Public participation in the UPT redistricting process has been woefully limited and provided as an afterthought, at best, throughout. The public has had zero opportunity to participate in development of the methodology and guiding principles (which are very important elements to consider) and has only been given limited time and opportunity to react to outputs that do not include meaningful metrics or a snapshot of the current population distribution in UPT.
The redistricting process has been anything but transparent. The plan to redistrict Upper Providence Township appeared almost out of thin air in the middle of the summer and was developed in secrecy and isolation by a single Council member, with no public input into the methodology or goals. Council has made it quite clear that their intention is to ram the proposals through by end of year (because they're legally required to finish by that date to be in effect for 2023) with as little meaningful public participation as possible.
In addition, UPT Council has ignored and failed to publicly share the additional proposals sent to them by citizens of the Township which impact less than 5% of voters, had minimal to no impact on partisan lean, and kept the compactness of all 5 districts intact.
To further thwart public participation, the Township has not engaged in a dialogue with the public regarding the redistricting process and options. The Township has invited public participation and input through a one-way process. Although the Township held an Open House for residents to see and review the proposals, they did not invite dialogue for residents to openly share their thoughts. Instead, residents were handed sheets of paper to write their thoughts down. There was no opportunity engage in meaningful 2-way conversation with Council or with other residents about the proposals because 1) there was no presentation to explain the process, and 2) only 1 Council person bothered to show up for this Open House. Residents are also invited to submit their comments online - again a 1-way mechanism - but these comments are not available for other residents to see.
The Township has gone to great efforts to obfuscate the facts about redistricting. They have intentionally provided residents with meaningless metrics and have hidden meaningful metrics when asking them to evaluate the various redistricting proposals. They don't want people to know the truth about the plans that they developed, so they have provided meaningless metrics with no explanation for what they are and how they should be applied, so that people are left confused and unable to clearly identify the glaring differences between the proposals.
The Township, on its website and in its communications with residents, leads residents to believe that the 5 redistricting options were developed by Delaware County. The website states, "In order to address the issue of representative equity, Council directed staff to approach Delaware County officials for support developing township district maps that more evenly distribute population." However, UPFFD has confirmed that this is not the case! As suspected, 4 of the maps (Proposals 1, 2, 4, 5) were created by Township employees (2 by a Council member and 2 by another employee, based on te Council member's map) and 1 map (Proposal 3) was submitted by a Township resident. All the County did was review these plans, calculate some stats, and draw the maps with their software. In other words, theCounty did not independently develop a single district map for UPT! Why is the Township trying to make us believe otherwise?
Bottom-line: a fair, transparent process would have featured plentiful opportunity for public forum at the outset, frequent back and forth with citizens, an independent group of citizens proposing maps and a clean process with meaningful metrics. Instead, we've been given 5 maps, which we were led to believe were drawn by the County, when in reality 4 of which were developed in isolation by the Township, with the apparent attempt to intent to jam them through in the 3 months before the year ends to benefit the Council members whose districts are up for reelection. Council proactively sought out more public input and feedback for the recent Township Community Day than they have for this very important redistricting effort that could directly impact thousands of Township residents!! We deserve better!!