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Oneida County Legislature Passes Landmark Oneida Nation Agreement

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

The Oneida County Board of Legislators chambers were abuzz with both supporters and opponents of the recent agreement made between Oneida and Madison counties, the state and the Oneida Indian Nation.

But, in the end the dissenters were proven wrong as the Board of Legislators voted 16-13 in favor of the agreement.

Nearly 40 people spoke during the public comment period held before the vote, with Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney providing the first voice of the evening.

She discussed the impact of the agreement toward families that have been treaty compliant for more than 200 years, saying that it “will take land away from treaty compliant people.” She referenced Melvin Phillips, an Oneida whose family has lived on the same land. He said a yes vote would “be the worst decision Oneida County has ever made.”

Others, like Bill Guglielmo from the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce, Pat Costello and several employees of the Oneida Nation’s Turning Stone Resort Casino were in support, saying it was time to move on and try to build a more positive relationship with the Oneidas.

Kelly Bradley was one of those people. She said that the benefits of the plan outweigh the negatives, while noting that the Oneida Nation “is not our enemy.”

Democratic Majority Leader Frank Tallarino attempted to table the resolution in a bid to gain more time to look it over, but the measure was defeated 17 to 12. Soon after, qualifications were offered.

Opponents of the resolution included outspoken Democrats Chad Davis, Tallarino and newcomer Dave Gordon. Gordon said eight days was not enough to make such a decision, comparing it to the same planning someone may use to prepare their weekly meals.

“This process was flawed,” Gordon said. “And I do applaud Mr. [William] Goodman, because I feel the same way; we should have a public hearing. This is huge. This affects ten counties, not just Oneida County or Madison County, but ten.”

On the opposite side of the issue was fellow Democrat, Franklin Davis, who said the idea presented the county in a position where “we know what we’re going to get.”

“What does your ‘no’ vote get you,” Davis said. “Does it change deputizing them, does it change exclusivity, does it change the 6,000 acres of land that they’re to able to put into trust? Does it change any of that? I said no. So what does your no vote get you? …Well, you’re not going to take part in the deal.”

Though the final vote was close, County Executive Anthony Picente said he was not shocked with the outcome, noting that the agreement received support from 11 Republicans and five Democrats.

“It has been a difficult road for all of us, but I think timing was always the question,” Picente said. “But, I think at the end of the day we’ll look at this in the future and understand that this was the right way to get this done, and to move forward with an issue that has really plagued us for too many years.”

A similar vote is expected to take place later this week in Madison County.

 

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