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From around the County:

Knight: Where Is Christmas?

Written By Editor on 12/19/14 | 12/19/14

My family celebrated Christmas to not only become closer as a unit, but to celebrate the birth of Christ, our Savior. Presents were important, but having each other - and the experiences - were what was most important to us.

However, something changed. Not only within our own family, but through out all of society as a whole. 

Slowly but surely the traditional elements of Christmas - faith and family - were replaced with materialism and who possessed the most objects, or received the most expensive presents, or the latest video game console. 

You see it every holiday season, when hordes of turkey filled consumers rush the doors and fight gladiator style through the aisles at Wal-Mart to get their hands on the latest, and greatest, and not to mention cheapest, vacuum.

Talk about taking Christ out of Christmas. 

It's not all negative. To be sure: acts of kindness still exist, but unfortunately in our culture, they are worthy of media coverage because of their exception to the general rule, and that just... Makes me wonder where it went to hell.

Me, personally? My favorite Christmas memory is of the time my brother Isaiah and I bought each other football's behind the others back, or when my mom and I trudged up the mountain and chopped down our own tree. 

Those were some great times, but today it feels like I am being strangled by a wall of materialism and hyper commercialism that is destroying the true meaning of the holiday and just replacing it with yet another extension of societal greed. 

And yes, Christmas isn't really about Christ, because it represents a throw back to Ancient Rome and the pagan gods of old, but even that isn't as bad as today's gods of greed and objects. Damn, don't I sound like a bah humbug

Say what you will, but each Christmas I feel myself drifting further and further away from celebrating it, because of what it's become. And as time continues to march on, the memories of old are badly fading away.

Leaving me with just this question: where is Christmas? And can it ever truly be recovered?

Babysitter Charged in Kenneth White's Strangulation Death

Five year old Kenneth White's babysitter has been charged in his death. Tiffany Van Alstine, 19, was charged with second degree murder. White's body was found last night by a K-9 unit buried under the snow near the house. She is the cousin of White. Van Alstine's mother had custody of White and his siblings.

The cause of death was discovered through the autopsy as asphyxia due to strangulation.
Credit: WTEN
The babysitter's original story that the boy was abducted by two men was not true. Van Alstine's contradicting stories to the police created red flags. Two other children that were under Van Alstine's care last night are safe.

CSRC Offering Support for Landowners Harassed by Pipeline Companies

The Center for Sustainable Rural Communities encourages all landowners to refuse to cooperate with representatives of the Constitution and NED (Kinder-Morgan) pipelines. When faced with trespassing pipeline crews we urge landowners to immediately call the police and to contact the Center’s toll-free Landowner Response Line 800-795-1467. Available volunteers in Schoharie and Delaware counties will be dispatched to assist landowners in documenting pipeline crew activities. 

Bob Nied
Center for Sustainable Rural Communities

County Unemployment Rate Ticks Up, but Below State Average

In an astonishing turnaround, the County unemployment rate has increased slightly, near its lowest level since 2008. The rate has risen to 5.8%, right near the state average of 5.9%. Unemployment in the area normally increases during the winter, including the recent high of 12.2% in January 2012.

Abducted 5 Year Old Found Dead

Horrible news out of East Berne this morning. Five year old Kenneth White was found dead this morning. He was abducted by someone the police believe is known to the family. The body was found last night with the assistance of a K-9 unit. An autopsy will be completed today.

First information is coming out of WRGB.

Officials confirm that a person of interest in the case has been questioned by authorities, and say that person is not Kenneth's biological mother or father, but knew the family. They expect an arrest will be made in the case soon. Police are planning a briefing on Friday at 1 p.m.
WTEN is reporting that the initial Amber Alert that stated that the boy was taken by two men turned out to be false, says the Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple:

“At this point it’s safe to say that the reports of the masked men in the black truck, those are false,” says Apple.

The Sheriff also believes that there will be an arrest today. There will be a police press conference at 1pm today.

 Berne Knox Westerlo released a statement:

 Dear Parents, It is with profound sadness that I write this letter to the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School community. Earlier this morning, police confirmed that one of our elementary school students was found deceased near his home. Our condolences and thoughts go out to the family and friends of our student. A student death is a difficult and challenging situation that can generate a high level of anxiety and distress in some students. During this time, as the school community processes the tragic news and copes with grief, we will offer counseling and bereavement support services to all of our students and staff. A team of counselors, school psychologists and social workers will provide support to any students or staff members in need throughout the upcoming days. The district has also been in contact with local law enforcement to ensure that BKW is a safe environment for your children. Your child may be affected by this tragedy even if he or she did not know the student well. I encourage you to talk with your child about what has happened. Discussing their thoughts and feelings about this situation is important in helping your child work through his or her grief. If you feel that your children need to speak to a counselor or other adult, please do not hesitate to call the school and let us know. At this time, very little is known about the circumstances of the student’s death and the resulting investigation. We encourage parents to emphasize to their children that there may be rumors or false information in a situation like this one, and if they want to talk about something they hear, they should talk to an adult. This is a difficult time for all of us, but I know that our students, staff and community will draw together to work through this tragedy together. 

 Sincerely, Dr. Joseph L. Natale Interim Superintendent

Schoharie Leader 2014: Steve Hoard and the SCS Community

There have been few parts of Schoharie County that have weathered the last several years like Schoharie. The Schoharie Central School District has had more challenges than any other local organization since 2011.

Flooding damaged most of the school district. The school served as a major community center while Schoharie got back on its feet. The Schoharie Village offices were placed in the Elementary School as needed.

In 2013, beloved Elementary school teacher Rebecca Coughtry died unexpectedly at the age of 60. The school united around her contributions to the district and to her students. It seemed like more than any school district should ever have to bear.

This year was another set of challenges. A series of retirements began to change the long running administration of the school. However, the community has been resilient and knew that it had a base of teachers and staff that continued to serve the community with distinction.

Few, if any, of SCS's teachers was more distinguished than Steve Hoard. Mr. Hoard was at the district for 13 years and quickly became one of the most popular and well respected members of the faculty. His love of Star Wars, history, and of making sure that every student got a fair shot were just several of his positive attributes. For one year, he even served as the Assistant Principal when needed. He was always there to coach and advise, whether for Key Club, track, wrestling, or Student Government. His smiling face and sense of humor were second to none.

You will not find many teachers like Steve Hoard, and the school's loss will be a desperate one to fill. However, the resolve of the community and the SCS campus has shown that Steve Hoard was one of many that made Schoharie the strongest school in the County.

Please make a contribution to the Steven Hoard Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o Schoharie CSD PO BOX 430 Schoharie, NY 12157.

Insiders: Howe Caverns Proposal Plagued by Missteps

Even before the December 17th decision to not accept the Howe Caverns Casino proposal, there have been rumblings about how the project was pieced together. By interviewing local officials, former Howe Caverns employees, and those involved in the push we have been able to piece together part of why the Howe Caverns project was not accepted.

The fight began unexpectedly. The Board of Supervisors rejected a motion to accept a local casino and most locals seemed against it. Just several days later a political earthquake hit the area, with the announcement that Howe Caverns would be pursuing the process. The County Board swiftly reversed itself under pressure from Cobleskill Stone Vice President and County Republican Vice Chair Chris Tague. With the Howe Caverns name attached to the project, the public also backed the project.

April and May seemed to pick up momentum for the project. Howe Caverns anted up $1 million for the gaming application, got our endorsement, said that it had an environmental study done early, and received the unanimous backing of the Cobleskill Town Board.

However, many of the early moves seemed to get the horse before the cart. The early enthusiasm seemed to get the public relation effort ahead of the actual bread and butter of the project's inner workings. According to the State Gaming Commission, the actual proposal to the state didn't indicate a solid plan for how the casino would be funded. Second, multiple surrounding municipalities were not asked for opinions on the casino. Beyond this, deeper structural problems affected the project.

First, the naming of the Howe Caverns Casino owner dropped the ball. The potential owner, Michael Malik, received as much criticism as he did attention. His past involvement in domestic abuse, a ponzi scheme, and election fraud drew attention away from the project itself.

Beyond this, Howe Caverns' own strategy was confusing. Its failure to open its announced Dinosaur Park and Waterpark seemed to underscore larger plans without the funding or the logistics behind to finish them. Furthermore, a recent drop in tourism and gutting of many employees highlighted an atmosphere of instability at the site. One former employee described the efforts as inexplicable.

Still, public support remained high. The project's backers seemed to switch their efforts from the gaming commission process to one of relying on public opinion. Howe Caverns would bus in supporters in t-shirts to every event, winning plaudits for effort. A powerful ad that some believed to be manipulative was launched.

This line of attack seemed to avoid questions about the project's profitability and feasibility. Concerns were regularly replaced with constant shouts of "IT'S OUR TIME," in person or on Facebook. Emails flew from at least one County agency supporting the project using a County email address. Furthermore, the project did not actually have the correct SEQR, as it was claimed earlier.

The project seemed to be relying on a local base of support. Cobleskill Stone Vice President Chris Tague became the public face of the project. He organized the moderately attended Fill the Hill event.

Tague's approach rallied the faithful but seemed heavy handed to some officials. Rather than reinforcing the underwriting or actuarial basis for a local casino, the emotion of Irene was used to support the project. Heavy backing from the County Planning Department and Alicia Terry seemed to indicate the casino's role as a potential savior of the local economy. A PR firm was hired and attention was paid to direct supporters to swamp news polls, but the underlying questions never seemed to receive answers.

By Wednesday the effort seemed to peter out. Sure, there were supporters in t-shirts at the Commission and scattered applause when Howe Caverns was mentioned in the opening statement, but the stone faced commissioners acted more like accountants than emotional cheerleaders for the project. At the end, one of the major concerns was that the Caverns did not complete a basic accounting for how the project would be funded. All of the other work hung on this major error.

Amber Alert Activated for Abduction of 5 Year Old

Written By Editor on 12/18/14 | 12/18/14

  The Albany County Sheriff's Office has activated the New York State AMBER Alert and is investigating a child abduction that occurred on Thatcher Park Road, in Berne, NY at about 1:20 PM on 12/18/2014.

       The CHILD, Kenneth White is a White male, approximately 5 years old with short, brown hairand brown eyes. He is approximately 3 feet 5 inches and weighs about 45 pounds. Kenneth was last seen wearing Jeans and checkered white short sleave shirt.

       The SUSPECT, is a White male. He is approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall. The suspect was last seen wearing black clothing, including a ski mask, black boots, and black gloves. There was a second suspect, unknown race, wearing similar clothing.

       The VEHICLE has been identified as black pickup truck. The truck is a 4 door with unkown license plate

       The VEHICLE was last seen traveling on Thatcher Park Road.

       Two suspects wearing all black and ski masks, forced entry into a home and abducted 5 year old victim. They fled the scene in an unknown make 4-door pickup truck color black.

      Anyone with any information on this abduction is asked to call the Albany County Sheriff's Office at (866)N Y S-AMBER or dial 911 to provide information on a report or sighting.

Video of Green Wolf Brewery Opening

Written By Editor on 12/17/14 | 12/17/14

Reader Radenko Sarac sent us a video of the opening of the Green Wolf Brewery being opened in Middleburgh this past Friday, December 12th. The brewery is open Thursday through Sunday 4-10pm.


Video of Grocery Grand Opening in Middleburgh

A reader sent us a video of last week's grand opening of the Olde Corner Store in Middleburgh last week:


Intoxicated Middleburgh Man Arrested for Criminal Mischief and Resisting Arrest

On December 16, 2014, State Police in Cobleskill arrested Jordan J. Davenport, age 18, of Middleburgh, for Criminal Mischief and Resisting Arrest. Troopers responded to a residence in Middleburgh for a report of an active domestic dispute and encountered Davenport in an intoxicated condition. Davenport had destroyed property in the home and was combative with officers who were able to take him into custody. He was transported to SP Cobleskill where he was processed and then subsequently arraigned in the Town of Middleburgh Court. Bail was set and Davenport was remanded to Schoharie County Jail. He is scheduled to appear in the Town of Middleburgh Court on December 17, 2014.

Vote in Our Poll: Who Should be Schoharie Leader Runner Up?

The Schoharie Leader award will be chosen by us later this week. However, we will give our readers to choose the runner up. The winner of this poll, if not our choice for the Schoharie Leader, will become its runner up. If the winner of the poll is our choice, then the poll's second place finisher will become the runner up. Review the nominees here.
Who Should be the Schoharie Leader?

 free polls

Schoharie Leader Nominees

The following have been nominated for the Schoharie Leader award, which we will decide in the coming days:

- Steve Hoard, SCS Social Studies Teacher
- Matthew Avitabile, Mayor of Middleburgh
- The Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail, with sites across the County
- Nancy Brumaghim, essential part of many Cobleskill community projects
- Domenic Saldamarco, Irene volunteer
- Alicia Terry, County Planning Department
- Janet Mayer, who retired after 41 years as Middleburgh's Village Clerk
- The Beekman Boys of Sharon
- Norine Hodges, SCAASA
- James Landauer, for community service
- Matt and Michelle Strobeck, FIT Coalition in Cobleskill
- Josh DeBartolo, Irene volunteer, founder of Schoharie Recovery

Commission Press Confernce: Howe Caverns Had the Most Heart

The NYS Gaming Commission is currently undergoing a press conference regarding the various casino projects approved and denied today. They said that Howe Caverns had the "most heart" with the most public support. However, the Commission had to do what made "financial success," and needed to avoid "setting communities up for failure."

Furthermore, the Commission did not believe that the nearby Saratoga Racino would destroy the Schenectady project. The Commission said that the group was constricted in what decisions it made to follow current NYS law.

NYS Gaming Commission Press Conference Livestream

Gaming Commission: Howe Caverns Rejected over Financing

More information is trickling out of the NYS Gaming Commission following its landmark decision to approve a casino project in Schenectady. The Commission released a statement regarding its recommendations, including the fact that the Rivers Casino project was selected unanimously over the Rennselaer and Schoharie projects.

The Commission released a brief statement regarding the two rejected Capital District casino proposals. It noted that the Rennselaer project had considerably less public support than the Schoharie and Schenectady projects.

However, the Commission was deeply concerned about the viability of the Howe Caverns project, considering that the applicant, "provided no commitment or highly confident letters for either its equity or debt financing." In fact, the Commission stated that, "Unlike all other Applicants, the sponsors of the Howe Caverns proposal stated that it could not propose a capital structure in any level of detail prior to receiving a gaming license." The Commission also noted that the Howe Caverns project was the only one in which the money needed to complete the process was unclear.

Commission Decides Whether to Approve Howe Caverns Casino Site

The New York State Gaming Commission's press conference has made waves. The Commission also named casino projects in other regions. In the Capital Region, the Commission announced that it would not be the Howe Caverns Project. The state announced that the Rivers Casino and Resort at the Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady. The project will have 150 rooms along with a hotel. The overall project is worth $300 million.

Audible protests were heard in the crowd when the announcement was made.

The state cited economic concerns in its decision. It had reviewed over 100,000 pages of documents related to all of the casino proposals across the state.

This story is developing... Keep it here for updates.

NYS to Ban Fracking

It was unclear which direction the Governor's office was going to head in regarding fracking. After receiving a public health report regarding the potential effects of the practice, the Governor decided to ask the state legislature to ban the practice.

The acting Commissioner of Health stated, “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” The Administration decided to side with activists that contended that fracking would cause more harm than good in the local ecosystem.

Man Arrested for DWI in Cobleskill

On December 16, 2014, State Police in Cobleskill arrested Abdirahman Hussein of Minnesota, for DWI and multiple traffic violations. Hussein was stopped in a 2007 Saturn on I-88 in the Town of Schoharie after being observed at a speed of 86 mph in a 65 mph zone. Hussein failed standardized field sobriety testing and was transported to SP Princetown for processing. Hussein was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. He was issued multiple tickets and arraigned in the Town of Cobleskill court. Bail was set and he was remanded to the Schoharie County Jail. Hussein is scheduled to return to the Town of Schoharie Court on December 22, 2014.

Cuomo Decision to Strip Union Rights After Teachout Endorsement

Written By Editor on 12/16/14 | 12/16/14

Albany is aglow today with talk about Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision to challenge a major public sector union. The Governor has decided to remove 1,000 positions across the state from union classification.

The move plans on removing about 2% of the Public Employees Federations' current membership, as reported in the Times Union. The paper reports that employees were simply handed the notice and asked to sign a form indicating that they had received it.

The decision still needs to be approved by the Public Employees Relations Board, but the move could affect state employed attorneys, accountants, and others. The union says that it will be challenging the decision. It also comes just four months before the close of the current contract, differing from the usual eight months that such a decision is normally made.

The move happened less than a year since the PEF endorsed Cuomo's opponent, Zephyr Teachout for the Democratic nomination for Governor. In the endorsement, the group criticized what it called a "culture of fear" under Governor Cuomo.

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