PROVIDENCE – State Rep. William San Bento and Matthew Gunnip, both of Pawtucket, are the two northern Rhode Island representatives on the 18-member commission that will redraw the state’s 75 representative districts and 38 Senate districts in advance of the 2012 election.
Sen. Michael McCaffrey, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Stephen Ucci will be co-chairman of the panel, officially called the Special Commission on Reapportionment.
House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed each selected four members from their respective chambers and three members of the public to the commission. House Minority Leader Brian Newberry of North Smithfield and Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere got two picks each.
That means there will be 14 Democrats and four Republicans on the panel, which will work with the company chosen to assist in the redistricting, Election Data Services, and its president, Kimball Brace, in changing the district boundaries to reflect population shifts discovered in the 2010 federal census.
The commission will hold a series of public hearings at sites across the state, with times and places to be announced at a later date.
This commission will have an easier job than the one empanelled a decade ago, because that group had to also downsize the House of Representatives from 100 members to 75 and the Senate from 50 members to 38.
Legislation passed during the recent General Assembly session calls for the commission to create districts that are as compact and contiguous as possible, taking into account "natural, historical, geographical and municipal and other political lines, as well as the right of all Rhode Islanders to fair representation and equal access to the political process."
The new district maps created by the commission are due to be reported back to the legislature by Jan. 15 of next year. The General Assembly must approve the new maps and district lines.
San Bento, who also served on the commission 10 years ago, will be joined by fellow House Democrats Rep. Grace Diaz, Rep. Donald Lally and Ucci.
Senate Democrats joining McCaffrey are Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin, Sen. Beatrice A. Lanzi and Sen. Juan M. Pichardo.
Appointed by House Minority Leader Brian Newberry are Rep. Daniel P. Reilly and Rep. Joseph A. Trillo.
Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere picked Sen. David E. Bates, who served on the 2002 redistricting commission and Sen. Francis T. Maher Jr.
Besides Gunnip, the public members appointed by Paiva Weed include Francis Flanagan of Middletown and Arthur V. Strother, Sr. of Providence.
Gunnip is a social caseworker with the Department of Children, Youth and Families. A graduate student in Rhode Island College's social work program, he has served as Co-President of the RIC's Master of Social Work Student Organization since 2009. He is the National Committeeman of the Rhode Island Young Democrats, and he has served as a member of the Pawtucket Juvenile Hearing Board since 2007.
Flanagan, who is currently serving in the Navy Reserve, is a Judge Advocate General (JAG). Mr. Flanagan was recalled to active duty in the Navy from 2008 to 2009. He is an attorney in private practice with decades of experience in civilian and military law. He is a reserve law professor at the Naval Justice School and an adjunct professor of business law at Salve Regina University.
Strother is a retired communications technician who worked for AT&T for 34 years. He formerly served on the boards of the Civic Center Authority and the Opportunity Industrial Center. He is currently a member of the Providence Zoning Board of Review.
Fox’s public choices are Felix Appolonia of West Warwick and Ray Rickman and Delia Rodriguez-Masjoan, both of Providence.
Appolonia is a longtime small-business operator who is employed by Columbus Door Company in Warwick. He is a member of the West Warwick Planning Board and serves as chairman of the West Warwick Democratic Town Committee.
Rickman, a former state representative, is president of the Rickman Group, a Providence consulting firm. He served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2000 to 2002. He is a rare book dealer, a leader in the promotion of African American history and is the former president of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.
Ms. Rodriguez-Masjoan has been active in the Latino and immigrant community for two decades, currently hosting two weekly Spanish radio talk shows. She is the grants and partnership director at the Paul Cuffee School in Providence and an instructor for the nonprofit management certificate program at Rhode Island College.