City Council will introduce a bill Thursday to redraw the city's political districts, but the boundaries of the new map are going to be "ugly," Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez said Tuesday.
"We're going to have something. It's not going to be the ideal, consensus map," she said. "I'm not happy with where we are. . . . It still needs a lot of work."
Sánchez, whose twisted, gerrymandered Seventh District has been at the center of the fight to redraw the political map, spoke Tuesday night after the third hearing on redistricting.
For weeks, an ad hoc committee of five Council members, including Sánchez, has been meeting on redistricting, while Council staffers have been soliciting all 17 members for their views on district geography.
Despite all that work behind closed doors, the public has yet to see a new map. Council President Anna C. Verna has set an agenda to introduce redistricting Thursday, when Council returns from the summer recess, and hold a hearing the following week.
Council could pass the plan by Sept. 22 "if all goes well," Verna said. Sánchez said that seemed unlikely.
After that deadline, Council members would not be paid until they passed a redistricting plan.
Verna indicated last week that the process had been slowed by disputes surrounding the 56th Ward in the Rhawnhurst section of Northeast Philadelphia.
Sánchez said Tuesday that there was "a real push to keep me in the 56th Ward." That would mean preserving at least some of her district's tortured composition.
Latino advocacy groups see her district's boundaries as an attempt to dilute the Hispanic vote. They have called for her district to become more compact.
Joe Garcia of the group LatinoLines said Tuesday that the Seventh's "snaking tail and jughandle have got to go."
"Let us be very clear," he said. "Any scenario where the Seventh District goes above Cottman Avenue is unacceptable."
Sánchez said she would expect advocacy groups to sue and the mayor to veto any plan that preserves the Seventh's gerrymandered shape.
An early plan also set up a 9 percent variation in population between the smallest and largest of the city's 10 districts. While a 10 percent variation is considered legal, the goal has been 5 percent.
Redistricting must be performed every 10 years to account for population shifts after the census is released. Each district should be of roughly equal size.
Sánchez said the committee was working to get "as close to 5 percent as we can," but noted that accounting for big population drops in the Eighth and Fourth Districts would be difficult.
"There's no way we're going to make up 13,000 in the Eighth," she said. "Those will continue to be low districts."
Unhappiness with the process also has led two members, James F. Kenney and Frank DiCicco, to work on an alternative redistricting plan, according to a Council source. They have been consulting with two Democratic Council nominees, Bobby Henon and Mark Squilla, on the plan, which would be ready this week, the source said.
At Tuesday's hearing, a coalition of media and civic organizations also announced the winner of a public redistricting contest - a map drawn by John R. Attanasio, 62, a Center City management consultant and lawyer, who purposely ignored the current Council boundaries and incumbents' home addresses.
"Those factors can serve only to give an incumbent or a party an undeserved electoral advantage," Attanasio said in remarks prepared for Council's Tuesday night hearing. "I don't believe these are legitimate goals of redistricting."
The contest was sponsored by Azavea Inc., a local software and consulting firm that developed a website, FixPhillyDistricts.com, combining new census data with mapping tools. Cosponsors included WHYY, the Philadelphia Daily News, Philly.com, and the University of Pennsylvania's Project for Civic Engagement.
Attanasio said that the first time he heard the word gerrymandering was in seventh grade in Schenectady, N.Y.
"It seemed so outrageous to me that voting districts would be manipulated to basically rig elections, and they still" are, he said. "I've wondered for a long time: Why can't there be a more objective way to carve up districts?"