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Baltimore County redistricting plan moves forward

Lauren Watley, Baltimore County Government
Baltimore County Council

A redistricting plan for Baltimore County’s seven council districts introduced Monday night unifies Towson in one district and creates a second majority-minority district, according to Council Chairman Julian Jones.

It does not, however, create a second Black majority district.

Although Jones laid out the details, the proposed map was not made available Monday night.

This followed weeks of negotiations among council members. The map was added to the council’s agenda minutes before the meeting began.

“I think the members finally came to the conclusion that we needed to get it done sooner than later,” Jones, a Democrat, said.

The plan has the support of all council members.

The original map proposed by the county’s redistricting commission was attacked for not creating a second Black majority district. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has threatened to sue if that doesn’t happen.

According to Jones, the proposed map will not do that, but it will make the first district, which includes Catonsville and Arbutus, a majority-minority district. In other words, white residents will make up less than 50% of the district’s population.

Jones said there has been no time to consult with the ACLU, the NAACP and others about the proposed map introduced Monday night.

“We just haven’t had that kind of time because it was literally touch and go all afternoon and we finally got it done.”

Baltimore County’s population is nearly 30% Black. Six of the county’s seven council members are white.

Ryan Coleman, the president of the Randallstown Branch of the NAACP told WYPR that they “will keep pushing” for a second Black majority district.

Council members also heard from residents of Towson who were not happy the county seat was split into two districts by the redistricting commission’s map.

“We heard from the communities,” Jones said. “Towson will have a unified district.”

As recently as last week, Jones doubted legislation that had enough support to pass would be ready by Monday, which was his target date for introduction.

During a public hearing at Monday night’s meeting, council members were urged to make the redistricting process going forward as open as possible.

“I trust that an interactive version of the map will be made public,” Peta Richkus told the council. “I’ve been concerned that the council’s effort has been under-resourced, in terms of staff, equipment and software.”

Danielle Singley, an executive board member of the Randallstown Branch of the NAACP, also called for transparency.

“This is more than an issue of color,” Singley told the council. “This is about ensuring we have defined districts that will have a higher likelihood of producing candidates who will run for office who truly reflect the community.”

The legislation is slated for a public hearing on December 14 but the council could hold more if it chooses. A final vote could come December 20.

The council has until January 31 to pass a redistricting plan.

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