Niagara USA Chamber President and CEO Deanna Alterio Brennen presented the following statement at hearings conducted by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment in Buffalo today:
"On behalf of the Niagara USA Chamber -- one of the largest business organizations in Western New York and the biggest in Niagara County -- I stand before you in support of the proposed reapportionment plan.
"First, this plan is very good for Niagara County. On the Senate side, it reunites Niagara Falls with the rest of Niagara County. This is hugely important in ensuring our concerns as a community are addressed. To have Niagara Falls as an add-on to a Buffalo Senate seat for the last 10 years has not been good public policy.
"On the Assembly side, this plan returns to the past tradition of Niagara County divided mainly into two Assembly seats, as it had been prior to the last plan 10 years ago. The plan could be improved by swapping out some Erie County portions of these districts for the parts of North Tonawanda and the Town of Pendleton that are attached to Erie County-based seats. This would seem to better fit with the concept of communities of interest being kept together. However, we recognize the population-balancing act that must be done in a plan of this nature and thus such a swap may not be possible.
"Lastly, this plan overall treats upstate fairly. We laugh at calls for independent redistricting. After all, who decides whether or not someone is independent? If you're going to randomly draw 15 names of citizens from the state tax rolls and let them draw lines, then maybe it would independent. Outside of that we have doubts.
"You see, when the leader of this movement is former Mayor Ed Koch -- who has a well-documented history ranging from apathy to outright hostility for upstate -- you can bet the end result will be a seismic shift of seats downstate. That might be fair to him, but it doesn't work for us.
"The legislature has done its constitutionally mandated job to draw new lines and you have done it reasonably well. You will also be held accountable to voters. That fact makes it better than a plan drawn by the courts or self-interested parties who cloak themselves in the mantle of good government.