Spin Cycle

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Bill Samuels, a reform activist, is calling on both Nassau and Yonkers lawmakers to reject redistricting plans going before the legislative bodies of those jurisdictions. Backing him up, SUNY New Paltz Professor Gerald Benjamin. involved with Samuels' "Effective NY" organization, cited other jurisdictions with better methods to make the political maps fairer.

*DonDerham, who comments below, is correct to say that Bill Samuels is a longtime Democratic partisan, as he was identified in this space previously. Also, by the way, Benjamin is a former Republican elected official in Ulster.

Their statement:

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Bill Samuels, one of the founders of Effective NY, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to helping New Yorkers create a more effective State Constitution, today called on Nassau County and Yonkers lawmakers to each reject the redistricting plans that the County legislature and City Council have put forth. The Nassau County Legislature is scheduled to vote on their redistricting plan on Monday, February 25th.

In Yonkers, the City Council’s Republican and Democratic members continue to spar over two competing partisan redistricting plans. Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, a Democrat, has indicated he may weigh in and broker a plan fair to everyone.

“Two important redistricting votes will take place in New York State very shortly. The Nassau County Legislature and the Yonkers City Council are now debating new redistricting plans. I am calling on Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to veto any redistricting plan that is unfair to their constituents,” said Samuels.

SUNY New Paltz Professor Gerald Benjamin, a well-known authority on local government in New York, said "There are good examples of counties and cities across the state using bipartisan processes to achieve equitable redistricting in the wake of the 2010 census.

”“Look at Ulster. Look at Beacon. Look at Ithaca. Alternative models are available for Nassau and Yonkers that will make elections fairer and more competitive, building accountability and public confidence in local government," Benjamin said.

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“The Nassau County Legislature will be voting Monday on a Republican proposal that shifts one-third of the county's residents into new districts and needlessly divides several communities. Dividing the well-known "Five Towns" from one into three separate districts is just one example of what this bad map would do.

“Nassau County's Redistricting Commission already failed its mission to recommend a map to the County Legislature for approval. This is a far cry from the Commission's commitment made last summer to a fair process and bipartisan plan. Instead, the Nassau Commission produced nothing. The County Legislature should do a better job.”

The Republican County Legislative Majority refuses to even consider a Democratic proposal making minimal changes to the current map to satisfy population equality requirements. The Republican goal is to turn the nearly equally divided 10-9 legislature into a 12-7 Republican super majority. The legislature should give serious consideration to other alternatives (including the Democratic map revisions and those proposed by reform groups and Newsday's redistricting information website).

Samuels added, “After failed redistricting efforts in Albany last year I ask: ‘hasn't anyone learned anything yet about fair redistricting?’"

"I urge County Executive Mangano and Mayor Spano to carefully consider any plan sent to them to ensure that communities are kept intact, Voting Rights Act requirements are followed to provide for proper minority representation and that the people are well served. Anything short of that deserves a prompt veto."

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For an in-depth examination of the redistricting issue by EffectiveNY go to: http://www.effectiveny.org/issue/Redistricting