Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Weighting Is Almost Over

Many residents of Hudson have been wondering how much power their representatives on the Common Council will lose or gain with the new weighted vote. All will soon be revealed. 

Common Council president Don Moore told Gossips yesterday that the new numbers had been received from Rutgers professor, Lee Papayanopoulos (shown at right), the wizard of the weighted vote, on January 23, the day of the last Legal Committee meeting. Because there was inadequate time for committee members to review the document and because Alderman Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward) was away, the issue was not taken up at that meeting but will be discussed at the special Legal Committee meeting to be held on February 5. 

Just to review the issue, the chart below tracks the history of the weighted vote in Hudson since it was first implemented in the 1970s.

The chart shows the number of votes the Common Council president and each alderman casts and the number of affirmative votes required for a simple majority. Comparing the numbers across the chart, nothing changed with the weighted vote until after the 2000 census. At this point, the votes of aldermen from the First and Fourth wards lost significant weight, those of the aldermen from the Fifth Ward lost a little, and the votes of the aldermen from the Second and Third Wards gained strength. 

In the 2010 census, all the wards lost population except the Fifth Ward, which gained 113 residents, but the big loser was the Third Ward, which not only lost residents but lost the right to include the population of the Hudson Correctional Facility in its count, making the total population loss for that ward 815. The New York State law that requires prisoners to be counted in the communities where they lived before they were incarcerated not in the communities where they reside as prisoners reduced the Third Ward population by 350 but also added 50 Hudson residents who are incarcerated elsewhere. It is not known which wards can claim those people.

There are some issues that require a two-thirds majority or a three-quarters majority to pass. The sale of City-owned property is an example of a decision that requires a three-quarters majority. In these cases, not only is the number of affirmative votes needed different but also the number of votes cast by each alderman. 

This chart shows how the number of votes differs according to the type of majority. These are the numbers, based on the 2000 census, that are currently in use. Note that in the Third and Fifth wards, the two aldermen have different numbers of votes in a two-thirds majority. In each case, the alderman with the greater number of votes is the one who received a greater number of votes in the election. 

Papayanopoulos has, according to Moore, provided options for calculating the three types of majorities. These options will be reviewed at the special Legal Committee meeting on February 5, and a recommendation will be made to the full Council, perhaps introduced as a resolution, at the informal meeting on February 11.

It should be noted that adopting the new weighted vote is subject to a permissive referendum, that is, the public can, through a petition, force a referendum on the weighted vote adopted by the Common Council in the November 2013 election. What would happen if such a referendum were to take place and the voters were to reject the proposed new weighted vote is unclear. Typically, the weighted vote numbers would go back to what they had been previously, but the previous scheme--that is, the current one--is illegal because it still factors in the prison population. 

There's gotta be an easier way to make representative government work in Hudson.

Gossips found the picture of Professor Lee Papayanopoulos on the Rutgers University website.


  1. Why wouldn't reshaping the wards - redistricting - be part of the solution?

    1. Same question I have.

      Speaking simplistically, as I do not how redistricting works...
      The 5th ward ,is so disproportionate and split into two distinct areas.
      Even if they couldn't add a 6th Ward, it would seem to make sense for 3rd ward to include more of Hudson's local part of 5th ward to be given to 3rd ward
      and expand votes to 1st ward,into Second or 3rd ,if 3rd Ward was given enough of Fifth Ward ,to make it equal

      Also part of 2nd ward ,could to be made part of 4th,as well and/or have 4th pick up some of Fifth.
      Seems like there are a lot of combinations and options ,in redistricting,that would equal the vote and also could make representation,more socio-economically fair
      and help make City less divided, by "class". .

    2. When researching subjects from Buffalo and Rochester in the 19th century, much depends on the exact date of your subject. The disposition of each city's respective wards changed from decade to decade, so that the shape and number of a ward for one area in 1850 was completely changed by 1870, and changed again by 1880.

      The regular redistricting of wards invariably reflected the dynamism and great mobility of the era, but the same model would apply in the opposite case as well.

  2. Is this the granddaddy of gerrymandering?

    1. V - Can it get any worse for the current First Ward?

  3. Redistricting for sole purpose for one political party to gain of power,
    would be gerrymandering.
    Huge problem we are having now in this country.

    But redistricting ,as a way to reform a city ,to equalise vote to all wards,
    when the most powerful vote, belongs to ward/district (5th Ward),where the majority of old guard, current politicians and their subsequent appointees live,
    just seems to be just fair.

    Actual political parties,make very little difference in Hudson,
    as politicians change parties as it suits them, to run for office here.

    1. Redistricting is not necessarily "gerrymandering," agreed.

      Recently someone wrote to tweak me about something I'd written here. After an elected official had hypocritically called me "black-and-white," and "orthodox" in my thinking (little does he know the actuality!), I'd called for "bipartisanship" on an environmental issue which I'd hoped would lead to a slow awareness of other ecological issues in Hudson.

      The private email reminded me that in the absence of any Republican cares (or brains) for the issues which typically concern me, what I was really after was "bipartisanship" among and within the city Democrats!

      In Hudson (and probably everywhere) there's rarely a political interest in an environmental issue where there's no promise of a limelight, but there's no hope of any limelight where the constituents themselves are so apathetic and uncaring.

      The usual failings of politicians are almost nothing compared to our own failings as residents, which is another argument for redistricting. It's time to shake up the old alliances and re-juice this place.

      Since all of the above will be poison to the politician's ear, it is probably up to residents to discuss the idea of redistricting Hudson's wards. How depressing!

  4. This issue is huge for the City of Hudson, yet where's the public interest?

    Our moribund complacency is not lost on our elected representatives.