Under federal and state law, the Baltimore City needs to re-draw the boundaries of city council districts to reflect the change in population noted in the 2020 Census. All 14 district boundaries must be adjusted in order to balance the population of each district close to the average population for each district of 41,836. (Baltimore lost 35,000 residents, or 6 percent of its population, between the 2010 and 2020 Census.)
In addition, each district is required by law to be compact and contiguous and reflect natural boundaries such as waterways. demographic characteristics and communities of interest must also be considered. There is no legal requirement to respect neighborhood or community association boundaries.
The mayor submitted a proposed redistricting map on Sept. 18. It cuts Bolton Hill roughly in half. Any map changes must provide for transfers of whole voting precincts, as no provision is made for splitting precincts. Bolton Hill has three complete voting precincts and part of a fourth.
Under the mayor’s proposal, Bolton Hill, which now is in the 11th district represented by Eric Costello, would be partly transferred into the 7th district, represented from 2020 by James Torrence. This change reflects the loss of population in the 7th district and the increase in 11th district population and would be changed by transferring three precincts north of McMechen St. to the 7th district. The 11th district currently runs from the Inner Harbor and much of South Baltimore through downtown and Mt. Vernon to North Ave. and west to include Upton.
Both council members attended the BHCA October meeting to discuss redistricting after receiving letters from the organization’s leadership opposing the separation and requesting to be made whole in either district. On a conference call with several BHCA leaders and others on Sept. 20, Costello said the plan was dropped on the city council with no notice or consultation. No one from the mayor’s office has reached out to BHCA. Costello said he was “not happy” with the plan but did not indicate he would fight to keep Bolton Hill in one district, nor did Torrence, who said his district (which includes Reservoir Hill, Druid Hill Park and follows North Ave. past Coppin State University) already has a couple of divided neighborhoods.
The city council has limited time to review and propose map amendments, which may be subject to a veto by the mayor. Under city charter rules, the entire redistricting process is targeted to be completed within 60 days of the mayor’s submission of a proposed redistricting map. The council held an online town hall meeting on Oct. 5, the first opportunity for public input. BHCA President Amy Sheridan asked that Bolton Hill be left intact in either district 7 or 11.