Redistricting map would move Rep. Mark

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Scroll to the bottom of the story to see maps of the proposed changes to House and Senate districts in the Berkshires

Wednesday October 19, 2011

State Rep. Paul Mark is moving to Peru -- and just in time.

A proposed redistricting map released on Tuesday shows the 2nd Berkshire District, which Mark represents, shifting farther east in 2013. His place of residence, Hancock, would be absorbed into the 1st Berkshire District.

That would leave Mark with two options if he wants to retain his place in the Berkshire delegation: Run against 1st Berkshire District incumbent Gailanne Cariddi or move to another town in his current 2nd Berkshire District.

Mark told The Eagle on Tuesday that he never intended to stay in his current house long-term and was aware of the potential for change to his district. So when he heard about the new map, it made his decision to close on a home in Peru an easy one.

"It's bizarre the way life works sometimes," said Mark. "There's bad times and good times, and sometimes things just manage to work out."

The state Legislature's Special Joint Committee on Redistricting on Tuesday released its proposed maps for the state House of Representative and state Senate that were necessitated by the population shifts noted in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Once final district parameters are adopted by the Legislature and signed by the governor, they will be part of the 2012 election cycle, but won't change representation until the winners of those elections take office in 2013.

Mark has until Nov. 6 to move into his new residence and get on the ballot for 2012, because state law mandates a candidate live in the district for at least one year prior to election date.

Mark said he has been looking at the home for some time, but didn't want to close on it until he was certain the district would still be in place, leaving four representative seats in the Berkshire delegation.

"I'm really glad we didn't lose any House seats that could have gone away," said Mark. "It's just such a big thing to keep it."

While the Berkshire delegation will remain intact, there will be a number of changes for the local seats.

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The 4th Berkshire District, represented by Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, will no longer represent Ward 5B Pittsfield. It will, however, expand to other parts of the hilltowns and South County, making it the largest representative district geographically in the state.

Pignatelli said the changes would serve the 4th Berkshire District better by providing a more natural alignment that includes Richmond and Becket. He also said Pittsfield will be better served by having a more unified district.

Pittsfield will now be left with two representatives, with the 2nd Berkshire District holding a small area in the northeast corner of the city (Ward 1B), and the rest falling into the 3rd Berkshire District, which was won Tuesday night by Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

Mayor James Ruberto said he was happy with the map.

"I'm sorry to lose Smitty's voice, but I'm very happy that Pittsfield remains as a unit," said Ruberto. "I has been important to me that Pittsfield, being the urban center of the Berkshires, has someone representing our urban interests."

Cariddi said she was satisfied with the proposed changes to the 1st Berkshire District, saying it's a more naturally squared-off composition that, by being confined to Berkshire County, can provide a unified voice for those constituents.

State Sen. Benjamin Downing's seat, already the largest Senate district in the state, will continue to expand under the proposal. Increasing to 52 communities, it would absorb several towns in Hampden County.

Downing said he's not concerned about the Berkshires' representation being watered down by the continued expansion of his district, noting that many of the new communities he could represent have shared interests. He did say, however, that whomever holds the seat in the future must remain vigilant in understanding the varying needs of the region.

"It places an emphasis on outreach and not just waiting for people to come to you," said Downing.

There will be a seven-day public comment period on the proposed maps, after which the committee will go into executive session to vote on the changes before the matter is debated by the full Legislature in early November.

Maps for the reconfigured congressional districts, which will reduce from 10 to nine in 2013 because of national population shifts, were not released on Tuesday. The committee did not give a timeline on when they will be available.

To reach Trevor Jones:
tjones@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6204.

Here's a closer look at the proposed boundaries for the Berkshire House and Senate districts ...

Re District


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