Racial splits feared with redistricting
Residents of the North Side's Mexican War Streets worry that a proposal to redraw City Council districts could split their neighborhood along racial and economic lines.
“We are a very diverse neighborhood and we've been working very hard to unify the neighborhood,” said Paul Johnson, president of the Mexican War Streets Society. “Splitting us down the middle like this breaks us apart in a way that we don't want to be broken apart.”
In Regent Square, people are similarly concerned the plan would move part of the neighborhood into another council district.
Matt Merriman-Preston, a veteran campaign consultant who chairs a nine-member redistricting committee that council appointed, said it likely will make slight changes before submitting the proposal to council in September. He said members would consider those concerns when crafting a final version.
“Obviously you can't make changes to one district in a vacuum without affecting everything else,” Merriman-Preston said. “I think the committee is open to taking the comments that we got and seeing where we can and can't incorporate them into the map, while still meeting our legal requirements.”
The state constitution requires Pittsburgh to redraw political boundaries every 10 years to reflect population changes and ensure equal representation among nine council districts. Districts must be of aboout equal size, contiguous and as compact as possible.
In addition, the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires that districts traditionally populated by minorities be redrawn so that the minority group represents a majority of district voters. Blacks predominantly populate Pittsburgh's two minority voting districts: R. Daniel Lavelle's District 6 and Ricky Burgess' District 9.
Merriman-Preston said the committee had to figure out how to add people to Burgess' East End district, which lost more than 5,700 people during the past decade, and add minority, voting-age residents to Lavelle's district so that it retains its minority edge.
The committee did so by moving parts of Stanton Heights, East Liberty and mostly white Regent Square into Burgess' district and by splitting the Mexican War Streets between Lavelle, who is black, and Council President Darlene Harris, who is white.
Burgess said he agreed with the changes but would reserve comment until after the plan is finalized. The Tribune-Review could not reach Lavelle.
The plan would split the Mexican War Streets at Samsonia Street. People living north of Samsonia would be in Lavelle's district and those south of it in Harris' District 1.
“We're saying we believe that there are other ways to accomplish this minority-majority district,” said Barbara Talerico, president of the Central North Side Neighborhood Council. “It should not be done by dividing up a neighborhood by racial lines.”
Alina Keebler, president of the Regent Square Civic Association, said about 200 residents wrote letters to the committee objecting to the shift to Burgess' district from District 5 represented by Councilman Corey O'Connor. She declined further comment.
Splitting the neighborhood reduces its ability to present a unified front to City Council on things happening in Frick Park, which borders Regent Park and would remain in District 5, and public safety, public works and transportation concerns, says a letter the association sent to residents outlining its concerns.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport man accused of firing at child to stand trial
- East Allegheny may meet this week with education association
- Steelers defensive end Tuitt shifts into high gear
- Rossi: Pirates foolish to bet on Burnett return
- Ankle replacement makes UPMC McKeesport history
- Rain postpones Pirates-Cubs game
- Erie attorney named trustee for bankrupt Homestead Cemetery
- Charges held against suspect in McKeesport market robbery, assault
- Oil prices slip on persistent fears of glut
- Steelers notebook: No decision on surgery for rookie CB Golson
- Steelers’ Mitchell taking cautious approach about dealing with injuries