Black History Month: Ken Jenkins plays pivotal role in NY's ongoing redistricting process

Ken Jenkins is known to many as Westchester's longtime deputy county executive. He added a new high-profile title to his resume in December: chairman of New York's independent redistricting commission.

News 12 Staff

Feb 16, 2023, 10:34 PM

Updated 494 days ago

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News 12 continues its celebration of Black History Month with a profile of a Westchester Democrat playing a pivotal role in the state's ongoing redistricting process.
Ken Jenkins is known to many Westchester voters as the county's longtime deputy county executive. He added a new high-profile title to his resume in December: chairman of New York's independent redistricting commission. 
The commission came under intense scrutiny last year after the state's legislative and congressional lines were tossed out and deemed unconstitutional. 
In his first TV interview as chairman, Jenkins did a post-mortem on the political roller coaster ride that was 2022.
"We probably just needed more time. Certainly, the court had an option. It didn't have to call in a special master to redraw the maps. They actually could have just said all right whatever amount of time it takes; we're just going to run on the old lines right now," he says. 
His first order of business since taking on the statewide leadership role was to oversee the draft of a new map for the state's 150 Assembly seats.
It was a task the panel completed "on time" before a Dec. 2 court deadline - in what Jenkins described as an intense bipartisan effort.
"For me, I really look at this as an opportunity to show how all of our folks can work together. Democrats and Republicans working together on a goal and to be able to get that done," he said. "We know we live in the world right now, we're on the partisanship is a divide and quite honestly that's not what needs to happen in this particular process."
Before they pitch their plan to the state Legislature for approval in April, Jenkins and his fellow appointees are crisscrossing the state, holding a dozen public hearings so they can make further tweaks based on input from the community. 
"So really this is on the public now, and I feel strongly to make sure that they all get a chance to be heard," he says. " I feel that we have a set of maps that people could work from. There's nothing that's perfect the first time around. We really did the best job we could to come up with a compromise...I think at the end of the day people will be pleased with the process - and nothing's going to be perfect, but their voices are going to be heard."
It's something that's not lost on Jenkins, especially during Black History Month. It's not only the historic nature of his appointment, but the overall representation he sees across state government.
"In statewide roles, whether it's Carl Heastie as the Assembly leader and Andrea Stewart-Cousins as the Senate leader, Tish James as the attorney general of the state of New York....Antonio Delgado ,who's the lieutenant governor of the state of New York,  it continues to show that there's been tremendous, tremendous progress made," he says. "And then we get reminded that there's still work to be done, whether it's with any one of our communities, whether it's about antisemitism, whether it's about anti-Asian hate, whether it's about racism straight up, we have lots of work to continue to do. And that's why I think this work is really important, because we have the diversity that's on our independent redistricting commission to be able to take both the concerns of the area that you live in as well as ethnic concerns to make sure that we're moving forward."  


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