by Carol Thompson
In a lengthy and sometime heated debate, the Oswego County Legislature approved a resolution to set a public hearing on the reapportionment plan during Thursday’s meeting.
Legislator Dan Farfaglia was the first to question the legality of the process used to redraw the lines for the 25 legislative districts. He has continually done so since the first maps were released.
“The proposed plan largely ignores the Municipal Home Rule Law about splitting towns less than 5,372,” Farfaglia said. “Clearly, the intent of the law is to ensure that community interests are represented in the legislature but the proposed plan doesn’t do that. It breaks up towns and communities into pieces and attaches them to unrelated communities, towns and cities.”
Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler asked County Attorney Richard Mitchell if the county’s plan is legal and would hold up to a court challenge.
“It is defensible,” Mitchell replied.
“So I take that as a ‘no’?” Kunzwiler asked.
“You’re entitled to your opinion,” Mitchell responded.
Farfaglia questioned the need for a public hearing and the response was that it is a requirement. Farfaglia suggested the public’s input was not important to administration, but rather was being held to satisfy the requirement of the law.
Legislator Dan Chalifoux asked Mitchell if the legislature should go forward with the reapportionment committee’s plan.
“It is my opinion that it is defensible and passes constitutional muster,” Mitchell said.
“So, if we get 25 to 50 people in here next month and they say they aren’t in favor of this, ‘we don’t want our towns split up,’ we’re still going forward?” Kunzwiler asked.
A request was made to have someone in the state look at the maps to be sure the proposal was in compliance with the law.
Democrat lawmakers expressed concerns that the reapportionment plan could lead the county into a costly lawsuit.