After months of partisan wrangling, the Nassau County Temporary Districting Advisory Committee agreed last week to hold as many at least five public hearings on redistricting the county Legislature.
The committee, comprised of five Republican and five Democratic members, voted unanimously for four hearings in Long Beach, Elmont, Glen Cove, and Mineola, as well as an additional meeting in the Town of North Hempstead.
Franxis X. Moroney, a Republican who is chairman of the comittee, said his goal last week was to break the partisan impasse and “close the deal” on the four meetings.
“It’s not one side, or the other side,” said Moroney. “ I think we’re all in this together.”
The Republican majority in the county Legislature approved a plan proposed by Nassau County Legislature’s Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa) in 2011 to redistrict the county’s 19 district that drew heated opposition by Democratic legislators and village officials for its handling of Democratic controlled districts.
Democrats challenged the plan in court and the State Court of Appeals ruled it could not be implemented until 2013,
Under the redistricting proposed by the GOP, the Village of Lake Success and part of the hamlet of University Gardens would have shifted from Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth’s District 10 to Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink’s District 11, in exchange for his Port Washington constituents and additional areas in Manhasset. The portion of North New Hyde Park currently in Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello’s (R-New Hyde Park) District 9 would have also shifted to District 11.
The temporary redistricting committee must present recommendations for approval by the Legislature by Jan 5. County lawmakers will then have until March 5 to approve a redistricting plan. If the redistricting plan submitted by the bipartisan panel is not approved, the GOP’s 2011 proposal will go into effect.
Democrats were angered by earlier comments attributed to Maroney that public comment at Commission meetings were ‘gratuitous!’”
Democratic members of the committee responded by holding public meetings in Oyster Bay, Plainview, and the Town of North Hempstead over the summer to discuss the implications of the new district lines.
At last week’s meeting, committee members from both parties expressed a commitment for a meeting schedule that would allow residents from across the county to participate.
Matthew J. Kiernan, Republican co-executive director of the committee, said following the meeting that the committee is in “relatively good shape” going forward for the first and second rounds to “make sure to hit at least every town and every city in the county at least once.”
Democratic member Robert McDonald emphasized the importance of holding committee meetings in “as many different public spots as possible”, citing the large size of North Hempstead as well as other regions of the county.
“There is a vast area of the county that we are not covering at all” said Democratic member Bonnie Garone during the meeting, referring to a map of Nassau County. “Honestly, I think that the more people we hear from the better…there is a tremendous amount of interest in a very diverse area of our county which is the Village of Hempstead”
“We have these meetings, but commissioners don’t talk to each other, so maybe we can have a dialogue of where some other locations might be, “Garone asserted Wednesday, and insisted on a vote for “generally, the Eastern part of the county has nothing”.
Nancy Rosenthal, president of the League of Women Voters, said she was encouraged by the meeting schedule agreed upon by the committee.
“We were all given the impression that our vote didn’t matter much,” Rosenthal said.
She said the additional meeting in the Town of North Hempstead was particularly important.
“It’s the most populous part of the county,” Rosenthal said. “It’s got a lot of interest in having fair redistricting,” Rosenthal said.
“I think that they are beginning to feel the pressure of people caring. People standing up and saying things and demanding that they do their job in a fair manner,” Rosenthal said. “I think that the pressure to do that is paying off”.
.he temporary redistricting committee’s will reconvene on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Long Beach City Hall in Long Beach.