Friday, 13 May 2011 00:00
Every 10 years or so, the term redistricting comes into regular use within political circles, and the operation sometimes impacts the wider populace in real and perceptible ways. Succinctly put, redistricting is the process of changing electoral district and constituency boundaries, usually based on census results. The constitution requires that electoral districts be periodically adjusted or redrawn to account for population shifts and to ensure that funds are distributed to areas that most need them. The actual redrawing is left up to the state legislature or independent bi-partisan commissions. This is where legislative district 2 (Westbury, New Cassel, Hempstead, Lakeview) comes in, because based on the 2010 census results, the district is purported to have increased by as much as 25 percent thereby triggering the need for the aforementioned process.
It is against this background that Legislator Robert Troiano, who represents LD2, convened a meeting at the Park Avenue School on the evening of April 28 to enlighten the public about the impending changes. Troiano gave an overview of the historical changes in government structure in Nassau County, and recapped aspects of the operation of the old system (board of supervisors) that persisted from 1898 to 1996 when it was replaced by the current arrangement at the dictate of a federal court ruling. The new arrangement led to the creation of 19 equally populated districts, including two mandated minority districts; LD1 and LD2. Troiano outlined the features that would characterize each district- equal populations, contiguous borders, and stressed the key aspects of the minority districts, in that they should be a community of interest sharing common socio-economic characteristics; similar history, customs, mores and values, and share common needs- provisions that did not exist under the old board of supervisors system.
In fulfilling the obligation to redraw district lines, parts of LD 2 will be annexed with parts of East Meadow, New Hyde Park, Glenwood Landing, Sea Cliff and Glen Cove. In commenting on this, Troiano did not shy away from the question of gerrymandering; in fact he acknowledged that this is a political tool used by both parties to their advantage, but he noted that the aforementioned key aspects of the minority districts would no longer be satisfied under this arrangement, just as they were not provided for under the old board of supervisors system.
It is precisely for this reason community interest groups have banded together in calling for the creation of an independent, impartial and politically balanced citizens redistricting commission to carry out the function of establishing fair district boundaries whenever the need arises. The call has been heeded, and there are now two prominent citizen bodies; New York Uprising, and Reshape New York that rallied to have the recently passed constitutional amendment in the state Senate, that would relieve legislators of the “burden” of drawing their own districts, and passing on this function to the independent commission. The fly in the ointment is that this mandate will not apply to the current redistricting cycle as was previously agreed; instead it appears as if this won’t take effect until 2022.
In the meanwhile, Troiano is urging the public to pay attention to the announcement of upcoming rallies, press conferences and the vote by the Legislature scheduled for May 16.