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Politics

Baltimore City Council president to hire $33,750 redistricting consultant as city awaits mayor’s plan

Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby won approval Wednesday to hire a consultant to assist the City Council with Baltimore’s redistricting process as the city awaits the mayor’s own redistricting proposal.

The City Council will spend $33,750 to retain the Virginia-based company CensusChannel to assist with compiling the city’s demographic information and producing several maps based on the data, according to the contract.

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While many communities across Maryland already are considering redistricting plans following the nation’s 2020 census, Baltimore’s charter does not require the mayor to submit a plan until 2024, when the city’s next municipal election is held.

James Bentley, spokesman for Mayor Brandon Scott, said the mayor will submit his plan by the “statutorily required deadline.” Bentley declined to answer further questions on the contract.

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Baltimore’s charter says the mayor is required to submit a redistricting plan to the City Council following each census by the first day of February in the next municipal election year. The council then can adopt or amend the mayor’s plan, or choose to adopt another plan, the charter says.

If no plan has been adopted by the council within 60 days of the mayor’s plan presentation, the mayor’s plan takes effect, according to the charter.

Additionally, the charter requires officials to consider equality of population, contiguous territory, “compactness,” natural boundaries, existing council district lines and standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court when making redistricting decisions.

Since 2002, Baltimore has had 14 council districts. The council president, the board’s 15th member, is elected citywide.

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The contract with CensusChannel was approved Wednesday by the city’s Board of Estimates, which includes Scott and Mosby as well as Jim Shea, the city’s solicitor, Jason Mitchell, head of the Department of Public Works, and Comptroller Bill Henry. Mosby abstained from the vote, and the measure was not discussed by the board.

According to the board’s agenda, CensusChannel will assist in evaluating the city’s redistricting plan with “independent, expert data.”

The “City Council and City Council President desire to begin this process as expeditiously as possible,” the agenda states.

Mosby’s spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the scope of the work CensusChannel is expected to perform on the City Council’s behalf.

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An appendix attached to the city’s contract with the company states that CensusChannel will compile information about the city’s current boundaries as well as demographic data. That information will be used to analyze changes in district populations and draw several versions of corresponding maps, the appendix states.

The company will identify “communities of interest” and work with a “local designated entity” to gather suggestions for those communities of interest, according to the contract.

Baltimore’s charter states that no member of the City Council can be required to vacate their office due to a change in boundary lines made during a member’s term, so long as the member remains a Baltimore resident. In elections following the adoption of a new redistricting plan, members of the City Council are required to be residents of their districts since the preceding July.


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