Danbury is redrawing its neighborhood maps. Here’s what that means for voters.

DANBURY — The population growth the city has experienced over the past 10 years could reshape the local neighborhood where some residents live.

As mandated by the city charter every 10 years, a committee formed to redraw the maps of the city council’s seven wards – a process that could turn into a partisan battle for control of the city council. They need to keep the population of each neighborhood relatively equal, while keeping the neighborhoods intact.

“The concept behind all this redistricting, at least in my opinion, is to emphasize the importance of this concept of one person, one vote,” said Duane Perkins, Democrat and board member for the committee’s 5th Ward. “The difficulty may lie in determining the most efficient way to go about this process.”

It will also provide a better overview of the areas of the city that have seen the greatest growth over the decade. The so-called redistribution will be based on the latest 2020 census figures, which showed Danbury’s population grew by 7% to around 86,500 since 2010.

The area that could see the biggest change is the 6th arrondissement, which includes parts of the west side. This section of the city has seen the greatest commercial and residential development, including the reserve, the summit and the future rehabilitation hospital and the Danbury Proton cancer therapy centre.

“The city is bulging in different directions, but the main direction it’s bulging in is the 6th Ward,” said Paul Rotello, Democratic Minority Leader who represents the ward, which he says is as big as New Fairfield. and Sherman combined.

Parts of the 6th arrondissement will likely be moved to neighboring arrondissements, officials said.

“I don’t see any neighborhoods that have shrunk in size to tell you the truth,” Mayor Dean Esposito said. “Danbury is the bright start in Connecticut and we continue to grow.”

The committee must present a plan by September to the city council, which must adopt a new map by March 2023.

It is likely that all neighborhoods will see their population increase.

“I would be surprised to see the population of any neighborhood go down,” said Vinny DiGilio, Republican and City Council President. “I’d just be curious to see the split between services and how that has changed over 10 years.”

DiGilio represents the 2nd Ward, which he says has grown, but not as much as other areas that have seen high-density development.

“There’s probably more potential for the 2nd Ward to absorb some of the growth from neighboring neighborhoods, rather than give up some of its space,” he said.

How lines are drawn

City Council majority and minority leaders have already selected two Republicans and two Democrats to serve on the committee that will redraw the map. Those four members must appoint a fifth member — a task that has historically been difficult due to partisan stalemate, officials said.

If they can’t agree on a fifth member, the Republican-led City Council would choose.

Committee Republicans are a former council member and the chairman of the Republican city committee, who served on the redistribution committee in 2010. Democrats are council members who represent the 5th and 6th wards, which could see the most of changes.

Danbury’s halls are shaped like pies, albeit slightly odd. The idea is for each neighborhood to own part of the urban downtown and then expand into the suburbs, so council members represent a “cross section of the population”, said Warren Levy, the chief of the Republican majority on the board.

Levy served on the committee when members had the tedious and difficult task of redrawing maps by hand, rather than using the software now available. Esposito said he was unaware of the city’s purchase of new software for redistribution, but expects it to be available.

Precinct lines are based on population and U.S. census blocks, not the number of voters or members of any particular party. The lines can be staggered to keep the population of each neighborhood fairly equal.

“Think of it in terms of the clock,” Levy said. “You have to move the whole clock to balance it.”

The committee will look at census blocks and use roads as boundaries, said Ben Chianese, a Democrat and council member from the committee’s 6th Ward.

“It’s really at the borders of neighborhoods that we’re going to see the biggest impacts,” he said.

Some roads straddle two neighborhoods. On Southern Boulevard, for example, one side of the road is in the 5th district, while the other is in the 6th district, Chianese said.

“You really want to avoid this if you can,” he said.

Hold neighborhoods together

The committee will need to look at more than the math.

“The idea here is to create an apolitical boundary to recognize neighborhoods and geographic boundaries, as opposed to political boundaries and to retain the strength of Danbury, where representatives run a part of the town that includes people from all walks of life. “, Rotello mentioned.

Republican Mike Safranek, who will sit on the committee, said he also wanted to consider the state’s legislative districts.

Some state districts only include a small portion of a certain ward, which means registrars must set up ballots for only a few hundred voters at one location.

“I want to try cleaning up those little things first,” he said.

With so much development in and around the 6th arrondissement, it might be difficult to move the map, Rotello said. For example, the proposed development of WestConn Park, which includes 200 apartments, is in the 7th district, but on the edge of the sixth.

The subdivision known as the reserve might have to be dismantled, which Rotello said would be unfortunate because it’s been helpful for all those residents to have the same representatives.

“The problem with it is that it’s so big and there are so many people in it, it’s almost a room in itself,” he said.

Politics

As at the federal and state level, the process runs the risk of political maneuvering.

“We did this 10 years ago, and it was completely 100% political,” Rotello said. “The first draft that came out of it was so political that we watched it and laughed about it.”

But committee members said they would not gerrymander the rooms.

“I want to do what’s best for Danbury,” said Safranek, chairman of the Republican city committee, who served on the committee in 2010.

In all boroughs, unaffiliated voters make up the largest number of voters. Democrats also outnumber Republicans in all districts, according to voter registry data. However, the Republicans dominate the council 14-7, holding all the general seats and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts. The Democrats hold the 4th, 5th and 6th Wards. The parties divided the 7th arrondissement.

“It has to be fair and balanced,” Chianese said. “That’s the approach you have to take. You have to leave politics at the door. It’s for the good of the city. »

He lives on the edge of the 6th ward, so he could be moved out of the ward he represents.

“Do I vote myself out of the room?” He asked. “If it’s in the best interest of the city, yes I will.”

Comments are closed.