Responding to pressure from the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, City Council today announced that they will conduct additional public hearings on how to redraw their district boundaries.
According to a press release, Council will hold two redistricting hearings in neighborhood locations in addition to an Aug. 16 hearing that had already scheduled in City Hall. The exact dates and locations of the extra hearings have not yet been set.
“Taken together, these three hearings are consistent with Council’s recently adopted resolution calling for hearings to provide an opportunity for public engagement and input with respect to redistricting,” states the press release.
In a letter sent to Council President Anna Verna Friday, Philadelphia NAACP President J. Whyatt Mondesire said that there should be five redistricting hearings held in neighborhoods around the city to give residents more access to the process.
"The Philadelphia public, therefore, deserves to be kept fully informed as to what new boundaries are being considered," Mondesire wrote. "Furthermore, the public should not have to make a special trip to City Hall to find out what these changes will mean for the neighborhoods where they reside."
Under the city charter, the 10 councilmanic districts must be redrawn every 10 years. Using census data, Council must make sure that each district has roughly 10 percent of the population - or 152,600 people, according to the latest count.
If Council doesn't complete the task within six months of the data being released, then its members go without pay, which happened in 1991 and 2001. That deadline is Sept. 9.
Council had already been criticized by good government groups for only scheduling one public hearing on redistricting.
Here's Council's press release on the hearings:
PHILADELPHIA, PA - City Council President Anna C. Verna today announced that, in addition to a redistricting hearing scheduled for August 16, there will be two additional hearings for the purpose of receiving public testimony concerning Councilmanic redistricting. The additional hearings are being scheduled in response to a request recently submitted by the NAACP Philadelphia Branch. The NAACP has a longstanding interest in redistricting nationwide.
The August 16 hearing will be held in City Council’s chambers, Room 400 City Hall, beginning at 10:30 a.m. The additional hearings will be held at locations outside of Center City Philadelphia, at times and locations to be announced shortly. Taken together, these three hearings are consistent with Council’s recently adopted resolution calling for hearings to provide an opportunity for public engagement and input with respect to redistricting.
Council President Verna noted that, in addition to the three hearings, the public will have a fourth opportunity to express their views once a bill proposing a new redistricting plan is introduced. Such a bill will likely be offered at Council’s September 8 session, and, as is the case with all bills, will be followed by a scheduled hearing at which members of the public will have a full opportunity to testify.
Persons wishing to testify in person at any of the hearings are asked to call 215-686-3407 and to leave a message with their name and telephone number. Written testimony may also be submitted at any time, and will be distributed to each Council member and made a part of the official record. Written testimony should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered to the Office of the Chief Clerk of Council in Room 402 City Hall.