Sullivan, briefly: Contested districts and healthy habits

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 2/8/22

MONTICELLO, NY — Redistricting has been a topic of general interest recently, as New York State’s redistricting process has neared its end. The Sullivan County Legislature approached the …

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Sullivan, briefly: Contested districts and healthy habits

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — Redistricting has been a topic of general interest recently, as New York State’s redistricting process has neared its end. The Sullivan County Legislature approached the subject in the February 3 meeting of the government services committee, with an update from the county’s board of elections.

According to the Board of Elections, there was only one county race and one town race scheduled for the coming election cycle. “Otherwise it’s the big races this year—it’s your Senate, it’s your Assembly, your Congress, your governor, comptroller and attorney general.”

The Board of Elections saw several of those races affected by the redistricting process. According to the most recent maps, a board representative said, Sullivan County is set to move from the 42nd senatorial district to the 44th, and from the 19th congressional district to the 17th. The county is set to remain in Aileen Gunther’s 100th assembly district with only minor changes.

The current 44th senatorial district is represented by Neil D. Breslin, and encompasses the area immediately surrounding Albany. The new 44th district would encompass Sullivan and Delaware County as well as portions of Broome County and Orange County.

Speaking about the redistricting following a press conference to announce ‘Billy’s Law’ (see page 1 for coverage), Martucci said that the senate and assembly redistricting did not have a major impact on Sullivan County’s representation. “What I stand ready to do today is represent the communities that I was elected to represent and [run] for reelection to represent” the new communities that are now part of the 44th district, he said.

While the senate and the assembly redistricting had minimal impact on Sullivan County’s representation, the congressional redistricting did, he added. “We are now in a congressional district with White Plains… I feel like this county is more appropriately placed in the current 19th district with other rural upstate counties.”

The 17th congressional district is currently represented by Rep. Mondaire Jones, who released a statement welcoming Sullivan and Orange County communities to the district. “While my district lines may be changing slightly, my commitment to delivering for all my constituents will not. From White Plains to Woodridge, Clarkston to Chester, I promise to keep fighting for working families in every corner of the newly drawn 17th congressional district. It will be the honor of my life.”

Toward the end of the committee meeting, legislator Ira Steingart said that he was sorry to lose the county’s current representative, Antonio Delgado; he had done a lot of good for the area.

The county would be redrawing its own districts soon enough, Steingart added; he hoped that it could keep the districts as close to their current form as possible, and that legislators could have a civil discourse about the process. “I hope that we don’t play games like the states do.”

(According to analysis from the statistics website FiveThirtyEight, New York’s redistricted map was a largely partisan affair—“The map was designed to give Democrats a huge advantage in the state and was largely approved along partisan lines in the legislature”—and is already the subject of a lawsuit.)

“I think that redistricting, it’s always a snapshot in time,” said legislator Michael Brooks. He agreed that there should be a civil discourse, but said that population shifts had to be taken into account during the redistricting process.

Legislative chair Robert Doherty predicted that the landmass of districts in the west of the county would grow, and that the landmass of districts in the east would shrink, reflecting the east’s booming population. But he pledged that the districts would look as similar as possible.

Healthy choices and unpaid bills

Earlier in the government services committee meeting, SueAnn Boyd and Bee Moser discussed Cornell Cooperative Extension’s work with local school districts.

Cornell is currently working with a Department of Health program called Creating Healthy Schools and Communities, said Boyd, a program meant to increase access to healthy foods and physical activity. It is working with all the county’s school districts except Eldred, as well as with 21 early childhood daycare centers and homes.

Following Boyd’s introduction, Moser demonstrated a typical component of that program, talking about the hidden dangers of sugar with the legislature a rapt audience.

The amount of sugar in a bottle of soda wasn’t easy to visualize, Moser said. The bottle’s nutrition labels had their information written in grams, much harder to visualize than the more common measurement of teaspoons.

To fix that, she took a teaspoon and a box of sugar and measured out, one by one, the number of teaspoons of sugar that went into a 20 oz bottle of soda. The total came out to 16 and a quarter.

“Nobody would put that in a cup of coffee in the morning,” said Moser.

The presentation was well-received by the Legislature, with legislators appreciative for and engaged with the information—”I’ll never look at a bottle of soda the same way again,” said Brooks.

Following Moser’s presentation, Jay Quaintance went before the committee to provide updates on Sullivan County Community College. He said that the college, too, is looking to reach children about nutrition, to make sure they internalize lessons about health early in their lives.

In other health related news, Quaintance reported that Quadrant Biosciences had resumed on-campus COVID testing on Wednesday, after a two-day staffing related shutdown.

Quaintance also discussed the impact of a recent statewide edict, made as part of the governor’s state of the state address, that SUNY schools could no longer withhold transcripts from students due to outstanding payments owed to the college.

“The governor found that to be a poor practice on the part of colleges,” he said. “Although it has historically been the case and is pretty much universal as a mechanism of recouping the money that is owed to the colleges.”

The state legislature is in the process of reviewing a bill that would end the practice at colleges statewide, seeing it as a harmful and counterproductive practice that prevents students from getting the jobs they need to pay off their outstanding balances.

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