Robert Thurston of College Park speaks during a Nov. 11 rally against a proposed redistricting plan offered by the Prince George's County Council. Six of the 10 council members approved a resolution last month to introduce preliminary maps for all nine council districts. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Robert Thurston of College Park speaks during a Nov. 11 rally against a proposed redistricting plan offered by the Prince George's County Council. Six of the 10 council members approved a resolution last month to introduce preliminary maps for all nine council districts. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Updated Nov. 12, 5:38 p.m. EST

Community leaders in Prince George’s County presented a unified front Thursday against a proposed redistricting plan, which they contend lacks transparency, will ruin neighborhoods and represents a form of gerrymandering.

“It is not a legitimate document that represents the interest of our county residents,” said Kay McGraw, who represents the Hillendale Neighborhood Association in Adelphi.

The proposed boundary changes, which the county council will review during a public hearing Tuesday, include the city of College Park relocating to council District 1 from District 3; the town of Edmonston in District 2 and out of District 5; and Joint Base Andrews from District 8 into District 9.

Council also included recommendations from a three-member county redistricting commission that includes realigning the more than 6,000 residents in the city of District Heights from District 6 to District 7, shifting nearly 4,100 residents from the Adelphi area from District 1 to District 2; and moving 2,205 residents in Glenn Dale from District 3 to District 4, which would nearly combine all of Glenn Dale.

Those three suggestions from the commission represent the major changes in a plan the council accepted on Aug. 30, which the residents who spoke Thursday all support.

On Oct. 14, Council member Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro introduced an alternative plan four of his colleagues said they didn’t previously see.

Five days later, the council voted 6-4 in approval of a resolution to move the new plan forward. It did accept an amendment from Council member Mel Franklin (D-At large) of Upper Marlboro to keep the University of Maryland-College Park within District 3.

Residents criticized the six council members — Davis, Franklin, council chair Calvin Hawkins II (D-At-large), Vice Chair Deni Taveras (D-District 2), Todd Turner (D-District 4) and Sydney Harrison (D-District 9) — who accepted the proposal.

The four council members who voted against the resolution were Tom Dernoga (D-District 1), Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3), Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) and Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8), who has since resigned to focus on her bid for lieutenant governor as running mate of Maryland comptroller and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Franchot.

Council member Rodney Streeter (D-District 7) wasn’t present to vote in both meetings.

In an interview Friday, Taveras said the redistricting commission received updated 2020 census data in late August and needed to submit recommendations to the council by Sept. 1.

According to census data, the Latino population labeled “Hispanic” went from nearly 129,000 in 2010 to approximately 205,463 in 2020, an increase of 59%. The white population decreased by almost 25%.

[The commissioners] didn’t have an opportunity to include the demographic changes that occurred in the county,” Taveras said. “Everybody had a voice, except the county council because it’s against the law for any council member to have opined in the process and influence the process while the commission is deliberating.

“[Council members] didn’t have a say, does that mean our voice does not count?” she said. “We don’t have a say in this process? We are just rubber-stamping? I don’t think that’s right, either.”

Taveras said all the virtual meetings shown publicly, which included the commission’s discussions that began earlier this year, made this “the most transparent process in the history of this county.”

The proposed boundary changes, some municipal officials and community leaders say, are politically motivated and could affect future candidates’ challenges to current council members in next year’s primary election.

Taveras simply said, “I don’t agree. I’m not involved in any of that.

She said the alternative council district maps show the Latino population represents either the top or second highest population in seven of the nine council districts.

“This is the first map in the history of this county that allows Latinos a strong political presence and the way it should’ve been for a long time,” said Taveras, who was born in the Dominican Republic. “They, too, can have a seat at the table to have a say on social services, on better schools … on jobs in the county and better representation at all levels of government.”

Kelly Canavan, president of the AMP Creeks Council in Accokeek, called those six council members “the Davis divas” who were gifting residents like “a random drunk guy in G-string bursting out of a wedding cake” by voting on an alternative redistricting plan.

The community leaders met outside Cameron Grove, a 55-and-older community in Upper Marlboro.

In September, residents in the 733-unit residential neighborhood fought against a proposed 51,700-square-foot commercial development located across the street along Central Avenue (Route 214) near Six Flags America. Davis presented two bills to rezone the property for commercial use, but after meeting with Cameron Grove residents, he withdrew the legislation.

But the residents face another rezoning proposal about one mile east on Six Flags property as part of a plan to boost commercial development in the Bowie-Mitchellville corridor.

“We know what it’s like to be thrown under the bus by folks we trusted to represent you,” said Phillippa Johnston, president of its community association. “We know what it’s like to be denied a voice, to be dismissed as if we were unimportant. We know we must have new blood on the council.”

Those who want to sign up to speak during Tuesday’s virtual session must do so by 3 p.m. Monday.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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