Common Council Approves Maps Proposed by Syracuse City Redistricting Commission

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The Municipal Council of Syracuse past the redistricting map proposed by the City of Syracuse Redistricting Commission in a 5-4 vote Monday. The new quarters will come into effect next year.

District councilors at large who represent the city as a whole — Rasheada Caldwell, Michael Greene, Amir Gethers and Rita Paniagua — collectively voted yes. District Councilors Latoya Allen, Patrick Hogan, Jennifer Schultz and Chol Majok all voted no. Jimmy Monto, who was recently swornwas the only district councilor to vote yes.

The redistricting commission, which is made up of fifteen independent volunteer citizens, began working on the redistricting process in March this year. Group commissioner Jason Belge said the division of the common council between district councilors and general councilors in the vote reflected political differences.

“We really wanted to keep it bipartisan, but, of course, with politics you tend to see self-interest trump public interest,” Belge said.

Belge and the commission held 12 community meetings between March and July to gather public feedback on the maps throughout the process. The commission also aimed to keep neighborhoods and communities together in the new map, Belge said.

Hogan said the commission should have included nine districts instead of five to better represent the large number of distinct communities in Syracuse. He also felt that the redistricting process itself was unnecessary.

“(The) redistricting is probably one of the most insignificant things I voted for, basically it doesn’t really change much,” Hogan said in an interview with The Daily Orange. “It really didn’t do much for the average voter in town, it really doesn’t change their lives one iota.”

Belge said each of the five new districts had about 29,900 people. In the new map, the University Hill neighborhood of Syracuse University will be in District 3, along with the neighborhoods of University District, SU South Campus, Outer Comstock, Meadowbrook, and Westcott. Previously, the SU zone was in District 4.

The boundary between Districts 3 and 4, which separates the SU area from the Southside neighborhood, is aligned with the I-81 freeway. Belge said the commission was using the highway as a “natural barrier” to divide the two.

District 4 is a majority-minority constituency with a majority of black voters. The total black population of voting age in District 4 is about 54%, Belge said.

“When we went to break it down to make sure these districts were proportional, this Southside district … almost created itself,” he added.

Schultz expressed concern about the majority-minority district during the council meeting. She cited repeated voter concerns about the district and suggested boundary changes in the Fifth District.

“I feel like (the majority-minority district is) an unresolved issue that really needs more attention,” Schultz said at the meeting.

District 1, which is on the north side of Syracuse, will include the Northside, Washington Square and Near Northeast neighborhoods. On the west side, near Onondaga Lake and the Destiny Mall, District 2 will encompass Downtown, Lakefront, Tipperary Hill, Skunk City, Strathmore, Elmwood and all Westside neighborhoods. The northeast area is designated as District 5 and includes Sedgwick, Lincoln Park, Salt Springs, Eastwood and Near Eastside.

The commission used census data to draw the district to keep communities with similar demographics together and therefore amplify their voices through the vote, Belge said.

Allen expressed concern that the district lines were not accurate for the actual communities and said the vote should have been in the hands of the people of Syracuse, not the Common Council.

“We’re not going to go out of our way and have odd ball shaped neighborhoods, but contiguous shapes and sizes created with natural boundaries,” Belge said. “If there’s a predominantly black neighborhood, say on the south side, we thought it was important not to break that up.”

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