Carroll legislators OK a district plan

Commission option favored by group loses

December 14, 2005|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

Ignoring prevailing sentiment and the recommendation of a committee that worked six months to create five commissioner districts, the Carroll County legislative delegation approved a voting district plan yesterday that had been widely rejected by residents.

The 5-to-2 vote by the delegation favored a voting district map, known as Option One, that separates towns in North Carroll, placing Hampstead with Gamber and Finksburg and putting Manchester in a district that includes Taneytown and the county's more rural areas. The map also created a single South Carroll district out of Sykesville and Eldersburg, Carroll's most populous area.

"The will of the people is thwarted again for political reasons," said Martin Radinsky, a member of the redistricting committee and chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Central Committee. "Every town and the majority of the people wanted Option Two."

Option Two, favored by all eight Carroll towns, kept towns with similar interest together but split Finksburg along Route 140 and separated Sykesville along Route 32.

The Sykesville Town Council had endorsed Option Two as did the redistricting committee, all the other towns and the majority of those attending public hearings on the issue.

Haven N. Shoemaker Jr., mayor of Hampstead, president of the Carroll chapter of the Maryland Municipal League and a Republican candidate for the House of Delegates, said he was appalled at the decision.

"The redistricting committee heard hours of testimony, collected written comment and put together a comprehensive report," Shoemaker said. "The delegation's decision flies in the face of the prevailing sentiment all across the county. And there is not a thing we can do about it."

Legislators will draft and submit a bill setting the five districts to the General Assembly next month. The Board of County Commissioners will expand next year from three to five members, elected by district.

"There were deficiencies in both plans, but Option Two was the better way," said Del. Donald B. Elliott, who cast a dissenting vote along with Del. Susan W. Krebs. "It provided greater continuity in the districts."

Del. Tanya Thornton Shewell said her vote for Option One resulted from her own unofficial survey of constituents who "felt underrepresented."

The redistricting committee used the county's 14 voting districts as guidelines and avoided splits in precincts. Both maps created a Westminster district and divided the remaining county into equally populated quarters.

The proposed bill also will contain language on age and residency requirements. A commissioner candidate must be age 21 and a resident of the district for a year preceding the election.

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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