By ERIC TICHY
OBSERVER Mayville Bureau
Ten years ago, Bill Parment was irate.
As co-chairman of the Legislative Task Force for Demographic Research and Reapportionment, the former state Assemblyman from North Harmony saw Chautauqua County leave the Southern Tier congressional district.
The Democrat said pressure from then-Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Gov. George Pataki ultimately pushed the county into congressional representation with Erie County. The political persuasion was done to protect the seat of Rep. Thomas Reynolds, who was seen as the future leader of the national Republican party.
The backdoor deal didn't sit well with Parment.
"Tying in (Chautauqua County) with Buffalo is an outcome we worked strenuously to avoid," Parment said in a June 6, 2002 article.
But even now, 10 years later, Parment reflects on the "Save Our County" campaign that ultimately fell short.
"We fought and fought and fought to keep Chautauqua County in the Southern Tier," Parment said Friday. "It was a politically doable situation, and a federal judge issued a plan to preserve the Southern Tier."
The judge's plan, however, was tossed out in lieu of Cheney and Patacki's clout. As a co-chair of the task force to oversee the reapportionment process, Parment wasn't pleased.
"I was irate," he said. "This was an ugly plan (and) as co-chair I voted against the plan. I was very opposed for us being with Erie County."
Fast forward to the present. Chautauqua County is rejoining its Southern Tier district, amid another judge's recommendation that eventually stuck. As was the case in 2002, state lawmakers were unable to come up with redistricting lines of their own.
Regardless, Parment is glad to see the congressional reunion.
"I believe this makes the county more competitive, which is good for the politics and good for the public of this district," he said. "No one county can dominate this district."
According to Parment, the former congressional district, currently held by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-South Buffalo, was dominated by Erie County politicians. That meant Chautauqua County residents lost their voice, and representation, on the national level.
That won't be the case anymore, he said.
"I think we're better off," Parment said. "I think it will be helpful. It's geographically very large, but it's not larger than some districts in the country."
Parment represented Chautauqua County for 28 years in the state Assembly before retiring in 2010. He was first elected in 1982 and served 14 terms. Parment was replaced by current Assemblyman Andy Goodell.