Delay urged for council redistricting Civic group wants voters to see map

June 22, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The president of Howard County's League of Women Voters asked the County Council last night to postpone action on a compromise redistricting plan until a map of the proposal can be circulated among interested voters.

"While some party insiders may be aware of the effects of the proposed changes," Anita Iribe told the council, "the public at large has certainly had quite insufficient time to reach considered opinions on the merits or possible problems associated with each plan."

Ms. Iribe was referring to an agreement reached last week between Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, and Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st.

"Unfortunately, most people don't care about their district that much," Mr. Feaga said. "I don't think you can create interest in a thing like this."

But Highland resident Hilda Mathieu said, "I'm insulted to hear that people aren't interested." Ms. Mathieu said she was unaware of the districting proposal until yesterday. "If you publicized it, hundreds of people would turn out," she said.

Other residents complained that their testimony was not as comprehensive as they would have liked it to be because they did not see the map until last night.

"We have done our normal advertising," Ms. Pendergrass said, "but we couldn't notify 200,000 people personally."

Ms. Iribe asked that the council postpone action for at least a month. The council is scheduled to vote on the plan July 6.

The council's first redistricting plan was ruled invalid by a Circuit Court judge in November because it was enacted by resolution rather than by a bill.

Concerned that the same thing might happen again unless Democrats and Republicans agree on a plan, Mr. Feaga met with Ms. Pendergrass last week to tell her he would support her map if she agreed to two minor amendments.

He asked that Valley Mede east to Greenway Drive go into his district and that Font Hill go into the district now represented by Darrel Drown, R-2nd. The neighborhoods are reversed on the Pendergrass map.

Mr. Feaga also asked that 400 Fulton voters be included in the district represented by Paul R. Farragut, D-4th. Ms. Pendergrass, who had included those voters in Mr. Feaga's district, said she would agree to both of Mr. Feaga's requests.

Highland activist John W. Taylor, who lost to Mr. Feaga in the 1990 Republican primary, said it sounds like the council is committed to keeping Highland from being split.

"I hope no one introduces any last-second amendments to upset the apple cart," he said. "I hope you will do the right thing."

And Mr. Feaga said, "The compromise is common sense politics."

For more than two years, the council's three Democrats and two Republicans have been vying with one another over the redrawing of council district lines.

The prize for the winner could be legislative power on the council for the next decade.

New district lines must reflect population changes recorded in the 1990 census and be in place in time for the 1994 election.

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