[Editor's Note: This letter is Kevin Hoffkins', D-7, response to the Representative Town Meeting's GOP proposal to cut the number of voting districts in Fairfield from 10 to eight, according to a report in the Fairfield Citizen.]
The Republicans on the RTM Redistricting Committee have posed a serious obstacle to progress on redistricting by that committee. They have demanded that the RTM reduce the number of districts from the current 10 to eight. Their reasons for the reductions are not convincing. The Democratic Caucus has voted twice that such a radical change is unnecessary.
Previously, the Republicans told us that they thought the body was too big and that there were numerous people who didn’t do the work. However, I would like to see them put that argument to the full RTM and actually name the people that they don’t think are doing any work. The Democrats offered a compromise of keeping ten districts but reducing the total membership to 40 members from the current fifty. The Republicans rejected this offer.
The Republican argument that their plan would save money was never presented to us until after Republican leader David Becker started talking to the newspapers. But even this argument does not hold up. The have told us that the cost savings would be between $2000 and $3000 per election. An insignificant sum compared to our $273 million budget.
The savings are not worthwhile when you consider the damage it will do to fair representation on the RTM. An eight district town would force each RTM representative to represent 7,500 people instead of the current 5,700. This would make it harder for RTM reps to focus on neighborhood issues, and to be responsive to their voters. Also voter turnout would be suppressed with larger districts. Some of the eight district maps would make people in have to drive all the way to to vote. With voter turnout as low as it is, we don’t need to make it harder for people to vote.
Clearly, the Republicans are just pushing a plan that makes it easier for them to keep their majority. Wednesday night they presented an eight district map that highly benefits them. This was presented after the committee had voted to ask the Registrars to come up with maps on a non-partisan basis.
What’s good for our town is to redistrict in a way that provides both sides a fair opportunity for an elected majority of the RTM. Gerrymandering to insure one party dominance is not good for our town any more than it is in Washington, D.C. Since Republican leader Jamie Millington is threatening litigation to resolve the impasse, it would seem the added cost is responsibility of the Republicans.
Kevin L. Hoffkins