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Baltimore County's Redistricting Commission Hears Calls For Towson To Have Its Own Council Member

John Lee
Credit: John Lee

The commission recommending how to redraw Baltimore County’s council districts is being asked to change how Towson is represented.

Despite its downtown and Town Center shopping mall, Towson is an unincorporated town divvied up among four council members. It has no mayor or council of its own. All the more reason it needs its own councilman according to Paul Hartman with the Towson Communities Alliance, which represents more than 30 neighborhood organizations.

“So basically, our council person would be the mayor or the go-to person” Hartman said. “We’ve kind of gotten chopped apart into pieces and would like to get all back together again.”

Fifth District Republican Councilman David Marks represents most of Towson but lives in Perry Hall. In a statement, Marks said he respects the desire in Towson for a hometown representative. He said his goal is for the county to meet the statutory requirements of having compact districts with roughly the same number of people.

“The best way to ensure a Towson seat is by enlarging the council, but it would require a charter change,” Marks wrote.

Marks in the past has proposed expanding the council from 7 to 9 members but the idea hasn’t gone anywhere. Expanding the council is not being considered during the redistricting process.

Since Towson does not have specific boundaries, one challenge would be where to draw the lines for a council district.

What to do with Towson is not the only potentially controversial issue facing the Baltimore County Redistricting Commission.

At a public hearing in June, Ryan Coleman, president of the Randallstown Branch of the NAACP, called on the commission to create a second minority council district. Minorities make up 40% of Baltimore County’s population, but six of its seven council members are white. The 4th district on the west side is the county’s only majority minority district.

The commission is required to recommend to the county council by October 15 what the seven council districts should look like for the next decade, based on 2020 U.S. Census data.

At a meeting Monday, Legislative Counsel Tom Bostwick told the commission they don’t expect to get that data until September.

“So, we’re going to have about, if we’re lucky, a month with the real data to get this done,” Bostwick said.

In the meantime, commission members Monday were shown a web app tool they will use to move around council district boundaries. They are using 2019 data until the 2020 census becomes available.

“The goal is not for you to please everybody,” Bostwick told the commission. “The goal is to meet your statutory and charter requirements.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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