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Latinos divvied up in the Erie County Legislature Redistricting Map

May 16, 2011

Last Tuesday, my cell phone rang when I picked up the call it was a voice from  the office  Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams, D-Buffalo asking me  to  attend a meeting  on Wednesday, May 11, of the Erie County Legislature’s Advisory Commission on Reapportionment at the City Campus Erie Community College.

Funny thing, she never mentioned the controversial map Chairman Adam W. Perry had drawn up and recommended on redistricting, also, the day  they planned on voting for it. So, it’s understandable when those attending the meeting felt hoodwinked when the commission  voted 8 to 5 in favor of the redistricting map committee Chairman Adam W. Perry recommended that outlined 11 new Legislature districts they divvied up to politically appease Erie County Executive Chris Collins to continue his control of the Legislature.

The voting of the Perry Adams redistricting map was  more egregious to the other Democrats on the commission, citizens in the audience, including a large contingent of Latinos after Dennis E. Ward, Democratic commissioner, Erie County Board of Elections and member of the advisory panel commented they  had voted previously that Monday “to have three additional  hearings for the public.”

Jonathan Rivera, son of Niagara District Council Member, David Rivera  appointed to the commission by Legislature Majority Leader Maria R. Whyte, D-Buffalo,  along with Jeremy Toth previously submitted a redistricting map  that kept individual municipalities and legislative districts intact , including the Latino community now divvied up among the four districts. Commissioner Dennis Ward submitted a redistricting map too.

Interestingly,  Toth had cited in his letter Perry’s contention that “… a combination of Latinos and  African-Americans compromising a majority of the voting age population could be considered a Majority-Minority district.” And Perry had to be joking when on Monday, May 10 he said” the West Side benefits because as many as four county lawmakers would be able to say they represent that part of the city, something that cannot be said now.” How nice they carve up the turkey to benefit themselves then they say it’s an advantage for  the Puerto Rican community to have to be represented by four different Legislators who view them as politically dispensable.

But with a fractured Democratic Party in Erie County, Chairwoman, Miller-Williams controls the Legislature with a coalition of six Republican-bloc lawmakers and  two Democrats while the other six Democrats remain closer to Chairman Len Lenihan at party headquarters than they are to the Mayor Byron Brown, the six Democrats forming a minority in the 15-member County Legislature.

The Perry plan keeps many  in the coalition individual districts intact like Miller-William while forcing others Majority Leader Maria Whyte  and Betty Jean Grant to run against each other as  voters approved the downsizing proposal  in 2010 of  the Legislature from 15 to 11 after the election this year.

Also,  an article in the Buffalo News in March showed how the downsizing of the Legislature complicates redistricting especially,”a little-known state law appears to work in the Republicans’ favor: Several suburban and rural towns, including several that tend to vote Republican, are not to be divided among legislative districts” as written in  the New York’s Municipal Home Rule Law.

The 15-member advisory committee appointed in  March of course attorneys over-represented in the group.

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