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November 20, 2012

Panel's plan tweaks ward shapes

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — ONEONTA — The Fifth Ward is a bit deeper and the Eighth Ward is more compact in a proposed redistricting map to be presented to the Oneonta Common Council tonight.

The city’s Redistricting Commission met at City Hall on Monday night and approved “Option F” after a review.

Members, working with a consultant hired by the city, went back to the drawing board after two council members raised objections at a council meeting when a “final recommendation” of a revised ward map was presented for adoption.

A workshop for commission and council members will be held at City Hall at 6 p.m., an hour before the regularly scheduled Common Council meeting.

In the “Option F” map, the Fifth Ward and the Sixth Ward share boundaries. The Eighth Ward, which in the most recent plan had run for a stretch between those two wards, has been contracted to an area south of the Fourth and Third wards and of the Seventh Ward, which also has been changed somewhat.

Commission Chairwoman Emily Brady said Monday that the panel “felt good” about the adjustments. The revision is similar to the previous recommended proposal, she said, and it continues to address the major question of student population that the commission tackled during its work this year.

Under “Option F,” ward population ranges from 1,672 in the Eighth Ward to 1,821 in the Fourth Ward. No on-campus students live in the First, Sixth and Eighth wards, according to estimates, and the student populations in the other wards range from 35 percent in the Fifth Ward to 64 percent in the Seventh Ward.

On Monday night, Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said Chip Holmes, Eighth Ward council member, worked closely with Joshua Simons, a city-hired consultant, to adjust the ward lines. Holmes had vigorously objected to the plan presented two weeks ago.

The commission worked to realign wards to meet federal and state laws requiring legislative districts substantially equal in population. Ward lines haven’t been adjusted since the city adopted eight wards instead of six in the 1970s. Simons reported Oneonta’s population at 16,030 in 1970 had decreased to 13,901 in 2010.

Commissioners met about a dozen times since the panel formed in June and reviewed laws, census data and other factors to prepare various maps to consider. The commission also worked to preserve historic districts and neighborhoods.