News Details - Redistricting Commission Hears City Comments
At its sixth meeting on September 27, the Tompkins County Independent Redistricting Commission listened to comments from City leaders concerning the reapportionment of County legislative districts. The meeting was the third conducted to provide municipal officials the opportunity to express concerns and suggestions regarding the redistricting process.
Those present included two members of the City’s Common Council—Dan Cogan (Fifth Ward), who chaired the City’s working group on the reapportionment process that led to an independent City redistricting committee, and Svante Myrik (Fourth Ward). Four members of the City of Ithaca Redistricting Committee also attended (Tom Frank, Chair, Cora Yao, Ed Strong, and Ruth Aslanis). Also there were Common Council candidate Seph Murtagh and current Fourth Ward Democratic Committee Chair John Marcham, who served on the County Legislature between 1967 and 1980, and on four redistricting committees.
Alderperson Cogan said there needs to be consistency in the wards and districts located in the City, and that there has been discussion of reducing the number of City districts from five to four, potentially with two alderpersons in each, or as an alternative having one each with remaining seats being at-large. Mr. Murtagh and Mr. Marcham also favor reducing the number of city districts to four, but do not support the incorporation of at-large seats. Mr. Marcham said four County districts could be split into eight city wards. One of the districts, he said, might be configured as a city-town district to make the population numbers work, and he advised that one of the county districts be made up of as many Cornell undergraduate and graduate students as possible, as one community of interest, to preserve the interests of permanent residents. Marcham also voiced support for a smaller, 13- or 14-member County Legislature.
Noting that he believes a form of student representation is needed in local government, Alderperson Myrik said he has seen his priorities shift as he has gone from student life to that of a permanent resident, that his perspective has broadened as a result of his running for City of Ithaca Mayor, and that he understands the concerns voiced by constituents in districts with high student population. He agreed that the County should try to separate permanent residents from student population areas as much as possible, due to the difference in priorities.
After hearing comments, Commission members began the process of reviewing maps displaying possible approaches to modifying current Legislative districts. They were shown three versions for a 15-member Legislature, two for a 14-member Legislature, and the map that has begun to be developed for a 13-member Legislature. Review took into account comments from previous meetings asking that the number of representatives for the Town of Ithaca be reduced, that villages boundaries be maintained, and that “sliver districts” be reduced, preserving neighborhoods of common interest. The committee asked that additional maps be prepared for review for a 13- and 16-member Legislature.
The Commission will continue its review Wednesday, October 19, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Department of Emergency Response Conference Room, 92 Brown Road.