South Baltimore residents hope to secede Senate panel hears bid to join Arundel


ANNAPOLIS -- Fed up with the stench and pollution from landfills, hazardous waste dumps, power plants, trucks, heavy industries and incinerators that burn medical waste, South Baltimore resident Vivian Vann said yesterday she wants to move into Anne Arundel County -- but without moving out of her


Ms. Vann and several dozen of her neighbors in the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay areas of South Baltimore begged a Senate committee yesterday for the right to secede from a city they believe has used their area as a dump.

"The city would only miss us on July 1, when our tax bill is due," Ms. Vann told members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee.

She and about 14,000 other residents of Ward 25, Precincts 14 through 21, in South Baltimore want to be able to decide in a November referendum whether to remain part of the city or return to Anne Arundel County, which governed the area prior to annexation by the city in 1918.

Back then, said Donald Mawn of the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay Historical Society, the areas of Brooklyn, Curtis Bay and Fairfield were "small villages surrounded by farmland." Because of the attractive, sandy beaches along the Patapsco and its tributaries, "rich people maintained summer homes there," he recalled. "But look at it now! It looks worse than the Kuwaiti war zone."

Despite support for the referendum from their state senator, George W. Della Jr., D-Baltimore, the bill's sponsor, and one of their three City Council members, Timothy D. Murphy, D-6th, the frustrated South Baltimore residents appear unlikely to get their way because two key members of the committee oppose it.

Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, who chairs the city's Senate delegation, said that with Baltimore's population continuing to drop, he fears that the loss of another 14,000 residents could damage the city's effort to retain as many as eight of its current nine state legislative districts in the redistricting plan that is now being developed.

"We need every citizen accounted for in the redistricting process," he said. He added grudgingly, "They certainly made a good case. I was astonished to hear the number of landfills and waste [disposal sites] in that area. It seems unfair."

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Anne Arundel, whose northern Anne Arundel County district would inherit the disaffected Baltimoreans, said there remain too many unanswered questions, such as how much the shift would cost the county and what effect it would have on area schools or other county services.

"Without knowing the fiscal consequences, it wouldn't be responsible to vote for it," he said.

Mr. Della noted that no one spoke against the referendum idea and appealed to his colleagues' sense of "senatorial courtesy" to approve what he described as "a local bill."

To prevent the location of incinerators, landfills or other "dumps" in their area, Mr. Della said, "These people have been to grand juries, to courts, to their local City Council. Now they're down here for relief. This is their court of last resort."

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