Tom Flynn never thought people would prevail over politics, but he swears that's what happened when the chairman of the Howard County Council presented his plan to reshape the five council districts.
Flynn, vice president of the North Laurel Civic Association, got his wish last night when Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, unveiled a redistricting plan that gives southeastern Howard County a district of its own. The community activist asked the council for that district last week in a public hearing.
"It seemed like up to this point, partisan politics had dominated the process," Flynn said. "I'd expected everything to stay that way. I'm impressed."
Gray's plan gained tentative approval at a council work session last night, with the three Democratic members voting to prefile the measure Friday for introduction at next month's legislative session.
Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, abstained on the vote to pre-file, saying he had not had enough time to review it.
Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, opposed the proposal, saying it would dramatically change his Ellicott City district by spinning off the western portion into District 5 while incorporating Elkridge.
"You may be getting smiles from North Laurel, but you're getting some downright stares from Ellicott City," said Drown, who was visibly disturbed by the proposed shape of his district. "And I guarantee that I will vote against it and will recommend that Chuck Ecker dumps it in the trash."
He was referring to County Executive Charles I. Ecker, a fellow Republican.
ZTC Drown also was upset that the numbers of three districts would change. Most of the current District 2 would become District 1; southeastern Howard would change from District 1 to District 3; and most of District 3 would be District 2.
But Feaga, the other Republican council member, said, "I think it's an improvement from what I've seen," adding that he could support the plan if it is amended.
Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, whose rapidly growing district had to shrink to become more comparable in population to other districts, praised the plan, saying it reflected residents' concerns .
Her area currently encompasses the U.S. 1 corridor in eastern Howard County from Elkridge to Savage, but she will lose Elkridge under the proposal.
Gray said he introduced the plan after he consulted with Benjamin R. Civiletti, the former U.S. attorney general hired to represent the council on redistricting, and after reviewing 13 proposals.
Gray is armed with an opinion from Benjamin R. Civiletti, the former U.S. attorney general hired to represent the council on redistricting, that said the council can adopt a redistricting plan without the county executive's approval. He said he was not overly concerned about whether Ecker would support his proposal.