Collins Vetoes Legislature's Redistricting Plan

June 28, 2011 Updated Jun 28, 2011 at 11:49 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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Collins Vetoes Legislature's Redistricting Plan

June 28, 2011 Updated Jun 28, 2011 at 11:49 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY ( release) Erie County Executive Chris Collins announced Tuesday his veto of Local Law 5-1 (2011), the redistricting plan recently approved by the Erie County Legislature by a slim 8-7 vote. Collins says the plan hurts the County’s rural communities, draws districts that make no geographic sense, and dilutes minority representation with the County Legislature. Collins’ veto message will be clocked in at the Legislature before 11:00 AM this morning.

“Redistricting is an inherently complicated process, especially in a year when the Legislature is also downsizing,” said Erie County Executive Chris Collins. “But the plan advanced through this local law is unbelievably bad for the taxpayers of Erie County. When you have one district that encompass 47% of the County’s total land mass, and another that includes both Allentown and Orchard Park, you know this is not a plan that passes the smell test.”

In this veto message to Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams, Collins outlined his reasons for objecting to this legislation:

Rural Communities - Local Law 5-1 creates a “Reverse-L” shaped district encompassing nearly 580 square miles, which is 47 percent of the County’s total land mass. This proposed district includes more than 607 of the County’s 1177 centerline miles of roads. Perhaps most troubling is that it runs nearly the entire length of the County’s eastern border, at a length of nearly 110 miles. Collins says the sheer vastness and size of the district would eliminate any Legislator’s ability to properly represent the residents of such a far-flung district.

Dilution of Minority Vote - Under the plan adopted by the Legislature, only 1 of 11 districts will likely have a minority representative, thereby diluting the minority representation in the legislature to just 9 percent. That number is higher in the current make-up of the Legislature.

Communities of Interest - This plan fails to protect communities of interest in any plausible or realistic way. As part of any redistricting effort, planners must take great efforts to keep communities of interest together, to ensure that like-minded residents and voters are able to effectively assemble to lobby their representatives in favor of policies they support. Local Law 5-1 fails to meet that standard in the most basic way. The plan places the suburb of Orchard Park, the City of Lackawanna and the historic Buffalo neighborhood of Allentown into one legislative district.

One Man, One Vote - This plan does not adequately address the issue of equal representation within each district. The largest district in Local Law 5-1 contains 85,165 people, and the smallest district contains 80,980 residents. Under this plan, districts vary in population by more than 4,000 residents. This disparity is unnecessary. Other plans considered by this Legislature proposed districts far more equal in population and thus, far more equal in representation. For example, one plan maintains 11 districts where the single largest deviation is 28 residents, or .03 percent.

“Local Law 5-1 does not adequately serve the residents of Erie County,” continued Collins. “I unequivocally support downsizing the Erie County Legislature, but this plan does it in the wrong way, through blatant gerrymandering and self-serving politics. I urge the Erie County Legislature to send me a new plan that addresses these issues.”

Shortly after Collins announced his veto, County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz issued a statement on the veto.

Republican Collins and Democrat Poloncarz are running for the office of Erie County Executive.

Erie County, NY—( release) Tuesday, Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz released the following statement in response ! to Erie County Executive Chris Collins’ veto of the Legislature’s redistricting plan last night. On June 16, 2010, the Erie County Legislature voted to approve a plan for redistricting a downsized legislature in an 8 to 7 vote.

Poloncarz said, “I am disappointed to see the county executive interject himself into the Legislative redistricting process. After weeks of debate and numerous public me! etings, the Legislature came together and adopted a plan within a reasonable time frame and the scope of law governing it, in order to ensure candidates the opportunity to participate in the Democratic process. I agree that this plan isn’t perfect, but I also believe it would be nearly impossible for any single plan to satisfy everyone considering the varied urban, suburban and rural interests in our county.”

“By vetoing the Legislature’s plan, the county executive has all but ensured yet another costly lawsuit on th! e County taxpayers’ dime and an indefinite delay to the process.. Last year, voters overwhelmingly demanded the Legislature be reduced in size and this veto serves as an executive roadblock to the will of the people. As we have seen time after time, instead of accepting the decision of the Legislature and upholding a system of checks and balances, it’s either Collins’ way or the courts.”