I write this letter knowing that for some people it will be taken as just another politician playing politics. That comes with the territory. I am writing this as an individual legislator, it is not on behalf of the Democratic Caucus or County Committee. It is written with the experience of participation in the last reapportionment process, which took months to complete.
In politics, as in most things in life, there is always more than one side of an issue. My goal is to ask some questions and fill in some of the blanks that Fred Croscut and the Republicans seem unwilling to do.
First and foremost, I have been and continue to be a supporter of reducing the size of the legislature. I do not believe 19 is low enough, but if districts were drawn up in a fair and unbiased manner, and with the proper time for review by both the public and legislators, I would support it.
My questions are:
1. Why, when this has been a discussion for many years, did the Republicans vote against every proposal, and then not only pass a proposal but draw up the districts in only a matter of days?
2. Why were existing legislators' homes shown on maps if not to gerrymander districts for political purposes?
3. Why was the county attorney's counsel that all parts of home rule legislation should be followed ignored by the Republicans.
4. What is the political, racial, and social-economic make up of the new districts?
5. Who is paying for outside counsel? As a political function it must be duly reported to NYS Board of Elections.
6. Who paid for an outside consultant?
7. Why was an outside consultant needed? The last time this process was done, the county Planning Department was very capable of handling the responsibility.
8. Why are more towns now being split? The Republican response in the past was the rural districts needed fewer towns in them, not more. Following the law would have accomplished this.
9. Will the attorney drawing up the legal description assume all liability for this work? Certainly the County should not have to, as no one from the County authorized it to be done.
10. Does every town, village and city have the correct proportion of legislators that their population calls for?
The past should be a teacher. We all know when something is done quickly is it not done right. We also know that when something smells bad, it probably is bad.
It would not be fair to criticize this issue without offering a solution, so here it is.
1. Defeat/withdraw/rule illegal this obvious attempt of political gain on such an important issue.
2. Pass legislation that would put on the ballot in November a referendum setting the maximum number of legislators at 19.
3. Pass legislation that establishes a nonpartisan commission of seven members selected from a list of volunteer applicants. Two members named from this list by each party, the remaining three members selected by the first four named.
4. The commission would establish the number of legislators and the districts, being not more than 19.
This process would insure that politics plays as little a role in this issue as possible. It would also insure that the public 's interests would be protected, and that they would have a say in the issue.
The last time reapportionment was done, it did not take effect until the 2003 elections. If this waits until 2013, those districts will have been in effect for 10 years. Blame the delay on both sides, but at this point, getting it right should be much more important than approving a bad plan that is the result of a very bad process.
Transparency is a word that all elected use freely; this issue has had none so far.