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Balt. Co. needs to rewrite its council district map | READER COMMENTARY

State Sen. Dolores Kelley speaks at a press conference in Towson to call on Baltimore County Council to start over with the proposed county redistricting plan. Oct. 12, 2021. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun).
State Sen. Dolores Kelley speaks at a press conference in Towson to call on Baltimore County Council to start over with the proposed county redistricting plan. Oct. 12, 2021. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun). (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

The redistricting commission created by the Baltimore County Council to redraw the district map seems to be stuck in 1956 when Baltimore County was chartered (”Civil rights groups, state legislators call on Baltimore County Council to reject redistricting map,” Oct. 12). Imagine that if the commission had used Captain Smith’s 1612 map of the Chesapeake Bay it would have created just one electoral district for this area, ignoring all the non-English people already living here. Dismissing either 65 or 400-plus years of change still results in the commission keeping the status quo. It is unfortunate that these results do not advance the common good: The suggested districts strongly benefit the incumbent Baltimore County Council and Board of Education members. Furthermore, the proposed map makes the elected officials select their voters and not, as it should be, the other way around.

The map that the commission is recommending does not reflect the current county demographics. It is not “a workable, objective and fair redistricting map” — thus violating the fourth point of its charter in which “due regard is given to current natural, geographic, and community boundaries.” In their document, the commissioners state that they encountered “practical difficulties” in creating two majority Black districts. As demonstrated by the maps created by the ACLU, NAACP Baltimore County, NAACP Randallstown and Indivisible Towson using the same census data as the commission, this is not the case. It is possible to create fair and equitable maps.

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As half of the Baltimore County budget is an investment in education, instead of adding census tracts until the magic number of 122,382 is reached, the commission could have started by school districts and aggregate based on the feeder schools. Maps are just drawings and census tracts are just numbers. These drawings and numbers affect people who should have the freedom to elect leaders that truly represent them — not only championing their causes but also understanding the communities they represent. When everyone, regardless of color or census tract, has the resources they need to lead a better life the community, as a whole, benefits.

The redistricting commission has not done its due diligence in its recommendations. The proposed map violates its own charter, but also appears to illegally violate the federal Voting Rights Act. The Baltimore County Council needs to act with urgency in calling for hearings and not wait until the deadline three and a half months from now to decide. We have a unique opportunity to transform our county into a more representative, more open, more transparent, more accountable, more livable place.

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Daniel Golombek, Lutherville

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