The only thing with more divisions than the many redistricting proposals may be the County Council.
The underlying issue is power and who will have it in the next election. Republicans stunned local Democrats last November by topplingeight incumbents countywide.
The GOP wants lines drawn that will add to their winnings; the Democrats want lines that will stop the flood. Each has attacked the other's proposal as "outrageous" and a "joke."
Democrats oppose the Republican plan because it all but cuts Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, out of her district. It strips Pendergrass of most of the precincts that supported her in the last election and retains most of those that voted against her.
Republicans oppose the Democratic map because it removes Darrel Drown, R-2nd, from a radically altered 2nd District that stretches around the northeastern endof the county from Woodstock to Dorsey and puts him in the same district with Charles C. Feaga, R-5th.
"It's obvious to me that they're on the defensive," Carol Arscott, chairwoman of the local Republican Central Committee, said of the Democratic proposal. "They may do damage to an individual (with a zoning map), but they can't hurt us as a party anymore. There's too many of us."
The North Laurel Civic Association plan elicited little comment. It puts Savage, north Laurel, the Columbia village of Kings Contrivance and most of the village of Owen Brown in the same district.
Elkridge, which is now in the 1st District, is transferred to the 2nd, where it would be linked withEllicott City. When the districts were created in 1986, residents complained that Elkridge should be in the Ellicott City district ratherthan the Savage-North Laurel district.
Although the three maps will be given prominence at Thursday's hearing, other map ideas and suggestions can be offered.
A group called Citizens for Equitable Districting plans to do exactly that. Spokesman Sherman Howell said his group is concerned "about how the current discussion about districting is taking form" and whether those discussion are in the "best interest of the county's African-American and other minority populations."
"Clearly, some of them are not," Howell said. As a result, his group has developed a map he says will "preserve the integrity" of black and other minority populations in the 1st, 3rd and 4th districts.
The council plans to continue to receive map ideas until Sept. 23, when it must settle on one proposal.
By law, the council must redraw district lines by next March to reflect population changes recorded in the 1990 Census. The 1st and 2nd districts must lose precincts and the 3rd, 4th and 5th districts must gain them.
The council plans to vote on its final redistricting plan Nov. 4.