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Monroe County Legislature to vote on new district lines next week

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The Monroe County Legislature will make a once-in-a-decade decision soon.

A proposal to redraw Monroe County’s legislative district lines passed Monday in a 3-2 party line vote on the Legislative Redistricting Commission. The lines are redrawn every 10 years using census data.

Republican commission members, including Legislature President Joe Carbone, Legislator Steve Brew, and County Elections Commissioner Lisa Polito Nicolay voted for it. Democratic County Elections Commissioner Jackie Ortiz and Legislator Joshua Bauroth voted against it.

During a virtual meeting, Ortiz said she is disgusted about the months-long process, calling the new districts invalid. Despite multiple public hearings on district boundaries, which decide where county legislators can come from, she claims the commission never discussed the community’s desires.

“This commission has not been a commission,” Ortiz said.

“We’re here to vote right now to put it in front of the legislature,” responded Legislature President Joe Carbone.

“I’m not voting to put this in front of the legislature,” Ortiz continued. “I am absolutely not voting on putting this in front of the legislature. Clearly, you might not need my vote but this entire process has not been a process. And the members of this commission has not been granted the opportunity to be such. This entire process has been a sham. (With) every single last step, you (Carbone) have disrespected this commission. It has not even been such.”

She said the commission didn’t authorize a team, led by attorney Adam Fusco, to draw the lines. But Fusco, who said he was retained by the state and county legislatures, told the commission that everything is above board. Fusco said these districts were decided by plugging in census data into software with the aid of cartographers.

“This stays between all the parameters of statewide law. And makes the districts simply more round, more regular and keeps the cores of those districts in place.”

Carbone, the outgoing Legislature president, did not respond to Ortiz’s claims during the meeting only saying that the public will be heard at a hearing just before the full legislature votes on the districts next week. The measure is expected to be introduced as a matter of urgency on Tuesday in order to get it on the docket.

In a statement on the process Carbone said Monday that the commission worked to ensure the best, most equitable district boundaries possible.

"Importantly, the proposed district boundaries were produced with community-based priorities in mind – equity, keeping neighborhoods together, and without favoritism of politicians or political parties – while adhering to all relevant local, state and federal laws and regulations," said Carbone in a statement. "It is unfortunate that only one plan was presented to the Commission and that other members did not propose any additional plans for review, however, I am grateful and proud that the presented plan earned the majority support of the Commission."

Bauroth said this is the end of a frustrating process. He said these districts were drawn without community input. The Democrat pointed out the proposed change to Legislative District 24, which he will represent until the end of the year, as an example. If approved, the new district would include both downtown Rochester and a part of west Henrietta, which he said don’t have the same interests.

“This is now breaking up multiple communities that I’m personally aware of and its appalling to see that happening,” Bauroth said. “And I see that as one person looking at one district and I say, 'My God, what were you thinking?'”