NEW YORK—The process of tweaking district lines based on population growth and demographic changes in the city has been the subject of much criticism.
Now the New York City Districting Commission has, under pressure from some elected officials and good government groups, agreed to withdraw the maps it has submitted so more public input can be incorporated, according to Crain’s.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn wants the lines changed because she said that the new lines would allow Assemblyman Vito Lopez an easier path to run for a City Council position. Lopez has been, along with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, embroiled in the payoff of two female staffers who accused Lopez of sexual harassment.
“I am requesting in the strongest possible terms that the commission withdraw its submission to the council to receive additional input from the public,” Quinn wrote in the Nov. 29 letter, which has been published online. She then wrote that a resubmission of the new lines would happen later, after more public input.
Now Benito Romano, chairman of the Districting Commission, has told Quinn in a letter of response that the commission will abide by her request.
Romano said that since the City Council might not return the districting plan to the commission before the Dec. 10 deadline, he will call a commission meeting in which it will withdraw the plan and work on putting together a new one.
Romano added in the letter, which is also published online, that he has received “preliminary advice” from the city’s law department, but is waiting for “final confirmation” before calling the meeting.
Council members are publicly involved in giving feedback to the commission in regard to new lines, which has led to places within the new map that are being scrutinized more closely.
Common Cause New York, a government watchdog group, says that one problem is that the Bronx would have as many council seats as Manhattan, a discrepancy considering there are approximately 200,000 more people in Manhattan based on 2010 census figures.
Other areas the group outlined in a release that are wrong include the East Harlem District 8 being shifted too much and Randall’s Island, which sits between the Upper East Side, East Harlem and Astoria, being shifted to be part of a district with the latter when “There is no question that Randall’s Island has a much closer association with the community of East Harlem than with Astoria,” Common Cause states in the release.
Meanwhile, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio on Friday introduced a new law that he says would introduce transparency into the redistricting process.
“We just witnessed a district being redrawn to pave the way for a serial sexual harasser to stay in elected office,” de Blasio, a contender for the 2013 mayoral race, said in a statement, referring to Lopez. “That’s just wrong. Voters deserve a real democratic process.”
The law proposes publicly documenting all communication, including phone calls and meetings, between elected officials or their staff with Districting Commission members and staff and publishing said communication on the commission’s website.
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