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Councilmembers Borelli and Carroll Could Become Rivals For Ward 4; Both Say Maneuver Is About Retaliation Over Term Limits Battle
By Tina Traster
If the Town of Clarkstown adopts a proposed redistricting map, the redrawn lines could have a musical chairs consequence. While two of the four wards would allow its incumbents to run again in a mostly familiar constituency, the elected council members of Wards One and Four could find themselves pushed together into the same ward to compete for a seat.
Councilmembers Patrick Carroll and Frank Borelli, who are impacted by this proposal, are angered over what they say is Supervisor George Hoehmann’s attempt to squeeze Borelli out of Ward One, which he has represented for eight years since the ward district lines were established. The two councilmembers say town officials had been working on several renditions of a new map to adhere to the updated 2020 census figures but that this latest map came as a surprise and disrupts the town’s political representation.
The latest map, drawn by Skyline Consulting of Schenectady, extends Ward One to the north but it also shifts the boundary to the east. By doing so, it excises Borelli’s residence at 12 East Cavalry Drive in New City out of the ward and pushes him into Carroll’s territory or Ward Four. To take office, a council member must live in the ward that they represent.
Clarkstown plans to hold a public hearing on Feb. 7 on the proposal to redistrict the wards. The council does not need to hold a public referendum, nor does the vote require a supermajority.
Carroll says the introduction of this map has come as a surprise. Three other maps, that would leave ward representation intact, have been considered since last May.
“After the recent Census, the Supervisor presented the board with three maps which would have adjusted the ward lines to equalize populations,” said Carroll. “It was clear at the time that the lines as they currently stand are still acceptable (within a 5 percent deviation.)”
Every ten years, municipalities must divide the voting population within a 5 percent deviation. Each of Clarkstown’s wards, which together total a population of 86,912, must ideally have a population of 21,728, according to Skyline Consulting.
But Carroll says the redrawn lines are being gerrymandered to bounce him or Borelli off the town council at a time when the council members are at odd over term limits.
“In the midst of the legal battle by Hoehmann to repeal term limits, and Borelli’s and my desire to seek a neutral party to defend the town, Hoehmann provided a map that would pit Councilman Borelli and I against one another.”
Tensions are running high in Clarkstown.
Hoehmann and Councilman of Ward 3 Don Franchino are suing the town to do away with term limits. Judge Amy Puerto in Rockland County Supreme Court last Monday allowed the case that is challenging the legal validity of term limits in the Town of Clarkstown to move forward but did not rule on whether the town attorney should be disqualified from the case because he either has or might have a conflict of interest.
Councilmembers Borelli and Carroll believe they have legally hired outside counsel to represent the town in the term limits lawsuit, but town attorney Kevin Conway argues they did not have the right to retain outside council. Conway told Puerto he’s representing the town.
The judge has yet to rule but did question Conway on the “appearance of a conflict” given that he serves as the pleasure of the town board.
Also on Monday, the judge adhered to plaintiff’s attorney Robert Spolzino request, who asked the case to proceed because of the tight deadline Hoehmann faces in collecting signatures for the upcoming election. Spolzino told the judge that petitions to run for town elected offices must be filed by the first week in April but that petitioning begins on Feb. 28th.
How the lawsuit plays out will have a direct impact on the 2023 election. If term limits are tossed, Hoehmann will have secured a path to run again. And so will Borelli. But who, if the map is drawn as proposed, would have to run in Ward 1 along with Carroll. Borelli is a Republican; Carroll is a Democrat. Neither Michael Graziano nor Don Franchino is affected by term limits in the upcoming election or by the redistricting.
If term limits hold, and the judge decides they remain the law, Hoehmann will be unable to run again. Borelli, too, would be unable to run in Ward 4 but he could toss his hat in the ring for the Supervisor’s race.
“The map that the Supervisor sent to the board last week for consideration at the February 7th public hearing is clearly designed to remove either Councilman Carroll or myself, as we would be residing in the same ward,” said Borelli. “Politics at its worse. The Supervisor could not be more obvious in his intent. Two weeks after we disagreed with him on term limits , there is suddenly a new map, on an issue not discussed since last May. I just hope the other Councilman will not blindly follow this improper action.”