County representatives propose redistricting plans
By Nolan Clancy
A redistricting plan proposed by Prince George’s County Councilmember Mel Franklin passed 6 to 4 in a council meeting on Oct. 19. It was one of two such plans that the county council has recently considered.
Franklin’s plan redesignates portions of College Park from the county’s District 3 to District 1; the University of Maryland would remain in District 3. The plan would impact other boundaries across the county, as well.
Franklin presented his proposed map after nearly a week of public outrage in the College Park community, headlined by a protest on Oct. 18 at the new College Park City Hall courtyard during which participants called on the county council to revise an earlier version of the redistricting map. That map was introduced by Councilmember Derrick Leon Davis (District 6) on Oct. 14.
Davis’ map placed the entirety of College Park, including the university, in District 1. The county council approved Davis’ map, also with a vote of 6 to 4, though some councilmembers expressed concerns about transparency, specifically that College Park’s elected leaders and the city’s residents were unaware of the proposed map prior to the meeting.
“With regard to the City of College Park, they’re blindsided,” Councilmember Thomas. Dernoga (District 3) said in a virtual meeting on Oct. 21.
Franklin said his experience serving on the county council through the 2011 redistricting process gave him a unique vantage point on current proceedings.
“This process is far more transparent than it was 10 years ago. There is no live stream of what happened 10 years ago,” he said. “There is no video. You can’t find it.”
Davis’ map proposal came as a surprise to four councilmembers, according to statements from Dernoga and Councilmember Dannielle M. Glaros (District 3).
The College Park City Council called an emergency meeting on Oct. 18 to discuss Davis’ map, and city councilmembers encouraged the Prince George’s County Council to keep the city split between Districts 1 and 3, which allows the city to have two representatives on the county council. If the city is redesignated in a single district, it will have only one representative on the county council.
“I think the City of College Park has done very well … having two representatives on the [county] council that represented its interests, albeit from slightly different perspectives,” said College Park City Councilmember John Rigg (District 3).
Franklin said his proposed map reflects increasing diversity in the county and also remedies the separation between the University of Maryland and the university’s Discovery District that Davis’ map proposes. The Discovery District is a growing public-private research hub located approximately one mile southwest of the university.
Franklin’s map directly impacts the current campaign of Eric Olson, who is running to assume, in 2022, the District 3 county council seat currently held by Glaros. This map places Olson’s residence in District 1, a change that could force him to run against Dernoga, according to a statement from Olson’s campaign.
“My neighborhood is now surrounded, on three and a half sides, by District 3,” Olson said. Franklin’s map places a number of College Park neighborhoods — including Olson’s Calvert Hills neighborhood, along with Berwyn, Lakeland and Old Town — in District 1.
Olson was also critical of the proceedings of the meeting on Oct. 14, during which Davis’ proposed map, the first to redesignate Olson’s residence to District 1, was presented.
“It was one of the worst displays of a public meeting that I’ve ever seen,” Olson said. “It was completely appalling.”
Olson confirmed that he is continuing to campaign for the District 3 county council seat, despite the fact that both new map proposals place his residence in District 1. In order to file as a county council candidate, you must be a registered voter and a resident of the district for which you are filing.
The maps presented by Davis and Franklin passed the county council along the same lines, with the 6 votes in favor from Davis, Franklin, Council Chair Calvin Hawkins, Councilmember Todd Turner (District 4), Councilmember Sydney Harrison (District 9) and Council Vice-Chair Deni Taveras (District 2).
Dernoga, Glaros, Councilmember Jolene Ivey (District 5) and Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker (District 8) voted against both maps, while Rodney Streeter (District 7) was absent from both votes for medical reasons.
A public hearing will be held on Nov. 16 for the county council to hear from residents before deciding on a final redistricting map. The council’s decision is due by Nov. 30.
Franklin said the final vote will be between the two plans now on the table or a third plan that was submitted on Sept. 1 by the Prince George’s County Redistricting Commission.
The county’s commission was led by Rev. James J. Robinson, of Tree of Life Christian Ministries, and included Dr. Charlene Mickens Dukes, former president of Prince George’s County Community College, and David C. Harrington, president of Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce. The commission was formed to create a map that would lead to the fewest changes possible, according to the commission’s introductory letter. The commission’s plan proposed few changes, with College Park remaining split between Districts 1 and 3.
Any changes would take effect with the 2022 election cycle.