Residents Balk At Plan To Split Highland

Council Gets Few Knocks On Its Redistricting Map

October 23, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Judging from comments of 13 people who had to waited until after midnight Monday to testify on the County Council's redistricting proposal, the council map will undergo only minor adjustments.

The council is likely to keep all of Highland in the 5th District rather than split it in two as now proposed.

Other suggested changes -- keeping Columbia villages whole and making minority voting strength a primary objective -- will probably not be fully incorporated.

No Republicans testified against the council proposal at the public hearing.

Republican Central Committee member Allan H. Kittleman was supposed to speak on behalf of the central committee, but left before being called to testify. The redistricting hearing ended at 1:19 a.m.

Neither Kittleman nor GOP central committee chairman Carol Arscot could be reached yesterday to comment on the proposal. Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker, had said earlier he would veto the proposal unless it is modified.

Most of those who testified early yesterday morning said they hoped Ecker would not challenge the council's proposal.

Anita Iribe, presidentof the League of Women Voters, said she thought the council had done"an excellent job, except for one flaw" -- splitting Highland. Highland is older than the county itself and has been well-defined for more than 100 years, she said.

Highland activist John W. Taylor suggested the council could solve the Highland problem by moving only 315 people back into the 5th District. Such a change would not throw the other districts out of balance, he said.

Scot Hoeksema, chairman of the county coalition of community associations, said he too wants Highland kept whole in an otherwise "most acceptable" redistricting plan.

Sherman Howell, spokesman for a group called Citizens for Equitable Districting, told the council that his organization's map -- submitted to the council Sept. 16 -- would offer "greater expanded opportunity for black an other minority participation" than the council map.

Howell provided the council an analysis of past voting resultsfor black candidates who ran for a county office. "The point is, we don't have the numbers," Howell said. "We have to establish coalitions."

Columbia Association representatives Charles Acquard and Michael Deets said that while they did not expect the council to adopt theColumbia Association map, they did expect the council to "incorporate the better aspects" of a plan which acknowledges Columbia as "the political and economic center of the county."

County Council memberCharles C. Feaga, R-5th, argued that Columbia is getting too much representation -- three seats -- under the council proposal.

Feaga asked Democratic Forum representative James Kraft whether he thought it might be possible to table the council proposal until an acceptablecompromise could be worked out.

Kraft said that "while there is not a big deadline on this," he would hate to see the council reach animpasse like the one that had stalled congressional redistricting inthe General Assembly. By law, the council must redraw district linesby next March to reflect population changes recorded in the 1990 Census. The council will hold a redistricting work session Monday and plans to vote Nov. 4 on a final proposal.

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