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Legislators Adopt 14-District Redistricting Plan

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Legislators Adopt 14-District Redistricting Plan

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
The Legislature, after more than two hours of careful deliberation, accepted the recommendation of the County's Independent Redistricting Committee and adopted a new Local Law that realigns the boundaries of County legislative districts based on the 2010 Census, culminating a nearly two-year-long process. The final vote was 10-5, with Legislators Carol Chock, Kathy Luz Herrera, Dooley Kiefer, Pam Mackesey, and Leslyn McBean-Clairborne voting no. The law reduces the number of legislative districts from 15-14, and the number of districts within the City of Ithaca from five to four.

Before the adoption vote, there was considerable discussion regarding a proposed amendment, advanced by Legislators Chock, Kiefer, and Mackesey that would have substituted an alternate 14-district option to align City districts differently, combining East Hill, Cornell, and South Hill in a single district, and would have directed staff to prepare a revised Local Law, to be put to another public hearing. Several City residents, including former County legislators, had advocated the alternate scenario at the public hearing two weeks ago. Proponents of the change maintained sentiments expressed at the hearing should be taken into account, and that the alternate would provide more balanced representation, had been supported by the City's redistricting committee, and at one point found adequate by the County Commission, though not its favored choice. The proposed amendment failed by a 6-9 margin; another proposal to send the matter back to the Redistricting Commission for further review (to follow procedure outlined in the Commission's charge) failed by a 7-8 vote. In making the redistricting decision, several urged that the Legislature stand by the independent process that it established.

In remarks to the Legislature before the votes, Commission Chair Hank Dullea told legislators the 14-district plan contained in the Local Law "was and is the Commission's preferred configuration of legislative boundaries within the City of Ithaca" and said it coordinates much better with the City's five wards, with only a few unique election districts that can be easily managed by the Board of Elections.

Many legislators--'including those who dissented in the final vote--'praised the Commission for its work. Legislature Chair Martha Robertson stated, "I want to congratulate the Commission, and I want to thank us. Debate is hard; there is no perfect system; this decision represents a tremendous amount of work by our volunteers and our staff, and we deeply appreciate it." Legislators Kiefer and McBean-Clairborne stressed that their votes in no way should be interpreted as critical of the Commission.