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Fight before Buffalo Common Council on district reapportionment in the wake of the 2020 Census

The Buffalo Common Council is looking at a reapportionment plan submitted by the Reapportionment Commission and has until July 31 to make a decision. Change is required because population in the city has shifted, shown in the 2020 Census.

That means lines have to change, something which happens every decade, and maps are drawn and re-drawn, although computers now draw the lines.

Jessie Fisher told the Legislation Committee public hearing last night that she served on the Reapportionment Commission two decades ago and that it was more open and transparent and involved lots of maps.

“I did not get everything I wanted out of that process. For instance, that was the year we eliminated the at-large Council representation, which I did not feel was in the best interest of the majority of our citizens, but it was a robust and transparent public process. And, that was not what has happened here this year," she said. "At best, in its most generous interpretation, this was a process that decided that just tweaking around the edges was good enough.”

Many of the dozens of people in attendance and on Zoom favor a different map an alliance of groups prepared.

Activist Jim Anderson said the alternative plan is much better.

“You don't have to be a member of the organization to know that this is a better, more inclusive, more sensible, racially-balancing, for real, for real," he said. "And, I think that in the future maybe it would help that you people did what the congresspeople don't do: do some town halls on issues like this, in every district.”

There wasn’t much public participation in the process and few showed up for the commission public hearings.

Former mayoral candidate India Walton said the lines should represent the new Buffalo that is being formed by political change and immigration.

“This is a chance to reject business as usual and to use this process as a runway to undo the harm of the past," Walton said. "I am respectfully asking us not to focus on as much what isn't possible and what we can't do, but what is possible, how we fix this mess of a map.”

An irony of the meeting is that it was held on primary election day, with some references during the meeting to voter retaliation when the Council members run in the new districts.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.