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Keep politics out of map debate

Thursday, January 24, 2013 - Updated: 5:32 PM

When Montgomery County voters overwhelming approved a plan in November to change the form of county government, it was made clear that a final map outlining the districts for the new legislature would need approval by the board of supervisors.

However, voters approved the changes based on the information provided to them, which included a legislative map drawn up by a non-partisan charter commission. While we understand that some alterations have to be made, county supervisors should ensure that the final district boundaries resemble as closely as possible those passed in November.

A legitimate issue arose in December when it was discovered that the map approved by voters would essentially create brand new election districts for a small number of people -- including fewer than a half-dozen people in Fort Plain and another one for 38 residents of Amsterdam's South Side. In those instances, the county would be required to provide additional inspectors for each district, which would be an unreasonable expense for the board of elections to bear.

However, a proposed map tabled by supervisors on Tuesday reeks of political shenanigans, regardless of the intentions by local board of elections commissioners.

The proposal moves nearly 1,900 people into new legislative districts, including close to 1,500 in the city of Amsterdam. Interestingly, the map put before voters placed two Republican city supervisors -- Vito "Butch" Greco of the 1st Ward and the 3rd Ward's Ronald Barone -- into the same legislative districts, meaning they would have to face each other in a GOP primary this year if they wanted to remain in county government.

Barone and Greco weren't the only ones placed in that situation. In fact, the charter commission map approved by voters would pit every supervisor against one of their colleagues except for the 5th Ward's Michael Chiara.

Interestingly, the revised map discussed by supervisors Tuesday puts Barone and Greco in separate legislative districts, meaning they could run for and keep their seats in county government. That just appears a little too convenient and gives the impression that the lines are being gerrymandered to protect two Republican seats.

It's something that should be avoided at all costs. The supervisors need to come to grips with the fact that six of them are going to be out of a job come Jan. 1. Many of them may not like it, but that's what the residents they represent want, and the voters' decision must be respected.

We agree that the final legislative map should be drawn in a way to avoid the expense of additional election districts in Montgomery County. Other options exist and should be considered. A proposal by 2nd Ward Supervisor Jeff Stark supposedly means only moving 116 people and claims to save the county $5,500 by eliminating 11 districts. At the very least, it's worth consideration.

While it's a tall order to expect politicians to keep politics out of a political process, the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors needs to show common sense when it comes to adopting a final legislative map. Even the appearance of political maneuvering does a disservice to residents who voted in favor of changing their government.

     

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