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First Public Hearings Set As Onondaga County's Redistricting Commission Rushes To Redraw District Maps Before Election Day

This is the current county legislature district map. Most would agree the shapes of most districts were gerrymandered last time around, especially in and around Syracuse.

Onondaga County’s Redistricting Commission is forging ahead with its plans to redraw legislative district maps before election day despite strong objections from one commissioner.  There’s concern about the tight timeframe for the commission to do its work and for the public to offer its feedback.

Commission members gathered for a brief organizational meeting Wednesday, where County Executive Ryan McMahon's appointee and attorney Kevin Hulslander was chosen to chair the commission. When he announced the dates for public hearings without any input or vote from the other members, commissioner Dustin Czarny was shocked.

"No redistricting process takes 21 days to digest and have public weigh in on reams of data. These districts have changed a lot over the last 10 years. The suburbs have grown, the city has grown, the rural areas have shrunk."

Czarny, who’s also the county’s democratic elections commissioner, calls the rush irresponsible, especially in the midst of election season. He says the charter clearly states there are 6 months to start the process from the when census data was received in September. Czarny accuses Legislature Chairman and Commission Chair Pro-tem Dave Knapp and his GOP caucus of breaking promises through the entire process.

"Mr. Knapp said none of this would happen before the election," Czarny said.

"Most of the work will be done after election day," Knapp told WAER News on Oct 5.
"I envision this going well into November, past the November 2nd election."

But with committee meetings and public hearings packed into less than three weeks, Czarny is calling foul.

"Now he's saying the vote won't happen before the election, but all the work that goes into is? It's a blatant deception."

Video and minutes from the meeting show Hulslander declining to directly answer most of Czarny’s questions, including one about who will draw the maps. Czarny isn’t optimistic about the outcome.

"We will not get fair maps out of it, and it's definitely the open process that Mr. Knapp and the republican caucus of the legislature promised."

GOP Elections and Redistricting commissioner Michele Sardo doesn't see reason for alarm.

"I think this will lead to fair maps. I really do. Mr. Hulslander will be fair to both sides. That's why we chose him to be the chair."

She says Hulslander is doing his job, and the board of elections will do its job.

"It's their job to set these times and these dates and it's our job to attend these meetings, no matter what time of year it is. We have a wonderful staff here [Board of Elections]. It is during election season when these meetings are being held. We will get the work done."

The first public hearings are set for next Friday, October 22 at 11 a.m. at Clay Town Hall and later at 4 p.m. at LaFayette Town Hall.

Czarny says these are inconvenient times and locations for most working people to attend.

Other hearing dates include Thursday, Oct. 28 and Friday, Oct. 29. Times and locations have not been determined.