Public To Hear Redistricting Plan

Commission's Draft To Be Presentedfirst

October 20, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Tomorrow night will be the first opportunity for Harford residents to voice their ideas on new boundaries for County Council districts.

The public hearing, set for 7 in the council chambers at the CountyCourthouse in Bel Air, will focus on a redistricting proposal drafted by the Harford Redistricting Commission.

The five-member commission's recommendation, one of two plans being considered by the council, would shift about 16 percent of county residents, or 28,887 people, into new districts.

The shifts would be felt mostly by residents in Districts B and C.

The council willhold another public hearing Nov. 5 on a proposal by council President Jeffrey D. Wilson and council members Theresa M. Pierno, D-DistrictC, and Susan B. Heselton, R-District A.

That proposal seeks to shift six precincts, affecting 30,795 residents. The most heavily affected council districts would be A and F.

Redistricting is mandated by state and federal law every 10 years and is done in conjunction with the U.S. Census.

To ensure equal voter representation, districtlines must be redrawn to reflect population shifts.

The council members will select boundaries for six districts; the seventh member of the council, the council president, is considered an at-large member. Candidates for the council run countywide in elections.

The keydifferences between the two redistricting proposals concern which council district voting precincts in Bel Air and Edgewood should be in.

The problem is what to do with communities such as those that surround the town of Bel Air -- they, too, are generally considered to be part of Bel Air because of their proximity and shared schools and other services.

The county Board of Elections labels the precincts that include the town limits and surrounding areas "Bel Air" as well;there are seven precincts designated as "Bel Air," all in District C.

Edgewood, although not incorporated, is also generally considered to be one community, said Sally Rogers, one of five members of the Harford Redistricting Commission.

State and federal redistricting regulations require municipalities to remain in one district.

But the commission also was required to keeping "communities of interest"together, to ensure each district has about the same number of people and to be certain precincts within a district are contiguous.

The plan adopted by the commission and presented to the council, which has the ultimate decision on what the new boundaries will be, would split the seven Bel Air precincts among Districts B, C and E.

The commission's plan would put two Edgewood precincts in District A, and the third in District F.

Currently two Edgewood precincts are in District F; a third is in District A.

Rogers was the only member ofthe commission to vote against the plan that was proposed to the council. She said she voted against the plan recommended by the other four members because it split communities with shared interests.

Thealternate plan proposed by the three council members would keep the Bel Air precincts in one district.

The plan would move the Edgewood precincts that include Edgewood Meadows and the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Ground into District A.

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

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