Council bill meant to spur debate on redistricting City measure would create 11 districts.

May 21, 1991|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

City Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd, acknowledging the unlikelihood that his measure to create 11 single-member councilmanic districts will be approved, said he introduced the bill last night to spark a public debate on the size and structure of the council.

The charter now requires 19 council members, three from each of the six districts and the council president, who is elected citywide.

Cunningham contends that there are too many council members and too many districts. His measure also would empower the council members to select the president from among themselves.

Two other measures aimed at changing the council also were introduced last night.

Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, sponsored a bill that would create nine two-member districts. Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, introduced a measure that would create six two-member districts. Both bills would keep the council presidency as a citywide elected office.

Stokes and Ambridge also say it is unlikely that the council will approve their proposals. Like Cunningham, they say, they introduced the measures to spark a public debate.

But Ambridge said that he would not have submitted his proposal had Cunningham not acted first. "If we're going to have one proposal on the table, we might as well have all the other alternatives there as well so we can have a full discussion on such a serious issue," Ambridge said.

If any of the measures is approved by the council by mid-August -- the deadline by which they need to be certified as a ballot question -- it would go before voters in November.

Stokes also said it was important to debate a restructuring of the council and to pass all views to the charter revision committee.

The revision committee, appointed by Mayor Kurt Schmoke, is to recommend changes by next year. A larger charter revision panel, set up by a council ordinance passed last year, would then make the revisions.

Schmoke told council members yesterday that he would prefer no action on the restructuring measures until the revision committees have examined the issue.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke said every effort will be made to hold hearings on the three bills before the council adjourns until mid-September after five more regularly scheduled meetings.

In another move aimed at restructuring the council, the Republican Party is trying to collect 10,000 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 12 to place on the November ballot a question that would require 18 single-member districts by 1995.

The GOP plan is supported by the city branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which believes that the plan would enhance the possibility of electing a majority black council this year. Of the 19 current council members, seven are black.

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