District Plans Go To Public

One Option Adds 2 Council Members

August 26, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

A commission redrawing County Council district boundaries couldn't decide whether the council should have seven or nine members, so it will recommend two plans to the public.

The Charter Revision Commission will meet this afternoon to finish work on two proposed maps, a seven-district map and a nine-district map. The council currently has seven members, each of whom represents one district.

The commission will conduct a hearing Sept. 18 to find out which plan the public favors. Commission members will decide the following night which plan to propose to the County Council.

Commission members Mark A. Anderson and Dallas R. Evans favor a seven-district plan,while Chairman Robert D. Agee and members Harold J. Counihan and Muriel G. Carter are leaning toward a nine-district plan.

Under a seven-district plan, each member would represent roughly 61,000 people. With the nine-district plan, that number drops to about 48,000 people. A nine-member council would cost an additional $250,000 a year in salaries.

Members who argued in favor of a nine-member council wanted to keep the council a part-time job. But Anderson said he thinks such a plan would not significantly reduce council members' workload.

"I see absolutely no justification for nine districts," Anderson said. "They're already full-time. We already have three council members representing more than 61,000 people, and I don't hear any complaints that any one of those capable people is inaccessible, unavailable or unresponsive, so why change?"

But Carter said she thinks the public and council members should consider the nine-district option.

"I think the council and the public need to decide what they want," Carter said. "There are some advantages to a nine-member council thatyou wouldn't have with a seven-member council. I don't think the commission should have a strong opinion one way or the other."

If thecommission recommends a nine-district plan, it still would have to offer a seven-district plan, in case the recommendation is rejected. If the County Council approves the nine-district plan, it would go on the November 1992 ballot as a change in the charter.

The commission has been working since June to redraw district boundaries based on population changes recorded in the 1990 census. Some districts have grown faster than others, creating an imbalance in the number of people each council member represents.

The commission has conducted four sparsely-attended public hearings to gather residents' views on redistricting. The two plans try to address some of those concerns.

The seven-district plan puts Severn and Glen Burnie -- communities currently divided between more than one district -- into single districts.

But the plan leaves Crofton in the same district as South County. Some South County residents had asked the commission to move Crofton so they could have a more rural district.

Anderson said he thinks Crofton should stay in the South County district.

"I see great danger in creating districts that are so monolithic in nature that there is virtually no diversity within the district, when you are trying to reach consensus throughout an entire, diverse county," he said.

The nine-district plan removes Crofton from South County and places it in a district with Maryland City.

The plan also increases theminority representation of the Annapolis-area district from 21 percent to 25 percent, responding to the concerns of black community leaders.

It would take 18 to 21 districts to create a near-majority black district, county planners have said.

Commission members did agree on several issues. They unanimously opposed several questions the council asked them to consider: limiting terms of council members, staggering their terms, electing the county executive in off-years and electing an at-large council chairperson.

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