After listening to more municipal input tonight, members of the County’s independent redistricting commission reached informal consensus on where they will begin their work toward preparing a plan to reapportion County legislative districts.
Chair Hank Dullea recommended, and members agreed, that the Commission will first ask staff to prepare two draft scenarios as a starting point for consideration— one that would keep the Legislature at its current size of 15 members and another that would reduce it to a 14-member body. Chair Dullea observed that a 14-member Legislature would appear to set the size of each district as roughly the same as City of Ithaca districts, were the City to opt to reduce its wards from five to four. (The City has not yet made any decision on how to configure its districts.)
Other principles informally accepted for initial scenarios include minimizing the occurrence of “sliver districts,” keeping villages whole, and reducing “sliver districts” affecting the Town of Ithaca.
Commission member John Gutenberger suggested the Commission also examine the possibility of a 16-member Legislature. Considering population changes between the 2000 and 2010 Census, Gutenberger observed that a 15-member Legislature would increase the number of people represented by each legislator from about 6,400 to 6,700, a 14-member Legislature would increase that number even more, but a 16-member Legislature would keep the number of people each legislator would represent at about the current 6,400.
Since the County Charter permits a Legislature of 11-19 members, Commission member Eric Lerner said he would be interested in seeing an initial tabulation documenting how the population numbers would split with each of those sizes. And he suggested the Commission should look into whether any research has been done on whether an odd or even number of legislators affects the functioning of a county legislative body.
Ithaca Town Supervisor Herb Engman and Deputy Supervisor Bill Goodman again spoke of the representation challenges in their town, observing that much of the town is split among three hills—East Hill, West Hill, and South Hill—and asked that those geographic areas be kept together, as communities of interest for County legislative districts, as much as possible. Often, they said, geographic identification for residents can surpass strict municipal boundaries. Although the Town engages in considerable intermunicipal cooperation with the City, Engman and Goodman said there can at times be conflicting interests and differences of opinion on how they relate to the County Legislature.
Chair Dullea reported the City of Ithaca Mayor Carolyn Peterson has also asked him to serve on the City’s Redistricting Committee, which begins work August 29. The County Redistricting Commission will next ask for comment from City officials and the public, at a session to take place September 27, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Common Council Chambers of Ithaca City Hall, 108 E. Green Street.