Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Fair & Equal: The Presentation

Last night, at the informal meeting of the Common Council, the petition generated by the Fair & Equal initiative was presented to the aldermen. Gossips will cover what transpired in two parts: the first part will recount the presentation; second part will report the response from members of the Council and the audience.

Enlargements of the two maps above, showing the ward boundaries as they are today and the ward boundaries as they are being proposed, were displayed in Council chambers. Kevin Hannan, after introducing himself and Steve Dunn, began by reading a prepared statement, speaking on behalf of all the people who were involved in the Fair & Equal initiative. That statement follows:
We speak tonight for the Fair & Equal campaign, with the goal of securing equal representation in our City government, for all Hudson residents. We speak for over 300 who have signed our petition calling for this, but our thoughts are with all of Hudson’s residents, who are denied this fundamental right.
Today, if you live in the 1st or 4th Wards, your aldermen are each assigned 95 votes to use in representing you. If you live in the 2nd or 3rd, they have twice that--180 and 185 votes apiece, respectively. If you live in the 5th Ward, your aldermen have twice that amount--364 votes apiece. This means that 60 percent of our population, who live in Wards 1 through 4, are assigned half, or just a quarter, of the voting power of others. When you consider that most of our minority population lives in these Wards, the skewed nature of this system becomes even more troubling.
There is simply no way to dance around it--for decades, we have used a form of government which values some residents more than others. A system where some neighborhoods matter more than others. Where some voices are weakened, and others amplified. A system that divides, in a city that can barely afford such division. A system so un-American that it is found in no other American city.
Now, each of you has a chance to right this wrong. Now, you are in a position to vote for equality. Now, you have an opportunity to bring the principle of One Person, One Vote to Hudson at long last, where Aldermen cast one equal vote on behalf of the same number of people. That is here and now. Today. The opportunity is present.
Behind it lies a lengthy past. It is worth revisiting its most recent months. Last October, a resolution to end the Weighted Vote came before the Council, initiated by Aldermen Friedman and Henry Haddad who, in addition to Alderman Rector, voted for it. Aldermen Garriga, Miah, Keith, and Donahue voted against it. It was passed, then vetoed, and sent back to the Council. Aldermen Garriga, Miah and Keith upheld the veto, and in so doing, upheld the weighted vote.
This January, it was suggested that the Council would form a "bipartisan committee to examine ward boundaries" and make a proposal. Several members of our campaign volunteered to serve. When the committee did not materialize, we pursued the last option available--a citizens' initiative--and began work in April.
No detail could be overlooked. Districting laws are complex and stringent; there are far more ways to get it wrong than right. Getting it right meant following 5 standards:
  1. Get the population counts as equal as possible, or 1,281 people per Ward.
  2. Protect minority representation.
  3. Hew as closely as you can to existing ward lines.
  4. Keep lines as straight as possible, to avoid gerrymandering or even the appearance of it.
  5. Keep census blocks together--unite them where you can, avoid splitting any that are currently whole.
By June, we felt confident enough that we had met these standards and went public with a press conference, town hall meeting, and petition gathering. Going forward, we will be initiating community discussions on this, and of course will accept invitations to do the same.
We see no greater sign of respect to our community than to offer them a fair solution that holds up to scrutiny, and then invite them to vote on it directly, with months to form an opinion. We respect your roles, and have introduced this in a way that provides ample time to speak with your constituents, and do what you think is right.
We do strongly believe that if our plan is adopted, members seeking re-election will return to a stronger, fairer, and more effective Common Council. First, you will all come to the table with equal authority to speak for your constituents. You will be free to build majorities based on their common interests, without having to worry about who has the largest stack of votes.
You will be on record as supporting equal voting power, a fundamental constitutional right, striking down a system that fosters inequality and divisiveness. You will give the City confidence that the Council is equipped to do what you are elected to do--represent your people fairly, equally, and fully.

1 comment:

  1. Smart, fair, honorable, and self-sacrificing. These are rare qualities for which everyone in Hudson ought to feel some gratitude.