Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Delegation reintroduces Option 1 map

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Carroll County residents will see a familiar plan this year to divide the county into five commissioner districts.

The Carroll County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly on Jan. 24 approved the reintroduction of the original Wheatley Commissioner District Plan, better known as Option 1.

Residents largely spoke out at a Jan. 19 public hearing against a new map by Del. Donald B. Elliot (R-Dist. 4B) of New Windsor, saying they would rather vote for commissioners at-large than vote for a commissioner in their district.

‘‘Whatever we do should be in the spirit of what the people voted for,” Elliot said at the delegation’s Jan. 24 meeting in Annapolis. ‘‘I offered a bill in that spirit.”

In the end, however, Elliot’s proposal did not prevail.

The Carroll Board of County Commissioners has three commissioners who are elected at-large, but residents voted in 2004 to expand the board to five commissioners elected by district.

That referendum should be honored, said Del. Susan W. Krebs (R-Dist. 9B) of Eldersburg. ‘‘We need to somehow fulfill the referendum that was already passed,” she said. ‘‘We’ve got to pick a plan to do it with.”

Option 1 brought Taneytown, New Windsor and Union Bridge into one district, made Hampstead, Manchester and Finksburg one district, split Sykesville and Eldersburg into two districts, linked Mount Airy and Sykesville into one and Eldersburg and Finksburg into another.

Option 2 kept Taneytown and Manchester together, linked New Windsor, Union Bridge and Mount Airy, kept Sykesville and Eldersburg in one district, and grouped Hampstead and Finksburg together.

The delegation voted on each of the three maps, with Option 1 receiving enough votes to pass.

Elliot, Krebs and Delegation Chairman Sen. Larry E. Haines (R-Dist. 5) of Westminster voted against Option 1.

The rest of the delegation — Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Dist. 9) of West Friendship, Del. Tanya T. Shewell (R-Dist. 5A) and Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale (R-Dist. 5A), both of Westminster — voted yes.

‘‘Now you’ve just got to get it done,” Krebs said after the vote.

Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Dist. 9) of West Friendship, who supported Elliot’s plan when the map was released, said he was surprised at the resistance to it, and voted against it because the public did not like it.

‘‘If somebody from my area had come to me and said ‘I like it,’” he said he would have supported it. ‘‘I like it, but I really can’t vote for it.”

Haines said he would have been fine without any change.

‘‘I’m happy with the status quo,” he said. ‘‘I’m happy if nothing changes. I changed a diaper once, and I’m happy if I never change another one.”

Haines said in a prior interview that the delegation should wait until 2010 to decide on districts because the lines would have to be redrawn again following that year’s census.

The delegation decided to introduce the Option 1 map during the 2006 legislative session despite a recommendation by a bi-partisan redistricting committee that recommended Option 2.

Residents contested the maps in court and some went down to Annapolis during the battle to speak in favor of the Option 2 map.

Michelle Jefferson of Westminster testified in front of a house committee in favor of Option 2, and said she would not fight the recent decision.

‘‘I’m not surprised that they went with Option 1,” said Jefferson, who is the Central Republican Club president. ‘‘I don’t like the idea; I don’t agree with it, but I’m not planning on fighting it.”

Jefferson said the county has a larger issue that has to be dealt with now — whether it should have a county police force.

Commissioners voted 3-0 on Oct. 4 to create the police force headed by a chief they would appoint to take over daily policing responsibilities from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police.

Jefferson, who voted against the referendum, said she would rather have the delegation wait until 2010 when new lines will be drawn.

Larry Helminiak of Eldersburg, chairman of Carroll County Republican Central Committee, said he did not think Elliot’s plan had a chance because of the Option 2 supporters saying that they let voters down.

Helminiak said he would rather have the five commissioners run at-large, but they would have to live in a district.

He said he is concerned about commissioners giving more to their district than to the county as a whole.

‘‘I thought voting by district would become much too parochial where the person from Eldersburg would put all their efforts into bringing stuff to Eldersburg,” he said.

Helminiak was against Option 2 because it split Eldersburg from Sykesville, which share the 21784 ZIP code.

However, Helminiak said he thinks the Option 1 map will pass because the court decisions weeded out the ways people can battle the maps.