Penn Hills citizens win redistricting changes

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When the preliminary redistricting map for Pennsylvania House districts was revealed, a number of residents from Penn Hills’ Lincoln Park neighborhood were shocked to find they were about to move to a different district, which they said would diminish the standing they’d fought to achieve in Penn Hills. It was, they said, “resegregation.”

StandingTheirGround
STANDING THEIR GROUND—Lincoln Park residents, from left; Joyce Davis, Kelly Smithson and Rose Davis, helped beat back a state redistricting change they said would “resegregate” the community. (Photo by J.L. Martello.)

“Progressive, educated, Black and White residents have worked together to make Penn Hills one community. We do not want our community divided again,” said resident Rose Davis. “This plan takes Lincoln Park back to segregation. I hope that many other people in Penn Hills will speak out against this plan.”

They did. And led by NAACP Penn Hills President Joyce Davis, they held press conferences and contacted the two state representatives involved, Tony Deluca, D-Penn Hills, and Joseph Preston, D-East Liberty, and the members of the state Redistricting Commission—and they won. The final map, released last week, keeps Lincoln Park in DeLuca’s district.

“It keeps Tony’s district more racially diverse and allows our concerns about Penn Hills to be heard at the state level,” said Joyce Davis. No offense against Joe, but he’s mostly Pittsburgh.”

Preston said he and DeLuca had also told the commission they wanted Lincoln Park to stay where it is. DeLuca’s district instead expands further east, encompassing more of Plum and the area of Oakmont where the golf course is located. It also expands north to encompass part of Fox Chapel.

Preston, on the other hand will see his district expand into Pittsburgh. He loses Aspinwall, but will now represent all of East Liberty, most of Friendship and parts of Bloomfield, Garfield, Regent Square and Shadyside.

“Back before 1992, I actually had part of Lincoln Park, but I think it’s important that it stay together,” said Preston. “And it helps Tony out because they are solid Democrats and will balance the Republicans he’s picking up.”

For his part, Preston should be stronger because he is actually losing Republican voters from Aspinwall.

“Yes, I’m picking up Democrats and I gain a lot of Independents in Shadyside,” he said. “The funny part is the mayor and other Republicans in Aspinwall wanted to stay in my district.”

The area’s other African-American state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, will also see his district expand geographically. Though he will lose sections of Oakland and Mt. Oliver, he gains all of Glen Hazel. And on Pittsburgh’s North Side, Wheatley picks up all of Manchester, Allegheny West and most of the upper North Side.

While these redistricting changes were mostly resolved amicably, the U.S. Congressional redistricting fight remains and is centered on a map that strengthens freshman Republicans and pits Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire, D-Aliquippa, and Mark Critz, D-Uniontown, against each other as primary opponents for a new larger district that also favors the GOP.

“We’re going to be here all week voting on that,” said Preston.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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