Redistricting plan provides continuity in state representation for Penn-Trafford School District residents
Under the new redistricting plan approved by the state Supreme Court, almost all Penn-Trafford School District residents will be represented by the same House member and state senator starting in 2015.
The plan that the court approved last week will redraw the boundaries of the 56th Legislative District — which will continue to cover the majority of Penn Township — to include Manor and the Westmoreland County chunk of Trafford.
The reconfigured 56th will encompass the whole school district except for the estimated 475 residents in Penn Borough who will be served by the 58th Legislative District; the small pieces of Trafford in Allegheny County that will stay in the 25th Legislative District; and the northeastern bit of the township that will remain in the 54th Legislative District.
As for the Senate, Trafford will join the 39th Legislative District, which also covers Penn Township, Penn Borough and Manor. It has been in the 45th, which will retain the Allegheny parts of Trafford.
The new legislative borders for Penn-Trafford residents are similar to those initially approved by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission in December 2011. The court blocked a previous plan because it ruled that too many municipalities across the state were broken up among multiple districts.
Though some Democrats also criticized the new map as being partisan in favor of Republicans, Chief Justice Ronald Castille said in the court opinion that the redistricting process is “not an academic exercise” except for “constitutional restraints regarding population equality, contiguity, compactness, and respect for the integrity of political subdivisions.”
State and local officials had mixed reactions about the changes, which will sever some long-standing relationships but create more continuity for representation of the school district.
State Rep. George Dunbar (R-56), said it'll be easier for him to represent two school districts instead of three. His district, which also covers Norwin, is losing Jeannette.
Dunbar, who is in his second term, said he attended meetings in Trafford and Manor to get acquainted with their officials before the original plan was shelved.
“I'm certainly going to be involved in starting to build relationships in Manor and Trafford now so as we move forward, it'll be a seamless transition,” he said.
Manor Council President Brian Woy called the change “bittersweet,” noting that state Rep. Ted Harhai, D-58, helped the borough receive grants for police cars and bridge work.
But in the 58th, Manor has been lumped into a district that stretches to Monessen in southwestern Westmoreland County and even part of Fayette County.
“It will be nice to part of the local community, as far as the new district goes,” Woy said. “Mr. Dunbar's office in Penn Township is real close to the borough, so that will be nice if people need to visit his office. My only concern is that Manor isn't lost in the district. North Huntingdon and Penn townships are so large; I hope we don't get overlooked.”
Trafford also has had strong ties its soon-to-be former district. Since 2002, state Rep. Joe Markosek, D-25, has been Trafford's House member.
Council named its meeting room after Markosek, in part, because of his assistance in getting state grants for the Trafford borough building that opened in 2007. He also helped to push for an $11-million project to replace the bridge that carries Route 130 traffic over Turtle Creek between Trafford and Monroeville.
“It's been a really great relationship, and I hate to lose them,” Markosek said.
Trafford Councilwoman Rita Windsor said she is sorry to see most of Trafford drawn out of Markosek's district because he has done a lot for the borough and the Mon Valley towns.
“How that affects Trafford, I don't know,” she said. “Hopefully we'll get the same representation. It shouldn't make any difference.”
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or firstname.lastname@example.org.