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Trumbull Gets 4 Voting Districts

The seven-district system of the past 28 years was changed late Monday immediately upon the Town Council's vote, resulting in a "super district" and three smaller ones. But the effects won't be seen until the presidential election and primaries.

Over the objections of Trumbull Town Council democrats and a dozen public speakers, the council gave Trumbull four voting districts Monday night.

Opponents of the change from seven districts fear it will now lead to voter confusion, longer voting lines, insufficient parking at polling places and possibly a 17-4 majority. 

The most immediate, tangible change is that for election events, there will be four polling places with two check-in lines instead of one per site. There will be a super district with six Town Council representatives, and three smaller ones with five representatives each.  

The change's effect will be seen this year with primaries and the presidential election in November.

A new plan was needed to make Trumbull compliant with the "one man, one vote" law and to line up with the state legislature's redrawn district map.

But the two democrats on the Redistricting Committee (which also included three republicans) had proposed a seven-district plan that moved fewer voters and also met the law.

The four-district plan came from the three GOP members and it was recommended 3-2 along party lines.

"Power Grab"

Republican Registrar Bill Holden, who also chaired the latest Redisricting Committee and the one in 1984, laid out numerous reasons for approval, such as cost savings and fewer polling places. A four-district model was used when Trumbull was run under the Representative Town Meeting model. It was changed to seven 28 years ago, he said. 

The Town Council's 12-8 approval (most republicans in favor) came almost along party lines.

It followed a two-hour public hearing in Town Hall in which speaker after speaker accused GOP members of the council of miniminizing minority representation and of a "power grab."

Other concerns were:

  • More candidates to meet and choose from during municipal elections between Board of Education and Council candidates -- as many as 10;
  • In the case of a supermajority, the minority party members will have to attend more Council committee meetings;
  • Voters will get discouraged in case of a supermajority because they won't feel represented;
  • The council could lose its intimate feel with the voters with larger districts;
  • It could become harder to attract candidates to run for Town Council under a supermajority. 

The council democrats moved to return the four-district plan to the Redistricting Committee and to consider the seven-district plan, both of which were rejected mainly along party lines.

In the final vote, Republican Councilman David Pia broke with his GOP colleagues. "I really wanted to support the four-district plan," he said, adding that he saw "nothing ... that sold me."

He noted that 20,000 Trumbull residents would likely vote in the presidential election, based on numbers from the previous presidential election. He was also concerned about a possible 17-4 supermajority and long voting lines.

Finally, he defended his republican status, citing many times he has sided with Council democrats.

"I have solid republican fiscally conservative values," he said, later adding, "I don't want to see anybody 4 to 17."

Both sides also accused each other gerrymandering.

There is a minority report, and some of the plans have been posted online.

Comments and Debate

After Holden's opening remarks, Councilwoman Vicki Tesoro, who served on the Redistricting Committee, said the seven-district proposal is "less likely to be subject to a referendum or a legal challenge" and "preserves much more thoroughly the current districts."

"There is no outcry from our citizens for a major restructuring," she said.

The hearing began at 10 p.m. The League of Women Voters opened with a statement:

"The plan before you calls for a reduction in voting districts from seven to four, which will effectively double the number of voters in at least one district, dislocate 18,000 voters and nearly double the size of each Council District ... If this plan passes we urge the town to hire officers to help with parking, additional checkers to try to move voters into each polling place faster, and to purchase and install additional privacy booths in order to mitigate the impact of increased numbers at each poll," it stated.

The LWV urged additional funding to "handle all of the additional calls that are certain to be generated from voters. We believe the current Registrar's office staff would not be able to handle the increased calls and handle their usualy election-day duties."

A double-sided ballot will also complicate matters, the league stated.

Jon Greene said eight to 10 candidates would difficult to process in municipal election years.

"Today I have to learn four people. We're now going to get eight to 10 people," he said. "If you actually believe in an educated electorate, I believe you should consider voting this down."

According to Scott Wich, "I don't need five or six representatives representing me. Sometimes more is not better. In this case, more can actually be less to a voter."

"This resolution will define this council's relationship with the people that you represent," he added.

Cindy Katske asked why republicans did not question the fou-district model at a Council committee meeting.

"Please talk about these plans before you vote," she said.

Mark Altieri, a former Town Councilman, said no one benefits from a supermajority.

Cindy Penkoff, a republican alternate on the Board of Finance, argued, "I believe this entire Council represents me," rather than its individual members.

"The four-district model is not new to Trumbull. I trust my Town Council to do what is appropriate for Trumbull," she said.

Town Councilman Gregg Basbagill, a Trumbull High School Social Studies Teacher and civics advisor, said he couldn't look at his students "with a straight face" if the council approved the plan.

Republican Tony Scinto, who served on the Redistricting Committee, said the plan allows him to vote for more people. He added that he was "attacked" over his views on redistricting.

Just before the vote, Tesoro argued that the minority's plans were not considered in the committee's deliberations. "We came in with two plans to open the conversation, a conversation that never happened," she said.

Councilwoman Martha Mark, a democrat, concluded, "I can't imagine what it's like to be one of four [in the minority]. One day it will be the republicans."

John DelVecchio Jr., a demcratic councilman, added that, "I thought we did our best work" with a larger minority. 

Mark E Smith April 04, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Matthew, It is amazing how you attitude changes when you post online compared to when you are face to face with the same person. There is a name for that.
Thomas Tesoro April 04, 2012 at 11:08 PM
You are right Tom P. the Republicans were totally unprepared.
Mark E Smith April 04, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Tom, Is that all you have? Really? As weak as all the other whining and crying you have doing with your new Democrat team. My Baseball analogy for you is: You told John Henry (Owner of the Red Sox) that you are a long time fan of the Sox and that were a great Manager who like to have the team hit for the fences. So you become Manager and you decide to play small ball (no pun intended) instead and Big Poppi doesn't like it. You persist and start calling Big Poppi a wimp and not a team player to the Media, over and over and over, at the same time you are bashing Big Poppi you keep telling the fans you love the Sox. Then one day you decide you had enough and you go over the Yankees and you tell the Steinbrenners that you are a Small Ball Manager and you will manage the team with singles, doubles and stealing. However, every day you blog in the Media about how Big Poppi and the Red Sox are a bad team and bad for baseball. You told John Henry you loved the Sox at first, but after a falling out with their biggest player you only bash the Sox and join their rivals. As for posting on a regular basis: I don't have over 6,000 posts online at all hours of the day and night! You do! Again, you have nothing to offer but to attack others and again you failed. GO YANKEES!
Tom Kelly April 05, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Mark, I'm not attacking you. As for loyalty, I have been loyal to the Red Sox since I was old enough to remember. I have been with the same company for the last 17 years. I have had one wife and I am loyal to her. I know the meaning of the word loyalty, but you can bet that I will never give loyalty to a political party that I believe puts politics before the best interests of the people. And before you go into some long winded recitation of what politics is all about, remember, I sat in the room with these guys morning, noon, and night in 2008 and 2009. I've already heard from their own lips exactly what their motivations are for charter revision, redistricting, and a few things that they could not accomplish in the last 2 years, but would have if they could. You know I have been insulted by people who have better command of the English language than you. Some say I am trying to make a name for myself, or they say I am a sore loser. But if winning or making a name for myself was what drove me, I would have remained Vice Chairman of the TRTC on the winning side, and then I could sit in important Town Council meetings right next to our First Selectman just like I did at every meeting for the two years prior to the 2009 election. I already was on the winning side and I already had a title after my name. But I would not compromise my principles or break my promises and that's why I left and I do not regret it for one minute. By the way, it's Big Papi, not Poppi.
Richard W. White April 08, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Until the Town GIS Website is updated with the new Four Voting Districts with "Super District" and a new alphabetical street list is created, I've uploaded the districts to a public access website. The current districts have been turned off, but are available. There is also a "change layer" that details the areas of town that will have a new or merged voting district. http://www.arcgis.com/explorer/?open=1eb69061de6442c79b9491d6e39ce8bf Note: I prefer this Silverlight based version. http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=1eb69061de6442c79b9491d6e39ce8bf Note: iPad users might have better luck with this version.

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