State redistricting plan moves Russett, Maryland City out of District 21

Russett and Maryland City will move from legislative District 21 to District 32 if a state redistricting plan created by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee is adopted — and residents have no problem with that.

"I think it's fabulous," said Russett resident Devin Tucker, who ran unsuccessfully against the District 21 incumbent delegates in 2010.

The committee released its plan — which redraws the state legislative district boundaries to reflect changes in population over the past decade — late Friday, Dec. 16.

A public hearing on the committee's plan will be held Thursday, Dec. 22, in Annapolis. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, will then decide whether to make changes to the plan before submitting it to the General Assembly to discuss and vote on in the 2012 legislative session, which starts Jan. 11. The General Assembly has 45 days to pass a plan or the one O'Malley submits will become law.

Both Russett and Maryland City were in District 32, an Anne Arundel County district, until the redistricting process 10 years ago. The Democrats' plan at the time would have put the communities into a Howard County district, which the residents fought.

The final plan that came out of the courts a decade ago put Russett and Maryland City in District 21, which includes more parts of Prince George's County than Anne Arundel. None of the current District 21 representatives are from Anne Arundel.

The plan the committee released last week puts the two east Laurel communities back in District 32, while adding some communities in the Odenton area of Anne Arundel County to District 21. In Prince George's County, District 21 has few changes in the areas of Laurel, Beltsville and College Park that are included.

Some Laurel residents are excited about the potential move back to a wholly Anne Arundel County district.

"If we get back where we were before, we'd be better off," Maryland City Civic Association president Ray Smallwood said. "What happens in Hanover is more (relevant) to our community than what happens in College Park."

Tucker agreed that having Anne Arundel County representatives may help the community better address its major needs regarding school construction and development.

"I think someone on the team in District 32 might be more responsive to those specific needs," he said.

District 32 is currently represented by Sen. James DeGrange Sr. and Dels. Ted Sophocleus, Mary Ann Love and Pamela Beidle. All four are Democrats and all but Beidle were in office 10 years ago, before Russett and Maryland City were moved to District 21.

"We're very familiar with them," Maryland City Civic Association vice president Ray Szyperski said. "They've helped us, even when we are not in the district."

Though he thinks the change will be good for the community, Szyperski said he believes the District 21 team has served the area well.

"We're happy with a lot of the things they've done for us," he said.

For example, Szyperski noted that the District 21 delegates were instrumental in outlawing panhandling on Route 198 in Anne Arundel County.

Russett resident Bob Mignon was also thankful to the District 21 team for solving that problem. Whether his community is moved back to District 32, where he says Russett "had a lot of wonderful relationships," or stays in District 21, Mignon said he will be happy.

"Whichever way it ends up, and I'm not sure it's going to end up as it has been presented … I feel positive," he said.

The District 21 representatives were also fairly indifferent to the change.

"Obviously we would love to hold onto our current constituents as much as we could," Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a College Park Democrat, said. "Because of the population changes in Anne Arundel County, the proposal makes some changes and moves us around."

Rosapepe said he has not heard from any residents who were upset about the proposal.

Del. Ben Barnes, also a College Park Democrat, said the District 21 team will miss representing Russett and Maryland City, but they will not forget about them.

"We're still going to be looking out for those communities," he said.

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