Citizens Can Address Plan To Add 2 Council Districts

September 17, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

County residents will get their chance tomorrow night to say whetherthey want to be represented by seven or nine County Council members.

The Charter Revision Commission favors increasing the number of council members from seven to nine but won't make a final recommendation until after the public hearing on the plans.

The five-member commission voted, 3-2, last month in favor of a nine-member council. Those who support adding two additional council members say the workload has become too great for seven part-time council members.

But the two commission members who favor sticking with seven members say adding two more council members would not greatlyreduce the workload. They say a nine-district plan would divide communities between districts and cost taxpayers money.

Tomorrow's hearing will begin at 7:30 in the Arundel Center on Calvert Street in Annapolis. A nine-district map and a seven-district map will be on display.

The group must present a seven-district plan in case the nine-member plan is rejected. If the County Council approves the nine-district plan, it would go to the voters on the November 1992 ballot as a change in the charter.

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. A nine-member council would cost anadditional $250,000 a year in salaries, commission member Mark Anderson has estimated.

The panel has been working since June to redrawdistrictboundaries 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.

Thecommission's maps show what seven and nine districts might look like, but members stressed that the plans could change based on public comment. The final decision is up to the County Council, which could completely change the maps.

Republicans favor a seven-district plan to preserve gains made in last year's election. Black community leaders favor a nine-district plan to increase the minority representationof an Annapolis-area district.

The Greater Severna Park Council has opposed both proposed maps because they would divide parts of Severna Park that are now in a single district.

The nine-district planwould divide Severna Park along Benfield Boulevard, placing waterfront parts in a district with Broadneck Peninsula and placing parts north and west of Benfield in a district stretching along the western edge of the Severn River to the outskirts of Annapolis.

The plan also removes Crofton from South County and places it in a district with Maryland City. Some South County residents hadasked the commission tomove Crofton so they could have a more rural district.

The plan also increases the minority representation of the Annapolis-area district from 21 percent to 25 percent, responding to the requests of black community leaders. It would take 18 to 21 districts to create a near-majority black district, county planners have said.

The seven-district plan puts Severn and Glen Burnie -- communities currently divided among more than one district -- into single districts but leaves Crofton in the same district as South County.

Committee members unanimously opposed several issues the County 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 chairman.

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