In final vote, Pittsburgh City Council approves reapportionment plan

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Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval today to a reapportionment plan that affects 25 of the city's 402 voting precincts.

Council approved the reapportionment plan despite last-minute opposition from Stanton Heights residents, who said they learned only days ago that the plan splits their neighborhood between two council districts -- those of Councilmen Ricky Burgess and Patrick Dowd. Right now, Mr. Dowd represents the entire neighborhood.

Redrawing of the nine council districts occurs after each census to account for population shifts.

The reapportionment plan went through several iterations. Under the final version, 25 voting districts in 12 neighborhoods will be shifted from one council district to another.

"We have tried to do the best job that we can .... Redistricting is never easy," council President Darlene Harris said.

Neighborhoods typically seek to avoid being split by the reapportionment process.

Council members Natalia Rudiak and Theresa Kail-Smith said they were sorry to learn of the Stanton Heights' residents concerns. Ms. Kail-Smith said, however, that multiple council members can mean extra political clout for a neighborhood.

In a letter Monday, officers of the Stanton Heights Community Organization complained about the proposal to shift four precincts in that neighborhood from District 7, represented by Patrick Dowd, to District 9, represented by Ricky Burgess.

Voting precincts are identified by two numbers, the first representing the ward and the second the precinct. The Stanton Heights precincts to be shifted to Mr. Burgess are 10-12, 10-13, 10-14 and 10-15.

"We're asking that you change this plan so that we remain in District 7," said the residents' letter, hand-delivered Monday and signed by Jean Bryant, the organization's president, and Joyce Meggerson-Moore, the vice president. "We were not duly notified of this plan, and we vehemently oppose it."

Reapportionment must occur after each census so ensure that the nine council districts contain a roughly equal number of residents and meet other state and federal criteria. Pittsburgh officials also approached reapportionment with the goal of maintaining the two council districts -- 6, represented by R. Daniel Lavelle, and 9 -- with a majority black population.

A nine-member advisory committee proposed a preliminary reapportionment plan in June, held a series of public hearings and made modifications before presenting the final plan to council in October. Council made its own changes last week before setting up today's final vote on the plan, which will affect some council races next year.

The proposed shift of the four Stanton Heights precincts has been on the table since June.

Mr. Dowd said he was pleased with the work he had done in Stanton Heights and did not want to lose part of the neighborhood.

Because of population gain since the last census, District 8, represented by Bill Peduto must lose the most residents under reapportionment. Because of population loss, Mr. Burgess' district must gain the most.

Some residents complained about the proposals made at various points in the reapportionment process and had their concerns resolved to their satisfaction.

Others weren't as fortunate.

Central North Side residents lost their fight to keep their neighborhood intact. The 22-2 precinct is scheduled to move from Mr. Lavelle's district to District 1, represented by council President Darlene Harris, as part of efforts to maintain Mr. Lavelle's majority-black districts.

Under the plan voted on today, Mr. Peduto ceded the 8-3, 8-4 and 8-7 precincts in Bloomfield to Mr. Dowd. Mr. Peduto also ceded the 8-9 precinct in East Liberty and the 8-11 precinct in Friendship to Mr. Dowd and the 4-6 precinct in West Oakland to Mr. Lavelle. Mr. Peduto picked up the 14-21 precinct in Squirrel Hill from Corey O'Connor.

In addition to the four Stanton Heights precincts, Mr. Burgess picked up the 11-5 and 11-17 precincts in East Liberty from Mr. Dowd.

Mr. Lavelle ceded the 2-2 precinct in the Strip District to Mr. Dowd. That precinct includes the site of the proposed Buncher Co. project that Mr. Dowd already has challenged.

Mr. Lavelle also ceded the 4-2, 4-5 and 4-16 precincts in Oakland to District 3, represented by Bruce Kraus.

In addition, Mr. Lavelle ceded the Central North Side precinct and the 22-1 and 22-3 precincts in Allegheny West to Mrs. Harris. Mr. Lavelle picked up the 26-1 and 26-4 precincts in Perry South from Mrs. Harris and the 5-9 precinct, taking in part of Oakland and the Hill District, from Mr. Dowd.

Mr. Kraus ceded the 29-8 and 29-11 districts in Carrick to Natalia Rudiak.

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Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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