Updated January 2 with responses from Francis X. Moroney, chairman of the Temporary Districting Advisory Commission.
Without warning, let alone consultation, Nassau County Republicans blindsided Democrats over the New Year's holiday, when they issued a redistricting map and called for a public hearing on Thursday, January 3 at 6 pm without informing, let alone consulting with Democrats, and with insufficient time for local newspapers to announce the meeting.
The Republicans also issued data on demographics of the new districts being proposed without identifying which numbered districts correspond to which color-codes of the map, so it will be hard for members of the public to question the changes based on demographic reconfigurations.
But a cursory examination of the proposed map by Republicans suggests that the Republican members - who did not comment at all during the months of hearings - also did not listen or simply ignored the testimony of the people showed up.
The people had been unanimous in calling for the districts to preserve communities and school districts, but the Republican map slices and dices.
Great Neck, for example, is inexplicably split, with Kings Point and Saddle Rock and part of the Village of Great Neck, ripped away from the peninsula, while Searingtown and Herricks are glommed onto Great Neck Peninsula.
The Republican map carves out a new district from the northern end of Great Neck, through the Plandomes, part of Manhasset, Munsey Park, all the way down to Mineola. Unlike last year's plan which was roundly rejected, it does not include Port Washington which is kept intact. (The Republican plan last year was to combine the top half of Great Neck with Port Washington.)
One district zig zags horizontally, with Garden City at the West, and portions of Carle Place, Hicksville, Bethpage.
Nassau County Legislator Judi Bosworth (D-10th) commented, "I am greatly disappointed in the Republican Commissioners' proposed redistricting map for the Nassau County Legislature. Not only does it remove the villages of Kings Point and Saddle Rock from the 10th Legislative District, it also removes part of the Village of Great Neck, so that this single village will now be represented by two County Legislators. Our Great Neck peninsula shares common needs and interests and its governmental units act cohesively for the benefit of all residents of the peninsula.
"In fact, many of our local leaders said just that when they testified before the Redistricting Commission over these past months. They implored the Commissioners to keep the Great Neck peninsula within one Legislative District, apparently to no avail. I am puzzled as to why the Republican Commissioners seem determined to split the Great Neck peninsula one way or another - the map that was rejected by the court last year severed the southern portion of the peninsula and now the northern portion is being removed. It is my sincere hope that the Commission will reconsider its proposal and include all of Great Neck in a single Legislative District."
In response, late Monday, December 31, the Democrats on the Temporary Districting Advisory Commission (TDAC), issued their own map, which keeps the north-south communities intact.
The tactic by Republicans confirmed what Democrats on the commission had feared: that there really was no interest in the Commission coming to consensus on a map, and assures that neither side - which each has five votes, the chair, Republican Frank Moroney has no vote - will prevail.
That means that the Legislature - which always could ignore the recommendation of the commission and vote on its own map - will either vote on the Republican map or discard it altogether and pull out the map that was hatched secretly by Republican operative (and Nassau County attorney) John Ciampoli, and roundly rejected.
It means that the seven months of meetings by the commission and $500,000 in taxpayer funding was a charade aimed at meeting the letter of Nassau County's constitution, requiring public hearings on redistricted maps.
"Despite valiant efforts by the Democratic Commissioners to work with our Republican counterparts in a bipartisan way to come up with a plan that would best reflect the wishes of the residents, we were rebuffed and virtually shut out of the process," Steve Markowitz, a Democratic Commission member and President of the Great Neck Democratic Club, wrote in an email to members.
"As you may have heard, the Republicans have now independently come up with their own proposed map which is as about as partisan and unfair as could be imagined – pitting Democratic incumbents against each other and dividing communities, especially Great Neck."
In a separate interview, Markowitz could not hide his contempt and disappointment.
"Our plan was to have collaborative effort and come up with something that all could live with," he said.
But through the entire seven months that the commission has met, "I have yet to have a sit down with our Republican counterparts.
"This is an abominable situation. This is what the Republicans wanted - Joseph N. Mondello [chairman of the Nassau County Republican Party] and Ed Mangano [Nassau County Executive]. We're not going to vote for the Republican plan and they aren't going to vote for ours. That means that $500,000 and seven months work is a total sham."
He said that in addition to slicing off parts of Great Neck and splitting the Five Towns, the Republicans would also break up Elmont and Westbury - districts that would be majority minority.
Markowitz said that this map is even worse that the map that Republicans concocted last year, in blatantly carving out an extra Republican seat to give the Republicans a permanent majority in the County Legislature.
"They ignored all of the testimony [of nearly 100 people who spoke at the various public hearings]. Not one Republican Commissioner - besides Moroney - said anything.
"They ignored or didn't listen or didn't care. This was all pre-ordained. It is a nightmare for Great Neck."
While most of the focus - and legal basis for objection - is on the majority-minority districts, by stripping out Kings Point from the Great Neck Peninsula, the aim seems to remove the one section that has proved reliably Republican, and attach it to Port Washington in order to assure that seat for Republicans.
In the process, one of the few districts in the country where American Jews had had political clout, is significantly diluted.
Similarly, the Five Towns - another pocket where American Jews had influence, was also sliced apart.
Jews are not a minority that gets any consideration in the federal Voting Rights Act.
During the November 19 Commission public hearing held at Nassau County offices in Mineola - before there was any map to review, but with the thought of the earlier map in people's minds - every speaker implored the commission to maintain community lines.
Andrew DeMartin, commissioner of the Manhasset Lakeville Fire and Water District "implored" the commission to come up with a better map that does not slice off part of the district, combining it with Port Washington.
"If you are really trying to favor community and sense of community, you need to take into account emergency services. We are deeply concerned that the school district would also be split. MLFWD is plagued by a plume of pollution from the former Lockheed Martin site. Our legislator, Judi Bosworth, has been working hand in hand, believe if another legislator is sent from outside, would lose the continuity. We are close to getting the polluter to pay for remediation and we are concerned about the need to educate a new legislator.
"Take into account that communities are based upon history and we have 20-30 year history in Manhasset-Lakeville with these particular legislator, and this particular legislator who has served on school board and is cognizant of the plume. This is a big social problem in Great Neck. This should not be confused with bipartisan lines Our community on the southern and northern tiers are as one.
"I also am the commissioner of public safety for the Town of North Hempstead, and I know there is great diversity between Port Washington peninsula and Great Neck peninsula. Combining those two areas does injustice to representatives of those areas, and injustice to the people they should be representing. We should retain the autonomy – which we had.
It isn't just Great Neck that does not want to be combined with Port Washington. The feeling is mutual from Port Washington peninsula.
Bob Weitzer, mayor of Port Washington North said, "Since the inception of the Nassau County legislature in 1995, Port Washington Peninsula has had a strong and unique voice. Since the establishment of the county legislature, we have been represented by a succession of county legislators, each from our community who understood the unique aspects of community and culture. Port is not just zipcode, but a main street, a vibrant commercial corridor and residential community.
"I am one voice, but I can speak on behalf of other villages on the peninsula of the concern of possibly diluting our political representation…We each deserve our own district, our own representation..
"The late Barbara Johnson, Craig Johnson to Wayne Wink, each always have been thoroughly familiar with the character of peninsula – having a representative who has the experience and institutional knowledge is essential for long-term vibrancy of Port Washington. We need and continue to need one voice who can be articulate, not watered down or diluted to issues involving other areas. We are asking the commission to please keep our lines intact. If it's not broken, don’t fix."
It deserves to be noted that both Great Neck and Port Washington Peninsula, as they are now constituted have roughly the same amount of population and are near the targeted 70,502 population.
Jimmy Kwan and Rebecca Sassouni, co presidents of the Great Neck United Parent Teacher Council also appealed to keeping the school district intact within the legislative district.
"Great Neck is diverse, with varied interests and preferences that celebrate that diversity. While individually different, we are united in our causes," Kwan said. "We have singular educational and community institutions, and no more important of these are our public schools. For almost 200 years, we have had one school district to serve all of Great Neck. That’s how we have turned out so many generations of talented, high achieving individuals, make amazing accomplishments to humankind, and as important byproduct, is also how we achieve premium property values for home and commercial owners. To usher through the 21st century, will require one legislator; in any redrawing of legislative districts, Great Neck peninsula must not be divided."
Rebecca Sassouni added, "Jimmy is a parent of south side, and I am parent of the north side. Any division of our school district would be tantamount to forcing someone to separate spouses. That is not taken likely in Great Neck that others are trying to separate out what we feel is a community. It is important to stay unified after all the efforts that have been made. It would be damaging to our community that you will go about redistricting the community we have worked so hard to build."
Adam Haber spoke more directly about the political machinations involved. "The fact that more than half the registered voters happen to be Democrats – [redistricting is] to keep the Republicans in power until the next census, 2020. Bifurcating the current districts will lead to political animosity. It is not in the best interest of the people – if you see how divisive it is now, wait till you see what it will be if current legislators are gerrymandered out of their districts. I implore you that when new maps are drawn, throw political leanings aside."
Interestingly, at the November 19 meeting, Paula Blum, president of the Nassau County League of women Voters implored the commission to give adequate public notice for hearings and also to hold the meetings later than 6 pm, when it was difficult for people coming from work to attend.
The commission has a January 4 deadline to present a plan to the Legislature so that means the January 3 public hearing will be the only one.
With these dates and deadlines well known, we asked why there was not sufficient public notice of the meeting January 3 and why there was no consultation with Democrats on the proposed map.
We posed these questions to Republican Frank Moroney, chair of the Commission. Here are the replies received, January 2, who took offense to the characterization of "blindsiding Democrats." He responded to questions by email, after our initial publication:
Why was there longer notice not given? It was given on Monday Dec 24, 2012
Where did the map come from? The Republican consultants after review of the record of the six hearings held in Nassau County, where some 78 People testified, created the map.
Was there discussion with Democrats before the map was introduced? No, each side (Democrat and Republican) were each given a $200,000.00 Budget so each could independently develop a plan. As your article neglected to point out – each side did just that.
Why is there only one map? There are two maps – one produced by the Dems and one by the Reps and you knew it at press time.
Why was Kings Point lopped off from Great Neck, but Searingtown and Herricks included with Great Neck? The consultants were asked to take a fresh look at the county and not be bound by existing lines or incumbents. The reason was due to the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred within Nassau County since the Legislature was created.
What are the key changes in this map? In addition to the information set forth next above, the districts reflect the new population information (including prison population) and create a third minority district.
What is the rationale for the map? To comply with Federal Constitutional standards, comply with the Voting Rights Act and other State laws relating to districts.
I see the tables with population, but how do the District #s relate to the color codes of the districts? They do not relate at all. The color codes are designed to make it easier to differentiate between districts.
Where is an executive summary of the districts and how they were created? There is none.
Where is the summary of changes from existing districts? There is none.
Who approved this map for publication and the meeting dates? I did, along with the publication of the Democrat Map received by me on Dec 31, 2012 @ 3:46 PM.
For further information, visit the Nassau County Legislature website at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Legis/index.html or the Temporary Districting Advisory Commission website at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/TDAC/index.php.
The proposed maps are available at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/TDAC/index.php.
The Democrats circulated their own map: www.nassaucountyny.gov/TDAC/documents/ProposedMapD.pdf
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
© 2012 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Like' us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.