County Council

Expansion of County Council Seats- new position, March 2022

At the February 1 Board meeting, the board, with input from the membership, voted to change our position to expand the number of Baltimore County Council seats. The population of Baltimore County has expanded significantly in the past ten years and the Black population is compressed into one councilmanic district, diluting their representation. Creating additional council districts, which could create additional majority-minority districts and provide opportunity for other underrepresented groups - like women and young people- to be elected to the Council. This issue is of importance from a systemic inequality perspective and aligns with our Diversity Equity and Inclusion policy.

LWVBCo has joined a group of ordinary citizens and advocacy organizations to gather up to 12,000 in-person signatures between March 4 and Aug. 31. This will allow the public to vote to amend the Baltimore County Charter to expand the Council size by four more Council  districts in the Nov. 8 election. This would increase the number of county districts from seven to eleven. This would also enlarge the Board of Appeals, Planning, and other boards.

Since the original County Charter was written in 1955, the county’s population has  grown from 350,000 to nearly 860,000 residents. Adding 4MORE! districts would reduce district sizes from 123,000 to 78,000 residents per council member. This  would update the 67-year-old seven district structure, allowing more minorities, women, and young adults who want a voice in local government to have an opportunity for a seat at the decision table. 

Both Montgomery and Prince Georges County Councils voluntarily  introduced referendums to amend their charters to enlarge their council size recently. They will elect additional council members this November. That was not done by the Baltimore County Council, thereby necessitating a public petition to add a ballot question.

The ballot initiative would require district maps to be redrawn by the Redistricting Commission with equitable representation and more citizen input. Smaller districts would allow greater access to council members, increased accountability, productivity, and provide more opportunities for the election of women, minorities, young adults, and other underrepresented groups. If passed, the effective date  of the amendment will be 12/8/22. Four more Council members would be elected in 2026.

The 4MORE! 4BALTIMORECOUNTY Ballot Issue Committee will hold a press conference Thursday, March 3 at 10 a.m. at  the Randallstown Community Center, 3505 Resource Drive Randallstown, MD 21133. Members of the public and LWV Baltimore County are welcome 


LWVBCo upcoming vote to expand County Council seats 

Janury 2022 The following letter was written by Ericka McDonald, copresident) and emailed to members.

LWV Baltimore County plans a vote on changing one of our positions at the 10 a.m. February 3, 2022 board meeting. 

We have a local position in favor of maintaining the current number of county council seats which was approved in 1992 and 2002. Since then, the population in Baltimore County has expanded significantly and the Black population is compressed into one councilmanic district, diluting their representation

Our current position is:  

"ACTION to support maintaining the present number (7) of County Council Districts (1992) (2002)." (2021 Positions)

Our league recently spoke up and joined an ACLU lawsuit in opposition to the racially gerrymandered redistricting plan. Another strategy to address this issue is to create additional council districts which could create additional majority-minority districts. The advocacy community in Baltimore County is planning to collect signatures to place this issue on the ballot as a referendum. One of our members, Linda Dorsey Walker, is already working with the Fair Maps Coalition to collect signatures. 

This issue is of great importance from a systemic inequality perspective and is in conflict with our Diversity Equity and Inclusion policy (Bylaws). Our position is out of date with what's happening in the county. If we keep the existing position, we will be unable to advocate for racial justice by championing an increase in councilmanic districts in Baltimore County. 

We should support the expansion of county council seats for the following reasons: 

  • Our council districts currently each represent around 122,000 people. By contrast, Howard County's districts represent about 60,000 each and Montgomery County has 7 districts representing about 150,000 people AND four at-large representatives. 
  • The Black population of Baltimore County is currently packed into a single district. Creating more districts could create more minority-majority districts and give Black residents equitable representation. 
  • Creation of more districts would create more opportunity for people not currently represented on the council - women, youth, LGBTQ+, and people of color. 

Because this is an issue of fair representation and apportionment covered by the LWVUS positions on voting rights, the LWVUS advises that we may invite members for input and have the board vote on the issue. We welcome your input. Please feel free to send me your input via email in advance of the meeting, or plan to attend the board meeting Thursday, Feb. 3 at 10 a.m. using this Google Meets link.


County Council Observer Corps: Sept 2020

Since COVID restrictions are in place, visiting County Council sessions has been made easy with online access. We continue to follow them virtually and encourage all County residents to view them using the following link. The next session is Monday, December 7, 2020 Legislative Session - 6 p.m.

The Legislative Session can be joined by the public online here or by phone at +1-415-655-0001 US Toll  - Event number (access code): 180 304 9963

The public is also encouraged to continue to provide written testimony or comment by email or traditional mail.   Please send all emails to [email protected] 

As reported in our September 2020 newsletter:

Our Co-Presidents sent a letter to the County Council in support of Council Resolution No. 76-20
“establishing the Baltimore County Adequate Facilities Ordinance (APFO) Task Force to help the
County adapt to the pressure that growth places on school capacity and for the purpose of providing a
predictable planning environment for the provision of public school facilities by requiring development
projects to pass certain tests as a condition of development approval.”
The task force will issue its findings to the County Executive and County Council by November 1st
.
League member Yara Cheikh will represent us on this seven-member task force.

January 28, 2020 County Council Observer Corp Report

LWV Observers: Eileen Robier, Betsy Sexton, and Carol Wynne, submitted by B. Sexton

To our members: Did you know that Council Work Session are live streamed and archived on the Baltimore County Council website? Under “Meetings” click on “Work Session Agendas and Videos,https://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/countycouncil/meetings/index.html The following review is from our league visit on Tuesday, January 28, 2020.

Resolution 21-20 Sponsors- Council members Kach (D 3), Marks (D 5) and Patoka (D 2)

Background: How can the council offer more opportunity for more public involvement in the legislative process? Does the 2 p.m. work session create an obstacle for many working people who would like to testify in person?

This Resolution would change the time of the bi-weekly work session from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. or later, as determined by the council Chair.  At work sessions, citizens can give in-person input on bills before the council.  Citizens can also testify on bills after they are voted on in bi-weekly evening legislative sessions. Council members will also consider holding legislative sessions at 4 p.m. and work sessions at 6 p.m. so that county department heads and other employees would not work late – incurring overtime costs on two additional days each month.

Points discussed:

  • Some, but not all council members have had constituent complaints about 2 p.m. work sessions.
  • Citizens always have the options of email, letters, phone calls and in-person meetings with council people. Council proceedings are now live streamed and archived online. If they know in advance that a bill will be introduced at an evening legislative session, citizens can comment on it at the end of the evening session. Councilwoman Bevins asked, “Can the Council do better about communicating about upcoming legislation?”
  • When bills are amended, there is often too little time for public comment before they are voted on.  Adopted in August 2019, Resolution 92-19 extended from 40 days to 65 days the maximum time allowed for council consideration and public input on a bill.  This requires a majority vote by the council.\

Other matters:

  • FM-2  (Contract) District 2 (Councilman Patoka) would acquire for $432,000 a 4-acre parcel of land on Church Lane using County Open Space funds to create a pocket park. (Per Councilman Patoka, District 2 does not have a single Rec Center.)
  • Bill 2-20 would require that an assistive listening system such as an induction loop system be installed whenever county funds are used to build or renovate a facility that has an indoor “assembly area” needing a public address system.  Also, the Commission on Disabilities would be required to have 1-3 members representing those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Our next visits are on February 11 and 25. We urge all members to join us as we continue to visit work sessions.


HOME Act and the Housing Choice Voucher

October 27, 2019

League of Women Voters of Baltimore County testimony to the Baltimore County Council Concerning the HOME Act Bill No. 49-19.

The League of Women Voters of Baltimore County is proud to be a member of the Baltimore County Voters for Fair Housing Coalition. We support passage of Bill No. 49-19 without a percent cap amendment.

 The League has worked for many years for equal opportunity in access to housing, employment and education.  Our members in the Baltimore County chapter have voted to make the HOME Act a priority issue. 

As you know, the HOME Act addresses a difficulty that some county residents face – being turned away from rental housing solely because of the source of their income. This legislation will de-concentrate poverty and will open up housing opportunities throughout the county.  Those with Housing Choice Vouchers will have a fair chance to have their rental applications considered. It will reduce the time it now takes to find housing and make it easier for working families to move closer to their jobs. For families with school age children the HOME Act would also mean greater choice in school districts. No landlord will be prohibited from screening potential tenants, including rental history and ability to pay rent

Why do we oppose a percent cap amendment to Bill No. 49-19? Such a cap would unfairly stigmatize Housing Choice Voucher holders and contravene the principle of equality of opportunity for all people, a foundation of fair housing and equal protection laws.

League of Women Voters members live in all areas of the county, and we want our neighborhoods and the county as a whole to thrive. We believe that our county should join the 12 states and 75 jurisdictions (including Anne Arundel, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery Counties) that have added source of income to their fair housing laws.

 

Submitted by Betsy Sexton, Board of Directors Advocacy Chair