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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

Mark E Smith April 01, 2012 at 04:30 PM
The only people who seem to be against this plan are the Trumbull Democrats. The same party that imposed the 7 district plan back in the early 80's. The same Political Party who subsequently controlled the Town Government for 20+ years afterward. Now the Trumbull Democrats are out of office and the Republicans want to move the Town Districts back the way they were and guess who doesn't like it? The Trumbull Democrats! See a pattern here? While the Democrats have been out of control under the Herbst administration, EVERYTHING he and the Republicans try to do the Democrats obstruct. Go ahead look that the posting here, look at the Town Council minutes over the past 2.5 years. Now the Democratic attack team of Tom (Tom T, formerly of the Ray and the Rubberstampers) & Tom will point their anger toward me because they don't have anything positive offer. As for the four districts, this is not a very large town. It is approximately 23 square miles (about 5 miles by 5 miles) in size for which you can drive across it in 10 minutes ( 1 minute if driving on the Merritt). I believe that the argument that smaller districts will have less representation is ludicrous due to that all of us are impacted by issues and events that occur in this town. When there was problems with the Fuel Cell in Nichols didn't we all stick together and fight it? How about the Cell Tower? The Democrats again have a weak argument.
Tom Pieragostini April 01, 2012 at 05:08 PM
I support the 4 district voting map for several reasons. Firstly, it will restore my neighborhood into one voting district again. Nichols had always been one voting district until the redistricting in the mid 1980s cut it in two to create district 7. Under the current and proposed 7 district plans, my driving distance to vote is 4.5 miles. Whereas, under the 4 district plan, my driving distance will be only 2.5 miles. Furthermore, I don't feel any community connection to the residents in the Frenchtown Road area. But, I do have a community connection and shared concerns with the other residents of the historic village of Nichols. It's prudent for the town to maintain voting districts that respect and follow the boundaries of our historic villages and neighborhoods to help promote community spirit. The 4 district plan accomplishes that, while the 7 district plan splits historic neighborhoods.
Joan April 01, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I don't think the average voter cares what the Democrats want vs. what the Republicans want as far as redistricting goes. They don't care about whatever political payback our current town Republicans think they are dishing out here. However, what they should be aware of is that this plan will lead to much greater inconvenience when it comes to Election Day. Fewer voting districts can only lead to longer lines at the polls, will aggravate the already difficult parking situation at some polling places, and will further increase the waiting time because of the need for having more names on the ballot & more time to read the ballots & fill in all the little circles. And implementing this scheme for the first time in a presidential election year, when voter turnout should be at its highest, is the height of foolishness. The 4-district plan appears to serve no one but the majority party (currently the Republicans), and does nothing but greatly inconvenience the voters. I don't think the Republicans have given us any justification for this aside from "this is the way it used to be." Well, a lot of things ain't what they used to be.
Tom Kelly April 01, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Mark, no one is attacking you personally. The Republicans want to take Trumbull back decades. They should be looking toward the future. This is not about gerrymandering. Most of the Republicans were either not born, not living in Trumbull, or were toddlers when this was last changed. Stratford has 10 voting districts and some districts have more than one polling place. Monroe is slightly more than half the size of Trumbull and they have four voting districts. Fairfield has 10 voting districts. The only community that I can find that is Trumbull's size that has four voting districts is Shelton, but they only have 8 people on the Board of Aldermen, not 21....and if that's the city we want to emulate, I think that's not good.
Cindy Katske April 01, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I am still waiting for someone to state what is wrong with the seven-district plan we have had for almost 30 years. Why does it need to be changed? That's what the proponents of the four-district plan have never talked about.
Thomas Tesoro April 01, 2012 at 09:11 PM
As Mark says, this is "Tom "formerly of Ray and the Rubber Stampers". This childish comment is indicative of the kind of response you get from our Republican friends when, once again, they cannot offer any substantive defense to their plan. In fact, as I said in another thread, Mark's angry, irrational response is proof that there is no rational reason for making this change. So, ignoring Mark as we should, it makes no rational sense to reduce the number of polling places, increase the size of ballots, or change a system that is working. I don't recall any Republican when they were in the minority clamoring for a reduction in minority representation. When the Democrats made the change many years ago, they increased minority representation and maintained that minority representation when they were in the majority and had the power to decimate the Republicans. That is the core difference between the Parties, one, the Republicans, believe in might makes right. As Mark often says, we won so we can do what we want. The Democrats, by contrast believe that a strong minority representation is in the best interests of our Community because it acts as a real check on the other Party. I am sorry Tom P. does not feel a sense of Community with the people of the FrenchTown area. However, I think this myopic view is not universal. We are one community, not little villages of the 1700's. I also do not see that as the majority view. There is no rational reason for the change...none.
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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