The Abingdon district

October 27, 2011

Members of the Abingdon Community Council appear resigned to the political reality that, while the Abingdon-Emmorton area is a population center for Harford County, it will continue to be divided so other long-established county council districts can remain in place.

While there was a move to consolidate the Havre de Grace and Aberdeen districts into a single entity and establish a new district that reflects the relatively new neighborhoods of the Route 24 corridor, this notion appears to have been rejected in favor of ensuring that Aberdeen and Havre de Grace each have their own districts.

This is unfortunate because Havre de Grace and Aberdeen are two communities that have a lot in common: both are dominated by long-established neighborhoods and both have strong economic bases. In contrast, much of the Abingdon area, not to mention the other neighborhoods that end up being divided so Havre de Grace and Aberdeen can have districts to dominate, are largely commuter-dominated bedroom communities.

The system that puts people in office makes those in office reluctant to change the system that put them in office.

Ultimately, it makes relatively little difference how the county ends up being divided into council districts because there are more communities with hard and fast identities than there are council members in the enumerated in the county charter. The consolation prize for those communities that end up in two districts is that their political interests end up being represented, at least to some degree, by two council members.

Of course, the reality of the situation is the whole dilution of one community's influence to the benefit of another could be easily avoided if the county would return to electing all its council members at large rather than from within geographic districts.

This would afford county residents two political benefits they have lacked since the establishment of in-district council elections. The first is that if everyone votes for all the council members, those council members are obliged to listen to all of the county's voters, not just a select few from one of six districts. The second is that a council representative elected from the Bel Air district would be obliged to pay attention to what goes on in Jarrettsville, Joppatowne and Aberdeen.

As neither an Abingdon district nor countywide elections for all council members are likely to happen any time soon, it's worth noting that at least the process that's in place was approved by the voters and their representatives. Maybe there won't be a change this time around, but that doesn't mean any of these issues is likely to go away any time soon either.

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