Phila. City Council begins new redistricting plan

PHILADELPHIA - August 2, 2011

Philadelphia's more than 1.5 million people must be divided into 10 council districts, with roughly equal populations.

"We're certainly interested in hearing everyone's ideas and their input," said Anna Verna, City Council President.

City Council has set aside one day for a public hearing at City Hall on Aug. 16, with an eye toward meeting the redistricting deadline on Sept. 9.

"This is not going to be a bitter battle. This is going to be something where it's give and take. People give up some things and people get some things," said Councilman Brian O'Neill.

There have been some major population shifts in Philadelphia over the last decade.

The 7th district has been singled out as the most gerrymandered municipal voting district in the country.

Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez is the ultimate power there now and she aims to keep it that way.

"I won in 2007, and in 2011 there is an argument of whether or not we have a Latino district. We have a Latino district. We have to defend our neighborhoods," said Councilwoman Sanchez.

For the first time, various interest groups are challenging the status quo.

A consulting firm is setting up an internet competition to design new council districts of their own to parallel the council's process.

"Anyone can draw your own plan in the software by selecting the geography that makes up Philadelphia. They will be able to select from wards and divisions to make up their own district," said Abby Fretz of fixphillydistricts.com.

The council will return to regular sessions in early September, when the new redistricting plan is due.

If City Council cannot reach a consensus by then, their paychecks will be suspended until they are able to.

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