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Albany’s reapportionment commission to hold first public hearing Thursday

Albany City Hall
Dave Lucas
/
WAMC
Albany City Hall

The Reapportionment Commission of the City of Albany, responsible for recommending changes to Common Council ward lines, will hold its first public hearing on Thursday.

Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census, all municipalities are required to redraw district lines. For Albany residents that means assigning new lines to the current Common Council wards that will make them as equal as possible, as determined by population. Shawn Morris chairs the Albany City Reapportionment Commission.

“So we're looking at districts that are about 6,700 people in each district," said Morris. "And you know, if you look at the current lines, then you'll find some that are around 6,000, even, you know, 5,800, and are as high as 7,000 or 7,500 people. So, each district has to be within 5%, deviation of that 67 and change number. And so we'll do our best to align those, change those lines, so that everything is as equal as possible. We're also required as we're looking at the census block numbers and where lines can shift, to consider maintaining communities of interest, as well as creating as many minority-majority districts as possible. That is in line with the Voting Rights Act that requires that we enhance the ability to create districts where minority members can be elected.”

Members of the public are invited to weigh in... "...about communities of interest, really, and how districts can be better aligned to enhance the ability of the people within that district to have a voice on what impacts that community the most," Morris said. "That can be environmental concerns. That can be education concerns. You know, I guess a good example, if we're going to talk about environmental concerns, is if you look at, like places in the South End or Arbor Hill that have poor air quality or, you know, as in the South End, the proximity to the port and the, you know, the trains, there may be a voice there that says, 'don't split us up,' don't, you know, because we have to draw a line somewhere, let's not draw it so that people who have very strong concerns are separated from each other and don't, can't, aren't speaking through that one voice."

Morris says the first of three planned meetings Thursday afternoon will be informational in nature. It will be livestreamed, feature experts who will discuss legal issues concerning redistricting, showcase the commission's goals and timetable, and present census numbers in relation to current districts. Later sessions will give residents a peek at the first draft of maps.

“The Common Council ultimately passes the districts in the form of a local law that makes them official," said Morris. "But we're also going to make ourselves available for other meetings and you know, access to the public in in a variety ways, we're still figuring out how those meetings will take place, whether they'll be online, which actually increases the ability of a lot of people to participate versus meetings in person, which somehow sometimes makes it easier to look at maps and hear what people are saying and interact in an obviously a more personal manner. “

Common Council President Corey Ellis expects ward redistricting to proceed smoothly.

"Well, normally, you know, when our when our City Council does a report we normally don't have an issue with so you know, normally it's the county lines that are redrawn, where the lawsuits seem to creep up," Ellis said. "But normally when we reapportion, we normally don't have issues when it comes to that process. So, you know, people, we encourage people to pay attention. I'm pretty sure the civic organizations will be paying attention because it's their interest to pay attention, because of what happens when it comes to reapportionment. And so we feel like, you know, we should be fine."

Morris encourages members of the public who would like to speak to register in advance in order to receive a link to the proceedings. Here is the registration link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUtc-Crpj4oG9QQ6qEPjRFBbKltorMe6BX9

Anyone wishing to submit written remarks may forward them to:

Reapportionmentcommission@albany.ny.gov

The hearing will be livestreamed at:

https://www.facebook.com/ReapportionmentCommission

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.