[Editor's Note: The RTM GOP's redistricting proposal will be up for a vote at the May 21 RTM meeting.]
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.
RTM, District 4