Madison County votes in favor of agreement with Oneida Indian Nation
WAMPSVILLE, N.Y. (WKTV) - After a very emotional Thursday morning, the Madison County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of Governor Cuomo's agreement with the Oneida Indian Nation. Each board supervisor gets one vote, but depending on the number of people they represent, their vote translates into as few as 27 yea or nea votes, or as high as 189. However, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors John Becker has the most weight, his one 'yea' vote Thursday counted for 285 yeas, and that made the difference, as the final outcome was 847 yeas to 653 neas. Before casting his deciding vote, Becker spoke, and told the large crowd, he has had a very difficult time over the past month, and actually broke down in tears saying the following, "I have treated some of the members on my board not too well this past month and I don't feel too good about it. I have to go along with this." Becker stated several times that he believes this is a done deal in Albany and the county was left with no other choice but to "get on the train or be left behind". He said if the board voted it down, the county would end up with nothing. Under the deal, Madison County would receive 3.5 million dollars per year, plus a one time $11 million payment in lieu of any back taxes owed to the county. All pending litigation by Madison County against the Oneida Indian Nation would be dropped and the Oneida Indian Nation would be able to place as much as 25,000 acres of land in Oneida and Madison Counties into Federal Indian Trust, and that land would be exempt from any state and local taxes as well as any regulations. That lack of regulation has the concern of every resident who spoke during the public comment session before the vote was held. Susan Galbraith of Lebanon asked the 18 board supervisors whether they knew the answers to a number of questions, including what would happen if bath salts were sold at the Savon, or if a terrorist who killed Americans holed himself up on Indian land or, "If the Oneidas decide to hay forks for natural gas on Marble Hill or in Stockbridge, who will regulate and inspect those gas wells on behalf of the citizens of New York?" We asked that question about who would regulate hydrofracking on Indian land to Chairman of the Board of Supervisors John Becker right after his vote was cast, he said "I have no idea." Then when asked how could he vote 'yes' not knowing that answer he said, "That's up to the state. The state is going to do this agreement with or without the counties." Every resident that spoke before the board voted urged the 18 legislators to vote no, including Scott Peterman, the Vice President of Upstate Citizens for Equality, "the only thing worse than this agreement is the underhanded way it was negotiated and the way it is being rushed at light speed to pass the citizens who would be most effected by it it if it were to be approved." Former Mayor of Oneida Peter Hedglon also spoke, he says he is not against an agreement with the Oneida Indian Nation, just not this one, "I think you and Oneida County are being bullied by the state, the options are not simply except this. We can out-wait Governor Cuomo. He can punish us while he's Governor, but he won't be Governor forever." Canastota resident John Padden asked the legislators, "Why the rush?" He added, "Not one tenth of one percent of the public, of the residents, of your taxpayers in Madison County, are even aware that you are meeting this morning to make this monumental decision that's going to effect their lives and the lives of generations to come, .so what's the rush?" Padden told the board, "we're not deciding on whether to buy a pickup truck for the county highway department." Each Board Supervisor also had the opportunity to speak before a vote was taken. Eve Ann Swartz of Hamilton who voted no, "I think in the end this is going to be a matter of politics, and that what we need to do is really lead the citizens of Madison County to go to the Senate and go to the Assembly and tell them, Madison County is not going to be treated like this. And we just can't live in a state like this. If that brings the wrath of Andrew Cuomo down on me, I'm a democrat, let it come, who cares." After the vote was taken Susan Galbraith of Lebanon told NEWSChannel 2 this decision is a disgrace, but she is not giving up hope, "I think this resolution passed, I don't think anything is a done deal." The agreement must still get the approval of the state legislature, but so far a bill has not been introduced. A spokesperson for Senator Joe Griffo of Rome tells NEWSChannel 2, the details of who will be introducing the bill are still being worked out.