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Harford County Council overrides county executive’s veto of its redistricting map

The Harford County Council voted Tuesday to override County Executive Barry Glassman’s veto of the redistricting map passed by the council last month by a vote of 5-1, making its version of the map official by law.

Glassman previously told The Aegis he was mainly concerned with “the transparency of the action.” The council received backlash after the approved map did not include recommendations from the council’s redistricting commission.

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Following the meeting, a spokesperson for Glassman said “The County Executive is disappointed by the council’s decision and this is more of a reason why he continues to support nonpartisan, independent redistricting commissions.”

Councilman Andre Johnson voted against overriding the veto, and Councilman Joseph Woods was not present. Five votes were required to override the veto.

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“The people of this county deserve better from their elected officials,” Johnson said, “and this could be a start to fixing a fractured relationship with the majority of our citizens and show we have heard their voices and fix the problem.”

Councilman Robert Wagner spoke in favor of overriding the veto during the council meeting.

“I wholeheartedly believe that it was a well thought-out plan,” Wagner said. “We met all the criteria under the law to move forward for the next 10 years. And I disagree [that] any segment of our population was slighted or treated with any bias throughout the redistricting.”

Emma Peller, of Bel Air, was disappointed by the council’s veto override.

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“I believe the independent commission’s recommendation was better for the county,” Peller, an NAACP member, said, “not only because it gave the municipalities the representation they wanted, but that it also removes the bias of our elected council members choosing their own voters.”

Cory Bernhards, of Abingdon, found the council’s map revision “self-serving.”

“I don’t think it was fair to the constituents of Harford County,” he said. “Voters should be choosing representatives, not the other way around.”

Bernhards was also critical that there was no option for virtual participation during meetings despite the ongoing COVID surge.

“That doesn’t allow for a lot of the folks in the community who want to speak to be able to,” he said.

This meeting was the first time under the county’s mandate for visitors of county government buildings and employees interacting with visitors must wear masks that went into effect Tuesday. All present council members wore masks, although Councilman Tony Giangiordano wore a clear mask clipped onto his nose that was open on the bottom and sides, what Peller called “a half face shield.”

Johnson previously pushed for the council to wear masks in the chambers, to which Giangiordano openly opposed, saying “I’m not going to wear a mask.”

Other actions included the council’s approval of Jarrettsville Fire Hall as a fourth early voting location for the county, and confirming the nomination of Howard Kennard McComas, III, as a Harford Living Treasure.

A dozen people spoke up against the Perryman Peninsula development project. A handful spoke out against the new mask mandate. Peller spoke up urging people to wear their masks and get vaccinated, and left before the public comment was over because she said the coughing in the chamber was too much for her.

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