Compactness emerges as concern at first Balto. Co. redistricting hearing

April 12, 2011|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore County redistricting panel heard pleas Tuesday night from residents — many from Towson and other parts of District 5 — to keep or change their council boundaries.

The commission, appointed by the Democratic-controlled County Council, held the first of three hearings to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on changes based on population data from the 2010 Census.

Several residents raised the idea of compactness.

David Greene says he has come to think of Baltimore County's council District 5 as skinny like a barbell. He's hoping the county redistricting commission can "fix it" by making it more compressed.

A handful of residents attended the hearing, several from Towson and communities represented by first-term Republican David Marks to request that the panel keep the District 5 intact and free of political considerations.

"[Marks] serves us well," said Janice MacGregor, who lives in Stoneleigh. "We do not want change for political reasons."

However, other speakers suggested that communities such as Lutherville should be within the district.

Resident Chris Cavey recommended that the commission take a hard look at District 3, represented by Republican Todd Huff, another first-term councilman, in the northern part of the county, saying that it could be made "much more compact."

"The government that best serves the people is government that is closest to the people," Cavey said. "That is you."

The commission will make advisory recommendations to the County Council by July 1.

Voters approved the commission's formation in 2002 after public criticism over the lack of meaningful input from residents and community groups in the redistricting process. In the past, council members drew the new maps, and there was no requirement to hold public hearings. The county does not allow for an executive veto.

Redistricting hearings will be held Wednesday at New Town High School in Owings Mills and on April 28 at Patapsco High School in Dundalk. The hearings will start at 7 p.m.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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