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Madison County Approves Oneida Nation Agreement, Moves Onto State Legislature

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

Shameful.

The word was hurled several times by the audience as they watched the Madison County Board of Supervisors pass the agreement forged between the county, the state and the Oneida Indian Nation.

The 10 to 8 vote came with heavy emotion, as Chairman John Becker became choked up, saying this was the “biggest decision we may ever make,’ but also noted that the state “will make a deal with or without us.”

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

“The governor did what he thought he had to do to get this thing resolved, and he’s a very persuasive man,” Becker said. “He’s a leader, and he’s a strong man of conviction and he has led this the way he feels that he had needed to lead it.”

Although he voted yes to the agreement, others, like Eve Shwartz representing Hamilton, voted no.

“I don’t believe in government by bullying,” Shwartz said. “I think that this agreement, in the long run, will do a lot of damage. The money that is being offered is not anywhere near enough to make up for the lost taxes over time. It undermines legal cases that have been in the works for years.”

Shwartz and seven others opened expressed concerns with the agreement, voicing their no votes for the small crowd assembled to hear. John Salka, representing Brookfield, said it didn’t meet his three guidelines for accepting legislation.

Scott Henderson was absent from today’s vote. Photo Credit: Gino Geruntino, WIBX

James Goldstein also pushed back against Cuomo’s agreement, saying that with a no vote, the county “will have to buck an incredibly powerful governor.”

Donna Muhs-McCarten, who opposed the agreement, said it was a one sided deal, and was quickly pushed through by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Fourty-eight hour notice on a meeting about an agreement that is this important, in the middle of the morning on a Thursday, has nothing to do with democracy,” Muhs-McCarten said. “That’s not how democracy works.”

Her argument matches many of the comments made by other residents during the public response period, who asked what the rush was and if a better deal couldn’t be made.

Those comments had been echoed only two days earlier, before Oneida County approved the same agreement on Tuesday. Both of this week’s meetings were heavily attended by residents, with very few people outside of Nation employees showing support.

Still, the resounding negativity from the residents was seen in some of the faces of the Board of Supervisors.

But, it was Becker who summed it up the best.

“We are an extension of New York State,” Becker said. “We are a subdivision of New York State. That’s why we have Medicaid, we have Social Services, we have a probation department, we have a jail… all dictated by the state. New York State is going to tell us what we will do on this; they are setting the lead and the tempo.”

The state legislature will now prepare to vote on the agreement.

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