The Democratic candidate for Onondaga county executive says it’s time the county’s leaders follow the city’s lead and commit to the independent redistricting of its 15 legislative districts. Tony Malavenda praises the common council for voting this week to amend the city charter to establish a non-partisan group of residents to draw district boundaries.
It’s all in an effort to avoid gerrymandering, which he says is very obvious on the county level.
"If you look at the map, it would blow you away. I've shown this to professors at [Syracuse University's] Maxwell [School], and they tell me it's something they could use in a classroom to describe gerrymandering."
He says the legislature has had a republican supermajority for years, even though there are actually more enrolled democratic voters in the county than republicans. Malavenda says the districts basically discourage any competition, and allow politicians to pick their voters.
"In most years, there aren't even opponents because it's impossible. That's just not democracy. To me, it's a pretty cynical thing when you start drawing districts such that there's no way the incumbent is going to lose."
Back in March, legislators defeated a measure on a party line vote that would have established an advisory committee to ensure a non-partisan process to reapportion legislative districts. Malavenda says while the county executive can’t force the legislature to try again, the office can lead the discussion.
"You have to start with the bully pulpit that you have, and the influence you have as a county executive, to make sure the legislature realizes that it's a priority for you, including for your own party."
Malavenda says the nearly all-democrat common council wasn’t afraid to take the risk. He’s seeking to unseat Ryan McMahon, who, as the former legislature chairman, was elevated to county executive by his colleagues to fill the remainder of Joanie Mahoney’s term. McMahon has to run for his own four-year term.