The briefcase of a census taker is seen as she...

The briefcase of a census taker is seen as she knocks on the door of a residence, Aug. 11, 2020, in Winter Park, Florida. Credit: AP/John Raoux

Daily Point

D’Esposito ‘citizen count’ bill kicks up debate

The House of Representatives on Wednesday debated a GOP majority bill that would require not only that a breakout of citizens and noncitizens be tallied in each state in the 2030 census, but more controversially, that the resulting reapportionment exclude noncitizens for the first time.

Long Island Rep. Anthony D’Esposito is co-sponsoring the measure with Rep. Nick Langworthy of Western New York. Contacted by The Point, D’Esposito’s spokesman issued a statement in defense before the debate: “Incorporating those illegally living in the United States in census statistics used for congressional reapportionment is further normalizing the migrant crisis.”

D’Esposito added that the current approach “rewards ‘sanctuary states’ that willingly flout federal immigration law to the detriment of American citizens.”

Democrats strenuously argue that the legislation is unconstitutional because the census count since 1790 has been presumed to include all persons living in a district, regardless of documentation status. “Senseless and frankly illegal,” was how Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) put it during floor debate. She vowed not to “pretend that noncitizens do not live in our community.”

The measure is expected to be rejected in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But should it succeed at some point, redistricting experts warn it would cost New York some representation in Congress — at least one House seat — because of the state’s relatively high number of noncitizens including not just the undocumented, but also legal residents.

According to New York Law School’s Elections, Census, and Redistricting Institute, New York State ended the practice of drawing districts based on citizenship in 1969. New York currently has 26 of the House’s 435 seats.

The census bill passed, 206-202.

— Dan Janison

Pencil Point

It's going to get bumpy


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Final Point

The Nassau Social Services drama goes on

Is Nassau County’s Department of Social Services acting commissioner qualified for the job?

It depends on whom you ask.

Monday night, Nassau County responded to a state request regarding the qualifications of Jose Lopez, the DSS acting commissioner, thereby meeting the state’s May 6 deadline.

By Tuesday, Barbara Guinn, acting commissioner of the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, spoke with Lopez and examined his resume.

But on Wednesday, the results of that conversation were up for debate.

One source told The Point on Wednesday that during the conversation with Lopez, Guinn “said she reviewed his resume and found him qualified.”

A state source reported the conversation differently Wednesday afternoon.

“The acting commissioner from the state OTDA spoke to Acting Commissioner Lopez and said that he appears to be qualified for a commissioner position, but that it is currently under review by OTDA HR staff,” the state source told The Point. “And [she] emphasized that she does not have that HR assessment yet.”

The state’s OTDA has 10 days from Nassau’s May 6 response to officially notify the county whether the appointee meets the state’s qualifications.

The Point asked both state and county officials for a copy of the county’s official response, and has filed a Freedom of Information request for the correspondence.

Lopez, who served as the county’s parks commissioner under former County Executive Tom Suozzi, and as a deputy in the Parks Department under Ed Mangano, became the acting commissioner of Social Services after former Commissioner Nancy Nunziata resigned in March.

In a letter to County Executive Bruce Blakeman dated April 30, OTDA noted that the concern about Lopez stemmed from a state law that requires that an acting commissioner appointed when there’s a vacancy be “an employee of the county social services agency.”

The state’s involvement came only after Nassau Legis. Debra Mule, a Democrat, wrote her own letter to Blakeman, with copies sent to state officials, in which she expressed concern that Lopez “may not meet the mandated qualifications …”

Mule’s letter, which cited the same state law, noted that an acting commissioner had to come from within the “current roster of employees.” Blakeman, she said, is also required to certify the “unavailability of qualified candidates, ongoing recruitment efforts, the temporary nature of the appointment, and approval by the State Commissioner of Social Services.”

“The opaque and almost secretive manner in which the Acting Commissioner was appointed is another source of considerable concern,” Mule added, noting that there was no formal announcement of the appointment of Lopez.

Blakeman said in a statement last month that Lopez “has the intellect, experience and work ethic to take on important challenges.”

Whether that qualifies him to serve as the acting head of the county’s Social Services department remains to be seen.

— Randi F. Marshall

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