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Redistricting Commission Listens to Municipal Input

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Redistricting Commission Listens to Municipal Input

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
In the first of two sessions seeking input from municipal leaders, the County's Redistricting Commission on Tuesday heard from two Town Supervisors concerning how the apportionment of County legislative districts could affect their municipalities.

Ithaca Town Supervisor Herb Engman, whose town's representation is currently split among seven County legislators, urged that his town's population be reapportioned differently in the plan based on the 2010 Census that the Commission will recommend. Calling the current arrangement "problematic," Engman told the Commission he would like to see "fewer representatives and bigger districts," and asked that the Commission stay away from "sliver districts," where a bit of the Town's population is combined with a larger district from an adjacent municipality to make population variance among districts fall within the required limits. He also advised that villages, as part of towns, should be "considered as a whole with the town," instead of being split between districts to make the numbers work.

Commission member Eric Lerner said he expects that configuring Town of Ithaca districts will probably be a significant challenge when the commission needs to "borrow population" to equalize population among districts in contiguous municipalities. Under the County's Standards of Reapportionment, population among districts must vary by no more than 10% from the ideal of 6,771. The Town of Ithaca shares borders with nearly all the county's other towns.

Enfield Town Supervisor Roy Barriere said that the long-standing practice of splitting his town's population between two legislative districts--'one combined with Newfield, the other with Ulysses--' appears to work well. One of those legislators, Jim Dennis, who represents part of Enfield and Ulysses, said the arrangement works well between him and fellow legislator Dave McKenna and observed that the Town of Enfield achieves pretty broad representation from the current arrangement.

Legislator Peter Stein, who represents District 11 in the Town of Ithaca, said that preserving "communities of interest" is crucial for any reapportionment plan, and he urged that the Commission make that a priority over achieving as close to no population deviation as possible.

Commission member Margaret Hobbie commented that, based on what County legislators said at the commission's last session, she believes the Legislature should stay as close to its current size as possible, varying by no more than one fewer or one greater than the current 15 members.

The commission holds a second input session, for municipal officials and the public, at the Varna Community Center on August 23, beginning at 5:30 p.m., and expects to schedule a similar session in the City of Ithaca next month.