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There's At Least One More Chance To Comment On Onondaga County's Proposed Legislative District Maps. But Is Anyone Listening?

redistricting hearing resident.jpg
Scott Willis
A resident offers his criticism of the redistricting process at a hearing Oct. 27. It was the only hearing attended by reapportionment commission chair Kevin Hulslander, left. Also present is legislature chair and commission member Dave Knapp. Nearly all of the comments submitted called on commissioners to slow down the process.

Onondaga County residents will have one of the final opportunities this week to weigh in on the redrawn legislative district maps from the redistricting commission.  It’ll be the sixth public hearing in a very contentious, and some say dysfunctional process that will establish districts for the next decade. 

The republican-led commission completed its work last week, and voted along party lines to accept the GOP’s draft maps. They’re now before the legislature, which has set a public hearing for Wednesday. Legislator Mary Kuhn says she’s attended all of the hearings so far, and says the public is not being heard.

"Five of the meetings happened, two of them without the maps being present. The third one took place hours after the maps were revealed. It really wasn't very much time for people, and they asked for more time. We were told the chairperson of the commission disagreed with the public."

Reapportionment commission chair Kevin Hulslander says all comments were "considered."

"Ninety percent of the people who spoke at the public hearings were objecting to the process. I completely and utterly disagree. We've done this in a very orderly manner. We've done this diligently."

He’s frequently clashed with democratic commissioner Dustin Czarny, who told Hulslander at last week’s meeting that the public shouldn’t be ignored, whether he agrees with them or not.

"I won't be criticized for believing that the people and the citizens who came to our public hearings have a right voice their concerns, and that those concerns should be met."

Czarny and fellow democratic commissioner Sharon Moran presented a second draft of their maps in an attempt to address some of the GOP’s concerns, but they were voted down.

Like Hulslander, County Executive Ryan McMahon says the process has been fair and transparent. But it also seems he’s given up on any notion that a compromise can be reached.

"Both sides are never going to agree. If they [democrats] were in charge, do you think they'd be trying to get republicans to agree on common ground? Of course not. It was a political issue in a political year. The process is what it is."

McMahon says he’s had little direct involvement in the process, leaving his appointee Hulslander to do what it took to force through GOP maps. At the same time, they both asserted, without proof, that nearly all of the speakers at the public hearings were rigged to favor of democrats.

"I read the transcripts of the hearings, and I know most of those comments with respect to Dustin's narrative are that we rushed the process. We didn't rush the process," Hulslander said.

"Many of the comments were directly related to a political side of the aisle in an organized fashion. Could any process be better? Sure," McMahon said.

But, the GOP appeared to make little effort to do so, including making only minor adjustments to their proposed maps after criticism from democrats and the public.

The next public hearing is Wednesday at 6 pm in legislature chambers in the courthouse on Montgomery street downtown.  Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on Friday.