Government
2:54 am
Thu November 29, 2012

City Council Divided over Proposed Change to Council District Map

Pittsburgh City Council voted 5-4 on Wednesday to approve a controversial amendment to the Council District map proposed by the Reapportionment Advisory Commission (RAC) earlier this fall.

After half an hour of heated discussion, a slim majority passed the revision, which shifts around several wards in order to maintain the District 2 boundaries from the current 2002 Council District map. Councilwoman Theresa Smith represents District 2 and proposed the amendment during debate on Wednesday.

Council Members Bruce Kraus, Corey O'Connor, Bill Peduto, and Natalia Rudiak voted against the changes.

Councilwoman Smith said she proposed the revision because her district's population has not significantly changed since 2002, and because she wanted to retain Beechview in a single district and keep Carrick in District 4. The amendment also moves the Litchfield Towers dormitory at Pitt from District 3 to District 8, while shifting other parts of Oakland in the opposite direction.

However, Councilman Peduto countered that it's erroneous to argue District 2 should not be reshaped because its population hasn't changed.

"Mrs. Smith's district lost about ten percent of its population," said Peduto. "We're putting 4,000 more people into my district, which is the only part of the city that's growing. The trend is going to be that [District 2] is going to be overrepresented, and [District 8] is going to be underrepresented. It's not following any of the logic that [the RAC] put into the report that's sixty pages long."

Every ten years, a Reapportionment Advisory Commission is formed to gather census data and make recommendations for new Council Districts that would comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act. The law demands that districts be compact and contiguous, and that they stay within a ten percent deviation of population from the densest district to the sparsest district.

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said she's certain that the 2012 RAC proposal meets those requirements, but she wondered if the one-page amendment offered by Councilwoman Smith would do the same.

However, Councilman Ricky Burgess argued that Council is not obligated to pass the map recommended by the RAC.

"The reapportionment committee is an advisory committee," said Burgess. "That is all it is. It can advise Council. Once it comes to Council, Council has full authority to draw the map."

After the amendment passed, Council voted to hold the measure for a week while Members reviewed the new reapportionment proposal. The bill will be taken up again at the committee meeting next Wednesday.