Brown threatens suit over Annapolis redistricting plan

May 06, 1992|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Calling the redistricting of Annapolis biased and unfair, black leaders are heading to court to challenge the new map approved by the City Council.

Michael T. Brown, chairman of the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee, vowed to sue after the council killed an amendment that would have created a third majority black ward.

Instead, the council voted, 7-1, Monday night to redraw ward lines to increase the black population in two existing majority districts and slightly reduce the black population of a third.

"This evening, you saw the council thumb their nose at the black community," said Brown, who favored an alternative to the ward map drawn by the city's redistricting committee.

Brown wanted to increase the black population of Ward 6, in which he lost the 1989 election to Republican Alderman Wayne Turner by four votes.

Jean Creek, president of the area chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also called the redistricting decision a setback for Annapolis' black community.

She compared it with a vote earlier this year on a controversial project to convert the old Wiley H. Bates High School into a community and senior center. The council split along racial lines in rejecting plans to renovate the abandoned school, once Anne Arundel County's only high school for blacks.

"I think the African-American community is under-represented in the city," she said.

But council members and John Prehn, a Republican who chaired the 13-member redistricting committee, defended the plan, which was adopted with only minor revisions by the council. "We spent most of the time trying to get the fairest plan for the black community," Prehn said.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden was the lone dissenter in the vote to adopt the map. The other black council member, Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, joined his colleagues and Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins in voting for the plan.

Snowden, a Democrat who represents the city's Ward 5, successfully challenged Annapolis' last ward map in federal court in 1984. He promised to help Brown's suit, saying the redistricting was "flawed" and possibly violated a federal consent decree to establish a third competitive ward.

Under federal law, the city's ward lines are redrawn after each census to maintain a balanced representation on the City Council. The 1990 Census found that blacks make up 33 percent of the city's 33,187 population, down 2.4 percent from the 1980 Census.

Brown said that the black population warrants a third black-majority ward. But Prehn pointed out that there are only eight wards, so a mathematical breakdown would call for about 2.5 black-majority districts.

The Democratic Committee voted in December to oppose the plan, charging that it guaranteed safe districts for the four Republican aldermen, especially Turner.

The council kept its discussion low key and emphasized the need to keep neighborhoods together. But Creek and Brown called the decision "insensitive" in light of heightened racial sensitivity since the acquittals of four white Los Angeles police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King.

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