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Trumbull Councilman: 4-District Design Violates Spirit of Law

by Gregg Basbagill

To the editor:

This Monday, the Trumbull Town Council will hold public hearings and vote on competing plans to change Town Council Districts.   I encourage all members of the public to examine the plans before Monday night, and come to the Council to advocate for the best plan.  I believe a thorough examination will reveal that the minority plan (seven districts) is superior to the majority plan (four districts).

The majority’s four-district plan is fundamentally flawed for several reasons, but the most significant is the lack of equal representation.  I currently reside in District 1.  As a Town Councilor, I (along with David Pia and Suzanne Testani) represent the whole of District 1.   Any resident of the northeast corner of town can call on any or all of us to advocate on their behalf.

Under the majority plan, District 1 will be represented by five councilors.  This is less than District 4 in the southwestern part of town that would be represented by six councilors.  This is clearly unfair.  Because every resident in town looks to the entire slate of councilors from each district to represent them, it is plainly inequitable that one of the districts receives an extra representative.

While the redistricting committee made the case that this follows the letter of the law, it certainly does not follow the spirit.  If we believe in one-man-one-vote, why are we constructing a system in which the number of representatives you have is the result of an accident of geography?

There are real and localized issues in town.  For example, in the northwest corner of town, many are concerned about the fate of Wagner Tree Farm property.  In the southeast corner of town, the issue a couple years back was the fuel cell plant.  My district had a serious problem with sewer lines.  How would people in those districts feel if they had fewer voices on the Town Council to advocate for their quite local but legitimate concerns?

As a representative of district 1, I encourage all residents to look at the plans and discover how your voice will be diminished on the Town Council.  Plans can be viewed on the town website under the minutes for the “Trumbull Redistricting Commission.”  Ask those in favor of the plan to explain why you deserve fewer representatives than people elsewhere in town.

Thank you-

Gregg Basbagill

Town Council, District 1

gbasbagill@gmail.com

Tom Pieragostini April 02, 2012 at 12:42 AM
One of the stated benefits to the 7 district plan is it; "enhances the neighborhood concept." Can that be said for district 7 these last 28 years? The residents of Huntington Road, Nichols Ave. and Huntington Turnpike, in Nichols, were split away from the village of Nichols in the 1980s to become a part of a new district that stretches over 4 miles away to Long Hill. What has occurred during the last 28 years to make anyone believe that a voting district, especially district 7, will enhance a "neighborhood concept" when one never existed in the first place? District 7's boundaries ignore all historical and cultural associations that have formed over the past three hundred forty years as the village of Nichols developed. The 4 district plan will restore Nichols as one neighborhood, within the town of Trumbull, connected by its common history.
Thomas Tesoro April 02, 2012 at 03:14 AM
As I said, Trumbull is one Community and while I admire Tom P's historical zeal, I walked the Nichols area in two elections and of the many many people I spoke to, not one, raised the district configuration we currently use as an issue. Not one. When the Power Plant was proposed for Nichols, the entire Community rallied to fight it. No one cared about historical boundfries, cultural associations etc. We rallied as a community. There is no need to create districts with disparate populations or disproportionate representation and no rational reason to do so. This is no longer a Community of villages, or dairy farms but one community that is better served with more districts than less. it is a community that is better served with a strong minority presence and it is a community that is better served with Districts of equal population and equal representation. Twenty-eight or so years ago such a plan was created and the results of the elections since show clearly that it works.As the Power plant shows, when one portion iof our community (in that case Nichols) was threatened, we all rally. Maybe that is a better example of Trumbull today than parochial concerns based on past history.
Thomas Tesoro April 02, 2012 at 03:36 AM
However, Tom P. does make one interesting point. Based on the maps I have seen, a substantial portion of what I understand to be Nichols is brought together under the new 7 district plan and only the smallest of portions remains outside those new parameters.So, much of what Tom P. is complaining about is addressed by the new 7 district plan, Tom P should have been able to raise his concerns at a public hearing before the Redistricting Committee and adjustments could have been made if his comments had merit. Why did that not happen? If Tom P has a real complaint, it is that the majority on the Redistricting Committee did not allow a public hearing while that process was being pursued.
Tom Kelly April 02, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Tom Tesoro said something very important....when the Democrats were in the majority in 1984, they INCREASED minority representation. They guaranteed the minority more seats. Now the Republicans come to power, and want to dramatically alter the map after 30 years of success. They want to go backwards, and reduce minority representation. I fully expect the Republicans to pass it through, but be careful for unintended consequences. When there is mass inconvenience and long lines at the polls in November, they will have to answer for it.
Cindy Katske April 02, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Tom, I'm not sure where you think you would be voting under the 4-district plan, because under that plan there currently is no designated polling place. Bill Holden specifically stated that he was considering choosing between two different private places that would be rented for voting, but he would not publicly divulge those locations. In any event, polling locations may be suggested but are ultimately decided by the Registrars of Voters. One other comment: the fact that the 4-district plan would keep the historic village of Nichols intact was not intended by the plan's creators. In fact, they stated that they do not consider any areas of Trumbull to be neighborhoods that should be kept together, but that Trumbull is itself one neighborhood. You are just lucky that it happens to work that way in the plan, but it was not by design.

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