Despite protests from politicians and citizens, Baltimore County will begin sharing legislators with Baltimore City under a final redistricting plan released today by a special advisory panel.
The panel did agree to have only five districts cross the city-county border, instead of the six proposed when the first plan was released two weeks ago.
But, in several important ways, the plan did not change. The city will maintain control of eight districts, despite a dwindling population that some said entitled the city to only seven districts.
In addition, the plan maintains its key plank -- a new black-dominated district in the Liberty Road area. Creating that new district will force several Baltimore county incumbents to run against each other.
Furious Baltimore County officials and residents have said they wanted nothing to do with city politics. Some residents even predicted the joint legislative districts would eventually lead to countians paying the city's higher property tax rates.
"I still think it's totally unfair to Baltimore County and Baltimore County voters," said Del. E. Farrell Maddox, chairman of the county's House delegation.
The plan now goes to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who must submit his own version to the General Assembly next month. It is not clear how much Schaefer will tinker with the panel's plan.
"At first blush, he thinks they did a good job with it," said Page Boinest, a spokesman for the governor.
If the General Assembly is unable to agree on changes to Schaefer's proposal, it will become law. The debate in the legislature promises to be vigorous, as lawmakers maneuver to protect favored election turf.
The district map will be used to elect all 188 members of the legislature in 1994 and 1998. New maps are drawn every decade based on U.S. Census figures.
The panel modified several proposals in its original map:
* The revised plan creates a new, single-member House district in Catonsville as part of one of the city-county districts. That will mean the loss of one delegate from the city. Baltimore County, however, will show no net gain in elected officials because it also lost a delegate seat to Howard County.
* Howard County will be split into three districts instead of five as the panel had contemplated.
* Essex has been reunited in a single district. It had been split between two.
* Towson is now back in a Baltimore County district. It had been included in a city-dominated district.
Despite protests from black leaders, the panel declined to create another black-dominated district in Prince George's County. The map maintains three districts with minority populations of at least 74 percent. The NAACP had proposed giving the county at least four districts with substantial black majorities.
In all, Baltimore City will lose one of its nine districts. Four of the eight city-dominated districts will be heavily black. Three will be mainly white. The eighth, the 43rd District in northeast Baltimore, is 61 percent minority in the panel's final plan. It was 46 percent minority in the panel's first plan.