A couple of weeks after a proposal to put the North Fork and South Fork in the same Assembly district was met with blowback from North Fork politicians, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, I-Sag Harbor, joined the call for two separate East End Assembly districts.
Critics have said that, were the forks to be lumped into one district, North Fork interests would lose out to the South Fork when it comes to representation in Albany.
"The South Fork has always had a mightier voice than the North Fork in Albany," Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in January. "I'd rather the region continue to have two voices in the assembly. The East End has historically been represented by good people — why cut it down to one?"
Thiele said that while he believes the proposed district boundaries are nonpartisan, there is a strong sentiment in Southold that the town wants to be part of a contiguous Brookhaven-North Fork district. He said that while he would "enthusiastically" represent Southold in Albany, the redistricting plan must reflect the will of the people.
"The most important function of any elected official is to listen," Thiele said. "Therefore, I have urged the Task Force to modify the plan."
Thiele will join North Fork Assemblyman Dan Losquadro, R-Shoreham, and both Riverhead and Southold town boards in seeking modifications to the redistricting proposal.
All wish to establish a Brookhaven-North Fork district, including northeast Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southold, and a South Fork-Shelter Island-Brookhaven district that includes Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island and southeast Brookhaven.
“The North Fork and the South Fork have very different issues,” Losquadro said recently on the steps of Southold Town Hall. “Between intensive agricultural use and primary home ownership, the concerns facing residents of each fork vary greatly.
Suffolk County GOP Chair John Jay LaValle said he was encouraged to hear about Thiele's decision to support two East End Assembly districts, because the task force's recommended district lines would put the East End as a substantial disadvantage in Albany.
"Assembly districts are meant to offer more personal representation," LaValle said. "That first proposal is contrary to those concepts."
Thiele currently represents the South Fork and a few Brookhaven Town communities. Under the task force's current proposal to redraft district lines to be reflective of the 2010 Census, his new district boundaries would include the South Fork, Shelter Island and Southold.
Losquadro currently represents Southold, Riverhead and northeast Brookhaven. The task force proposes cutting Southold out and moving his district boundary west to Mt. Sinai.
The final plan in expected in the coming weeks, taking effect in time for the 2012 election.
With reporting by Joseph Pinciaro and Erin Schultz.
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