Shared districts might become a wider reality

The Political Game

Redistricting: One proposal could place 20 percent of Baltimore County voters in state Senate districts that share representation with the city or three other counties, a CPHA analysis shows.

January 01, 2002|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

IF YOU live in Baltimore County and suspect that you and your neighbors fared poorly in the state's once-a-decade redistricting process, a respected not-for-profit organization has quantified your pain.

The Citizens Planning and Housing Association of Baltimore has crunched numbers showing that after next year's election, one in five Baltimore County residents could live in a state Senate district represented by an official from Baltimore City or from Howard, Anne Arundel or Carroll counties.

That would be the greatest "disparity," to use the term favored by the housing group, of any jurisdiction in the Baltimore metropolitan region.

"This inequity ... places an unfair burden on Baltimore County and threatens the political effectiveness of the regional districts in the long run," said Alfred W. Barry III, president of the housing association, in written remarks to the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee.

The association is particularly interested in legislative districts that cross jurisdictional lines, Barry says, having launched its Campaign for Regional Solutions five years ago. The group believes that Baltimore will survive and thrive through cooperation with its neighboring counties.

Shared city-county districts were born during the previous redistricting process as a way to preserve political resources in the face of drastic population loss in Baltimore.

The previous redistricting plan created seven shared districts in Baltimore County. In three of those, county residents are a majority; in another three, city residents are the majority. The final district is split roughly evenly between Baltimore and Howard counties.

The new plan -- a proposal from the advisory committee that is being reviewed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening -- contains 10 shared districts in Baltimore County. County residents would be the minority in seven of the 10, and 20.1 percent of the county's population of 754,300 would live in those districts.

"CPHA supports the concept of interjurisdictional districts and is pleased that this redistricting plan includes an increase in their number in metropolitan Baltimore," Barry wrote. "However, we strongly urge that those districts be crafted in a way that does not raise the concern that some jurisdictions are giving up more of their representation than others for the good of the region as a whole."

Carroll County runs a close second in regional disparity, according to the housing group. There, 19.2 percent of county residents would live in a district dominated by Frederick County. In Harford County, 12.5 percent of the population would be represented by Baltimore County-based officials under the proposal.

Glendening will submit his version of the redistricting map Jan. 9, the first day of the annual legislative session.

Last-minute fund raising

With the curtain about to fall on campaign fund raising for three months, state lawmakers are rushing -- as always -- to boost their campaign accounts before the annual blackout period begins.

State law prohibits members of the General Assembly from raising money during the 90-day legislative session. At least 14 state lawmakers will play host at breakfasts, receptions or cocktail parties between Thursday and Jan. 8, including Baltimore-area Dels. Hattie N. Harrison, Adrienne A. Jones, Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings and Alfred W. Redmer; and Sen. Delores G. Kelley. Baltimore Del. Tony Fulton is taking the more economical route, with a direct-mail appeal.

This year's fund raising takes on extra urgency because 2002 is an election year and many lawmakers will be running in altered districts where they may not be well-known.

A discouraging word

Del. Sue Hecht, a Frederick Democrat, will face a roadblock on the information superhighway if she decides to run for state Senate against incumbent Republican Sen. Alex X. Mooney.

Gen-X Strategies of Virginia, a technology company that specializes in conservative political causes, has obtained the rights to the Internet domain names www.suehecht.com, www.suehecht.org and www.suehecht.net. The move, known as cyber-squatting, prevents Hecht from using her name to raise money or spread her message.

"It's not a contribution to the Mooney campaign, but it is a discouragement to the Hecht campaign," Gen-X CEO Jeffery M. Frederick told the Frederick News-Post. "We're happy to be the originator of that discouragement."

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