Tuesday, February 12, 2013

More Dissension Over the Weighted Vote

Last Thursday, the Legal Committee couldn't agree about which plan for the new weighted vote to recommend to the full Council,  and last night at the informal meeting the full Council couldn't come to an agreement either. Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) continued to argue for Plan 433642, the one that had been Professor Lee Papayanopoulos's "primary recommendation," because it is, as he explained it, "the plan we use now." In support of his position, he began reading aloud the answer Papayanopoulos had provided when asked why he had recommended 443642 over 443626.
The plans in my "primary recommendation" have the common characteristic of full Egality, i.e., the votes allotted to the Aldermen in each Ward are equal. Plan 433626 is, indeed, an excellent plan but the votes given to Ward 4 are not equal (94 votes vs. 95).
Pierro stopped after reading the first paragraph, as if the first paragraph provided sufficient evidence that 433642 was the superior plan. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), after pointing out that Pierro had misread egality as equality, urged Pierro to read the rest of Papayanopoulos's statement and then did so himself.
As I state in the report (pp. 8-9), all of the plans offered therein meet the requirement of constitutionality (which is paramount). If the aesthetics of slightly different votes in one Ward are of no consequence to the Council, then by all means, consider plan 433626. In fact this plan (with discrepancy 1.88%) is much closer to the one personone vote ideal than plan 433642 (4.28%).
Council president Don Moore summarized the crux of the difference: 433642 (Pierro's choice) gives an equal number of votes to the two Fourth Ward aldermen--95 votes each; 433626 (Friedman's choice) reduces the discrepancy between population in each ward and voting power of the ward's aldermen, thus approaching more closely the goal of one personone vote. Friedman argued, "We have an opportunity to create more democracy not less" by adopting Plan 433626. Pierro countered, "It's not more democracy" but didn't explain why he thought it wasn't.

Comparing the two plans side by side, in terms of the actual votes of each member of the Council, the differences--albeit minor--are with the votes of the Council president (who gets one fewer vote in Plan 433626), the Fourth Ward (whose votes would be different in Plan 433626), and the Fifth Ward (where each alderman would have one fewer vote in 433626), resulting in a two-vote difference in the total number of votes and the number of votes needed for a simple majority.

At one point, after making the point that egality "goes to this chamber being able to manage itself" (that is, not having to deal with one Fourth Ward alderman having one less vote than the other) and arguing again that Plan 433626 created "more democracy," Friedman said in frustration, referring to Pierro, "Let the gentleman from Taghkanic have his way," alluding to reports that Pierro now resides not in the Fifth Ward of Hudson but in the Town of Taghkanic. 

Alderman Robert Donahue (Fifth Ward) betrayed his lack of understanding of the issue when he turned in his seat and asked Friedman if the Third Ward's loss of the prison population and the consequent reduction in the weight of the Third Ward representatives' vote was the reason Friedman supported 433626. 

It was suggested that there be a straw poll to decide which numbers--those from Plan 433642 or Plan 433626--went into the resolution that would be voted on by the Council at their regular meeting on February 19. In the straw poll, Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward), Sheila Ramsey (Fourth Ward), and Donahue voted with Pierro in support of Plan 433642; Moore, Dave Marston (First Ward), Nick Haddad (First Ward), and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) voted with Friedman in support of Plan 433626. Gossips did not observe Abdus Miah (Second Ward) voting for either plan. Chris Wagoner (Third Ward) didn't vote either, commenting that he would have to study the issue.

City attorney Cheryl Roberts will prepare two resolutions: one with the numbers from Plan 433462; the other with the numbers from Plan 433626.


  1. Who decided that redistricting - or redistricting that includes a weighted vote component - is not on the table?

    It is not ridiculous to redistrict AND have a weighted vote, since the wards would still be larger and smaller than one another and the weighted vote component would obviate the need for a referendum on redistricting every 10 years.

    Who's decided that we won't have this conversation?

    "Democracy" my a**!

  2. Tim, the decision not to redistrict was made by the voters of Hudson via referendum in 2005 I believe (the last time referendum was used in Hudson). As I've mentioned to you previously, I believe anyone can get the ball rolling on a new referendum.

    As for your second paragraph, there is no need to have a weighted vote if we redistrict: the council districts are drawn to equalize populations within each district. And that is your choice: councilmatic districts or wards -- you can't have both. (Anticipating your next question: you can't have both because NYS law says so.)

  3. "You can't have both because NYS law says so ..."

    I haven't missed the reference for lack of effort, but for unsuccessful Googling and searching through state laws.

    Of course the only question that should concern anyone who cares to know is at what specific point such a law decides that the ward numbers are even enough, or that the imbalance is great enough, to require either approach.

    Whatever the answer is, the numbers must codified if there is an either/or.

  4. "Anticipating your next question: you can't have both because NYS law says so."

    I don't believe there's any such law that prohibits what I've described.

  5. Mr. Friedman, please explain the illegality of the following claim from a technical report on reapportionment produced by Cornell University:

    "It should be noted that some counties (e.g., Cortland) redistrict to within 5% and then do weighted voting as well" (p. iii).