C ITY OF A LBANY C OMMON C OUNCIL

February 20, 2013 Dear Council Colleagues, We are writing to request that Local Law D be sent back to the Council Operations and Ethics Committee for a thorough and thoughtful review of the Reapportionment Commission's map based on the concerns expressed by Albany residents at the January 7 Common Council public hearing. In preparing this letter, we reviewed the Commission's letter and the enclosures dated December 16, 2012 that were submitted to the Common Council. We commend the Reapportionment Commission for their public process, their informative website, and their many hours of volunteer work on behalf of our city's residents. The effort to create six majority-minority wards reflects the population of the city. We consulted case law and reviewed the following publications of the Brennan Center for Justice of the New York University School of Law: A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting[i] and “Redistricting and Transparency: Recommendations for Redistricting Authorities and Community Organizations”[ii], which affirmed many of the citizen-focused practices used by the Commission. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice. There is more information about the work of the Brennan Center on their website: http://www.brennancenter.org. The Commission stated that it considered the following principles: (i) the Constitutional mandate of one person, one vote; (ii) the statutory requirements imposed by section 2 of the Voting Rights Act; (iii) protecting communities of interest; (iv) ensuring that districts are compact and contiguous; and (v) respecting existing districts, physical boundaries, and incumbency. The Commission focused on the Federal Voting Rights Act Section 2 which prohibits any voting practice or procedure which has a discriminatory result, and stated its charge as being tasked with ensuring that residents receive the fairest representation. Albany residents made clear at the January 7 Common Council public hearing that there were four areas of concern with the Commission's map, and that the proposed map broke up longstanding communities of interest. “Redistricting and Transparency” discusses the importance of communities of interest stating, "...we must require those drawing the districts to recognize and preserve communities of interest. This is key to assuring fairer and more representative outcomes that does not splinter and weaken communities." (Brennan 1) The Commission also stated that the proposed lines were drawn "with an eye towards ensuring that the proposal strictly adhered to the constitutional mandate of one person, one vote. For that reason, the district populations in the Commission’s proposal range from 6,433 to 6,612-- none of the wards have a population deviation that is greater than 1.41%. A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting discusses the pros and cons of very small population deviations and states, "...
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rigid equal population rules can force districts to cut up communities: if every district must be exactly the same size, a district may have to carve out part of a town or county or neighborhood." (Levitt 45) This appears to be the exact concern of Albany neighbors with the proposed plan. Although the Voting Rights Act does not state a specific allowed deviation, the Courts have ruled on the issue of deviations of population numbers. In 1964 the United States Supreme Court in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 US 533, ruled that Alabama’s state redistricting plan that had population deviance ratios of one to fourteen was unconstitutional. However the Court in that case declared that “mathematical exactness” was not required. Following the Reynolds case, the Courts generally established that absent evidence of discriminatory intent, a deviation of 5% over or under the norm population in municipal districts was not a violation of the “one person – one vote” principle. In 1971, in Abate v. Mundt, 403 US 182, the United States Supreme Court in an opinion written by Justice Thurgood Marshall, affirmed as constitutional a Rockland County New York redistricting plan with a slightly higher deviation than the 5% over or under the norm. The decision cited the particular needs of communities of interest. Additionally, the fact that the section of the Park South neighborhood was moved after all three of the Commission's public hearings should not be ignored by the Council. That section of Park South shares significantly more interests with their neighbors on Madison Avenue, Morris Street and Myrtle Avenue to the west of South Lake Avenue, and the rest of the proposed 10th ward than it shares with the large hospital complex of Albany Medical Center and Capital District Psychiatric Center that connects that section of Park South to the 9th ward. In reviewing the enclosures submitted with the Commission's letter, it is clear that the Commission made every effort to address community concerns given their agreed upon guidelines, but that the guidelines were simply too stringent to keep cohesive neighborhoods together in every instance. The Brennan Center has many suggestions for the most fair redistricting possible, one of those provided in A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting in the "Suggestions for Reform" section states, "Allow the legislature a final tweak. One of the downsides of independent redistricting is that legislators really do tend to know their districts inside and out. Allowing the legislature a final opportunity to tweak commission lines may both facilitate the passage of redistricting reform in the first place, and permit an escape valve to correct unintended negative consequences of particular redistricting decisions, at least on the margins...." (Levitt 77) Unfortunately, the Operations Committee voted to forward the Commission's map for an up or down vote of the full Council without seriously considering the concerns expressed at the January 7 Common Council hearing or the remarks of former Assembly Member, Jack McEneny who testified before the Council and the Commission about the importance of keeping neighborhoods together especially in city redistricting. It is clear that given a little bit of time and effort, there are ways to address the majority of the concerns expressed since Council Member Sano managed to take some time and come up with a proposal that addresses three of the four concerns raised by the public on January 7. “Redistricting and Transparency” states, "The hearing process should not be illusory. Simply trotting out a dog-and-pony show where there is not meaningful opportunity to incorporate feedback is meaningless and insulting to the public who take their participation seriously. All redistricting authorities, upon completion of a final plan should leave time to rework the plan based upon public feedback, if necessary." (Brennan 4)

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We look forward to working with you to finalize the lines in a thorough and thoughtful manner. Respectfully, Leah Golby, 10th ward Council Member Catherine Fahey, 7th ward Council Member Lester Freeman, 2nd ward Council Member Anton Konev, 11th ward Council Member Michael O'Brien, 12th ward Council Member James Sano, 9th ward Council Member Barbara Smith, 4th ward Council Member

[i] Levitt, Justin and Erika Wood. A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting 2010 ed, NY. Brennan Center for Justice. http://www.scribd.com/doc/58915308/A-Citizens-Guide-to-Redistricting. 2/19/13 [ii]“Redistricting and Transparency” 2011 NY. Brennan Center for Justice http://www.scribd.com/doc/58915296/Redistricting-and-Transparency-Recommendations. 2/19/13

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