What do proposed Council district maps mean for NW Philly?

When you compare the current Council district map to a pair of redistricting proposals, at first blush the three districts that cover parts of Northwest Philadelphia – the Fourth, Eighth and Ninth – would look essentially the same for next 10 years as they did in the last decade.

Zoom in closer, though, and you’ll notice minor shifts on account of new census figures and shifting populations.

One proposed map comes from a Council working group, the other from at-large Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney.

These proposed maps leave Chestnut Hill, East Falls, Germantown, Manayunk, Mount Airy, Roxborough and West Oak Lane essentially in the same Council districts.  That means Fairmount Park remains a dividing line, with the neighborhoods along the Schuylkill paired up with West Philadelphia wards in the Fourth. The Eighth still will include Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and Germantown.

The expected changes are seen in an eastward shift toward neighborhoods that experienced population growth.

Councilman Curtis Jones’s Fourth District would take a tiny portion of the 11th Ward (Cambria to Lehigh, 21st to 23rd) from outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller.

Also, a sliver of the 28th Ward (Somerset to Lehigh, 24th to Chalmers) would arrive in the Fourth. That area used to be in Darrell Clarke’s Fifth District. When reached for comment Friday, Republican ward leader Robert Washington said he didn’t “have time to talk about that.”

The Eighth District would take a larger piece of the 49th Ward (2nd to Bingham, north of the Boulevard to Tabor Road) from Councilwoman Marian Tasco’s Ninth District while claiming a new slice of the 42nd Ward.

Tasco would claim the entire 53rd Ward currently claimed – in the kind of crazy-quilt line-drawing approach known as gerrymandering – by the Seventh, Ninth and 10th.

Elaine Tomlin, the Democratic 42nd Ward leader, isn’t pleased with how the proposals treat her area. She pointed out on Friday that one portion of the ward shifts from tenured Councilman Darrell Clarke and goes to a newcomer in the Eighth, since Reed-Miller is retiring.

“All the seniority stuff is lost. It worries me,” said Tomlin, who testified at a redistricting hearing. She wishes her district in Olney and Feltonville would be covered by only one or two Council districts, as it was prior to the last redistricting.

“It’s just not beneficial to be sliced up like that. We’re a deprived ward; this doesn’t benefit us, it benefits the politicians. Now, we just got to sit back and wait,” she said.

Tasco noted, however, that the ward is split along distinct community lines and vowed to work with Tomlin, who she described as a “very strong ward leader.”

“I think we’ve done a fairly good job given the scenario we started with, particularly with the [gerrymandered] Seventh District,” Tasco said. “The differences weren’t political in nature, but concerns that a lot of work had gone into the communities we represent, some ongoing projects. You can’t just use numbers [to redistrict]. These are communities.”

Under redistricting proposals, Tasco would lose the 49th Ward portion where the “Logan sinking home area” is located. Since she’s worked on the issue for a long while, Tasco said she and Cindy Bass, likely winner of the Eighth District seat this November, have agreed to keep the former as the lead on the issue.

“She welcomes the working relationship since I have a long history in that community helping with those affected,” Tasco said. “That’s the beauty this time: There’s no reason to be combative.”

Under the City Charter, Council needs to approve a new map this month. In fact, Council members technically begin losing pay as of today because of the failure to approve a map, but the real pain would not kick in until Sept. 22, when their next paycheck is due.

A hearing on the two proposals will be held next Thursday.

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