POUGHKEEPSIE – The Dutchess County Legislature was split along party lines last Monday night when considering reducing the number of legislators. The Republican-sponsored bill sought to ask voters to decide if the body will stay at 25 members or downsize to 21 districts that will be established by the Independent Reapportionment Commission, using the yet-to-be-released census data.
The 15 Republicans approved the plan while the 10 Democrats voted against the change.
In 1997, 69% of Dutchess voters approved a public referendum to decrease the size of the Legislature from 35 members to 25. Moving to a 21 member legislature would increase the size of a district to, depending on final census numbers, over 14,000 persons.
“I have brought up the topic of downsizing several times over the past few years and am glad to see the topic moving forward,” said Chairman Gregg Pulver. “More efficient government is in the best interest of our residents and voters acknowledged that pathway overwhelming in 1997. I think we will see widespread support this November. Due to census delays, the timing works well and it won’t interrupt our reapportionment process.”
Democrats railed against the plan, saying that reducing the number of lawmakers would have a negative impact on county residents. Legislator Craig Brendli (City of Poughkeepsie) said that increasing the size of the individual districts, which would increase the number of constituents in each district, would have a negative impact on the people in the districts. Legislator Barrington Atkins rebuked the GOP argument that widespread computer would help keep the increased constituency informed. Atkins, who represents the north side of the City of Poughkeepsie noted that not everyone, including those with lower incomes, do not have readily available access to the internet.