Balto. County panel seeks opinions on redistricting


The Baltimore County Council's commission on redistricting has announced its plan for getting what critics said was lacking the last time lines were redrawn: public input.

The six members, meeting for the first time Friday, said they are reluctant to schedule meetings with other groups that have drafted reform proposals or with people who complained that the council acted in secret when it drew new lines last summer. Such meetings, they said, could keep the commission from meeting its May 1 deadline.

The commission will solicit written opinions by sending letters to people who spoke at public hearings on redistricting in June and to the three groups that have recommended changes in the redistricting process. The letters will ask for all comments to be sent to County Council Secretary Thomas J. Peddicord Jr. by March 1.

The panel also decided not to hold a public hearing before drafting a proposal. However, a hearing will be scheduled before its recommendations are made final.

Jervis S. Finney, a commission member who served on the council in the 1960s, said the commission should be careful not to be influenced by existing reform plans because all were drafted by declared or prospective candidates for public office.

One was produced by Republican county executive candidate Douglas B. Riley.

A second came from a committee organized by Republican Dels. A. Wade Kach, who is considering a run for County Council, and James F. Ports Jr., who is weighing several options.

The third came from a panel of academics assembled by Democratic Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, who might seek re-election.

The three plans call for a longer redistricting process, a commission to draft boundary lines and more public involvement.

Donna Spicer, a community activist who worked on the Kach-Ports committee, said she thinks the commission's approach is sound.

"As an individual who has served on advisory committees for a multitude of different issues for the county, you don't really hold a public hearing to get information on where you're going to go, because that's what you're for," she said.

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