Far from making any radical changes, the map resembles the one illustrated for the past two decades, with the exception of the Lafayette district returning to Ward F. Formerly known as Bergen-Lafayette, this district has been a part of Ward F historically, but was moved into Ward E, downtown, after the 1980 census.
Byrne expects the Hudson County Board of Elections to ratify the proposed changes at its Tuesday meeting without any controversy emerging. On the contrary, the former changes approved at a July 11 board meeting caused an uproar after a drastic change to Ward B removed its representative, Councilwoman Mary Donnelly, from the ward.
"July's map was done because of revenge," Donnelly said. "Nothing else."
That revenge, Donnelly said, emerged from an ongoing conflict she had with Beth Janizewski, the former chairwoman of the Hudson County Board of Elections. Janizewski, who is married to the former county executive, Robert Janizewski, drew criticism from Donnelly about certain decisions involving the Hudson County Democratic Committee. In response, Donnelly said, Janizewski wielded her power in the Board of Elections to draw her out of the ward. Mrs. Janiszewski resigned when her husband left office amidst an FBI investigation.
Now that the new lines include Donnelly in Ward B, she is relieved. "I'm glad I'm living in the ward that people elected me for," Donnelly said. "The constituents I talked to are very happy, too."
Didn't follow the law
Because the vote taken in July had not adhered to state "sunshine laws" requiring such meetings to be advertised, Byrne, the city clerk, was given an opportunity to redraw the ward districts. Howard Moskowitz, a Jersey City lawyer and activist, discovered the legal loophole that disqualified the board's vote on the new map and convinced city officials that the meeting was invalid.
With Mrs. Janizewski gone, Byrne was able to offer his insight into the map.
As a lifelong resident of Jersey City and the city clerk for the past 13 years, Byrne's background knowledge enabled him to reconfigure the new wards without disrupting the city's traditional composition. Working with a computer program that overlaid population data over the map, Byrne came up with hundreds of possibilities until he found one that resolved any outstanding concerns amongst residents, city officials, and, most importantly, state statutes.
Census has effect
The city revisits the ward map every decade upon receiving the latest census data, a compilation of demographic statistics. Based on the 2000 census data, Jersey City was forced to redraw the ward lines to satisfy legal requirements. According to the state statute, the least populated ward cannot differ from the most populated ward by more than 10 percent of the average of the city's total population. Having a population of 240,054, this law meant that the population of each ward had to fall somewhere in the range of 38,009 to 42,009.
Since Ward E increased from 38,278 in 1990 to 43,918 by 2000, Byrne had to shift people from this ward into its neighbor, Ward F. The Lafayette district served this purpose well, allowing Byrne to fill the gap in Ward F and reunite Bergen with Lafayette.
Other minor changes stretched Ward C, which is bound by Wards D, B, E, and F, to settle population dilemmas in the neighboring wards as well as its own. In the end, Byrne managed to find a balance in the population without causing any major shift in the ward's constituents.
Byrne said that he had to be cautious not to "crack" wards that have attained political currency through having a concentrated ethnic minority, or "pack" wards by creating such neighborhoods intentionally.
Clerk finds missing people
In addition to redrawing the ward lines, Byrne managed to identify an estimated 1,500 people that had not been accounted for in the census. Because he was fiddling with various election districts during this process, he could not help but notice that a certain section in Ward E. The residential high-rise buildings known as Metropolis Towers located behind City Hall did not register on the census data, Byrne said.
After contacting state authorities, Byrne was assured by David Joye, a labor market analyst for the State Department of Labor, that the number would be corrected soon. Such an undercount could cause a loss of federal aid.
Out of the $6.8 billion in federal aid the state receives each year, Joye said each city receives an average of $800 per person. Spread over the next 10 years, when the next census will occur, that could have cost the city $12 million.
The Hudson County Board of Elections meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Hudson County Freeholders Chambers.