Green Towson Alliance has sent this letter to members of the Baltimore County Council.
October 24, 2021
Baltimore County Council
400 Washington Ave.
Towson, MD 21204
Dear Baltimore County Councilpersons,
Green Towson Alliance (GTA) opposes the October 6, 2021 map proposed by the Baltimore County redistricting commission for two reasons: 1) the map fails to unite greater Towson into a single district and 2) the map as drawn does not conform to the Voting Rights Act due to unlawful minority vote dilution.
GTA wrote to the commission on August 20, 2021 requesting greater Towson be included in a single councilmanic district. Greater Towson can be defined as neighborhoods that consider Towson to be their “downtown” and its perimeter closely resembles our association boundaries, which includes approximately 96,000 residents. This area is currently divided among four councilmanic districts. While the proposed District 6 is more contiguous than the current District 5, the proposed plan persists in dividing greater Towson among four councilmanic districts.
Most alarming in the proposed map is the boundary change that splits downtown Towson (the area defined by the Downtown Towson District [DTD] Overlay) between two councilmanic districts (see Exhibit A). The DTD Overlay is a performance-based zoning overlay with environmental sustainability requirements that recognize the unique challenges of the urban setting such as the heat island effect, lack of open space, poor air quality and the need for complete streets (that reduce traffic congestion by encouraging safe walking and bicycling while also reducing and filtering stormwater). Downtown Towson and its dense surrounding neighborhoods have land use, land development and livability concerns that are very different from the concerns of the more suburban and rural areas of District 3. Splitting the DTD between two districts could cause legislative gridlock on many important issues. The Redistricting Commission must acknowledge the DTD and its nearby neighborhoods as a community and implement its directive to “provide districts that are compact, contiguous, and in which due regard is given to natural, geographic and community boundaries.”
The Voting Rights Act
In keeping with our principles of environmental justice, GTA endorses the call for two majority minority districts and a third district that is nearly evenly divided between minority and white populations. Maps such as those proposed by the NAACP/ACLU or Fergal Mullally, member of Indivisible Towson, show there are multiple ways to provide more racial equity in redistricting. As the NAACP/ACLU states in their September 28, 2021 letter to the Redistricting Commission, their proposed redistricting map demonstrates that “it is possible to craft a racially fair plan achieving Voting Rights Act compliance, while still adhering to traditional redistricting principles, and satisfying all other legal and political requirements.” Giving citizens an opportunity to expand the diversity of the County Council will help address the outsized burden that minorities and low-income communities carry due to historic injustices and the disproportionate harmful effects of climate change.
We believe the Baltimore County Council can ill afford to invite completely avoidable litigation at a time when we must act on climate change and reckon with the county’s legacy of racism. Please send the proposed map back to the Redistricting Commission to put the DTD and its surrounding neighborhoods in a single district and comply with the Voting Rights Act by enhancing racial equity throughout Baltimore County.
With best regards,
John Alexander, Ray Heil, Patty Mochel, Beth Miller, Dr. Carol Newill,
and Lauren Stranahan
The Executive Committee of the Green Towson Alliance firstname.lastname@example.org