When Republicans showed the County Council their ideas for redrawingdistrict lines last month, a council Democrat called them "outrageous, clever and ridiculous."
Now it's the Republicans' turn.
"I really did laugh -- it's a bad joke," council member Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said of a Democratic redistricting plan sent to the council last week. "It is an outrageous map. I can't believe Vernon could go along with it."
Feaga referred to Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd. Gray said he had no part in drawing up the Democrats' map, even though he is a member of a group that commissioned it.
The Democratic map would put much of the 1st District -- which runs from north Laurel to Elkridge -- into the 2nd District -- which now includes Ellicott City and runs from Bonnie Branch Road to Manor Lane.
The plan also shifts Republican Darrel Drown from the 2nd District to the 5th District, where he would be pitted against Feaga.
"It is a blatantly partisan scheme to get rid of this (Republican) nuisance," said Drown, who won his seat by more than 2,000 votes over Democratic incumbent Angela Beltram in November.
Drawing lines that would ensure election of Democrats is exactly what Lloyd Knowles, chairman of the subcommittee responsible for drawing the Democratic map, hopes to accomplish.
An overwhelming consideration of the map makers was to "provide a reasonable basis for Democratic districts," according toKnowles, a former three-term council member. "It is extremely important in determining what policies and practices the county will follow in the next 10 years. It is very important not to allow the Republicans to turn the county over to developers, which seems to be their history."
By law, the council must redraw district lines every 10 years to reflect changes in the population. To reflect changes in the 1990 census, the 1st and 2nd Districts must lose precincts and the3rd, 4th and 5th Districts must gain them.
The battleground is the 1st District, where Democrat Shane Pendergrass won by only 282 votes in November, and the 2nd District, where Republican Drown won by 2,075. Pendergrass' district has grown more than any other and must be cut by at least 11,192 people. Drown's district must be pared down byat least 3,290.
The Democrats' map would strip Pendergrass of theElkridge precincts she lost last November and put them in a radically revised 2nd District.
Pendergrass would retain her winning Owen Brown precincts and gain the predominately Democratic precincts in Allview Estates and the Columbia Village of Hickory Ridge.
Allview Estates and Hickory Ridge are in the 4th District, represented by Democrat Paul R. Farragut. Under the Democratic proposal, Farragut would pick up the Highland and Fulton precincts now represented by Feaga.
Feaga's district would still be the largest geographically. What hewould lose in the south to Farragut, he would gain in the north fromDrown -- everything below U.S. 40 from Manor Lane to the Plumtree Branch.
The Democrats' map is the latest salvo is an increasingly rancorous enterprise. The Republicans fired first with maps from CountyExecutive Charles I. Ecker and the local GOP central committee.
Because of their majority on the council, the Democrats can draw a mapto their liking. They are concerned, however, that Ecker might veto such a map or that the local GOP central committee might challenge itin court.
They want to hire, at county expense, Benjamin R. Civiletti, a prominent Baltimore lawyer and former U.S. attorney general in the Carter administration, to advise them how to fend off such challenges.
A resolution authorizing the council to spend up to $25,000 for "a legal adviser to provide independent legal services and advice" will be introduced and voted on at Tuesday night's council meeting.
Drown and Feaga say the expense is unnecessary since the council can get legal advice free from the county solicitor. Gray argues that the solicitor cannot represent both the executive and the council if each comes down on a different side of the issue.
"We could have sat down and reasoned rationally without spending 25K," Drown said."But that is not something (the Democrats) are willing to do. They are going to try to pass (the $25,000 spending authorization) without a public hearing so that there can be no public criticism about wasting the taxpayers' money."
The council will hold a redistricting work session Thursday. At that time, it plans to adopt at least one map.
The council plans to hold a public hearing on a map proposal Sept. 11 and vote on a final plan Nov. 4.