Council leaders tout redistricting agreement


City Council leaders say they’ve reached a tentative agreement on new boundaries for Council's 10 districts,  to be made public later today.

The proposal is intended to reshape Council districts to provide each with roughly one-tenth of the city’s population, about 152,600 people.  

 Sources said the leadership’s new design would maintain a significant variation, more than 10,000 people, between the smallest and largest districts -- close to the maximum variation permitted by the courts.

Council President Anna C. Verna told reporters of the tentative agreement as she emerged from her office this morning to resume Council sessions after a two-month summer recess.

The key to the settlement was an agreement by Brian O’Neill, the ranking Republican in Council, to accept a larger chunk of Northeast Philadelphia’s strongly Democratic 56th ward, the neighborhood known as Rhawnhurst,  as part of his reconfigured 10th district ­– the only Council district still represented by a Republican.  

O’Neill said his district would absorb divisions of the 56th ward now included in the 7th district, represented by Maria Quinones Sanchez and described by outside experts as one of the most-gerrymandered local election districts in the country.   Without the extension to the 56th ward, Sanchez’s district is likely to become close to 60 percent Hispanic, a goal of numerous Latino organizations.

The leadership’s redistricting proposal is expected to face a public hearing next week and could win final passage as early as September 22 – just in time for Council members to receive their next scheduled paychecks.

But it is still subject to changes proposed by any of Council's 17 members, including 10 District Council representatives and 7 elected at large, representing the entire city. Councilmen James Kenney and Frank DiCicco said they also intend to submit a redistricting proposal with different outlines.

The City Charter gives Council just six months to develop new district boundaries after the receipt of new population figures from the U. S. Census ­– or the lawmakers face suspension of their paychecks until they come up with a plan.

-- Bob Warner