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Trumbull Voter: 'Holden's Folly Redux'

"The mess predicted in the aftermath of Trumbull Republican Registrar of Voters Bill Holden decision to chop voting districts from seven to four occurred on November 6."

Trumbull Republican Registrar of Voters and Chair of last year's misbegotten Redistricting Committee Bill Holden, abetted by two unflinching loyalists, forced restructured voting districts that many (the writer among the more vocal) predicted served only partisan political ends.

Our worst fears were recognized at the polls as early as 7:00 a.m. today.

I always vote early. In past elections I could walk in, vote and walk out.  Today the parking lot at Madison Middle School was fuller than I'd ever experienced, and I had a 20 minute wait.

As we approached the school a hand made sign instructed us to get into one of two lines, based on the first letter of our street. Inside we were greeted by two ID checking lines. Both were manned by hard at work fellow citizens performing their tedious task as efficiently as possible.

The pictures show the checkers busy while half the voting "booths" were empty.  The wrong configuration. Why not more poll workers, more lines and less inconvenience?  

Holden said his restructuring would save taxpayers $8,000. That money was overspent before the August elections were over.

We have the money to get into the concert business, but not to keep voting convenient?

Sure, we're better off than many in New York City and coastal New Jersey.  But worse off than we were before Holden and his partisans dumped his unnecessary changes on the unsuspecting voters of Trumbull.

But all may not be lost. Lainie McHugh and Town Councilwoman Vickie Tesoro stood in front of the school seeking signatures for a petition to reverse Holden's decision and return the town to the seven district map that served Republicans and Democrats well for 28 years. I can only hope there were similar tables at our other three polling places.

The petition sponsors need 3,000 signatures and seek 5,000. Once the requisite numbers are reached the matter must be addressed by the Town Council. One can only hope that Republican members (or at least a few of them) will return to sanity, reverse their near party line vote and give us back seven equally populated council districts.

Stay tuned. The battle is being rejoined.

Sincerely,

Roy Fuchs

Mark E Smith November 07, 2012 at 12:08 PM
This is NOT about polling places and your convenience, even though it is what the Trumbull Dems want you to believe. This is about moving the "Minority Representation" on the Town Council from 4 members back to 7 members. Nothing more. Currently there are 21 Town Council Members. Under the Democrats plan they want to Minority Representation to stand at 7 or 33% of our Governing body, only 4 members from a Majority. That is the MINIMUM then get even if they lose every contested election for the Town Council in every district! How is that fair to you the voter? Under the 4 district method, the minimum representation could be 4 (19%) or 6 members from a majority. The last two municipal elections the Republicans swept handily across the board your Vote to run the town Government. Because of that YOU were penalized under the old system by only given 2/3 majority of the Town Council. The losing Democrats who's members received third and fourth place votes were given seats, four short of the majority. How is that fair to you when more WINNERS should be put on the TC under the new 4 District system. There is NO Place in our governing system, not the U.S. Congress, Senate, State Senate and State House that has "Minority Representation". Why? Because it squelches an electorate from voting its true intentions and veracity. So, why would the Voters/Tax Payers in Trumbull want their voice "Dumbed Down" or Squelched by Minority Representation?
JR November 07, 2012 at 12:31 PM
What difference does it make if a resolution passes 14-7 or 17-4? If I'm a republican, how did I lose?
TJK November 07, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Where can I sign this petition? There was a line at the Middlebrook petition and after waiting for half an hour to vote, I did not want to wait with my two kids in another line as it was cold. I will readily sign though!!
HL November 07, 2012 at 01:52 PM
So, what you are saying is that the Republicans wanted to further erase minority representation, even if 49% of the town could be the minority? Makes sense, especially when conveniently timed with a period of Repulican success at the polls, might as well enjoy the larger minority representation when it serves you, and then eradicate it when you no longer need it. Either way, my main concern was the very likely gerrymandering that was probably a large incentive for the change.
HL November 07, 2012 at 01:55 PM
As for the $8,000 savings (somehow I doubt this is true), sounds like it will take a decade of such savings before we even break even from this year's concert fiasco. Penny-wise, pound-foolish.
Roy Fuchs November 07, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Having attended many, if not most Town Council meetings since the 2011 election I can tell you that over 90% of agenda items are approved with near party line votes (charter revision, redistricting and the concert, for three). In fact, if Democrats, as a group, were to cease attending meetings outcomes would change very, very little. Why Trumbull needs one party government may well be something missing in my civics education, but I am open to being persuaded.
Roy Fuchs November 07, 2012 at 02:59 PM
HL - Not to worry, that $8,000 was spent on the August election - well before the concert.
Roy Fuchs November 07, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Mark - to answer the question you raise in your last paragraph, you may want to read the new town charter. State law, as shown in the charter, establishes minority representation - to obviate just the problem we may face. While Democrats do deserve blame for their performance in the last municipal election, that does not make one party government any more attractive. That you don't like or disagree with the law does not invalidate it or even call it into question.
Archie Bunker November 07, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I voted at Madison Middle School at about 9am. Very short line, in and out in just a few minutes. The fastest voting I've ever experienced.
MAC November 07, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I voted at Middlebrook about 4 p.m., and was in and out in less than 15 minutes. Mr. Fuchs, your omnipresent sour grapes attitude reveals something very unattractive in your character--and that of so many "progressives"--especially on a day when one would think you would choose be gloriously happy over your party's victories last night, at every level of government other than Trumbull's.
Jim Sullivan November 07, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I voted about 1PM at Madison and there was no line. The lot was near full though. I was lucky as I didn't have to go in to work that day. If voting line waits were an anticipated issue, timing them during the morning and evening rush hours would have been worthwhile. Yesterday was a Presidential election, so the highest turnouts were on hand. I feel very lucky in Trumbull, as the polls in Florida always have to stay open due to 3-hour waits...how is that even possible? Don't they plan at all down there? ;-)
Roy Fuchs November 07, 2012 at 07:43 PM
MAC - Thank you. I am happy about my party's victories. As a follower of Nate Silver, I saw it coming for perhaps the last month. My surprise was not that Mr. Obama won, but that he took so many Electoral College votes - and that they took as many Senate seats as they did. Rather than calling this piece "sour grapes," I would call it informational. My guess is that a large number of Trumbull voters first found out about the redistricting when they got to the polls yesterday. I knew. I planned on needing more time - but many did not. Further, I have written about this topic since I attended the first meeting of the Redistricting Committee. Time has not moderated my view, nor has it discouraged me from keeping it as a visible issue.
Gregg Basbagill November 08, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Hi JR- You're right. It really doesn't matter if something passes 17-4 or 14-7. Mark is right: it IS about minority representation. For the most part the "inconvenience" argument is fairly skin-deep. The much more significant issue is what the governing of the town could look like going forward. If the minority party has only four representatives on the Council, they will be expected to staff (and have an alternate) for the three major committees, each of the lesser committees and any special committees that may get created from time to time. I serve as the First District (both old and new) minority representative on the Finance Committee, which means that I take a considerable amount of time reviewing the issues that come before us monthly. I think it is important to know what I am voting on, and take that responsibility seriously because I represent the viewpoints of the minority of the voting population (about 45%) of the town. If I had to serve on 2-3 major committees, it would be substantially more work to do the research necessary to cast an informed vote, and to represent the interests of minority party voters. You double the work, you likely won't get double the quality. It's just that simple. At our public hearing, zero members spoke out in favor of the four-district plan, but 12 or 13 members put it into law anyway. I just think the public should have an opportunity to decide the form of their legislative body.
Lisa Labella November 08, 2012 at 12:59 AM
One person's inconvenience is another person's disenfranchisement. I was at two different polling sites for a total of about 5 hours. Time and again, seniors who had challenges with accessibility were frustrated because they were not directed to appropriate parking, and ended up having to walk long distances to the poll entrance. Those were the seniors who stuck with it, how many turned away? And it was not just seniors ... long lines in the a.m. and confusion over where to vote led many other people to leave in the morning. Some of them returned, but many said they would not be back in town until after the polls closed There were lines most of the day at Middlebrook (as the temperature dropped, people snaked the lines inside the building), frustrating people who had never had to deal with lines before. When a person brings in young children, having to wait for 30 minutes is a challenge. Any or all of these likely resulted in people attempting to vote but not voting. To what degree, we will not really know for certain. And for what purpose? The claim was saving $8,000, which we know has not materialized. So all of this was essentially for no positive result.
DD November 08, 2012 at 11:52 AM
There was a 45 minute wait at Madision Middle at 7:30 AM. The line went out the door, across the driveway and down the stairs into the parking lot. It was very frustrating for those of us who wanted to vote before work and could not get back to the polling place before it closed. I stayed because I wanted to vote but I then was late for work. After not having power for 7 days this past week, it was another frustrating day in Trumbull.
Thomas Tesoro November 08, 2012 at 04:37 PM
You have to wonder why Mark is so frightened. Why is he frightened by having strong minority representation? Why is he frightened to have the Citizens of trumbull decide this issue? While minority representation (that is coded in our Charter by the way) is one issue there are others that drive this Initiative effort. For example, why are four districts that are unequal in size better than seven equal districts? Why should 18,000 Citizens (11,000 voters) have three decades of voting disrupted when there existed a 7 district plan that impacted 4,900 citizens (3,100 voters) and met every single legal requirement of redistricting? Why was the only "public hearing" held the night of the vote and why was the voices that night ignored? Of the more than a dozen speakers only one spoke in favor of the plan. All the rest, including the League of Women voters spoke out against it. Whythe change in the first place. No candidate from any Party ran on a platform to make this change and no Citizens clamored forthe change. Why do it? This Initiative is about balance in Government, transparency in government actions and Citizens having the right to have a real say in how our Town is configured. This process will insure that our Citizens have clear and unambiguous information, that there will be a lively debate on the subject and a Citizen's vote. No party politics, just the Citizen's voting armed with good information. How can anyone be against that?
MAC November 08, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Re "moving the 'Minority Representation' on the Town Council from 4 members back to 7 members" and an election sweep allowing no more than a maximum "2/3 majority of the Town Council" under the old system: It occurs to me that a factor in wanting to change the former system could have been as a sort of 'insurance' or buffer against opportunists (or even independents), who because of their votes make consensus almost impossible to achieve on town boards. Especially when an opportunistic person(s) joins the Republican party in Trumbull in order to run for office (Tom Kelly comes to mind), and gets elected but then does not really subscribe to the Principles of the party--a wrench is thrown into the works. We have seen that happen on the national level also, when a senator has changed parties. In the town of Trumbull case, the majority the people thought they were electing is not truly there. When people are elected under a false pretense of being (or supporting) something they are not, they may end up opportunistically changing parties when it suits them, to the dismay of the voters who elected them.
charley November 08, 2012 at 09:30 PM
The theory is if one party, either side controlled the 17 seats, it would be veto proof. The other theory is if it were the dems in this position you can believe there would be absolutely no way in the world they would push for a petition. Like I’ve been saying, re build the Democratic Party from within, run viable candidates for the town council, come up with a great platform to lead our town in the right direction. Stop telling us everything that’s wrong with the republican administration and let us know what your vision is for our future. Most of us are just plain old tired of hearing the same old story. It’s like living in the movie “Ground Hog Day”. If you spend as much time choosing candidates that are going to lead us into the future and coming up with a concise platform to run on, as you’re spending on this petition, you would have those seats. And believe me, winning them will be a lot easier.
Kathleen McGannon November 08, 2012 at 10:39 PM
charley, All the years that the Dems controlled the Town Council they most certainly could have done this very same thing. The truth is, we are not like those who feel that "power" is the "be all and end all" in life. When I was first elected to the Board of Finance, it was 4Rs and 2 Ds that made up the board. One of the Rs would not vote for the R who was seeking the chairman's seat. He would vote for a D, and Ray would be able to appoint the D as chairman, as the FS would break the tie. My first act as a new member was to object to handling things that way. The people had created a 4-2 board in favor of the Rs, and I strongly believed the right thing to do was to vote in an R as the chairman. Popular with my party? You bet it wasn't. Did I do it? Yes, I did. With the understanding of Bernie Helfrich, who would have been Chairman, and with Ray's understanding that I was going to vote my conscience. And no one berated me, ostracized me, or refused to speak to me. THAT is the difference between the Rs in this town and the Ds in this town. And it is why I chose to run with the Ds in local politics. Do not try to tell me that if the Dems had pulled this at any time during their control of the Town Council that the Republicans would not have been screaming from the roof tops about unbalanced districts, super districts, disfranchised voters, and lack of minority representation. Please, at the very least, be honest with people!
charley November 09, 2012 at 01:16 AM
I never said they would'nt. I said if it were the other way around the Dems would in no way, shape or form be pushing for the 7 dist. You know it, I Know it and it insults the intelligence of the people of this town to think that they don't know what the real issue really is. If the Dems are going to waist the next 11 months on trying not to loose the 3 seats instead of running a good and honest campaign, then they should plan on having 4 councilman and not 7. And that's as honest as it gets!!!
Kathleen McGannon November 09, 2012 at 01:46 AM
charley, The Dems had YEARS of opportunity to change the districts to ensure that the Dems would never be in the minority. They didn't do it. The Dems support minority representation. Always have. It has only been since the Republicans took control of the council that this occurred. Not one candidate ever raised it as an issue during the campaign, nor was it ever in the "Blueprint for Trumbull". Mr. Herbst has gone so far as to fill Democratic seats on boards and commissions with "unaffiliates". He did not, however, fill Republican seats with unaffiliates. He filled those spots with registered Republicans. The effort to reduce minority representation is about the only transparent thing about this administration!
Martha Jankovic-Mark November 09, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I'd like to share my thoughts on why everyone should sign this petition. I have been on the Council for four terms, during which time I've experienced being part of a majority once and a minority three times. It would be far more difficult for Council members to function in a minority of four, since we would have to double up on responsibilities, such as attending more committee meetings, while having no actual ability to maintain necessary checks and balances in our municipal government. It is arguable that the ineffectiveness of such reduced minority representation would not meet the two party system of government required by our Connecticut General Statutes. As a practical matter, I'm not sure any one would want to run for Council, knowing that he could end up in such a minority, working very hard yet being completely ineffective. If the idea of only one unchecked party running the town doesn't bother some, at least they should consider that the current system will discourage volunteerism, on which this town depends.
Thomas Tesoro November 09, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Charley, Kathy is right. You were a member of the Council that I think had a 13 to 8 Democratic Majority. We could have done the very same thing, that is, ram something through that was in the best interest of the Party but not Trumbull. Democrats do believe in minority representation, we believe in balanced districts and we beleive our processes should be open and transparent. That's what we believe and that is how we act.
charley November 10, 2012 at 02:08 AM
The dems never had to worry about this till right now. The Democratic Party in this town held onto power for many, many years. Therefore, there was never a reason for this to ever come to light. The Democratic Party was very strong and united in the past. Then 3 years ago the Republican Party came through with a complete victory. The dems thought it was a fluke, then again last year they smashed the dems once again. Now the hard reality is finally sinking in. Try spending as much time coming up with a platform to run on and tell everyone how you plan to move Trumbull forward. When you can provide that, you will get the seats. For the record, I sat on the council and at one time was in the minority. We could not get anything through. 7 seats or 4 will have the same outcome. You need to figure out a way to win. When you realize that, the rest will fall into place.
Tom Kelly November 10, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Pragmatically, Charley, there is some validity in what you are saying. Everyone has a slightly different take on this. For my part, I don't think there is much difference if you get beat 14-7 in a football game or 17-4. Both are such overwhelming majorities for the other side that I don't think it's a difference maker. However, I respect the notion that only four representatives will have a hard time doing all the committee work that is expected of the minority. But here's why I think this initiative needs to pass. First, I was with the Republicans as the Vice Chairman of the TRTC, and I know why they did this and it most certainly was to get even for the Democrats going to 7 districts in 1982 or thereabouts. There is a reason I am no longer with the Republicans, and it's because of issues like this where the motive is retribution and payback and not the best interests of the people. There was a public hearing about this new plan. 15 out of 16 people who came to the public hearing opposed it. The League of Women Voters opposed it. The Council Republicans ignored it all, and pushed it through anyway. That is not how I think town government should work. You were out there on election day at St. Joe's. Contrary to the charges made here by Mark, you can attest that no one was angry, we were all smiling and laughing, there was no arm-twisting, no one was spewing any venom or hatred. Lots and lots of people signed the petition because they wanted a change.
Kathleen McGannon November 10, 2012 at 05:16 PM
charley, You are missing the point. The Dems never tried to reduce minority representation EVEN when they had ample opportunity and the ability to do it. Why change what isn't broken? Elections have been won and lost by 1 or 2 votes in this town. That means that nearly 50% of the town voted for the person who lost. Why should they lose their voice in government??? One of the great strengths in Trumbull government is the fact that the minority party is there to represent what sometimes amounts to almost half of the electorate. It forces the majority party--whoever it might be--to work with the minority viewpoint or, at the very least, give it some consideration. And, if Tom Kelly is correct that this was done in "retribution", and I don't think he would say it if it wasn't true, it is even more distasteful.
Roy Fuchs November 10, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Tom - Let me add to your comments. First, "not one council member ran on a platform to make this change." The facts are worse. Before the FS created his Redistricting Commission his Charter Revision Committee, with the same Bill Holden as Vice Chair, proposed changes to the council's composition even more heinous than the Redistricting Committee rammed through. Only when the Charter Revision Committee's Minority Report made the council aware of the drastic changes did they wake up and kill that proposal. Then Holden and Herbst tweaked the first proposal and succeeded the second time around. The appalling dismissiveness by council Republicans of the 12 who spoke against the change - with no meaningful Republican questioning - gave us the mess we have today. No Republican campaigned for weaker minority representation or longer voting times. One can conclude they didn't think those were winners and they just did not want to call attention to their errors in judgment. Unfortunately, Democrats failed to hold them accountable during the campaign. Second, one must also conclude that "balance," "transparency" and "the right to have a real say" are not Republican values. But one need not just conclude. Holden's objective was to reduce minority representation both times. His rationale for redistricting was an "$8,000 savings," an objective only one council Republican opposed. Ignorance? Disinterest? Or follow the leader?
Roy Fuchs November 11, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Do we really need "if it insults the intelligence...?" Can we stick to the issue without the argumentum ad hominen? BTW - I hope your intelligence is not insulted when I tell you the word you wanted was "waste," not "waist."
Roy Fuchs November 11, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Charley - Please read the new Town Charter. The issue is not that the "Dems never had to worry..." The state prescribes the minimum number of representatives a minority must have - one per district. The Dems did poorly in 2011 and now have that minimum, which gives the Republicans a super majority. Mr. Holden deemed that insufficient control and sought to reduce the number of districts solely to reduce the minimum number of Democrats to one that virtually disenfranchises the minority . And that says nothing of the just under 50% of our voters who are registered as Unaffiliated, and so have no Town Council representation at all. Thus it is not out of the question that we get the following secnario: 17 R council members represent (in round numbers) 25% of Trumbull's registered voters, four Ds represent another 25%, and zero Unaffiliated council members represent 50% of our voters. Is this equity?

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