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Towns ‘not happy’ about re-districting plan

Sullivan County District 2 Legislator Kathy LaBuda points out proposed county legislative district boundary changes.

By DAVID HULSE
July 15, 2014

ELDRED, NY — Former River Reporter editor Glenn Pontier used to commonly describe the river valley as “the last stop on everyone’s delivery route.” Sullivan County apparently would lend truth to that opinion with its proposed realignment of county legislative districts.

Federal law requires all federal, state and local legislative districts to maintain “one man, one vote,” representation, so shifting populations prompt realignments following each federal 10-year census.

Introducing the changes at Highland’s July 8 meeting, District 2 Legislator Kathy LaBuda said the last (2010) census showed growth in Mamakating’s Village of Bloomingburg, which put its District 4 over the “one man, one vote” limit required by federal law. It prompted seven shifts among the other eight districts “like dominos” to equalize the populations represented. She noted that the 2000 census prompted the shift of the Town of Tusten from her district to District 1.

The largest geographic, and the second largest population shift proposed this year, would move some 1,300 residents in Highland’s election District 2 from LaBuda’s legislative district to Scott Samuelson’s District 1.

Highland Supervisor Andrew Boyar suggested that “Wouldn’t a district for the river towns make a stronger district?”

Questioning the one man, one vote issue from the towns’ viewpoint, Boyar noted that Highland would now have “two votes instead of one.”

LaBuda said, “I don’t get the feeling of a split. We’ve always had two legislators in Mamakating. It’s not different.”

“We live and pay taxes as a town. Now, [we’d have] two different representatives? How would this serve us? This serves the politicians. Our town is being split…. This serves the federal government, not us,” said resident John Kamp.

LaBuda said that the shifts had to include contiguous populations and several variations for redistricting were presented, but this one was “the only one that all nine legislators would vote for.”

A vote on the new plan is scheduled for the legislature’s July 17 meeting, following a 1:45 p.m. public hearing on the plan.

On the following night in Lumberland, Supervisor Nadia Rajsz voiced strong opposition, even though Lumberland’s representation isn’t changed. “We’re both river towns. It makes more sense to group Tusten, Highland, and Lumberland (the original 1798 Town of Lumberland) and divide Mamakating differently, but you’re leaving us with Mamakating. We have totally different issues…. We’re getting sliced and diced,” she argued.