September 29, 2011
The commission charged with making a recommendation on how current County Council districts should be realigned ought to reject the more radical of the three proposed plans, which would lump the entirety of the Route 1 corridor into one district.
While it's entirely healthy and appropriate to consider distinct alternatives, this is one that the commission would do well to dismiss rapidly.
Both proponents and detractors point to the importance of revitalization efforts in the county's easternmost sliver. Those who like the idea having all of Howard County's portion of U.S. 1 under one councilmanic roof say it would give the corridor a focused advocate. Under the current setup, Route 1 communities fall into three different districts, which also include neighborhoods of Ellicott City, Columbia and other places that don't share Route 1's set of issues.
As one speaker at the commission's Sept. 21 hearing put it, making this change would give the corridor "one strong voice instead of three whispers."
However, this view assumes that the interests and outlook of Elkridge coincide with those in Jessup or North Laurel, which isn't necessarily always the case.
Moreover, having the representation of three council members instead of one means a council majority that has some stake in Route 1's prosperity. Other residents who spoke at the hearing insisted that council members serving under the current alignment have all been responsive to the corridor's concerns.
Presumably, the one-district-for-the-corridor plan would also assuage those who believe Columbia has too much power under the current alignment. Three of the five current members have Columbia addresses. Two of those districts also include portions of the Route 1 corridor.
There's no law, however, that says a Columbia resident has to have both or either of those two seats. We've seen credible campaigns by candidates from other communities in those districts.
The current setup has its flaws, but generally speaking has served constitents in each district well. Minor modifications corresponding to population shifts should suffice.
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