Democrats back Howard council redistricting

September 24, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

Howard County's five council members would avoid running against each other under a new councilmanic redistricting plan unveiled by the council chairman last night and tentatively approved by the council's three Democrats.

Councilman Darrel E. Drown, R-2nd, took strong exception to changes in his Ellicott City district. Several precincts were lost and the remainder of his district was combined with Elkridge, which currently is part of the district of Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st.

"It stinks, and I will vote it down, and the county executive should veto it and throw it into the trash can," said Mr. Drown. He said the proposal "cuts Ellicott City into three parts and also ensures that Columbia, with 40 percent of the population, gets three of the five council seats. It was done for political purposes."

The straw vote supporting the latest redistricting proposal drew support from Ms. Pendergrass, Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, and Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, who proposed it.

Mr. Drown voted against it, and the other Republican member, Charles C. Feaga, took a pass, saying he felt "pushed" because the proposal had just surfaced.

Mr. Gray said a public hearing would be held Oct. 21 on the redistricting proposal. New councilmanic districts will go into effect during the 1994 elections.

Carol Arscott, chairwoman of the county Republican Central Committee, said that the Gray proposal was "not as bad as it could have been."

Republicans were particularly concerned about one proposal that would have pitted Mr. Drown against the other Republican incumbent, Mr. Feaga.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker, who was reached at his home in the Columbia area last night, said that he needed "to study it before I can say what I think of it."

But the Republican executive took exception to a legal opinion by Benjamin R. Civiletti -- who was hired at the urging of the three council Democrats -- that said the council could legally establish districts by adopting a resolution, rather than through a bill that would be subject to the executive's veto power.

"I do feel I have veto power, and if I don't like it, I will veto it," he said.

Under Mr. Gray's redistricting proposal, the districts would be renumbered.

The new 1st District would include most of Ellicott City and Elkridge; the new 2nd District would cover most of the current 3rd District's east Columbia area and include Brightfield, the Woodlands and Deep Run mobile home park now in the 1st District; the new 3rd District would encompass North Laurel, Savage, Allview Estates and the Owen Brown and Kings Contrivance villages in Columbia; the new 4th District would include west Columbia, as well as a portion of Highland and Fulton north of Route 216 currently in the 5th District and south Dorsey Hall and Fairway Hills now in the 2nd District; and the 5th District would encompass most of west Howard County and pick up Burleigh Manor and the Mount Hebron and Chateau Ridge areas now in the 2nd District.

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