The University's City Council district would be radically restyled if a plan placing it in a district with Center City and parts of South Philadelphia passes City Council and the mayor's office. A coalition of over 30 business and community groups supports a plan to put the University's ward, the 27th, in the new Council district, which would also include the city's Fairmount section. But it is not clear if such a proposal will meet approval in City Hall, and it has not been proposed by any current Council member. The proponents maintain this region of the city, dubbed "Central Philadelphia," is not represented effectively by the current composition of City Council. "We've really never gotten proper representation," said Center City developer Malcolm Lazin, the proposed district's primary backer. "There's never really been anyone who has looked at this district as a whole representing its interest." "[Central Philadelphia] is the primary economic engine of Philadelphia," he added. The area for the proposed district is now divided into four Council districts. The University is currently part of a district including most of West Philadelphia south of Market Street. Many City Council members were not available for comment yesterday because of the Veteran's Day holiday, but at least one incoming Council member -- Third district City Council member-elect Janie Blackwell -- said she has not heard anything about the plan. Individual members of the Spruce Hill Community Association, a group of University City residents, say the plan is "intriguing." "It's a slice of the city that shares many characteristics," Spruce Hill President David Hochman said. Both he and Lazin said very few people have rejected the plan outright, but Hochman said the plan has drawbacks. "Many of the outlying communities might, in effect, feel isolated," Hochman said. "That's an obvious negative and one reason [the plan] might be controversial." The Spruce Hill organization has decided not to take a stance on the proposed district because the issue might be too divisive, Hochman said yesterday. 27th ward Republican leader Matthew Wolfe said yesterday the proposal might capitalize on a current plan to draw a largely Latino Council district, since that district would require changes in the other districts across the city. Wolfe added he supported the proposal because it would unite several parts of the city that currently pay more in taxes than they receive in services. Paul Cribbins, the University's city relations director, said yesterday he had not heard of the proposal but that the University would not take a position on it. "We really don't get involved in reapportionment issues," Cribbins said. Lazin said the areas should also be united because of the similarities of the types of people living in the area. "A central Philadelphia Councilmanic district [would be part of] better educated, more concerned and more independent voters," Lazin said. "It will attract people to run for Council that are a higher quality." The City Charter mandates that Council reapportion itself every ten years after the federal census. Although this new proposal has been presented late in the process of redrawing Council districts, which has been discussed and debated since this summer, discussion on the proposal might not begin until January. Mayor Wilson Goode last month vetoed a plan sponsored by Council member John Street that did not create a Latino district. Goode recently suspended Council members' paychecks until they pass a reapportionment plan he supports. Many people say Council will not discuss the new plan until the beginning of next year, when newly-elected Council members take office. However, Blackwell said Council might begin discuss redrawing districts as early as next week. It is not clear if this proposal will be supported by Council, particularly by the Council members who represent Center City and University City areas. Blackwell said she did not have an opinion on the proposal because she had not heard about it. However, Wolfe said that he "doesn't think present Council members are going to give a big fight."Comments powered by Disqus
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