A commission charged with the politically crucial job of redrawing County Council districts found itself pulled in opposite directions Tuesday by Republican and black leaders.
The Republicans, hoping to preserve their growing political clout, recommended shifting only sixof the county's 133 precincts, while black leaders asked for at least one new district in the Annapolis area to increase black voting power.
Members of the two groups -- as well as South County citizens seeking to protect their rural lifestyle -- spoke before the five-memberDecennial Charter Revision Commission at the fourth and final hearing on how council district boundaries should be redrawn, based on population changes over the last 10 years. The hearing was held at Southern High School in Harwood.
The commission will accept written recommendations on redistricting and other related government issues through Monday. A public hearing on the commission's proposals will be conducted in September; final recommendations then will be sent to the council.
With the population at 427,239, each district would include about 61,034 people if the county continues to have seven council seats; with nine seats, there would be about 47,671 per district.
The Republicans want seven seats, with the following changes:
* Moving two Glen Burnie precincts, one from the 3rd to the 1st District,the other from the 3rd to the 2nd District.
* Moving a Pasadena precinct from the 5th to the 3rd District. All of Pasadena would then be in the 3rd District.
* Splitting Shipley's Choice in half, moving the precinct with the Millersville ZIP code from the 5th to the 4th District.
* Shifting the Herald Harbor precinct from the 6th to the 4th District.
* Shifting the Heritage Harbor precinct from the7th to the 6th District.
Though the GOP is determined to protect its interests -- mainly the council seats held by Diane R. Evans of Severna Park and Carl G. "Dutch" Holland of Pasadena -- leaders say these changes would not give them any new advantage.
"There's very little difference from a partisan political standpoint," said James Clenny, a member of the Anne Arundel Republican Central Committee.
Black leaders did not present a specific redistricting plan, and county planners say it will be all but impossible to create a district with a strong black electorate. Planners found that the county would have to be carved into 21 districts to come up with a single jurisdiction with a 46 percent black population.
"Some alternative plan will have to be developed," said Jean Creek, president of the Anne Arundelchapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "There's a need for a black voice or voices on the council."
South County residents also pushed for one or two additional districts. The people who live in the rural section of the 7th District said they no longer want to be grouped with Crofton and other, more developed border areas. Nor do they want to be represented by someone from these areas, as nearly happened last fall when Crofton attorney John Klocko narrowly lost the 7th District seat to West River's VirginiaClagett.
The Republicans noted that when it comes to voting, South County would be no better off with nine districts than with seven, since the extra districts would be created in the more populous northern and central areas.