Bucks Submission Part 2

Bucks County Submission Part 2 Communities of Interest One of the greatest concerns we have heard relates to the significant displacement of residents, local organizations, businesses and local governments. Disrupting these relationships and voiding the institutional knowledge between them and their elected representatives is of great concern. We have heard it loud and clear from them over the last few weeks. Perhaps you may feel that this is not a factor that should be considered but to these folks and organizations it is a major factor. To a resident caring for a child with special needs or helping an elderly parent that rely on our years of constituent services case management with them to cut through government and insurance red tape to ensure the services they are entitled matters. The more residents displaced by the map the more residents that will have to start a new seeking and hopefully finding that help. Examples of issues and projects that will be displaced from one representative to another or several include recreation and historic areas such as the Delaware Canal, environmentally contaminated areas impacting clean drinking water for residents, ongoing and planned transportation projects that have included community and local government participation, economic development and redevelopment projects, historic preservation efforts, emergency services regionalization and quite frankly, the fight for the survival of our local EMS providers and volunteer firefighters, efforts on behalf of individuals battling addiction and the local resources providing them services, major employers and advocacy for them, major healthcare provider organizations and efforts that have been put forth to help small businesses survive the pandemic. Trust us, they are parts of our communities and have an interest in the final decision that you are going to make in the near future. To provide you a context of some of the negative communities of interest results of the draft map changes we submitted: The State Route 263 Corridor comprises three townships and serves as the main economic, transportation, educational and emergency services route for all three. The common voice from the current and past Representative (29th) has improved traffic efficiency and safety in the corridor and allowed it to prosper. It will now be divided between three representatives. Chalfont, New Britain Borough and Township currently all within the 144nd District will be split between three legislative districts (29th, 143rd and 144nd) and the Township will now have a split. These communities have common services and epitomize a small community of interest. The agricultural regions in the 144th including local farms and orchards that needed support from the local State Representative will now be split between two legislative districts (143rd and 144th).. The Centennial School District comprising of almost 5,400 students, a small school district by Bucks County norms, will lose the current two representative districts (29th and 142nd) and the senator that serve it and be replaced with all new state elected officials (144th and 178th) thereby disrupting continuity of representation in Harrisburg. The School Board President has conveyed this concern to both current representatives. Northampton Township and its bipartisan Board of Supervisors oppose the new split in their township. They not only have not been split ever, but have worked to have a single Senior Center, a single Fire Department, and a Single Police Force. They noted at their board meeting when passing a resolution in opposition to the proposed map, this would be a hardship on their residents especially their elderly. They also question the impact of moving a split and if that should be done unless absolutely necessary. If this map is adopted, they will be forced to work with a split while an existing split community who has already adapted to having a split is made whole. With the contamination from Federal military bases of the PFAS chemical into several of our communities drinking water, three of us and Rep Stephens from Montgomery County have worked diligently to find relief efforts including new laws and funding sources. These efforts have been jointly coordinated have included DEP, local governments, water authorities and residents. With the maps as drawn the two of the four representatives will shift out of these areas and two representatives who no institutional knowledge of the issue nor the stakeholders will be representing these areas. Several of the water authorities and local governments have provided testimony opposing these changes. In the 145th Legislative District East Rockhill has been drawn into the 143rd district. Anyone who knows the area knows that Perkasie, Sellersville, East Rockhill and West Rockhill has long been one community of interest and should have one representative. The Pennridge Regional Police Dept. serves both E. Rockhill and W. Rockhill. Our first responders also serve this collective community. These municipalities have always worked aggressively to support the areas economic and transportation interests. The northern end of Bucks 611 Corridor is all within the 143nd district. The draft map splits it between three representative districts. It is part of the old Lackawanna Trail and travels from the Bucks County Seat through the northern end of the county at Riegelsville into the Leigh Valley. It has transportation, economic and emergency services common interests. The 143nd district was previously drawn based on this community of interest. Throughout the map, longstanding local regional efforts by entities such as the emergency services will now be split between numerous and in many cases new Representatives. These organizations rely on their representative for legislative efforts, grant and funding support and capital planning. The continuity of those efforts will be negatively impacted. We certainly could provide you many other examples but very clearly these few specific examples and the many general examples given show the dramatic impact of these changes on the people we serve. It should also be noted that all of these dramatic changes happen within and between only Republican represented districts. Alternative Bucks Map 1B is a great example of an opportunity for the LRC to address the egregious issues raised in this testimony. The map removes the community of interest issues raised above, while meeting the population target number, while only displacing roughly 6% of Bucks’ population, while remaining contiguous and improving compactness and reducing splits from five across four municipalities to three across three municipalities who are already split thereby not affecting a currently unsplit municipality and having seven districts remain electoral competitive. As cited by the Editorial the BCCT writes when referring to alternative maps “to show that there are plenty of ways to adjust district boundaries to align them with U.S. Census-based population shifts without moving nearly a third of Bucks County’s voters into different legislative districts and rendering their seats uncompetitive. It can be done. It should be done.” Closing There appears to be may unprecedented aspects to the manner in which the maps have been drawn this year. Please do not let a lack of competitiveness be added to that list of results. If our voices and more importantly the voices of those we represent are not heard, history will not look kindly on the results. Do we really want to reconvene in a decade to look back and see the dire forecasts provided above and those not just from us, but the people and the media, have come true and democracy has been negatively impacted? Once a district is locally dominated by one party, quite often the minority party withers, and that dominance grows. Just look at neighboring Montgomery County. Whatever motive, noble or otherwise, that has led to this point and time in our history there is still a chance to correct the map to ensure that it meets the constitutional standards, reduce municipal splits, do not unnecessarily displace hundreds of thousands of residents and keep the districts competitive. The seven of us appreciate your time in reviewing this testimony and will make ourselves available to discuss these matters or present the alternative mentioned above. Sincerely and on behalf of the seven Bucks County residents and Representatives, Frank Farry