MAYVILLE - The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce offered Tuesday to not only facilitate another meeting of the reapportionment commission, but to pay for the consultant hired by county Republicans to continue work on a new plan.
The Chamber announced that it had made the offer Tuesday and that the offer had been rejected by Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, in a news release Wednesday.
As both the Republican and Democratic caucuses have proposed plans that call for 19 legislative districts, the Chamber made its offer to be a non-partisan facilitator "in the interest of creating a consensus" on the legislature's redistricting and downsizing effort.
"A 19-member legislature is a good starting point," said Todd Tranum, chamber president and chief executive officer. "They can apparently agree on a number. It is not as much of a reduction as we had been seeking, but it is a step in the right direction."
In response Wednesday, Croscut said that he had received a call from the Chamber.
"But I told him that there was no way that that was going to work," Croscut said. "We were having the maps drawn up as we were speaking (Tuesday)."
With Minority Leader Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, having halted work Monday on the plan passed Saturday by the commission, Croscut and the Republicans retained outside legal services in order to meet Friday's deadline.
In order to downsize the County Legislature in time for November's elections, legal descriptions of the new districts have to be finished and mailed out to legislators on or before Friday. If that deadline is missed, legislators will have nothing to vote on at the special meeting called for Wednesday, April 20.
"If he wanted to pay for the consultant for when we had him come down, that would have been great too," Croscut said of Tranum's offer. "But he didn't offer to pay our fee for the consultant to come down - which was $3,500 bucks. He's got to realize that we had spent $3,500 already of our party's money to have this consultant down so we were ready to present a plan."
Croscut continued on to reiterate that the plan which is moving forward is the plan passed by the commission Saturday, not the initial plan brought by the Republicans.
"The map that we are now drawing is the map that Rudy agreed on," Croscut said. "There have been changes made to our plan. I think that's the way it's supposed to work. This thing that Dr. Mueller has done now is certainly creating a roadblock. And somewhere along the line we have got to get some middle ground, and I felt that we had done that on Saturday. So I certainly was discouraged when Monday morning came."
Though he rejected the Chamber's offer to serve as a non-partisan facilitator, Croscut said he is happy to see that the Chamber continues to support the idea of downsizing.
"I'm glad to see that the Chamber's not putting any roadblocks in this," Croscut said. "That's what I really don't want to see. I don't want to see roadblocks. I don't want to see legal challenges. We've done our best to abide by the laws, so let's get it out there."
In the chamber's release Tuesday, Tranum said that downsizing needs to be done this year.
"While it appears the two political parties have some differences, we could have helped them work those out and come to a compromise that could be approved this month," Tranum wrote. "As it stands now, the 19-member redistricting plan may not have enough support to pass. Our goal in this offer to the legislature, was to bring a non-partisan third party perspective to the re-districting process. ... In a spirit of cooperation, we asked both political parties to come to the table and let us facilitate a compromise agreement that everyone could live with. Now that will not happen. Our hope at this point is that there will be enough votes to approve the plan."