The public hearing on the House redistricting plan lasted nearly five hours Thursday afternoon. As clerk of the comitttee, I recorded more than 11 pages of notes--hopefully I'll be able to share them with you here when they are typed up.
Nearly everyone spoke against various aspects of the plan although, interestingly, Nashua City Clerk Paul Bergeron signed in supporting it. Of course, that's because the plan was changed in the final days so that rather than "screwing" Nashua, it "screws" Manchester and Pelham. Bergeron submitted a document from the Nashua City Council asking that his city not be split up.
However, the only person speaking against Manchester being split up was Ward 6 Rep. Ben Baroody (with friendly questions from me of course). Mayor Ted Gatsas and the Board of Aldermen declined to send anybody to the hearing.
You just can't make this stuff up!
Many complaints involved the splitting of Concord Ward 5 to go with Hopkinton. My plan for Merrimack County does not require either Concord or Franklin be split apart.
Canterbury Rep Seth Cohn provided the most useful testimony of the day, noting certain tweaks which will make the plan better in Keene and Concord. He also submitted an entirely new plan for Hillsborough County which is simply brilliant. With a minor exception regarding how he's grouped Manchester wards, I highly endorse his plan. It's superior to my own plan for the county. It allows an extra Rep for Nashua (27 when it really deserves 26, but with nine wards, the 27 number works better) and it gets Manchester back to 33 reps alone--which it deserves. It also groups communities in the southern and western portions of the county in a more more logical way than the one approved by the subcommittee Wednesday. Hopefully the full committee will accept the Cohn plan for Hillsborough County Tuesday. It's the one thing that stands between my approval or disapproval of the entire plan.
While I would prefer that Concord not be split apart, it was after all Democratic Hopkinton Rep Gary Richardson who backed the idea in his own plan, so it'll be hard for Democrats to argue against the concept. I still prefer my plan for Merrmack County which keeps both Concord and Franklin together, but this is not a deal breaker for me.
I also prefer my plan for Belknap--it keeps Laconia together--but this isn't a deal breaker either.
The plans for Rockingham and Grafton (thanks in large part to Rep Cohn and Rep Spec Bowers) are simpy ingenious.
Cheshire, Sullivan, Carroll, and Strafford, while not perfect, are probably the best we can come up with.
Coos is also ok.
Unfortuntely, much of yesterday's hearing was taken up by left wing extremists who offered no useful suggestions but--even at this late hour--prefer to carp about the process. They want more time to study; they want more public hearings. In basketball terms, what they are engaging in is running a Dean Smith four corner stall offensive. I hate to be overly cynical, but it's becoming clear that they hope that if they only can run the clock out, the court will get involved. We all should remember what a terrible job the court did ten years ago when it got involved, a result even worse for the left wing crowd than for Republicans!
I call this reluctance to cooperate on anything useful the Little Red Hen syndrome. All those unwilling to help make the bread are all of a sudden very willing to eat the bread...or rather to prevent anyone else from eating it.
You just can't make this stuff up.
Especially egregious in her erroneous statements was Zandra Rice Hawkins who actually suggested that only through efforts of her group was word of the ten county hearings publicized. How blatantly absurd! You all know that's a lie because you know I promptly posted the message here on this blog which goes out to all media (excpet Joe W. McQuaid who refuses to accept it--ignorance apparently is bliss for this clown), to all 400 Reps, to all 24 Senators, and to a select group of other people. Sad, Zandra, truly sad that you (and McQuaid) remain in a state of denial.
The first hour and a half of the hearing involved an explanation from Redistricting Chair Paul Mirski--he did a very god job indeed.
There was also talk (more than necessary in my opinion) about HCO1, from Rep. Steve Winters, the plan which would bypass the Governor and have the plan enacted by going directly to the Secretary of State. Republican leadership is pushing this concept, but I am convinced it is both unconstitutional and unwise, is a slap at the separation of powers provision. It would set a dangerous precedent which could come back to bite the same Republican Parfty which is pushing it today. No, I will not be voting for that idea. Its passage would most certainly result in a lawsuit, and hey, I thought we were trying to avoid legal stress.
I continue to believe that if we make a few more changes, we can arrive at a plan which either will not be vetoed or which could be passed with a veto override should Governor Lynch choose to exercise that right (it is a right of any governor).
As people grasped for appropriate analogies from redistricting being a house of cards to a balloon to a Suduko puzzle, I thought Rep. Cohn had the best metaphor. In explaining how he responded to my plea for others to get involved with the formulation of plans (something Zandra never did), Rep Cohn said that was like a pusher giving a free sample of drugs to a user. The state is all the better because Rep Cohn got hooked on this drug of redistricting. He and Rep Bowers have worked tirelessly, not that Zandra and Company would ever admit it.
By the way, thumbs up to Rep David Bates for chairing what (thanks to Zandra and others) had the potential to be a very difficult hearing. He exercised the proper mixture of rigidity and forbearance in allowing witnesses (and committee members at times) to stray from the topic.
All plans are up on the State House web site, but apparently some would rather complain than actually look at the plans and try to improve them. The full committee will vote on the bill (and any amendments--I may have a couple) Tuesday.