Tag Archives: redistricting

Gallivan for Congress?

8 Mar

As the redistricting battle heats up, it’s looking like the freshman State Senator has ambitions for higher office. 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/MichaelRCaputo/status/177488989660516353″%5D

GallivanforWNY.com is still available, pranksters!

 

14 Gerrymanders

27 Jan

During the 2010 election, one of the main themes had to do with reforming state government. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch spearheaded an effort to promote independent redistricting, and sought to hold lawmakers accountable. With NY Uprising’s list of “heroes” and “enemies” of reform, Koch’s group managed to bring the issue to the forefront. 

Yesterday, the State Senate’s proposed districts were released, and there’s nothing independent  about the way they were drawn. Koch is predictably incensed, accusing lawmakers of breaking their pledges, and calling the process, “disgraceful” and accused lawmakers who broke their pledge of losing all “credibility”.  For his part, Governor Cuomo has already said he may veto the entire effort.  Here’s how the LATFOR redistricting task force was created: 

The Task Force consists of six members, including four legislators and two non-legislators. The Temporary President of the Senate appoints one legislator, Michael F. Nozzolio (Co-Chair), and one non-legislator, Welquis R. Lopez. The Speaker of the Assembly also appoints one legislator, Assemblyman John J. McEneny (Co-Chair), and one non-legislator, Roman Hedges. The Minority Leaders of the Assembly and the Senate each appoint one legislator: Assemblyman Robert Oaks and Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.

Let’s take a look at the current and proposed Senate and Assembly Districts covering WNY. 

Grisanti’s district is to be entirely in Erie County, while Maziarz absorbs Niagara Falls. Ranzenhofer gets his first urban area way out in Monroe County, while Kennedy gets most of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, and Lackawanna. Gallivan’s district remains largely rural, except it doesn’t reach as far east as before, and he has suburbs such as West Seneca, Lancaster, and Henrietta. The careful line-drawing protects incumbents – little more.  Just look at how carefully districts 60 and 63 carve through Buffalo’s west side: 

Street by Street

 Assembly lines aren’t much better. 

Street-by-Street

(Giglio (A-149), Burling (A-147), and Goodell (A-150), whose current districts cover counties in the Southern Tier, rural counties further east and south, are omitted). It would appear in the Assembly that Smardz may lose his district, and it should be noted that Congressional lines have yet to be drawn or proposed. 

If the system is a broken one, this is the process that is in most need of repair. Despite several years’ worth of guarantees and promises concerning apolitical independence, we’re right back to square one, and it’s wholly unacceptable. A veto is the only thing Governor Cuomo can do to send a message to the citizens of the state – and their legislature – that the status quo is unacceptable. 

 

Barbara Miller-Williams Reacts to Judge Skretny’s County Redistricting Order

5 Aug

I have bolded the areas that I think are most interesting. While Miller-Williams repeats twice how she “welcomes” this order, and claims that it is similar to the Republican/Miller-Williams map (it isn’t, really), and notes that it does especial harm to her chances of being re-elected; when push comes to shove, she is not a “part of the Party system” as it’s constituted in Erie County.

But why is she discussing her re-election campaign in a press release sent from an erie.gov address in her capacity as Legislature Chair, as opposed to her campaign apparatus?

Statement by Barbara Miller-Williams, Chair Erie County Legislature
Regarding Redistricting of the Erie County Legislature

 

Yesterday, Judge William Skretny issued his Order that presents us with new lines for the 11 Districts of the Erie County Legislature.

I welcome the resolution to the matter and applaud the Judge on his attention to the important federal principles. Judge Skretny, in his decision, maintained 2 majority-minority districts for the Legislature, following the directives of the Federal Voting Rights Act. And although the new districts do not adhere as closely as proposed Local Law 3-1 did to the principal of one person-one vote, the deviation in size between districts still falls well within federal guidelines. With this map, Judge Skretny has followed those principles that I have championed throughout this process – the principles that assure each voter has an equal voice in their County government.

Currently I serve as the 3rd District Legislator. The new District I reside in will be District 1. I welcome the additional residents of District 1 and am looking forward to the opportunity to address their interests in County government. This new district preserves the heart of the neighborhoods I have come to know and champion in the City and adds many neighborhoods that I have become acquainted with in my time as Chair of the Legislature. I am excited to get to better know these new neighborhoods and listen to the needs of the residents as I take my re-election campaign to every corner of the new 1st District.

There is one issue that is of concern to me with regard to the Judge’s ruling in this case. Ballot access, the mechanism of our democracy that allows anyone with the will to challenge an incumbent, has been severely restricted in this process. By ordering that the Party leaders will designate those that will be listed on the ballot lines, ordinary citizens are not allowed to participate in that choice. And those that may seek the office of Legislator, if they are not a part of the Party system, are left without any real hope of a viable campaign. I understand the extreme time constraints this process has imposed upon us, but I want to make sure that a true spirit of democracy is not sacrificed in the name of expediency.

So I welcome the Order that Judge Skretny has presented us, and the resolution to the question of what the 11 Districts of the Erie County Legislature will look like beginning in 2012. I respect the process that the Judge has decreed, recognizing that it may be difficult for a challenger to step forward and run for a position on the Legislature.

I look forward to the opportunity to represent the residents of what will be the 1st Legislative District for Erie County in the upcoming election. And I thank all those who have been involved in this process to assure that every resident of Erie County is fairly represented for the next 10 years.

Collins Proposes Something He Should Have Proposed in 2008.

12 Jul

Yesterday, this happened:

Erie County Executive Chris Collins today proposed legislation creating a non-partisan, independent redistricting commission. This new approach to redistricting in Erie County, to be finalized and submitted to the legislature this week, will establish an impartial citizen reapportionment committee with comprehensive community representation in order to draw a new, realistic map for County legislative districts.

This legislation will not impact the current redistricting process, but if passed will affect the next redistricting which occurs every ten years in line with the United States Census.

“The taxpayers of Erie County have a right to a fair and non-partisan redistricting process, and I think that is exactly what this new approach will accomplish,” said Erie County Executive Chris Collins. “The current redistricting process has not adequately served our taxpayers, and this will serve to avoid any and all potential future conflicts.”

To ensure compliance with state and federal election regulations, and to guarantee fair and non-partisan representation, the commission would be comprised of seven citizen members recommended by the following organizations:

the University at Buffalo Law School

the Buffalo Urban League

the Erie County Farm Bureau

the Association of Erie County Governments

the League of Women Voters

the Buffalo Niagara Partnership

and the Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council

“By including representatives from all of these significant organizations, the taxpayers of Erie County will feel comfortable knowing that they are fully represented and the most logical map will be drawn in their best interests,” Collins continued.

This legislation will outline four key criteria any new plan must meet, including:

Equal representation – This new legislation will minimize disparity among each legislative district and propose districts as equal in population and representation as possible.

Communities of interest – It will ensure that communities of interest are kept together and protected, so the unique characteristics and nature of Erie County’s diverse communities are adequately represented in the legislature.

Urban and rural communities – It will minimize vastness and protect the interests of urban and rural areas to ensure proper representation in each district for its residents.

Compact and efficient districts – To increase efficiency and completely eliminate the opportunity for political advantages for any one party, the new legislation will call for the creation of the most compact, least gerrymandered districts as possible.

“This bill will benefit residents and ultimately make the process much more efficient,” continued Collins. “It will establish what I believe will prove to be a truly fair, independent and non-partisan committee.”

Finally, Collins proposed measure would ensure a true citizens committee, by requiring the named organizations to designate members who have not:

held previous elected office in the last 3 years been the spouse of or directly related to an elected official served in an official capacity within any political party

In order for this piece of legislation to be approved, it must first be introduced as a local law and passed by the Erie County Legislature. Upon approval by the Erie County Executive, this new approach to reapportionment will amend Section 210 of the Erie County charter which pertains to the Advisory Committee on Reapportionment. It will then require approval at a referendum.

“This is a real attempt at taking politics out of the process completely and making it the fairest plan possible for everyone who will benefit – the taxpayers of Erie County,” Collins said.

Ah, but it’s too late for this to affect what Collins wants now out of redistricting.

How convenient. If Collins was such a proponent of independent redistricting, he’s had four years to propose this legislation. His sudden conversion on this issue is all very nice, but it’s also too late to help now, and is instead a transparent campaign ploy to make him sound like a proponent of good government when he is, in fact, the most divisive and reactionary figure in regional politics.

ICYMI

8 Jul

1. I’ve posted stuff from Shorpy before, but this candid image of an everyday Swan Street in 1911, devoid of emptiness, and this image of a busy Main Street near Swan in 1905 gives you a vivid picture of what the city was like a century ago. Back then, this was a wealthy and busy city, at the forefront of scientific and engineering innovation. These Shorpy images are like a time machine – the resolution is so great that you can examine them and find average people doing everyday, unposed things. To me, it’s the closest thing we have to a time machine.

2. Yesterday, the Republicans on the County Legislature held a press conference blaming the Democrats for torpedoing the reduction of that body from 15 to 11 members. The reason has to do with the fact that the Democrats had the unmitigated gall to be in a majority and to pass a redistricting plan that the Republicans, Chris Collins, and their allies didn’t like. The problem is that both plans were political – they each fellate each group’s traditional base, and each was promoted by political appointees as part of a fundamentally flawed, hyper-politicized process. The whole thing was a sham, and some quite reasonable maps that were drawn up and promoted by average people never saw the light of day because they weren’t being promoted by any particular political faction. Had the process been de-politicized – an idea that is downright unthinkable in Erie County politics – perhaps it wouldn’t now be in front of a federal judge. But the Republicans are being beyond disingenuous in suggesting that they are somehow blameless for the way in which all of this turned up. They had, after all, tried to create a de facto majority so that they could slam whatever plan they wanted down voters’ throats – but a Democratic detente seems to have put the kibosh on that strategy.

3. Felonious Monk writes:

The only observation I have is these local lib blogs continue to publish either false or disingenuous information. The most obvious in WNY Media. For weeks they claimed there was NO strife among Erie County Democrats & now they have back peddled & admit there is significant turmoil within the Party.

Here’s what I wrote:

Both major political parties in western New York, it seems, are going through some upheaval. The Democrats have been fractured into oft-warring factions since time immemorial, but a massive push by Governor Cuomo to broker peace has been largely successful, at least for the current election cycle. There has been some grumbling, but when the most popular governor in America tells you to knock it off, you probably will.

I specifically acknowledge that the Democrats had undergone significant strife in the past, which has almost completely been eliminated, save for a few “what about me” complainers.

Reading is fun. Comprehension is better.

4. Remember that thing I wrote up at paragraph #2? After I got the press release and media advisory from the Republican caucus, I contacted a person working for the Democratic caucus who was – last I knew – their media contact. It suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t receiving any press materials from the Democratic caucus at all lately. The response I got was that this person no longer handled press – but there was no information to point me in the right person’s direction. So we at WNYMedia.net are such bigshot Democratic insiders that I can’t get basic information from the caucus we’re supposed to be so closely aligned with. The Erie County Legislature is such a broken, anachronistic, and dysfunctional, needless body that it’s shocking that it (a) exists; (b) is allowed to be partisan; and (c) did I mention “exists”? Maybe they can get Glenn Gramigna to write something up on their behalf.

5. What’s happened in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Casey Anthony cases over the last couple of weeks underscores just how well our judicial system works. The prosecution in the DSK case, when confronted with damning information about it’s star witness’ credibility, is doing what it should do. Their job is not to convict, but to do justice. Likewise, the Casey Anthony jury’s verdict was not unexpected and was completely reasonable. They may think that Casey Anthony is a scumbag, but they weren’t convinced that she had committed an intentional homicide with aggravating circumstances. No one in that courtroom proved to the jurors how or when Caylee died, nor did anyone establish a clear motive for Casey Anthony to have done that. Since the burden of proof is the state’s, maybe it punched too high in bringing the charges it did. You might be pissed off because you think Casey Anthony killed her daughter – and maybe you’re right and maybe she did. But that’s not good enough for a capital murder conviction. Even if you’re the detestable Nancy Grace.

6. Does Buffalo need a “Buffalo Rising”? Probably. I thought Boston had an inferiority complex, always comparing itself to New York, until I moved here and saw that Buffalo has an inferiority complex towards everything. Four decades of being a national punchline will do that to you.

7. I am genuinely stunned that people would knowingly defend an able-bodied person using a handicapped parking spot at any time, under any circumstance. It’s not just illegal – it’s arrogant and obnoxious. But I guess some people will excuse even the most boorish behavior. However, my favorite comments in a thread of 100+ were the why-don’t-you-focus-on-important-things ones. Well, yesterday I posted about state redistricting and how the process has been hijacked and is being politicized by people who had made a pledge not to do that. That post got 6 comments. How many of you called your legislators? Exactly. Spare me the whinging lecture. Collins is still an asshole.

8. When Rupert Murdoch gets a well-deserved come-uppance, everyone wins. Here at home, Fox News is now pushing back hard against Media Matters, the lefty watchdog (yes, funded by *gasp* George Soros! Who is a Jew! /teabagger) that relentlessly points out Fox’s lies and unfair, unbalanced slant. This means that Media Matters’ criticisms are hurting Fox. This means that Media Matters deserves your support. After all, if News Corp is engaging in illegality in the UK, God only knows what it’s up to here in the US.

9. If you get a chance, check out my Spree review of the new Rocco’s Pizza on Transit. It’s quite good, but my hunt for an authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizza in WNY continues. Vera, are you out there?

Call Your Albany Gerrymanderers

7 Jul

Last year, many state legislators running for office in New York made a big deal out of a pledge being pushed by former New York Mayor Ed Koch’s “New York Uprising“. The full text of the pledge is available here, and the signatories are pledging to push and vote for ethics reform, more transparency in financial disclosure, and independent redistricting. Signatories were touted as “heroes” of reform, while those who didn’t were labeled “enemies” of reform.

The redistricting piece is up for discussion now in Albany, and it’s not happening independently. It’s happening with as much self-righteous and entitled partisanship as the current, broken process in Erie County.

The Buffalo News’ Tom Precious wrote a story about it and a handful of Albany pols were quoted. For instance,

“Ed Koch is pretty irrelevant to the process, in my opinion,” said Assemblyman John J. McEneny, an Albany Democrat who is the other co-chairman of the redistricting task force.

Yes, he is technically irrelevant, but the good government group he leads pressed lawmakers throughout 2010 to sign the pledge for independent redistricting. Here’s McEneny’s page at NYUprising:

So, he signed the pledge and is now reneging on it. Regardless of what you think about Ed Koch or NY Uprising, that’s pretty despicable behavior.

And another:

“We’ve long since run out of time for that process,” said Sen. Michael F. Nozzolio, a Finger Lakes-area Republican and co-chairman of the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment.

Here’s Nozzolio’s signed pledge. It appears that he was called an “enemy” due to his refusal to release information about his outside income.

Redistricting is important because it’s been used as a political tool through gerrymandering to guarantee incumbents’ re-election. The incumbency rate in Albany of over 90% is the net result of a politicized process. The despicable joke that is the redundant Erie County Legislature has placed on full display the perils of a hyperpoliticized redistricting process. This stuff is important – it happens once a decade and has much to do with how your government behaves, and what it does in the ensuing years.

Call your legislators in Albany – in both the Assembly and Senate – and demand independent redistricting. Tell them you’re paying attention and that you support Governor Cuomo’s threat to veto any redistricting that results from a politicized gerrymandering process.

Grassroots vs. ECDC in Thunderdome

28 May

This Buffalo News article is exactly right.  Especially this line:

The gamesmanship and speculation leading up to the final vote is transparently self-serving and hard to take. Indeed, Perry’s commission cut off public input by disbanding before holding its final three hearings.

Frankly, since the de facto legislature “majority” is already doing his work for him, it might be better to just amend the Charter to have the County Executive submit a map, run it by the lawyers, and throw it to a vote. As an alternative, maybe it would be better to excrete four or five different maps out of the redistricting commission, bypass the legislature and executive altogether, and just let people vote on them.

This episode should shame the shameless Barbara Miller-Williams, and the redistricting commission should have been disbanded before it was ever put together. What a glaring example it is of dysfunctional politics and government. And I’m not just blaming the people on it who were aligned with Collins and Miller-Williams.  I’m also talking about the people on the Democratic side. There was so much ridiculous and embarrassing rancor and resentment.  All over maps!  It never should have been handled this way.  By comparison, the Charter Revision Commission from 2006-7 was downright professional and thoughtful.

In the meantime, the Democrats should be energized and unified given the incredible Hochul win and the momentum it brings. What a great opportunity to set aside personal and factional bickering and celebrate the fact that our party has its shit together and the Republicans are in disarray.  Instead, short-sighted and power-hungry politicians like Barbara Miller-Williams are busily scuttling that momentum – in an election year, no less. She is handing cushy districts to her Republican allies while throwing fellow Democrats Mazur and Loughran under the bus. (I wouldn’t mind if that happened due to some objective reality, or as a result of a truly independent commission, but this entire process has been hyper-politicized, and those running it are to blame).

So, again, the Republicans in the legislature have dummied up because BMW is doing their work for them, stabbing the Democrats in the back.  I, for one, am sick and tired of the factionalism in the Democratic Party and wish a wand could be waved to just re-assign an (R) after these turncoats’ names.

I’m not talking about cutting deals with Collins and the Republicans, as long as it benefits one’s constituents. I’m not talking about one Democrat primarying another – that’s part of the process. What I’m talking about is the systematic and constant kneecapping between ECDC Democrats and Grassroots Democrats.  Under normal circumstances, Grassroots would try and take control of the party apparatus by convincing people it could do a better job.  It would run candidates for county chair who would win. But they don’t do either. Instead, they just sabotage headquarters day in and day out, and then whine like babies when headquarters tries to undo or counter the damage. Just. stop. it. You couldn’t get the incumbent Antoine elected in a heavily Democratic district last year, but downtown just got Kathy elected in an (R)+6 district against two multi-millionaires and Karl Rove. ‘Nuff said.

Yes. This is undoubtedly small potatoes shit. This is definitely engaging in an Albanian blood feud over scraps. This underscores the political impotence of a legislature that only controls about 10% of the money it handles, and the rancor that comes with anything that affects political influence. It would be better if the county was run by a nonpartisan professional manager who didn’t hyperpoliticize everything. It would be better if we had no legislature, since its functions are mostly ministerial anyway. It would be better if elections were held and funded in a way that didn’t so strongly benefit incumbents. It would be better if state law was amended to make it easier for candidates to access the ballot and run for office.

But in the meantime, under the system we have – not the system we want – people who call themselves Democrats should start acting like it.

Redistricting Nonsense-apalooza Begins

26 May

Note: This article looks much different from the version published at 1PM.  We use a scheduling system for posts and this was supposed to be released yesterday at 1PM, not today.  It has been updated to reflect reality.  Sorry for the confusion. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, all the better. 🙂

Yesterday, the Erie County Legislature hosted a public hearing to debate the merits of two competing redistricting proposals.

The first proposal (Local Law 3-2011), was assembled pursuant to the efforts of the Erie County Redistricting commission, which was chaired by Hodgson Russ attorney Adam Perry. The law is sponsored by Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller Williams.  This proposal also has the support of the six member Republican minority and the tentative support of West Seneca Legislator Christina Bove, who together make up the remnants of the much ballyhooed “reform coalition“.  Click here for a link to the map of the proposed new districts.

The second proposal (Local Law 4-2011), was designed by the Democrats and is sponsored by Betty Jean Grant. Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan was able to pull rogue Democrat Tim Whalen out of the “reform coalition” to support this proposal.  This bill has the support of the ECDC-loyal Democrats in the legislature, which gives them seven votes.  Most notable in the proposal is the redistricting punishment that will be given to “Reform Coalition” leader Barbara Miller-Williams.  Click here for a link to the map of the proposed new districts.

So, the battle is for the vote of Christina Bove, who again finds herself the subject of a political tug of war. Whichever group offers her the most comfortable level of “protection” and/or “lulus” will undoubtedly secure her vote.  If the Democrats can bring her back to their side, this will put County Executive Chris Collins in the unenviable position of vetoing the plan for downsizing and redistricting that was so central to his re-election plans.  A veto would provide a sizable political victory for Lenihan, the Democrats and County Executive candidate Mark Poloncarz leading into the fall.

So, Tina, what’s it gonna be?

We’ll find out at a special meeting of the Erie County Legislature in Old County Hall, 4th Floor, 92 Franklin St., in the City of Buffalo, N.Y.  14202 on Wednesday, June 2nd at 2PM when the final vote is taken on the competing proposals.  We’ll stream that meeting here on WNYMedia.

Redistricting Shenanigans

19 Apr

In the “Cow Days” episode of the Comedy Central series South Park, Officer Barbrady, officially declares “shenanigans” after discovering a carnival game is rigged.  The declaration of shenanigans by an officer of the law gives the townspeople free rein to destroy the carnival with brooms.

I think its high time to declare “shenanigans” on the Erie County Legislature redistricting process.  As I understand the law, declaration of shenanigans in Erie County gives the locals free rein to turn Spaulding Lake into a flexible lawn.

Due to the approval of a referendum measure in 2010, Erie County will be downsizing the number of legislators in time for the 2011 countywide election.

With the decision, next year’s candidates will run for 11 new legislative districts, drawn to reflect census-based shifts in population. If all goes according to plan, 11 lawmakers will take their oaths of office in January 2012.

The question then became, who will draw those new legislature districts and what methodology will be used to draw them?  The existing county law requires the Legislature to create a citizens advisory committee on redistricting, but that law does not stipulate that the Legislature follow the recommendations of the committee.

That Citizens Advisory committee, advertised as “non-partisan” is filled with active members of the Republican Party apparatus and various members of the Democratic Grassroots political club and the Erie County Democratic Committee.  It also offers positions to the two Board of Elections chairmen, Dennis Ward (D) and Ralph Mohr (R).  So, partisan arguing and bickering is the order of the day, as documented by Geoff Kelly from Artvoice after he attended the first meeting of the committee in early March.

So I wondered, as I considered these and other thorny issues, if many commission members on both sides of the political fence might secretly hope that time constraints would prevent the downsizing from occurring this year at all—that, come November, we will still have 15 legislators running along the current district lines, while the reapportionment process grinds slowly forward in the courts.

As the process has slowly marched on, I’ve been copied on several communications between the members of the committee that demonstrate Kelly was right to wonder if anyone was interested in meeting the deadlines for reapportionment.  Or, these emails show that the most petty and awful among our community are spending way too much time arguing over such horrible nonsense.  I report, you decide, or something like that.

Below are a series of e-mails between the Chairman of the Reapportionment Committee/Grassroots Muckety Muck Adam Perry and Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward which then branches off to include others. The exchange stems from Dennis Ward’s request that Legislative Staff bring, and display, his “examples” of newly apportioned legislature districts at the public hearings so that they can be discussed. An objection was raised because it would give the public the impression that the maps being discussed at the hearing are official proposals and they are not. Ostensibly, the purpose of the public hearings was to get public feedback on reapportionment, not to discuss specific examples.

On to the rancorous nonsense…

From: Perry, Adam [mailto:APerry@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: Wed 4/13/2011 11:40 AM
To: Perry, Adam; ‘Jeremy Toth’; ‘bbiggie@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dboody@xxxxxx.org’; ‘chapjc@xxxxxx.com’; ‘ecolaiac@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jderosas@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jsh@xxxxxx.com’; Mohr, Ralph; ‘jondrivera@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com’; Ward, Dennis; ‘bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net’; ‘jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com’; ‘lamparelli@xxxxxx.net’
Cc: Davis, John; Fiume, Bryan
Subject: Public Hearing Issues

Committee Members:

First, I apologize for my early departure last night. I did advise staff and a couple of Committee members that I would have to leave early, but I should have made that clear to all members and the audience at the beginning of the hearing. I do think attendance by all Committee members at all public hearings is important, which is another reason why it is my personal preference for fewer and better attended hearings at larger venues familiar to most citizens of the County.

Second, I understand that there has been a request by Mr. Ward to have the examples, maps, or whatever we are calling them (I’ll call them diagrams), displayed at the next two public hearings. I also understand that there is a disagreement as to whether such a process should occur. I am stating for myself that I don’t currently object to showing one of those diagrams as an example in the absence of substantial objections, but I oppose showing more than one. I also personally feel that the diagrams may be misleading and I would be inclined to vote against their use if there is substantial objection and we vote on the matter. Accordingly, I intend to poll the Committee by e-mail (and verifying with anyone who does not respond by e-mail tonight) as to whether the showing should be allowed. Assuming we vote to show a diagram, I also personally have no objection to allowing Mr. Ward a very short explanation of the diagram and an opposing view — if there is one — of his explanation. However, I do intend to subject this issue to a vote before the showing will be allowed within the public hearing venue. In any case, I do think we should re-emphasize that the diagrams are available on the website to the public.

Third, I believe we need to ask for a clarification from the Board of Elections commissioners on the issue of the software availability (I thought it was available some time ago and we were just waiting for the data), and how we address the counting issues based on the opinion of the County Attorney which is directly contrary to the opinion given by the Board of Elections on prisoner populations. I feel this is an important issue to have a clear understanding of in order to defend our process. Indeed, we were being urged by some to produce and distribute maps to the public which would have counted a statistically significant numbers of ineligible people and would have to have been produced without final Census date, and without correct designation of Census tracts, and without input from the public based on actual Census data, and without the software we were told was available to prepare the maps.

Adam W. Perry, Esq.

The vote to which Mr. Perry refers resulted in a decision from the committee to not display the maps.  Of course, Mr. Ward was not very happy with that decision and rapidly took fingers to keyboard to send his indignant response.  Note that he publicly copied Jay Rey of The Buffalo News on his reply.

—–Original Message—–
From: Ward, Dennis [mailto:Dennis.Ward@xxxxxx.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 1:46 PM
To: Perry, Adam; Jeremy Toth; bbiggie@xxxxxx.com; dboody@xxxxxx.org; chapjc@xxxxxx.com; ecolaiac@xxxxxx.com; jderosas@xxxxxx.com; jsh@xxxxxx.com; Mohr, Ralph; jondrivera@xxxxxx.com; dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com; bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net; jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com; lamparelli@xxxxxx.net
Cc: Davis, John; Fiume, Bryan; jrey@xxxxxx.com
Subject: RE: Public Hearing Issues

Members of the Commission:

I have never heard such absolute hypocracy about displaying the “examples” of how the ultimate map of the county Legislative Districts can be partially drawn. What is quite clear is that certain members of the Commission – those appointed by the ruling coalition of the County (the Chair and the Republican minority) have already made up their minds that they will split towns in violation of the provision of MHRL,  Section 10 (1) and, more importantly, in violation of good public policy. It is apparent that the so-called “gerrymandering” of the drawing of lines has already begun – among those appointed to at least try to avoid that at the advisory commission stage.

The examples that I had submitted were merely suggestions of how to avoid dividing towns – assuming that the commission wishes to follow the law, and more importantly, what is good public policy. It was in no way meant to preclude any commission member from doing the same, with other groupings of towns which differ from those I included. On the day I presented them and when we decided to put them up on our webpage, the invitation was extended to all other commission members (indeed, any members of the public) to produce additional such examples of the grouping of towns, to assist the commission in its task of drawing lines. The fact that no other commission members have bothered to do any work outside of appearing at meetings it is not my concern. Maybe it should be.

At some point, this commission will be sitting down in so-called “work sessions” and reviewing whatever has been submitted to the commission for its consideration – be they maps, partial maps, examples of how drafting can be done, together with a background of what has been derived from the hearings and public comment we receive. We will need it all so that an intelligent discussion can be had and work can be done in arriving at a map (or maps) we will be recommending to the full Legislature. At least, I assume that we will have work sessions since otherwise, it will be clear that members of the commission are merely “tools” of those in the ruling “coalition” in the Legislature that has appointed them, who are only interested in retaining the incumbents.

That is not to say that commission members cannot bring maps, or partial maps, that they would like to discuss, to those commission work sessions. Any such submissions will be of help to the commission and will be the subject of discussion, in public, by the members of the commission. That is what “transparency” is all about. That will allow the public to watch the process and ensure that the rationale for any such maps is well grounded in the law and good public policy – not just a furtive effort to advance the agenda of certain incumbents.

I am particularly amused that a commission member would suggest that the displaying of such examples of how to draw the district lines without dividing towns would be “misleading”. How, pray tell, and who would be misled? And misled about what – that it isn’t possible to do? How will the public be able to evaluate the position of whether it is possible to avoid dividing towns without actually looking at examples of how it can be done?

What is quite clear is that certain members of this commission are now all weighing in on the side of not allowing the public to see something that is in the record of the commission and which apparently will become the focus of an internal debate about the legality and the wisdom of dividing towns in arriving at a “gerrymandered” legislative plan. There are members have generally remained silent throughout the proceedings, so far, but now are moved to speak (in the security of e-mail) to deny the public the right to see what will be debated by the commission. What are they afraid of?

If they have some secret “plan” that is superior to adherring to the principle of not dividing towns, let’s hear from them – and let’s see something as a work product. To this point, we have seen nothing. Are we to truly believe that a map will sometime in the future just suddenly “materialize” – and drop on to the laps of the commission – which will then simply rubber stamp it? Is there no willingness on the part of the commission members to do any work for the public to observe?

And finally, let us allow the public to see both sides of the argument. Lets have them able to comment on what is clearly becoming a major (if not the issue) of dispute – whether the age old practice of dividing towns to promote a gerrymandered plan is really a desirable tool. Perhaps people from the many towns will come in to actually request that their town to be divided – who knows? But those who do attend these public hearings ought to have the tools and the information to know the issues involved and to be able to speak on them.

As for the “permission” of the commission to display the “examples” – I don’t need that nor will I abide by that. I will simply retrieve them myself from the Legislature as my work product. Since you are apparently taking the position that they are not a part of the commission’s body of information. I will bring them to every public hearing and I will have them displayed – period. The public and the media have a right to all information available, and which will be used in the commission doing its work. That’s what “open meetings” are all about.

I am shocked that any member of this commission, and in particular the chair, would be a part of suppressing public information. That reveals a story that itself needs to be told in public. I will see all my fellow members of the commission at the next public hearing tonight at 5 PM at ECC North.

Dennis E. Ward
Commission Member

This email about hypocrisy and undermining the will of the people from the elections commissioner who worked with his partner, Mr. Mohr, to keep the downsizing initiative off the ballot last November on technicalities.  Mr. Perry replied to Ward’s email with the following:

From: Perry, Adam [mailto:APerry@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 2:50 PM
To: Ward, Dennis; ‘Jeremy Toth’; ‘bbiggie@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dboody@xxxxxx.org’; ‘chapjc@xxxxxx.com’; ‘ecolaiac@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jderosas@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jsh@xxxxxx.com’; Mohr, Ralph; ‘jondrivera@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com’; ‘bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net’; ‘jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com’; ‘lamparelli@xxxxxx.net’; Perry, Adam
Cc: Davis, John; Fiume, Bryan; ‘jrey@xxxxxx.com’
Subject: RE: Public Hearing Issues

I will not respond to Mr. Ward’s defamatory, misleading, and self-serving diatribe. I encourage others not to respond. His statements are not worthy of a response and not worthy of an individual admitted to practice law where duties of candor and civility are the rule and not an option. I intend to conduct all proceedings and communications with my colleagues in a professional and civil manner.

We’re 2200 words in, still with me?  If so, it appears Mr. Perry’s guidance to not respond to Mr. Ward was ignored by committee member Emilio Colaiacovo.

—– Original Message —–
From: Emilio Colaiacovo
To: chapjc@xxxxxx.com ; jsh@xxxxxx.com ; jderosas@xxxxxx.com ; dboody@xxxxxx.org ; Ward, Dennis; Mohr, Ralph; dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com ; bbiggie@xxxxxx.com ; Adam Perry ; Jeremy Toth ; lamparelli@xxxxxx.net ; bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net ; jondrivera@xxxxxx.com ; jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com
Cc: jrey@xxxxxx.com ; Fiume, Bryan; Davis, John
Sent: Thu Apr 14 13:55:37 2011
Subject: RE: Public Hearing Issues

I find this amusing, since you were instrumental in trying to keep the public referendum on downsizing off the ballot last year. Does this constitute suppressing the will of the public or at the very least suppressing public information? I really don’t want to get into this type of exchange with you, as I don’t have the free time to go on and on. This isn’t a contest on who can say more or the loudest. I think the process has been very deliberative and open. Many of us have concerns about your maps – my concern is I do not want the public to think that they constitute the work product of our committee, as they represent only your opinion (or the opinion of those you serve). I find the comments elicited from our public hearings important. I certainly do not wish to engage in map-drawing without first hearing from the public. While I don’t believe my comments are hollow, you need not disparage others who take a contrary opinion of what you believe to be gospel. See you tonight. Emilio

Emilio Colaiacovo, Esq.

The email chain here continues on with some explanation from Mr. Ward and another reply from Mr. Colaiacovo.  I’ve killed it here because I think we’re past the point of it being informative.

The larger point here is that this process for reapportioning our legislative districts is being undertaken by a political class which seems more interested in sweeping together and hoarding the crumbs on the table as if they were political chits to be cashed in at a future date.  Nowhere in this chain of emails does one find legitimate discussion about how to best realign our legislative districts to better represent the public and make government more efficient.  This small-minded political bickering is exactly why Kevin Gaughan had recommended outside consultants to design a reapportionment proposal for the Legislature itself to consider and vote upon.

Instead, we’ll get weeks of foot dragging, and backroom political bickering in order to avoid making a decision before petitions circulate for legislature candidates in early June.

Hooray!

 

Redrawing the Lines

14 Jan
Erie County Hall. Buffalo NY
Image via Wikipedia

An article submitted by the Chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature, Barbara Miller-Williams.

Getting Ready to Draw the Lines
By Erie County Legislature Chair Barbara Miller-Williams

Changes are on the horizon regarding who will represent your interests in government on the local, state and national level.  And while this may seem like a mundane activity, it becomes important when you think about the resources that an elected official can bring to your neighborhood.

For Erie County we will be redrawing the lines of each of our Legislative Districts.  We do this every 10 years but this time it will be more than just a shifting of the lines, we are also reducing the number of Legislators from the current 15 to 11.

To facilitate the process of drawing the lines the Erie County Charter calls for the formation of an Advisory Committee on Reapportionment by the Erie County Legislature.  The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Legislature on how the county legislature should be reapportioned consistent with federal and state law.  We will be appointing members to the Committee in January and February and then as we are given the new population data from the Census Bureau the Committee will meet to create a proposal for the new districts.

This year I feel the Advisory Committee on Reapportionment is more important than ever. Insuring that the entire process of drawing new lines for the legislative districts is a fair, open and transparent process is imperative.  There will be additional challenges this year as we reduce the size of this body from 15 members to 11 and we need to make sure that facts, and not politics, govern the process.

And the very best way to assure that we are open and transparent is to have strong community involvement. So I am asking each of you to do your part to assure that the County Government is responsive to your needs and the needs of your neighborhood by staying informed about the redistricting process.  You can check the website for the Legislature for updates and there will be News reports as the process unfolds.  As always I encourage you to call my office with questions about the process with regards to the County Legislature redistricting.  (For questions about Federal, State or City redistricting call the office of your representative).

Also if you are involved in a group that is interested in suggesting advisory committee members or you are an individual interested in serving on this committee I encourage you to submit a letter of interest to the Clerk of the Legislature no later than February 4, 2011.  Letters of interest should be addressed to:

Robert M. Graber
Clerk, Erie County Legislature
92 Franklin Street, 4th Floor
Buffalo, NY  14202

I thank you for helping us, as your elected officials, to keep the political process open and fair to all members of our community by staying informed about the redistricting process.