ShareThis Page
Republican council members threaten suit over redistricting |

Republican council members threaten suit over redistricting

Throwing down the gauntlet over redrawn Allegheny County voting lines, Republican County Council members said Friday they plan to sue to scrap the Democratic-approved voting map unless Democrats agree to start over.

However, their ultimatum immediately fell on deaf ears.

‘It’s a closed issue as far as I’m concerned,’ said Councilman Wayne Fontana, a Brookline Democrat. ‘I’m sure the other eight council members who supported this plan also see it as fair and able to withstand any legal challenge.’

That response would seem to guarantee a lawsuit.

Republicans claimed the map of the council’s 13 voting districts was created in secret by Fontana and other Democrats intent on limiting the GOP to no more than four seats in future elections. Democrats approved the map Aug. 23.

In addition to the 13 districts, County Council has two at-large members that represent each party.

Redistricting, which is required under the 2000 U.S. Census to reflect population shifts, will remain in place until the next census in 2010.

‘We are confident that under law we will succeed in a lawsuit,’ said Councilman Ron Francis, a Republican from Ben Avon.

He said council Republicans expect it will cost up to $100,000 to mount an effective legal challenge and are now raising funds from individuals and organizations he would not identify. The lawsuit would be handled by the Downtown firm of Reed Smith Shaw & McClay, where Francis works.

Francis and three other Republicans on the County Council unveiled their own voting district plan, saying it moves fewer people into new districts and spreads Pittsburgh residents among fewer districts.

Francis said Republicans will take legal action unless the council’s Democratic majority agrees Tuesday to withdraw the map and reopen discussions.

Francis said the approved voting map has ‘a significant legal problem’ because it divides Pittsburgh across six council districts, up from the current four districts. The county Administrative Code requires that municipalities be cut into as few districts as possible.

The GOP-proposed map makes only minor changes to the original voting map used for the council’s inaugural 1999 election and would keep all 13 incumbents in their own districts. The Democratic map places GOP incumbents Tom Shumaker of Pine Township and Jan Rea of McCandless together in a new North Hills district.

The approved voting map moves about 416,000 people – or about a third of the county – into new voting districts, while the GOP proposal would move about 70,000 people.

The proposed GOP map would place the current District 3 Democratic candidate, Anthony Taliani, who lives in East Deer Township, in the new District 4 with Democratic incumbent Rick Schwartz of Plum.

Brian Nearing can be reached at or (412) 391-0927.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.