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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. 

HL April 03, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Mark, half of your response does not address my thoughts. I am looking for a system where the representation represents the vote, not one where 51% of the vote can determine 100% of the representation. I've never been entirely happy with our House and Senate either, and more recently they have been an embarrassment to this country, and for the most part dysfunctional, right along with our Supreme Court, which has also been dysfunctional. They all commit the same crime: Party first, people second. Those who are elected are compelled to scratch the backs of those who put them there, and the cycle continues. Maybe it's because I am unaffiliated ... but I personally like the notion of 7 Republicans in the TC even when the town is 51% Democrat (and vice versa). Checks and balances are extremely important, and now we are doing our best to remove them.
Mark E Smith April 03, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Tom T Ten or fifteen people who show up at 11:30pm on a Mondsay night, the same night as the National Basketball championship is NOT a equal representation the those thousands who voted last November. Again you and the Democrats sund like sore losers. If 400 or 500 people show up like they did a few years ago when Democrat Ray Baldwin tried to push a 11.7% tax increase past the taxpayers those are numbers to listen to. Citizens lose when Partys are GIVEN more seats then deserved for losing. People get it and many I spoke to this morning are laughing at the Trumbull Democrats again for their obstructions and whining, many from your own Party! Call me childish, it shows you have nothing to offer. I know that for the long term the People will be less limited in how they want our Town Council. Keep attacking me, go ahead it is only showing the people of this town how desperate you and the Dems are with you personal vendettas. Go ahead keep calling me names. So far the only people I hear complaining are you and a small vocal minority.
HL April 03, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Well said
HL April 03, 2012 at 04:16 PM
That is why I do not bother to attend. I already know the elected are entirely partisan, and will vote the party line even if they do not believe in it. As a parent of young children, I have family activities most nights, as I did for this "hearing". I put hearing in parenthesis of course because that is about as far as it would ever go. I've spoken with several elected reps in person, who have told me they understand and agree with me, only to watch them turn around and vote the other way to stay in line with their party.
HL April 03, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Tom, you make a great point. Mark constantly replies with an "us versus them" attitude. I'd rather talk about the issues and preserve this town as a moderate town. Mark continues to foster an attitude of extremism when he talks about winners and sore losers. I'm not interested in that, my thoughts are for the future, whether the town is leaning Democrat or Republican. Sure, it leans Republican right now because of the fiscally conservative rhetoric of the party given that we are in the worst recession in many decades - people are desperate enough to swing their votes. I'm glad that we had a minority representation of Republicans in all of those "Democratic" years. It's a critical check and balance. Things will swing back post recovery, and when it does I would prefer it to be more moderate, and less overrun with Democrats.
HL April 03, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Mark ... people understand a tax increase. Most aren't aware (and/or don't understand) of the ramifications of gerrymandering such as this or subtle changes to the town charter. I give the Herbst team credit for being crafty, if nothing else. Saying that the people "voted for" gerrymandering and charter changes is a stretch, at best. If 500 people showed up last night, it wouldn't have made a lick of difference. Partisan minds were made up well in advance, before the plan was even announced really.
Joan April 03, 2012 at 04:29 PM
I'm surprised that the town Republican party has no other spokesperson apparently besides Mark Smith. I don't hear too many others coming here to defend the 4-district plan. They might want to consider offering some more reasoned voices.
jg April 03, 2012 at 04:51 PM
The primary request from the opposition was to delay the vote until next month so more public input could be obtained. What could possibly be the problem with that? The law only requires the redistricting plan to be in place by June 1. What was the urgent need to push it through in April without a real public hearing (i.e. one that is not announced less than one week before and held minutes before the vote on the night of a major conflicting event)? Was the goal to keep this under the radar so the public wouldn't notice? They certainly will in November.
Cindy Katske April 03, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Joan, even those Republicans who voted for the 4-district plan last night had nothing to say in its defense. Only Tony Scinto bothered to name what he liked about the plan, which was that he could vote for 5 candidates instead of 3. (Seriously???) Not one other Republican bothered to articulate what is good about the plan. It would have been shocking if it hadn't been so predictable.
Thomas Tesoro April 03, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Please Mark, stop the angry comments, it is making you look foolish. I am not attacking you personally just the lack of any real substance in your posts. You should read you own posts with the juvenile references to "Ray and the Rubber Stampers" before complaining about how you are treated. Sorry Mark, arrogance is not a substitute for reasoned analysis. Anger is not a substitute for rational discussion. Your party had the opportunity to offer the public a reasoned and clear analysis for why the 4 Distict plan was the better choice. They did not. Their performance last night was reflective of your posts, full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Nothing...... The Democrats, by contrast, were clear, in command of the facts and showed why their plan was better. Members of the Republican Party like yourself, need to eliminate dissenting voices because you cannot listen and you cannot defend your position. Pitiful. Your distain for the public was in full display when you hold a public hearing minutes before you vote. Pitiful. Last night looked like a bad April Fools day joke, just one day late. All should watch this spectacle on Channel 17 (99 Uverse) and see for yourself.
Mark E Smith April 03, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Example. Party A and Party B, Town Population 35,000 Election Results (Hypothetical) Party A gets 35,000 votes Party B gets 0 votes The people of the town clearly love Party A. However at the next Council Meeting the membership look like: Party A = 14 Party B = 7 Is this fair? You only need 11 votes to pass a piece of legislation. Even though Party B got Zero votes they are 64% more than 2/3'rd from passing legislation with 11. How does that work and how is that fair to the voters who didn't spend a single vote on Party B. Now lets look at: Party A = 17 Party B = 4 Doesn't that look more representative to the vote that took place above? Sure it does. That is one of the reasons why I support 4 Districts and minimum representation at 4.
jg April 03, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Let's look at reality instead of Mr. Smith's absurd hypotheticals. Party A gets 55% of the votes. Party B gets 45%. Because the districts are similar, most of the races are split 52/48, 57/43, etc and Party A wins almost all of the seats. That was Trumbull in 2011. Without minority representation the party that got 45% of the votes would have probably received 3 seats (14%) of the seats. How well represented are those 45% of the electorate? What's wrong with giving 33% of the votes to provide a voice for the 45%. It's still disproportionally low and they can't vote through anything, but they can ensure that the 45% are heard. Again, a homogeneous town like Trumbull is not like a state or federal government - where diversity ensures the minority party with more than 1/3 of the vote. Yes, even in Hartford the GOP has more than 1/3 in each chamber. So what is the fear with ensuring that the minority is heard?
Mark E Smith April 03, 2012 at 06:14 PM
JG Yes it is absurd but correct. If that was the vote that would be the TC make up and yes it absurd. The last elections were very one sided and I believe that many more Republican would have been elected but weren't because of minority representation. The 17-4 plan give more flexibility and amplitude to the desires of the voting republic who I believe would have made a 17-4 in 2009 and maybe 16-5 in 2011 which would still be fair. If you Party's people take 3rd or 4th in each district then that party should be given 64% of the vote to pass legislation? I think 34% is much more reasonable. No?
HL April 03, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Mark, if your example/scenario was a reality, then you might have a point. But since we both know it's never going to be a reality, then it's a poor example. In fact, parties form and tend to support the people ... potential voters. So if a town were really split 99% / 1%, there would likely be no party to support the 1%. In fact, what would happen instead is that two parties would form and fight over the votes of the 99%, and you would end up with what you have now, a very significant and large minority that should not be ignored. The current gerrymandering only services two purposes: 1. Allow the majority to further ignore the large and important (temporary) minority 2. Save us a few thousands dollars I think stopping #1 is worth everyone throwing in an extra buck ...
Thomas Tesoro April 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Let's try this: 35,000 voters 52% stay home leaving 16,800 actual voters: Party A receives 55% of 16,800 or 9,240 votes (26.4 % of the total eligible voters) Party B receives 45% of the votes or 7,560 votes (21.6% of the total eligible voters) The difference of 1,680 votes or 4.8% of the total eligible voters in Mark's mind deserves 81% of the Council seats. Sound fair and representative to you? Who's senario looks more like reality? This is not about math. This is about a governing philosophy that has served Trumbull well. Our Charter codifies minority representation. The Democrats believe in strong minority representation as an important check on the majority. The TRTC Republicans believe the less dissenting voices the better. Why? There is only one inescapable conclusion (demonstrated with complete clarity last evening) the Republicans cannot defend their positions with logic and reasoned analysis.
Mark E Smith April 03, 2012 at 06:17 PM
JG, BTW it has nothing to do with fear of listening to the opposing Party. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe in Transparency and open government. I also believe that voting seat should not be encumbered by minimum representation when the voters what more representation from that party. What the current model says is that no matter how many votes you get, no matter how many districts you win you will only get 12 people and no more. That is what is wrong.
jg April 03, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Well Mark, that is one way to look at it. Here's another one (trying again to see if I can get the math correctly this time): In order for the 7 seat party that represents 45% of the population to pass legislation, they need to convince 4 out of 14 from the other side. Those would probably be the more moderate members of the other side, who probably correspond to the more moderate voters in the 55% majority. If they represent 4/14 of the 55% majority, that's equivalent to another 16% of the voters. So for practical purposes, for the minority to win a simple majority vote it has to make such a compelling case that councilors representing 61% of the votes cast in the prior election support the effort. That's a very big but reasonable hurdle.
jg April 03, 2012 at 06:56 PM
By the way, I want to commend Mr. Smith for being willing to discuss the issue of minority representation. The majority at last night's hearing acted with mock indignation that anyone would even bring it up as an issue or motivation even though we've heard people like Mr. Holden express his distaste for the concept. I have respect for those willing to discuss issues in an open manner and I applaud Mr. Smith for doing so - even though I obviously disagree with his conclusions.
trumbulite09 April 03, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I'm just glad Mark stormed out of a meeting and quit before elections because the way Trumbull government works, this town would have voted in this angry man to represent us. It is simple - people are interested in taxes, many in education (and yes Mark when we turned out in the hundreds, OUR representatives didn't listen to us either), after that, redistricting, charter, etc... it is too hard to put up with the intolerable town council and finance meetings. Yes, I've been to my share but not so much anymore, unfortunately what happened Tuesday night happens all the time. Unfortunately for us we didn't get the culprits out of office a few months ago and now we have to put up with it for another 1+ years. Mark - I'm sure the dedicated citizens that did go to the meeting did so out of loyalty to the Town of Trumbull and not because of some silly basketball game was over. Comments like that are condescending and ludicrous. The town is not "us and them". We are "One Town". Yes - Republicans won the election. Not because the right people are in government but because citizens that don't follow Trumbull politics believed the propoganda - All Day Kindergarten - Lower taxes - Tax Breaks for Seniors - so please get off your high horse about winning and losing. Help the people you obviously support deliver on their promises.
Tom Pieragostini April 03, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Maybe the majority who passed this were silent last night about it, because they had to pass it to find out what's in it.
Mark E Smith April 03, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Tom T 2007 24,443 Active voters in Trumbull Baldwin 5,326 votes 21.8% of all voters Piotroski 3,937 votes Total Votes 9,263 or 37.89% of all voters Under your assumptions then we had less people vote for Baldwin in 2007 because only 38% of the voters voted. Should we then not count the TC vote for the THS like new refurbishment? Under you assumptions we should. BTW, My philosophy says let the voters decide the composite of the Town Council, not minority representation.
Jean Rabinow April 03, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Aaron: It's nice that the Town plans to create 2 voting lines for presidential elections in each of the 4 new polling places, which will result in 8 check-in lines this November. However, under the old (and admittedly illegal) 7 districts (actually 10 "split" districts) that we had, in presidential years the 7 major districts had 2 lines each, and the 3 small split districts had 1 each, for a total of 17. If you were one of the people who had to be on line at 6:00 a.m. before heading into NYC for your day's work, you know that in some cases those 17 lines barely handled the foot traffic. Think of how neat it's going to be with a mere 8. Maybe they can add a 3rd line in the superdistrict? Joan: The list of current Town Council members is on the Town of Trumbull website, and also on the League of Women Voters website at http://bptarea.lwvconnecticut.org/voter-resources.html (just click on the "Trumbull" link), and the League website gives their party affiliations, which the Town website at the moment doesn't. Of course, last night both websites' lists just became obsolete, because the 7 districts that elected this Council no longer exist. The people who voted for the 4-district plan and the people who voted against it will be listed in the Town Council minutes on the Town of Trumbull website. Remember in November.
Joan April 03, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Thank you, Jean. I'm glad we have an organization like the League of Women Voters to answer questions such as mine. Too bad our Town Council afforded the LWV's views on redistricting no consideration whatsoever. I knew who my TC reps were under the old 7-district system, but not under the new 4-district plan. I guess I'll have to wait & be surprised. What a way to run a town!!
Tom Kelly April 04, 2012 at 11:56 AM
I am going to use a baseball analogy to describe the way Mark is acting regarding the local political scene. I am a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. In my high school yearbook (Trumbull High School Class of 1978) the quote next to my picture says "Just once before I die I hope the Red Sox win the World Series." Well, in 2004, after 86 years of frustration, the Red Sox finally broke through. All of Red Sox Nation was in jubilation. And incredibly, in 2007, the Red Sox won the World Series again! Now, after 2007, I could have strut around like Mark is now doing like a peacock showing his feathers. I could have ribbed all of my acquaintances who are Yankee fans and tried to rub it in their faces, like Mark does here on a regular basis. But if I did such a thing, I would really look foolish. Because, the reality is that the Yankees have won 27 World Championships in the last 93 years, and the Red Sox have won 2. Sure, I am happy that the Red Sox finally broke through and I hope they do it again, but I am really in no position to start bragging all over the place and mocking fans of other teams.
Matthew C. Reale April 04, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I like your analogy Tom. my advice to you in dealing with individuals like you mention.... CONSIDER THE SOURCE!
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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