It’s been five months since the Redistricting Commission presented its proposal to redraw Howard County’s five council districts, and lawmakers have yet to come to any decisions, with the deadline looming.
According to Howard County code, after every decennial census, council districts must be redrawn to balance population size. Last year, the County Council appointed seven citizens to a Redistricting Commission, which delivered a map with new district lines in October.
County code also states that if the council doesn’t provide any changes to the Redistricting Commission's plan by March 15, it becomes law.
After four months with no official movement on redistricting, in the past few weeks, several council members have proposed changes to the Redistricting Commission's map in the form of four separate amendments. As a result, the Greater Elkridge Community Association (GECA) has requested a public hearing so residents can weigh in on what it called "last-minute" legislation.
"This is truly an example of taxation without representation," wrote GECA President Howard Johnson in an email to members on March 4. "Testimony...is being brushed aside by some of our council members."
On Feb. 4, Johnson and other Elkridge residents on the freshly filed amendments, which called for division of Elkridge neighborhoods near Ducketts Lane and Hunt Club Road.
Without discussion, the council unanimously moved to postpone voting on redistricting at its Feb. 6 meeting.
The council's spokesman said that a public hearing was not mandatory.
“The amendments to CB 57 [the redistricting bill] did not require a separate public hearing and none was scheduled,” said Stephen LeGendre, council administrator, in an email to Patch.
According to the Howard County Charter, a public hearing is necessary if amendments to a bill create a "change of substance, as determined by the affirmative vote of a majority of the Council."
The only majority vote so far has been to table the redistricting bill.
The council is voting on legislation regarding zoning of boutique motels at its and has tabled five pieces of legislation that it may choose to vote on, including redistricting. If the council does not vote on the redistricting proposal by March 15, the Redistricting Commission's redrawing of council lines becomes law.
The county executive is also given ten days to review bills, so if the council does not make a decision March 5, there may not be ample time for an approval.
“GECA asks that you attend this meeting on [March 5] to show our discontent with the process," said Johnson in an email to the Elkridge community on March 4.
Here is a breakdown of testimony the County Council received on the redistricting bill between October and February:
Wheatfield and Brampton Hills (Ellicott City)
Stay in District 1
Have a public hearing on proposals; do not divide and displace Hunt Club Road, Ducketts Lane and other parts of "old Elkridge" from District 1
Support for Redistricting Commission’s map
Stay in District 4
Move areas north of Route 70 into District 5 rather than shifting all districts