Our view: Redistricting Oneida County worth study


November 29, 2009

The reshaping of Oneida County's legislative districts, as suggested by the county's Charter Reform Commission, could be a catalyst for streamlining government - a move that ultimately could benefit all county taxpayers.

The idea is among recommendations by the commission, which is winding up 21 months of study and will soon present its final report to the Board of Legislators for approval. It would establish a bipartisan committee to redraw legislative districts following the 2010 Census, extending those districts in the city of Utica into neighboring municipalities as part of the reapportionment. It would go hand-in-hand with the commission's proposal to reduce the size of the 29-member board.

This could bode well for the region's future. In addition to trimming the board - the commission suggests cutting six seats, we recommend 10 - the proposed redistricting by a bipartisan commission would, as Legislator Edward Welsh, R-Utica, says, begin to "take borders down" that currently separate us.

Welsh is absolutely right. The lines that divide our region aren't just physical, they're mental. Parochialism has long infected the mindset of our community to the point where we've outpriced ourselves.

A classic example of government out of whack is the jump in the tax rate for the 1,350 property owners in the village of New York Mills who are in the town of New Hartford. They face a 620 percent increase - from just 15 cents per $1,000 in assessed value to $1.08 per $1,000 - although they receive very few services from the town.

Another outrage is the town of Whitestown's five police departments. Despite studies that have shown consolidation could save money, the process creeps along at a snail's pace. The underlying reason: A parochial mindset that refuses to embrace change.

The Charter Reform Commission's proposal to extend county districts in the city of Utica into neighboring municipalities could be a key step in reshaping this attitude. Clearly the city of Utica shares commonality with many of the towns it borders, and broadening those districts only makes sense. Contrary to what some might believe, the health and stability of the city of Utica have a direct effect on its suburbs. When the city suffers, it hurts us all.

In fact, that goes for all municipalities in our region. We depend on one another. The sooner we learn to accept that and act accordingly, the better our chances of success will be.

The Charter Reform Committee's proposal is a step in that direction. It deserves serious consideration in the weeks and months ahead.

Section: opinion
Index Terms: opinion_editorial
Dateline: ALBANY
Record Number: 0f520df3-f838-4069-87ab-9213e129d0df
Copyright (c) Observer-Dispatch. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.