Monday, September 16, 2013

Local Officials Condemn District Judge Gerrymander

Hanover Tp Manager Jay Finnigan
Northampton County's Magisterial District Judges Association have proposed an alternative to one already approved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in June. The plan already approved consolidates two districts in the northwestern corner of the County, which will force two incumbent District Judges to face each other in an election contest. The alternative proposed by District Judges keeps those districts intact, and instead abolishes Joseph Barner's district, which serves Bethlehem Township. Because Barner plans to retire, this is the most convenient solution for District Judges. But according to Hanover Township Manager Jay Finnigan and State Senator Lisa Boscola, some judges are trying to save their jobs at they expense of the public they serve. They have both spoken against the proposed redistricting in letters to president Judge Stephen Baratta.

Hanover Tp Manager Jay Finnigan: "In the political world this would be labeled gerrymandering. The proposed alignment attempts to establish an advantage for a group (two DJs) by manipulating the boundaries in order to avoid the elimination of one District magistrate in Northampton County in 2016.

"The proposal is a disservice to the residents and businesses of Hanover Township, the code enforcement officials of the Township and the Colonial Regional Police. Requiring the Colonial Regional Police to process paperwork and prosecute offenses for Hanover in the Borough if Northampton increases expenses (fuel and wear and tear on vehicles), delays the processing of warrants, and increases the amount of time an officer is out of service while attending a hearing. Combining all these factors, police protection decreases in the Township and puts public health, safety and welfare at a greater risk."

State Senator Lisa Boscola: "As a Senator and resident of Bethlehem Township, it is my belief that the elimination of [District Judge Barner's District] would have a negative impact on law enforcement and the public safety for the residents of Bethlehem Township. It would require Bethlehem Township police officers to travel seven or eleven miles if the Township is split under the new proposal."

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