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DOWNSIZING FOES CONTINUE THEIR FIGHT

Two weeks after Buffalo voters overwhelmingly approved a plan to reduce the Common Council to nine members from 13, opponents of the reduction told a federal judge Friday that they will continue their fight to nullify the referendum.

"It's our position that it's an invalid law and should never have been placed on the ballot," Venita A. Parker told U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin.

Parker is an attorney for the Rev. Robert E. Baines, a high-profile leader in the religious and minority communities. Baines filed a lawsuit in August that challenges both the Council downsizing and a new map that revises the boundaries of Council districts to reflect population changes since the last census.

At the request of plaintiffs, the judge met briefly with nearly a dozen attorneys to discuss a timeline for dealing with a complex case that Curtin described Friday as a "moving panorama." He gave plaintiffs 45 days to file an amended complaint that will reflect recent changes the Common Council made to a local law describing the boundaries of each Council district.

Parker continued to maintain that the new boundaries and the Council downsizing are "joined." Reapportionment critics have maintained that the two components make up one redistricting plan. City attorneys disagree, claiming the two issues are separate.

David J. State, Buffalo's senior deputy corporation counsel, said as far as the city Law Department is concerned, the Common Council downsizing is a moot issue.

"The reduction has happened," said State. "The citizens have voted, and that issue is behind us."

By a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent, voters approved a referendum that will eliminate all three at-large representatives and the separately elected Council president.

Critics have said the new boundaries split the Hispanic population into three Council districts.

Others claim the downsizing will weaken the voice of African-Americans, because three of the four seats that will be eliminated are currently held by African-Americans.

Downsizing opponents claim the process city officials used to pass the local law was impaired by improper votes, missed deadlines and other "illegalities."

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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