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tc_court120hThe County’s Independent Redistricting Commission put its recommended plan for reapportioning County legislative districts before the public again Thursday, at the second of two public hearings, held this time in the City of Ithaca.  About 30 people attended the hearing, including seven County legislators.

The Commission’s currently favored proposal would reduce the number of County legislative districts from 15 to 14, keeping the boundaries of the Villages of Lansing and Cayuga Heights intact and decreasing the number of “sliver districts” in the Town of Ithaca.  Four legislative districts would be created within the City of Ithaca, none of which would extend into the Town.

Five people addressed the Commission, one of them Ithaca Town Supervisor Herb Engman, who thanked the Commission for reducing the number of sliver districts which he said currently “splinter” his town.  County Legislator Pam Mackesey expressed some concern that the proposed district configuration could inadvertently reduce City-town interaction; Engman, however, expressed confidence that those interrelationships are many, and would continue under the new district arrangement.

Legislator Will Burbank said the reduction from 15 to 14 legislators, with the prospect of tie votes, was “do-able, but could be a problem.”  Legislator Peter Stein assessed the split of four City districts as part of a 14-district Legislature as reasonable, and said he does not think that the 14-member arrangement would significantly increase legislator workload.

Regarding recommended district boundaries, Margherita Fabrizio expressed concern about how lines were drawn in the Court/Linn Street area of the City, saying that the configuration could serve to split a neighborhood with a strong identity.  Robert Lynch, of Enfield, said he is satisfied with a reduction  to 14 districts and how boundaries are drawn, but proposed that the Legislature stay at 15 members, with one member elected at-large, an approach he said would provide citizens of a county with no countywide-elected legislative official “another avenue toward democracy.”

Commission Chair Hank Dullea said the Commission will take all comments made at the two hearings, as well as other comments it receives, and determine possible adjustments to the recommended plan, then will finalize its recommendations at its next meeting, now scheduled for February 16.  The Commission last night moved that meeting forward by two days, so that it would follow the next meeting of the City redistricting committee on February 15.  Dullea, who is also a member of the City committee, reported the City committee is making progress toward refining its recommendations on City wards.  Many Commission members have seen it as desirable to have congruent city boundaries for election of County legislators and City Common Council members, if that is possible.

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