MAYVILLE - Nineteen is the number.
Lawmakers are going to try to cut six seats from the County Legislature in the coming weeks.
All other numbers, from 15 and 17 to a continuation of 25, are no longer up for discussion. The focus now is on the make up of the 19 districts.
Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, explains the Republican caucus’s new map for 19 legislative districts.
P-J photo by Nicholas L. Dean
A handful of legislators joined the reapportionment commission Saturday for a five-hour meeting at the Gerace Office Building in Mayville.
To the surprise of some, the Republican members of the reapportionment commission arrived with only one plan to propose - a plan of 19. The commission's Democrat members brought both a 15-seat and a 19-seat plan to the table, eventually agreeing with Republicans on 19. Work then began on defining the 19 districts.
Earlier in the meeting, Majority Leader Larry Barmore, R-Gerry, had explained his party's plan in detail, highlighting the Republicans' reasons for drawing the districts the way they did.
Democrats, though, still had many questions and concerns. In the hours that followed, Minority Leader Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, and John Gullo, D-Fredonia, worked with the Republicans and their consultant to meld the two 19-district maps into one.
Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, called The Post-Journal shortly after 6:30 p.m. with the news that the commission had reached consensus on the layout of the districts.
"It's really a true blend of both plans," Croscut said. "In the end, we basically left Jamestown as we (the Republicans) had it and we left Fredonia as we had it earlier in the day. We did change the town of Chautauqua for example and we kept Lakewood whole, so it's really a true blend of what (both sides) had.
"I hope the public can understand, we worked on this together," Croscut said. "We have a plan now and it will be presented on April 20 for a vote."
Now that it has passed the commission, the 19-district plan will go to the county law department.
Close to a dozen members of the public attended Saturday's meeting.
During the public portion at the start of the meeting, prior to the unveiling of the commission's three plans, several citizens took to the microphone to address the commission.
One of the individuals was Minda Rae Amiran, representing the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters. Another was a town of Busti resident, who simply asked the commission to consider making Busti more whole. As the County Legislature's 25 districts are currently drawn, the town of Busti is broken up into pieces.
A third comment came from Ron Lemon, the former District 8 legislator and current legislature clerk. Lemon prefaced his comments by stressing the fact that he was addressing the commission not in any official capacity, but simply as a resident. He then reiterated many of his reasons for opposing downsizing.
As it became evident that the meeting was going to last several more hours, many of the members of the public who were in attendance began to filter out of the legislative chambers.
Two Mina residents, Joan Himelein and Halcyon Mueller, told The Post-Journal that they attended the meeting out of concern over what could happen to their district. Both said that they supported downsizing the County Legislature, but admitted they were concerned about going too fast as well as going too slow - adding that 19 sounded reasonable.
"I think you could maybe go lower, but I think you need to take this first step," Himelein said. "From that point, you could go ahead and downsize more. I would hate to see it get so small that we start getting a whole lot of primaries which begin to cost the taxpayers dollars. You have to get a happy medium. I'm not opposed to saying that maybe later we should go lower, but I think this is a beginning and that it's okay at this point."
Town of Busti residents Mike and Steve Angelo disagreed to a small extent, saying that they had hoped to see a reduction of 10 legislators - to a body totaling 15.
"Government is getting too big," Steve Angelo said. "They need to cut down like everybody else. Everybody else is downsizing."
Mike Angelo agreed, criticizing legislators for what he sees as bickering between the parties.
"They need to pull together for our sake," Mike Angelo said. "I know it's painful to lose representation, but I have faith that we're still going to get some representation. I want to drop it to 15, not 19, but it's a start."
While not being totally on board with the number 19, both Angelos agreed to hoping that the measure is passed at the April 20 meeting.
Croscut later similarly spoke about the fact that the number's surely not going to please everyone.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of people who will be unhappy about this plan and won't like it," Croscut said. "but they're going to be on both sides of the aisle. I don't think we can be criticized here as being political. We really put out, I think, a fair plan, again, based on census numbers. Now I think the law department and the Board of Elections people have some work to do."