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After final public hearing, McMahon hints at changes to new legislative map

A large crowd at the final public hearing for the county's new legislative district maps, held Friday, Nov. 19, 2021
Ellen Abbott
A large crowd at the final public hearing for the county's new legislative district maps, held Friday, Nov. 19, 2021

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon has until December 12 to either sign-off or veto new maps that define the boundaries of Onondaga County legislative districts. After a public hearing picking apart the maps on Friday, McMahon hinted there could be changes.

Legislative maps are redrawn every ten years after the federal government’s census numbers are finalized. It invariably becomes a highly political issue with the party in power drawing maps that favor their candidates. There have already been several public hearings on the Republican-drawn maps. But the latest hearing allowed speakers to directly address McMahon, who has the final say.

Several people spoke at the meeting, all Democrats, with one message.

“I’m asking you to veto these proposed maps,” said one resident.

Complaints about the map that’s been approved by the majority Republican legislature, ranged from timing to legislative districts splitting certain towns and villages into more than one district.

"I do not understand the rush for the redistricting process, it could be extended for several more months," said one resident.

There were also concerns about creating a new district that combines the predominantly Black southside of Syracuse with downtown and the University area.

“This is an effort to silence marginalized voices, particularly Black voices, through gerrymandering,” said one speaker at the hearing.

It’s that last complaint that came up again and again.

"There’s so much egregious about these district lines, I wouldn’t even know where to start. But the main thing is it’s racist."

And that’s where McMahon may use his veto pen.

"My goals are that there is more increased minority population,” McMahon said after the hearing. “So if there’s something that’s been done that’s in conflict with that, it’s something I’m going to take a hard look at.”

McMahon has until 30 days after the legislature's November 12 vote to decide if he’ll sign the legislation or veto it. The state deadline for finalizing the maps is mid-February, so there is time to make changes.

"If I have concerns about some of the things we heard about, I’ll bring legislative leaders together and have a conversation,” McMahon said. “And a veto would be a tool to look at and address some of the tweaks that potentially could be there."

In the meantime, Democrats say they’ll continue pressuring McMahon, some threatening a lawsuit if things don’t go their way. Ultimately, legislator-elect Charles Garland says it will be part of McMahon’s political legacy.

“You can be known as ‘McMahon the Malicious,’ or you can be known as ‘McMahon the Merciful,’ ‘McMahon the Magnificent,’ but it all starts right now," said Garland.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.