Pittsburgh City Council bickers over redistricting proposal

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Proposed changes to Pittsburgh City Council's reapportionment plan brought criticism Wednesday from three council members who said colleagues sprung the revisions on them without any warning and disregarded the need for public input.

The proposed changes include shifting two Beechview precincts from Theresa Kail-Smith's district back to Natalia Rudiak's and shifting a pair of Oakland-area precincts between Bruce Kraus and Bill Peduto.

Some of the changes have political overtones.

For example, in the 2009 Democratic primary, Ms. Rudiak lost the two Beechview voting districts -- Ward 19, District 12 and Ward 20, District 2 -- that a majority of her colleagues now want to shift back to her. About 240 people voted in the precincts in that primary.

Ms. Kail-Smith, Council President Darlene Harris and members Ricky Burgess, R. Daniel Lavelle and Patrick Dowd voted to incorporate the proposed changes into the reapportionment plan; Mr. Kraus, Mr. Peduto, Ms. Rudiak and Corey O'Connor voted no.

Council then decided to postpone a vote on the revised plan for one week. The four dissenters may use the time to sway at least one more member to their side.

Ms. Rudiak, Mr. Peduto and Mr. Kraus complained that the proposed changes introduced by Ms. Kail-Smith came without notice in the middle of a committee meeting. Mr. Peduto said he's open to amending the reapportionment plan, but was not happy to realize that some council members had been discussing changes privately and keeping others in the dark.

Redistricting occurs after the census every 10 years so the nine council districts have a roughly equal number of residents, this time about 34,000.

Each council member appointed one representative to an advisory committee, which released a preliminary plan last summer and held a series of public hearings before submitting the final plan to council.

Council has the authority to make changes -- small or large -- before approving a final plan by year's end.

The advisory committee's plan shifted the two Beechview precincts from Ms. Rudiak's district to Ms. Kail-Smith's and gave Ms. Rudiak a larger slice of Carrick at Mr. Kraus' expense. The amendments would return the Beechview precincts to Ms. Rudiak, who faces re-election next year, and give her less of Carrick than the advisory committee's plan did.

Mr. Burgess said Ms. Kail-Smith believed that the advisory committee's plan redrew her district unnecessarily and asked that the Beechview precincts be given back to Ms. Rudiak. He said the return of those precincts created domino-like demographic shifts that required other changes to the advisory committee's plan.

But Mr. Burgess said the majority is following proper procedure.


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


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