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Democrats outraged at Onondaga County redistricting, Republicans say they’re overreacting

The Reapportionment Commission met on Wednesday.

The first meeting of Onondaga County's redistricting commission got off to a shaky start Wednesday. Democrats are calling for a longer, more open process, while Republicans say only minor changes to the district maps are needed.

Republicans have a four to two advantage over Democrats on the Reapportionment Commission. Democratic Elections Commissioner Dustin Czarny, one of the members, said he knew Republicans were going to try to rush the process, but he said they’re acting irresponsibly.

Czarny raised a number of concerns at the meeting. He wants the population shifts of each town, district and ward from the 2020 Census. He wants to know who is going to draw the maps and if all the members will have access to the software. He said meeting now is taking time away from the two elections commissioners’ jobs, when they should be focusing on the November election. And things got heated when he questioned the commission’s chair, Kevin Hulslander, on his authority to decide when the public hearings will be held.

“He put his finger in my face, and yelled at me and said, ‘You said that I had authority,’” Czarny said. “I said I’m not questioning your authority, I was questioning the wisdom. But I don’t believe you have the authority to just set these meetings by yourself.”

“You need to listen to what you say Dustin, listen to your words,” Hulslander said to Czarny at the meeting.

Czarny said Hulslander then adjourned the meeting and walked out.

“It was the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever seen in my time in public office,” Czarny said.

But Republican Legislature Chairman Dave Knapp, who also sits on the commission, said Czarny is the one who turned the meeting into a sideshow for publicity. Knapp said this is going to be a simple redistricting process because there’s been very little change in the county’s population; it’s increased by 2% in the past decade.

“We’re just doing some tweaking here to adjust to small population changes in the county,” Knapp said. “This really isn’t this big dramatic process that he’s trying to make it out to be.”

Democrats say the districts are gerrymandered to the Republicans’ advantage and they want to make it fairer. Look at the map here. Knapp acknowledged some of the districts have weird boundaries, and that can be addressed. The first two public hearings are set for next week and a final vote on the maps by the Legislature won't happen until after the election.

Below is information for the first two public hearings on redistricting.

Date: Friday, October 22, 2021

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Location: Clay Town Hall

4401 Route 31, Clay, NY

Date: Friday, October 22, 2021

Time: 4:00 p.m.

Location: LaFayette Town Hall

2577 US Route 11, LaFayette, NY

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.