Redistricting plan would wreck working relationship

Letter to the editor

November 14, 2011

On Nov. 7 I attended the County Council's public hearing on proposed changes to voting districts with more than 130 of my neighbors from Wheatfield. We turned out in these large numbers to ask the council to adopt a map that allows our community to remain in Council District 1.

Wheatfield should remain in District 1 because the redistricting guidelines apply directly to us and to our Montgomery Road neighbors. We share a common history, geographic proximity, existing boundaries, and require the same constituent services. We live within walking distance of the common services we enjoy, such as the Ellicott City Fire Department, Long Gate Shopping Center and the YMCA.

We speak with a more unified voice when we are kept together. We have worked in tandem with our neighbors since the mid-1990s in opposing unnecessary commercial development on Route 103 and supporting affordable senior housing and a new elementary school. While splitting these neighborhoods across two voting districts would give us two council representatives, it would also weaken the clarity and strength of our collective voice.

Further, if the council and its appointed redistricting committee can honor the request of two citizens from Dorsey's Search to be combined into a single voting district, why can it not also honor the request of hundreds of citizens from Wheatfield? Do their voices somehow carry more weight than ours?

Finally, I agree with Larry Walker and David Marker, leading members of the redistricting committee, that "we are all one county" and that people who are different from one another should work together for the common good. However, I disagree with their decision to use a redistricting map to achieve these goals. First, because it is clearly outside the county charter's guidelines. Second, in a representative democracy, it is inappropriate for an unelected commission to "require" citizens to do anything. Finally, in Wheatfield, we have, for years, worked together as one community despite our many differences.

I invite Mr. Walker and Mr. Marker to visit Wheatfield and meet my neighbors. They will find a beautiful diversity that enriches all of us in ways no redistricting map ever could.

Stephen J. Walker

Ellicott City

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