Northeast Times

City Council’s new boundaries are taking shape

All in­dic­a­tions are that City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill will be get­ting the short end of the stick in Coun­cil’s in­creas­ingly con­tro­ver­sial re­dis­trict­ing pro­cess.

But the eight-term in­cum­bent in the Far North­east’s 10th dis­trict — who also is the lone Re­pub­lic­an among the city’s 10 dis­trict Coun­cil mem­bers — ex­hib­ited re­l­at­ive in­dif­fer­ence when asked Fri­day about the newly pro­posed bound­ar­ies.

O’Neill said he could “live with” either of the two pro­posed dis­trict maps, which were in­tro­duced to Coun­cil last Thursday in sep­ar­ate bills. The coun­cil­man ac­know­ledged that one of the pro­pos­als would be bet­ter for him polit­ic­ally than the oth­er.

Yet, each map has his dis­trict mov­ing farther in­to the 56th Ward, a ter­rit­ory cov­er­ing Rhawn­hurst, Bell’s Corner and por­tions of Bustleton and Burholme. The ward has a strong ma­jor­ity of Demo­crats and an in­flu­en­tial Demo­crat­ic lead­er in John Sabat­ina Sr.

A fi­nal Coun­cil vote on the is­sue is still pos­sible by next Thursday, Sept. 22, O’Neill said. The new dis­tricts would take ef­fect dur­ing the next mu­ni­cip­al elec­tion year in 2015.

Ac­cord­ing to Phil­adelphia’s Home Rule Charter, Coun­cil dis­tricts must be re­drawn every 10 years to re­flect shifts in pop­u­la­tion doc­u­mented in the U.S. census. Each dis­trict should con­tain one-tenth of the city’s res­id­ents. In the 2010 census, the total pop­u­la­tion was 1,526,006. But geo­graph­ic­ally, there was a shift in the pop­u­la­tion away from the west­ern and north­west­ern dis­tricts to the east­ern and north­east­ern.

In ad­di­tion to bal­an­cing the pop­u­la­tions of the dis­tricts, Coun­cil this year sought to con­sol­id­ate two sprawl­ing, in­con­gru­ous dis­tricts, the 5th and 7th, that had been ger­ry­mandered in pre­vi­ous remap­ping ef­forts.

Un­der the cur­rent map, the 7th dis­trict stretches from its tra­di­tion­al cen­ter in North Phil­adelphia and Kens­ing­ton well in­to the North­east to in­clude a por­tion of the 56th Ward. O’Neill also has a por­tion of the 56th, as does Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski in the 6th dis­trict.

A work­ing com­mit­tee of Coun­cil Pres­id­ent Anna Ver­na and Coun­cil mem­bers Mari­an Tasco, Dar­rell Clarke and Maria Quinones-Sanc­hez, along with O’Neill, for­mu­lated one of the newly pro­posed maps. Coun­cil­men Frank Di­Cicco and James Ken­ney cre­ated the al­tern­ate pro­pos­al.

The fu­ture of the 56th Ward is the key dif­fer­ence. In the Ver­na-Tasco map, the largely Demo­crat­ic ward would be split between O’Neill’s 10th dis­trict and the 6th dis­trict, a seat long held by Demo­crat Kra­jew­ski, who will re­tire in Janu­ary. Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ee Bobby Hen­on is favored to de­feat Re­pub­lic­an Sandra Stew­art in the Nov. 8 elec­tion to suc­ceed Kra­jew­ski.

In the Di­Cicco-Ken­ney map, O’Neill’s dis­trict would in­clude the en­tire 56th Ward, a scen­ario that would add many more Demo­crat­ic voters in­to the Re­pub­lic­an-held dis­trict. Fur­ther, in the Di­Cicco-Ken­ney pro­pos­al, O’Neill would lose about a dozen di­vi­sions that he now rep­res­ents in the 57th Ward, as well as one di­vi­sion in the 65th Ward.

The bills do not spe­cify dis­trict pop­u­la­tion pro­jec­tions. While a vari­ance of no more than 5 per­cent from the “ideal” of 152,601 is the stated goal, the dis­tricts may vary by up to 9 per­cent, O’Neill has said.

Un­der the cur­rent dis­trict bound­ar­ies, O’Neill’s dis­trict has 1.5 per­cent more people than the ideal, while Kra­jew­ski’s has 8.6 per­cent. Di­Cicco’s 1st dis­trict is the most pop­u­lous, 9.7 per­cent above the ideal, while Donna Reed-Miller’s 8th dis­trict in the city’s North­w­est is 9 per­cent un­der­pop­u­lated.

Ac­cord­ing to O’Neill, the maps were to be dis­cussed pub­licly at a Coun­cil com­mit­tee hear­ing on Sept. 14, after the Times went to press. Full Coun­cil hear­ings are sched­uled for Sept. 15 and Sept. 22. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or bkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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