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Last call for public comment on reapportionment of Erie County legislative districts

A 2017 map of Erie County legislative districts.
Erie County Board of Elections
Erie County legislative districts as of 2017.

The public doesn't seem very interested in how new district lines are drawn for the Erie County Legislature.

The legislature's re-apportionment Advisory Committee drew two speakers to a public hearing Tuesday evening and no speakers Wednesday evening. There's one last chance to speak Thursday evening during a meeting at Erie Community College South.

On Friday, the group will meet and start hashing out the process to draw new lines for the 11 districts. The process can only go so far until the U.S. Census Bureau delivers the detailed data on who lives where, although the new districts will have about 87,000 residents and there are restrictions about splitting some larger towns in drawing the lines.

Chair Danise Wilson said the public needs to understand who will represent them.

"There is a disconnect on how the reapportionment actually impacts each individual and I am hopeful that with these hearings, people are becoming more engaged and trying to understand that," Wilson said. "Because it is really important as they elect the people who are representing them."

Democratic Elections Commissioner Jeremy Zellner was disappointed at the seeming low interest.

"It's a little disappointing the public isn't coming out to have their voice heard," Zellner said. "We had a meeting last night. We've got another hearing tonight. We've got another one tomorrow. And then there will be time for public comment once the lines are put out. It's a critical thing every 10 years. We've grown our community, so we're going to have larger districts for these legislators to represent. So, it is, it's an important time."

Lawyer and Republican Committee Member Michael Cimasi said the goal is practicality and not really partisan.

"There are some natural boundaries that do make sense and as populations continue to divide and diversify differently, it makes sense to have every few years with a Census through evaluation of those and letting people try to come up with something sensible that's not offensively partisan," Cimasi said.

The district lines aren't expected to shift a lot, although the new lines will reflect population shifts, like the people who have moved into Howard Johnson's District One, which reflects the residential development along Niagara Street in Buffalo.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.