Baltimore County residents from Woodlawn to Towson, angry about a redistricting plan that many fear would rob their communities of a voice in government, are demanding changes from the County Council.
Council members expect a long night tomorrow when they hold the only scheduled public hearing on the plan.
Residents of Towson say splitting the Baltimore County seat among three County Council districts would ruin their efforts to protect their neighborhoods and revitalize the commercial core.
Reisterstown, Owings Mills and Glyndon residents say a similar division there would make it impossible to coordinate commercial and residential development.
Black leaders say the district proposed for the Woodlawn-Randallstown area wouldn't have enough black voters to guarantee a voice on the council for their community.
And groups across the county say the council is moving too quickly on redistricting.
Since five council members proposed a plan to redraw council districts two weeks ago, groups across the county have been poring over maps to gauge the proposal's likely effects. At a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Baltimore County Courthouse, groups, mostly from the central and western county, are expected to demand that the plan be amended or scrapped outright.
The activists might succeed in forcing changes, but how extensive those changes might be is a more difficult question.
The possibility of redrawing district lines is "the whole purpose of a public hearing," said Council Chairman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat. In contrast to other area counties, the Baltimore County charter does not require the council to hold a hearing. If members did not intend to listen to residents' objections, they wouldn't have scheduled one, he said.
Council members said they're waiting to see how deep and how widespread the objections will be.
The Reisterstown/Owings Mills/Glyndon Coordinating Council resolved last week to rally in the courthouse plaza and move en masse to the hearing to protest the proposed splitting of their community among the 2nd, 3rd and 4th districts, said Calvin L. Reter, the group's president.
"Main Street in Reisterstown is in three districts - the west side will be in the Fourth, part of the east side in the Third and another part will be in the Second," he said. "I can't imagine how it will work."
The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, angry because the plan would divide Towson among the 2nd, 3rd and 5th districts, decided in a strategy session Wednesday to "shout it from the rooftops that we are not happy with the way this bill has been created or how this bill proposes the new district lines," said Tim H. Silcott, the group's vice president.
The group is circulating a flier that says in part: "We are the citizens of Towson. We pay your salaries and we are not about to sit back and watch you slash us into thirds in order to protect your political power bases and destroy the integrity we have as one block of Baltimore County citizens that stand up for what is just and right in the town we pay taxes to live in!"
On the west side, African-American leaders say the proposed 4th District would not have a sufficiently high percentage of black voters. The council has never had a black member, and the plan would create a district with a majority black population and no incumbent council member in Randallstown, Woodlawn and parts of Owings Mills.
Fifty-five percent of the people of voting age in the proposed district are black.
The Baltimore County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, working with the American Civil Liberties Union, has drafted a plan that it will reveal tomorrow. It "will be in the best interest of the entire county," said Herbert Lindsay, a member of the NAACP's executive committee.
The Community Conservation Action Group has objected to the manner in which district lines were drawn; two councilmen, Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat, and Wayne M. Skinner, a Towson Republican, said they did not know about the plan until two hours before it was formally submitted.
"You have each councilman representing approximately 100,000 people. It looks real clear that at least 200,000 constituents had no voice whatsoever" in drawing up the plan, said Donna Spicer, a former chairwoman of the group.
Many community leaders said their groups have not taken positions on redistricting because their members have not had time to react to the maps. The county charter requires no public input in the drafting of a plan, and council members declined to release copies of the drafts they worked on. The NAACP also has declined to release details of its proposal.
In other areas of the county, where communities would not be split or where the changes would be relatively minor, residents have expressed indifference.