Democrats on the Chautauqua County Legislature are continuing to criticize the Republican Party's handling of the county's redistricting plan.
On Wednesday, the Democratic Caucus issued a statement that called on County Executive Greg Edwards and other Republican leaders to "come clean" and disclose information to the public about their plan to redistrict county legislative seats.
Lori Cornell, D-James-town, said it is essential to good government and, in some cases, required by state law, that certain information be disclosed. She also said that information about the process and how the plan was developed - particularly party enrollment figures - needs to be publicly disclosed.
"It is bad enough that the public and legislators have not been given time to review and digest this plan,'' said Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk. ''It's even worse that the minority caucus and the public have not been provided vital information about the plan, particularly information that is required by state law. I am concerned that the county Republican leaders are attempting to gerrymander the districts in order to protect their own political futures and to gain an unfair advantage in a county that is evenly split in major party enrollment."
Together they stated a list of concerns they want addressed, including which political committee paid for the Republican consultant to draft the plan; the identity, affiliation and possible motive of the consultant; when did the redistricting process actually start; who was involved in the initial process and why were minority caucus members excluded from the initial process.
"This flawed process has been so political and partisan, it is exactly why many citizen-based organizations have been calling for an alternative process to redistrict," Mrs. Cornell said. ''For the majority party to claim this is a legitimate plan that resulted from a legitimate process is not honest, not good government, and will result in a decade of closed-door, Albany-style governance in Chautauqua County. Bottom line: the residents of Chautauqua County deserve an open and accountable government. That is what democracy is all about. That is a principle on which the minority caucus will not concede."
In response, County Legislature Chairman Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, expressed dismay that many of the Democrats' questions have been levied multiple times during the recent redistricting initiative.
He said Ahlstrom has been given the Republican's party enrollment figures, reflecting new census data, in the days after the first public hearing on the plan on April 2. Croscut said the figures were not ready in time for the unveiling of the Republican-sponsored redistricting plan, and he added they were also been turned over to the legislative clerk on Wednesday.
Croscut said the persistence of issues about disclosure only seem to hinder the progress of the path to redistricting.
"If it doesn't pass, it is not because the Republican caucus didn't try,'' Croscut said.
He said the legislature had taken almost two weeks to come to its determination about redistricting and reapportionment, and the public was invited to attend the work of the commission. He said the plan to reduce the legislature's membership from 25 members to 19 relied on bipartisan resolve, and Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood and minority leader, only spoke out against the plan after his vote to endorse it as a member of the reapportionment commission.
"We gave Dr. Mueller a chance to sit down with (the rest of the commission) and redraw the lines,'' Croscut said.
In the days following the commission vote, Mueller has come forward with an alternative proposal for reapportionment that reaches a number of 19 members. Meanwhile, he has been joined by Mrs. Cornell and Ahlstrom in his concern about the activities within the commission.
The full legislature is expected to vote on the commission-adopted reapportionment plan April 20 following an additional public hearing.