Our City Action Buffalo (OCAB), among other concerned parties, has managed to get the Common Council to postpone the vote for redistricting, for the time being. By doing so, OCAB has presented an alternative to the proposed plan, which would help to “preserve our neighborhoods and create a more racially equitable city.”
The Elmwood Village Association passed along OCAB’s redrawn redistricting proposal, which helps to determine the Common Council members. As the lines are redrawn every ten years, some say that they are often done so in order to protect the powers and the voices of the Common Council members, while not reflecting the needs of the districts (the communities that are being represented).
Recently, media, organizations, and members of the community raised their voices and concerns that the proposed redrawn lines were not acceptable, which ended up delaying the vote by Council members.
“The Common Council is our voice in city government. Our districts are important because they decide our Common Council members. Our City Action Buffalo and community researchers are working together to present an alternative plan to the map currently being considered for adoption by the Buffalo Common Council, which would split the Elmwood Village into four different districts, instead of the two we currently inhabit.” – The Elmwood Village Association
On Tuesday, June 28th, the Buffalo Common Council hosted their only scheduled public hearing on reapportionment.
Instead of taking the time allotted per the City Charter — the end of July — to reconsider their proposed map and to enter into a participatory mapping process with their constituents, the Council instead tried to rush an invalid and potentially illegal vote on Friday, July 1st at 10am.
That vote was postponed 37 minutes into a press conference hosted by Our City Action Buffalo, after the Buffalo News Editorial Board sided with “the critics” of the Council’s proposed plan, and after hearing from constituents that their actions were egregious and unacceptable.
Our proposed plan would give all districts roughly the same number of people, make districts more spatially and socially coherent, avoid splitting neighborhoods, and make districts more fair, equitable, and functional.
OCAB is also recommending that the Council deeply consider revamping their structure. OCAB proposes that the Council president be duly elected by all residents of the city of Buffalo, as was once the case. The organization is also recommending a return of at least one at-large seat to promote greater democratic representation in the city of Buffalo. It also reflects the fact that Buffalo’s population has increased for the first time in 70 years per the 2020 Census data.
OCAB has filed their first map and petition (with over 750 signatures) with the Buffalo Clerk’s office already. They intend to file their alternative plan prior to the Legislation Committee at 2pm (today). OCAB has issued several unanswered calls for the Common Council to reach out and engage directly with them on next steps in the reapportionment process. The same call will be issued again today.Our City Action Buffalo:
As Buffalo’s population, demographics, and neighborhoods, continue to change, we must be sure that the redistricting – the redrawing of the Council district boundaries – is done so for the good of the people, not for the political interests of our public representatives. In previous years, these redistricting measures have gone relatively unchallenged. But as Buffalo continues to emerge as a more progressive city, there are stronger voices that are also emerging. Hopefully, in the future, redistricting will be performed for the right reasons, which would create stronger and healthier communities that are represented justly, fairly, and more equitably.
“After reviewing all the testimony from the Council’s public hearing, our team got to work revising our alternative plan to incorporate what we learned. As we began building people’s suggestions into our neighborhood-based map, we quickly saw that Our City’s residents know best when it comes to redistricting,” said Dr. Russell Weaver, quantitative geographer and Director of Research at Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab. Implementing the changes resulted in numerous improvements to our original plan, including on the criteria that are most important to us: neighborhood preservation, equity, and compactness.”
“The people have been awakened. For so long we thought that change was not possible. And now people know that even though we lost that general election on a sham write-in, we are not going back to brunch. We’re not leaving, said former Democratic nominee for mayor of Buffalo India Walton. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to continue to fight until we get justice.”
“This is a moment of respect. Respectfully, we bring our revised alternative plan. Respectfully, the Common Council should have responded. Everybody in the city has responded but our elected representatives,” said OCAB ally and supporter Jim Anderson.
“After the 5/14 massacre, we sang kumbaya, we love one another and we are all going to work together. And to have this egregious plan on the heels of that tragic day is unspeakable. We can do better. But we have to do better together,” said Ellicott district resident Althea Davis.
“We are stronger when we are together. And the Council’s map divides and breaks up neighborhoods,” said Ellicott district resident Jessie Fisher. “It takes communities of interest and separates them. It takes voting interests and separates them. It doesn’t do anything to help neighborhoods help themselves. It does nothing to empower residents.”
It’s time to become more informed, and to speak out about this issue, which is typically drawn out and voted upon behind closed doors.
To learn more, visit Our City Action Buffalo.
Also, be sure to take a few seconds and sign this petition.