Redistricting Sandbox

October 18, 1991

Question: What do the presiding officers of the Maryland General Assembly have in common with spoiled brats?

Answer: They guard their corners of the sandbox as possessively as any 5-year-old child.

For House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell, his sandy turf is the Eastern Shore, which he insists be left intact in the current congressional redistricting struggle, no matter what.

For Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, his line in the sandbox is the state Democratic Party and his anointed hero, Rep. Tom McMillen. Any redistricting plan that threatens Mr. McMillen's re-election chances prompts a new round of childish outbursts from Mr. Miller. He won't give in. Neither will Mr. Mitchell.

Yet these are the only two votes that count in this redistricting brouhaha. The other 186 elected legislators are irrelevant. It is a disgraceful, dictatorial performance that is giving the General Assembly a bad name.

As the legislature reconvenes today, Messrs. Miller and Mitchell are holding firm to their respective sandbox corners, refusing to budge. Sensible compromise plans haven't worked. That's because neither legislator wants to give in. They just glare at one another in a test of wills -- and power.

Forgotten in this machismo contest is the welfare of Marylanders. The redistricting plan that has broad support in the legislature, with the governor and the state's congressional delegation calls for equitable treatment of the Baltimore and Washington areas, a compact Western Maryland district, a compact district that includes all of Southern Maryland and a bay-oriented district that includes all but the uppermost portion of the Eastern Shore and its western neighbors across the bay bridge in Anne Arundel County. It should be adopted.

Fairness, though, has taken a back seat to the personal whims of Messrs. Miller and Mitchell. It is their duty to end this fruitless stand-off and resolve their differences. Mr. McMillen would have a better-than-even shot at re-election in the compromise plan we have previously endorsed. That plan would also leave the overwhelming mass of the Eastern Shore in a single district.

It's about time our legislative leaders grew up and got out of the sandbox.

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