If change is too hard, don’t do it — according to charter

To the Editor:

Last Monday, the RTM heard a report from our Redistricting Committee, which is charged with recommending to the whole RTM a new map of RTM districts.

This map will impact every voter in Fairfield because it dictates who represents us and where we vote. The new map is needed to keep the districts roughly equivalent in size based on the latest census figures and to better align them with recently adjusted state district lines.

The committee of three Democrats and three Republicans is deadlocked. The Republicans want to change the number of districts, thereby reducing the number of representatives on the RTM. The Democrats want to keep the current 10 districts and 50 representatives

Under the town charter, a new map cannot be brought to the full RTM for a vote unless the redistricting committee, by majority vote, approves the map. There is no mechanism for appeal or dispute resolution. Yet the State requires there be new maps by June 1 in order to prepare for the November elections. So what are we to do?

Some Republican members lament that they cannot bypass the committee and introduce their version of the map directly to the RTM, where the Republicans hold the majority. They claim that the charter is flawed because there is no provision to appeal the committee’s deadlock.

I respectfully disagree. By decreeing that the committee must be made of equal numbers of each party, regardless of which party holds the majority, the charter wisely requires that the members find areas of agreement and not make changes that either side finds objectionable.

The Republicans, by proposing to fundamentally alter proportionate representation in Fairfield, are trying to change something that has worked for years and, in a true test of its fairness, produced majorities of both parties at various times. The RTM evolved out of the town’s early days when all qualified residents could vote at a town meeting. With fewer members, we’d move farther away from that pure form of democracy. Any change to that is a big deal and should not be made lightly.

By not being able to gain the approval of more than three committee members after a year of meetings, it is clear that the proposal to reduce the number of districts is too extreme of a change. The way to resolve this deadlock is to put that idea aside and get down to the only mandated work of the committee, which is fairly redrawing the lines of the existing 10 districts.

The six committee members are fair minded, hard working people and I am sure they can quickly accomplish the task. But it is time to recognize that the charter is saying that if a change is too difficult, it shouldn’t be made.

Far from being flawed, the charter protects us from hasty changes and guides us to accomplish the redistricting in the manner that meets with the broadest consensus.

 

Christopher Brogan

RTM, District 6

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