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Redistricting Rage

Residents incensed over redistricting map proposed by Republican members of redistricting commission; Republican commissioners refuse to respond

The hundreds who gathered in Mineola for the last meeting of the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission on Jan. 3 didn’t throw any tomatoes at the front of the room, but some came close. For more than four hours, approximately 50 speakers lambasted the map proposed by the Republican side of the commission, generally characterizing it as a transparent power play with no consideration for the public good or even the law. The Democratic commissioners were not completely spared the public’s ire, but most of the anger was directed at the Republicans; the Democrats’ map, proposed at nearly the last minute on Dec. 31, was praised, although somewhat tepidly, as a fair plan.

Considering that hundreds of angry people were crammed into the Legislative Chambers demanding answers from the Republican commissioners, who by and large didn’t respond, it’s remarkable that tempers didn’t flare more.

Many speakers questioned the legitimacy of the entire redistricting process. Democratic commissioner Bonnie Garone pointed out that the public did not get the series of hearings on the proposed maps that they were promised, and that the sole Jan. 3 hearing was scheduled at the last minute, without adequate notice, during the holidays. She characterized the entire process as “a charade.”

Henry Boitel of Rockville Center brought up the issue of whether the commission’s work was being properly documented. According to Boitel, he filed a request for documents from the commission under the Freedom of Information Act, only to receive very few, leading him to believe that documentation was essentially being kept off the record. Boitel, one of the few to criticize both sides of the commission, requested that they both preserve all documentation used in creating their maps, because “the courts will want to see it.”

Non-voting Chairman Francis X. Moroney presented the Republican side and denied claims from the Democrats and various speakers that it was inappropriate for the non-voting chair to present the map in place of the commissioners who had supposedly drawn it.

Repeatedly the question was asked: Why does the map split so many well-established communities into two, three, and sometimes even four legislative districts?

Laurie Beth Schwartz of Saddle Rock said that under the new map, most of her neighbors will no longer be in her legislative district, forcing her to “get in a boat” in order to talk to people represented by the same legislator. Furthermore, she contended that this map would make it much harder for legislators to even do their jobs. “A legislator who has to come to a PTA meeting, or a village hall meeting, now has to go to three or four or five different communities just to hear the issues that affect the people that he or she is supposed to be representing,” said Schwartz.

Howard Weitzman, former mayor of Great Neck Estates and former Nassau County Comptroller, claimed that the Republican map creates “the most bald-faced partisan power grab that has ever been seen in the history of Nassau County.”

Moroney insisted that the map was fair, incumbent-blind and would hold up under legal scrutiny. Several lawyers disagreed. 

Lucia Gomez-Jimenez of La Fuente, one of the many organizations that have joined together as part of the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition (which has presented its own map for the legislature’s consideration), noted that just because the map was formed with population data from the U.S. census does not mean it isn’t a blatant manipulation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “We need to stop just looking at mere numbers and statistics. The reality is that census data can be manipulated in many different ways.”

Following the comments, commissioners voted on the Republican map (neither the Democrats’ map nor any others were officially presented). With only 5 of the 10 commissioners in favor, it didn’t pass.

As a result, after seven months and $500,000, the commission is officially presenting no recommendation to the county legislature. Nonetheless, many expect the Republican map (or even the nearly as divisive Republican map drawn in 2011) to be voted upon by the legislature. Many speakers said that while the Republicans may think they have the muscle to push the map through, it won’t be implemented without a fight.

“I don’t want to sue you,” said civil rights attorney Fred Brewington, taking a dramatic pause. “But I will.”

News

Last year, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer stopped at Moby Drugs in Farmingdale to highlight the launch of a drug take-back program, which was designed to help residents remove addictive prescriptions out of their medicine cabinets. 

 

Yet, despite studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control—which found 70 percent of those addicted to prescription drugs get them from home, family or friends—federal regulations have prevented pharmacies in New York State from hosting the take-back program. 

Lt. Matt Komorowski of Farmingdale was recently honored with the first annual American Heroes award, for showing bravery when faced with impossible odds. 

 

On Sept. 11, 2001, Komorowski was one of  six FDNY firefighters with Ladder Co. 6, called to the World Trade Center just a short while before the tower collapsed. Arriving at the scene, Komorowski and the members of his ladder company rushed inside the building. As they rushed up the stairs the men of Ladder 6 stopped to assist Josephine Harris, a then 60-year-old Brooklyn grandmother, who was stuck in the stairwell of the building. 


Sports

 

The 2014 Farmingdale Flag Football season kicked off with a blast on Sept. 7.

 

3rd Grade Division

 

The Texans and the Jets played a great opening weekend game, with the Texans getting the victory.  For the Texans, touchdown pass from Joseph Spano to Jaxon Parisi with 20 seconds in the half broke a tie that the Jets never came back from.  The Jets were led by Brendan O’Keefe, who had two rushing touchdowns and Jimmy Caputo, who picked off a pass at the goal line.

 

Farmingdale State College’s women’s tennis team opened the 2014 season with an 8-1 victory over John Jay College (0-1) on Sept. 3. The Rams (1-0) held a 2-1 advantage after doubles play before sweeping the singles matches.


Calendar

Board of Education - September 17

A Town of the Taste - September 18

Evening with Jeffery Wands - September 19


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com