Republican legislator bucks party, joins Democrats’ calls to slow down Onondaga County redistricting

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A Republican county legislator is joining the mostly Democratic-driven criticism over the current plan to redraw Onondaga County’s legislative districts.

In an interview with NewsChannel 9 Wednesday, Legislator Jim Rowley said, “The process itself was very rushed. It was not well done. In my opinion, a very bad look for the Republicans.”

On Friday, Rowley and Republican colleague Ken Bush Sr. voted against the law that enacts the current redistricting plan. Their two votes along with the Democrats’ six votes against was one shy of the nine Republicans who voted to pass the law.

The bill next heads to Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon for approval or veto, but McMahon’s office says he’s withholding a decision until he hosts a public hearing on Friday morning.

The county executive’s hearing is the last in a series, including one hosted by the county legislature and five by the Republican-controlled Reapportionment Commission that did the work of redrawing the districts.

“To have a public hearing and not have a map available seems pretty silly to me,” Rowley said.

Rowley is referring to the public hearings on October 22, one each in Clay and LaFayette, held before proposed maps had been drafted. Draft map weren’t available until the public hearing on October 27, followed by hearings on October 28 and 29.

Beyond process, Rowley says not enough input was considered in the final maps passed by the separate commission and voted on by the legislature.

He says people in the Fayetteville-Manlius and Geddes areas are upset and that his suggested tweak to his district’s boundary was “ignored.” Democrats are concerned with other districts, including the 16th District which will pair Syracuse’s South Side with a portion of Downtown Syracuse.

He said, “I never expected the core map to change, but I did expect some input give-and-take and some tweaks along the way. My district should have been tweaked. Another colleague of my, Ken Bush, had Camillus in his district. That got moved around too. There could have been a fix there done. Just simple tweaks around the edges.”

Friday, Rowley also voted in favor of Democratic Leader Linda Ervin’s proposal to postpone the vote on redistricted maps for 30 days. When that was defeated, he voted against the maps, which resulted both in the same nine-to-eight vote margin.

Before voting against a delay and voting in favor of the maps, Republican Leader Brian May said, “I can assure this body that all the comments were heard and being taken very seriously. I also appreciate the hard work of the commission to draw the lines. Every line has been explained to us by the commission and its experts. We’ve reviewed this with our attorneys. They believe the commission map is also complainant with the governor’s new law. By charter, this legislature relies on the recommendations of the commission.”

Rowley says his Republican colleagues are “not happy.”

He adds: “They don’t express that overtly to me, but in other ways, they let me know that wasn’t a good vote on my part. Politically, I’m going to vote my conscious regardless, and I’ve always told anyone who wants to listen, ‘if I run for re-election and I don’t get re-elected, the Lord’s telling me something,’ and I’m fine with it. I’m going to try do the right thing all the time.”

The redistricting vote is not the first time Rowley has bucked his party. In a past Ways and Means Committee Meeting, he’s said the Onondaga County Executive was spending stimulus money without authority.

Rowley also isn’t yet comfortable with McMahon’s plan to spend county surplus money building an aquarium. McMahon says the investment will result in money coming back to the county in the form of sales tax revenue and create jobs.

Rowley represents parts of the Town of Clay, sits on the Liverpool Board of Education and works as the Assistant Superintendent of Finance at the Oneida City School District. An accountant by trade, he previously served as the Chief Financial Officer for Onondaga County under County Executive Joanie Mahoney.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Live Doppler 9 Map Center

CNY View

CNY View

CNY View

Oswego Area

Oswego Area

Syracuse Area

Syracuse Area