After Kevin Hannan finished reading the prepared statement about the Fair & Equal initiative at last night's informal Common Council meeting, the question came from Alderman Robert "Doc" Donahue (Fifth Ward), who asked: "Won't this restructuring force supervisors to run against each other? . . . One of them would lose their seat." The supervisors he had in mind were Ed Cross (Second Ward) and Bill Hughes (Fourth Ward). The new ward boundaries would put Robinson Street, where Cross lives, in the Fourth Ward. He also mentioned Sarah Sterling (First Ward) and Don Moore (Third Ward), because the proposed boundaries would put Moore in the First Ward. Steve Dunn explained that the proposed map was "drawn to respect communities of interest. It did not consider incumbents."
Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) asked about the percentage of minorities in the proposed new wards. Dunn told him that the percentage of the minority population would increase slightly in the Second, Third, and Fourth wards and decrease slightly in the First and Fifth wards. Avowing that he had no problem with the principle of one person, one vote, Miah said he had problems with the boundaries. He then launched into an emotional discourse about the different interests of different groups in Hudson. People in the First and Third wards, said Miah, "have money," and they are "looking for parks" and "worry about lights when some people have no food." By contrast, according to Miah, people in the Second and Fourth wards are looking for low income housing.
Miah said the proposed ward boundaries did not serve poor people and predicted that, were they to be adopted, minority representation on the Council would be diminished. He ended his statement by saying, "They will have no voice in the City, and it will be evil." Dunn pointed out that the Second Ward now elects representatives that are minorities and the proposed boundaries would not compromise the representative voice of minorities.
Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) asked about the vote of the Council president in the proposed plan and was told it would be the eleventh vote. She then asked, "If two aldermen from the same ward vote differently, will they cancel each other out?" She was reminded that the same thing could happen now.
Garriga went on to say that she agreed with Miah and asserted that the people on Mill Street and Robinson Street want to remain in the Second Ward and "don't understand why they were not included in the conversation."
Bill Hughes, supervisor for the Fourth, said he was "part of the discussion the last time around" and acknowledged that the redistricting scheme he had proposed--to create only three wards by combining the First and Third and Second and Fourth and leaving the Fifth Ward as it is--would also result in his having to run against Cross.
Hughes' main concern, however, was Crosswinds, the income-based development on Harry Howard Avenue where the residents now vote in the Fourth Ward but were counted for the purposes of the weighted vote in the Fifth Ward. Hughes argued for drawing ward boundaries "by demographics," creating wards that were homogeneous by residents' socioeconomic status. He said the Fourth Ward should not go below Third Street and Crosswinds should be part of the Fourth Ward.
The most passionate and personal criticism of the proposed boundaries came from Ed Cross, supervisor for the Second Ward. He declared that he'd lived in Hudson all his life and represented his ward for twenty years. "Why are you trying to kick me out of my ward? Why wasn't I invited?" Speaking of the those representing the Fair & Equal initiative, he complained, "Some of you all I don't even know. Somebody should have said something to me. I didn't deserve that. I think the whole thing has been done wrong. . . . You locked the door on me. You're changing my life!" When Dunn reiterated that "the map was not drawn to accommodate incumbents," Cross protested, "You went about it like sneaks!"
Hannan defended the initiative saying, "This is as direct as democracy gets. We want to see a city where everyone is represented fairly."
At the end of the discussion, city attorney Ken Dow explained the process. The petition had been submitted; the city clerk was validating the signatures. The Council has two months to send it to referendum. If the Council fails to do that, with additional signatures, the petition can go directly to the Board of Elections and go on the ballot.
Sarah Sterling, supervisor for the First Ward, asked if the Council could change the boundaries. Dow told her that the Council could adopt the petition as is, with the map that accompanied it, or it could act entirely on its own to propose different boundaries.
Donahue took the opportunity to ask Sterling if she wanted to run against Moore, praising her and Moore both for being excellent supervisors and doing a wonderful job. Sterling answered simply, "I'll accept the will of the people." Moore then wryly expressed his gratitude to Donahue for the compliment but said, "I would be happy to give up my seat, because I think [doing away with the weighted vote] is that important."
Before the meeting was adjourned, Alderman Michael O'Hara (First Ward) observed that the Council could come up with its own proposal for eliminating the weighted vote which could go to referendum along with the one proposed by the Fair & Equal campaign.
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