Over the strenuous objections of Anne Arundel County legislators, the General Assembly has adopted new congressional district lines that shamefully cater to the political self-interests of the top two Assembly leaders. When this bill is signed into law today in Annapolis by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the new districts will erase Arundel as a congressional force for the next decade and consign Brooklyn and Curtis Bay in the city to further political isolation.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell emerged as the villains in this badly flawed drama in which the two men dictated terms of the congressional map to servile lawmakers. Messrs. Miller and Mitchell got what they wanted, but only by obliterating Anne Arundel County with a contemptuousness that won't be forgotten in the state's fifth largest subdivision. Arundel was hacked into four insignificant pieces; as a congressional player, the county has ceased to exist.
Mr. Miller and Mr. Mitchell tried the same meat-cleaver approach on Baltimore County last month, but the resulting uproar stopped that assault. This time they succeeded by eviscerating Anne Arundel in such haste that local officials could not respond soon enough. It was politics by stealth -- and it worked.
To add insult to injury, the two leaders then shifted 14,000 Baltimore City residents from Brooklyn and Curtis Bay into an absurd 1st Congressional District that will stretch from the harbor all the way to Ocean City and Pocomoke City. The City Council had rudely treated the same communities this summer in redrawing council lines; now these Baltimoreans have been used as political pawns in congressional map-drawing, too.
Additionally, Rep. Helen Bentley's 2nd District was enlarged to include 46,000 residents of the Gibson Island and Broadneck areas in Anne Arundel County. She will need a speedboat to commute from that isolated outpost to the rest of her Harford-Baltimore County district.
State lawmakers succeeded, though, in retaining three Baltimore-area congressional districts and creating three Washington-area districts, including a new minority district; keeping Southern Maryland intact within one district; keeping the Eastern Shore intact, and retaining a Western Maryland district. Yet the price was the savaging of Anne Arundel County.
We expected better of Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Miller. They embarrassed their fellow legislators and left themselves open to public ridicule with their selfish refusal to accept compromise plans that would have treated Arundel voters with fairness and ++ sensitivity. We are saddened that they could not rise above their parochialism.