By Lawrence Riefberg, Chairman, Danbury Democratic Town Committee
Danbury, CT: Following the admission by the City Attorney, Robert Yamin, that the Republican-approved maps violated federal law, the Danbury Democrats issued their analysis by national expert, Jeffrey Wice, who had been viewing the Danbury Dean (Esposito) Disaster closely since January. According to an article published by the newspaper, Patch.com
“The Republicans missed the Charter deadline of March 1. They violated the Federal Voting Rights Act by illegal racial gerrymandering and now they violated Article 14 of the United States Constitution”, Riefberg proclaimed. “The Mayor is a disaster and it is a disgrace for our City that for 50 years we have been able to, in a bipartisan manner, complete the award maps legally and on time – but not this year. There is no leadership at the top and they do not deserve to be re-elected this fall.” Riefberg respectfully pointed not only to Yamin’s conclusion but also to the Wice analysis below. “Their actions are deplorable and they need to be held accountable for their failures”. I am confident Roberto Alves will be our next Mayor as he listens and is most deserving”, concluded Riefberg.
Several months ago, the Danbury City Council voted to keep ward maps the same as those that have been used for the past decade. Federal law requires that district lines be adjusted after each decennial census to reflect an equal population.
That vote followed an unsuccessful attempt to amend the ward maps based on an earlier plan draft to bring district boundaries into legal compliance. This map (with “donut-hole” shaped wards) was subject to objections at an earlier council meeting where claims were made alleging that the maps were discriminatory. Rather than vote on those maps, the council hired a demographer to analyze and determine if they could be used. His conclusion indicated that the map did not meet legal requirements, vindicating those who had previously cried “foul.”
The map represented “fundamental alterations of the city’s existing plan now in use” and “raise obvious concerns.” He wrote that “a further concern is the apparent low core retention of minority residents in their present districts.” The council draft map, “consolidates ‘downtown’ within a single newly drawn Ward 2, encompassing a heavy minority population that is concentrated (or “packed”). This kind of “packing” could be construed as discriminatory.
Rather than seeking a bipartisan solution with all City Council members to prepare a new map, the majority voted in April to keep the wards the same as they are now for the next election. William Bloss, an attorney with Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, PC, and I have been following the map-making efforts and believe that leaving the wards the way they were in the old map violated federal equal representation standards. In a letter to Mr. Bloss, I suggested that “Danbury reconsider its map and enact one that comports with federal standards before the next election is held. Further use of this map would result in vote dilution contrary to the U.S. Constitution.” Mr. Bloss wrote that “we believe that using the existing Ward maps for the 2023 municipal election, as was voted on at the last Co