YONKERS — City Council Democrats are pushing back against Republican charges of gerrymandering.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Democratic Council President Chuck Lesnick with Councilmen Christopher Johnson and Michael Sabatino urged “Republicans to engage in constructive debate rather than create hysteria” over their redistricting plan.
The statement comes after Democrats, who enjoy a 4-to-3 majority on the council, released a plan to redraw the boundaries of the city’s six council districts in a way that Republicans charge is “blatantly designed” to weaken GOP political control in Yonkers.
“I would hope that my Republican colleagues stop fanning the flames where there is no fire,” Johnson said today.
“For them to now accuse the council’s Democratic Caucus of gerrymandering is ridiculous and reeks of hypocrisy, when the boundaries that the city is currently using are clearly partisan,” he continued. “My colleagues and I have merely proposed a plan and expect their input — something Democrats never got the opportunity to do when Republicans controlled this Council.”
Republican Councilmen John Larkin, Dennis Shepherd and Mike Breen plan to hold a press conference Thursday to introduce an “anti-gerrymandering” resolution in response to the Democratic plan.
To read the full statement click below.
YONKERS CITY COUNCIL MAJORITY TO REPUBLICANS ON REDISTRICTING:
“Stop Fanning the Flames Where There is no Fire”
Yonkers, New York: January 30, 2013 – In response to continued false assumptions by Council Republicans that the Democratic Majority has proposed a Redistricting plan that gerrymanders Council districts, the Council’s Democrats today urged Republicans to engage in constructive debate rather than create hysteria.
Redistricting is the process of drawing legislative district boundaries by roughly equal population and is mandated by state and federal law to comply with the reported statistical data obtained through the US Census conducted every ten years.
The Council Majority took the first step last week when it released their proposed map to Republicans and the media for public comment and input. The criteria used by the Democrats was to create a map that fully complies with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by continuing the 40% African-American representation in the 1st District and the 65% Latino representation in the 2nd District which remain heavily Democratic by virtue of enrollment patterns. It also reduces the “finger-areas” that separated neighborhoods for decades, and preserves, where practicable, communities of interest.
The Council has scheduled an Intergovernmental Committee meeting for February 19 to initially discuss the redistricting plan with the Council’s redistricting consultant, Phillip Chonigman. Following that meeting, the proposed plan can be modified to meet concerns and be re-presented to the public after which it will sit for eight days. The public will have a second opportunity to comment on the plan (once revised) at a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting before the entire City Council votes.
Councilmember Christopher Johnson (D-1st District) said, “I would hope that my Republican colleagues stop fanning the flames where there is no fire. For them to now accuse the Council’s Democratic Caucus of gerrymandering is ridiculous and reeks of hypocrisy, when the boundaries that the City is currently using are clearly partisan. My colleagues and I have merely proposed a plan and expect their input, something Democrats never got the opportunity to do when Republicans controlled this Council.”
Councilmember Michael Sabatino (D-3rd District) commented, “It is ironic that the Republicans are raising concerns over my new proposed district, when they themselves told me that the existing one was so gerrymandered. This resulted after decades of their past redistricting decisions. My new proposed 3rd district eliminates many broken up neighborhoods and major streets reuniting the diverse communities into one council district.”
City Council President Chuck Lesnick remarked, “Our consultant, whose hiring was agreed to by the Republicans, proposed a smart plan based on empirical data collected that also measures the reality of an increasingly Democratic base that can vote either way, as has been the history in Yonkers. My hope is that the Republicans cease their character assassinations and work with us to create district lines that are legal, reflective of the fast changing Yonkers population and reduce costs of elections for the taxpayers of Yonkers.”
To map the districts in an impartial manner, the City Council last year hired consultant Phillip Chonigman of GeoPolitical Strategies to redraw the Council’s six legislative districts (each represents approximately 33,000 residents) in a city of some 197,000.
The Democratic plan released last weekend to the Council’s Republicans presents a new map with very tight population equality, with total deviation of under 3% (+/- 1.5%). It eliminates gerrymandering, provides equal representation to the City’s minority residents and maintains the two current districts, one with a Latino majority and the other with a strong African-American plurality, and positions a third district for minority opportunity status within the decade should demographic trends in the city continue.
The new plan also preserves communities of interest to the extent practicable, including the enhancement of a Bronx border district that will help to pull the common interest of those border communities together, while reducing the number of “finger-areas” that intertwine from one district into the heart of another.