Legislature intends to split Greenfield into 2 House districts

  • The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting’s proposed map for the House of Representatives’ districts. Screenshot

Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2021 4:59:08 PM

GREENFIELD — Local officials are reaching out to legislators this week and encouraging residents to do the same in response to the state’s latest maps for redistricting, one of which includes splitting Greenfield into two House of Representatives districts.

The proposed map, which can be viewed online at malegislature.gov/redistricting, recommends splitting the city between Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, and Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland. This would mean dividing Greenfield between the 1st Franklin and 2nd Franklin districts.

Currently, Greenfield is part of the 2nd Berkshire District, represented by Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru.

“Greenfield is the largest community in our county, and we also were one of the few communities to gain population in the latest census,” Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said in a statement. “In no uncertain terms, I am opposed to the city being split in half. We should be a cornerstone for any House legislative district. I hope our City Council and other citizens of Greenfield will join me in opposition during the public comment period.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting held a public hearing, after which the public comment period on the proposed maps formally opened.

In a letter to committee co-chairs Sen. William Brownsberger and Rep. Michael Moran, and members of the redistricting committee on Sept. 16, Wedegartner expressed concerns for the proposed changes to the legislative districts.

“I want to state clearly that Greenfield wishes to avoid placement in a House district that includes the North Quabbin region communities of Athol and Orange,” she wrote. “Athol and Orange are lovely towns, but they are towns that share a community of interest with each other, not with Greenfield, and have a combined population greater than the city of Greenfield.”

She said instead, the committee should consider a House district comprised solely of Franklin County cities and towns.

“Greenfield has long-established relationships with the towns closest to us, with Montague, Deerfield, Shelburne, Buckland, Colrain and Conway among them,” Wedegartner wrote. “This was, and is, particularly evident as we manage the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants. We have and do often share resources and advice with these towns, particularly Montague, our close neighbor across the Connecticut River.”

Wedegartner plans to submit a formal response to the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting this week.

At Tuesday afternoon’s public hearing, Moran reported that the 2020 Massachusetts census count was 7,029,917, representing a 7.4% population increase over the 2010 census data.

“What you are going to see in the House maps is a reflection of those numbers,” he said.

Moran relayed the process the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting went through to get to this stage, which included livestreamed hearings, as well as improved access to the process by way of English as a second language (ESL) hearings and the ability to translate the website into 110 languages.

“We held 19 hearings, six more than we did 10 years ago,” he said. “In total, 548 people signed up to give testimony during those hearings.”

Tuesday’s hearing was largely an opportunity for Moran to explain the 13 additional majority minority opportunity districts, or districts in which the majority of constituents are racial or ethnic minorities. He noted that the Hispanic population, in particular, grew by about 41% in the state. In a few cases, this involved drawing new, incumbent-free districts.

Following the hearing, Moran announced that the public comment period is open through 5 p.m. on Oct. 18.

“This process is not over,” Moran said. “Digest these maps; look at these maps. If you have any reasonable suggestions at how we can maybe make them stronger or better, I would be happy to take those into consideration.”

Brownsberger, following his presentation of the proposed Senate map, said the Governor’s Council Map and Congressional Map will come out “shortly.”

“Whether that’s a couple days or a couple of weeks … we have some work to do on those,” he said.

Written comment can be submitted through the state website at malegislature.gov/Redistricting/Contact.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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