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Tensions high over redistricting at Common Council

February 22, 2013

The Pine Hills is currently located in the 10th Ward

by Kelly Pfeister

Emotions ran high as redistricting became the main discussion of the meeting Thursday after what was described as a “ruckus in the caucus,” by Tim Carney, a resident of Delaware Avenue. Several Albany city council members, including Leah Golby, of Ward 10, and Anton Konev, of Ward 11, as well as members of the community, voiced their opposing opinions about the new district lines.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was decided by a vote of 10 to five that the new districts set by the  Reapportionment Commission would not be changed.

During the public comments section, several residents spoke about their dissatisfaction with the redistricting. One city resident told the council that if the redistricting were to happen, that a change in wards six and seven would result in residents being “geographically, emotionally, physically isolated from the seventh ward as a large section of Lincoln Park would slice it off between our neighborhood and the rest of the seventh ward,” said Daryl McGrath, a sixth ward resident and professor at The University at Albany.

Golby expressed concern about redistricting as well, specifically a part of the Park South and ward 10. She said that those who were in the current Park South portion of the 10th ward had been redistricted into the 9th ward – a ward that is different from Park South. Golby said that it is not about what ward it is, but rather about the community being broken up.

Washington Park is currently in Ward 6.

Council member Anton Konev, was also concerned about the separation. “If the ward is voted as is, I would be fine,” he said. However, “the neighborhoods are going to be split, residential states are going to be split.” He also said that his opposition is about keeping the neighborhoods together, and that if the deviation, which is how the Reapportionment Commission decides how to divide the wards, was changed, then the council could have fulfilled the wishes of city residents.

Council members Leah Golby, Catherine Fahey, Lester Freeman, Anton Konev, Michael O’Brian, James Sano, and Barbara Smith sent a letter to the Council on February 20 requesting that the Council Operations and Ethics Committee look over the redistricting map made by the Reapportionment Commission. The seven council members said that none of the wards’ population deviations were more than 1.41 percent. But even these small population deviations can “cut up” neighborhoods, according to A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting, written by Justin Levitt and Erika L. Wood, which was referenced in the letter.

Morris Street is currently part of Ward 10

Morris Street is currently part of Ward 10

Redistricting is not an easy task, said Council member Richard Conti, of ward six. He voted to approve the redistricting. He explained that it is difficult for the eight members of the Reapportionment Commission to agree. Conti told the other council members that they all have to move forward and put a plan in place. He said that he knows the plans aren’t perfect, but the council members have to adjust.-30-

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