'Linked inexorably'

November 21, 1991

Baltimore City Del. Howard P. Rawlings neatly summed up the case for overlapping districts between the city and county in next year's state redistricting: "Initially, there may be quite a bit of animosity and opposition," Rawlings said, "but that's how change takes place. We're inexorably linked with each other geographically, politically and economically."

Rawlings' recognition of the obvious probably won't assuage suburban incumbents whose traditional bases may be threatened by redistricting. A gubernatorial advisory committee has recommended creating a total of 15 senatorial districts in the Baltimore-Baltimore County region, including a new majority black district straddling the city line along the northwest Liberty Road corridor. One effect of those changes will almost certainly be that some incumbent senators and delegates wind up running against each other for re-election in 1994.

Yet there are compelling reasons to support the plan. It would counteract the political isolation of the city at a time when Baltimore's clout in Annapolis is waning even though it remains the main economic engine of the region. The surrounding counties obviously have a powerful stake in its continued fiscal viability, and overlapping districts are a logical first step toward ensuring some form of long-term regional cooperation.

Moreover, the state is required by the Voting Rights Act to create minority districts in situations like the Liberty Road corridor, regardless of whether the resulting new district cuts across city-county lines. It is not, as county Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell put it, a question of "accommodating" minorities "at the cost of everyone else," but rather of complying with the law. If county lawmakers resist carrying out their mandate, the federal courts surely will. Let us hope that things don't come to that. But Rawlings is probably correct about at least some suburban lawmakers when he says "I suspect the county folks won't buy into it and will be taken kicking and screaming to the new promised land."

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