The Register-Star had an article today about the Fair & Equal initiative to do away with the weighted vote, written by Victoria Addison and John Mason: "Petition forces council to address weight vote."
In preparing the article, the reporters sought comments from three elected officials, two of whom are what might be considered career politicians in Hudson: Bill Hughes and Rick Scalera. If the new ward boundaries were to be adopted, Bill Hughes, who has been the Fourth Ward supervisor since 2008 and before that was a Fourth Ward alderman for two terms (from 2004 through 2007), would have to compete with Ed Cross, who has held the position of Second Ward supervisor since 2000, because the part of the Second Ward where Cross lives would become part of the Fourth Ward. Needless to say, Hughes is opposed to the way the ward boundaries have been redrawn, calling it "that gerrymandered map."
Rick Scalera, who first ran for office as a fresh-faced twentysomething in 1973 and was the mayor of Hudson for seven nonconsecutive terms between 1994 and 2012 (1994-1999, 2002-2005, 2008-2011) before becoming the Fifth Ward supervisor in 2012, also accused the Fair & Equal team of gerrymandering the wards. He remarkably attributes Hudson's renaissance to the wisdom of the weighted vote, reportedly claiming that "the city has risen from a crime-ridden community a quarter-century ago to an internationally recognized tourist destination today, all under the weighted vote system." He is quoted as saying, "It's because of the Fifth Ward the city has progressed so well--the success of the city is because of the weighted vote system." According to Scalera, "the only people who care about changing the weighted voted are members of a group who have been here for a relatively short period of time, too short to recognize how far the city has come."
As a counterpoint to Scalera's claim, Gossips moved to Hudson in the spring of 1993 and has been here and involved in the community for most of those twenty-five years Scalera talks about, and I can attest that Hudson's renaissance happened in spite of city government not because of it and certainly not because of anything the aldermen representing the Fifth Ward (one of whom has been, since 1994, Robert Donahue) did or did not do.
Scalera complains, as does Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), whose comments were also sought, that there were no elected officials involved in drawing the proposed map. (In Garriga's case, the complaint was there were no elected officials of color involved.) We have seen in the past that it is impossible for our elected officials--in particular, the aldermen--to discuss rationally the possibility of doing away with the weighted vote. In 2011, soon after New York determined that prisoners, for legislative districting purposes, would be counted as residents in their home districts instead of where they were incarcerated, Ellen Thurston, then a Third Ward alderman, brought up the issue of the weighted voted system and its inequity. Her motives were questioned by Wanda Pertilla, then a Second Ward alderman, who accused Thurston of wanting to change the system because her vote in the Council was about to get less powerful. (The Hudson Correctional Facility is located in the Third Ward.) Pertilla made a similar accusation the next year, when Don Moore, then Common Council president (and incidentally a resident of the Third Ward), called for an investigation of the constitutionality of our imbalanced weighted vote system. Pertilla then protested, "If the Third Ward hadn't taken the hit, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
In response to the comments by Hughes, Scalera, and Garriga as reported in the Register-Star, it's useful to recall the actual meaning of gerrymander. Here's the definition, straight out of Merriam-Webster: "to divide (a state, school district, etc.) into political units that give one group an unfair advantage." It would seem that the current ward boundaries, established in 1886 when the Fifth Ward contained few dwellings and was mostly taken up by the fairgrounds, are the divisions that give one group an unfair advantage.
It should also be noted that there are two elected officials, granted neither of color, who are part of the Fair & Equal initiative: Third Ward supervisor and former Common Council president Don Moore and Third Ward alderman John Friedman. If the proposed new ward boundaries are adopted, Moore would be in the First Ward, having to compete, if he wished to remain on the Board of Supervisors, with Sarah Sterling, who has held the position of First Ward supervisor since 2012.
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