After a Prince George’s County redistricting commission recommended minor changes to realign the jurisdiction’s nine council districts based on population, some county council members said they may reject it for a more drastic plan.
The council on Tuesday will review proposed maps of the districts that would move some municipalities and neighborhoods into newer districts.
Krystal Oriadha of Seat Pleasant currently resides in District 7 overseen by Council member Rodney Streeter. The proposal would put the entire city in District 5 represented by Council member Jolene Ivey.
“I don’t like it at all,” Oriadha said of the proposal. “To just make drastic changes like that is not necessary.”
The worst part, she said, happened Thursday when Council member Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro presented the changes for the first time publicly when the council met as a committee of the whole.
The council voted 6-4 Tuesday to move the plan along and present it as a bill, which Ivey said goes against what the three-member redistricting commission recommended. Streeter wasn’t able to vote due to having minor surgery.
“Just follow what the redistricting commission did,” she said in an interview Monday. “The most important thing I can do is raise the alarm, educate people and hopefully motivate them to call their own council members, plus both at-large members.”
Ivey and Council members Tom Dernoga (D-District 1), Dannielle Glaros (D-District 3) and Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) voted against the new map.
Besides Davis, the other five council members who voted to support the new changes were Chair Calvin Hawkins II (D-At-Large), Vice Chair Deni Taveras (D-District 2), Mel Franklin (D-At-Large), Todd Turner (D-District 4) and Sydney Harrison (D-District 9).
Anderson-Walker strongly criticized some of her colleagues Thursday, especially since neither she nor residents saw the new map before Thursday’s meeting.
“This is why Prince George’s County continues to be problematic because you refuse to allow voices to be heard,“ she said. “Leadership usurped this process. This is being pushed forward without many of us agreeing to those changes, or the public having any knowledge of what these new lines are. Their ability to participate has passed.”
The new map keeps the commission’s recommendation to move the city of District Heights from District 6 to District 7 and to shift nearly all of Glenn Dale from District 3 to District 4.
The commission pushed to not split municipalities into two separate districts and keep the Port Towns area together. The commissioners are the Rev. James Richardson, pastor of Tree of Life Ministries in Clinton; Charlene Dukes, former president at Prince George’s Community College; and David Harrington, president and CEO of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.
Other changes within the proposal voted on Thursday include:
The county’s total population had the fourth-highest increase in Maryland from 2010 to 2020, jumping by 12% from 863,420 to 967,201.
The county’s redistricting commission sought an over-under population percentage for each district to not exceed 4.5% to constitute “one person, one vote.”
Nathan Perisly, a consultant with the redistricting commission and a law professor at Stanford University in California, said during Thursday’s meeting the new plan keeps that percentage intact. However, he said the two maps are different.
‘Divide and conquer’
Some community leaders and residents from District 3 in Prince George’s rallied Monday for council members to approve the maps recommended Aug. 30 by the redistricting commission.
Dozens of people stood outside the College Park plaza with a simple message for the six council members who voted for the new plan: “Keep District 3 together.” Besides College Park, the area includes the municipalities and communities of Berwyn Heights, New Carrollton, Riverdale Park and Seabrook.
Llatetra Brown Esters, a council member representing College Park, held a “We Demand Transparency” sign. Part of the message focused on the council choosing to support a plan the same day it became publicly released without citizen input.
“Being allowed to do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do,” she said after the rally.
Residents also believe the plan will force some political changes for future candidates running for the council in next year’s primary election.
Former County Council member Eric Olson of College Park has 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.
If the proposed plan receives approval to shift College Park into District 1, Olson wouldn’t be able to run in District 3. In addition, the county charter states a person must live in a district for at least one year prior to running in a primary election.
“That’s the politics behind it,” said Michael Farley of Riverdale who helped lead the rally.
If the council decides to formally vote Tuesday on the new map, then future meetings into next month would eliminate review of the previous plan recommended by the redistricting commission.
The move would also separate neighborhoods and place them in two separate districts.
For instance, Kate Tsubata of West Lanham Hills collaborated on certain projects with those along the Route 1 corridor on the light-rail Purple Line project. If the plan gets approved, her neighborhood near the New Carrollton Metro station would move into District 5.
“You take these tight communities who are working together and looking out for each other and put one in one district and put another in another district,” she said. “Are they really going to get the representation in the council like they used to? It’s really like divide and conquer.”
“Call those at-large members. Ask them to change their position, or at least abstain from the [future] vote,” said Katrina Dobro, a council member for the city of New Carrollton. “We vote for them. They should listen to us.”