Baltimore County Redistricting: A bird in the hand vs. two in the bush

(RANDALLSTOWN – October 27, 2021) – There is a huge discussion in Baltimore County right now over redistricting. Redistricting happens every 10 years and is based on the latest US Census results.

Long story short: Should Baltimore County have one strong Black Councilmanic district or two weaker ones? That is the question.

Blacks comprise 29.5% of the county’s population. Thus, some say it is time for a second Black district. Overall, there are 7 council districts.

“We need more than one Councilman,” said state Senator Delores G. Kelley. “Otherwise,” she continued, “no one can expect anything to change where Blacks live.”

Kelley is a veteran legislator who is a powerhouse in Annapolis. She entered the Maryland General Assembly in 1991 as a delegate and became a state senator in 1995. She has sponsored tons of legislation over the years on behalf of the Black community and wields a considerable level of influence in Greater Baltimore and the state of Maryland, overall.

Kelley has concerns about the current redistricting plan being proposed, to say the least. Further, she is not the biggest fans of developers in Baltimore County. She questions their level of influence in county politics.

“Developers represent 90% of the re-election dollars contributed to Councilmembers. Many of these developers make the majority of their money in Baltimore County yet live in Anne Arundel County.”

She also notes that too many public education decisions are made that are not in the best interest of Blacks, who attend public schools at a higher rate than white students.

“Out of 45 major school projects, two of these projects – one at Towson and one at Delany – are getting most of the money.” She said that this means that there won’t be money for the other 43 projects.

Baltimore County Council Chair Julian Jones, the only Black on the council, wants more Black representation, too. However, Jones questions the risks involved.

“I am all for two districts,” he told BmoreNews.  “I’m just a guy looking at the reality of the situation: how do we do it?”

Jones’ issue is that if you split up one strong Black district [4th District] to create two weaker ones, “There is no guarantee a Black would win both districts.”

The 4th district currently includes Randallstown and Owings Mills. It is majority Black (approximately 70%). Jones’ argument is that to take from the 4th in order to create two 54% Black districts ultimately jeopardizes Black representation.

One plan put forth includes splitting Randallstown at Old Court Rd. and merging it with Catonsville, Arbutus, and Lansdowne. Currently, those areas are in Councilman Tom Quirk’s district.

“Whenever I mention the realities, some people look at me and say I’m only thinking about myself. Are you willing to lose the bird in the hand for two in the bush? We recently held two Town Hall meetings where the people said that they are all for two district, but that they were not willing to split us up to do it. These are the challenges presented to me by the Baltimore County Redistricting Commission’s current proposal.”

Northwest Voice Newspaper publisher Kenny Brown said, “I believe the Baltimore County Council should have more people of color, but I’m not quite sure if you weaken one district to make two.”

The Voice covers the northwest quadrant of Baltimore County from Catonsville around to Pikesville.

Brown asked, “Who can argue against more Black representation? Truth be told, we should have three people sitting at the table, but you already got one strong district. If you’re wrong, you lose the one you got.”