Council throng opposes plan to redraw districts Enclave draws line over redistricting

March 20, 1991|By Sandy Banisky

Once again, Locust Point is fighting City Hall. But hey, down in that South Baltimore peninsula neighborhood, fighting City Hall is no big deal. Down there, they like a good battle. Often, they win.

This time, the problem is the redistricting plan now making its way through the Baltimore City Council. The revised district lines would yank Locust Point out of the 6th councilmanic district, which encompasses south and southwestern Baltimore, and push it into an alliance with the neighborhoods of East Baltimore, across the Inner Harbor.

"Forget it," Shirley Doda, veteran of 25 years of protests, said of the redistricting plan. "It won't work."

But Monday night, in an unruly and sometimes angry session, the council gave preliminary approval to the new district boundaries. Within minutes, Betty Brown and Mrs. Doda and Jeanne Bell and Dorothy Miles and others were calling neighbors, who called their neighbors, who pledged to attend yesterday's 4 p.m. hearing.

"Like a Paul Revere crusade," said City Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th.

And as yesterday's hearing started, a busload of Locust Point residents pulled up at City Hall.

"We're a tight-knit community," Ms. Bell, corresponding secretary of the Locust Point Civic Association, said. "We stick together."

"If we don't win," Mrs. Doda said in a City Hall corridor, "we'll go down with a good battle."

The Locust Point neighbors have won before. Living on a small peninsula that ends at Fort McHenry, shrine to the Star-Spangled Banner,the 3,000 or so residents of Locust Point like to count the generations of family members who were born and raised and who married and grew old in the waterfront row-house community.

There's one main drag into the neighborhood, one school. "It's a very unique neighborhood," Mrs. Doda said. "We thrive on each other."

And they fight together.

Outside yesterday's council hearing, they reminisced about past successes.

"I dressed up like a gorilla, if you remember," Betty Brown said. "Remember, I carried a bunch of bananas to City Hall?"

That was back in 1976, when then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer, in the midst of a political feud, was threatening to cut services to the neighborhood.

"We went down to the banana pier" that used to be in Locust Point, Mrs. Doda said, and bought cases of bananas.

"We sat all day in my house writing on those bananas: 'We don't deserve this monkey business,' and 'Stop monkeying with Locust Point.' "

Then they carried the bananas to the mayor's office, accompanied by clowns and dozens of residents. "We tied up the whole street," Mrs. Doda said.

Once there, Ms. Brown, in her gorilla suit, made her ceremonial presentation. Mr. Schaefer relented.

In July 1984, when Mr. Schaefer was wrestling with a tight budget, he announced he'd have to close the Locust Point firehouse and remove both pieces of firefighting apparatus.

The uproar was immediate -- and it didn't ebb. The neighbors draped the Fort Avenue firehouse with black crepe. They held candlelight vigils outside. They marched in front of Fire Department headquarters. They sent a delegation to the mayor's office.

Once again, Mr. Schaefer retreated, putting back one piece of firefighting equipment.

Now, the problem is a redistricting plan that Locust Point says the council was trying to sneak past the neighborhood.

"We will fight, fight, fight," Ms. Brown said. And if fighting at City Hall should fail, "we'll get a lawyer," Mrs. Doda said. "We're looking into that now."

"Those who pray together stay together," Ms. Brown said. "And Locust Point is full of prayers."

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