Onondaga County’s redistricting commission bickers over timeline, rejects delay of public hearings

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Republicans on Onondaga County’s Reapportionment Commission rejected Democrats’ request to delay a series of public hearing by two weeks at a meeting Tuesday morning.

The group is charged with using the latest census data to redraw the county’s legislative boundaries so each legislator represents a similar number of constituents.

Before work begins to study the data and draw the maps, the group’s two meetings have resulted in drama and disagreement over scheduling of meetings, public hearings and the process’ overall timeline.

The group is made up of six people, three of whom are given the responsibility as required by their job: Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Dave Knapp, Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny and Republican Elections Commissioner Michele Sardo.

Three others are appointed, one by each the county executive, the legislature majority leader and legislature minority leader: Kevin Hulslander, who was elected the commission chairman, Joseph Rainone and Sharon Moran.

The idea to delay public hearings was proposed by Democrat Dustin Czarny.

Czarny asked for a delay, citing concerns that three public hearings are scheduled at the exact same time that early voting polls are open next week. Czarny said the unnecessary rush of the process puts creates a conflict of his responsibilities.

Michelle Sardo, the Republican Elections Commissioner, voted against the delay.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, Czarny had been working to build public support around his opinion that Republicans on the county legislature and Republicans on the appointment commission are rushing the process.

He claims Republicans could lose the legislative majority in next month’s election, so they want to control the process before that happens.

Beyond the meeting schedule, Democrats and Republicans have also been feuding about the general timeline for the process. After referring the county charter, they seemed to clear up disagreement and settle on the idea that their duties need to be done three months after being appointed.

Chairman Hulslander says, “I know Dustin wants to delay it, for whatever reason, primarily political. He wants to make it an election issue, but this isn’t an election issue. We’re doing our job.”

Hulslander said he coordinated the times, dates and locations with the legislature’s clerk.

Hulslander said the times shouldn’t be a conflict as members of the commission aren’t required to attend every hearing, as long as they read the transcripts in considering their map proposals. 

After the meeting Czarny said, “One of the things I couldn’t believe he said today was that the commissioners didn’t have to be at the public hearings. So what, we’re just going to put up a microphone and let people talk and hope somebody listens to them later.”

Two of Czarny’s recommendations were approved: streaming the public hearings on social media and allowing for people to submit feedback over email.

Redistricting Public Hearings

  • Friday, October 22: 11am at Clay Town Hall
  • Friday, October 22: 4pm at LaFayette Town Hall
  • Wednesday, October 27: 6pm at Onondaga County Legislature in Downtown Syracuse
  • Thursday, October 28: 5:30pm at St. Michael’s Luterhan Church in Camillus
  • Friday, October 29: 10am at East Syracuse Village Court

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