YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers City Council is preparing for a partisan showdown on a citywide redistricting plan.
On Sunday night, the council’s four Democratic members released a joint statement with a proposed map of the city’s six Council districts. In it, they said the new map featured very tight population equality and is in full compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“I'm happy we were able to draw lines consistent with the Voting Rights Act,” Councilman Christopher Johnson said in the statement. “Creating opportunities for people from different walks of life is something we should strive for and I believe we have done that."
On Tuesday, the Council’s Republican members released their own statement, blasting the proposed map. They contend it was created for partisan political purposes, strengthening Democratic control and minimizing Republican representation.
“It is a plan that strips the people of Yonkers of their voice in government -- setting up one-party rule and eliminating the necessary and required check and balance on the City Council to ensure that the people are fairly represented,” Minority Leader John Larkin said.
Redistricting is the process of drawing legislative boundaries by roughly equal population and is required by federal and state law to occur every 10 years after updated census data is calculated.
The Democrats said that, in an effort to draw district lines in an impartial manner, the City Council hired Phillip Chonigman of GeoPolitical Strategies to help with the task.
The result, they say, is a proposal that is more fair than the previous maps and reverses “past gerrymandering.”
“Another important aspect of the Democratic plan is that it will reduce the number of boundaries that are incompatible with county, state and federal legislative districts and eliminates the need to create additional election districts and provides for the opportunity to consolidate existing smaller election districts to save costs over the next decade,” said City Council President Chuck Lesnick.
But Republicans say Chonigman, who they characterized as a Democratic party leader, has not asked for GOP input and left them out of the process.
“In essence, the Democrats told half the people of Yonkers that they don’t care what they may have to say in how their city is governed, we’re doing it our way,” Larkin said. “They have created an environment where it won’t matter what the people want because they can run roughshod over the people with total control.”
Before the proposed map can take effect, it would have to be approved by the City Council, which has a Democratic majority, as well as Mayor Mike Spano, a Democrat.
In the meantime, Republicans are in the process of creating a counter plan “that will uphold the rights and voice of the people of Yonkers in a way that is fair and balanced and reinstates the very principles of democracy in our city,” said Larkin.
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