For those who were not aware (and there are likely many of you), last night at Trumbull Town Hall there was a meeting of the Trumbull Town Council which lasted well past midnight, at which the issue of redistricting the town for voting purposes was discussed. It should be noted that the issue has been a topic of discussion for some time in the council; last night was merely the moment when it was to be brought to the floor for a vote.
When the 21-member council (comprised of 14 Republicans and 7 Democrats) established a committee to investigate the matter some months ago, the committee was comprised of 5 members, breaking down 3-2 in favor of the majority. As you might expect, partisanship ensued, resulting in two suggested proposals from the committee – the majority position (a replacement of the current 7-district plan with 4 districts); and the minority position (essentially, a modification of the current 7-district design). Being the product of the majority, the 4-district plan was on the agenda, scheduled for a vote.
Each plan claims to achieve the goal of “one person, one vote”, and better reflect the current demographics & population of the town than the plan currently in use. In brief, the 4-district plan would result in 3 districts with 5 representatives, and one “super district” with 6 representatives; the 7-district plan would maintain the current breakdown of 3 representatives per district.
You might think that such a proposal would have been presented in at least one public forum long before last night – and you’d be wrong. Last night town residents were given the opportunity to voice their concerns, support, and/or critiques with regard to the issue – only last night, immediately prior to a scheduled vote on the matter. By my count, approximately 15 residents rose to present their thoughts to the town council; of those, 14 spoke out against the 4-district plan, and either supported adoption of the proposed 7-district plan, or supported further review/discussion of the matter prior to any vote.
You might be thinking “Well, sure, the minority knew about the meeting, and stacked the audience with their supporters”; to be fair, some of those residents who spoke clearly did so from a partisan perspective.
As I stated on the floor of the council last night, I saw flaws in both proposals. I will be the first to tip my hat to those who sat on the committee, in recognition of the hours of effort they doubtless put into the development and details of each proposal (the details of each proposal can be found on the Town of Trumbull website). That said, the 4-district plan comes across as such a piece of preconceived political nonsense that I fail to see how anyone without a partisan agenda could possibly support it. I’m still waiting for someone to please explain how any plan that results in one district in a town having more representatives than another is the best possible solution (for those who would offer Greenwich or Darien as examples of towns with districts having an unequal number of representatives, I would remind them that each of those towns have a Representative Town Meeting form of government, not a Town Council such as here in Trumbull). On the floor of the council last night, I asked the members of the majority party if one of them could please explain to me and to those in attendance why the 4-district plan was in fact the best plan for the town to adopt, for if one of them could present a cogent argument in support of it, I would have been willing to vote for it. Interestingly, none of them could, or would, do so. From the majority party, only councilman David Pia, so often a voice of moderation and bipartisanship, had the courage to state for the record that he agreed that the 4-district proposal was indeed flawed, and that he could not support it. Numerous amendments - regarding modifications to the proposed legislation, its return to committee for further review, postponement of a final vote until further public input could be collected – were offered; each was summarily defeated along party lines.
I believe it was Winston Churchill who wrote that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” We live in a democracy, and I strongly support the democratic process. When the final vote was taken regarding the adoption of the 4-district plan, the final tally of 12-8 was of little surprise to anyone in the council chambers.
In the short term, last night’s vote changed little. Much like many Trumbull residents, I still had to get up this morning, make breakfast for my kids, get them ready for school, and prepare for work. Assuming that the resolution passed last night survives a possible referendum and/or legal action, Trumbull residents will have to adapt to the new districts, with their new voting locations, their longer waits at the reduced number of voting locations, etc. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that, ultimately, we get the type of government we deserve. Perhaps the minority party was wrong in their proposal; certainly, the results of the last two municipal elections in Trumbull would suggest that a majority of town residents currently support the Republican Party, and by extension, their ideas regarding how the town of Trumbull should be governed. Perhaps – but not in this case.
Fred Palmieri, Jr. (D)
Trumbull Town Council