Update: Catherine Lucey reports that Council just announced two more hearings, dates and times not available yet.
When we last wrote about City Council and redistricting, we were heckling Council for its failure to keep commitments to include the public in the process of drawing new districts, and going back to basics to argue that public engagement really does matter.
Since then, Council has announced plans to hold a single public hearing on the matter, on August 16 at 10:30 a.m. in Council chambers. Ellen Kaplan, of the Committee of Seventy, had this to say about the plan:
"Holding one public hearing in City Hall -- less than one month before a redistricting plan must be in place -- essentially says to the public, 'We really don't care what you think."
So that's discouraging. But meanwhile, some organizations around town have gotten together to do some public engagement of our own. The mapping firm Azavea has built some cool software that allows citizens to draw their own Council districts. And Azavea, WHYY/Newsworks, the Daily News editorial board and the Penn Project for Civic Engagement are hosting a workshop and contest, to help/encourage citizens to participate. Read Chris Satullo's explanation of the program. Or listen to the Daily News' Catherine Lucey and Azavea's Robert Cheetham discuss the matter on Radio Times.
Of course, it's fair to ask: Do the workshop and contest matter if Council -- who will ultimately make the decisions here -- doesn't seem committed to using public input?
Truthfully, there's probably some value to the exercise without Council's attention ... but not nearly enough.
That doesn't mean, though, that this engagement effort will be a waste of time. Because Council doesn't need to be signed on before the engagement. What we hope happens tonight, and over the next couple of weeks, is that citizens get interested in redistricting, Council notices that citizens are interested, and decides to pay attention to what people are saying. In fact, Sandra Shea of the Daily News will be speaking tonight about ways to put citizens' maps in front of Council's eyes.
So come out: Tonight at 7 p.m. at WHYY's Hamilton Public Media Commons, at 150 N. 6th Street.
Also, there are prizes for the best maps, totaling $1,000. So that helps.