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Council votes, 4-2, to OK remap plan

The Common Council voted, 4-2, Wednesday to approve a reapportionment plan for the city's five wards for use starting with November's election.

Alderman Jack L. Smith Jr., who the author of the new ward map said got the worst deal, and Alderman Andrew D. Chapman cast the "no" votes after a public hearing.

Smith, D-2nd Ward, lost most of his central city neighborhood to the 4th Ward, represented by Republican Chapman. Smith's new 2nd Ward extends into the city's suburblike southeastern corner.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker, a Republican, said he thinks the plan is fair.

"Of course, you do think it's fair," Smith shot back. "I, on the other hand, don't see it."

Smith said he was concerned about the "low- to moderate-income families" on his current turf, who are now part of a generally more affluent ward.

"I will readily admit, you got hurt more than anyone. The problem was, you were small [in population]," Smith was told by Republican attorney J.R. Drexelius, who drew the map using 2010 Census figures after being hired by Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano in late March, with no Council vote.

Drexelius said the city's wards were out of balance because of population shifts in the last decade. He adjusted them so all the wards' populations are within 1 percent of the average of 4,233.

"They were so close to perfect, I thought that was a good thing," said Drexelius, who over the last three decades has handled redistricting chores ranging from Erie County to statewide congressional and Legislature maps. "I haven't done a better plan."

Drexelius drew the western boundary of the 2nd Ward down Locust Street, except for a panhandle that included Smith's home.

Some aldermen wanted to smooth that line out, even though such a change would have placed Smith and Chapman in the same ward. But Drexelius said that would have destroyed the population balance.

The "Jack Smith Panhandle" has a population of 518, while a 4th Ward appendage east of Locust and south of Lincoln Avenue has only 189 residents. Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at large, wanted to place Smith's neighborhood in the 4th Ward and place the southern area in the 2nd Ward.

"I'm talking politics, too," said Smith, whose new ward will be more Republican than his old one.

"Through this whole process, politics has not come into play. You're the only one who brought that up," Tucker replied.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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