No maps yet for Oneida County redistricting

Observer-Dispatch (Utica, NY) - Monday, February 11, 2013
Author: Elizabeth Cooper

With a little more than a month to go before the Oneida County Board of Legislators will vote on its new district lines, there's a major hitch - no proposed map sexist yet. 

A public referendum in November decided that the board would drop from 29 members to 23. All the legislators are up for election in the fall, so the districts should be set in time for campaign season. 

The Board of Legislators Democratic minority leader Frank Tallarino of Rome, said a month isn't enough time to get the complicated job done. 

"In order to consider everything that has to be considered and address the demographics properly, in my view it should be a six-to eight-month process," he said. 

He said the time is needed to ensure that there is no partisan gerrymandering and that equal-representation laws are complied with. 

But Tallarino's Republican counterpart, George Joseph, said a month is plenty of time. 

"If you give people more time, they waste more time," he said. 

Legislators have a copy of the existing district map, and a representative from the county Planning Department will be at the Redistricting Committee's next meeting Wednesday. 

The Planning Department has a computer program that can generate possible maps that give each district the proper number of residents. 

Hamilton College government professor Phil Klinkner said if the politics can be kept out of the process, a month is enough. 

"The issue is not the technical aspects of it," he said. 

"It's a question of them working out the politics of it." 

Tallarino has pointed many times to the Republican majorities on the board and on the Redistricting Committee and suggested the new lines will favor Republican candidates. He also has said if that's the case, he will go to court to have the issue resolved. 

Each of the 23 districts must have a little more than 10,000 people in it. The current districts have about 8,000 people. 

Rank-and-file legislators make $8,368 a year and do not get health benefits. That won't change when the number of districts changes.