County to Redraw District Lines, Seeks Public Input
Tuesday’s meeting lacked attendance and resident comments, but commissioners say they need the public to move forward regardless.
In the first stage of county plans for redrawing district lines, the Prince George’s County Redistricting Commission met with residents on Tuesday night to gain public input to make improvements to their drafted maps.
“Our interest is making certain that citizens of [Prince George's] County have some input in this process. Nothing else would make it better,” Sharon Taylor, the commission chair, said. “In what we decide with for this input, we are all going to have to live with for the next 10 years.”
Tuesday night’s public hearing in Riverdale, however, failed to garner the interest of the community as only 13 sat in attendance, offering no comments after the presentation. This follows their April 9 hearing, where the commission faced a crowd of 49 residents representing areas of Camp Spring, who were vocal about their desire to keep their community unified.
“They felt that their community was pretty divided, and they wanted to make their voices be heard, to be unified under one councilman's district,” Commissioner Tamara Brown said, urging the current audience to offer comments and ask questions.
The meeting was subsequently cut short to 30 minutes, followed by a brief meet and greet with commissioners who further explained the general idea of the redistricting process.
The process to redraw legislative district lines have been reestablished every 10 years, requiring the commission to thoroughly prepare and propose plans to the council.
The redistricting law requires the new districts to be as equal in population as possible, with a maximum deviation of five percent from the average population. The commission will take this requirement a step further by implementing new policies, including using existing council districts as starting points for redrawing the lines, and not considering incumbency in the process. The commission will also avoid splitting census-designated places.
One of the largest increases seen over the last 10 years has been in District 3, the College Park area, ever since the boom of student housing along Route 1 and Adelphi Road. The area is split into two county council districts, and commissioners are mindful not to split it any further. Districts 6 and 9 have also grown by more than 10,000 people.
The proposed drafts will level out these districts, bringing the individual populations to a target of 96,125 residents each. Despite the redrawing, there will still remain some unincorporated areas in each district.
“It may not help it, but it definitely won’t hurt,” Brown said.
When the new districts are outlined, it could provoke communities to motion for an organized council. But the new district drawings have no direct effect on creating an incorporated environment.
In terms of the new district lines, the current maps available for the public to view are merely examples and ideas. Each public hearing will bring the team closer to drawing a map that serves as a more concrete outline. They urge the public to leave comments on their website, and to attend hearings to gather more information.
“Maybe what we present will pique [residents’] interests and concerns,” Taylor said, in regards to Tuesday’s lack of attendance. “They’ll take the fliers back to their community and make sure that community is represented.”
The June 7 meeting was the first of five this summer. The next meeting will be in Landover on June 16, and the final plan for redrawing is due on Sept. 1.