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)

Although every Prince George’s County resident spoke in opposition to a major redistricting plan, the county council still voted 6-3 Tuesday to approve revamped districts to remain in effect for the next nine years.

Words and phrases used during the nearly six-hour virtual public hearing included “gerrymandering,” “appalled” and “rip communities apart.”

While waiting in an online waiting room, Valisha Jackson of Fort Washington said some council members “were watching television and felt doing whatever was necessary while the public was speaking.”

Jackson said the 151 other people who registered to speak need to band together and “put $5 away a week to put a candidate up against you, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly, who voted against the redistricting plan, reminded residents the primary election will be coming soon.

“I just hope the residents don’t get disheartened by the results of this vote tonight but instead are galvanized to get more involved [and] more engaged in their communities in the electoral process,” she said. “Elections are coming. I hope that you are supporting the candidate of your choice.”

A look at the previously proposed Prince George’s County Council districts that were approved on Nov. 16 (Courtesy of Prince George’s County Planning Department)

Council members Tom Dernoga (D-District 1) of Laurel and Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park also voted against the new redistricting map.

The six council members who voted in favor of a new map include council Chair Calvin Hawkins II (D-At Large) of Upper Marlboro; Vice Chair Den Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi; Todd Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie; Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro; and Mel Franklin (D-At Large) and Sydney Harrison  (D-District 9) of Upper Marlboro.

Council member Rodney Streeter (D-District 7) of Hillcrest Heights wasn’t in attendance. Former Council member Monique Anderson-Walker resigned Nov. 8 to focus on the gubernatorial race as a running mate with Democrat and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

There wasn’t much contention for six months while a county three-member redistricting commission worked on maps for all nine council districts. The plan incorporates a process done every decade on changes in population within the county’s nine districts.

The county’s total population increased for the fourth-highest region in Maryland by 12% from 863,420 to 967,201 between 2010 to 2020.

However, the commission received updated 2020 census data on Aug. 16 but needed to submit recommendations to County Council by Sept. 1. Then, the council needed to approve a final map by Nov.  30.

The commissioners consisted of the Rev. James Robinson, pastor of Tree of Life Ministries in Clinton; Charlene Dukes, former president of Prince George’s Community College; and David Harrington, president and CEO of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.

Robinson said Tuesday he understood there could be changes made but he encouraged residents to take things in stride.

“I understand you want to express yourself but do it with love. Let’s do this civilly,” he said.

Highlights of the plan

Three of the major items from the commission realigned the more than 6,000 residents in the city of District Heights from District 6 to District 7; shifted nearly 4,100 residents from the Adelphi area from District 1 to District 2; and moved 2,205 residents in Glenn Dale from District 3 to District 4 which would nearly combine all of Glenn Dale.

Not only did the county council incorporate those changes in a second map but it also made other changes such as moving Joint Base Andrews from District 8 into District 9 and shifting the city of Seat Pleasant from District 7 into District 5 and the town of Edmonston out of District 5 into District 2.

Dozens of residents from Glaros’s district said the council’s map which it presented last month remains politically motivated and could affect future candidates to challenge current council members in the June 28 primary.

Former County Council member Eric Olson of College Park announced his intentions to run for the District 3 seat, which would be vacant because Glaros’ second, two-year term will expire in December 2022.

Two other possible candidates, Krystal Oriadha of Seat Pleasant and Tamara Davis Brown of Clinton, also sought to seek another run for seats in District 7 and District 9, respectively.

However, all three described as progressive candidates wouldn’t be able to run in those districts because they are now located in new, neighboring council districts.

Turner said none of them have filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections. As of Tuesday, they still have not filed.

“You may be impacted by redistricting. That’s what happens every 10 years,” he said. “The districts meet the requirements of the county charter. I also believe they meet the requirements under federal and state law with respect to one person, one vote.”

Walker Green, 26, of College Park, called the move “immoral” and said people with whom he’s talked said, ‘why would six Democrats try to disenfranchise other Democratic candidates?’”

“I can’t believe the council stooped this low to engage in tactics commonly seen in Republican legislatures and GOP controlled territories,” he said. “This is frankly why people are pissed off [and] why young people like me don’t want to engage in politics or with the Democratic Party because of political shenanigans like this.”

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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