Due out today from the Mayor’s troop, a proposed map of redrawn city council districts that must be finalized by April 1st, effects that would last for at least the next 10 years. The proposed redrawn districts (you can see the illustration here) would drastically change the makeup of certain districts, and depending on your take of the proposal, it’s either to group neighborhoods of a similar makeup together so that districts are better represented, or mostly politically oriented to curry favor by the mayor from seated and future council members. The centerpiece of the redistricting process are districts 9, 10, and 11, which would undergo rather striking transformations which beg at least a certain level of examination. District 11, in particular, would swell in size (nearly double) to include Federal Hill, Locust Point and portions of Riverside, essentially adding more rich white people to the 11th while subtracting them from the considerably less wealthy 10th district. This would in effect make the 11th one of the most powerful districts, while others become more “in line with the racial makeup of the city.”
I put that last part in quotes because of one important thing: the racial makeup of the city hasn’t really changed in the last ten years, with the exception of tremendous growth of the Latin community in Upper Fells Point and portions of Highlandtown. You can actually visualize this with a handy map put out last month by the New York Times, which shows the racial makeup, median income, education level and living situation of every census block in the city – give it a whirl, it’s kind of shocking:
Has the racial makeup changed, as seen on the left? Not really, but the median income of the neighborhoods to be added to the 11th (on the right) are certainly a lot higher than they were 10 years ago, and the inherent shift of represented citizens in each of these districts makes it much easier for seated council members to run for re-election when, essentially, all of the folks they’re trying to get votes from are “the same.” Or, to put it another way, it’s “easier” for council members to represent their constituents when they’re “more alike” due to redistricting. To whit, 11th district’s Bill Cole becomes whiter and wealthier, while 10th district’s Ed Reisinger less white and poorer on the whole.
This whole process is certainly new to me as I wasn’t exactly paying attention to these types of things ten years ago, but it seems a bit odd that in an effort to better represent our citizenry we’re essentially defaulting to a classist/racist approach; the brass ring of diversity that we hear so many elected officials poetically opine for really, REALLY doesn’t necessarily exist in this town, and from the looks of it*, probably won’t for a great deal of time.
*strongly encourage anyone interested in this topic to play around with the NYT map and visit other cities – the level of segregation is hardly unique to Baltimore.