Potential Redistricting Leaves Politicians, Community Leaders with Questions

David Snyder, Owings Mills-Reisterstown Patch

Community leaders and politicians in Owings Mills and Reisterstown are in a shuffle following the release of Maryland's Legislative Redistricting map.

The Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee (GRAC) unveiled its 2012 changes, which center on reducing the number of districts in Baltimore City from six to five and creating a hybrid district that pulls population from both the city and District 10 in Baltimore County. 

The changes, which would not be in effect until the 2014 election, alter the landscape across Baltimore County. To bolster the population in District 10, the GRAC is expanding the region to include all the area west to the Carroll County line, and as far east as Cockeysville.

Caught in this sweeping change are Reisterstown and the section of Owings Mills north of Gwynnbrook Avenue and Dolfield Road.

Geographically, District 10–which used to fall directly south of District 11—now forms an L-shaped umbrella that spans west and north over District 11.

Locations in Owings Mills south of Gwynnbrook and Dolfield remain in District 11.

However, the shifting of district lines—done every decade in correlation with the U.S. Census—is leaving locals resigned to the fact that the politicians who they’ve worked tightly with over the last 10 years may no longer have a say in plans for the future regarding issues such as the Owings Mills Mall project and Main Street revitalization.

“We’re all very used to, and have been pleased working with, [State Sen.] Bobby Zirkin, [Delegates] Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein and Jon Cardin of the 11th district for many years,” said Mary Molinaro, secretary of the Reisterstown Improvement Association.

“I think it will be disappointing to have to reacquaint ourselves with other people. It’s going to be a big shakeup.”

If the new districts are approved come January, Molinaro plans to encourage all local organizations from the RIA to the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Coordinating Council to “meet and greet” with the elected officials in District 10 and push those politicians to begin attending community meetings in order to get caught up to speed.

However, according to State Sen. Delores Kelley of District 10, the task of getting a head start on building a relationship is easier said than done. The senator is taking part in her third redistricting.

“The thing about it is that the person who’s already the incumbent in the adjacent district has to remain true to the people they are technically supposed to represent now,” Kelley said. “If you’re doing your job, you’re busy night and day and weekends doing that.

“It does create a frustration, in that should you ignore people you are already duty-bound to serve in order to begin to become acquainted with the issues of people that you do not yet represent? That’s really a dilemma.”

Kelley also added that with the geographic enormity of District 10, it’s going to be difficult for her and her colleagues to fully get a handle of all the different issues facing each area without an extensive grace period.

While she thinks that the GRAC’s decisions border on the line of unconstitutional and foresees the matter being taken to court, Kelley said she understands the apprehensions of community leaders when it comes to working with unfamiliar public figures.

“They don’t know who to listen to, who to trust, what to think,” Kelley said. “To the average voter, it’s something that kind of comes up suddenly when they find out that the person who has been serving them is no longer able to be there for them.”

However, for State Sen. Bobby Zirkin of the 11th District, leaving Reisterstown and Owings Mills in the lurch is not in his future plans.

In addition to bringing Sen. Kelley up to speed on the various community issues, Zirkin, a Reisterstown resident, pledged to stay involved in matters such as a proposed water tower project, Main Street’s revival and Rosewood, no matter where the legislative borders are set.

“I’m going to continue to work on issues in the areas where I’ve represented for so long, regardless of whether we get them back or not,” Zirkin said. “I’ll certainly assist [Sen. Kelley] to educate her on community issues to the extent that she is available. I know my constituents in Reisterstown very well and they will demand accountability, and they should.

“I have no intention of just, simply, kind of deferring to whoever comes next in this area. That’s not my style.”