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Coalition Recommends Delay in Council Downsizing

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Monday night, Buffalo residents will have their chance to weigh in on the issue of reapportionment. The Common Council holds a public hearing at 6.

Reapportionment battle lines have been drawn. African-American Common Council members say a proposed plan to down size the council from 13 to nine members is "racially motivated" but is still being supported by Mayor Anthony Masiello. "We have a Mayor who is the Mayor of the whole city of buffalo, including African Americans, and he needs to remember that," said University District Council Member Betty Jean Grant. "He received a great percentage of African America support in the last election -- check it out."

Grant said she can't why understand other lawmakers and Masiello would support a plan that calls for the elimination of three at-large seats and the council president. Two at large seats and the president's position are held by African-Americans. But Masiello says he will support "whatever plan" is approved by the full Council.

"Let's stick to the merits of the issue," Masiello said. "We have less people, jobs and tax base. We are shrinking our city government. All over, city, states, the country and private sector -- everybody is right-sizing so we can get stronger and better."

And now the Western New York Anti-Discrimination Coalition is asking for a "common sense approach" to resolving the redistricting battle. The coalition wants to make the process "less volatile" and offer non-partisan leaders to help create a neutral discussion. Coalition member Rita Hubbard-Robinson says the city "cannot afford a racial tear."

"As far as our understanding, under the City Charter, it calls for only lines to be drawn," Hubbard-Robinson said. "If there is a deadline for lines to be drawn, then let lines be drawn. Down-sizing should be considered as a separate and distinct issue that doesn't have to be married to the reapportionment process."

The Council is expected to take a final vote on reapportionment at Tuesday's session to meet a deadline for submitting a new plan before August 1st.