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Letter: GOP Redistricting Plan 'Not Radical at All'

RTM member Joe Palmer, R-4, explains the GOP's redistricting proposal.

[Editor's Note: The RTM GOP's redistricting proposal will be up for a vote at the May 21 RTM meeting.]

Dear Editor,

As a fellow member of the Redistricting Committee, I was surprised and disappointed to read an recent article on the redistricting in which Our plan isn’t radical at all. In fact, I sincerely believe we proposed a sensible idea for improving the RTM as a town body that will also have several ancillary benefits, like cost savings. I can’t help but think that Republicans are being obstructed for petty political purposes, (i.e. “we can’t let the Republican majority get credit for a smart plan”) and it’s a real disservice to the community.

Our plan simply reduces the number of districts in Town from 10 to eight while maintaining five representatives in each district. Any reasonable person who attends the RTM proceedings or watches them on FairTV would agree that the RTM is too large and cumbersome. In fact, Mr. Hoffkins seems to be the only person on the Redistricting committee who disagrees. Even his fellow Democrats on the committee openly acknowledge that it would “create a more close-knit group” if smaller and it would help eliminate the “non-committed members.”

Also, as a practical matter, it is often a challenge for both parties to assemble a full slate of 50 candidates (unpaid citizen volunteers) who can each fulfill the extensive time commitment and often grueling demands of the RTM. Members can get burned out, especially during budget season. With fewer members, it would be much easier for each party to ensure that their candidates are fully-committed to handle the demands, which in turn will surely make for a more serious, informed and engaged membership on the RTM. It’s as simple as that.

Keep in mind, the State General Assembly redistricting that occurred over the winter had a huge impact on the Town. . So, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but many of us will already have a new town district number and unfortunately, many could have long drives to polling locations, regardless of whether we go with 8 or 10 districts.

Mr. Hoffkins stated that eight districts versus 10 districts would make it too hard for representatives to focus on neighborhood issues. Really? Fairfield isn’t that big and I know from experience that when there is a neighborhood issue in your district, your constituents will make sure you are aware of it. Under the Republican plan each resident will still have five representatives to turn to with an issue. Honestly, only RTM candidates will feel the impact, having more area to cover while campaigning and a having to represent a more diverse district. Again, those committed enough to go through this process will only be better members and campaigning in a diverse district will make them more well-versed on the issues if they get elected.

The lines drawn for the 8 districts are not “radical” either. Our plan will result in less “split” districts, or districts which are shared by two State Representatives. There are currently three split districts where three polling locations require separate machines and lines for each state rep. Under the Republican plan, there will be only one. Polling locations are also more centrally located around schools with an eight district plan. With 10 districts, many voters would be forced to vote in odd and unfamiliar polling locations like the Pilot House and various congregational halls of some of the community’s churches.

Lastly, Mr. Hoffkins completely disregarded the savings it would bring the taxpayers as “insignificant." Even if our plan saves the town a minimum $2,000-$3,000 per election, with an average of two elections per year with general election, primaries, referendums etc. it could save the town roughly $60,000. I’m sorry but that’s far from insignificant especially when many Town departments are already being asked to trim back their budget by similar amounts. There are also savings in the Town Clerk's office, printing and mailing 10 less packets each month, which could potentially save a few thousand each year in paper, postage and manpower alone. Mr. Hoffkins also failed to mention that our plan would also save our part-time Registrars from struggling to recruit and train approximately 10 less poll workers per election.

We are proposing a good, sensible plan for Fairfield and we urge the Democrats on the committee to allow it to come to the floor of the RTM so ALL the representatives can review it, make amendments and vote. Or we invite the Democrats to create and present their own plan that we can also be debated alongside ours on the floor of the RTM. If they can convince enough representatives that it is a better plan, then it will surely pass. However, if the Democrats fail to allow this plan to move forward to the floor of the RTM, we will be forced to open 21 districts for the upcoming primary, which will cost thousands of taxpayer dollars.

 

Joe Palmer

RTM, District 4

Listen first May 16, 2012 at 11:48 AM
Some fair points Mr. Palmer -- it's a shame, though, given your stance and positions and votes at the recent budget meetings, that I'm immediately suspicious of your real agenda. What is the map for the Republican-proposed redistricting plan? In combination with that information, it would be good for it to be clearly broken out what the impact is on our current districts....e.g. is District One remaining intact and just having part of District 10 added to it (which would undoubtedly ensure the loss of some D seats on the RTM)?
TJC May 16, 2012 at 12:15 PM
If RTM members are getting burned out and attendance is affected, I fail to see how fewer overall members will help the situation. Sounds like a fallacy to me. If current members aren't rising to their responsibilities which creates more work for others-- reducing the overall size of the organization will not help. The same amount of work will need to be done. The only fix I see for that situation is to elect more dedicated members to this town body. Much easier said than done, obviously.
Ffld mom May 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM
I agree- and I fear this will further suppress people's voices. Democracy is messy. And I don't buy the line that it is too hard to recruit. We may not be able to find 5 Republicans or 5 Democrats in every district, but we have never not had 5 committed candidates wanting to serve. If the parties are having trouble, so be it. The budget vote left many of us feeling disenfranchised. There was no public notice of the proposed cut on April 30, which the moderator asked for, no real opportunity for open public comment and debate of the "republican strategy." and obviously no regard for what i believe was a majority of people calling for no cuts. Given recent actions, I don't trust that the the current majority leadership has any interest in stepping outside their silos and closed caucus meetings to listen to others point of view - even if they are within their own new larger district. As for the cost savings, it seems fairly disingenuous given the majority's unwillingness to cut the many "no impact" items from the budget, and their vote to add a $20,000 plus dollar lawn mower for the golf course back in. I am VERY skeptical. Let's hope we get to hear an open, transparent debate and that the RTM is willing to trust the public to have knowledge of their plan in time to offer informed public comment. For now, I would rather have more voices in all of these debates, not fewer.
iamspartacus May 16, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Mr. Palmer that was a bit long winded please allow me to paraphrase for you: The Republicans lost 1/3 of the seats on the RTM last election, and after this budget debacle, where our own BOF chairman said we were nuts we expect to get our clock cleaned in the next election. Therefore we propose to Gerrymander the town so that our base will continue to have the power to elect us to do there bidding (ie. down with education up with well manicured golf courses!).
iamspartacus May 16, 2012 at 01:06 PM
on a side note PLEASE enough with "the unpaid citizen volunteer" malarky..no one ran unopposed if you can't do the job YOU RAN FOR, quit!!
effinrayjay May 16, 2012 at 01:40 PM
"Republicans being obstructed for petty political purposes"? What a laugh -- Republicans wrote the book on that one. Just imagine what the President could have accomplished at this point in his presidency if he was not thwarted at every turn by the obstructionists. I view every Republican "initiative" wit grave mistrust. Too bad it had to come to this.
Newtotown May 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Nice to see the ardent leftist Democrats are out slinging their mud again. The Democrats are destroying our state, one day at a time. Just look at the debacle in Hartford. Talk about obstructionist, every Republican idea is immediately shouted down by the socialist haters. If ever there was a group of uncooperative obstructionists, it is you Democrats!
R. Ludlowe May 16, 2012 at 03:22 PM
well, at least there's no mudslinging from the right side, right? oh, wait... at this point, its pretty gosh-darned obvious that neither party knows what the @#$% they are doing. Both are innocent, and both are guilty. Unfortunately, neither one can offer up leader(s) worth the time it takes to drive to my local voting location. I still do every voting day, and I leave with the same sick feeling that I get when I leave a fast food joint. Waste of time, and hungry for something real. Forget the partisan finger-pointing. We need leaders that will step above their party's historical and immature stances and actually... wait for it... *lead* this town to a better place. I'm all for reform. I dont think our forefathers had the current organization (size or format) in mind when they set up the town meeting. Its time to innovate, to step out of our "comfort zones" and create a model that works. This one doesnt. Whether that's a smaller body or not remains to be seen.. but in the meantime lets call it what it is and stop with the partisan crap. Rise above it.
BronzeStar May 16, 2012 at 03:27 PM
It's more an issue of megalomaniac Jamie Millington pulling the strings behind the scenes on this one. Palmer does make good points, but it is hard not to be suspicious when Millington is involved.
peacemaker May 16, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I don't think the issue is really what's in the plan, but how the plan was put together by a few and brought to this bipartisan committee. The whole point of the committee was to create a plan together that both sides support and buy into. To leave out the democrats made this a republican plan. Maybe it's a great plan, but it's not bipartisan. You two missed the point.
BronzeStar May 16, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Peacemaker you're 100% correct. It wasn't bi partisan. The issues aren't necessarily party driven, but PERSONALITY Driven. When some of these egos disappear off the political scene I.e. Millington, et al, maybe we can really get down to doing the people's business and get away from hidden agendas.
Concerned Fairfielder May 17, 2012 at 11:15 AM
I think Palmer has totally missed the public sentiment here which does not surprise me considering his track record. We the People do not want a reduction in the number of RTM districts! We the people want a reduction in the number of member from each district!!! We demand efficiency in Government!!! ONLY TWO REPS. FROM EACH DISTRICT! CHANGE THE CHARTER TO TWO!!! THIS WAY WE ONLY GET PEOPLE WHO TRULY CARE and not PART TIME HACKS WHO DON’T SHOW UP, or WALK OUT DURING VOTES (Kupchick)
R. Ludlowe May 17, 2012 at 12:37 PM
2 reps per district. Love it.

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