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Deborah Halpern: CD-7 Redistricting Testimony

Good morning, my name is Deborah Halpern and I am a resident of Summit, NJ, located in the 7th Congressional District. I have lived here for 39 years and have been an active member in the community, both as a professional and as a local volunteer. I deeply appreciate this opportunity for public input.

As a Summit resident, my husband and I raised our daughters here, and participated in many of their activities as well as serving as volunteers in the Summit schools. As members of a Summit synagogue, we participated actively as congregants and volunteers on the Board of Trustees. We have connected and supported many local candidates for different offices both in Summit, the state and in Washington. We have also participated in a number of Summit based organizations, including Summit Marches On, the Summit Democrats and Summit Indivisible to help people in need as well as to encourage their participation in the Democratic process. It is very important to me to be active on behalf of my community in a positive and productive way.

I am a social worker who has worked with patients and family members, adults & children, whose lives have been impacted by a cancer diagnosis for over 20 years. Advocacy is a big part of what I do, in addition to counseling & support, and I have always connected with the Representative from District 7 for information and help for constituents with whom I work. Our current Representative, Tom Malinowski, has made sure that he and his staff are available for responding to any and all questions and concerns and have connected in a positive & impactful way with families I have referred. I truly believe in our Democracy and the importance of having a Representative who is there to help his/her constituents.

I am deeply concerned about the pending planning for the 7th District; when our District was redistricted in 2000, we lost a number of our local communities whose boundaries neighbor many of our towns in the 7th District. Parts of Union Township & Plainfield were moved to other districts. As noted this morning by others who gave testimony, Scotch Plains & Fanwood, both near to Westfield & Watchung were moved out of our District & Hunterdon County was added in. The end result is a geographic spread of numerous “non-neighbors” with little history or connection on one end to the other. One of today’s presenters noted that District 7 gerrymandered in 2000 and became a “safe” district for reelection by the incumbent of one party and remained the status quo for 18 years!

I bring this concern to your attention as communities who share neighboring borders often share and participate in Houses of Worship in towns nearby but not necessarily in their home community. As you consider any redistricting, especially when considering “communities of interest”, please remember that residents of neighboring towns shop, visit & support each other in a multitude of ways that adds to the vibrancy of their many communities. They learn about the members of their neighboring communities and it brings understanding & caring and this benefits all of us.

I am urging you all to maintain the cohesiveness of the 7th District. We need to have this in order to best address planning for our communities, including but not limited to, the environment, infrastructure and meeting people’s needs. Splitting up neighboring communities into multiple districts will not accomplish this; what happens when one Representative for half of a township has one plan and the Representative for the other half of the township does not share this vision?

Lastly, I am asking for a commitment to fairness in considering the needs of NJ residents as the decisions are considered for all of the districts. Our country’s constitution and our Democracy is based on this, not on a guarantee of making a district “ safe” for one group to be the winners of all future elections.

Thank you for your time.

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