Sykesville officials denounce state redistricting plan in letter to O'Malley

The Sykesville Town Council adopted a resolution this week stating its disapproval of the proposed state legislative redistricting plan, one that would place the town in a legislative delegate district split between Carroll and Howard counties.

And in a Jan. 10 letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley, Mayor Michael Miller suggested the redistricting plan runs, "contrary to the state's Constitution" because it "does not give due regard to jurisdictional boundaries."

"The Town believes that … removing the southeastern part of Carroll County and moving it to a much larger district in Howard County, is inappropriate and will have a dramatically negative impact on the Town of Sykesville," Miller wrote.

At the Town Council meeting Jan. 9, members agreed to send the letter to O'Malley stating opposition to the proposed redistricting. Miller was not present, arriving later, but joined the motion, and in the letter said he and the council had "unanimously adopted a resolution expressing our opposition to the proposed redistricting change."

The council adopted the measure after listening to a presentation by Del. Susan Krebs at the Jan. 9 meeting.

Currently, Sykesville and Eldersburg are in District 9B, which is solely in Carroll County. In the plan created by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee — and being introduced this week in Annapolis — District 9B would be relabeled 9A, and would retain Sykesville and Eldersburg. But, it would also be expanded to include roughly the western half of Howard County.

Krebs, a Republican who currently represents 9B, said under that scenario, its unlikely the delegate in the redrawn district would come from Carroll County, but would instead most likely come from Howard.

If that happens, she said she feared little attention would be given to Sykesville and its needs.

"All representation would be from Howard County representation," Krebs said. "They don't have that attachment."

"What is so unique about the district is that it has the largest active state properties with multiple uses," Krebs said. "The Warfield Complex, Springfield (Hospital), the (state) police academy, Henryton (former state hospital), the juvenile prison, the girls' shelter — with these issues, you need some type of liaison."

"A lot of things need attention," she said.

While Carroll County would see its number of delegates doubled from four to eight in the proposed redistricting plan, Krebs said its voice would be weakened because so many of its delegates and senators would be based elsewhere.

In addition to Sykesville being in District 9 shared with Howard County, the town of Mount Airy would be included in District 4 — predominantly a Frederick County district, consisting of three delegate seats.

The rest of Carroll County, including Westminster, Hampstead, Finksburg, Manchester, Gamber, Taneytown, Union Bridge and Eldersburg north of Liberty Road, would be in District 5.

Krebs would actually live in the 5th District based on her residence — meaning she wouldn't be able to run for the District 9A seat when the next election cycle occurs in 2014.

In fact, all four of the county's current delegates — Krebs in 9B, Don Elliott in District 4A and Nancy Stocksdale and Justin Ready in District 5 — would find themselves in District 5 under the new proposed boundaries, meaning the four would have to run against each other for District 5's three delegate seats.

In the letter to O'Malley, Miller noted all of the above, and mentioned Springfield, the Shoemaker Drug Treatment Center in Sykesville, Freedom Park and other local facilities, all of which, he said, "require close state/county/town interaction and cooperation."

Regarding the Warfield Culture and Commerce Center, Miller called that development a potential "economic engine" for the region, and said, "our state delegate is integral in making this project a success."

Miller also noted that the redistricting plan splits the Eldersburg census tract in half along Liberty Road, "and puts 26,062 citizens in a Howard County district across the Patapsco River."

He said the placement of the Town of Sykesville in a Howard-dominated district would pose particular issues.

"Since Howard County does not have any municipalities, we are concerned that there would exist little understanding of the issues and challenges small municipalities face."

The letter calls for O'Malley to reconsider the change "and return the Town of Sykesville and the southeastern part of Carroll County to its current district."

Matt Candland, town manager for Sykesville, said the letter was sent Jan. 10, "via email, fax and regular mail to the governor's office."

The Governor's Restricting Advisory Committee, in December, released its draft plan for redistricting, a process that takes place every 10 years based on updated figures from the U.S. Census.

The proposal was introduced on Jan. 11 in Annapolis as the Maryland General Assembly begins its 2012 session. If no changes are made within the first 45 days of the session, the plan becomes law as introduced.

Jim Joyner contributed to this story.

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