Outraged Politicians Cry, 'Foul!'

October 27, 1991|By Robert Lee and John A. Morris | Robert Lee and John A. Morris,Staff writers

A political tug of war over congressional districts has left Anne Arundel County drawn and quartered, raising concerns that county residents will be forgotten on Capitol Hill.

"We've been made a sacrificial lamb," said Peg Burroughs, a West River resident. "We won't have any clout at all."

The county, which has sent its own representative to Washington for the past two decades, was divvied up among four congressional districts last week when the Maryland legislature overwhelmingly approveda redistricting plan based on the 1990 census.

Not only has the county been dissected, but the lines cut through the heart of established communities in Brooklyn Park, Odenton, Crofton, Severna Park, Pasadena and Ferndale.

"I am so mad about it I can't see straight," said Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association. "If they can't draw straighter and more equitable lines, they'd better go back to elementary school, because that's where they teach you to draw."

While county leaders have been crying foul, many residents have struggled with the new jigsaw boundaries.

"I've been tryingto figure out all week which district I live in," said Charles F. Wellford, a resident of Odenton, which was divided three ways.

The Anne Arundel County Board of Election Supervisors, which has begun preparing for the March 3 congressional primary, has it no easier. Elections administrator Nancy Crawford said she does not expect to completely decipher the redistricting maps until at least mid-November.

That lawmakers tinkered with the boundaries of four precincts in Brooklyn Park, Pasadena, Fort Meade and Odenton complicates Crawford's task. The new map shifts the line in two precincts by only two blocks, but changes in the other two appear more substantial, Crawford said.

Voters will be notified by mid-December of their new congressional districts and polling stations, Crawford said. But political leaders worry that voter confusion will reign for years to come.

"It's ourworst nightmare come true," said Laura Green Treffer, chairman of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee. "It's going to take us two years of voter education just to teach the voters who theircongressman would be."

U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, D-4th, will continue representing the entire county until January 1993, when the new maps go into effect.

County leaders are concerned that Anne Arundel, the state's fifth largest jurisdiction, will not have a majority in any one district and that its interests will be ignored.

Under the redistricting plan, Anne Arundel would be overshadowed by the Eastern Shore in the first district, by eastern Baltimore and Harford counties in the second district, by Baltimore City and western Baltimore County in the third district, and by Prince George's and southern Maryland in the fifth.

From the outset of the redistricting debate last summer, Anne Arundel was caught in a political tug of war, said state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park.

State House Speaker Clayton Mitchell demanded that his native Eastern Shore remainintact, while state leaders acknowledged the need for a new minority-dominated district in Prince George's County. State leaders also wanted to create a "safe" seat for U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.

Anne Arundel County would have been carved up sooner if state Sen. Mike Wagner, D-Ferndale, had not recruited the aid of his ally, Senate PresidentMike Miller, Jimeno said.

But, he said, the Senate leadership folded last weekend. "When they (Miller and his lieutenants) caved in, everyone else swooped in like a bunch of vultures and picked Anne Arundel County to pieces."

Wagner, the Senate majority whip, said: "I trusted some people and they totally (betrayed) me. Even if Anne Arundel County had to fall on its sword, they showed no discretion when they drew the lines right through these old communities. It's the absolute rape of Anne Arundel County."

Environmental concerns close tothe hearts of county voters will be the big losers, predicted Rick Bittner, president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Council. Bittner's coalition of 14 North County civic associations will become part of the 1st congressional district, now represented by Republican Wayne T. Gilchrest and dominated by the Eastern Shore.

"Up our way -- where we've got Bethlehem Steel, smokestacks and all the chemical companies -- people are very actively in favor of the critical areas legislation," he said. "But for them (on the Eastern Shore), wetlands protection is a property issue, and they are opposed to it."

Tom Dixon of Harmans, where airport noise from BWI is a leading concern, said he doubts whether Representative Ben Cardin will give as much priority to noise abatement as McMillen has. Cardin, D-3rd, gained 64,000 North County residents.

Cardin said yesterday: "Wait and see 10 years from now how these people feel about their congressman. They're not going to want to change then, either."

"It's like when a family membergets married," said Crofton Civic Association President Edwin Dosek,whose neighborhood is being split between two districts. "I'm not sure we are losing a daughter. Maybe we're gaining a new son with the majority whip (Steny Hoyer)."

Still, Dosek concluded, "as far as the county as a whole is concerned, it sounds like we're getting the short shrift."

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