Rockland County Legislator and County Executive Candidate Ilan Schoenberger (D-Ramapo) responded to opponent David Fried’s proposal to reduce the number of legislators saying the recommendation was flawed. Fried, a former Spring Valley justice, put forward a proposal last week to decrease the number of county legislators from 17 to 11.
Fried, a Democrat, said such a change would create greater efficiency in government and noted that legislators in other counties represent larger numbers of people than in Rockland. Fried’s initiative gained support from Republican rival candidate Legislator Ed Day (R-New City/Pomona), who said it was worth researching.
Fried’s spokesman Stephen Papas said they believe administrative law would allow a public referendum on the issue to take place before the 2020 census.
“We were very careful to research the process to ensure that these actions could be taken,” noted Papas. “The Rockland County Legislature has previously been reduced in size during Census years but hasn't been done in non-Census years.”
Schoenberger’s legal interpretation differed and issued a statement that he believes redistricting can only take place every 10 years following a census. Rockland’s legislative districts were redrawn in 2011 after the 2010 census.
The reapportionment or restructuring of the Legislature, by law, can only be done once every ten years, co-incidental with the release of the Census,” Schoenberger stated. “Unfortunately, by law, we are not able to reduce the size of the Legislature until after the 2020 census.”
Schoenberger referred to New York State Law Municipal Home Rule Section 10 under subdivision (f) as setting the requirement that redistricting can only occur once every 10 years. He also referenced an Appellate Court decision in the 1980s involving Rensselaer County's attempt to redistrict.
Day said Fried's idea appears to have merit and should be studied. He forwarded it to the legislature’s attorney for assessment and review.
“I absolutely expect it to come up as a topic for discussion, “ said Day.
Schoenberger said he previously proposed reducing the legislature from 17 to 15 members. He said the proposal failed to gain support in 2000 and there was not enough time between the release of the 2010 census and the election to restructure the number of districts. However, districts were redrawn after the 2010 census in time for the 2011 legislative election when all seats were up.
The county’s population of more than 311,000 after the 2010 census breaks down into 17 legislative districts of about 18,335 residents. A transition to 11 legislators would mean each would represent approximately 28,335.
“The result of reducing the Legislature to 11 members would be a dilution of minority representation and make it far more difficult to elect people of color and other minorities to the Legislature of Rockland County,” said Schoenberger.