Redistricting War Dance HOWARD COUNTY

January 14, 1993

Never mind the talk of compromise over a councilmanic redistricting plan in Howard County. What residents are witnessing now is a political war dance nearly as old as antiquity. By the time it ends, someone is simply going to have to accept defeat.

Right now, the person who appears destined for the loss column is Councilman Darrel Drown. Mr. Drown, R-2nd, is fighting an uphill battle to keep his district intact.

Even the other Republican on the council, Charles Feaga, who represents the 5th District, appears willing to let Mr. Drown take the fall.

That would seem to seal the matter. Council members are quietly hoping that an acceptable plan can be worked out by tomorrow.

If that happens, it would end months of acrimony, during which no one involved can claim distinction for acting solely in the public good.

This has been a battle strictly over turf and political dominance, more than a concern about fair voter apportionment. It is an episode that should not be allowed to repeat itself 10 years from now, when redistricting will be required again.

The current system of allowing council members to draw district lines creates obvious conflicts. Political self-interests and infighting are the result, as has been demonstrated during the past several months.

First, council Democrats were dealt defeat when they attempted to slip a redistricting plan past the veto ax of the county executive. A state judge ruled that the Democrats' actions were "constitutionally defective." That tossed the ball back into the council's lap, giving Republicans another shot at a more favorable new district map.

Council Democrats then opted for the divide-and-conquer strategy to deal with Messrs. Feaga and Drown. The question now is what sort of compromise the Democrats will make to count on Mr. Feaga's vote and overcome the threat of an executive veto.

Once a redistricting plan is approved, elected officials should immediately turn their attention to finding a way that avoids a repeat of the current situation. Talk of establishing a commission to handle redistricting in the future sounds good. Frankly, anything that would restore integrity to this process is worth a try.

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