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Harford County Council redistricting arguments heat up again ahead of approaching final vote

Tensions between representatives from two cities — Aberdeen and Havre de Grace — and the Harford County Council are rising again ahead of next week’s final public hearing on county redistricting.

On Nov. 2, the Harford County Council introduced a bill to create a new map of council districts different from the one presented by the council-appointed redistricting commission. It is sponsored by six of the seven council members: Curtis L. Beulah, Tony Giangiordano, Chad R. Shrodes, Robert S. Wagner, Joseph M. Woods, and Council President Patrick S. Vincenti — all Republicans. The council’s lone Democrat, Andre V. Johnson, is not a sponsor.

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The redistricting commission had proposed a map that placed Aberdeen and Havre de Grace in the same district — something the two municipalities had requested. The map proposed in council Bill 21-025 puts them in separate districts.

This proposed redistricting plan combining Havre de Grace and Aberdeen into one district will be recommended to the Harford County Council after a Sept. 27 vote by a redistricting committee.
This proposed redistricting plan combining Havre de Grace and Aberdeen into one district will be recommended to the Harford County Council after a Sept. 27 vote by a redistricting committee.

Representatives from Aberdeen and Havre de Grace tell The Aegis they strongly oppose this bill, and any efforts to undermine the work of the commission.

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“The City of Havre de Grace supports the proposal submitted by the Harford County Redistricting Commission. The city of Havre de Grace is opposed to Bill number 21-025, and we ask that the members of the Harford County Council vote against Bill number 21-025 as introduced,” said Adam Rybczynski, the legislative liaison for Havre de Grace.

Over the summer, the Havre de Grace and Aberdeen city councils entered a memorandum of understanding stating that that the two cities should be combined into one council district. They argued their proposed map is more “compact and contiguous” than the one now in place.

In September, the Harford redistricting commission voted 3-2 to recommend a modified version of the map Aberdeen and Havre de Grace proposed. Christina Bracknell, Jim Thornton, and Mustafa Sidik, (two Democrats and an independent, respectively) voted in favor of the modified map; Wayne Goddard and Erik Robey (two Republicans) voted against it.

But the introduction of the new map could derail these plans, and ultimately change the entire organization of Harford County’s council districts.

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During a September redistricting commission hearing, Robey said the map consolidating Havre de Grace and Aberdeen into one district focused too much on the cities’ request and did not adequately consider the rest of the county.

“When they drew that map, they looked specifically at their cities of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace,” Robey said. “Our job as commissioners up here … was to look at the entire county and put a map together that made sense for all residents in Harford County, not just two of the municipalities.”

It’s unclear why the County Council has decided to propose an alternative map, but some believe it has to do with protecting incumbent council members.

Map showing the proposed Harford County Council districts in Bill 21-025.
Map showing the proposed Harford County Council districts in Bill 21-025.

“I look forward to the County Council revisiting the issue of the maps and adopting the map that was submitted by the towns of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace, which was supported by 400 plus petition signers from all over Harford County,” Aberdeen Mayor Patrick McGrady told The Aegis.

“The map is compact, fair, and contiguous, instead of being a map that supports incumbent County Council members,” he added.

The first public hearing on Bill 21-025 will be held Dec. 7; it has not been announced when the vote will take place.

Council President Patrick Vincenti said the plan proposed in Bill 21-025 is “less intrusive,” than the map proposed by the redistricting commission. He told The Aegis that it is “all part of the process” for the County Council to take the commission’s plan into consideration and offer alternatives.

Vincenti said he would rather wait until after the public hearing to discuss the nuances of the bill.

If the council does not pass the bill, the commission’s map will become law on Dec. 10.

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