The North Hempstead Councilmanic District Commission has issued its report to the North Hempstead Town Board. The commission, set up by Supervisor May Newburger and the town board to study whether or not the Town of North Hempstead should adopt a councilmanic district system to replace its traditional at-large election of council members, was unable to reach a majority decision.
The eleven members of the commission were split three ways in their recommendations. Four members of the commission voted to recommend that the town institute councilmanic districts such as currently exist in Hempstead and Brookhaven. Four members of the commission voted to recommend that the town continue to hold its elections at-large. A third group of three commission members recommended that the town adopt a "mixed system" of governance where two members of the board would continue to be elected at-large and four council members would be elected from councilmanic districts.
Despite the different opinions, the commission voted 10-1 in favor of recommending that the town board put the issue to a referendum. All commission members agreed that the public deserves the right to decide on its form of governance.
Throughout the course of its tenure, the commission heard from a variety of experts in the fields of government, local history, constitutional law and redistricting. The commission also held seven public meetings in various communities throughout the town in order to receive the public's input on the issue. Approximately 200 people attended these public meetings.
"I would like to thank the members of the Councilmanic District Commission for the hundreds of volunteer hours they put into this process," said Joseph Galante, commission chairman. "This was a complicated issue that took a great deal of time to study. It's now up to the town board to consider our recommendations and take any actions they deem necessary."
As part of its mission, the commission also looked at the issue of term limits and terms of office for certain elected officials. The commission recommended unanimously against the imposition of term limits citing the fact that elections provide built-in term limits, especially in a town like North Hempstead where competitive elections have been the norm.
The commission unanimously recommended that the term of office for the position of town clerk be extended from its current two years to four years. They also unanimously recommended that the term of office for town supervisor remain at two years. Extending the term of office to four years, the commission stated, would have created a situation where the supervisor would always run with the same council members, not allowing the public the opportunity to change the majority in power every two years. The commission was also concerned about low voter turnout in the years when the supervisor's position was not on the ballot.
The commission's full report, along with hundreds of pages of accompanying addenda and transcripts are on file at Town Hall for anyone who is interested in viewing a copy.
The North Hempstead Councilmanic District Commissin Members were: Joseph Galante - chair; Michael Camardi, Dr. Rudolph H. Clark, Sharon M. Commissiong, Roma Connable, Hon. Gerard W. Cunningham, Matthew Cuomo, Hon. John Fabio, James Procopio, Thomas F. Liotti and Dr. Gerald Scharfman.