Syracuse redistricting to ramp up in coming months
As many criticize Onondaga County’s legislature for its partisanship regarding county redistricting, the city of Syracuse is undergoing reapportionment of its own, led by an independent nonpartisan commission.
So what does a citizen-led commission look like? Well, there are 15 members, all Syracuse residents who were carefully selected based on things like frequency of voting, length of residency, and even community involvement.
“They were able to weed out people who you know either had like ties to the city who wouldn't be appropriate–[maybe] they've worked on political campaigns are something too recently,” said Molly Lizzio, chair of the commission.
She said that while the commission is intended to be politically independent, she recognizes that a truly representative group will most likely lean left since Syracuse is such a heavily Democratic city.
“It was always going to be stilted, the applicant pool was just going to be stilted based on the population of what we have,” said Lizzio.
The commission also has consultants and assistants who help keep the process running smoothly. Now that the selection process is over, it’s time for them to get started redrawing the five common council districts.
However, before they redraw the maps, they need to hold a series of public meetings between March and May. John Hamblin–co-chair of the commission–said public participation is crucial to the success of this process.
“It's really important that people come to our meetings or participate in some way or another because 15 out of 140,000 people is an infinitesimal percentage,” he said.
After that, they’ll present their maps and hold another set of public meetings before finalizing their map and presenting it to the common council.
“And then the council either loves it or hates it,” he said. “If they don't like it, they send it back to us and tell us to do better. Hopefully, that won't happen, because we're going to do a grand, fantastic job.”
Lizzio said this independent, citizen-led process is a breath of fresh air amid a highly polarized atmosphere both locally and nationally.
“I think it's pretty extraordinary for council politicians to say yeah, let's hand it over to the citizens,” she said. “That's pretty great.”