The Chautauqua County Legislature has approved a 19-district reapportionment map, but voted down sending it to referendum in November.
A local law establishing a 17-district map failed in a vote of 3 to 14 with Legislators John Penhollow and Paul Whitford being absent. Only Legislators Bob Bankowski, Susan Parker, and Billy Torres supported the reduction.
Proponents of the 17-district plan included local League of Women Voters representative Mary Croxton who spoke at the public hearing saying with the over 5% decrease in population from the last census, keeping the same number of legislators makes less sense, “We need to be more efficient and cost effective as a county government. Maintaining the same number of legislative districts with all of the technical and economical challenges that we have taken place and are expected to take place over the coming decade is not efficient or cost effective. Chautauqua County residents and the taxpayers cannot afford the status quo.”
County Reapportionment Co-Chair Larry Wilcox spoke in opposition to the 17-district plan, saying the plan would divide more rural towns into different election districts than the 19-district plan, which would only divide two towns, “One-third of the small towns in this county are divided into two or more legislative districts under the 17-member plan. That’s one of the reasons the 19-member plan, which I encourage you to adopt, is far superior to the 17-member plan. The people in this rural area would have their voting power diluted under the 17-member plan, but it would be intact under the 19-member plan.”
The local law setting a 19-district map passed 14 to 3 with Legislators Bankowski, Parker, and Torres voting against it. A resolution to have a referendum on the 19-district map failed along the same lines in a vote of 3 to 14.
The Legislature approved the appointment of Jamie Gustafson to lead Legislative District 10. She replaces Ken Lawton, who has moved out of the district. Legislator Gustafson has lived in the district with her family for 30 years and is employed by M&T Bank. District 10 represents the southwest side of Jamestown, the Village of Lakewood and part of the Town of Busti.
The Legislature approved a local law by a vote of 12 to 5 to create a Chautauqua County Landfill Commission.
Public Facilities Deputy Director Aaron Gustafson, speaking at privilege at the floor, stated concern over why the Commission was being proposed. He stated that the doors of communications work both ways, “We do not feel that the added level of government, the commission, will solve anymore issues than the current processes that are already in place, especially given the concerning involvement of private interest that are proposed to be part of the commission. We fail to see how private business members would help foster better communication between the division and this legislative body. In fact, it seems it most certainly would create an environment for conflicts of interest.”
Legislator Susan Parker proposed two separate amendments that would have added language not allowing the commission to entertain privatizing landfill operations and also would not allow private customers as members of the commission. Both proposed amendments failed. Legislators Parker, Bob Bankowski, and Elisabeth Rankin cited concern about conflicts of interests from private businesses and that concerns about the Landfill could be handled with existing means of communication.
The commission will have seven members appointed by the County Executive including two County Legislators as well as representatives of the government of the Town of Ellery, a large municipal customer, a large private customer, a waste hauler, and a representative of a community hosting a County transfer station.