Monday, November 3, 2014

Why I'll be voting against 4-year Oneida Common Council terms

I was listening to First Ward Councilor Brahim Zogby on the radio a couple of days ago giving the reasons the Oneida Common Council is asking the voters if they should double the length of councilors’ terms, giving them 4-year terms instead of the current 2-year terms.
The thrust of his argument was that it takes a long time to learn enough about the workings of the city to be an effective councilor, especially since it’s a $5,720-per-year, part-time job. All the necessary studying and meetings must be done at the conclusion of their day jobs.
Two years is simply to short, Zogby said.
True enough, but there are lots of other factors to consider.
First, you’re only a freshman councilor once. At the end of the second term you would have the four years’ experience.
And for the most part, incumbents get re-elected; when they don’t, there’s probably a good reason.
If you were running a business, would you hire workers for four years so they would have ample time to learn everything about the job? Of course not.
We have a good group of hard-working, intelligent community-minded individuals serving on the council now. However, over the years some councilors have lacked some of these traits.
Some were lazy, picking up their information packets just before the meeting and quickly skimming them.
Some were over-extended; with lots going on in their professional and family lives, they didn’t have time to effectively serve.
Some simply didn’t have the skills necessary to make an effective contribution to city affairs.
I’m not naming names, that’s not what this is about. I’m just saying having an election every two years tends to weed out these sorts of people.
It also gives the councilors a reason to get out, knock on doors in their ward, and hear what a variety of people are thinking.
Without this, they tend to get most of their feedback from their family and friends.
While it might seem like an onerous chore to run every two years, that provision was put into the charter for a good reason -- to put the ultimate power in the hands of the voters, where it belongs.
City Prop. 2 (county Prop. 5) is a bad idea.
If getting up to speed on city government is a problem, perhaps it would be a good idea after each election, for each department head to hold a seminar on the workings of his or her department. Members of the public could attend and learn, too.
Public officials often complain too few people turn out for their meetings. Making it so the councilors have less reason to get out into the community will only add to this disconnect.
As for the mayor, while the same logic could hold, I might vote to increase that term to four years.
Unlike the councilors, he (or she) is the titular head of city government. It’s a bigger job, which is recognized by the job’s $27,000 per year salary. It takes more than two years to put together an administration and the programs and policies you promised the voters, especially since in year one, you’re working with a budget crafted by the last mayor and council.
Abrupt, frequent changes in leaders make it hard to get things done.
What do you think? Comment on this issue below or our OneidaDispatch page on Facebook.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Join us to record one week in the life of the Oneida area

The Dispatch news staff works hard every day to cover the news in this area.
But many things that are important never make the news, simply because they are not unusual. Yet, they are important parts of the fabric of everyday life: birthday parties, food shopping, trips to the hair salon or dentist, fishing, car-washing, swimming, golfing and families playing catch, canasta or conga drums.
It can be argued that these everyday activities say more about us as a community than the traditional news stories do.
The goal of this year’s edition of Oneida Proud is to document these key parts of our lives in photos.
We modeled (OK, stole) the idea from Rick Smolen’s series of “Day in the Life” photo books.
Here’s how it’s going to work: Every member of The Dispatch news staff will be out taking pictures during the week of Aug. 17 through 23.
We’ll be focusing on everyday life within the confines of the Oneida City School District. But it won’t be just us. We’re inviting everyone to participate. We’ll run as many photos as we can in the newspaper, but we can handle all publishable photos online. Please include:
• The date the photo was taken (must be during the week of Aug. 17-23);
• Where it was taken (must be within the Oneida City School District);
• The names, correctly spelled, of the people in the photo (unless it’s a large group);
• Any other relevant information.
• A daytime phone number in case we have questions.

If you have questions call me or Online Editor Leah McDonald.
You can mail or drop the photos by The Dispatch office by Tuesday, Aug. 26, or email them to me. My email address is

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lots of changes at The Oneida Daily Dispatch

When we got our new website last fall, a few users told me they preferred our old one.
At the time I agreed.
The new website is an order of magnitude more complex on our end, but several orders of magnitude more powerful.
The truth is, when we launched we only had a rudimentary knowledge of how to operate our site; we could do the basics, but we were clearly in a hands-on learning experience.
We were one of the first in our company to adopt it. It was still a little rough around the edges. There have been major changes and upgrades since then.
This is why we’ve done little in the way of announcing our new website.
We’ve been spending a lot of time learning and providing feedback to the developers.
Plus, I knew that next week, next month the website will be better and better.
But while it’s still improving, in my opinion, it’s pretty darn good now.
I want to point out some of its features:
•New York News
On this page you’ll find a thorough AP news report, plus the most interesting stories, photos and videos from or sister news organizations in Kingston, Troy and Saratoga Springs. The page is completely redone with new stories early every morning and updated throughout the day and evening when news breaks.
•Sports News
This page is a mix of local stories and major national sports news.
Across the top you’ll see “Oneida sports,” “VVS sports,” “Canastota sports,” “Cazenovia sports,” “Camden sports” and “Southern Madison County sports.”
In other words, each of these districts has its own page, where you can still find stories, in chronological order, months after they were published.
This is new. Partnering with a firm called Eventful, the site features local and regional events and allows people to add theirs, which will appear on our site and others. There’s no catch; this is free publicity.
•Nation and World news
Our parent company, Digital First Media, is now the second-biggest local news organization in the U.S. We have a team focusing on World and National news for all our websites. The Dispatch now has excellent World and National pages that are constantly updated from a wide variety of sources, all the while freeing our editors here to focus on local and state news. Sweet.
There’s more, of course; many things are works in progress. But I hope you’ll agree it’s already a big improvement over our old website.
All this reminded me of our experience in February 2013, when we switched the newspaper to the new look and three-day printing schedule.
People said the type was too small, so we increased its size — twice. I hope people agree its lots more legible now.
This brings me to the real reason behind this blog.
It doesn’t matter what I think about our website, newspaper, app or Facebook page.
I can be replaced (don’t tell my boss). The Oneida Daily Dispatch got by for 100 years or so without me, but it can’t exist without readers.
The website and newspaper aren’t mine; they’re yours.
To that end, we are holding a pair of Community Media Lab events. One will focus on our digital efforts, the website, Facebook page, app, tweets and SMS. The other will focus on our newspaper.
There will be short demonstrations followed by question-and-answer sessions. The one-hour sessions will be held on successive Sundays.
•April 6, noon - 1 p.m.: The newspaper. I’ll demonstrate the nuts and bolts of how we put it together. I’ll explain the planning that went into the various pages and talk about how the three-day printing has affected it. There will be Dispatch people on hand to discuss delivery issues.

•April 13, noon - 1 p.m.: Digital. We’ll explore and show how stories, photos and videos are placed on it. We’ll take a look at our Facebook page and liveblogs. We’ll show our app and may have some information on our new one.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Common Core uncommonly good idea

The world’s oldest profession isn’t what you think it is.
Think about it; the world oldest profession is teaching.
Teaching began when one cave dweller grunted and showed another where to find a tasty fruit. Teaching predates language, fire, money and certainly that other “oldest” profession.
It is through teaching that culture and knowledge grows and is passed on so each generation builds on what was learned by the previous ones.
You would think that over the tens of thousands of years education has been going on -- quite successfully, I might add -- there would be some basic agreement about best practices in how to accomplish it.
But no, at least not in America.
Every few years, a new concept takes hold, more or less saying we’ve been doing things all wrong and must adopt this new way of teaching.
Remember new math?
Remember phonics?
Remember No Child Left Behind?
The latest “new idea” to hit our schools is the Common Core curriculum. It would be tempting to pigeonhole it with these previous trends of varying value.
But Common Core is more than a fad, it’s a program that guarantees a child raised in California, Connecticut or Oneida, New York  receives a comparable education in any of them. Students will have the opportunity to make themselves college-ready or job-ready anywhere.  
When students move to another state, which often happens when parents change jobs, they will find they’re learning similar things at their grade level.
Another key aspect of Common Core is that it takes as a given our students need to learn more. The world is growing more complex and workers need to be able to use today’s technology and the skills to learn tomorrow’s.
Some may fear the federal government becoming more involved in local education, and it’s a legitimate fear. With the federal government, the state Education Department and the local school board having a hand in setting policies, we must always be sure nothing keeps talented teachers from using their skills to reach individual students.
This is more about focusing on understanding over memorization and specifying which years algebra, geometry and cursive writing are taught in the same way the government already specifies that there are 12 grades and kindergarten. 

It will be a lot of work to bring our schools, curriculum in line with the challenging national Common Core standards, but our children are worth it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We've started a sports-only Facebook page

In the years I’ve been involved in local news a lot has changed. We have great new tools that help us bring in readers, even in the early stages of newsgathering.
Some things, though, never change.
Take sports.
Some readers love sports, but there are an awful lot who don’t give two hoots.
In the newspaper, we always handled it by printing  sports in a different section.
Don’t like sports? Toss it away, or give it to the family member who loves sports.
He or she might not even read the news.
As they say, it takes all kinds and believe me, among our readers, there are all kinds.
This is why we’ve launched a new sports-only Facebook page.
No law and disorder, no tax increases, elections, abortion, wars, gun control or health care just sports.
There’s another thing I’ve learned about sports fans. They all want the same thing in their sports report - more.
That’s a little joke, because “more sports” means different things to different sports fans.
There are very few who like it all. 
Some people like NASCAR, but hate golf. Some like high school football, are lukewarm about college games and can’t stand pro. Some follow evey stat in baseball, others find baseball boring and can’t wait for hoops season. 
Some are runners, while others avoid even walking when they don’t have to.
The way to serve sports fans is to have as much as we can, so the readers can cherry-pick what they want.
But this approach doesn’t serve our non-sports fans very well. This is the reason we decided to establish a second Facebook page devoted to local sports.
What will appear on this new Facebook page?
OK, there will be links to our sports stories, tweets, touts and photos from local contests, usually as they’re happening.
But what else?
This is where you can play a big role.
It’s bare-bones now, but we want to link to other local facebook pages, a sort of a clearing house for all sporting things local. Beyond that, we want to be the area’s man source for sports information in print and online, delivering wahat readers whats when and where they want it.
If you have a suggestion, please stop by ad like our Facebook page ot or email me or the Sports Depatment at:
Our Facebook pages. If you click “Like” you will receive our news on your news feed:
Kurt Wanfried, a Penn State graduate, has been editor of the Oneida Daily Dispatch for 12 years. Visit his blog at follow him @OneidaEditor on Twitter or email him:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

SU disses Penn State, Syracuse fans

I've made no secret about my love for my alma mater, Penn State.
I've written about the terrible goings on there in the past.
But now I want to talk about how the schedule-makers are messing with Penn State.
When the Big 10 went to 12 teams, they divided themselves into two divisions the comically-named "Legend" and "Leaders." The plan was to pay all six teams in your division and the best team in one division plays the best tem in the other for the Big 10 crown. This set-up has brought excitement and big bucks to other conferences.
In addition to these games, each team would play one team, the same team, each year in the same division to develop a rivalry. Penn State's rival was to be Nebraska. Sounds cool, huh?
Nebraska's a traditional football powerhouse. The game year after year figured to be an exciting series  I grew excited.
But wait, when the Big 10 added Maryland and Rutgers, growing to 14 teams, they shuffled the divisions again, making them more geographical and dropping the hokey names.
But the second-worst thing is that the "rivalry" game with Nebraska was dropped, too.
This year, it's third year, will be its last year.
Some storied rivalry.
But here's the worst thing about Penn State's schedule, and I can's blame the blame Big 10 for this one.
Penn State opens this year against Syracuse.
Yay, right? This should be welcomed by local Penn State fans and our friends who'll be wearing orange that day.
No. Syracuse, has move the Aug. 31 game to to the Meadowlands. That's right, to New Jersey.
This should make those wearing blue and white, and those wearing orange and blue, just blue.
Syracuse, of late, has been billing itself as "New York's Team."
It't a marketing slogan that would be fervently disputed at Colgate, Stony Brook and the University at Albany.
I think it's obvious when SU professes to be "New York's Team," it really wants to be "NYC's Team." The heck with Central New York

2013 Penn State Football Schedule

Aug. 31 vs. Syracuse (at New Meadowlands Stadium; East Rutherford, N.J.)
Sept. 21 - KENT STATE
Oct. 5 at Indiana
Oct. 12 - MICHIGAN
Oct. 26 at Ohio State
Nov. 9 at Minnesota
Nov. 16 - PURDUE
Nov. 23 - NEBRASKA
Nov. 30 at Wisconsin

2014 Penn State Football Schedule
Aug. 30 - TEMPLE
Sept. 6 - AKRON
Sept. 13 - *at Rutgers
Sept. 20 - UMASS
Oct. 11 - *at Michigan
Oct. 25 - *OHIO STATE
Nov. 1 - *MARYLAND
Nov. 8 - *at Indiana
Nov. 22 - at Illinois

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Here's where I'll be Memorial Day weekend

I always like Memorial Day weekend.
Not so much for the time off work, because I rarely get vey much, but because it's a holiday with a meaning.
I think it's important that we, as a country, remember those who sacrificed so much for us.
This weekend I have several plans.
Friday I'll attend the Oneida Memorial Day Parade, where I've been invited to be a judge again this year.
Monday I'll attend the opening of the new Town of Eaton Museum.
And Sunday I'll teach my son, George, to use our new mower.
Expect me to tweet under my handle, #OneidaEditor, from the first two.
I don't think that will happen from the last. If I'm lucky, and the weather's favorable, maybe we'll play a little golf.
And I'll be at work Monday.