Ecker offers to help with redistricting, but council says no Democrats in Howard refuse Republican aid

March 16, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

With the redrawing of Howard County's five council districts in the offing, County Executive Charles I. Ecker is offering to help council members do the job by joining them in appointing a committee to study the issue.

But the Democratic majority on the council is not interested in getting help from a Republican executive on such a politically charged task.

Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said he was "surprised at the executive's bold move or perhaps naivete" in attempting to participate in redistricting, which by county code is a council function.

"I plan to write him saying thank you but no thank you," said Mr. Gray.

The fate of the district lines is significant because the realignment could influence political control of the council in 1994. Currently, there are three Democrats and two Republicans on the council.

Mr. Ecker said he proposed setting up a 15-member study committee, with eight people chosen by him and seven others by the council.

"I knew it was the council's responsibility by charter, but I offered to help," the executive said. "I thought we could help and speed it along."

Mr. Ecker said it was not his intent to have a majority of Republicans on the study committee influence the outcome. "I don't check people's registration" when making appointments, he said.

Mr. Gray said he considered it "incredible that the Republican executive wanted to have a controlling say when three Democrats are in the majority on the council."

The council chairman said the legislative branch would undertake the study in June and then hold public hearings on a "set of scenarios" before completing the redistricting by the end of the year.

Districts will be adjusted to deal with changes in population, and each will have a population of about 38,000 residents.

Mr. Gray said the new districts would be in effect by the 1994 election. The council last approved district lines in 1984, based on U.S. census data, and the changes took effect two years later.

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