Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg to speak in South Hadley about redistricting

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
By Patricia Cahill, The Republican

SOUTH HADLEY - State Senator Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, will discuss the redistricting of Massachusetts, on July 28 at 7:30 p.m. at South Hadley Town Hall, 116 Main St.

The number of congressmen who represent any state depends on the population of that state. There are 10 congressional districts now in Massachusetts. Two of them are in Western Massachusetts.

But, according to the last U.S. Census, the population of Massachusetts isn't that strong.

"It grew," said Rosenberg, "but not as much as the rest of the country."

That means fewer congressmen to look out for the interests of the commonwealth.

And, since Western Massachusetts was more sluggish in population growth than the rest of the state - it actually lost residents in the Berkshires and in Franklin County - that spells trouble.

Rosenberg, who co-chaired the Joint Committee on Redistricting, is among those who have been fighting for Western Massachusetts to keep its two congressional districts.

U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, have long represented the two districts of Western Massachusetts. Now it's looking like one of them will go.

There are many reasons why that will hurt Western Massachusetts, said Sarah Etelman, chairwoman of the Democratic Town Committee in South Hadley.

"Geographically, we're half the state," said Etelman of Western Massachusetts. "To have one person covering half the state would be a huge detriment to our part of the state.

"Congressmen need to travel when they talk to their constituents. It's a ridiculous amount of territory for one person," she said.

"There are a lot of implications," said Rosenberg. "Other communities might trump their requests."

It would also present the surviving congressman with a vast variety of people to represent. Usually districts are formed on the basis of what the people in them have in common.

It's not a good balance when small communities are lumped in with larger communities, said Rosenberg.

Since both Olver and Neal are senior members of the House, the loss is even greater, said Etelman. "Their seniority also impacts our voice and our strength," she said.

Even though it's late in the process, the talk by Rosenberg will help answer questions about what's ahead, said Etelman.

"It's an important issue," she said, "and it's important for people in Western Massachusetts to understand what it means."

The event is sponsored by the South Hadley Democratic Town Committee.