-by Kathy Haley, Founder, New Horizons Club
The Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution calling on the State Legislature to enact redistricting reform in Pennsylvania. In a dramatic show of non-partisanship, Republican Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig managed amendments to the resolution and then moved it for a vote. Democrat Josh Grimes seconded. The 14 member Lower Merion Board of Commissioners, which is known for careful policy-making that is often emulated by other townships in the state, amended the resolution advanced by Fair Districts PA, adding the request that state legislators consider either a constitutional amendment or a legislative solution to end gerrymandering in PA.
Board President Dan Bernheim, in summarizing his support for the amended resolution, explained that he had extensively researched the subject. He had contacted Amanda Holt, the Pennsylvania piano teacher who had filed suit against the 2010 redistricting map in the state. He talked with her for nearly an hour before deciding on amended wording he would advance for the resolution.
The board approved the resolution at its April 5 meeting. The resolution was advanced by the board’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee, chaired by Grimes. The Intergovernmental Relations Committee meeting, including citizen comments, was video taped. It starts at 1:06:45 from the beginning of the video.
Dan Loeb, who was the first to speak, has worked for 15 years on issues of redistricting.
With the current system, Democratic and Republican party leadership use control of the legislative reapportionment commission to enforce party discipline. If an individual legislator does not follow lock-step with the party line, his district will be redrawn with a tentacle reaching into his district, ending at his home. In Pennsylvania, candidates can only run in the district where they reside so he could no longer be re-elected by his current constituents who know him, who voted him in already and have personally benefited from his constituent services.
Jamie Mogil, State Coordinator for Resolutions for Fair Districts PA, spoke next.
Our current system. . .is partisan. It’s really not about whether you are Republican or Democrat because in the end if you are in control you get to draw the lines in your favor. . .
The fear is that the red map that we have now will be replaced by a blue map and that really is not addressing the key issue here which is gerrymandering. This partisan drawing of the lines. . .whoever controls it, gets to make sure that they stay in office. . .
I’m not being dramatic when I say we really need to save our state; our democracy. . .It’s about. . .making sure that the politicians do not get to choose us, but we get to choose them.
1:07 Dan Loeb, mathematician, publisher Philadelphia Jewish Voice. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is a partner in the Fair Districts PA Coalition.
1:10 Jamie Mogil, State Coordinator for Resolutions for Fair Districts PA. Many localities have endorsed redistricting reform.
1:15 Adrian Seltzer, food scientist
1:17 Rabbi Margot Stein, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC). Michael Pollock, one of the founders of the March on Harrisburg, is a soon to be ordained rabbinical student at the RRC.
1:19 Sigal Ben-Porath, new American citizen in Penn Wynne, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education’s Literacy Culture and International Education Division. She refers to Daylin Leach, the Pennsylvania State Senator, who speaks and writes in favor of districting reform.
1:20 Jim Powelson retired engineer from Bala Cynwyd
1:23 Kathy Haley wife of Commissioner Rick Churchill
1:25 Carl Watson from Shortridge section of Wynnewood, Applied Energy Solutions
1:26 Committee Chairman Joshua L. Grimes, Esq., (D) Gladwynne and Penn Valley , Ward 2
1:27 Steven K. Lindner, (D) Ardmore and Haverford, Ward 4
1:29 Rick Churchill (D) Penn Wynne, Wynnewood, Ward 14
1:30 Brian A. Gordon, Esq. (D) Merion, Ward 12
1:34 Philip S. Rosenzweig, Esq. (R), Rosemont and Villanova, Ward 6
1:40 V. Scott Zelov, (R) Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Gladwynne, Ward 10
1:44 Daniel S. Bernheim, Esq., (D) President, Ward 1
1:45 Paul A. McElhaney (I) Vice-President, Belmont Hills, Penn Valley And Bala-Cynwyd – Ward 3
1:47 Elizabeth S. Rogan, (D) former board president, Wynnewood, Ward 7
1:50 George T. Manos, AIA, (D) Bala Cynwyd, Ward 9
1:52 C. Brian McGuire, (D) Cynwyd and Merion Park, Ward 13
1:56 Anna Durbin, (D) South Wynnewood and East Ardmore, Ward 8
1:58 Tiffany O’Neill (R) Bryn Mawr, Gladwynne, Rosemont, Ward 11
2:00 Committee Chairman Joshua L. Grimes, Esq., (D) Gladwynne and Penn Valley , Ward 2
2:04 Daniel S. Bernheim, Esq., (D) President, Ward 1 who quotes conversation with Amanda Holt.
2:17 Motion by Rosenzweig passes unanimously
2:21 Brian Gordon
Cheryl B. Gelber, Esq. (D) , North Ardmore and Wynnewood, Ward 5
Commissioner Brian McGuire championed the resolution among his colleagues prior to the meeting. Lower Merion resident Jamie Mogil, state coordinator for resolutions for Fair Districts PA, represented the scores of citizens in the audience who supported the resolution’s passage by the Township Board.