From Warren to Fayston, Valley towns are united in opposition to a state redistricting proposal that would cut half of Fayston off from the rest of The Valley.
At issue is the Vermont Legislative Reapportionment Board’s plan to create one legislative district for Waitsfield, Warren and the portion of Fayston located south of Route 17. The northern portion of Fayston would join a new legislative district made up of Duxbury and Moretown.
Currently Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston comprise one district with one representative. Moretown, Northfield and Roxbury comprise a district with two representatives and Duxbury is in a district with Waterbury with two representatives.
The 2010 federal census data suggests that every 4,172 Vermonters be represented by one state legislator and the population of the three Valley towns together is approximately 4,770 or some 14.4 percent over the target number.
The Waitsfield Board of Civil Authority (BCA) met this week on July 26 with Tom Little of the Reapportionment Board and, after discussion, voted to send a letter requesting that the current district remain as it is, despite the deviation of 14.4 percent.
Little explained that keeping all of Fayston with Waitsfield and Warren would mean a legislative district with too many voters per state representative—as compared to other districts in the state. Local voters would be “under-represented” under such a scenario, by a deviation rate of 14.4 percent.
Waitsfield joins Warren, Fayston, Moretown, Duxbury and Waterbury in rejecting the redistricting proposal. The proposal redraws legislative districts throughout the state with an eye to creating 150 single-member districts. That proposal did not pass the reapportionment board unanimously. Members voted 4 to 3 for the single-member district proposal. Those who favor the single-member district proposal argue that it is easier for representatives to campaign in such districts.
The Mad River Valley Planning District weighed in opposing the proposal this week as well. The planning district letter, signed by select board and BCA members from Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston, reiterates concerns voiced at BCA hearings in local towns.
In part, the letter reads: “These three towns share geography, history, and economic interests that enhance their ability to work together as a cohesive and united community. The Mad River Valley Planning District is one example of this community effort. A recognized governmental entity, MRVPD has collectively represented and guided the three towns in policy and planning for 28 years. Numerous other representations of the Mad River Valley’s shared common goals, challenges, and cooperation exist, including its shared school district, emergency services, recreation services, chamber of commerce, and health center.
“We urge the legislature to reaffirm the geography, contiguity and social interactions that have united the towns of Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston by maintaining the current single-member voting district comprised of all three Mad River Valley towns.”
The Moretown BCA, in a July 20 letter to the reapportionment board, acknowledges the logic of being in a district with Duxbury and a portion of Fayston, noting that that is preferable to the current two-member district it shares with Northfield and Roxbury. The Moretown BCA expresses a preference for being in a two-member district with Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and Duxbury.
A two-member district including Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston, Moretown and Duxbury is not the preferred option of Duxbury which prefers to stay in its current district with Waterbury.
The reapportionment board will take comments on the proposals until the end of this month and issues its final proposal in August. Next year the Vermont Legislature will consider that proposal when it takes up the matter.