OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature approved its proposed reapportionment plan on Friday.
The resolution received some opposition from both sides of the aisle and from a former member of the legislature. The vote was 14 yes, 9 no, 1 absent (Democrat Amy Tresidder), and 1 vacant.
The main concerns were that certain lawmakers didn’t want their current districts cut up and whether the plan was entirely legal.
The Reapportionment Committee’s goal was to bring all of the districts’ average populations to fewer than 4,900; using 2010 census data to establish the boundaries.
According to the law, populations in each district are required to be as close as possible to that figure, Dave Turner, director of the county Community Development, Tourism and Planning Department, explained, adding that it can’t be 5 percent above average or below average; 244 people over the average number or 244 people below.
Legislator Dan Farfaglia claimed the plan put forth by the Reapportionment Committee (Legislator Dan Chalifoux, chairman) was flawed and illegal.
He claimed he had a better plan, which he tried to introduce months ago at the committee level and failed for lack of a second to his motion. He also claimed the committee chairman had called him the worst new legislator he’d ever seen and told people not to pay attention to anything Farfaglia said because he was a Democrat.
Responding to the remarks, Chalifoux said they were “absolute lies.”
Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley said he didn’t want to turn the issue into “a character assassination.”
“This isn’t about finger-pointing and name calling and character assassination … and quite frankly, I’m not going to lower myself to that,” he said.
“In regard to the comments I made a few minutes ago, there wasn’t a single shred of lies in it. I wanted everyone to be aware of that,” Legislator Farfaglia said.
A motion to table the resolution until next year failed by a vote of 10 yes, 13 no, 1 absent and 1 vacant.
Former Legislator Barb Brown opposed the plan because it divided up her former district, the town of Palermo.
“I don’t believe it’s fair,” she said She went on to point out that Palermo would have three legislators “none of whom resides in the town, none of whom knows the people, none of whom knows the problems of the town of Palermo.”
Legislator Mike Kunzwiler noted that “99 percent” of the speakers at the recent public hearing were opposed to the resolution and urged his fellow lawmakers not to vote against public opinion.
The plan contains “serious legal problems,” Farfaglia said.
County Attorney Richard Mitchell vouched for the plan’s legality.
“I believe it is a fair plan; I believe it is a legal plan. The only person that’s going to be able to tell us it’s not legal is a judge,” Chalifoux added. “So, at this point I’d like to vote on this and we’ll go from there.”
Kunzwiler chastised the Republican majority for “not listening to the public” and saying “I’ve got the votes, I’m the big boy on the block” and ram the resolution through.
“It’s been wrong from the beginning,” he said.
Legislator Shawn Doyle said he was voting no because his town board disapproves of the plan since it means part of the town would be represented by another legislator.
Prior to the meeting, Legislator Jacob Mulcahey delivered copies of Farfaglia’s plan, including maps, to all of the legislators.
The legislature didn’t have to vote on the resolution today, Mulcahey said. He suggested going back to the committee level and working on some sort of compromise.
“I wish it would have been possible to get all of this information a lot earlier,” said Legislator Dan LeClair. “I do have to vote no on this.”
He said he’d rather not see the town of Palermo taken apart.
“I just feel that at this point in time, personally and with my people who have approached me at the town level, that we need a little longer to look at other plans,” added Legislator Morris Sorbello. “It is impossible for any one individual or group of individuals to come up with a perfect plan.”
In response to Kunzwiler’s “Here we go again … ram it down our throats” comments, Legislator John Martino said, “That is not the case. We prepared this, we worked together on it. Every legislator was contacted, talked to. We are county legislators – county! Not town, not village, not city. That was also taken into consideration when we were going over this plan. I believe it was done fairly and I believe it is legal.”