Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 11 January 2013 00:00
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.”
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00
On Dec. 2, the Levittown Chamber of Commerce held its annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony, which attracted a record crowd to Veterans Memorial Park.
This year’s event included a two-hour show, which featured musicians from the Levittown and Island Trees school districts. Some of the performances include the Northside School Holiday Singers, Northside School Instrumental Ensemble,Nancy’s Dance Studio, the
Island Trees High School Mixed Chorus and Chamber Orchestra.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The Garvies Point Museum and Preserve—located at 50 Barry Dr. in Glen Cove—recently celebrated Thanksgiving with its annual Native American Feast, on Nov. 23. The feast, which celebrates Native American culture in the Northeast, has been held a weekend before Thanksgiving for over the past 25 years.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
The Levittown Police Athletic League and Babe Ruth Leagues recently received part of a $43,000 BP Fueling Communities grant from the New York and New Jersey gas station owners.
The donations are part of $1.3 million that BP Branded Marketers of New York and New Jersey have given back to their communities since 2011, when the Fueling Communities program was established. Last year, BP Branded Marketers supported the Police Athletic League through Fueling Communities, and this year they are expanding outreach to another youth sports organization as well as addressing Hurricane Sandy relief.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
Three MacArthur High School student athletes have signed National Letters of Intent, signifying thier plans to continue their sports careers at the collegiate level. The senior athletes were accompanied by their parents and coaches as they signed on the dotted line, to receive scholarship funds and fulfill their goals of playing on a college team. School district officials congratulated the following athletes as they embark on this important milestone in their athletic careers.