By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO August 17, 2001 After six years of existence for the Sullivan County Legislature, significant population shifts are forcing county officials to plan for realigning the countys nine legislative districts. That process must be completed before the next countywide legislative election in November 2003.
The first public discussion on the subject took place on Thursday, August 9 during the General Services Committee meeting. The discussion was kicked off by Committee Chair Chris Cunningham, who stated that research on the issue had been done by Legislature Chair Rusty Pomeroy, Government Intern Jenna Pantel, Assistant County Attorney Lynda Levine, and Planning and Community Development Commissioner Alan Sorensen. Cunningham turned the discussion over to Levine to cover the legal issues.
Levine pointed out that, legally, if there is a population difference greater than five percent, redistricting efforts must be undertaken. The areas with significant population shifts are Mamakating, Thompson, and Fallsburg.
"We can redraw the lines without changing the composition of the Legislature," Levine pointed out. "We will still have nine legislators."
"We looked at other counties that have gone through the redistricting process," stated Pomeroy. "Seventy-five percent of those ended up in litigation. We hope to avoid that."
The legislators agreed that the process should be done publicly, including meetings and hearings to get the public's input. The lengthy process would require a local law to change the districts, but it would not need a public vote.
Levine also stated that the election districts would have to be redone as well.
Cunningham pointed out that the process needs to be completed before petitions would be filed for the election (mid-2003). Pomeroy estimated that they could get the process done in six months.
"I commend you for starting early," Legislator Rodney Gaebel commented. "We have to maintain the integrity of the election districts."