The Yonkers City Council held a special meeting on Friday February 10th, 2023 at 11am to vote on the newly proposed council district map. The council adopted the new map in a 6-1 vote with Anthony Merante of the sixth district being the lone “no” vote.
Why and how the maps changed
Every 10 years federal, state, and local election districts must be redrawn to accommodate for shifts in population. The Census was performed in 2020 and the results were delivered in 2021. However, the City of Yonkers did not begin to redraw their council district maps until late December 2022. It is their stated practice to wait on the state, county, and local political ward lines to be complete first. The final approved map must be delivered to the Westchester County Board of Elections by February 16th. With this compressed timeframe, the council released the proposed map on Friday January 20th.
The initially proposed map was met with ire and accusations of gerrymandering. After public town halls both in the west side’s Riverfront Library and the east side’s Grinton I. Will Library, the council heard the message loud and clear to change these maps. The city council presented a revised map on Tuesday Jan. 31st. It addressed most of the obvious grievances such as particular neighborhoods being split into different districts and some districts spanning too large of a geographical area or political divide. However, many in the sixth council district represented by Anthony Merante were still not satisfied with the changes.
Apart from the maps themselves, the process of redistricting also came under fire. After the debacle of the term limits extension last year, the patience of residents was strained. It was clear that these politicians were not going to be given the benefit of the doubt on their actions or intentions. The council conceded to provide more time for debate and they ultimately revised the maps. Therefore it seems that the council knew that their political capital was running on fumes.
The special meeting today proceeded without much fanfare. The former leader of the Yonkers GOP, Justin Tubiolo, was the only public speaker. As for the council members, Merante spoke first and expressed his displeasure with the process and the map – calling his district, “gerrymandered.” He attributed this as punishment for his declared candidacy for mayor. Every other member spoke to simply thank Dr. Beveridge and the city council president. They each stated that they would vote in favor with Tasha Diaz calling it the “strongest and best” map. As the vote was called, it came in as six in favor and Merante the lone vote against.
When and why does this matter
Now that the new district map has been approved by the council, it must be also signed by the mayor, Mike Spano. Upon this signature it becomes law and residents will feel the immediate effect. For example, construction is currently being done by ConEd on a road in the east side which was formerly in the sixth district and is now in the fifth. Therefore, the point of contact on the Council between ConEd and the residents this work is affected will change. Furthermore, some residents who supported, campaigned, and voted for their council member in a past election may now interact with a new member unknown to them and perhaps diametrically opposed to their political ideals.
Alas, the process of redistricting is necessary and is ultimately complete. And there are certainly winners and there are losers. While the fifth district may now be a Republican stronghold, the sixth district becomes a toss-up. This could eventually lead to a council that is composed of six Democrats and a single Republican. While some may decry this as the death of conservative political influence in Yonkers, those people must be unaware that in this city, party doesn’t matter. When politicians are willing to change their stripes, flip their vote, and vote across party lines – it matters more who is elected and not which party they are caucusing with today.