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Historic Nonpartisan Redistricting Effort Commences

Wed, Jul 27, 2011

News, Press-Releases, Suffolk

Cooper and Kennedy Announce First Ever Meeting of Reapportionment Commission

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Suffolk County, NY -  In the spirit of cooperation and nonpartisanship that was the inspiration for the authorizing legislation that created it, today the offices of Suffolk County Legislative Majority Leader Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) and Legislative Minority Leader John M. Kennedy, Jr. (R-Smithtown) jointly announced the first ever convening of the Suffolk County Reapportionment Commission.

Jon Cooper (D) John Kennedy (R)

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The first and only kind of nonpartisan redistricting mechanism in the entire state, the Commission is tasked with taking—for the first time ever—the politics out of redrawing the County’s legislative districts. The 8-member body convened this morning and began their lofty and noble task.

In 2007, County Executive Levy, Cooper and legislators D’Amaro (D-Huntington Station) and Schneiderman (I-Montauk) sponsored the legislation to create the new redistricting process, set to commence after the 2010 Census. Prior to this, redistricting had been in the hands of the dominant political party in the Legislature utilizing their hand-picked committee members.

Taking the 2010 Census data into account, the Commission is charged with redrawing legislative districts that reflect changes in Suffolk’s population, by mapping out new districts that contain an equal number of citizens and are comprised of areas that are convenient, contiguous and as compact as practicable.

“I am so proud that Suffolk County is leading the state in creating a fair and equitable redistricting process,” says Cooper.
“I hope that other governments—especially the State Legislature—will look at what we are accomplishing here in Suffolk and use it a model to make their own electoral processes more evenhanded to voters, regardless of their party affiliation, race or where they reside.”

This time, the Legislature is determined put voter equity before partisan territoriality. So, no one is allowed to serve on the Commission if they have held elected office for less than 10 years prior to the commencing of the Commission. Also disallowed to serve is anyone who’s held a political party office higher than a committee member for the past 5 years, or anyone who has served as a partisan political consultant in the past decade. Instead, Suffolk legislators cast a wide net of non-politicos when recruiting candidates to undertake forging new districts.

Subsequently, the new Commission’s membership is now comprised of: 4 retired judges (2 appointed by each Leader), 2 representatives of voters’ rights organizations (1 appointed by each Leader) and 2 representatives of minority organizations (1 appointed by each Leader).

The Commission members appointed by Cooper and Kennedy are:

Cooper appointees: Hon. Harry Seidell, Hon. Leon Lazer, Nancy Marr and Irving Toliver.

Kennedy appointees: Hon. Alfred Tisch, Hon. James Gowan, Sylvia Diaz and Irene D’Abramo.

(See bottom of page for a biography of each member of the Commission)

“The residents of Suffolk County deserve this non-partisan, highly qualified and specialized group of individuals whom have come together for this historic event,” says Kennedy. “This redistricting will dictate the workings of county government for years to come. I am deeply indebted to these individuals who have taken this task at hand and in so doing taken time away from their own lives to do right by the people.”

The Commission will submit their recommendations to the County Legislature for a final vote of approval by February 1, 2012. If that plan fails to secure a simple majority of votes needed for adoption, the Commission will be directed to go back to the drawing board and bring to the Legislature a second proposal with 45 days. If that plan fails to secure a simple majority of votes needed for adoption, the Commission is directed to go back to the drawing board and formulate a second proposal. If that alternate submission also fails to pass, then the task of redistricting will be kicked to a Special Master.

But the Legislature’s Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) is confident that there will be more than enough votes on both sides of the aisle to facilitate adoption of the Commission’s recommendations.

“I have complete confidence that this special commission, staffed by a wide array of experts that bring many talents to the table, will come up with a plan that will meet with the bipartisan approval of the Suffolk County Legislature,” said Lindsay. “We can and will do this job, and we will not need any Special Master to intercede and impose a plan.”

While the Commission’s regular meetings are not open to the public, there will be 4 public hearings to solicit community input into the process (dates to be determined and advertised).

Suffolk County Reapportionment Commission Members:

Honorable Harry Seidell (Cooper appointee): served as a District Court Judge from 1972-1977,
a Court Judge from 1978-1987, a Family Court Judge from 1988-1999, and a Supreme Court Justice from 1995-2002, all for Suffolk County.

Honorable Leon Lazer (Cooper appointee): served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York from 1973-1979 and was a member of the Appellate Division Second Judicial Department from 1979-1986. Lazer also served as the Co-Chair of the old Suffolk County Reapportionment Committee in 1966.

Nancy Marr (Cooper appointee): is the president of League of Women Voters of Brookhaven Town.
She was the director of the Boys & Girls Club of America Bellport Area from 1979-1999. Marr is also a co-founder and was a teacher at Community Nursery School in Brookhaven and was the copyeditor of the Harvard University Press from 1954-1960.

Irving Toliver (Cooper appointee): is a member of the Huntington branch of the NAACP. He served as the Director of Human Services with the Town of Huntington up until 2007. He is also a member of Rotary International and is the governor of his district.

Honorable Alfred Tisch (Kennedy appointee): served as an Assistant District Attorney of Suffolk County from 1967-1971, a District Court Judge of Suffolk County from 1972-1983, a County Judge for Suffolk from 1983-1995, Associate Justice of Old Field Village Court from 1996-1998, as well as the Suffolk County Sherriff from 2002-2005.

Honorable James Gowan (Kennedy appointee): served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York from 1978-2001. In addition, he has been on the faculties of the Widener, Hofstra and Emory law schools.

Sylvia Diaz (Kennedy appointee): served as the Chief Deputy Social Services Commissioner for Suffolk County as well as the Director of the Suffolk County Executive’s Human Services Division.
In addition, Diaz has been honored by receiving the School of Social Welfare Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001 from Stony Brook University.

Irene D’Abramo (Kennedy appointee): serves as a member of the League of Women Voters of Brookhaven Town. She is also the Chairwoman of the Accessory Apartment Review Board of the Town of Brookhaven and has been a Senior Election Clerk of the Suffolk County Board of Elections since 1996.

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