registration fees would be included in 2011 revenue.
The Code Office currently grandfathers and gives a Certificate of Zoning Occupancy to student housing bought before 2003. As Mayor, I believe working with and not against the landlords is the most effective way to proceed.
The City needs to be conservative and do what is best for the taxpayer by:
· Avoiding costly and time consuming lawsuits
· Enabling the City Assessor to assess more accurately based on occupancy
· Providing the Code Officer a more efficient tool to enforce occupancy
· Offset cost of new rental permit software by lifting of restraining order
· Protect general safety by allowing Code Office inspection of all properties
· Accurately identify where student housing is located for zoning purposes
A common misconception is the current plan the city is trying to implement will protect the neighborhoods. As a matter of fact, it could lead to sprawl in other neighborhoods as students in current student houses are forced to move elsewhere. Also, current student housing will now have extra living space available for larger partying. We should work together to solve the problems. The last 40 years has not worked.
As Mayor, I ask constituents to ask questions, and listen to both sides of the debate. You should expect your elected aldermen to do the same.
Susan Feiszli
Mayor, City of Cortland

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recommended: Rules

    Autism is a neural development disorder. Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder develop slowly. Parents first detect symptoms by the second year of a child's life. Social interaction and communication are impaired. Restrictive and repetitive aspects of the child's behavior emerge. The strains on family, school and society are enormous.
    The Center for Disease Control reports 9 of 1000 births are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The incidence is higher among boys than girls.
    A former teacher and behavioral specialist, Cynthia Lord, published a book for all reading age groups called Rules, which explores the many difficulties associated with this disorder.
    Twelve year old Catherine just wants a normal life. She has a younger brother, David, who has autism and a family that revolves around his disability.
    Rules for David:
    "Sometimes people laugh when they like you, but sometimes they laugh to hurt you." 
    "Chew with your mouth closed."
    "No toys in the fish tank."
    See the other rules at link
    Read more about ASD at link

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blog Navigation Tip

       This blog is organized by day and month. To access prior days and months, please click on a month in the right column archive. Choose a daily post by title from the list below each month. Good luck and Happy New Year. The Editor.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mayor Feiszli's End-Of-Term Speech

I’d like to begin by saying that these past two years have been the most challenging in my life and I’m proud of the accomplishments made during my administration.

Many changes have been made and I have no regrets, nor do I feel the need to apologize for any of my decisions.

The one thing I would like to make clear is that is I have no resentments and am far from bitter. Because of this experience, my life has already begun to turn in a more positive and rewarding direction.

With that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a couple of things--so please bear with me.

From the very beginning, I refused to put the City or myself in a position where decisions were based on providing “favors” to those who offered to help me which began during my initial run for Mayor.

This brings me to a letter to the editor written by our former Chairman of the Democratic Committee, Mr. Bill Wood, that was in last night's Cortland Standard.

When I decided to run for Mayor, Mr. Wood gave me a sizable check towards my campaign and at that time said that he would ensure my success in the election on the condition that he be appointed City Clerk.

Shortly after, I returned the check to Mr. Wood and told him that I only wanted people who supported me for what I could do for the City, as Mayor, and not for what I could do for them personally.

Since then, Mr. Wood has made every attempt to slander my efforts as Mayor and even went so far as to go to a conference--that he had no reason to be at--except to criticize me and my administration to my peers.

Mayor Elect Tobin has admitted that Mr. Wood approached him to run a primary against me in which he successfully won.

In my opinion, even though Mr. Wood won this election for Mr. Tobin, his need to continue to publicly make false statements about me, reinforces what type of man Mr. Wood really is. Regardless, I will not tolerate his behavior and am seeking legal council for his slanderous remarks.

Mr. Wood is not alone as someone who wanted to see my administration fail. It has been continuously shown by former Mayors Walsh and Gallagher along with many Aldermen who are sitting here this evening who continuously fought my efforts to turn this government around in the right direction.

But regardless of their attempts, I succeeded, and perhaps THAT is why Mr. Wood and Mr. Walsh continue to harass me.

Tonight is my last Council meeting and I am proud of the many accomplishments made these past two years.

I was not afraid to make the difficult decisions to change past practices that brought the City to near bankruptcy during previous administrations.

Changing key personnel in order to bring stability and long term success for this City is something that I will NEVER regret doing.

I’m proud to leave my administration a much better government then how I found it two years ago. Making those difficult changes was the ONLY way that it could have been accomplished.

This was accomplished by not owing “favors” to anyone and I am proud of the fact that everyone was treated equally. EVERYONE, regardless of their stature or status in the community.

I did not change my platform to appease a small number of people and I will ALWAYS believe that the best way to move this City forward is by working together as a team, listening, making compromises and admitting that sometimes we make mistakes.

My transparency enabled the public to witness the ups and downs during my administration and it is unfortunate that the Cortland Standard chose to take advantage of this to turn their paper into a tabloid with little substance.

Looking back, I would not have changed a thing and tonight I feel a combination of feelings which include relief, pride and concern for the future for our City.

Milestones have been made in every department which has increased efficiency, transparency, cooperation, and cost savings to the tax payer while improving the service that these departments  provide.

These past two years we have increased transparency with:

· Monthly financial reports from City Departments
· Monthly Department Head reports
· And by developing Policy and Procedures

Greater Community Involvement was achieved by:

     · Using Citizen input to establish
     · Environmental Advisory Committee
     · Personnel Committee
     · Wellness Committee
     · Administrative Search Committee
     · Wellhead Protection Committee

By working with Code Enforcement and Zoning we:

     · Made Code Enforcement available 7 days a week
     · Tightened control of enforcement with existing laws

The City has begun to go green by retrofitting lights in all city buildings,
and increased fines and penalties in Code and Police Departments that had remained unchanged for many, many years.

Our department heads are the backbone of the City.

These positive changes are a few of the reasons why I was able to provide you with two consecutive budgets without an increase in taxes for the first time in over 20 years not to mention going from a government that was near bankruptcy with a negative fund balance to a nearly 2 million dollar surplus in reserves.

I want to thank all of my department heads, personnel, and boards and commissions without whom all of our unparalleled success would not have been possible.

I also hope and pray that the new administration a will continue in the same direction to be transparent, above board, and always to keep the City of Cortland first and favoritism second.

In closing, I want to thank all who supported my administration and I look forward to working with and for you in future endeavors to further the betterment of the City of Cortland .

Mayor Susan Feiszli

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Who Wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas?"

     For many years a controversy has surrounded the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, more commonly called 'Twas the Night before Christmas.
     Who wrote it? Was the author Clement Clarke Moore (attributed)--or Henry Livingston?
     This is a Whodunit, a mystery still unresolved. For a challenging short read during the holiday season, please click on link:

     Make sure you click the link near the bottom of that web page for the original poem published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823.
     Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Of Time And The River: The History of Cortland County

     Hello and welcome.
     This is a story about Cortland County, a story of time and the river. It is history and perspective--a story of where we have been, where we are, and a hopeful look ahead.
     The history of Cortland County is the history of America in a capsule. We are a microcosm and we are a symbol. To look at Cortland is to look at the nation.
     Let us take that look now....

     Editor's Note: This introduction and the following script were accompanied by a slide show and narration by attorney John Folmer, Jr. The first presentations occurred during the month of October, 1987. The public service show was presented at the Cortland Historical Society's annual meeting, as well as to many civic and professional organizations. The script was written by Charles Gridley, the photography and sound mixing arranged by Rick Orrange. The music which accompanied the original presentation came from a variety of sources, including Classical, Broadway, and period sheet music recorded by Diane Ames. The slides of old postcards, contemporary photographs, prints and drawings are absent from this edited copy. The script came to CC from a dyed-in-the-wool local Republican Party official, who obtained permission from Mr. Gridley to edit and publish the script.  The contributor recalls that former Republican County Chairman Bert Bertini was the prime motivator behind this interesting historical slide presentation.

     In the beginning there was water and ice, one following the other, through the millennia of unrecorded history.
     Out of this water and ice came Cortland County, forged of the geological progression of physical phenomena that boggle the mind. Out of the progression and retreat of the glaciers of 12,000 years ago was gouged the hilly and fertile terrain of Cortland County--terrain that has, in one way or another, affected the lives and fortunes of all who have come to live here. Water led to ice, ice led back to water. The water dried, the land emerged fertile, and then there were humans.
     The first human visitors to Cortland County were Native Americans, who wandered to North America across a bridge of land that once connected this Continent with Asia.
     Slowly they spread across the hemisphere, eventually establishing local tribes to our north. The names of those tribes--Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca--are part of our geographic vocabulary today. It is also interesting to note that the names of some of our common animals, such as skunk, woodchuck and chipmunk are derived from Native American language.
     Although Native Americans did not live permanently in Cortland County, excavations have proved that they valued our river and heavily forested area as an important hunting and fishing place. They hunted in the Cold Brook region, Marathon and Harford. The next time you pass Mt. Topin near Preble, remember the legend that says this was a favorite lookout place for our first visitors.
     Also rooted in legend is the probability that the first of Cortland County's distinguished visitors was the Native American, Hiawatha, the subject of Longfellow's epic poem, and in real life one of history's most extraordinary political leader
     Until the Revolutionary War,  Cortland County remained an otherwise unexplored Native American hunting ground. It was the Revolutionary War that gave birth to Cortland County, just as surely as it gave birth to the nation, but in quite a different way.
     No battles were fought here. But after the Revolution the government was critically short of money and hard-pressed to pay its soldiers for their war services. To help meet the debt, the state legislature created what is called the Military Tract throughout the region, offering parcels of wilderness land to soldiers in lieu of cash. No other state tried this approach to budget containment.
     Many of the soldiers quickly turned that land into cash by selling it to speculators downstate, who in turn sold it at a profit to adventurers who were willing to take a chance on what they might find in the wilderness.
     Those first adventurers began arriving in 1791. They liked what they found here, and within 20 years the county was thriving. Homer was settled first, then the village of Port Watson along the Tioughnioga River. Currently part of the City of Cortland, Port Watson was an entity of its own in the early days. What is now the City of Cortland was then just a stop-over between the more important communities of Homer and Port Watson. In fact, present-day Cortland was once referred to as "Lower Homer."
     At Port Watson settlers established an active shipping port. The primary trade products were lumber and wood products--quite understandable in view of our abundant forests. Products and goods were loaded onto locally made flatboats and poled downstream to the Susquehanna, and finally to Baltimore where they were sold. From these crude and picturesque beginnings, Cortland's economy and civilization grew steadily.
     During the Civil War, Cortland provided troops for the 76th Volunteer Regiment, which fought at Bull Run and Gettysburg. At the battle of Gettysburg, Major Andrew Grover was killed.  Casualties amounted to a third of the unit. (paragraph added during edit.)
     Over the years, Cortland has seen a number of interesting and perhaps surprising businesses and industries come and go. Some because of technical advances, some for economic reasons, and some because of obsolescence. And so this pattern of creation and passage continues today.
     In the early part of the 19th century and continuing to the introduction of the automobile, Cortland was known and prospered from its considerable production of carriages and carriage-related products. A number of highly successful carriage and wagon manufacturing companies sprang up here, making Cortland a nationally known leader in the transportation industry, a role it was destined to play for many years. Of course, there were spin off businesses. The age of the horse as transportation required the care and feeding of the horse. Cortland companies produced fine lines of quality harness goods, and provided for more mundane needs of the beast.
     As the century moved on, so did the mode of transportation. Cortland kept pace with the times. The trains came, and the trolleys came, lacing the county with a network of tracks that would broaden the horizons of increasing numbers of people and fuel the growth of industry.
     The trolleys meant more recreational opportunities for the people, and the trains meant a wider range of markets for our manufacturers. For almost a century, the rail lines were the life lines for the county, as they were for the nation. But as all things pass, so did the age of the steam engine and railroad in Cortland County. That steaming, throbbing pace of transportation exists no longer. It is romance, and a memory.
     While the rail did not signal the demise of the horse and carriage, both as a mode of transportation and as part of the county's industrial base, the introduction of the automobile surely did. At first dismissed as a toy and fad, the automobile would have the most profound impact on Cortland and American social patterns of any invention up to that time.
     Although much of Cortland's prosperity has been tied to the transportation industry, we never went in for automobile production. We certainly bought and sold them. But we did manufacture trucks, and succeeded brilliantly.
     We're getting ahead of ourselves here. Our early days were not all work. While the people of Cortland have always been, and continue to be, dedicated to their
professions-- whether it be agriculture, manufacturing, education or retail trade-- we have never been so totally absorbed with work that we couldn't relax and enjoy ourselves.
     As it is today, Cortland has always had a diversity of leisure time activities-- something for everyone. In the early days, for example, you might have taken a stage coach ride for business or pleasure. Later on, perhaps a more comfortable outing by trolley car. One popular trolley car destination was Little York where, dressed in your Sunday suit, you could rent a canoe and paddle around the lake.
     In addition, there was always the County Fair to look forward to. Far different from today, wasn't it?
     There were other pleasures too. You could watch a circus. If you enjoyed music, there was plenty of that just about everywhere. On warm summer days you could attend an open air concert. In winter, you might spend an evening by the fire and "spin some discs," as this in-home entertainment would be phrased later. Then there was the opera house. It wasn't the Metropolitan, Covent Garden or La Scala, but what it was, was typically mainstream America. Nearly every community had one. Cortland had one. Homer had one. Marathon seems to have had two.
     In the days before television, there was live entertainment in the form of travelling acts, Vaudeville, minstrel shows and the like. It's gone now but not entirely forgotten.
     We have been looking at Cortland's early history but now let's start looking ahead as the 19th century matured and faded into the 20th century. As the 20th century progressed, so did Cortland. We had struggled through the early years, and we had prospered. At the end of the Spanish-American War, the United States and most of the world was at peace. Our problems were over, or so we thought. We were ready for a comfortable sail into eternity.
     We settled into a new and glorious era called the Gilded Age. It was an era of prosperity, comfort and excess such as mankind had never known. It was a time of leisure and elegance. Not everyone prospered equally, of course, but at no time in history have they.
     For a growing number of people it was a time of peace and beauty that would continue, we thought, forever. In our complacency, we didn't doubt it. There was no reason to. It was a time to get on with life, and enjoy it. And enjoy it we did! We worked, of course, and we worked hard. But we knew how and when to relax. Time seemed to stand still for awhile. There was breathing space.
     The Gilded Age, to some, conjures up a vision of staid primness and restraint. To some extent it was. But it is an often misunderstood era.
     Beneath that veneer of strict stuffiness--of starched collars and whalebone corsets--it was an age of excitement and exuberance. It was a modern-day Renaissance of exploration, of leaping medical advances and most notably, great inventions. It was an era of optimism and joy.
     Cortland blossomed. Like the entire country, we were on parade, in step with a confidence and enthusiasm that previous generations could not have imagined. But it had to end.
     As always, one era gives way to another. We assumed that our age of peace, prosperity and leisure, our age of waltzes, ice cream socials and striped awnings would last forever. But the skies were clouding over, and once again the winds of war were beginning to blow. Our structured, complacent world would come crashing down on us with an intensity that would numb the senses.
     The start and end of World War 1 was a period of time most wanted to forget. Some never did. We honored our dead, the sun came out, and once again we went on with daily life as we had known it before the war. We went on living, and we lived with an exuberance that bordered on frenzy.
     America's cares and worries were over--definitely now. We threw out our Victorian furniture both figuratively and literally, and we Charlestoned our way through a wild, irresponsible decade. We had Prohibition, and we had Depression. The last war and its ramifications merely paved the way for another war, more fierce and on a broader scale than anything that had happened before.
     The horror and destruction was far away, but the effect on Cortland was immediate and personal. We did our best to support the "war effort." There were victory gardens, ration coupons, scrap metal drives and war bond drives. Americans and Cortland gave what they could and how they could. They gave their country fighting men and women, which was the biggest sacrifice.
     It wasn't easy for those overseas or stateside. But through it all, there was unity of purpose, spirit, patriotism, a willingness to sacrifice--all toward an end that we knew was possible and just. Once again, our patriotic community effort and sacrifice paid off. By working together, we came through.
     With the war over and victory buoying our spirits, we settled into the second half of the century with a happy sense of relief. The war that had put an end to so many lives also set the stage for a restart of progress and carefree happiness. Dwight Eisenhower replaced Queen Victoria as a world symbol of confidence, peace and prosperity.
     Not since the halcyon days of the Gilded Age had there been such a sustained economic upsurge of growth in Cortland, coupled with confidence in both the present and the future. Future prospects seemed boundless. Our expectations soared higher than the tail fins of our cars. We were living the American Dream.
     Business prospered and people prospered. Life was pleasant, and it seemed like there was opportunity for all those who wanted it. That shouldn't come as any surprise though, for Cortland historically has provided opportunities for its residents.
     Let's go back a bit and look at some of the noteworthy people Cortland is proud to include among its native sons and daughters--people of achievement, who made Cortland more than just another spot on the map. George Washington never slept here, but an impressive number of interesting people have, and an impressive number of prominent people were born here.
     For example, we've had our educators, such as Andrew Dixon White, who was co-founder and first president of Cornell University. He was born in Homer. Nathan Miller, a governor of New York State, lived in Solon. We claim Alton Parker as a native son. There is a city school district elementary school named after Mr. Parker. He ran against Theodore Roosevelt for president. We all know who won. We never made it to the White House.
     McGraw's Daniel Lamont served as Secretary of War under President Cleveland. Lamont's boyhood home is beautifully preserved today as McGraw's public library. We've had scientists, such as Elmer Sperry, whose many inventions, including the gyro-compass, had a profound impact on marine and aviation industries. In his lifetime, he was granted more than 400 patents.
     We've had our artists, too. Perhaps the most distinguished was Francis Bicknell Carpenter, born on a farm near Homer. Carpenter painted portraits of a number of United States presidents, and actually lived in the White House for a period of time. His most famous painting--The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation--was a sensation in its time, and it has the distinction of hanging in the Capitol Building for all to view and enjoy.
     Cortland can be proud of another native son artist, Jere Wickwire, who also achieved national stature. His work was exhibited in galleries across the country, and still is. We're proud that some of his excellent art work can be seen here in Cortland at the Suggert House, home of the Cortland County Historical Society.
     We've had our musicians, as well, including song writer William Dillon, whose credits include "I Want A Girl, Just Like The Girl, Who Married Good Old Dad" and "Sweet Sixteen." These songs may strike some of us today as old-fashioned and perhaps even corny, but they were wildly popular hits in their day. We had another musician of note, popular bandleader Pat Conway, of Homer.
     Let us not forget sports in this traditionally sports-minded community. A highlight was the brilliant career of Truxton's John J. McGraw, who achieved national prominence as manager of the New York Giants baseball team. There may be some people today who remember that the Giants came to Truxton in 1938 for an exhibition game to raise money for a monument dedicated to John McGraw. Truxton treasures that monument today.
     Amelia Jenks Bloomer was born in Homer in 1818, and became an early leader in the Women's Rights movement. It is ironic that while Amelia Bloomer worked courageously for women's equality, she is today remembered for her contribution to the frivolous world of fashion: the "bloomers."
     Famous too, and a bit infamous, was Homer's David Hannum, who became known to the reading world as David Harum in Edward Noyes Wescott's famous and thoroughly enjoyable novel of the same name.
     A wily and probably shady horse trader, the picturesque Hannum also showed his devious astuteness as an investor in and promoter of the Cardiff Giant hoax. It was profitable chicanery of the highest order then, but all is forgiven now.  The passage of time has cast a merciful veil over the deeds of the past.
     But the past is not the whole story here. What about recent years, and what about the future? It is too soon to evaluate the recent past fairly and, of course, impossible to do more than speculate about the future. But a realistic look at our community requires us to try.
     As we look at the present, and even at the immediate past, what DO we see? What has happened in the last twenty years or so? We've looked at our earlier past with a bit of romance, but we don't romance the present day. No generation ever has. At best, we take what we have for granted, if and when it suits us, or we lament the situation if it does not.
     As important as it is to look back, it is equally important to pause and appreciate the quality of life we enjoy "right here in River City." We can look, for example, with great pride at our educational opportunities. Cortland has always been concerned with providing education to anyone who wanted it.
     We began in the American rural tradition with the one-room school house, such as the one in Marathon that is preserved as a museum. We have continued our interest in education to the present time: we are the home of a nationally recognized college. Did you know that it used to be located where the county courthouse is today?
     Cortland County has been very progressive in its forward approach to education. We didn't stop at the elementary level of the primitive school house, but we moved on to establish a number of private academies for those who aspired to college or technical careers.
     Long before the possibility of an organized women's movement occurred, we in Cortland established the Cortland Village Female Seminary in 1828. Not nineteen twenty eight, but eighteen twenty eight, when women were traditionally expected to mind the house and children and never-mind much else.
     Perhaps most astonishing in Cortland County's forward tradition of educational opportunity was the New York Central Academy located in McGraw. The school was incredibly progressive in its time, having a policy of admitting women and minorities.
     Besides our educational heritage, which continues today with a shared community college and BOCES, we have inherited much more. We have museums, such as the Suggett House, which makes available to the public its extensive archives of the county's past history. And the 1890 House, which offers us an in-depth look at life in an earlier time, and which is becoming widely respected as an authoritative resource center for the Victorian period.
     Carrying on our traditional interest in Live Arts, we enjoy the summer offerings of the Cortland Repertory Theatre, which offers comedy and drama ranging from the familiar to the new at the historic Little York Lake pavilion. Theatre at the State University is also part of our cultural resource, as are the many fine concerts the college presents each year.
     We don't have the stocks and pillories which were once sources of public punishment and amusement in New England, but we do have public hangings.
     That's right! But ours, either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your personal point of view, are hangings of the art gallery nature. We enjoy showings at the Cortland Arts Council, at the Ruth Dowd Fine Arts Center and in the gallery of the Cortland Free Library.
     We have a multitude of outdoor opportunities as well, making Cortland a wonderful place to live all year. Skiing, hunting, fishing, swimming, boating,  hiking--you name it, and Cortland has it.
     From past to present, Cortland is a nice place to live. As to the future, who can ever know?
     Most important, as long as we truly care about our community and as long as we work with a cooperative spirit, there always will be hope for the future.
     If the past be prologue, Cortland will be a place future generations will want to call home.
     However we view our past, and however we enjoy or cope with what we have now, one thing is certain. There will be change. For as we have seen, history is change.
     We should bear in mind that, above all things, change is the very nature of life--and its hope.

     The slide program concludes with a succession of historical and modern images of Cortland accompanying the song "Memory" from the musical Cats. Where possible, the slides relate to the lyrics.

Alderman Leonard: "I Fear For The City"

Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2010 11:24 PM
To: bobcraig; daniel quail; fergie; kdye; Susan Feiszli; stphhayes; Brian Tobin; tom.michales

My computer is going in for rehab or recycle as of Sunday. More than likely for at least a week because I don't have the time to go to Syracuse on a week day and wait for it. If a crisis comes up that can't be handled without me, I fear for the city. My cell is XXX-XXXX and I probably won't answer during the day. If I don't recognize the number, I won't answer at all. Please don't give this number to anyone.
If we don't speak sooner, HAPPY EASTER!

Editor's Note: Public domain emails are discoverable and FOILable.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Alderman Leonard: "Many More Piles Of Poop To Scoop"

From: Mayor's Office 
Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 4:13 PM
To: Editor Cort Standard; ; Eric Mulvihill (WXHC)
Cc: Sue Reynolds-Scott; (Alderpersons et al)
Subject: 2009 State of the City

Attached is Mayor Feiszli's State of the City report.

Mayor Susan Feiszli

Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 8:52 PM
To: Susan Feiszli
Subject: Re: FW: 2009 State of the City
Yes, it does sound good but let's keep movin. Many more piles of poop to scoop.


Editor's Note: These public domain emails are discoverable and FOILable.

Alderman Leonard Draws The Line On April Fool's Day--No Joke Intended

From: Monica Norris
Subject: April 6, 2010
To: Mayor, Department Heads, Alderpersons, Cortland Standard
Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010, 2:38 PM

Attached is a DRAFT of the Agenda for the April 6, 2010 Common Council meeting.


Subject: Re: April 6, 2010
To: "Monica Norris" Mayor's Office
Date: Thursday, April 1, 2010, 9:12 PM
unless item 23 involves an item that myself and at least two other council members have requested twice already, I will not be attending the meeting on April 6, and I hope that enough other council members will join me in order to snub the quorum requirements. Myself and two other council members went to a meeting and heard a side of a concern, all we ask is to be informed of the other side of the story, I don't think that is too much to ask. We feel that one or more seasoned members may be "skating around us" we just want a discussion about an issue. (which has been requested twice, just a reminder)
Another beef; I respect what the media people need to do, but I'm not going to wait around while they interview people that are supposed to be going into executive session. They can wait until the end of the council meeting which includes executive session. If anyone is being interviewed on their way into executive session, I'm going home! I've been called a dick many times, I can take it.
I also must say that we have a lot of things on the next agenda and it is not my intent to slow the process, so those that are responsible for the agenda items now know what to do to get me to the meeting.
My computer is at the repair joint again, I'm using my daughters computer now. I will not be reached by e-mail after today, April,1. Susan, you need to call me on my cell phone prior to Tuesday in order for me to decide whether or not I will be attending Tuesdays council meeting!
Happy Easter everyone!


Editor's Note: These public domain emails are discoverable and FOILable.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Alderman Leonard--Back By Popular Demand

From: Mayor Susan Feiszli
Subject: re: agenda items removed
To: Alderpersons---
Date: Monday, April 19, 2010, 4:17 PM
Please note that Agenda items # 13 and 14 be removed from items #1-20 for tomorrow's meeting per Amy Bertini’s request.


Sent: Monday, April 19, 2010 6:19 PM

To: Susan Feiszli, Alderpersons--
Subject: re: agenda items removed

How about all the way to item 20 per me?


Sent: Saturday, April 17, 2010 10:24 PM
From: Marc Leonard
To: Susan Feiszli

You need to stop having so many agenda items for one meeting, it's getting rediculous. The council members are not members of congress that can go on for hours and just come in late the next day! WE HAVE DAY JOBS! After our last meeting, what time did you make it back to city hall the next morning? Yes that is a question that I would like answered! On April 5th you already held a special meeting for a Cortland Energy presentation because Mark Skodzinsky couldn't make it on the regularly scheduled council meeting (That's B.S.) and I don't want to again be told that it was because people were already planning on coming (B.S. too) The same rules should apply to all that want to make a presentation to the council. Anyone else is told that they need to be on the agenda by a certain time in advance.
If there were any e-mails or hard copies related to costs associated with converting Main St. back to a two way street, I've seen neither and would like more information before I can vote on a resolution. Please forward any available information because it's not just as simple as taking down a one way sign. There's signage change, traffic light change, line & lane changes, parking line changes, notifying all the towing companies of the many wrecks to come..............(there's no doubt that the local private sector will benefit; towing and body shops) I'm not necessarily against the idea, but what will it cost. After 90 days if we don't like it, we doubled the cost to reverse it. Let us ponder.
By the way, my bad grammer and punctuatuon may never get better, I cut and nail stuff, I'm no writer.
Thanks for listening, Mark

Editor's Note: These emails on public domain are discoverable and FOILable.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Three-legged Mouse Story

     "She was mad as hell. She was so angry she threw her winter boots at me. The first one hit me in the head. I ducked when she threw the other one."
     "Why'd she do it, Sam?"
     "Well, it was all on account of a mouse, a little field mouse, George."
     "A mouse? She got mad at you over a mouse?"
     "You bet she did. You see, I found this field mouse in the glove box of our pickup truck. It was eatin' some Burger King napkins stuffed there and it took some bites of the truck registration form too. When I opened the glove box, it scrambled and squeezed through a small crack and went into the engine compartment. Its tail stuck out for a moment--I got a piece of it."
     "I don't understand--"
     "Patience, George. Give me time to explain it. I looked for that mouse under the hood but never found it. So I sez to myself, I'll set a mouse trap in the glove box. And that I did."
     "Then what?"
     "Well, I darn near forgot about it 'til my wife drove the truck to the grocery store and back. She must of put her hand in the glove compartment, 'cause when she threw those winter boots one of her fingers had the mouse trap on it. Guess I forgot to tell her."
     "Guess she aimed to restore your memory."
     "I reckon. Now that you got me telling about it, her boot hittin' me in the head seems to have jarred free some long-ago memory about a mouse even stranger than that one."
     "Sam, we meet here in this diner every Wednesday morning for coffee, toast, ham and eggs, and you are always wearing that same old coat, watch cap and barn boots. Don't you have another coat?"
     "Do you want to hear a true story about a mouse with three legs?"
     "You gonna pull my tail again, Sam?"
     "God's honest truth, no need to lie to an old friend that knows me like a book. By the way, you never change your coat either."
     "Must be 'cause we're gettin' old, Sam. Go ahead, tell me about the mouse with three legs. I'm all ears."
     "Well, I intend to, if you don't mind hearing somethin' mighty unusual and odd--"
     "Go ahead--"
     "Well, my wife and I was sittin' in the living room one evening--this was years ago, we was youngsters--and the TV was the only light in the room. I hear this noise, and it wasn't the TV 'cause we had the sound turned off. We was gettin' ready for whoopee. It was a light-footed noise, something running across the floor, tap-tap-tap-tap. I got up from my chair and turned the light on. My wife screamed. It was a little mouse, and it was almost to the kitchen when it turned and ran to the coat closet off the living room. My wife said she'd never go in that closet again until I got rid of the mouse. So I set a trap that night. We heard it snap three nights later."
     "Did you catch it?"
     "Sort of--I mean, I got part of it--a leg. The rest of the mouse got away."
     "Where'd it go?"
     "Don't know. I don't know how it got in the closet in the first place."
     "End of story, Sam?"
     "Nope. That's just the beginnin'. Let me tell you, that was one brave and determined little mouse. Make a human look like a cry baby for complainin' about no shoes. I guess it got hungry, 'cause it come out early one night--we was watchin' TV and my wife was gettin' ready to bake an apple pie--we heard it walk across the living room floor again. This time it sounded different. The rhythm was changed. Instead of tap-tap-tap-tap, it was tap-tap-tap-kerplonk. We could tell right away it was the mouse with three legs."
     "What happened next?"
     "Well, I got up from my chair and went into the kitchen. My wife stayed in the living room. I looked around but the mouse had disappeared. I looked beneath the sink and didn't see it. Then I pulled out the bottom cabinet drawer beside the sink. There it was, as cute and self-absorbed as any mouse you ever saw, gnawing at a near empty bag of popcorn kernels. Let me tell you, that was a fat little mouse. I shut the drawer quickly and went for my toolbox."
     "Tool box?"
     "Yes, George, tool box. I got a hammer. I went back to that drawer and reopened it. The mouse was still there. Don't know how many times it ate there before I found it but that bag of popcorn kernels was near empty. The mouse jumped on top of a can of peas when it saw me the second time. I swung the hammer--"
     "Ha! I guess you nailed it?"
     "No, George, I missed it. I got the can of peas, though. Broke the lid and half-crushed the can. Splashed up to my face. What a mess! The mouse jumped--it was a front leg that was broke off--and it disappeared under the stove. I looked under the stove with a flashlight but didn't see it."
     "Where was your wife?"
     "She was right there. She saw everything. She was scared. She screamed once or twice, that's all I remember. She didn't care about the injured can of peas or the mess I made, even though she was a vegetarian. She said I was a damn fool for lettin' the mouse get away. The stove was on preheat, but she said she wasn't gonna bake no apple pie with a fat little mouse runnin' around the kitchen."
     "End of story, Sam?"
     "No, George, it ain't. Not by a long shot. My wife and I went back to the living room and sat down. We was watchin' a movie, The Sun Also Rises. There was a bullfight going on. There was matador music. But my wife wasn't interested. She nagged and ragged for over ten minutes. No whoopee tonight, I thought. Maybe I'll go back and look for the mouse under the stove, I told her. She said that was a good idea, why didn't I think of it ten minutes ago."
     "Guess the mouse got away, Sam?"
     "Wrong again, George. I was upset with the scoldin' and all--when all of a sudden my wife and I hear this loud poppin' noise in the kitchen. It was a sound that was familiar. We got up and went to the kitchen. The noise continued and it came from the stove. I guess we stood there over a minute, wonderin' what the hell was happenin'. When the poppin' noise stopped, I pulled open the stove door and a whole bunch of pink and grey colored popcorn come spillin' out on the floor. My wife screamed 'There's mouse fur in it, Sam.' We was both surprised, I tell you honestly."
     "The mouse exploded? You expect me to believe that?"
     "I may stretch the truth a little but I never tell a lie. The odd thing about it was, when I looked back in the living room, the TV movie showed that Spanish matador Pedro Romero receivin' an award of one or two ears from a bull he just killed.  The matador music was still playin' too. You know, I got an award at the same time. I counted two ears, a tail, and three legs on the floor."
     "Pardon me, but that sounds like real bull. That must be end of story, Sam?"
     "There's more, George. After I cleaned up the mess and cleaned myself, I got another award--or rather reward--that night. My wife stopped naggin' me about the mouse and she got real sweet and friendly with me. Guess she wasn't scared anymore. Called me her matador and her hero. Said I was the handsomest man in the world. When we got to bed, we had some wild whoopee the rest of the night."
     "Sam, I've known you and your wife for years. I'd believe the mouse stories before I believed that damn lie. Check, please."