Rural red a likely target in remapping
State Sen. George Borrello acknowledges his request is a heavy lift. After a 16-month period that left state residents and the rest of America confined to their homes with numerous limits due to COVID-19, the last thing many of us want to do is become involved in a battle that involves politics.
We are already worn out.
If there is anything the pandemic has taught us is that our time and freedom have become even more valuable. That is why so many friends and neighbors are hitting the roads this summer and getting away to see the sights and family members we missed for so long.
Last week, however, Borrello appealed to all those who elected him — twice to the 57th state Senate District — to become involved in the redrawing of the legislative and congressional districts that is required every 10 years once the Census is complete. It is a process that is just beginning and impacts us greatly since New York is losing one federal seat due to population losses in upstate.
“Every person in New York state will be impacted by the redistricting process, which is why participation is crucial,” he said in a news release.
“The electoral maps that result will be the foundation of our representation for the next decade.”
Borrello’s state district currently includes all of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. In addition, he has a portion of southern Livingston County. It is a very red, right-leaning region.
His popularity here is undeniable. In a June primary vote of 2019, he received nearly 90% of the vote from county Republicans. He also won handily against previous opponents in Austin Morgan in 2019 and Frank Puglisi, who barely put up a fight, in 2020.
His clout, however, dwindles on the state level. He is a Republican in a system that is currently dominated by Democrats. They own the control in Albany — and all the major cities.
Rural New York both benefits and suffers in this configuration. Though many in these locations believe there needs to be a separation between New York City and the rest of the state, that thinking is misguided.
Without the Big Apple, all small counties — Chautauqua included — would be missing out on the big bucks that come from the financial institutions and bonuses that are tied to Wall Street. Those funds help pay for a majority of our 18 school districts, while supplementing the finances to 27 towns, 13 villages and two cities that too many residents here refuse to want to give up on. In other words, there is a strong Republican faction throughout the Southern Tier that quietly approves of many of the Albany hand-outs that come courtesy of a powerful blue party rule.
But just how generous will that Democratic party be when it comes to a state remapping? That’s what has Borrello concerned.
“New Yorkers have a historic opportunity to influence this process. In 2014, voters spoke up and said they no longer wanted the ‘three men in a room’ behind-closed-doors process. They voted to put redistricting in their own hands with the promise of the Independent Redistricting Commission,” he said. “Now is the time to realize that vision by participating.”
Hearing dates that impact our region take place at 2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12. Participation will be virtual with more information at www.nyirc.gov.
While state districts will face adjustments, the biggest question in recent months revolves around federal Congressional District 23, which is from here to outside of Binghamton. With current U.S. Rep. Tom Reed already committing to retirement come January 2023, it is likely there will be some sort of shake-up.
Making matters worse, it appears Reed already is embracing this lame duck period. Besides last week’s showing with the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, he is barely making any public appearances while his advocacy for the district has also come to a halt.
As for the future, some political federal models put northern Chautauqua County with Erie County and Buffalo while keeping the region south of Cassadaga in the current district. Another model has all of Chautauqua County partnered with Erie County. Both proposals keep a majority of the Southern Tier district east to almost Binghamton.
Democrats, due to the state majority, hold most of the cards in deciding how future districts look. That being said, Borrello believes those who live here need to go on record in an attempt to keep lines that reflect population and demographic changes reported in the most recent Census.
“Citizen participation will help ensure that no region of the state, special interest or political party gains an unfair advantage in the redistricting process,” he said, noting the Independent Redistricting Commission will accept submissions through its website, http://www.nyirc.gov\h]www.nyirc.gov. Any group or individual is entitled to submit opinions or testimony.
“Anyone who cares about the future of their community and the ability to have a voice in the electoral process should stand up and make their voice heard as these lines are redrawn. I urge my constituents and all New Yorkers to learn more, and join with friends, neighbors, community groups and others to speak up for the issues that matter most to our communities.”
John D’Agostino is the editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 253.