The overwhelming passage of Montgomery County’s new government charter in last month’s vote was a great victory for Amsterdam Second Ward Supervisor Jeff Stark, but his work isn’t done.
He wrote the original resolution forming the Charter Commission, was a strong supporter through the writing process and looks forward to his own position’s imminent end. In the next few months though, some things have to be ironed out. Namely, electoral districts have yet to be officially laid out.
Next November, a nine-member legislature and county executive will be elected to replace the current board of 15 town and city ward supervisors, but before that can happen, the board must legally establish their nine electoral districts.
The bulk of the work was done by county Planner Doug Greene during the commission’s initial meetings. He used 2010 census data to mark out districts with populations of roughly 5,580, but according to Stark that was just a draft.
“Doug used census blocks,” he said, explaining that census blocks are literally mapped as squares, and the district borders must be slightly realigned to follow roads.
“If you look at districts in any other county, they follow roads,” he said.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, he proposed new road-based district borders, using Greene’s map. Only one of the proposed changes will move households from one district to another.
He suggested that one of the lines between districts 1 and 2 be aligned with Wagners Hollow Road, a move that would shift 28 people into district 2.
“Wagners Hollow sort of zigzags,” he said, “So there were houses on the same side of the road that would have been in different districts. That’s not the way it should work.”
He and his son Vincent, who served on the commission, spent roughly 30 hours researching and drafting the small changes, but Stark said the main point of his resolution is simply to get the districts settled in a timely manner.
“We’re on a real time line to do our duty under the law,” he said.
A public hearing on the legislative districts is tentatively set for Jan. 22. If Stark’s or another version of the district map isn’t adopted in the next few meetings, the hearing will have to be delayed. The board is on a tight schedule as it is.
Legally, there must be a public hearing on the district lines. Any changes the hearing prompts will need to be made before the full board adopts the map.
It all needs to get done with enough time to allow legislator hopefuls a few months to plan campaigns. Stark said petitioning opens in June, which seems like a long way off. However, with the full board meeting only once a month, the supervisors have a limited number of opportunities to do their job.
“What if you’re thinking about running but you live on Wagners Hollow?” Stark said. “You won’t know what district you’re in until we figure this out.”
Stark’s map will be further debated at a meeting Tuesday night.
To see a detailed map of the currently drafted district lines, visit www.co.montgomery.ny.us.