Friday, June 30, 2006

MapFriday: Hypothetical 5 District City Council

As some may know, there is an effort afoot to reduce the Pittsburgh City Council from 9 districts to 5. Some advanced math tells me that means 4 councilpersons would have to lose their jobs. I thought it would be interesting to conjecture what a 5 district map could look like. Note that this particular map represents neither what I predict nor recommend. This just shows an even breakdown of population with a quick and dirty first cut of where the district boundaries could be.

Redistricting is the most political process there is by very defintition. Given there is not the normal inter-party conflict within the city, its even harder to figure out how such a big change would be implemented. The typical way a majority tries to mitigate the power of the minority (however defined) via reapportioment is to stack, pack, and/or crack them.

But here is a question. Will there be one majority-minority district or two? This is the corollary to the debate that has popped up in the city of Pittsburgh during the last two reapportionments (and its original apportionment not that long ago) as to whether there should be 2 or 3 majority African American districts. Some basic demographics, geography and Constitutional issues will likely force there to be one clear majority minority district. But what about a 2nd?

How I think the math works out: unless there is one concentrated African American district stretching from the Hill District to Homewood, there is likely to be a district with a relatively even split between Black and White voters in some other district elsewhere within the City... Could it be that the African American population not in the primary minority district winds up split and diluted across a number of districts? That is possible although geography makes it a little difficult. The Voting Rights Act and its legal precedents to date could come into play at this point. There are some clear directions out there as to what is permissible in terms of creating majority-minority or minority impact districts.

However that does not mean a 2nd district would easily elect a 2nd African American. Reapportionment looks at total population, but the demographics of the voting age population can be different. In 2000 the total population in the city of Pittsburgh was 27% Black-only... however, mostly becasue of some different age demographics, the voting age population was 23% Black-only. Thus even if there is a 2nd district that was marginally a majority Black district in total, the voting age population could be more even.

One way or the other, apportioning 5 districts will be a very contentious issue because with so few on council, each vote counts a lot. This could get really ugly. If you have read all that and are still with me.. you may be one of the few who would be interested in some work I have done in the past on Voting Patterns by Race in Allegheny County.


Blogger smallstreams said...

Good looking map. Seems sensible.

Unfortunately, reducing the number of council people has no guarantee that council will be more responsive, or more people will feel enfranchised.

Let's just nip this one in the bud.

So what makes elected officials more responsive? I'm just guessing, but isn't getting more people to vote the key to more responsive politicians. What we need are more incentives to get people to the polls.

Friday, June 30, 2006 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice map Chris. How about an economic breakdown of your hypothetical districts? Putting all of Squirrel Hill, Shadyside and Point Breeze in one corral makes for a nice big pile of campaign cash. (Doug Shields raised over $100,000 in his recent run--the most money ever raised for a city council election.)

I pray that there will be no reduction in council seats. Ironic that the county recently opted to expand its number of elected represetatives from 3 commissioners to 1 chief executive and 15 council members. Placing power in the hands of fewer bureaucrats sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 1:26:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

we have a project here that will soon put city council district and voting district level demographics online. It would be an interesting web site to allow someone to construct their own hypothetical districts and have demographics calculated, but that is a little too much to do in my spare time.

As for DS's $100K or so.. its no secret in that the media has already reported (or speculated may be more accurate) that he may run for city controller. I am not sure what a credible City Controller race needs, gotta be less than more mayor. Anyone know what Ed Kiely spent running against TF some years ago?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 7:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a letter from Tony Pecora a week or so ago announcing his bid for City Controller. Also, I'm told that Mike Lamb is not interested and instead has his eye on County Executive. Don't know about Doug.

Thursday, July 06, 2006 3:25:00 PM  
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