Above: The thick, black lines show the current borders of Pittsburgh city council districts. The colored voting districts show the proposed changes. (Courtesy Reapportionment Committee).
Northsiders are speaking up this month to fight for neighborhood unity and to keep their city council representative in their voting districts.
Community members from Observatory Hill and the Central Northside spoke in City Council Chambers on Monday to oppose the proposed reapportionment of Pittsburgh’s city council districts.
On the Northside, the proposed council district changes would split the Central Northside between two city councilmembers and move Allegheny West and parts of Observatory Hill and Perry Hilltop from their current districts.
The city of Pittsburgh is broken into nine city council districts, 32 wards and over 400 voting districts, and each council district is represented by an elected city council member.
Every 10 years, City Council is legally obligated look at the population of the nine council districts to insure that they are balanced and that minorities are fairly represented.
Optimally, each district should have a population close to 33,967, there should not be more than a 10 percent deviation between the largest and smallest district and the districts should be contiguous and compact. Minorities must also be fairly represented.
Because Pittsburgh’s population decreased since the last reapportionment 10 years ago, certain districts needed to add or shed wards and voting districts to come close to the ideal district size.
Additionally, there is currently a 31 percent deviation between the largest and smallest district.
To fix the imbalance, City Council members each appointed a committee member to work on the Reapportionment Advisory Committee, which has analyzed census information for the past year and drawn up a plan to balance the district’s population.
Proposed Changes by Voting District
Monday’s city-wide meeting kicked off a series of five meetings where community members can express their concerns about the proposed changes. A meeting will be held on the Northside on Tuesday July 17 at 7 p.m. at Bistro Soul on East Ohio Street.
“We’d just like to thank everyone for coming out,” said Kevin Acklin, committee representative for District 5. “This is incredibly important to hear.”
The Northside is split between District 1, which is represented by City Council President Darlene Harris, and District 6, which is represented by City Councilman Daniel Lavelle.
On the Northside, District 1 needs to grow and District 6 needs to shrink but increase the African American population.
To alleviate these issues, the committee proposed moving voting districts 22-1, 22-2 and 22-3 from District 6 to District 1.
At Monday’s meeting, no community members opposed the changes to Voting Districts 22-1and 22-3, which encompass the Allegheny West neighborhood and part of the North Shore.
However, members of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council attended Monday’s meeting to oppose moving District 22-2 because it will split the Central Northside between two city councilmembers.
District 22-2 stretches between Buena Vista Street and Sherman Avenue in the Central Northside.
Speakers from the Central Northside argued that their neighborhood is densely populated, which creates a community that would suffer being divided by “an artificial line on the map.”
“It would be disastrous,” CNNC President Chris D’Addario said.
D’Addario told the committee that splitting the neighborhood at Sherman Avenue would separate those Central Northsiders who are afflicted by drug and gang activity from those who are not.
“This is a critical time for the Central Northside,” said CNNC member David Shlapak, citing ongoing development projects such as the Garden Theater Block. “The success story of Pittsburgh’s Central Northside that is being written could be written off before it’s completed.”
The new proposal also suggests moving Voting District 26-1, which runs north of N. Charles Street to Mayfield Avenue in Perry Hilltop, and District 26-10 which stretches from Mayfield Avenue to Marshall Road in Observatory Hill, from District 1 to District 6.
OHI member Jane Sestric spoke at Monday’s meeting and asked the committee to keep all of Observatory Hill in Harris’ district to ensure the progress of projects and ongoing goals in the neighborhood.
“We want to keep Darlene as our council representative,” said Sestric.