Public Comment on Legislative Redistricting
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) will accept public comment on the proposed state House and Senate maps until January 18, 2022.
Today I submitted the feedback below to LRC regarding proposed state House districts 155, 167, and 74:
While the proposed state House maps are more fair and representative of local communities than our current legislative districts, I have specific concerns about the newly drawn 155th, 167th, and 74th districts that I believe should be corrected in the interest of preservation of political subdivisions, communities of interest, contiguity, and community representation. Namely:
(1) The split of East Caln Township from Downingtown Borough:
In the proposed House map, Downingtown Borough is drawn into the 155th Legislative District, while East Caln Township is drawn into the 167th. However,
Downingtown and East Caln are closely linked communities that share many common interests and concerns.
East Caln Township is served by the Downingtown Borough Police Department, fire departments, and emergency services, as well as by nonprofits and community organizations serving the greater Downingtown area.
East Caln Township lies within the Downingtown Area School District. While DASD is too large to remain wholly in one legislative district, assigning East Caln to the 167th would mean further splitting the school district between legislative districts while diluting the interests of that part of the school district.
Geographically, the configurations of primary roads and the borders of Downingtown Borough, East Caln, and their surrounding townships mean that some residents would need to traverse another legislative district to get to their representatives. (For example, along the Route 113 corridor, the primary route from Uwchlan Township in the 155th to Downingtown Borough in the proposed 155th, one must travel through East Caln Township.)
East Caln Township encircles a portion of Downingtown Borough, creating a gerrymandered border if the two municipalities are separated. As the Wikipedia entry for East Caln Township states, “The township wraps around the east half of Downingtown and is mostly indistinguishable from it.”
In the interest of keeping these communities of interest together, I urge the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to draw East Caln Township into the 155th Legislative District with its most closely linked neighboring municipalities, Downingtown Borough and Uwchlan Township, as well as the bulk of Downingtown Area School District.
(2) The split of Caln Township into two different legislative districts:
The proposed map splits the four precincts of Caln Township into two different legislative districts, with one precinct remaining in the 74th Legislative District and three precincts drawn into the 155th District. Splitting a municipality in this manner causes confusion and dilutes representation and the political interests of the citizens from that community.
The proposed new House map corrects the current split of Phoenixville Borough between two legislative districts, reflecting an acknowledgement by the Commission of the problems that arise when smaller municipalities are split.
While Caln Township and East Caln Township share a similar name, East Caln Township is considered part of the greater Downingtown area, whereas Caln Township is locally considered part of the greater Coatesville area. The interests, concerns, and commonalities of these townships are much more closely linked with their respective greater communities than Caln and East Caln are with one another.
Caln Township is part of Coatesville Area School District (CASD), which is already divided (under the proposed maps) into two other legislative districts, the 74th and the 158th.
Caln Township Police actively support the Coatesville Area School District and back up the school district’s own small police department.
Caln Township and the City of Coatesville are very much part of the same community of neighbors, served by the same nonprofits, community organizations, and parent volunteers, and even merging their two Little Leagues into one in recent years.
The proposed map splits the campus of Brandywine Hospital in half, as the campus falls within two precincts of Caln Township. As we speak, efforts are underway to maintain mental health, behavioral health, and emergency services at the hospital, which is currently slated to close its doors at the end of January 2022. While this is an issue of significant ongoing concern for Chester County, the greater Coatesville community stands to be most impacted by its eventual outcome.
Carving three precincts of Caln Township out of the 74th Legislative District and into the 155th Legislative District reduces the collective voice of the greater Coatesville community, which has a large minority population. As a result, the interests of the Coatesville Area School District could very likely be determined by voters in the borough and township of Honey Brook, with a similar population size, which is newly drawn into the 74th. Honey Brook Township and Honey Brook Borough lie within a different school district serving a very different rural demographic with significantly different interests and needs.
The proposed division of Caln Township is a clear example of how splitting a municipality can shift the balance of voters and change representation to the point that it is not reflective of the community – in this case, the remaining precinct in Caln Township, the small city of Coatesville, and the bulk of the Coatesville Area School District.
For these reasons, and in the interests of the residents of Caln Township and the Coatesville Area School District, a struggling urban public school district, I urge the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to keep all four precincts of Caln Township together, intact, within the 74th Legislative District.
Thank you for your consideration.
Danielle Friel Otten, Uwchlan Township, Chester County
State Representative, 155th Legislative District