Letters To The Editor
by Grace Arpie
On Monday, May 8th, 2023, a regularly scheduled public forum was held in the Council Chambers at Town Hall, prior to a meeting of the Town Council to consider revised election districts. As has been previously discussed, the revision gerrymanders Democratic incumbent Kaitlyn Shake out of District 2 and into District 7, with the line literally being drawn down her street. It’s a blatant attempt to try to silence and get rid of one of the most effective and engaged members of the Town Council by forcing her to run against the Republican incumbent in District 7.
More than a dozen residents spoke, and many more packed the council chambers. The majority of those who spoke did so to protest the revised districts and to ask the council to vote “no” on the current redistricting plan. Applause rang out after every resident spoke against this attempt at gerrymandering by the Republicans who sat on the election district revision committee. In fact, all of the Republicans on the committee—Chris Pia (1st District Town Council), Jim Connor (8th District Town Council) and Lou DeCilio (Republican Registrar of Voters) were present in the room. Not one signed up to speak and address why the decision was made to draw the district line down Councilwoman Shake’s street.
While speakers praised Kaitlyn Shake’s dedication to not only her district, but all of Stratford, and were angry at Republican gerrymandering of her district, this issue is merely the latest in a long simmering distrust and disdain for our Republican controlled council. It’s hard not to draw party lines when Republicans have been behind gerrymandering going back to 2003, consistently vote to underfund the Board of Education, voted to approve a wildly unpopular development at the former Center School site despite vocal opposition from residents, just to name a few of the more recent issues. More than one speaker at the public forum spoke about how they feel disrespected when they turn out to speak in front of the council and noted how council members won’t look at them or appear to otherwise not be paying attention while members of the public address them.
The issue also goes beyond trying to oust a dedicated councilwoman from her district:
· Why is the process of redistricting so shrouded in secrecy?
· Why was the committee meeting held in a room in town hall without the proper equipment to record it?
· Why did the Republican registrar DeCilio present a map at the committee meeting that left out an entire district and didn’t have any data accompanying it?
· Why did the minutes for the meeting report the final vote inaccurately?
· Why does there seem to be no attempt by Republicans to address these concerns publicly? After all, all the taxpayers of Stratford pay Lou DeCilio’s salary, not just the ones of his party.
The public is owed an explanation for why the redistricting process has played out the way it has. The folks making decisions on this committee are elected (as in the town council members) or paid by taxpayers (in the case of the registrar of voters). They are accountable to us, the voters and taxpayers. We know redistricting takes place every 10 years. This process isn’t anything new. But Republicans are only getting more brazen and desperate in their attempts to keep a stranglehold on our local government.