The Rape of Baltimore County

August 28, 1991

Parochial politics led the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee to draw absurd congressional districts that insult every citizen of the Baltimore metropolitan region. No clear-thinking legislator from this area should support the plan. Its implementation would be devastating.

The plan, championed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Democratic Party chairman Nathan Landow and Rep. Tom McMillen, has provoked a storm of controversy. The arrogance of the plan and its disregard for regional and community interests make it totally unacceptable.

Perhaps the worst atrocities were committed in Baltimore County. Lutherville, Timonium and Cockeysville residents suddenly became part of an Eastern Shore district -- though the areas have nothing in common. Folks living in Essex and part of Dundalk now find themselves linked in a district with Anne Arundel County, though they'd have to cross the harbor by boat to reach it. This Arundel-dominated district also includes the Bethlehem Steel plant at Sparrows Point and the city's Back River Sewage Treatment Plant.

Meanwhile, residents of Jacksonville, Phoenix, Sparks and Hunt Valley are thrown into a sprawling district which stretches from Backbone Mountain overlooking West Virginia to the Susquehanna River. Other Baltimore countians living at the edge of Carroll County are suddenly congressional blood brothers with Patterson Park residents.

Wherever possible, it seems, the five members of the redistricting committee drew lines directly through communities or towns to ensure the rape of Baltimore County. This may have served their political purposes, but it strips the region of one congressional voice, endangers the re-election of some of Maryland's most valuable members of Congress and leaves a million citizens feeling abandoned and politically disenfranchised.

The panel was so intent on protecting Mr. McMillen, D-4th, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-5th, it ignored the needs of the state's lone urban center. It fragmented the popular voice in the Baltimore area so it could strengthen and unify the Washington suburbs.

There is still time for the committee to avert disaster. We urge chairman Benjamin L. Brown, a former city solicitor and District Court judge, to re-open the discussion for sensible options that respect community and regional integrity yet ignore highly partisan political considerations. Marylanders don't want to become pawns in the hands of political connivers and manipulators. They deserve better. They deserve fair representation and equitable congressional boundary lines. They deserve a true "people's plan."

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