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Lockport OKs redistricting plan, but 2 aldermen continue to object

The redistricting plan for Common Council wards passed Wednesday, but recriminations continued Thursday from two aldermen who voted against it.

Alderman Jack L. Smith Jr., D-2nd Ward, e-mailed his colleagues after Wednesday night's meeting, asserting that the plan might have violated state law by not taking political party affiliations into account.

Alderman Andrew D. Chapman, R-4th Ward, e-mailed his colleagues Thursday: "What was voted upon last night was an extreme injustice against Jack. I take issue, too. This must be readdressed."

Smith cited the state Municipal Home Rule Law, which governs redistricting and sets a prioritized list of standards.

The first is substantially equal weight for all voters, which the map achieved by setting all five wards' populations within 1 percent of the average.

But the next standard after that is "substantially fair and effective representation for the people of the local government as organized in political parties."

Smith was unhappy that the new map takes many low-to-moderate-income constituents away from him and shifts him to areas with more affluence -- and more Republicans.

Republican attorney J.R. Drexelius, who was hired to draw the new map by Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano, told the Council on Wednesday he had no voter registration figures and used only population data from the 2010 Census.

He admitted that Smith got the worst deal of any incumbent.

Drexelius' calculations, released Thursday by Ottaviano, showed that Smith is losing 55 percent of his current constituents, and 60 percent of the people in his new ward are currently represented by someone else. No one else's new ward has more than 30 percent new constituents.

In an e-mail to The Buffalo News, Smith wrote: "I'm saying that I believe the Council has acted hastily and may have put the city at risk for a potential lawsuit. My concern as an alderman has never been about Jack Smith. It has always been about the city and all of its residents."

In an e-mail to Ottaviano, Smith asked the attorney, "Should we rescind the law that was passed [Wednesday] and take the necessary time to do the redistricting properly, or are you willing to defend the city in a lawsuit?"

Ottaviano said in an interview: "I believe [Drexelius] did a good job. I was satisfied with his explanation. I don't think it favors one party or another."

The current 2nd Ward has 1,880 voters, including 766 Democrats and 611 Republicans.

Smith's newly drawn 2nd Ward takes one large precinct each from the former boundaries of the 4th and 5th wards.

Both have slightly more Republicans than Democrats: 267-258 in the former 4th Ward area and 264-230 in the former 5th Ward neighborhood.

Smith's new ward also takes about half of another former 4th Ward precinct that has a 327-226 Republican edge. No specific figures were available on the half that was moved into the 2nd Ward.

Smith is losing a precinct that has a 306-228 Democratic edge. He's also losing half of two other precincts, one where Democrats outnumber Republicans 218-131, and one where the GOP has a 252-242 margin. Again, no party specifics were available on the areas Smith lost or kept.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said: "I don't know how it matters, how many Republicans or Democrats are in a ward. At the end of the day, they're going to be represented fairly."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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