Compromise plan emerging for RTM redistricting
Members of the Representative Town Meeting Redistricting Subcommittee are finding that it's not easy to draw a map.
Town ordinance requires the redrawing the boundaries of the 10 RTM districts since recent state redistricting changed the lines for the state legislative districts in town. A primary goal of the new map is to reduce the number of RTM districts split between the legislative districts.
The subcommittee, with three Republican and three Democratic members, has met nine times already but has yet to come to agreement, though a compromise may be in the works. Originally, GOP members proposed reducing the RTM from 10 districts to 8, with five members in each district. Democrats, however, wanted to keep 10 districts, but suggested reducing the number of members in each district from five to four.
Now, both sides are looking at a nine-district RTM with five members in each district.
"People are concerned it's going to start costing the town money" in the August primary, David Becker, R-1, said at Wednesday's meeting of the subcommittee. With the nine-district proposal, Becker said, "it seems as though it is a direction that we might finally be able to come to an agreement with."
While Becker presented the nine-district map to the subcommittee, he said he did not yet have the population numbers or how they break down among registered voters.
Kevin Hoffkins, D-7, agreed that the nine-district proposal might work, but added that the map Becker drew up features five heavily Republican districts, three districts that favor Democrats and one that could be a swing district.
"What's important is that we do it right," Hoffkins said. "We're going to be living with it for the next 10 years." He said the number of RTM districts favoring one political party or the other should be fair, with perhaps one or two districts that could be considered swing districts.
It was agreed both parties would bring the nine-district proposal back to their respective caucuses before meeting again next at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Sullivan-Independence Hall.
"We keep going round in circles when we meet, and that's becoming a problem," Becker said.
John Mitola, D-2, expressed concern that if the districts are made larger, it becomes more difficult for RTM members to fully represent their districts. Meanwhile, Joseph Palmer, R-4, pointed out that prior to the last redistricting, the RTM was made up of 14 districts.
Whatever proposal emerges from the subcommittee, Chairman Hank Ference, R-3, said he doesn't want it to be controversial. "I'd like to bring this to the RTM and have a 10-minute discussion," he said.
In order for the new districts to be in place for the Aug. 14 primary, the RTM vote would have to come at the beginning of July. Mitola and Hoffkins said, however, they believe the registrars of voters had indicated that they can, under state law, consolidate district polling places for a primary. The only primary race in Fairfield this August is in the 132nd state House District between Democrats Sue Brand and Kevin Coyner.
Before Wednesday's meeting concluded, audience member Judy Ewing reminded the subcommittee members that they should be taking the voters into consideration and not the impact of redistricting on individual RTM members.
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