Borders Shift In Newhallville, Wooster Square

Defying advice from the city’s top attorney, aldermen have changed the boundaries of two neighborhood voting districts.

Without discussion, the Board of Aldermen Monday night voted unanimously to move the borders bounding Newhallville’s Ward 21 and Wooster Square’s Ward 8 to include blocks from neighboring wards.

Mike Smart (in right photo, above), Ward 8’s alderman, said the changes were necessary to rectify a simple oversight from the city-wide ward redistricting that ended last May. Ward 21 Alderwoman Brenda Foskey-Cyrus (at left) declined to comment.

The changes mean that Jocelyn Square, a small neighborhood surrounding a park near Humphrey’s restaurant on Humphrey Street,  moves back to Ward 8 from East Rock’s Ward 9; and a block near Hillhouse High School moves back to Ward 21.

Before making the changes, the Board of Aldermen had consulted with city Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden. Alderman asked Bolden if they could make changes to ward borders after closing the required once-a-decade process last year.

Bolden said no. He said the city can redraw its ward lines only within six months after the state creates new districts, a deadline that passed last June.

Aldermen then consulted with New Haven attorney Martin Philpot, who said aldermen would be within their rights to change ward boundaries, but that they should use that power sparingly.

“Obviously we believe the Philpot opinion,” said board President Alderman Jorge Perez. “If we were to take Victor’s opinion, we’d never be able to amend an ordinance.”

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posted by: PH on April 18, 2013  11:40am

Preposterous.  What kind of massive incompetence does it take to only now realize what the boundaries of your Ward are?  This map was put out months ago and the Aldermen only now decide that they want a different Ward?  They had a vote, they approved a map, they should live with it.  Fix your oversights next decade.  Really quite amazing.  Yet another reason why this Board should be cut in half or one third—at least there would be a chance of improved competence in the people who run.

posted by: MAC1 on April 18, 2013  12:19pm

“Obviously we believe the Philpot opinion,” said board President Alderman Jorge Perez. “If we were to take [Victor Bolden]‘s opinion, we’d never be able to amend an ordinance.”

Big vote of confidence in the Corporation Counsel- the BoA obviously feel they’re getting the City’s $150,000/year out of him.  Just wondering- did Bolden’s opinion actually say they’d never be able to amend an ordinance or was that just hyperbole to justify shopping an opinion?

posted by: Greg-Morehead on April 18, 2013  1:33pm

For real?
I understand Mike Smarts comment about the oversight with his Ward, but Ms. Foskey Cyrus, you couldn’t comment on this matter?  Some of the Alderman are drones.  O I forgot, they need the Unions there before they can comment.
My bad!

posted by: robn on April 18, 2013  4:57pm

One last bit of Gerrymandering please?

I don’t quite understand why the DOJ wasn’t crawling up the city’s keister in the first place since the redistricting was so geographically irrational and so obviously political. This is just the same union coalition group taking a second bite out of the (bad) apple.

posted by: abg22 on April 18, 2013  5:57pm

This is what happens when redistricting is handled by a committee of the board of aldermen and not an independent commission. A number of residents implored the charter revision revision to look at making procedures for redistricting simpler and more fair, and to remove the incentives for partisan gerrymandering. Why would anyone who cares about clean government stand for a system where sitting aldermen are allowed to draw their own wards, i.e. choose their voters instead of the other way around? Unfortunately the charter commission decided to pass up the opportunity to adopt the kind of redistricting reform that is recommended by the National Civic League and that all progressive cities have begun to adopt. Redistricting is never going to be simple and straightforward—but it doesn’t have to be a highly politicized and possibly illegal disaster.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 18, 2013  7:16pm

Put Proportional Representation in Charter Revision and you will not have this problem.

posted by: Curious on April 19, 2013  10:33am

I actually tried very hard to get someone from the federal government or one of the many Latino action groups around to look into New Haven’s crooked redistricting, and nobody cared.