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Buffalo Common Council set to vote on new district map Tuesday at noon

After Buffalo residents and activists successfully caused the Common Council to cancel previous votes on a new district map, a new vote is set for Tuesday at noon.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Interim Director for Our City Action Buffalo Harper Bishop has a crystal clear reason why he and the organization are frustrated with the reapportionment process.

"This will have an impact for the next 10 years in the city of Buffalo," Bishop said. 

The Buffalo Common Council announced Monday afternoon that they will hold a vote on the latest council district map, a task they have to finish before July 31, according to the city charter. 

"We've been able to postpone the vote twice," Bishop said. "It is obvious that they are doing this in a shroud of secrecy in order to keep all of the residents of Buffalo out of the process."

The council tabled votes on the reapportionment on July 1 and July 13. The council agenda states that they will vote on the new maps without any additional public comments. 

"It's very obvious to anyone that you do not need to be an urban planner or a geographer or an expert in map-making in order to understand that these are gerrymandered in a way that becomes an incumbent protection program," Bishop said. 

2 On Your Side did talk to a geographer to learn more about the changes the council has made to the map and to explain how it skews equality between council district lines.  

"The biggest demographic group in Lovejoy in the existing districts and under the council's first proposal would be individuals who identify as Black or African American," said Russell Weaver, Ph.D. "The shift where the district now goes into Seneca Babcock and Seneca Cazenovia and becomes a little bit larger in the south would make that district now plurality whites."

Individuals who identify as white would become the biggest demographic group in Lovejoy, according to the data. 

Weaver is a geographer and was also on the reapportionment committee 11 years ago, the last time the council went through this process. 

Another area that has long been argued as gerrymandered, is the Fillmore District, which extends all the way over to Symphony Circle, up Richmond Ave, and terminates at Bryant Street. 

"We didn't get any sort of formal presentation or narratives that came along with either of these proposals," Weaver said. "So the justification for why certain changes were made is not transparent."

The Buffalo News cited anonymous sources that the map released by Our City Action, as a way to show how it could be done differently, was also gerrymandered. 

"Residents of the City of Buffalo cannot gerrymander maps, by virtue of the fact that we don't have decision-making power," Bishop said. "It's similar to the concept of reverse racism, it's not a thing, It doesn't exist when there's a power dynamic in which someone has decision-making power."

"They're the only people that can gerrymander," Bishop said.

WGRZ reached out to multiple members of the Common Council for comment, but none were available for an interview. 

The Common Council vote is set for noon on Tuesday. 

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