Residents implore City Council not to split their neighborhoods

Alternatives sought to O'Malley's proposed single-member districts

February 27, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Residents from neighborhoods split into different election districts under Mayor Martin O'Malley's redistricting plan asked City Council members last night to help keep their communities together.

At a public forum before the council's redistricting committee, about 20 residents from Original Northwood, Harlem Park, Darley Park and Washington Village asked the council to reject the mayor's map and draft one that provides them with a single council representative, not two.

"Two council representatives dilute our voice," said Frank Gorman, of the Original Northwood Association. "A person with one watch knows what time it is. With two watches, you're never quite sure."

City voters approved a referendum last year that calls for changing the council's representation from six, three-member districts to 14 single-member districts. Last month, O'Malley submitted his redistricting proposal, and the council has 60 days to amend it or pass a different one.

Residents at the forum offered plans to move their neighborhoods into single districts in ways they said should not invite legal challenges.

"We have to see how moving things around affects other neighborhoods," said Councilwoman Paula Johnson Branch. The city's legal department has said the mayor's map meets constitutional requirements that prohibit diluting the African-American vote and requires an even distribution of population and continuity of existing communities. The 14 districts will represent about 46,500 people each.

William B. Marker, president of the Southwest Community Council that encompasses historic Pigtown, said his neighborhood was divided into three districts.

As the meeting came to an end, many of the residents had swapped ideas on how they could help each other: Harlem Park, split between the 9th and 11th districts, could shift entirely into the new 9th District. The loss of population in the 11th District would be corrected by moving all of midtown Belvedere, which stretches into the 12th District, into the 11th. And Darley Park, straddling the 12th and 14th districts would move entirely into the 12th.

"It's like a game of dominoes," Branch said.

Another meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at City College. It will be held at City Hall if schools are canceled.

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