Editorial: Yonkers' Democrats need to get real about redistricting
GalleriesYonkers Mayor Mike Spano
You know a plan to redraw political boundaries in Yonkers is egregious when the city's mayor opposes it -- and it was created by his own party.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano says he'll veto the overly partisan redistricting lines created by Democrats on the City Council. And he should, if council members in the majority hang on to these party lines, under the guise that they are trying to "undo the wrongs" of the last 40 years.
Those "wrongs" have produced a healthy split of council representatives in Yonkers, with four Democrats -- including City Council President Chuck Lesnick, who is elected citywide -- and three Republicans.
In an effort to protect certain council seats, the lines proposed by the Democrats split up neighborhoods -- including the mayor's Colonial Heights section -- and create a so-called Bronx border district that one Republican aptly characterized as looking like Cape Cod. The bizarre U-shaped district cuts through communities, while placing too much emphasis on the fact that those parts of the city, which border the Bronx, deserve their own representation on the council. And those are only a few examples.
The city's population has remained stagnant at just under 200,000 during the last decade, with a significant growth in the Hispanic population, which is now 68,000. The new lines must take those factors into account -- and comply with the Voters Rights Act of 1965, which means neither packing nor diluting areas where there are significant numbers of minority voters. It also means that the districts shouldn't drastically change from what exists now.
To their credit, Republicans put forth maps that appear to be contiguous and compact: The six districts conform to the four quadrants of the city and the neighborhoods within each.
The mayor said he's going to try and broker a compromise -- and he's in a position to do so, since he may very well choose to veto any plan put forward by the council.
"We should be able put together a redistricting plan that doesn't split neighborhoods up and provides for the Voter Rights Act," Spano told Newsday.com last week.
He's right. But the two sides have their work cut out for them if they are to complete the redistricting process before June, the deadline for candidates in this year's races to file petitions.
They need to get back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that makes sense.