She said the map used during the 1990s split multiple districts between the city and Baltimore County and allowed legislators from the jurisdictions to form better working relationships and fight for common goals.
“It was a win-win for the Baltimore metropolitan region,” she said. “There’s a lot of population that has left the city and gone out into Baltimore County. We have a lot of similar interests and having more people to work on them is for the better.”
Although keeping six Baltimore districts has firm support, doing so could prove difficult.
Maryland’s legislative redistricting is subject to much tighter geographic restrictions than congressional redistricting, with laws discouraging districts that lack compactness or unnecessarily cross county lines or bodies of water.
The restrictions were on full display in 2002, when the Maryland Court of Appeals threw out an assembly-approved map that would have allowed Baltimore to keep seven of its then-10 districts by stretching several of them outside city lines.
The court instead drew the current map, which has all six Baltimore districts confined within the city.
“We have to be mindful of the court-made law, but I think there is a rationale for crossing some of these borders,” Mr. O'Malley said. “It might not be possible, but if it is possible, I think it would be a good thing for the whole Baltimore metropolitan area.”
Despite population and representation losses, Baltimore still receives more state funds per capita than any other jurisdiction in the state. It is slated this year to receive more funds for capital projects than Montgomery and Prince George’s counties combined, despite having fewer than half as many residents.
While the city continues to receive money, its needs have taken a back seat more often in recent years on important issues within the Democrat-controlled assembly, such as immigration, gay rights and the environment.
The fight for reforms in those areas has originated more often elsewhere in the state, leading some observers to question whether Baltimore has fallen behind as the state’s other Democratic regions move on to new issues.
“If you have set constituents and only deal with attrition … you’re going to be beholden to a list of agenda items and demands that may go back 10, 20, 30 years,” said Todd Eberly, the coordinator of public-policy studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. New residents “keep a delegation sort of alive and vibrant, because they need to stay in charge.”
Most Democratic lawmakers dismiss the notion that Baltimore has fallen behind, insisting that the city simply has its own set of unique priorities, just like any other part of the state.
They also have expressed optimism that the city could soon rebound from its losses, pointing out that middle-class and upscale development has increased in recent years and that Baltimore’s 4.6 percent drop in population in the past decade was its smallest decline since the 1960s.
“There are a lot of new families moving into the city and schools have drastically improved,” said Sen. William C. Ferguson IV, Baltimore Democrat. “In the next 10 years, I really forecast a strong resurgence. Having six senators that are really, truly dedicated and see the city’s promise is an important goal.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
David Hill joined The Washington Times in February 2011 as a Maryland political reporter. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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