Editorial: Ensure fair electoral districts in Yonkers
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You have to wonder if there’s even a chance that Yonkers' leaders can fairly redraw their political boundaries when the City Council's majority leader is being so candidly partisan.
The councilman, Wilson Terrero, said Democrats will try to protect a few of their vulnerable colleagues when they take on the once-a-decade duty of electoral redistricting this year, all but guaranteeing a partisan showdown in the coming months.
When discussing his hopes recently, Terrero, whose 2nd District presumably has enough Democrats to guarantee his re-election, said that he'd like to add more Democrats to Councilman Michael Sabatino's 3rd District to boost his chances of winning in the next election.
Sabatino, in his first run for office, eked out a victory in 2011 in a four-person race with 51.4 percent of the vote. There are four Democrats on the seven-member council, including the City Council president, who is elected citywide.
"We're trying to make sure he'll be safe the next time around," Terrero told Newsday.com.
New districts take effect in the fall, when voters across the city will elect a council president, and individual members will be elected in Districts 2, 4 and 6.
While not necessarily unique -- or frankly as egregious as the 2010 threat of State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) to redistrict State Senate Republicans into "oblivion" -- this sort of self-interest is all too common as leaders gerrymander, manipulate and carve up communities for their own benefit.
For sure, there will be some changes throughout the city's six council districts. Yonkers has witnessed significant growth in its Hispanic population, which is nearing 68,000, and a slight drop in its white population, which is still over the 100,000 mark. But over all, Yonkers is still has nearly 200,000 residents, as it did 10 years ago. Redistricting shouldn't require wholesale changes, so much as logical shifts to reflect changing demographics.
The city has hired a consultant and promised a series of public hearings before it adopts a final set of boundaries -- expected by February -- but even those measures can't safeguard the process from its partisan nature.
Let's hope Yonkers leaders aren't as brazen as their state counterparts, who carved out voting blocs to protect themselves from challengers. In one of the more flagrant offenses, the Town of Ossining, a Democratic stronghold, was lumped in with Rockland County across the Hudson River, providing Democrat Sen. David Carlucci with more party members in his district, while removing them from Republican Sen. Greg Ball’s turf. (In the end, both were re-elected this past November.) And there are plenty more examples like that.
Incumbency protection isn't supposed to be the endgame of redistricting. Neither is knocking off looming challengers. Council members ought to set a high bar and remember that the goal is to ensure equal and fair representation for voters -- and then to do their best to earn those votes.