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Letter: Supporting 10 Districts, 50 Representatives

RTM member Ann Stamler, D-5, explains her reasoning against shrinking the town body.

To the Editor:

Fairfield’s is a descendent of New England’s original Town Meetings, where every citizen had a voice. Our town long ago grew too large for everyone to vote on every ordinance and expenditure, so we elect neighborhood representatives to vote for us. As we revise our local RTM voting districts to accommodate shifting populations, we need to remember that neighborhood representation -- not political power -- is the fundamental goal.

To set the record straight, there is no state statute requiring our town to redistrict. There is no state statute telling us how many districts we should have, how many people should live in each district, or how many representatives each district should elect. The only requirements on the matter are set forth in our Town Charter, which states that after completion of each U.S. Census and after any reapportionment of state General Assembly districts, town voting districts shall be established:

1.     “such that …population deviation from the largest to the smallest voting district shall not exceed 10 percent, ” and

2.     “to the extent practicable…[redistricting] shall provide for districts that are located in only one State General Assembly District.”

During meetings of our RTM’s six-member redistricting committee, as reported in our local press, three members -- -- proposed reducing the number of RTM voting districts from 10 to eight, and the number of representatives from 50 to 40. Three members -- -- saw no reason to make such a drastic change, especially given that the Democratic and Republican Registrars of Voters had jointly been able to develop at least one 10-district plan that complied with our charter and gave both parties equal voting strength.

Republican arguments for reducing the number of districts and representatives were summarized in a recent letter to the press. They were, and I quote: “ancillary benefits, like cost savings”; “the RTM is too large and cumbersome”; and “it is a challenge for both parties to assemble a full slate of 50 candidates.” 

Whatever merit there may be to any of these arguments, the argument for not changing, I believe, outweighs them all.

Fewer districts will dilute every Fairfielder’s voice. Rather than about 6,000 residents, each RTM member would represent about 7,500.

As an RTM member who -- like my colleagues in both parties -- walks my district, knocks on doors, and takes seriously the responsibility of understanding the needs of my constituents, I can tell you that is a big difference.

Having fewer representatives would also dilute the diversity of ideas that is vital to a representative form of government. A smaller RTM would reduce the potential for all segments of our population to be heard.

The beauty of our local process is that it is grass roots government. RTM meetings are sometimes messy, sometimes frustrating, often long, and almost always very hard work. But that is the price of democracy which I, and I believe many, many others, feel fortunate to pay.

 

Ann Stamler
RTM District 5

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