By Sonia Shah.
Over the past decades, Baltimore county has steadily diversified. In 1980, we were 10 percent black; in 2000, we were 20 percent black. Today we are 30 percent black. Forty-seven percent–nearly half of us–are non-white.
Our diversity is a strength that benefits all of us in the county. And thanks to the Voting Rights Act, by law it must be reflected in the district lines by which we elect leaders to represent us on our county council and on our school board. New, more diverse districts with black and brown majorities would allow all of us to fully participate in the policing, housing, educational and other policy decisions that shape our lives, not as small and marginal minorities in most of the districts but as majorities as well.
Unfortunately, despite the dramatic changes in our demographics, the county’s redistricting commission proposes to divide us into districts in which very little changes at all: 6 out of 7 districts remain majority white, just as they have been since 2001. The greater Towson district remains bifurcated, obstructing our ability to tackle the pressing environmental challenges that face us.
Such a map does not serve the people of Baltimore County.
It does however serve the political interests of incumbents, by making it easier for them to pursue re-election. To rise above this conflict of interest and advocate for the people’s interest and not just their own, the council must involve county residents in the process. I’m glad the Baltimore Sun wrote an article about the hearing this morning because the council’s sole outreach to the public consisted of an announcement in an obscure newspaper to which less than 0.3 percent of the county’s residents subscribe.
The good news is, the council can make this right–by rejecting this pro-incumbent, anti-voter map, and immediately scheduling additional public hearings and district townhalls to engage the people of this county so that we may chart our shared future together.
Sonia Shah is an author, a science journalist, and one of the lead members of Allies for Democracy.