Redistricting clears council on 16-3 vote Plan that creates 5 black districts sent to Schmoke

March 23, 1991|By Ginger Thompson

A map of the city's new councilmanic districts in yesterday's editions of The Sun had a mistake in the southern boundary between the new 1st and 2nd councilmanic districts. The correct boundary is shown above; the shaded area shows blocks that were shifted from one district to another.

After a week of emotional rhetoric, tense negotiations and back-room deals, the Baltimore City Council adopted a controversial redistricting plan yesterday that would dramatically change the boundaries of the city's six council districts, giving five of them black majorities.

"With a loaded shotgun to my head and with a deep-saddened heart, because of what this plan does to the neighborhoods in Northeast Baltimore, I reluctantly vote yes," said Councilman Martin E. "Mike" Curran, D-3rd, one of the most vocal opponents.


"This is the best day I've had this week," said a triumphant Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, who proposed the new districting scheme on Monday. "The negotiating has been tough, but I knew the coalition would stick together. I knew it when the opposition began cursing us, lying on us and threatening us. It only made us stronger."

The plan now goes to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who must either sign or veto it by March 28. The mayor has made it clear he was unhappy with the way the Stokes plan was maneuvered through the City Council and has expressed concern that new maps adopted yesterday would stir racial divisiveness.

Still, he refused to say whether he would veto the plan, and his spokesman said yesterday that Mr. Schmoke had no further comment. If signed by the mayor, the maps adopted yesterday on a 16-3 vote would be in effect for city elections in the fall. Mr. Schmoke had introduced a plan of his own two months ago, but the council junked it Monday. The mayor's plan made few changes and retained the three majority black districts the city has now.

The most controversial aspect of the adopted plan would move Locust Point out of the 6th District and into the 1st District -- making the 1st the city's only majority white district.

Beyond this, Homeland would be removed from the 3rd District -- Northeast Baltimore -- and included in the 5th -- Northwest Baltimore. The 3rd would also lose most of the neighborhoods in the Harford-Belair road corridor, known as Harbel.

"To maintain my neighborhoods' unity I have to vote for a plan I'm totally opposed to," said 3rd District Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham.

But compromises yesterday at least enabled the 3rd District to win back the northern parts of Harbel. But there were no compromises for the 6th District, whose council members were the only ones to vote no.

"I think it stinks," said 6th District Councilman Edward L. Reisinger III. "They gave us no room to negotiate." He said the seven black and three white council members who pushed the Stokes plan have "an attitude problem with the old-guard politics, and they feel it's payback time."

The bitter comments from the losers did nothing to spoil the celebration of the winners. "I'm tired, but I'm on the greatest high," said Councilwoman Iris G. Reeves, D-5th. "This could shape the direction of this council for the next 10 years."

Mr. Stokes defended the plan against charges that it provoked a racial split. "This is not about black-white," he said. "This is about breaking up the good ol' boys, and the good ol' boys just happen to be white."

He said that backers of the new plan "didn't destroy neighborhoods, we moved lines. We didn't go in with bulldozers or change the color of anyone's next-door neighbor."

Some of the areas moved from one district to another will not be entirely welcome to the incumbents.

"Everyone envies us because all these neighborhoods are being dumped into the 1st District," said Councilman John A. Schaefer, D-1st. "But it becomes geographically unmanageable . . . to take care of such a large area."

"I'll need a helicopter to represent you," he later told a Locust Point resident in the audience.

Betty Macioch, who has lived in Locust Point for more than 50 years, responded, "I guess that means he doesn't want us. He says we have too many constituent problems. . . . We better start thinking about running our own candidate."

Arlene Fisher, who heads the Harlem Park community association, was disappointed about being moved from the 4th to the 6th, but after the plan was adopted, she set up a tour of her community for the 6th District representatives.

"You have to play with the cards you're dealt," she said.

Meanwhile, council members talked of mending fences after a week of many harsh words and political threats.

"The city has to go on," said Councilman Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III, D-3rd. "We work together. . . . There's a possibility we could emerge from this a stronger, better council."

Council roll call

The following is the roll call of yesterday's vote in the Baltimore City Council on the new redistricting map:


Mary Pat Clarke, president

Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr. D-1st

Dominic "Mimi" DiPietri D-1st

John A. Schaefer D-1st

Anthony J. Ambridge D-2nd

Jacqueline F. McLean D-2nd

Carl Stokes D-2nd

Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham D-3rd

Martin E. "Mike" Curran D-3rd

Joseph T. "Jody" Landers D-3rd

Lawrence A. Bell D-4th

Sheila Dixon D-4th

Agnes B. Welch D-4th

Vera P. Hall D-5th

Iris G. Reeves D-5th

Rochelle "Rikki" Spector D-5th


Joseph J. DiBlasi D-6th

Timothy D. Murphy D-6th

Edward L. Reisinger III, D-6th

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