District proposal expected to pass Compromise try fails

redistricting plan OK is expected.

March 22, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Negotiations over possible amendments appeared to have broken down as the clock wound toward a vote on a new redistricting plan that would create five majority black City Council districts.

Only the 1st District would remain majority white under the plan drawn by a black-led coalition that seemed certain to have the 10 votes necessary to adopt the blueprint.

Opponents of the measure, who had hoped to strike a compromise on the plan, complained bitterly today that there seemed to be no real communication between council members on either side of the issue.

"I don't have anybody to talk to. I'm dealing with messengers," Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd, said today.

The plan, an amended version of the redistricting plan drafted by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, has led to a week of angry confrontations among council members and intense but so far fruitless negotiations to work out a compromise.

The council recessed last night without taking any final action when members agreed they needed more time to reach a compromise on the controversial plan that was given preliminary approval Monday night.

Through an emissary, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who said he felt that a compromise was within reach, also asked council members to delay a final vote on the measure yesterday but was rebuffed by Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

The plan before the council was drafted by Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd. It would drastically alter the majority white 3rd and 6th districts.

Pushed through the council by a 10-member coalition of seven blacks and three whites, the plan would give black populations of 60 percent to the 3rd and 58 percent to the 6th.

The coalition said it was forced to draw a plan because the one proposed by the mayor did not go far enough in increasing opportunities to elect a majority black council.

Baltimore has a 59 percent black population but only seven of the 19 council members are black.

The coalition's plan would result in five majority black districts. Schmoke's proposal would leave the 2nd, 4th and 5th districts with majority black populations, make the 6th nearly 50-50 and keep the white majorities in the 3rd and 1st.

Schmoke was in City Hall until early morning, talking with council members in an effort to encourage a compromise on an issue he fears could split the city along racial lines.

Schmoke said that a compromise would be good for the city because of the issue's racial aspects. "I hope in the next few days we deal with what's really important, and that is keeping the city together," he said.

Council members have been huddled in countless caucuses all this week -- behind closed doors, in hallways and in council chambers.

Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, D-4th, who opposed delaying a vote on the Stokes plan, said, "I see redistricting maps in my dreams. I see them in my nightmares. I'm tired of looking at maps and talking. Let's adopt a plan and get it over with."

The council was to reconvene today to vote first on any amendments to the Stokes redistricting plan, then to vote to adopt the measure.

Yesterday, the coalition's efforts focused on reaching an agreement with the 3rd District.

The 3rd would lose the Belair-Harford road corridor and Gardenville to the 1st and Homeland to the 5th under the coalition plan.

Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, D-5th, said the 3rd offered to give up Homeland and Gardenville in return for getting as much of the Belair-Harford roads corridor back into the 3rd as possible.

Hall also said all of the black council members have not endorsed that move.

Councilman Cunningham declined to go into detail on the offer.

"The offer is about putting neighborhoods back together that would have been carved up by the coalition's plan," said Cunningham. "The offer is about trying to compromise."

Cunningham said that if the coalition accepts the 3rd's offer, the delegation could "live with it even though we're not happy with it."

Cunningham and Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, D-3rd, have also agreed to take a black on their ticket in this fall's council elections. Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, D-3rd, is giving up his seat to run for comptroller.

But negotiations between the coalition and the 6th were stalemated yesterday.

The coalition told the 6th it could have back Locust Point and the South Baltimore peninsula, moved by the coalition's plan into the 1st, but would possibly have to give up Brooklyn and Curtis Bay to the 1st.

And yesterday, the coalition still insisted that it receive a commitment that a black be named to fill a council vacancy or run on a ticket with the incumbents.

Councilman Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th, has been recommended for a District Court judgeship.

"We don't have a commitment to give on that because we don't know if Murphy is going to get the appointment. And if he doesn't, he intends to run," said Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, D-6th.

Sources confirmed that a meeting was scheduled yesterday afternoon between several South Baltimore politicians and Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who would make the appointment, to discuss the situation with Murphy. The meeting was canceled, however, sources said.

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