Last week, the Nassau County Legislature held their final vote on a gerrymandered redistricting plan. This vote came a week after our organizing efforts, as part of the non-partisan United Redistricting Coalition, pushed the previous hearing past midnight, convinced a key legislator to withhold her vote, and ultimately resulted in two small changes to the redistricting maps.
As expected, the Legislature passed the maps a strict party-line vote and County Executive Mangano signed it into law on Friday. The map remains fundamentally flawed and the process is broken in Nassau County, but we have made our voices heard in the last weeks of community protest! Our growing communities are a source of strength and vibrancy on Long Island, cynical efforts like last week's gerrymander show that some elected officials are afraid to run on the issues – we must continue to make our voices heard! Click through to read the full join coalition statement below.
Good morning Presiding Officer Gonsalves and members of the Nassau County Legislature. Today, we address you on behalf of the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition, a non-partisan civic engagement initiative supporting an inclusive, balanced and fair Nassau County Legislative redistricting process.
We have participated in the hearings of both the Temporary Districting Advisory Commission and this legislative body, engaged the public through outreach and community forums and education, and drafted and proposed a non-partisan redistricting plan. And we are here today, again, to demand that you vote no on this map and give the residents of Nassau County what they deserve – a proposal the results from a transparent, fair, cooperative, and truly non-partisan process. The voters of Nassau County did not elect you to play partisan games; they elected you to lead – now do it.
The proposed map before us today is infected with the disease of naked partisan gerrymandering. It was conceived of and produced by a process driven by the desire of one political party to retain control of this body for the next decade. With all of the critical issues facing Nassau County – from taxes and budget concerns, rapidly changing racial and ethnic demographics, and the ever-present concern for how to grow the next generation of leaders and citizens – the last thing we need is an ideologically intransigent legislature full of politicians who fail to realize that the essence of democracy is flexibility and compromise.
The symptoms of the gerrymandering disease are well-documented, and to date, largely unaddressed. After nearly 9 hours of testimony last Monday, only two changes were made to the map. Legislator Dave Denenberg’s residence was returned to District 19 although the community of Merrick remains divided between District 19 and District 5. Also, the community of Jericho Gardens was returned to District 2 where they can join neighbors with similar concerns and values and elect a candidate of choice. Many more symptoms remain:
- The proposed plan needlessly moves a staggering number of residents, more than 350,000 into a new legislative district.
- The Five Towns and the Roslyn area both remain cracked into four pieces, destroying its legislative cores and significantly reducing the collective impact of these communities in county politics.
- The plan still forces Inwood into District 3 based in Elmont and Valley Stream – a bizarre combination of completely different communities of interest.
- The plan still divides the Village of Hempstead into three pieces, with more than 7,600 village residents removed to the proposed District 14 based in Garden City and extending all the way to Bethpage in a shape that bears no relation to community interests.
We have asked, time and time again, for a reconsideration of the process by which this map, and the similar proposal by the Republican delegation to the Commission, was created. Many of these issues remain unaddressed because there has been no evidence that you, or the delegates to the Commission that you appointed, have made an effort to work together to do what’s best for the county.
The chairman of the Commission, Frank Moroney, testified last week that the two sides of the Commission worked completely separately, hiring their own staffs and failing to even meet to discuss the process. How can you expect to collaborate and collectively represent the interests of the entire county when you start from such a place of division?
Now we are at a critical point. You cannot fix the process by treating the symptoms of the map, symptoms you have either failed to recognize or consciously ignore. You must start again from a place of cooperation and a fidelity to the constitutional and policy imperatives of redistricting and not from the objective of hoarding power for the next ten years. The revisions that you have made today are merely cosmetic and insufficient to cure the map of its core failures.
The coalition map reflects community input and is both non-partisan and incumbent blind. Legislators elected to represent districts based on our map would enjoy the confidence of knowing that their constituents were able to elect as a true community, and not simply as a member of a political party.
This is your last chance. Do the right thing and vote no on this proposed map. Thank you.