September 25, 2012

Editorial: Participate in redistricting

The committee charged with reshaping City of Plattsburgh election districts has kept politics out of the mix. Soon, the Common Council will have to finish the job — with the same intent, we hope.

The city’s election districts need to be adjusted after every U.S. Census to ensure that about the same number of people live in each of the six wards. Based on recommendations by city councilors, Mayor Donald Kasprzak appointed five fair-minded and respected residents to the Redistricting Committee: Chairman Peter Ensel, James Barcomb, Becky Kasper, Peg DeGrandpre and AnneMarie Farrell.

Their goal, right from the start, was to assess and rework the districts without letting politics play a role in any decisions.

The city’s population, based on the 2010 Census, was 19,989, meaning that each ward has to have about 3,332 people. The committee was allowed to use a variance of 5 percent below the average and 5 percent above, which put the goal at 3,165 to 3,498 residents per ward.

Because of the boom in housing on the “old base” portion of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base property and nearby areas, Ward 2 had grown to 4,495 people. So that ward was going to need a significant reduction.

Under the redistricting plan, two Plattsburgh State dormitories would be moved from Ward 2 to Ward 3, which had only 2,904 residents. Other, smaller changes were made to other wards.

Election district changes, in general, present an opportunity for political operatives to influence party numbers. But Ensel assures us that the committee members kept strictly to the numbers during their discussions. 

“We never looked at (residents’) names — the only exception being we looked at the residences of sitting council members and didn’t want to move them out of the ward they were currently representing.”

The Plattsburgh City Charter requires that a hearing be held so the public can learn details of the plan and make their feelings about it known. Residents are invited to go to City Hall at 6 tonight to weigh in on the proposal.

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