Council Members Dig In For Battle Over Redistricting

April 04, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

County Council members are digging in, preparing to defend their turf in what promises to be a "juicy, hard-fought battle" over the redistricting of Anne Arundel.

The redistricting, done every 10 years based on population changes, will profoundly affect county politics. The fate of council members who run for re-election in 1994 may dependon where the boundaries are drawn.

"The fortunes of a council member rise and fall depending on the boundaries," said Councilwoman Diane R. Evans, R-Arnold, who stands to lose 8,000 to 10,000 constituents in the booming 5th District.

"Any council person could lose communities they really like . . . thatare a source of a lot of votes, and gain some they know nothing about. It could change the whole political landscape."

The redistricting process, which takes about two years, will begin next month when the council appoints a Charter Review Commission to update the county charter and revise councilmanic districts.

"It's going to be a juicy, hard-fought battle on all fronts," Evans said.

Creating the five-member commission promises to be a battle in itself, since the seven council members each will want their own representative.

As oneof the first two Republicans elected to the council in 20 years, Evans is determined that the GOP be represented on the commission. "I'm going to fight for it," she said.

Laura Green Treffer, chairman ofthe Anne Arundel Republican Central Committee, said she wants at least two Republicans on the commission.

"It's critical for us to protect the interests of both (Evans and Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena, the only Republicans on the council.) It's going to come down to Diane, Dutch and the party being

very vocal."

Before redrawing the council boundaries, the commission must decide on the structure of the council itself. It can keep the existing seven-member council Arundel has had since the inception of charter government; add an eighth district and an elected chairman at large; or add twoadditional districts, each with their own representative.

Few council members favor additional districts.

However, "If the county has grown so much in the last 30 years that seven council members can't handle it, (creating new districts) is something we'll have to lookat," said Council Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River.

Preliminary census counts show that the biggest population increases occurred in the 5th and 3rd Districts. In the 5th District, which includes Severna Park, Arnold and the Broadneck Peninsula, population swelled from 52,950 to 69,204. In the 3rd, the northeast section of the county, the number of people increased from 52,856 to 66,710.

Those districts -- Evans' and Holland's -- almost certainly will be reduced to keep the populations equal.

The 4th District (West County), with only 55,197 people in 1990, probably will gain -- even though massive growth is planned to occur there over the next few years. The Charter Review Commission cannot consider growth that has not yet occurred when it redraws the districts, said Alexander "Sandy" Speer, a senior planner with the Department of Planning and Zoning.

"The 4this a real nightmare, because it's going to go way up," Speer said.

Growth in the 1st District (northwest Arundel), and the 2nd (Glen Burnie area) was minimal.

But the 6th and 7th Districts -- the Annapolis area and South County -- saw substantial increases. Political observers expect major changes in the 7th, now a huge area stretching from the Calvert County line to Crofton.

"I think Crofton definitely is going to be shifted," said Evans.

To illustrate how redistricting Crofton could affect future elections, consider this: Clagett, who represents the 7th District, lost Crofton to Republican John Klocko III in November's election. She almost certainly would benefit if Crofton were moved, say, to the 4th District.

But 4th District Councilman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, who has had little political opposition, could suffer if Crofton is added.

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