2 map options from Council

Posted: September 09, 2011

TWO SIMILAR plans for how to redraw the city's 10 City Council districts were introduced at yesterday's City Council session, both of which satisfy most members but pretty much leave Republican Councilman Brian O'Neill out in the cold.

One comes from a working group of five Council members - O'Neill, Anna Verna, Marian Tasco, Darrell Clarke and Maria Quinones-Sanchez - and the other from Councilmen Jim Kenney and Frank DiCicco. Both maps would improve gerrymandering in two central councilmanic districts and would slightly shift population among the other districts. The key difference is how they handle the 56th Ward in Northeast Philly, which had been a sticking point in negotiations.

The 56th Ward, run by powerful Democratic ward leader John Sabatina, is currently split among the 7th, 10th and 6th districts. Quinones-Sanchez, who represents the 7th, which snakes through North Philadelphia, Kensington and up into the Northeast, wanted a more compact district that didn't include the 56th. But O'Neill, who represents the 10th District in the Northeast, didn't want the additional Democratic voters, and Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, who represents the 6th District, also in the Northeast, didn't want to pick it up, either. Reportedly, no one wanted to deal with the mercurial Sabatina.

But after working-group negotiations stalled over the 56th Ward, Kenney and DiCicco put out their map, which gives the entire ward to the 10th District. Once it was clear that there was support for that option, O'Neill agreed to take the bulk of the 56th, with the 6th picking up a little.

"It's a compromise," O'Neill said of the working group's plan. "Would I want less of it? Sure. This is a give-and-take."

Every 10 years, Council must redraw its map, ensuring each district has roughly 10 percent of the population. If Council doesn't pass a final version by Sept. 22, members start losing paychecks. The bills will be debated Thursday.

Both plans introduced yesterday have a relatively high population variation among districts. The working group's map has a 9.3 percent population difference between the smallest and largest districts, and the Kenney-DiCicco plan has a 9.75 percent deviation.

Quinones-Sanchez said she supported the compromise bill, which creates a compact 7th District that eliminates the corkscrew that winds into the Northeast.

"I think we're at a much better place," she said.

Both bills also correct another gerrymandered district - the 5th, which meanders over North Philadelphia, Center City, Fishtown, Olney and the Northeast. In the proposals, the 7th District absorbs the pieces of the 5th that wiggle into the Northeast.

Meanwhile, the 8th District takes on a bit of a new shape in both maps with a footlike shape extending past Broad Street toward Fisher and 4th.

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said last night that it was too early to say whether the mayor would approve either plan but that he praised both bills for fixing some of the gerrymandering.

To see the maps, go to philly. com/workingmap and philly. com/alternativemap.