Redistricting panel shifts boundaries in final plan City-county districts pared from 6 to 5

December 19, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith

Responding to some of the complaints from citizens and public officials, the Governor's Advisory Committee on Redistricting adjusted legislative boundaries in Howard and Baltimore counties and in the city before submitting its final recommendations yesterday.

The proposal was delivered to Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who must submit his own version of an election district map on Jan. 8, the first day of the 1992 General Assembly session. The governor may make changes in the advisory committee's proposal before filing his bill. Then the legislature could amend it further before a final vote.

Howard County, which had been sliced into five separate legislative districts in an earlier plan, now would be part of only three. Several incumbent Howard legislators were restored to the districts they now represent.

The committee's attempt to create a Baltimore-Baltimore County region was amended slightly to provide five shared city-county districts, pared back from the six shared districts proposed in the earlier plan.

"You try to do the best you can, but there are so many competing interests," said one member of the governor's committee, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's. Mr. Miller said he expects to hear more complaints. But he said the process represents the committee's most careful judgment of what was best for the state as a whole.

"We made an extra effort to recognize that Baltimore City is the engine that makes the state run efficiently," he said. "If that engine falters, then the state falters. As a consequence a legislative district that could just as easily have gone to Montgomery County or Prince George's was shifted to the Baltimore region."

Although population shifts would have given either Montgomery or Prince George's County an additional senate seat, the committee decided to give that seat to the Baltimore region, which has lost population, in order to shore up its strength in the General Assembly.

Mr. Miller said he hopes possible opposition to the plan from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will be tempered by what he expects will be significant increases in African-American representation in the state Senate and the House of Delegates.

Delegate Howard A. Rawlings, D-Baltimore, agreed largely with this assessment. He said he also believes the committee has promoted the long-range best interests of the region by linking city and county districts.

"The shared districts are positive features that bode well for the political climate in the region, maybe not in 1992, but in 2002. People are going to be crazy in 1992," he predicted, "but it's important to have the long view of our society and our region. In the long view, the redistricting committee has made an important statement."

The committee attempted to appease a group of angry residents in Baltimore County's Lansdowne neighborhood, removing them from a shared city-county district. Instead, the committee proposed a single-member House of Delegates district that would cover much of Catonsville and be a part of the city-based 47th Senatorial District.

But the adjustment might have created two hot beds of opposition where just one existed before. Under the map presented yesterday, much of Catonsville would be linked to the 47th Senatorial District in the city.

In Baltimore, the new district boundaries could damage the electability of Sen. John A. Pica in the 43rd District, which covers much of Northeast Baltimore. That district had extended into the county under the original plan, picking up a number of white voters -- many of whom objected to being linked with the city. Now, the 43rd is completely contained in the city.

Because the new configuration increases the percentage of black voters, it could make Mr. Pica more vulnerable to a challenge by Delegate Kurt Anderson, who is black.

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