Most of Essex moved to 7th District Baltimore Co. Council vote will affect about 14,000 voters.

August 06, 1991|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

The Baltimore County Council, ignoring a rallying cry to "Keep Essex Essex," last night took most of Essex out of the 5th Councilmanic District and placed it in the 7th District, which includes Dundalk.

The council voted 5-2 to add about 14,000 residents in Essex proper -- the areas southwest of Rossville Boulevard, Stemmers Run Road and much of Back River Neck Road -- to the 7th, which had lost population since the 1980 census.

Councilman Vincent Gardina, D-5th, who strongly opposed the move, bitterly lashed out at fellow council members and described the move as a Republican grab for power.

"A government of the people, by the people and for the people has meant nothing," Gardina said. "Rather, a coalition of Republicans has split the heart of Essex for their party's good."

"Politics of the worst kind was played during this redistricting," Gardina continued. "Compromises were not considered. . . . But most of all, communities, people, were not listened to."

At one point in the debate, Gardina angrily referred to Republicans as "the party of Watergate and Willie Horton."

Councilman William A. Howard, R-6th, one of the main targets of Gardina's verbal assault, called his remarks "unfortunate."

"Partisan politics is not applicable to local government," Howard said. "There's no such thing as a Republican stop light or Republican stop sign."

Gardina exploded after the council rejected his last-minute plan to keep Essex intact in the 5th.

To do that, he suggested shifting Rosedale into the Dundalk district, while moving Perry Hall and White Marsh into the 6th, which now includes Parkville, Overlea and Rosedale.

Council members Douglas Riley, R-4th, who represents the Towson area; Berchie Lee Manley, R-1st, who represents Catonsville and Arbutus, and Howard all voted for the Dundalk plan, sponsored by Councilman Donald C. Mason, D-7th, of Dundalk.

Councilman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, who represents Cockeysville and the north county, said he cast his vote "reluctantly" for the Mason plan in order to avoid a deadlock.

Councilman Melvin G. Mintz, D-2nd, of Pikesville, backed Gardina.

The redistricting process has been going on for several months. The councilmanic district boundaries are redrawn after the decennial federal census to insure that each district has roughly the same number of residents.

Because the county's population grew in the 1980s, each of the seven districts would have about 99,000 residents. The new boundary lines do not take effect until the 1994 election.

Riley, the council chairman, noted in his remarks that most of the council members with adjoining districts had peacefully worked out new boundary lines. Such a compromise could have been reached in the eastern county, he said, if Gardina, Howard and Mason "hadn't dug their heels in back in early June."

Manley and Riley said they agreed to Mason's plan after much study because they believe the areas of Dundalk and Essex are vTC similar in needs. Both are older communities that have suffered from chronic unemployment, Riley said.

"It is my hope that residents of Essex and Dundalk will find common ground," Manley said.

The council's action last night prompted an immediate announcement by Essex Del. E. Farrell Maddox, D-Balto. Co., and Harold Gordon, chairman of a coalition of black community organizations in the western county, that they would launch a petition drive to create two additional councilmanic districts.

A nine-member council, Maddox said, would give each district about 77,000 citizens.

Should Maddox and Gordon get 10,000 signatures of registered voters by next August, voters would decide in the November 1992 election whether they want two additional districts. The current council would then redraw the district boundaries.

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