In the name of southern Prince George's County, the black community, and "good government," an unlikely collection of political allies turned out yesterday to protest a proposed County Council redistricting plan.
The group consisted mainly of Greenbelt residents and politicians but they were joined by several south county civic groups, representative of women's organizations, the ACLU and the League of Women Voters in contending that the new redistricting plan gives the south county in general and blacks in particular too little representation on the council. In addition, they charged, the proposal denies Greenbelt effective representation by lumping that liberal Democratic community with the much larger conservative Republican city of Bowie.
The angry citizens threatened council members with lawsuits this year and political retribution in next fall's elections. Nonetheless, the plan is still likely to win approval when the council takes final action on it next week.
Redistricting is necessary because county residents last fall approved an amendment to the Prince George's charter requiring each of nine council members to run from a single district. Until now, the council has consisted of 11 members, all elected at large, with five designated to represent individual districts.
The current plan was adopted in September by a council-appointed redistricting commission. New Carrollton lawyer Thomas Hendershot, author of the proposal, acknowledges that in drawing up the plan he gave careful consideration to its possible impact on the current members of the council.
All 30 speakers supported an alternative plan drawn by south county Republican Ella Ennis, one that would create three districts entirely below Pennsylvania Avenue, three majority black seats and link Bowie with South Laurel instead of Greenbelt.
"The final decision rests with you," Ennis, who is considering political office herself next year, told the council. "Do you vote for a plan for the citizens or do you vote for a plan for yourselves?"