At a second contentious committee meeting last night, members of the Board of Aldermen began negotiating in small groups to determine the shapes of the the city’s 30 wards, an early step in the lengthy redistricting process.
After its first substantive meeting on Feb. 21, the ward redistricting committee invited the rest of New Haven’s legislators to last night’s meeting at City Hall to examine a preliminary blueprint released by the City Plan Department.
Under a second draft of the proposal, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 — who currently represents Yale’s Old Campus and 8 of the 12 residential colleges — would lose Silliman College and the Yale Law School to Ward 22.
In addition, the newly redrawn Ward 1 would extend for the first time across State Street into part of Wooster Square. Healey said he was happy with the plan but would like Ward 1 to include Pierson and Davenport colleges — currently in Ward 7 — instead of the Wooster Square tract.
If Silliman and the Law School were added to Ward 22 — which already includes Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges — Yale students would make up nearly half of Alderwoman Mae Ola Riddick’s constituency, according to data from the City Plan Department.
Healey said the proposed change would greatly increase a Yale undergraduate’s chance of winning an election there.
Riddick was unavailable for comment Wednesday night.
The city must redraw its wards every 10 years when new census results are released. Without significantly altering each ward’s racial and ethnic makeup, the committee must then create 30 new wards of roughly equal population — but it first has to wait for the Connecticut Legislature to reapportion state assembly districts.
Under the city Charter, the aldermen must try to redraw the wards without crossing the boundaries of the new assembly districts.
Many city legislators, including Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen, expressed frustration at last night’s meeting because the state draws assembly districts without regard for the location of the city’s neighborhoods.
“It’s so hard to make them match up,” Chen said. “It’s like the state didn’t even look at the city beforehand.”
City Plan Department Executive Director Karyn Gilvarg, who attended last night’s meeting with city planners Roland Lemar and Donna Hall, said the redistricting process is also complicated because each alderman wants to preserve his or her current constituency.
“They want to get reelected,” she said.
Gilvarg also said the aldermen would probably look to preserve the constituencies of the current ward committee co-chairs.
The Democratic and Republican town committees, through ward co-chairs in each of the 30 voting districts, exert substantial influence on who runs for office and who gets elected.
Although the aldermen are attempting to draw 30 wards of roughly 4,100 residents each, Gilvarg said that, because the plan must be based on the results of the 2000 census, the districts may change dramatically by the time the plan goes into effect during the next election cycle.
“The census is only a snapshot of the city’s population at one point in time,” Gilvarg said. “Things can change dramatically if new construction happens or a housing project is torn down after the data is compiled.”