Factions Put Squeeze On County Redistricting Panel

Some Favor Statusquo, Others Seek Enlarged Council

September 20, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

A commission charged with redrawing County Council district boundaries is struggling to satisfy both residents who want to maintain the status quo and those who want more diverse representation.

Leaders among the former are Severna Park residents. Happy with neither plan composed by the committee, they want to keep a seven-member County Council and don't want their community split between districts. About 200 of them turned out for a public hearing held by the Charter Revision Commission Wednesday night.

Commission members tentatively favor a nine-district plan by a 3-2 margin. They have also proposed a backup seven-district map in casethe other plan fails. Both plans divide Severna Park among districtsand have run into intense opposition from community organizations.

"It is incumbent upon the commission to retain entire communities, such as Severna Park, within one district to ensure their equal representation, as is our constitutional right," said Debbie Fitzgerald ofBerrywood. Her neighborhood would be moved into a district with Pasadena under both of the commission's plans.

But black leaders and the county Democratic Central Committee want the council to expand to nine members to give citizens greater access to representatives and increase minority influence.

"Citizen legislators working part timeshould be as close to the people as possible," said Democratic Committee Chairman Kimberly McCoy. "Smaller districts would bring government closer to the people."

The panel has been working since June toredraw district boundaries based on population changes recorded in the 1990 Census. Some districts have grown faster than others, creating an imbalance in their populations.

The commission met again lastnight to work on a final plan. Commission Chairman Robert D. Agee said after Wednesday's hearing that the commission will probably reunite Berrywood with the rest of Severna Park, but he wasn't sure what other changes the panel will make.

The commission will present a plan tothe County Council Wednesday. If the nine-district plan is approved, it would go to the voters on the November 1992 ballot as a changein the charter.

District 5, which includes Severna Park and is represented by Councilwoman Diane Evans, R-Arnold, grew faster than anyother district during the 1980s. It would be reduced by 7,000 residents under the seven-district plan and 20,000 residents under the nine-district proposal.

Agee said the commission's only options are tomove part of Severna Park -- such as Shipley's Choice or Berrywood -- to a new district, or to move the lower Broadneck Peninsula into a district with Annapolis, which Broadneck residents oppose.

Most speakers at Wednesday's hearing favored a seven-district plan, but Ageepointed out that half the speakers were from Severna Park. "You can't count sheer numbers," he said.

Laura Green Treffer, chairman of the county Republican Central Committee, spoke in favor of the seven-district plan, which she helped draft. Members of the Lower BroadneckFederation of Community Associations, Severn Improvement Association, CroftonCivic Association, Anne Arundel Trade Council and West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce also favored seven districts.

But the Millersville/Severn Run Federation, which represents 3,700 homes, including Shipley's choice in Severna Park, favors the nine-district plan.

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

Council members earn $23,000 annually for what is regarded as part-time work.

But Agee said money isn't an issue, because a seven-member council would soon need full-time salaries and more staff tomeet the needs of the growing population.

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