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As Redistricting Faces Challenges, Council is Exploring Ways to Keep Neighborhoods Together

At last night’s meeting, the Mayor and City Council discussed ways to keep traditional neighborhoods together in their respective districts. The recent redistricting effort has faced challenges in keeping the neighborhoods together.

The changes in the district neighborhoods have caused quite a bit of concern among the residents. Before last night’s meeting, an overwhelming number of residents wrote to the Mayor and Council to reconsider the proposed maps. I want to thank our residents for taking the time to write to the Mayor and Council and sharing their concerns.

Based on last week’s Council discussion, the Council will consider a proposal at next week’s meeting, directing City staff to work with the Redistricting Commission on the following guidance.

  • Use the 2023 population data. This includes the 2020 census data plus the population in the new developments under construction.
  • Increase the variance of the criterion (population plus the number of active voters) to ±7.5% from ±5% that the Commission used as the target.

It remains to be seen how the new guidelines may help address residents’ concerns. The criterion variance increase should help restore neighborhood boundaries within the traditional neighborhoods in District 1.

Unfortunately, the inclusion of the new developments under construction may be a limiting factor in keeping the District 1 neighborhood boundaries because of the significant increase in population in student housing in the other 3 districts. The Charter defines the criterion as the sum of population and voters but only allows the City to add the population to new developments. Unfortunately, zero (0) voters had to be added to these new developments as that number is unknown and hard to predict. The lack of voters in new developments further puts the population scenario for district 1 in a disadvantageous spot.

Other requirements, such as keeping contiguous district boundaries, could limit achieving the goal of neighborhoods together.

I want to thank the members of the Redistricting Commission for their hard work as the City continues to work on redistricting. The community’s concerns are related to factors such as the redistricting criterion and the increase in the housing population. The Redistricting Commission members are smart and honest members of the community. They did their best to develop the proposed maps based on the Council-given charge and the criterion they decided to work on.

Next week’s Council consideration will include a request for the Redistricting Commission (RDC)  to draft a modified map or maps, using 2023 population data, that meet the five percent maximum variance in population; and up to a 7.5 percent maximum variation in the sum of population and actual voters, starting with RDC map 3A and consultant map Plan B, as reference points; and prioritizes retaining the core of current districts over other criteria included in the Council charge to the Commission. The RDC map 3A and the consultant map Plan B are shown on the right, respectively, below. Both maps show a very divided District 1. The Council request, if approved, is expected to bring neighborhood boundaries together.

The Council will consider these maps as the basis for further changes at the October 11 Council meeting. On the left: the Redistricting Commission’s map 3A. On the right: the consultant map Plan B

I also want to thank my Council colleagues for their commitment to working with each other in addressing our challenges as we go through this difficult journey.

Please continue to give your input about redistricting to City Council by writing to cpmc@collegeparkmd.gov. You will also be able to speak at the next week’s Council meeting on Tuesday,  October 11, 2022, at 7:30 pm. You can join the meeting virtually via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/92398574069 . Thank you.

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