By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — No major objections were raised to proposed city ward realignments during a public hearing Monday night.
About 10 residents, including two Common Council members and the mayor, attended the hearing on the proposed plan for the city’s eight wards.
Redistricting Commission members reviewed the plan that adjusts ward lines, and they answered questions during the 45-minute hearing in Common Council Chambers in City Hall.
Though the ward lines were moved to adjust population, the proposed map preserves the city’s historic and political areas, such as the Sixth Ward, the Walnut Street and Belmont Circle areas, they said.
Commission member Richard Denicore said the panel will meet again to review remarks from the hearing and finalize its report on the redistricting process. The commission probably will make its final recommendation to the Common Council at the Nov. 20 meeting, he said, and the proposed plan is likely the one to be moved forward.
The Common Council has the authority to adopt the plan, Denicore said.
The Redistricting Commission was formed this year and was charged by the City Charter to apply the principles of “one person, one vote’’ and of the federal and state constitutional equal protection clauses. The proposed final redistricting plan is online at https://sites.google.com/site/oneontaredistricting.
The city’s ward lines haven’t been adjusted since the city adopted eight wards instead of six in the 1970s.
Project consultant Joshua Simons of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at the State University College at New Paltz said the online report has space for comments, which may still be submitted. The city of Oneonta was far out of compliance with the constitutional requirement of revising the districts every 10 years based on census data, he said, and the update meets requirements.
Oneonta’s revised ward map, as a matter of home-rule, isn’t subject to county, state or federal review, Simons said in response to a question, and the map would withstand any legal challenge.
The commission used 2010 census numbers to establish wards with a population of 1,738 residents, plus or minus 3 percent, Commissioner Emily Brady said previously. Under the revised map, ward populations range from 1,694 in the Fifth Ward to 1,777 in the Eighth Ward.
A factor unique to the city is its student population, she said, and when ward lines were drawn 40 years ago, many of the current dormitories didn’t exist.
On Monday night, commissioners said they reviewed six or seven maps before deciding on the current proposal.
Patricia Crowe of Myrtle Avenue told commissioners that she was concerned that the student population, which is projected to grow, would gain political strength in multiple wards. She asked the commission to reconsider establishing a ward for students, similar to a plan in Ithaca.
Commissioner Jason Antrosio said the city’s Fifth Ward in the revised map could become a ``student ward’’ based on its population if students realized their potential as a political bloc.
Crowe said after the meeting that she was satisfied that the mapping could be revisited after the next census.
Fourth Ward council member Michael Lynch praised the commission’s plan as being the best for the Fourth Ward neighborhood and for the city among the maps considered.
“This model is a very good one,’’ Lynch said. “It has my full support.’’
Lynch said the attendance at the hearing was a testament to the commissioners’ good work. ``This is as close to a ringing endorsement as you get,’’ he told the panel.
The Common Council appointed one representative from each ward to the commission. Commissioners and their wards were: Denicore, First Ward; Brady, Second Ward; Jason Antrosio, Third Ward; Cecelia Zapata, Fourth Ward; Barry Warren, Fifth Ward; Becky Thomas, Sixth Ward; Paul Scheele, Seventh Ward; and Leif VanCott, Eighth Ward.
All commissioners were present at the hearing except Brady, who was out of town because of work, Denicore said.