In a memo
to county auditor Richard Blevins, Coons said that after
reviewing the contents of the controversial letter he concluded
that it "does not convey information that furthers county
concerns but, rather, it appears to be a personal plea for
public support for the position that he (Abbott) was elected
Abbott, through Jeffrey Schlerf, his
representative on the commission, opposed splitting his Third
District along the freight railroad line that bisects Greenville
and giving the southern portion, which also includes Westover
Hills, to Robert Weiner's Second District. Under the plan
approved by the commission, Abbott is slated pick up some
territory along the state's arc near Newark. A proposal by
Schlerf which was rejected by the commission would have moved
Wilmington into the Second District.
In the letter Abbott, who lives in
Centreville, maintained that the disputed portion of his
district should be retained because Weiner, a Brandywine Hundred
resident, is more attuned to that area.
Weiner has disputed
that, claiming that he has supported Greenville community
interests in the past and accusing Abbott of deliberately lying
about his record. "I
have a long track record of
championing Greenville's causes," he said.
The letter on county stationery
reportedly went to 560 addresses. That amounts to $190 worth of
has learned that one resident of Abbott's district filed a
complaint with Coons over alleged misuse of taxpayer money in
sending out the letter. In addition to postage, the complaint
also referred to the cost of stationery and clerical time to
prepare and mail the letter. Except for noting that Abbott
should have used his personal letterhead, Coons's memo did not
refer to those things.
Warhol, assistant to county clerk Betsy Gardner, who was on
vacation, confirmed that a complaint had been received, but said
she could not 'release' its contents until Abbott has had a
chance to comment.
not confirm a report that Coons plans to refer the matter to
Council's executive committee, which he chairs ex officio
as Council president.
asked by Delaforum about the complaint, Abbott responded, "What
complaint? I don't know about any complaint." That comment was
obviously intended to be taken facetiously.
on to say that, at worst from his point of view, there had been
"just one telephone call from a citizen with some objection"
compared to what he said was "a preponderance of support for my
position" from the affected area. He said he had, through Aug.
10, received more than 25 letters and e.mails agreeing with him.
people who spoke to the question at a public hearing held by the
commission before it approved the plan testified that they did
not want to be moved to Weiner's district, mainly because
fragmentation of the Greenville community would lessen its
influence on issues which affect it.
Delaforum could not independently confirm the identity of the
complainant, it is believed to have been a civic activist who
lives at a location in the Third District that is to continue to
be represented by Abbott if he is re-elected in 2002, when
reapportionment takes effect.
said the fuss over the letter beclouds "the real issue" which he
said is "a handful of people who say they know better what the
public wants than the public does."
the public hearing was a "sham" in that the only relevant
material entered into the record there was not even considered
when the commission took its vote. "Why even bother to go to the
trouble to hold a hearing when you have no intention of
listening to what the public has to say?" Abbott said.
that Council members are now in a position to decide whether
they, too, are willing to thwart what he called "a clear
expression of the public will."
he said, Greenville would be the only area of the county where
reapportionment would be allowed to run counter to voter
desires. Among the criteria used by the commission in its
deliberations was a provision that a Council member not be given
an undesired area nor an area assigned to a Council member
against its will. In the approved plan, a minor bit of
gerrymandering excludes Holloway Terrace from the Fourth
recommendation currently is being translated from lines on a map
to text for inclusion in a ordinance to be introduced when
County Council returns from its summer recess on Sept. 11.
considered highly unlikely that Abbott could prevail in getting
his colleagues to overturn the commission recommendation. It was
approved by a 5-1 vote, with Schlerf voting against it and
Tyrone Johnson, who represented Fourth District Councilman
Penrose Hollins, absent but known to be supportive.
the commission took a bipartisan approach to reapportionment,
another factor is that Coons and four Council members are
Democrats and Abbott and Weiner, its only Republicans, obviously
do not see eye-to-eye on this. Both the Second and Third
Districts are regarded as 'safe' Republican turf.
acknowledged that he had intended to seek a resolution of the
issue before it became public and would have been willing to
accept Abbott's plan or something like it. Weiner's district has
lost population since 1990 and has to be enlarged so that all
areas of the county have nearly equal representation.
letter and particularly its wording -- which Weiner took to be a
"personal attack" on himself -- precluded any compromise.
Jones, Republican chairman for New Castle County, attempted to
mediate on the grounds that such squabbling would only alienate
loyalist voters, not to mention financial contributors, and play
into the hands of Democrats who want to extend their sway in the
indicating that he sympathizes with "many Greenville residents
[who] do not want to see their neighborhood split in half,"
Jones attempted to minimize the fuss.
"It's like brothers fighting over
who gets the big bedroom when the oldest brother moves off to
college," he told Delaforum. "This will all work out. Like all
family dust-ups this, too, shall pass."