New Council Boundaries Unite 3 Edgewood Precincts

Bill Would Shift 21% Of County Residents

November 17, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Tea bags and persistence paid off for Edgewood residents. Last week,they won their battle to have their community's voting precincts included in one County Council district.

Edgewood residents cheered Tuesday as the council voted 5-2 to adopt a new set of boundaries for council districts that put all three Edgewood voting precincts into District A.

For the past 10 years, one Edgewood precinct, which includes the area of Edgewater Village, has been in District A, while two have been in District F.

"I'm amazed it passed," said Robert Hickey, president of the Edgewood Civic Association. "I didn't think it would happen. I'm delighted with the fact that they finally heard the people and voted their consciences."

B. Daniel Riley, an Edgewood resident,was also pleased. He had presented council members with tea bags at a previous public hearings as a reminder of American colonists' Boston Tea Party protest of taxation without representation.

"I was glad to see the politicians put aside political concerns for once," saidRiley.

But not everyone was pleased with the final plan.

Howard Klein, a member of the Harford County Republican Central Committee and a Forest Hill merchant who testified at a public hearing before the vote, said the council's redistricting efforts had become a "Byzantine process."

He opposed the bill because it separates the ForestHill precinct from Bel Air precincts and accused the council of "trying to nullify opponents" of the bill by introducing amendments at the last minute that would have combined Aberdeen and Havre de Grace inone district.

Those amendments were ultimately withdrawn, but Klein said the action did not leave much time for the public to review the proposals.

The final bill shifts seven precincts into new districts and would affect 35,248 residents, or 21 percent of the county'spopulation. County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has 21 days to sign or veto the bill.

The main changes:

* 5,517 residents in ForestHill previously represented by Democrat Theresa M. Pierno will now be represented by District E Councilman Robert S. Wagner, a Republican.

* District F, represented by Democrat Philip J. Barker, will gain 14,203 residents with the shift of two of the three Abingdon precincts that previously were included in District B, represented by Joanne S. Parrott, a Republican. The third Abingdon precinct, which includes the Box Hill North development, will remain in District B.

* 4,400 residents in the Joppa-Magnolia precinct, previously represented by Republican Susan B. Heselton, in District A, will be represented by Parrott in District B.

* 2,315 residents in the Perryman precinct will be shifted into District F from District E.

Parrott voted against the amended plan, saying there was no information on how the voting impact of minorities would be affected. Wagner said he favored the plan recommended by the Harford County Redistricting Commission.

Ironically, the plan the council enacted was the same as one of the first set of proposals the five-member commission considered. The commission initially turned down the plan, however, because it found the 14.4 percent variance between the populations of the most and least densely populated precincts unacceptable.

The commission set as its goal an ideal district population of 30,355, and tried to come asclose as possible by shifting precincts. The ideal population was determined by dividing the county's population of 182,132 by six, the number of council districts.

Board of Elections administrators havesaid redistricting minimally affects Harford voters because council members are elected at large and not from within the districts they represent.

Debate over the new council district boundaries heated up in October and November during public hearings on the commission's proposal and the council's alternative.

Residents of Edgewood and Forest Hill discussed the pros and cons of uniting the three Edgewoodprecincts, as opposed to keeping Forest Hill and Bel Air precincts together.

"The song and dance on this issue has been as elaborate as a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire routine," said Myra Ryan, an Edgewood resident, during Tuesday's public hearing before the vote.

Ryan said one council member would be more effective than two in responding to the Edgewood community: "It's time government woke up. Edgewood is no one's basement."

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