The long sought after meeting of the New Rochelle City Council and the Concerned Citizens Redistricting Committee was finally held on April 26. The Republicans also presented their plan. Both plans drew criticism from some Democrats on Council.
Mark McLean, Chairman of the New Rochelle Concerned Citizens Redistricting Committee, reminded everyone that Ronald Williams, President of the NAACP, wanted this independent Citizens Committee on redistricting to
>>> be formed and that the idea had received overwhelming support in the
>>> community.. The City Council had previously refused to use this independent citizens committee for redistricting. This Committee’s nonpartisan objective was to put the people first, not to split election districts, and to create contiguous districts. McLean said he was “proud of what the committee accomplished.” Former Mayor Len Paduano, said the committee doesn’t support the Republican or the Democratic plan. Their plan came up with a “greater number of Blacks in D. 3.” Former Assemblyman Ron Tocci suggested as an alternative solution having only two minority districts and electing the other council members at large. As other suggestions were made about ways to configure districts, Mayor Bramson said his “attention and patience” were waning.
McLean added that in the previous Court decision by Judge Brieant, the standard for the minority district was set historically at 50%. Council member Marianne Sussman after this presentation and before the Republican redistricting plan was discussed, said, “The truth is everyone who worked on this plan had difficulty.” It is not a choice between good and bad.
When Councilman Richard St. Paul presented the Republican redistricting plan he addressed the involvement of the City’s consultant, Andrew Beveridge, in the original lawsuit saying that original plan was rejected. Citing a voting rights act which protected District 3, he read a pertinent section of the New Rochelle City Charter:
“The New Rochelle City Charter requires that the Council Districts “shall be of substantially equal population, of convenient and
contiguous territory, in as compact a form as practical and shall therefore
>>> be reapportioned by the Council every ten years on the basis of the Decennial Census figures published by the Bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce.” Judge Charles I. Brieant U.S.D.C. 12/10/03
Goals in the Republican plan for establishing districts were to achieve population equality, contiguous territory, fair representation of minority groups (District 3 for Blacks and Districts 1 and 4 for Latinos),
>>> and compactness and maintenance of communities of interest. Continuing St. Paul said in the Republican plan District 3 was 50% Afro-Americans and in District 2 an increased number of Latinos were included. The use of the CVAP (Citizens Voting Age Population) instead of the VAP (Voting Age Population) which was used by Beveridge was discussed. According to the Republicans, CVAP has a great deal of error and is cited
in the city’s previous case law. Councilman Jared Rice asked if there was any case law after 2009, then read a Port Chester case ruling
>>> and criticized St. Paul for not using it. Councilman St. Paul answered that
>>> Port Chester uses at-large voting and not districts and the case was not pertinent. St. Paul stated that Judge Brieant had acknowledged the standard is whether a minority group has the chance to elect their chosen candidate. St. Paul then said he felt the Democratic plan with an 44% minority for District 3 violated the voting rights act, Rice stated the City has a population of 18.7% Afro-Americans and asked if any other district in New Rochelle (besides 3) has this amount. Further he felt the
Republicans by placing so many Afro-Americans in District 3 had caused “under representation of them in other districts.” St. Paul explained that the single standard is not whether whether Blacks can build a coalition, but whether they can elect a candidate. Mayor Bramson felt that Rice’s view was
>>> important and that once you have crossed the threshold and you keep adding more and more Blacks in District 3, you are “diminishing the Afro-American’s ability to influence elsewhere.” After the meeting Councilman Lou Trangucci said the Democratic redistricting plan was presented to the New Rochelle web site and PATCH
before the Republican Council members received it. Bramson is creating his\ own time table so he can have the districts finished before the election. The Democrats are using the Spanish opportunity district with the aim of having a fifth seat on the Council. There will be no checks and balances
>>> because the Democrats will have a super majority. For their next voting meeting, the City Council has two resolutions, one sponsored by the four Democrats on Council requesting
>>> their redistricting plan and the other by the three Republicans requesting their plan. The public hearing on May 3 was to allow for comment on these (or as Mayor Bramson stated) on any plan. There were a number of speakers, several of whom identified themselves as Democratic District Leaders, who spoke in favor of the Democratic plan. The Rev. Paul Allen Weaver favored the Democratic plan which he said included 51% of the voting age minority population in District 3.
The Chairman of the New Rochelle Republican City Committee, Doug Colety, emphasized legal issues had to be addressed and that the Democrats’
>>> plan is placing the City in “harms way.” He urged the City Council to create
>>> another plan. Several members of Residence Park spoke. Their Co-President, Lisa Davis, urged that any approved plan should avoid a lawsuit.
McLean in expressing opposition to the Democratic Plan said the
estimated voter totals being used have a high margin of error. He added it was “unwise” to spend money on a lawyer, referring to Randolph McLaughlin, who had been approved before the meeting to look into the plans.
In the May 12, 2011 issue of the Westchester Guardian