Baltimore Redistricted

March 26, 1991

There is nothing magical about the redrawn political boundary lines approved last week by the City Council and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. They assure no one an easy reelection. They assure neither white nor black politicians control in the next City Council. That decision still rests with voters, especially groups of citizens who are concerned enough about the city's future to participate in the upcoming elections.

The new maps create five majority-black districts and one with a lopsided white majority. The process left some white council members bitter at the outcome, especially incumbents who now must battle furiously for their political survival. But the majority of incumbents accepted the new lines, knowing that their own reelection chances had been enhanced in the backroom jockeying.

Sadly, racial animosities played a role in these discussions. The rancor and anger expressed in the council chamber may well spill over into the summer campaigns. We hope that is not the case. Politicians care deeply about redistricting -- far more than do the voters. What citizens care about is the quality of representation they get from their elected leaders at City Hall, regardless of color.

We have not been impressed by the caliber of council work. Redistricting offers the perfect opportunity for voters to opt for new voices. The redrawn lines give challengers a chance to win support from neighborhood associations shifted into new districts and from community groups displeased with the work of incumbents.

Baltimore's serious social problems and its concurrent fiscal woes call for a council more committed to seeking solutions than grandstanding, more concerned with shaping meaningful policy than passing meaningless resolutions. The city's still-vibrant neighborhoods should accept no less from candidates this summer.

Incumbents who fail to represent a section of their district deserve the wrath of voters on election day. So do incumbents who achieve little of substance. Challengers offering sensitivity to neighborhoods and sensible solutions to problems of government should be rewarded in September.

The great game of politics has meant a shake-up of councilmanic districts, but voters remain in charge. They still will determine who sits in the City Council -- if they get involved in the campaign, and show up at the polls on election day.

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