Controversial Voter Redistricting Plan Faces Critical Deadline
March 4, 2013 [Original article here]
NEW YORK - It's the third try at new voting-district boundaries for much of Long Island, but good government groups would hardly call the results so far the "charm." The proposed district boundaries face a Tuesday morning deadline and crucial vote in Nassau County.
The problem with the plan, according to Nancy Rosenthal, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, is that proposed boundaries have been drawn along partisan lines that she said increase the power of a Republican majority, and dilute the voting power of opposition parties and minorities.
"What's clearly happening is the legislators, the makers of the map, are picking their voters," she said, "and the voters are no longer being allowed to pick their representatives."
Republicans say the map is a fair reflection of demographic shifts, but county lawmakers postponed a vote on the second version of their district map last week after about 200 citizens turned out to oppose the plan. Rosenthal said the third version of the map makes minor improvements, but fails to protect the voting rights of all Nassau Country residents. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Nassau County Legislature.
Rosenthal says the current plan "packs" Democrats and communities of color into just seven of the County's 19 voting districts - and "cracks" the remaining districts, limiting the voting power of the opposition party.
"'Packing' and 'cracking' - they've long been used to gerrymander voting districts, and it's happening now in Nassau County," she said.
It's part of a national trend, she said, noting that while these practices are not illegal, they were clearly not what the founding fathers had in mind.
"Are they in the best interest of the people? Absolutely not. But it's what's happening and it takes good government groups to uphold the standards of democracy that our government officials should be held to," she said.
Rosenthal says groups like Common Cause and other members of the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition are working to raise awareness of this issue.
More information is available at www.nassauunitedredistricting.org.
Copyright © 2013 Public News Service
Contando sus historias, los inmigrantes luchan por la reforma
Inmigrantes indocumentados lideran los esfuerzos para cambiar su situación migratoria
Gloria Robles [Artículo original aquí]
“No a la separación de familias", "es necesario tener voz y voto", "es tiempo de salir de las sombras"… son algunas de las frases con la que definieron la reforma migratoria los participantes de un taller organizado por Comunidades por el Cambio NY y la Mesa Cívica de Long Island, en donde se busca preparar a la comunidad inmigrante para que cada individuo sea el portavoz de esta reforma.
Contando sus propias historias como inmigrantes en este país, los inmigrantes buscan ofrecer la cara humana de la reforma, además de prepararse para conocer a fondo los fundamentos y la importancia de una reforma migratoria, con el objetivo de responder las preguntas de la prensa, de los oficiales electos en las reuniones locales/estatales, o motivar a cualquier persona que quiera conocer más sobre este tema y participar de manera activa en este proceso. Esta campaña a nivel nacional, busca ejercer presión para conseguir una Reforma de Inmigración Comprensiva este año.
¿Por qué ahora?
El resultado de la elección presidencial, el pasado noviembre, dio a conocer el cambio demográfico del país, y mostró el poder electoral que tiene la comunidad latina, que finalmente fue pieza clave en la reelección del Presidente Obama. Esto quedó muy claro para los republicanos, quienes por varios años expresaron y propusieron leyes anti-inmigrantes.
Actualmente senadores demócratas y republicanos vienen trabajando en conjunto para presentar una propuesta de ley de reforma migratoria que ayudaría a legalizar el estatus de un gran número de inmigrantes que hacen parte de los 11 millones que viven en el país sin un estatus migratorio. En caso de que este grupo de trabajo no llegue a un acuerdo y no presente un proyecto de ley, el presidente Obama ya tiene lista su propuesta, de tal manera que sí o sí habrá una reforma de inmigración.
Durante los últimos cuatro años se han producido más de 2 millones de deportaciones. Esta situación ha causado que muchas personas indocumentadas vivan en un miedo constante de ser detenidos por agentes de inmigración para luego ser encarcelados y deportados, como ha ocurrido en un sin número de casos.
Esos hechos impactan tremendamente las vidas de estas familias y de comunidades de inmigrantes. El impacto dentro de una familia no solo destruye su estabilidad emocional, sino también afecta su economía, donde muchas madres han tenido que asumir el 100% de la responsabilidad de sus hogares; sin contar los casos en que ambos padres fueron deportados y sus hijos tuvieron que vivir el trauma de la separación y de ser criados por extraños, de acuerdo al informe del Center for American Progress titulado "Como hoy las Políticas de Control de Inmigración Impactan a los Niños, Familias y Comunidades: Una Mirada Desde el Suelo”.
¿Por qué tu propia historia?
Todo inmigrante que vive en los Estados Unidos, ha enfrentado algún tipo de discriminación: por el color de la piel, por no hablar inglés, por el acento, o por ser indocumentado. "Yo lo sufrí en carne propia", expresó José Camacho, y así como él cada uno de los participantes de este taller de entrenamiento contó su historia, del temor a ser deportados que a diario sienten, de la frustración que muchos jóvenes estudiantes tienen por no poder estudiar en la universidad de sus sueños, o de las vivencias que sus padres tuvieron como inmigrantes. "Yo quiero un mejor futuro para nuestros hijos y nuestras familias, por eso estoy aquí", añadió Ruth, otra de las participantes.
De acuerdo a Daniel Altshuler, Coordinador de la Mesa Cívica de Long Island, en la etapa inicial de esta campaña se espera que para el 21 de marzo se emita una propuesta de ley de la reforma migratoria, luego lo más importante es asegurarse que se otorgue un camino a la ciudadanía, no solo un estatus legal. Finalmente el objetivo principal será conseguir que esta ley sea aprobada en el Senado y en la Cámara de Representantes.
Por ahora tanto la organización Comunidades por el Cambio NY, la Mesa Cívica de Long Island y Se Hace Camino Nueva York, vienen preparando una protesta en pro a una reforma migratoria que se realizará este domingo 10 de marzo a la 1:30PM en las afueras de su oficina ubicada en la 1090 Suffolk Ave. en Brentwood.
Para consultas pueden llamar al (631)339-0794.
LI se moviliza por la reforma migratoria
Organizaciones locales estuvieron registrando votantes y recolectando firmas
Eliana López [Artículo original aquí]
Miembros de organizaciones comunitarias en Long Island han empezado a movilizarse para exigir una reforma que le permita a alrededor de 11 millones de personas regularizar su estatus migratorio en el país.
Registrando votantes y recolectando firmas en apoyo a una reforma migratoria comprensiva, las organizaciones Se Hace Camino Nueva York, la Mesa Cívica de Long Island, y el Proyecto de Participación Cívica de Long Island, La Fuente, iniciaron actividades encaminadas a presionar la aprobación de una reforma migratoria en el Congreso este año. Durante la jornada que tuvo lugar el jueves 21 de febrero en Brentwood, se logró registrar a 150 votantes, y se recolectaron 150 peticiones firmadas en apoyo a una reforma migratoria.
La jornada tuvo el objetivo de no dejar pasar el protagonismo que las comunidades minoritarias han ganado después de las elecciones presidenciales del año pasado, en donde se demostró el gran peso del voto de los hispanos y de los asiáticos para la reelección del presidente Obama.
“Los votantes hablaron a una sola voz en el 2012 por la reforma migratoria, ahora están saliendo de nuevo y nuevos americanos se están registrando con el mismo mensaje: es tiempo de una reforma migratoria real y justa”, indicó Daniel Altschuler, Coordinador de la Mesa Cívica de Long Island.
Isaias Tomaylla, miembro de Se Hace Camino Nueva York, participó registrando votantes porque considera crucial la aprobación de una reforma migratoria, “muchas familias en mi comunidad están siendo separadas por las deportaciones, y necesitamos una reforma migratoria para detener esto”, aseguró, añadiendo la importante contribución económica de los inmigrantes en la comunidad local, “las personas necesitan trabajar con más dignidad y con menos temor”.
A pesar de aplaudir las iniciativas del presidente Obama y del grupo bipartidista de 8 senadores para impulsar una reforma, varios activistas presentes durante la registración de votantes, indicaron que es necesaria una reforma realista, que mantenga a las familias unidas y les de acceso a un camino para obtener la ciudadanía. Se estima que en Long Island residen alrededor de 100mil inmigrantes indocumentados.
Patrick Young, abogado representante de la organización Carecen, afirmó que de acuerdo a las propuestas dadas a conocer hasta el momento por la Casa Blanca y el grupo bipartidista de 8 senadores a favor de la reforma migratoria, los inmigrantes indocumentados podrían esperar hasta 23 años para lograr hacerse ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos, “muchas personas que están en espera de una reforma podrían morir antes de tener la oportunidad de hacerse ciudadanos”.
Los grupos que participaron en la actividad indicaron que continuarán realizando actividades en pro a una reforma, incluyendo más jornadas de registro de votantes y recolección de firmas, así como visitas a los congresistas representantes de Long Island para pedir su apoyo. Se espera que el proyecto de ley sobre reforma migratoria sea presentado en el Congreso en el mes de marzo.
Advocates take to Brentwood streets to register voters, push for immigration reform
Saturday February 23, 2013 11:28 AM By Victor Manuel Ramos [Original article here]
Immigrant advocates launched a new campaign to register voters Thursday, saying they hope the effort will amplify minority voices in a year when national immigration reform is at stake.
Many in the group of close to 20 people at Ross Memorial Park had already been walking through the streets of Brentwood to find and register new voters and get signatures for a petition favoring a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The group registered about 4,500 last year and had started anew by signing more than 100 new voters and about 150 petitions Thursday.
“Our community is building power and momentum,” said Karina Claudio Betancourt, a lead organizer with Make The Road New York, a nonprofit that advocates on working family issues. “Voters of color want to see comprehensive immigration reform happen this year.”
While minority communities were key in re-electing President Barack Obama under a renewed promise of such reform, advocates said they would now turn their focus to local races.
“Every year we have elections on Long Island and in New York State,” said Daniel Altschuler, coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, an umbrella group working with minority communities.
The point of the ongoing registration efforts, he said, is to make sure “that communities of color and immigrants are going to continue to make their voices heard ... so that politicians at all levels continue to take them seriously.”
Organizaciones de Long Island hacen llamado a reforma de inmigración
Brentwood, NY-A medida que el debate sobre la inmigración se calienta, las organizaciones Se Hace Camino Nueva York (MRNY), La Mesa de Compromiso Cívico de Long Island (Licet), y El Proyecto de Participación Cívica de Long Island – La Fuente- (LICPP) están saliendo a las calles de Long Island para registrar a los residentes para votar y animarles a unirse a la lucha por una reforma migratoria.
Ya en las últimas 24 horas los equipos de Se Hace Camino Nueva York y La Mesa de Compromiso Cívico de Long Island , han registrado cerca de 150 votantes y reunió firmas de 150 personas en apoyo a una reforma migratoria integral.
EWn el condado de Nassau, LICPP está llamando recientemente a la registración y a votantes, latinos y afro-americanos , a quienes se les ha solicitado que apoyen una reforma migratoria real y a presionar a sus funcionarios electos para que tomen medidas, que conduzcan a ese objetivo.
Al explicar la necesidad de una reforma migratoria en una conferencia de prensa, realizada este día, Isaías Tomaylla, miembro de Se Hace Camino Nueva York, dijo: “Muchas familias de mi comunidad están siendo separadas por las deportaciones, y necesitamos una reforma migratoria para poner fin a esa situacióna . En las últimas 24 horas, hemos registrado alrededor de 150 personas para votar. Sabemos que esto pone presión sobre los políticos y les muestra que nuestras comunidades tienen poder. “Exigimos una reforma migratoria equitativa y justa “.
Daniel Altschuler, Coordinador de la Mesa de Participación Cívica de Long Island, dijo: “Los votantes hablaron con una sola voz en el 2012 sobre una reforma migratoria. Ahora están saliendo de nuevo y nuevos estadounidenses se están registrando con el mismo mensaje: el tiempo de una reforma migratoria real, es ahora “.
Pat Young, Director del Programa de la Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN), declaró: “La cuadrilla de los Ocho debería entender que el envío de personas al final de la fila de inmigración antes de que puedan solicitar la residencia permanente significa una espera de 23 años o más. Algunos de ellos estarían en el cementerio antes de que esa condición pudiera aplicarse “.
Anita Halasz, Organizadora de Inmigración para Trabajos con Justicia de Long Island, explicó: “El voto es una de las muchas maneras de expresar la propia opinión y expresar lo que uno cree. El poder del voto es especialmente importante ahora, ya que estamos entrando en la batalla para reformar nuestro sistema de inmigración “.
Maryann Slutsky, directora ejecutiva de Long Island Wins, declaró: “El momento de aprobar la reforma migratoria es ahora. El público estadounidense la apoya. Los demócratas la han prometido. Y los republicanos la quieren. Vamos a hacerlo “.
The Mesa de Compromiso Cívico de long Island (Licet) transforma la cultura de la participación cívica y la responsabilidad del gobierno en Long Island, mediante el fomento de la participación popular y el liderazgo en las comunidades obreras. Licet, dirigido por Make the Road New York, New York Comunidades para el Cambio, la Alianza de Inmigrantes de Long Island y CARECEN, trabajan con las comunidades para cambiar el rumbo de la lucha de la clase trabajadora y de la política anti-inmigrante y construir una plataforma común para las personas de bajos ingresos.
Schumer carga con el "peso" de la reforma migratoria
El senador por Nueva York lidera una iniciativa para sacar de las sombras a los 'sin papeles' [Artículo original aquí]
Nueva York — La atención de activistas pro inmigrantes está puesta en el senador demócrata por Nueva York, Charles Schumer, quien está al frente de los esfuerzos por una reforma migratoria integral.
El legislador federal es el líder del grupo bipartidista de ocho senadores, cuatro demócratas y cuatro republicanos, quienes negocian una propuesta que atraiga finalmente el apoyo de los dos partidos.
Los activistas están muy optimistas, pero cautelosos sobre el lenguaje y la manera en que ya se está discutiendo una posible ley.
Aunque se está abogando por una reforma amplia, durante la primera audiencia en la cámara baja a principios de febrero, algunos republicanos hablaron de priorizar la legalización permanente de dos grupos: los extranjeros con posgrado en universidades del país y los estudiantes indocumentados o 'dreamers'.
"Eso sólo perjudicaría el interés sobre la reforma migratoria y tampoco arreglaría nuestro anticuado y disfuncional sistema", dijo Jackie Esposito, de la New York Immigration Coalition. Ante esta posibilidad, el senador Schumer dijo en una entrevista telefónica con El Diario/La Prensa que dividir una reforma no está en sus planes. "Si tratamos de dividirla, el resultado dejará atrás a 11 millones de personas".
Los activistas de Nueva York tienen su mirada puesta en el senador.
"Nuestro enfoque es Schumer", dijo Angela Fernández, del Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NMCIR). "Nosotros queremos saber qué va a hacer para asegurar que las detenciones obligatorias y las deportaciones no incluyan a más personas".
Para Daniel Altschuler, coordinador de la Mesa Cívica de Participación Ciudadana de Long Island, la gestión de Schumer es crucial. "Nueva York es una ciudad y un estado con una gran influencia de inmigrantes, por lo tanto nuestros senadores deben asumir un papel significativo".
Javier Valdés, activista de Se Hace Camino NY, dijo que la comunidad hispana tiene el poder en sus manos. "Estamos en una posición de poder, podemos negociar con una fuerza que debemos asumir para hacerlo mejor".
Sin embargo, un analista político local que prefirió el anonimato dijo que el senador "ha sido una persona que no le han importado mucho los asuntos de los hispanos", por eso no necesita el voto latino. "Su único interés es prestar su nombre a una legislación tan potencial como lo es una reforma migratoria".
Aunque no quiso dar detalles de las negociaciones, Schumer desmintió que en las discusiones se esté dando preferencia a reforzar la seguridad en las fronteras, antes de legalizar a los indocumentados.
"Eso no es cierto, queremos las dos cosas, pero no queremos que esto [la seguridad fronteriza] sea una barrera para la legalización".
Según los activistas, la comunidad de Nueva York se está preparando para presionar a su legislador. Desde el año pasado, una red de organizaciones como la New York Immigration Coalition realiza la campaña estatal "Neoyorquinos por una verdadera reforma migratoria". Este grupo enviará hoy una carta a los ocho senadores expresando sus preocupaciones sobre el marco actual de esta iniciativa.
La coalición está a la espera de reunirse con Schumer para discutir sus exigencias. Entre las preocupaciones está la idea, mencionada por demócratas y republicanos por igual, de que los 11 millones de indocumentados del país quedarán "al final de la fila" de casos para obtener su legalización. Pero, el legislador no quiso ahondar en este punto.
A esa atención se suma el apremio del presidente Barack Obama, quien incluso ha amenazado a legisladores demócratas con presentar su propia propuesta si el grupo bipartidista no tiene la suya en marzo.
En el proyecto del mandatario, del cual se filtraron extractos la semana pasada, se establece una visa que permite a la gente trabajar y viajar, luego de pagar impuestos y una multa por este derecho, así como pasar un chequeo de historia criminal.
Después de ocho años con este beneficio legal, podrán obtener su tarjeta de residencia permanente.También, el plan Obama expande el uso del E-Verify para comprobar permisos laborales y prevé que las personas (sin antecedentes penales) en riesgo de deportación sean elegibles para este beneficio.
Schumer negó que un posible acuerdo esté en peligro por el escándalo que involucra al senador por Nueva Jersey, Bob Menéndez, miembro del grupo bipartidista. "El ha estado participando plenamente en todos los sentidos y tiene una pasión por esto al igual que yo", agregó.
Menéndez está bajo investigación por supuesto tráfico de influencia y por sus nexos con un doctor dominicano de la Florida que sigue el Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI).
Aunque no se ha reunido con grupos pro inmigrantes de Nueva York después del anuncio de una reforma migratoria, Schumer aseguró que ha tenido encuentros con grupos hispanos de Washington, sindicatos laborales y representantes del sector empresarial para que todos estén de acuerdo y sean incluidos en su propuesta.
Conocido por ser consecuente en la realización de sus proyectos, Schumer está convencido de que tendrá una propuesta lista para presentarla en el Senado a finales de marzo.
As Immigration Debate Heats Up, Keep Out the Extremists
By Daniel Altschuler
Published February 18, 2013
Fox News Latino [Original article here]
The nation is abuzz with talk of immigration reform. Following an election in which Latino voters played a critical role, members of Congress from both parties, the president and even certain conservative pundits have called for reform.
Not everyone, of course, is thrilled. But, as the immigration debate heats up, we must be mindful of who participates in the discussion. And media outlets, their audience and elected officials must not allow extremists to drive the conversation; hate groups and their allies, who have harmed our nation, should not receive a platform.
After years when Republican intransigence made immigration reform politically impossible, a bipartisan group of senators released principles last month, including a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The president followed with a speech endorsing reform.
Public reactions have been diverse.
Immigrant rights organizations and unions have applauded that progress is being made, while expressing alarm that the proposed path to citizenship would be contingent upon further border security.
Business leaders, who typically embrace immigration reform as good for the bottom line, also seem pleased. Still, some sectors, including agriculture, have expressed concern over workplace electronic verification of immigration status, due to the potential for costly errors.
Meanwhile, those traditionally opposed to any legalization, including House Republicans like Lamar Smith, denounced the released principles as “amnesty” that “rewards lawbreakers.”
Fueling the restrictionist chorus are three organizations: the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Numbers USA, who have long opposed legalization measures.
These groups are frequently quoted in major media outlets, but their views are far from mainstream. Instead, as the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has found, FAIR is a hate group, while Numbers USA and CIS are closely aligned to it through the network of well-known bigot John Tanton.
Tanton formed FAIR in 1979 because of fears that immigration fuels overpopulation. His goal: to limit immigration by any means necessary. In the meantime, he and FAIR president Dan Stein were quoted as variously opposing a “Latino onslaught” (Tanton), supporting the need for “a European-American majority” (Tanton) and decrying many Central Americans as “hating America” (Stein). Tanton once wrote: “Can homo contraceptivus [meaning whites] compete with homo progenitiva [meaning Latinos] if borders aren’t controlled?”
These ideological roots, coupled with Tanton, Stein and FAIR’s associations with eugenicists and extremist groups, led the SPLC to identify it as a hate group.
Tanton sought greater legitimacy for his fringe views by creating CIS, arguing that “We need to get CIS fully-funded and entrenched as a major Washington think tank, one that can venture into issues which FAIR is not yet ready to raise.”
CIS, like FAIR, has gained a wide audience for its half-baked research, which inevitably concludes that immigration should be radically limited and that undocumented immigrants should be rounded up and deported, irrespective of human and economic costs.
The story is similar for Numbers USA. Led by Roy Beck, long-standing Tanton ally and former editor of Tanton’s racist journal, Numbers USA was also incubated by FAIR and Tanton.
The Tanton network has heavily influenced the immigration debate. Having learned to avoid publicly espousing the racist views behind their formation, these groups use less racialized messages to gain traction and have built a national network of supporters capable of action. For instance, Numbers USA’s widespread mobilization of calls and faxes into Congress helped thwart comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. And FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), has been behind many legislative efforts to crack down on immigrants in states like Arizona and Alabama.
Tanton’s network has had dire consequences. In Suffolk County, New York, where my organization works to increase civic participation among immigrants, FAIR provided organizing support to anti-immigrant efforts that created a climate of fear in which hate crimes became rampant. This culminated in the hate murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero.
We cannot let Tanton’s network divert public debate again. While we must respect freedom of speech, journalists and policymakers examining immigration do not have to ask for these organizations’ opinions. Debate should not be hijacked by those embracing debunked race science and peddling fear of demographic change under the guise of impartial policy analysis.
Reasonable people disagree on much about immigration reform: How should we determine how many future immigrants to accept? What is the right balance between family- and employment-based visas? How much enforcement is enough given scarce resources?
These tough questions require vigorous debate about values and economics, but not input from groups driven by a thinly veiled agenda of hate and fear. It’s time that we stop inviting the Tanton network to the table.
Daniel Altschuler is the Coordinator of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, a coalition to increase civic participation among working-class communities of color and immigrants.
Nicolello, Wink face major district changes
DAN GLAUN | Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 10:59 am [Original article here]
A revised Republican proposal for redistricting Nassau County legislative districts was approved by the Legislature’s Rules Committee after being met with near-universal criticism at a public hearing Monday morning.
The plan, introduced by the Legislature’s Republican majority after the county’s bipartisan Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission failed to recommend a map in January, is the result of required redistricting following demographic changes recorded in the 2010 census.
While the GOP plan introduced in the bipartisan commission sought to divide Great Neck into two districts, the new proposal keeps the peninsula unified.
But the new proposal, which is still subject to a vote before the full Legislature, contains major changes to other communities in Nassau County.
Nassau County Legislator Wayne Wink’s (D-Roslyn) 11th district would be dramatically altered, leaving him in the same district as Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove). The 11th District would gain Glen Cove, and lose parts of Herricks, Albertson, East Hills and parts of Roslyn Heights.
“This map literally draws and quarters Roslyn. Clearly this is a map designed to minimize the voting power of areas like Roslyn,” said Wink, who called the Republican plan “gerrymandering at its worst.”
Wink said sharing a district with another Democratic incumbent might also influence the decision he’s making about whether to run for county comptroller.
Under the GOP plan, Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello’s (R-New Hyde Park) 9th district would extend north through Roslyn Estates, Manhasset, Plandome Manor and parts of Herricks, and he would lose Carle Place and parts of Westbury.
A redrawn 16th district, currently represented by Judith Jacobs (D-Woodbury) would also stretch east from Plainview to parts of Roslyn Heights now represented by Wink.
“Obviously when you represent a community of individuals for years, you build up relationships. It’s kind of difficult to lose those,” Nicolello said.
Several previously unified communities - including the Five Towns, the village of Hempstead and Hicksville - would be divided into multiple districts.
In addition to Wink and De-Riggi Whitton, the map would place incumbent Democrats Dave Denenberg (D-Merrick) and Joseph Scannell (D-Baldwin) in the same district. It would also merge the districts of Republicans Joseph Belisi (R-Farmingdale) and Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa).
“This map meets the requirements of the constitution of the United States,” said Frank Moroney, the Republican chair of the redistricting commission. “It creates competitive districts that do not abridge or deny voting rights based on race or language.”
Moroney cited figures suggesting that the GOP plan left more census-designated places intact than an alternative Democratic proposal which was not up for discussion at the hearing.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) accused county Republicans of gerrymandering the county to dilute minority votes, split communities and solidify their legislative majority.
“The Republicans have made clear to the people of Nassau County that they are not interested in what you have to say,” Abrahams said. “The Republicans are afraid to leave the real choice in the people’s hands. Instead, they are trying to rig the system.
Abrahams said the Democrats had sought to introduce their map for discussion but were denied by Republican leadership.
“The Republicans are trying to hide our map from you because it lets the people’s voices be heard,” Abrahams said.
Bonnie Garone, a Democratic member of the redistricting commission, said the redistricting process - which failed to produce a recommendation, with Democratic commissioners refusing to participate in a vote on the GOP map at the commission’s final session - never moved forward in good faith.
“I think the commission operated basically as a charade,” Garone said. “[The Republicans] literally never even spoke to us about any redistricting subject whatsoever.”
The committee voted to suspend the rules limiting public comment in order to allow all those wishing to speak to address the legislators. Dozens of residents of affected communities, including the village of Hempstead, Elmont and the Five Towns, spoke against the map, accusing the Republican majority of gerrymandering and directing accusatory questions to committee chair Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) which largely went unanswered.
The Legislature has until March 5 to approve a new district map.
Jane Thomas, co-president of the Nassau chapter of the League of Women Voters, criticized the redistricting process and advocated for the map designed by the Nassau United Redistricting Coalition - a group consisting of the League of Women Voters, Common Cause New York, La Fuente, Long Island Civic Engagement Table and other civic activism groups.
“It is disturbing that the posting of the hearing was done at the last minute,” Thomas said.
Thomas also addressed Nassau County Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Valley Stream), who was absent from the hearing but whose 7th District would be split up under the Republican plan.
“You represent the Five Towns area. How can you in good conscience support a plan that divides the Five Towns into four legislative districts?” Thomas said.
Elmont resident Joyce Stow criticized the proposed joining of Elmont and Inwood within a new 3rd District, saying the new map artificially forces together two communities which do not share political interests.
“It makes no sense to create a district to elect a minority candidate that stretches from Elmont to Inwood,” Stow said.
Jill Williams of Hempstead accused the majority of trying to dilute the power of minority voters, her voice breaking at times in an emotional address.
“This act of redistricting is an act that is chipping away at democracy,” Williams said. “It is embarrassing, it’s disgusting and it is, I dare say, an act of institutionalized racism.”
Throughout the verbal bludgeoning by angry residents, Gonsalves did not respond to several questions on the substance of the map.
Daniel Altschuler of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table asked Gonsalves to categorically state that the map was not driven by political gerrymandering, and called the majority’s actions “ a rigging of the electoral process.”
“The Supreme Court is yet to define what gerrymandering is,” said Gonsalves.
Great Neck residents were not well represented among the attendees at the County legislative chamber. The new map, while affecting other communities, leaves Great Neck intact - a reversal questioned by Merrick resident Helene Manas.
“Great Neck has money, and money means power,” Manas said. “I find it a little funny that that’s the one district you put back together.”
Nassau County GOP advances gerrymandered redistricting map; final vote Feb 25
February 13, 2013 [Original article here]
Dozens of Nassau County, Long Island communities will be shocked to find that they are slated to be sliced and diced in the latest incarnation of the Republican redistricting map, only revealed a few days ago, and adopted along partisan lines, 4-3 by the Republican-dominated Rules Committee, mere seconds after a six-hour public hearing finished in which not a single speaker spoke in favor of the Republican map.
No other map - not the Democratic proposal nor a non-partisan map produced by the Nassau County Redistricting Coalition - was considered nor allowed to be considered in the hearing.
That means that the Republican map - which would slice Roslyn in four parts - will be put to the full County Legislature on February 25, where after another sham public hearing, it will likely pass by the one-vote Republican majority.
The blatantly gerrymandered map is designed to seal a Republican Majority, even a 12-7 Supermajority, for the next decade, despite demographic shifts that favor a majority population of Democratic voters.
Indeed, it appears that the Republican map produced by the Republicans on the Nassau County temporary Districting commission, was a red-herring, designed to stoke certain groups and give the same mapmakers, Skyline, working on behalf of the Republican party, cover to come up with a new map that inflicts damage on communities that will never realize what hit them.
Indeed, the new map silenced one of the biggest opposing blocs: Great Neck Peninsula, which in two previous Republican plans, was split in half in order to dilute the Peninsula's political power, the Jewish vote and Democrats, and pit Democratic incumbents against each other.
The new plan that Republicans pulled out just 96 hours before the Feb. 11 public hearing, restored Great Neck Peninsula, but inflicted damage on other communities that previously had no inclination they were slated to be sliced apart.
It's virtually impossible to know, though, because the map that has been published by the Republicans does not show street names or village names.
Nor is there any backup material that shows the rationale - the population numbers and demographic make-up - to justify.
"The entire process is nothing but bait and switch," Legislator Wayne Wink (D-11) said hardly disguising his disgust after six hours of the hearing, suggesting that some of the most despised changes in the earlier Republican proposal were changed in order for Republicans to claim (in court, most likely) that they did, in fact "listen" to the public outcry. But they cannot justify coming out with another map without any public input whatsoever, in the 11th hour, virtually behind the back of the affected communities who had no time to be made aware or comment on the changes.
"This map was proposed Wednesday evening, on the eve of a big snowstorm," Wink said. "That’s going to be moot point and fait accompli. This thing has been in existence for less than one week and Roslyn community is only now finding out is being divided- wasn’t part of commission map, not even [Nassau County Attorney John] Ciampoli map [produced in secret in 2011 and prevented from going into effect for the 2011 election by a Judge because it failed to follow the three-step process in the County charter]. This map was not part of discussion until Wednesday night – let’s be clear – you haven’t heard from Roslyn yet, because Roslyn didn’t know [about the redistricting] until now," he said to applause.
"The Commission purposely drew the ire of Great Neck, and in end Roslyn bears the brunt, because Roslyn was kept whole until 11th hour," Wink said. "There is every possibility Republicans will hold hearing and vote the same day on exact map because they won’t entertain amendments [at the February 25 Legislative meeting], and given time period people have to analyze, a lot of communities will suffer that never knew were in the crosshairs until Wednesday night. It's reprehensible. Putting communities at risk that weren’t at risk before, and without any fair public notice," Wink said.
Wink posed his questions to Francis X Moroney, County Executive Mangano's appointed chairman of the Nassau County Temporary Districting Commission and now the paid spokesperson for the Republican Majority, who has been the only person put forward to speak to the Republican map, even though he insisted he had nothing to do with the actual mapmaking. Nor would he say who instructed the Republican mapmaker, Skyline. Moroney has repeatedly insisted that the only instructions the Republican mapmakers had was to "disregard incumbency." Except that when he recited demographic percentages, he used Citizen Voting Age Population, instead of Voting Age Population.
That raises the question whether other demographic factors were considered in choosing how the lines would be drawn - whether voter registration, voting behavior, income, and other factors were considered.
Wink, who was one of the few who could analyze the map to see the impact on specific neighborhoods, said, "Look at the communities split, Many are split for first time – Roslyn, Five towns (which historically always has been one entity), Hewlett into two, Woodmere into four, Lawrence in two, Merrick in two. Notwithstanding Elmont, Jericho, Syosset, Woodbury, all these communities have something in common, and it's not just that from time to time they vote Democratic. It seems to me suspect … the Jewish population is being sliced and diced for purpose to guarantee republican majority and no other reason."
Moroney parried and thrust: "I respectfully disagree. It may be an inflammatory thing to get your people out. No religious basis for drawing any of these districts, was even considered."
Wink retorted, "The map speaks for itself, in this case, the facts speak for themselves," triggering another round of applause.
Noting that yet another hat that Moroney wears is as the President of the North Hempstead Republican Club, Wink noted that the present map has five legislators that touch upon North Hempstead under current map, of which four are Democrats, but North Hempstead would gain two legislative districts, which are drawn to be Republican.
"It sounds like Republican leader of NH would really want to see happen and would make happen if he were able," Wink said, asking if the population of these districts has changed radically in the last 10 years.
Moroney pointed to changing demographics - increasing percentages of Hispanic and Asian population, but after several attempts by Wink, finally conceded that the total populations of the districts has not changed substantially.
The Rules Committee, which is supposed to represent the Legislature, confined itself to the Republican proposal, and only allowed Moroney to speak to the map.
Bonnie Garone, who was the chair of the Democratic commissioners, was not provided an opportunity to present the Democratic proposal as an alternative, but was only begrudgingly allowed to speak as any other member of the public, getting more than the three minutes allotted by getting others to yield their time to her (at the end, though, in response to Democratic member questioning, she was given more time).
When she did speak, Garone again called the Redistricting Commission process "a sham" and "a charade," pointing out that the Republicans never came together in any attempt to come up with a consensus proposal (nor did any of the Republican commissioners make any comments during the hearings, nor take an active role in presenting their plan. Moroney did his best to block communication between the sides (Garone had to get the Republican commissioners' email addresses on her own), and at the hearing, none of the Republican commissioners offered any comments, answered any direct questions, nor seemed to have any real understanding of the map that their side proposed.
"Other proof Commission was nothing than a sham was that public was virtually ignored. At the first meeting when we adopted principles to guide the process, the chair wouldn’t let public speak before voted – because he said public input was gratuitous. I don’t think he meant to say it, but he said it and he meant it. That governed the rest of the process. Yes, we had a meeting on January 3, and two maps were put up for comment. People sat for hours to speak. People were eloquent, spoke from heart, cared about process. People said the commission should adjourn, have a working session to see if we could incorporate the two maps. The chairman said no, that we would vote. What is the point of having public input if we would vote the second it was finished. Clearly because public input was gratuitous."
That s what happened at the February 11 Rules Committee meeting as well, when after about 100 speakers - every one against the Republican plan - over the course of more than six hours, Presiding Officer Norma L. Gonsalves did not miss a beat but called for the vote, which was a forgone conclusion, 4-3.
Why have the commission or the public hearings at all? Because they are required under the County Charter, and it was on that basis that a judge threw out the map concocted in secret by Nassau County Attorney John Ciampoli in 2011.
When Republicans were asked by Fred Brewington how many voters were moved, none answered, but Legislator Judy Jacobs responded that 359,173 voters - or 30% of Nassau county voters - would be moved to new districts under the Republican map.
This compares to 680,000 who would have been moved by the prior Republican map the Commission came up with, while the Democratic proposal, which aims to keep the existing districts as intact as possible, would move fewer than 50,000.
Moroney, probably to reinforce the record for when the redistricting is challenged in court, insisted, "The US Constitution requires that principle of one-man, one vote be implemented – this is embodied in case law. These districts must be equal population. For districting at state, local – courts interpreted compliance, maintain population plus or minus 5% the optimal number, 70,573. That means there can be a maximum 10% from the smallest to the largest district.
Nearly 100 people came to the hearing in a cold rain, giving up a day of work, paying for childcare to be at the hearing.
Not a single speaker supported the Republican plan.
Henry Boitel of Rockville Center "vigorously protested" that Rockville Center would be divided into five parts.
"The Rockville Center name is not even on the [Republican] map. I attended a number of hearings. What I see today was predictable from the first meeting, a microcosm of what is sucking the life out of Nassau County and the country. I wish had a mirror to put up to you, for this committee to suggest this map is fair and reasonable, for Moroney to say the production of these maps was characterized by 'unprecedented transparency' [drawing cynical laughter].
"George Orwell had a name, Newspeak, for this, where you call things the way you want them to be seen and not the way they really are and change it when suits your convenience. Do you people realize what you are doing to our county by pulling this sort of nonsense consistently? I suggest to you there has been no commission process in this matter.
"This case went to the New York court of appeals, and judges unanimously –Republican and Democratic- said the Legislature had violated the law by not having the Commission process. The commission process was devised to get the courts to approve what Nassau County to approve what authorized in the first place – gerrymandering to deprive people reasonable representation.
"What we have here, the Commission spent close to nine months hearing the community say 'Please don’t break us up, be fair and reasonable.' That was predictable. No discussion by the commission, no exchange of public views, no indication of what the options were with regard to redistricting, no specification to the community on the website or commission proceedings as to present map as to what the problems were – never once discussed in public. [applause]
"Listening to this newspeak throughout these proceedings the whole purpose for having a commission, whole idea that people from community part of the process, has been violated. I suggest we are back to square one, when it goes to the courts, lack of a real commission will require the whole process be started all over again." (applause)
David Stonehill charged, "This map is just as bad as the previous one."
He questioned why communities with large numbers of Jewish voters (who are presumed to vote Democratic) including Roslyn, Syosset, Woodbury, Jericho and West Hempstead, as well as other communities with shared interest like Elmont, Rockville Center, New Hyde Park, Garden City Park, East Meadow, are broken up.
"The effect of new map is same as previous, an unfortunate attempt by Republicans to seize and maintain political power by eliminating Democratic incumbents, not through [a fair contest of] talented candidates, but through the redistricting process. Nassau County Democrats are displaced. You say incumbency was not a factor, so it is strange that four Democratic incumbents would have to primary each other because are combined into two districts. [Two Republicans would be put against each other but it is widely believed that Joseph v. Belesi intends to retire]
"So why the massive changes? Why not utilize a conservative approach which moves as few voters a possible while providing for relatively equal populations. Republicans don’t defend the map, they just say their map is legal, and give no other rationale. [The mapmaking process] is secret and hidden. Why have Republicans resorted to a nuclear option in drawing lines? Are they that afraid of Democratic voters, changing demographics, and Republicans losing power and influence in New York State? What kind of precedents are Republicans looking to establish with this map? Should future Democrats eliminate Republicans through redistricting?
"The lawfulness will be decided by judicial system, what a shame and waste we have to go through this process."
Though the Republicans never actually denied that their map was gerrymandered, the Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves, while displaying complete ignorance of federal and state laws regarding voting rights beyond a statement she was handed to read, insisted that there was no "official" definition of gerrymandering.
But Brian Paul of NY Common Cause, who devised a nonpartisan alternative map for the Nassau County United Redistricting Coalition that followed all the principles and criteria for redistricting, provided the definition of gerrymandering "to manipulate boundaries of electoral districts so as to favor one party or class," and added, "This is textbook gerrymandering If you look at underlying voter data, the lines are intentionally drawn to pack Democrats into seven Superdistricts, where they outnumber Republicans 2 to 1, versus Republican districts where they outnumber Democrats 42 to 22%."
The Republican map, he said, only has four competitive districts – the definition of gerrymander – a plan to steal election, to render voters irrelevant is not what the Founders intended. Elections should be decided on issues, not through tricks like gerrymanderering – no obstacle to drawing a competitive map, responsible to the citizens.
"This is political conspiracy," he declared, "an attempt to rig the election. Citizens will hold you accountable.
But that is the point, they don't expect to be held accountable. Around the country, Democratic voters have outnumbered Republicans but they still yield fewer representatives than their votes would suggest, so no, Republicans will not be held accountable in Nassau County, for at least 10 years when a new census will require a new map. There were 1.4 million more Democratic votes cast for Congress members, and yet Republicans held a significant majority.
Presiding Officer Gonsalves insisted that the purpose of redistricting is to insure the principle "one person, one vote," but gerrymandering is aimed at doing the opposite - undervaluing certain votes and overvaluing others.
Other speakers argued that the Republican map is a violation of the Voting Rights Act and bemoaned the hundreds of years struggle to get the vote.
Legislator Judy Jacobs asked Moroney that a representative of Skyline, the consulting company hired by the Republicans to produce the plan, be made available at the February 25 meeting of the Legislature, so that they could provide the rationale for drawing the lines as they have.
They could be asked whether voter registrations were taken into account, or prior voting behaviors.
Moroney, who could not say which "hat" he was wearing when he spoke for the Republican map - whether as chairman of the Commission or as spokesperson for the Republican majority which commissioned the mapmakers, spoke eloquently in order to establish the map had fulfilled the legal requirements for redistricting, even pointing to the ceration of a third minority-majority district, the new District 14.
Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams questioned Moroney's statement that the point of a minority majority district was "so they could elect a candidate that looks like them."
"It is a language of art," Moroney slickly said. "The purpose behind minority majority districts is to permit protected minority to compete in the process, to make sure the vote isn’t diluted for purpose of allowing competitive participation."
"It means that members of those group have no less opportunity to participate.. and elect representatives of their own choice."
He argued that the Republican plan allows for the demographic changes already underway so that over the course of the decade, the districts will not exceed the plus-five or minus-five target population, and criticized the Democratic proposal, which moves a minimal number of voters, because too many of the districts would already be close to the maximum [it is not clear where in the rules it says that the districts have to be drawn so that over the course of 10 years, they would still be within the plus or minus 5% range).
The people in Elmont and Hempstead, Uniondale and other predominantly African-American communities do not see it that way, but see well established communities, which have strong political organizations, being torn apart and stuffed into new communities where they will have little or no clout.
It was clear, though that the Rules Committee was similarly an exercise in futility, and one can expect a similar.
Several pointed out that there would be ample time to hold additional public hearings before the February 25 meeting of the full legislature , and then recess to hold additional working sessions or public hearing after the February 25 hearing before the March 5 deadline when the county is due to have its redistricting map.
But there seems little likelihood of the Legislature encouraging additional public hearings.
Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
© 2013 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved.
Panel OKs Republican-drawn map for new Nassau districts
Originally published: February 11, 2013 9:28 PM
Updated: February 14, 2013 5:48 PM
By Sid Cassese [Original article here]
The Nassau County Legislature's Rules Committee Monday approved a Republican-drawn map for new legislative districts despite criticism that it will split minority and other communities.
The 4-3 party line vote sent the plan to the GOP-controlled legislature, which is expected to approve it on Feb. 25.
Jane Thomas, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Nassau County, testified that the Five Towns area -- Hewlett, Woodmere, Inwood, Lawrence and Cedarhurst -- would be broken up into four separate legislative districts.
"Fundamental to redistricting is having districts that are compact, contiguous and reflect communities of interest," Thomas told the committee.
Frank Moroney, a top aide to the GOP majority and former chairman of the advisory board on redistricting, said the map meets all "Constitutional, Voting Rights Act and other legal standards of traditional districting."
The plan would place six incumbents -- four Democrats and two Republicans -- into three districts.
None of the six has said he or she would challenge a colleague, and two Democrats said they are considering running for higher office.
The redistricting commission, with five Republicans and five Democrats, could not agree on a map. Legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), with the help of redistricting commission staff, Moroney and others, ended up putting the map together.
Gonsalves told the audience at the Rules Committee: "We did not ignore the testimony from the hearings and we did not ignore the legal ramifications involved.
"Most of the public suggestions were followed and that forced changes that you might not want to see," Moroney told Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport). "When you make some people happy, you make others unhappy."
Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall, a Democratic member of the commission, asked that 7,600 village residents not be made a part of the 14th Legislative District centered in Bethpage.
"Please listen to what we have to say," he said.
Frederick Brewington, a Hempstead lawyer active in civil rights issues, said, "If this map is approved, we'll take it to court."
Gonsalves said: "The testimony taken here will be looked at very closely."
Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) substituted for Rules Committee member Legis. Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who monitored the redistricting hearing from his seat on the dais. Kopel said he had to leave before the vote to attend a niece's wedding in Brooklyn and didn't want Republicans to be short a vote.
With Celeste Hadrick