TRUMBULL — Rather than minimizing the efforts of grass-roots organizers, Republican Town Committee Secretary Mark Block can go trim grass, according to Regina Haley, leader of the group Trumbull Citizens for 7 Districts.

Haley was referring to Block’s comments at a public hearing on returning Trumbull’s 21-member town council to seven districts. Currently, the council has four districts, with District 4 represented by six council members and the other three by five.

Haley, whose group collected more than 3,000 petition signatures in 2017 to try and force a referendum on the matter, took exception to Block’s comment at the meeting that it was “easy to find a few thousand people to sign a petition; any of us can do that.”

Regina Haley speaks to the town council before the August 3 meeting on returning to seven council districts. Photo: Zoom Screen Capture
Photo: Zoom Screen Capture

Regina Haley speaks to the town council before the August 3 meeting on returning to seven council districts.

That is most certainly not the case, Haley told council members in emailed comments.

She wrote, “3,000 signatures is a lot. I challenge you to go out to your yard and pick 3,000 blades of grass. It's physically draining.”

Block did not immediately return a request for comment.

Block, in speaking against the change, told members of a redistricting committee that “there really is no quantifiable data indicating voters are supportive of the change” and questioned the familiarity of voters with Trumbull’s local government.

“I’m unclear how you can pinpoint with any accuracy, at all, the number of town council representatives the residents know Trumbull has,” he said at the time. “Also, I’m not confident that there’s any quantifiable way to find out whether residents know exactly what district they’re in, how many districts there are, or who, in fact, represents them.”

Haley cited data from the Secretary of the State’s Office and the Trumbull registrars that larger districts had reduced turnout.

“These are not predictions. This is actual, verified data,” she said.

As petitioners gathered signatures, Haley said, they were met with enthusiasm.

“We expected we would need to convince people,” she said. “Yet the opposite happened.”

The petition volunteers spent a lot more time listening than talking, Haley said.

“We listened to their stories — rather than ‘pushing our agenda’ on them,” she said. “And that is what drove us, day-after-day, to stand in the heat in front of grocery stores, coffee shops and at people's doors — to have those meaningful conversations.”