After all the speculation about retaliatory gerrymandering to oust critical City Council members, the redistricting plan sketched by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke looks like an exercise in moderation. It is a pragmatic political move calculated to enhance Mr. Schmoke's re-election chances this year.
By rejecting the option of radical redistricting, the mayor seeks to set a tone of coalition-building for his upcoming campaign. He achieves a number of short-term advantages as a bonus. Most of the incumbent council members seem happy with the plan; they are not likely to create political mischief for him. This would make it difficult for any potential mayoral challenger to build a city-wide ticket that is based on well-known political names.
By shifting Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill from the Second District to the Fourth and adding Ten Hills (from the Fifth) and Poppleton (from the Fourth) to the Sixth District, the mayor would redraw two districts in a way that could increase black representation. Could he do more in a city that is over 60 percent black? The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People thinks so; it is talking about a court challenge. But is the fact that only seven of the 18 council members are black a result of district lines or a wound self-inflected by low black voter participation?