Redistricting leaves local reps swapping among themselves

By Krista KanoMetroWest Daily News

October 20, 2011

The borders of the 8th and 18th Worcester districts would change dramatically under the first draft of a new legislative district map, but their lawmakers say they are working to make the transition easy for residents.

“I would imagine if people were to take a look at all 160 districts in the commonwealth, mine has changed the most,” said state Rep. Kevin Kuros, R-Uxbridge.

Under the redistricting plan, Kuros swaps most of his precincts with state Rep. Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton. Kuros said he doesn’t see the new boundaries as a problem.

“I think the transition will be pretty smooth, because most of the towns I’m picking up are coming from Rep. Fattman, and the ones I’m losing are going to Rep. Fattman, and we have worked closely since January,” Kuros said.

Both Fattman and Kuros are first-term Republicans who beat Democratic incumbents in their districts.

The state Legislature’s Special Committee on Redistricting released the first draft of its new district map Tuesday. Lawmakers and residents have one week to comment on the proposed changes. The committee will then discuss and vote on its proposal and send it to the House and Senate for debate and enactment by Oct. 31.

This is the first time that the committee has allowed public comment prior to a vote.

The committee has said it hopes the new map will be in force by Nov. 6 so legislators and new candidates can meet the requirement of living within their district for at least a year before seeking election or re-election.

Fattman, who represents the 18th, and Kuros, who represents the 8th, said the changes should not be a problem for them since they already work together. They have combined their budgets with permission of House Speaker Robert DeLeo and now share the same office, chief of staff and legislative aides at the State House.

“We did that to be collaborative, and that’s something we’ll continue to do as we transition,” Fattman said.

Both Fattman and Kuros also hired the same company to manage their constituent database management systems, which they said they hope will make for a seamless transition.

“Come January (20)13, if we’re both lucky enough to get elected, (the transition) won’t even be noticed,” Kuros said. “We’ve been scheduling meetings in each other’s districts so we can introduce each other to the new constituents. We’ll be doing that together. Between those scheduled introductory meetings and using the same technology, I think we can make it pretty smooth.”

In the old maps, the 18th consists of Bellingham, Blackstone, Millville, northern Uxbridge and all of Sutton except the northeastern corner. It wraps around the northeastern part of the 8th, which has Dudley, Webster, southeastern Oxford, Douglas and southern Uxbridge.

The redrawn map has compacted the 8th and 18th, making them squarer and uniting Sutton under the 18th and Uxbridge under the 8th.

Under the new maps, Millville, Blackstone and Bellingham have moved to the 8th, as has the entirety of Uxbridge. The 18th Worcester, having lost those communities, gains southern Oxford, Webster and Douglas, while keeping all of Sutton.

The change reflects the significant population rise in some of the towns. Uxbridge’s population rose 20.63 percent in the last decade, according to U.S. Census results, while Millville’s population rose 17.11 percent.

Both the 8th and the 18th’s populations rose by nearly 10 percent.

“I think if you take a look at what happened within the district, mine got more compact from five towns to four towns, and these are all good things,” Kuros said. “The districts that are more compact allow better service, so there are a lot of positives to come out of it. Change is just difficult.”

The state lost one of its 10 congressional seats as a result of the Census count. The new congressional boundaries will be revealed later this month.

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