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Lauren O'Brien: CD-7 Redistricting Testimony

Thank you to the commission for this opportunity to participate in discussion of the

redistricting process. My name is Lauren O’Brien, and I am in favor of putting Scotch

Plains-Fanwood back into Congressional District 7.


I am here independently, but have worked extensively with several nonprofit

organizations, campaign teams, elected officials and political organizations as an

activist both professionally and as a volunteer. I am also commenting as a 10-year

resident of Scotch Plains, a native New Jerseyan, and an involved neighbor with

school-age children.


First, as a community member and mother of children in the Scotch Plains-Fanwood

district, I want to emphasize the importance of keeping our two municipalities together in

a voting district. Even though we are technically two towns, the community is absolutely

one, with shared institutions, resources, sports teams, associations and so much more.

To me, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Parent-Teacher Association as an institution is a

good example of why we need to stay in the same voting community.


Next, to my family, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield are one common community

of interest. Residing only blocks from Westfield, I think it is important to note that many

businesses I frequent are in downtown Westfield because those services and goods are

not available in my community - such as supermarkets, shoe stores, clothing stores,

and certain types of restaurants. My children grew up in the Westfield preschools

through the area YMCA, where I am still a member. My children have done years of

camps there, and participated in their recreational programs. They received full-day

preschool education from the Westfield Y community for years. Finally, my husband

was a commuter to New York City with our CD7 neighbors for many years, and we

have dealt painfully with all of the transportation conflicts that we are fighting right now

through Congressman Malinowski. I almost have to consider CD7 as my district even

though it is not because it has been so much a part of our community and culture for so

many years.


In 2012, Scotch Plains was divided into two congressional districts. The 1000+ people

above route 22 remained in CD7, and the rest of the thousands of us were cut to CD12.

to favor a former Congressman’s victory. A municipality should not be carved into

pieces to fit a political puzzle. Neither should a common community / community of

interest.


My volunteer activism and professional work has afforded me many positive

relationships with elected officials at local, county, state and federal levels; familiarized

me with political and democratic processes; and most importantly has engaged me in

many conversations with many voters about issues they are passionate about.

One example is that in 2015, I founded the Union County chapter of Moms Demand

Action for Gun Sense. Our leadership team was 70% CD7 and 30% from Scotch

Plains-Fanwood. Our activity hubs were based in Fanwood, Westfield, and Cranford.

During my 18 months of leading that chapter and building up membership to hundreds

of people, it was clear that those municipalities made up a community of interest.

Another example is my volunteer work with METAvivors of New Jersey, a state chapter

for metastatic breast cancer patients and advocates. We work with congressional staff

towards legislation that affords better health care, insurance, and research funding to

turn this terminally-ill disease that kills 115 Americans a day to a chronic but

manageable one. My experience with this work since April 2019 continuously shows

big activity hubs in Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield, and emphasizes the need for

them to exist in one Congressional community. Finally, I am currently working in the

climate justice space, and again I see strong commonality amongst these same

constituencies in supporting federal legislation to combat climate change and provide us

with urgently needed resources for clean energy and overall resilience. Congressman

Malinowski of CD7 is a strong leader in this mission.


Our District 12 representative is Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, whom I

greatly admire and respect. She is an excellent representative, and I’m proud to be a

supporting constituent and activist in her district. But in conclusion, Scotch

Plains-Fanwood would be best served by returning to CD7 and joining our larger

community of interest. Let’s aim for accurate representation and voting fairness and

align these communities in district 7. Thank you for your time.











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