Your new city council districts: Or, Baltimore loves segregation

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.

11 thoughts on “Your new city council districts: Or, Baltimore loves segregation

    1. Seeing as how the median income seems to be married to racial boundaries, it’s hard to ignore, but I see your thought process in the whole thing.

  1. Actually, the move of the 10th is not terribly surprising, and given that Ed Reisinger’s roots are in Morrell Park it makes sense. He was not going to last long in the current 10th, for much the same reasons George Della was defeated in 2010. Both politicians cater to voters of a different era, and the current 10th does not fit.

    I will not debate that this is reward for Reisinger toeing the party line. It’s somewhat disappointing for me as a resident of Pigtown, but I can only hope uniting the neighborhood in one district is a good thing.

  2. The possibility of Federal Hill and Locust Point leaving District 10 and joining another district doesn’t mean a hill of beans to the rest of us here. In fact, BYE! There is a big pond called the Middle Branch that separates us anyway. Other district 10 neighborhoods south of M&T Stadium like Brooklyn, Curtis Bay, Lakeland, Mt Winans, Cherry Hill and Westport have always been an afterthought at City Hall. It’s not necessarily the fault of the current or even previous administration. It’s a fact that most city officials live East or West, not South. Still, this is no excuse. Ed Reisinger is a wonderful, consistent, attentive, and most importantly, visible person who treat us less wealthy neighborhoods with the upmost respect. In my opinion, he’s our Mayor. I’m already tired of the mayoral mud-slinging, hiding behind your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and celebrity fundraising events, but no one is coming to talk to the people. We shouldn’t have to seek political incumbents and current city officials, FIND US.

    1. Thank you Keisha!

      Is it just me, or politicians only visit Cherry Hill, Westport, Curtis Bay etc. during election time, or when they need a shot of “street cred”? (Paging Patricia Jessamay and Sheila Dixon). I honestly believed that South Baltimore and the communities mentioned have been neglected for the last 40-50 years.

  3. Bill Cole at this point is ruing the day they drew the map this way. It probably made tremendous political sense to him, but he inherited me in Locust Point and the one city area I love is Fremont and Dolphin. This places me in his district and I can rag on him incessantly about the all the issues I see over in West Baltimore. I’m going to make this new map work for me, and I have every intention of making Bill Cole’s life a living hell.

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