Redistricting Certain To Meet Complaint

Gop, Ecker Say They Want Changes

October 20, 1991

The County Council's redistricting plan is expected to receive opposition from at least four parties tomorrow night when it is aired at apublic hearing.

Republicans are sure to call for changes, since both GOP council members have said they will vote against the proposalunless it is amended. County Executive Charles I. Ecker, also a Republican, has said he will veto the plan unless changes are made.

Ecker and council members Darrel Drown, R-2nd, and Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, say the plan favors Columbia too much by creating three mostly Columbia districts. Since Columbia comprises only 40 percent of the county population, the map is disproportionate, the GOP says.

The Columbia Association, a quasi-public corporation that owns and maintains the town's recreational facilities, opposes the plan because it splits two of Columbia's villages. The association wants the plan amended to avoid splitting any villages.

Keeping a community intact is also the wish of Highland resident John W. Taylor, a frequent critic of council actions. Taylor says that to split Highland between districts is contrary to the council guidelines. One of the guidelinesis that council should avoid dividing communities with common interests as a result of geography or history.

Ignoring common interestsis also what Sherman Howell, spokesman for a group called Citizens for Equitable Districting, objects to. Howell said the council map hasthe potential of "weakening, as opposed to maximizing, the integrityand voting strength of the county's African-American community."

The council will hold a work session Oct. 28 to consider suggested changes to its plan. The final vote will be Nov. 4.

Following tomorrow's public hearing, the council will vote on a plan to refinance some of the county's bonds. If successful, the plan could raise about $2million and help reduce the county's expected $9.5 million deficit.

The council also will introduce, on behalf of the executive, a bill to limit increases in property tax assessments to 5 percent a year.

Earlier this month, a similar bill failed after Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, sought to make the assessment ceiling 10 percent. Since Gray's plan also failed, the executive and council are starting over.

The bill will be given a public hearing Nov. 4 and voted on the same night.

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