Rival Redistricting Plans Center On Edgewood, Bel Air

October 13, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Was the Harford Redistricting Commission's work for naught?

That's the question some commission members are asking after spending months drafting a proposal to draw new boundaries for the county's six County Council districts only to learn some council members had draftedtheir own proposal.

Some commission members say they were offended when they learned three council members had drafted their own redistricting plan beforethe commission could present its final recommendation to the entire council.

Two weeks ago, the commission recommended the council adopt a set of boundaries that would shift about 16 percent, or 28,887 of the county's residents, into new council districts.

But moments after the commission's presentation, Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson and council members Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, and Susan B.Heselton, R-District A, introduced their own redistricting plan as legislation.

"I thought that showed a little lack of courtesy for five citizens who worked hard all summer," said Catherine I. Riley, a commission member and former state senator from District 34.

"I thought it would have been nice to listen to the guidelines we had to follow and our reasoning," she said.

The key differences between the two proposals is how the precincts in the Edgewood and Bel Air areas would be divided.

Presently, two of Edgewood's precincts are in District F and one is in District A; the Bel Air precincts fall within District C.

The commission's plan, endorsed in writing by the other four council members, would put two Edgewood precincts in District A, and the other one in District F, which is represented by Democrat Philip J. Barker.

The commission's plan also would separate the seven Bel Air precincts among Districts B, C and E, which is represented by Republican Robert S. Wagner.

The proposal introduced by Wilson, Pierno and Heselton, would keep the Bel Air precincts together and would move the Edgewood precincts that include Edgewood Meadows and the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Ground into District A.

Other precincts in Forest Hill, Joppa-Magnolia, Abingdon and Perryman would be shifted to make the necessary population adjustments.

District C, and District B, which is represented by Republican Joanne S. Parrott, are the two districts most affected by the plan the commission recommended.

Commission member Sally W. Rogers, who voted against the plan, said she found it unusual the council acted before seeing the commission's final plan.

"But I would like to think they didit because the communities of Edgewood and Bel Air were divided," said Rogers.

The plan the commission recommended was presented to the public last month.

Riley said that despite the concerns of Edgewood residents who wanted to be included a single precinct, the commission also had to be concerned about ranges in population.

"This plan will serve us well when it's time to redistrict again," said Riley. "Bel Air simply has too many people."

The commission determined that the ideal district population should be 30,355. That figure was derived by dividing the county's population of 182,132 by six -- the number of council districts.

The commission's recommendation wouldkeep all districts no more than about 10 percent above or below the ideal population.

The alternate plan proposed by the three councilmembers would affect 30,795 county residents, or about 17 percent ofthe county's population.

Six precincts would be shifted, instead of seven, and some district populations would be as much as 14.4 percent above or below the ideal district size determined by the commission.

"I apologize if they were offended, I'm not trying to slap them in the face," said Pierno. "But we can't amend their plan, so we had to a have a bill to consider. The hearing on their plan will be Oct. 21. The hearing on this bill will be Nov. 5. We had to do that because we have to have something enacted by Dec. 9 or 10."

Pierno said she was "not suggesting we throw out their work."

Wilson also praised the commission's efforts but said he was upset that they soughtinput from council members during their work sessions this summer.

"There was too much input from the council before making their decision," said Wilson, referring to Councilwoman Parrott's successful effort to persuade the commission not to separate the Fallston and Upper Crossroads precincts in District B.

"It's regrettable that kind of transaction took place," said Wilson. "But we would not be able tomake any decisions without all the hard work they did. The detailed census analysis and detailed proposal will make our job easier."

Barry T. Glassman, R-District D, said he was surprised at the controversy over the redistricting since council members are elected at-large, which means voters vote for all seven council seats.

"If you move one precinct, you have to move three. It's like Rubik's Cube," saidGlassman, referring to the popular cube-shaped puzzle. "The commission did a good job, but they've got to realize redistricting always comes down to politics."

* The hearing on the commission's recommendation will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 in the council chambers, Level A of the County Courthouse in Bel Air.

* The hearing on the three council members' bill will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 in the council chambers, Level A of the County Court house in Bel Air.

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