Rolley: Sudden redistricting changes don't pass the "smell test"
Mayoral candidate Otis Rolley is questioning an eleventh-hour decision by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's law department to implement newly drawn City Council district boundaries today, a departure from past practices.
Rolley said the sudden shift "doesn't pass the smell test" and said Rawlings-Blake "owes the public an explanation, and she should not hide behind legalities or spokespeople.”
The city solicitor referred questions about the memo to a mayoral spokesman yesterday. Spokesman Ryan O'Doherty did not return repeated requests for comment yesterday.
Update: O'Doherty said today that this is "a legal matter that is being carefully and thoroughly reviewed by Solicitor Nilson and should not be politicized."
He said the mayor had asked Nilson to personally review the opinion yesterday prior to inquiries from The Baltimore Sun.
About 72,000 people found themselves in new council districts today in accordance with an opinion quietly issued by the law department last week. During nearly two months of hearings on the redistricting plan, officials said the new changes wouldn't take effect until December.
"I am concerned that it could confuse voters, further lessen their faith in the process and decrease voter participation," Rolley said in a statement. "I pray that this is not a voter suppression tactic in the disguise of mayoral prerogative.”
" I pray that this is not a voter suppression tactic in the disguise of mayoral prerogative," Rolley said.
Rolley's full statement is below:
Today, the Baltimore Sun reported that following approval of a new redistricting plan, as many as 72,000 Baltimoreans - 1 in 9 - will be in a new councilmanic district effective April 1st, not after this fall’s elections. This change blatantly contradicts what the residents of Baltimore City involved in the process were led to believe. Otis Rolley today called on the Mayor to explain why this change was made when Baltimoreans were told something else.
“It simply doesn’t make sense why the Mayor and her lawyer have made the decision to change representation effective April 1st when less than 3 weeks ago, at the redistricting hearings, we were told the change would go into effect after this year's general election," Otis said today. “This change doesn't pass the smell test. Where is the transparency promised in the Mayor's State of the City address? I am concerned that it could confuse voters, further lessen their faith in the process and decrease voter participation. I pray that this is not a voter suppression tactic in the disguise of mayoral prerogative.”
“In an election year, when there’s no obvious reason why a change like this is being made, there needs to be more disclosure,” said Otis. “Government must be transparent. The Mayor owes the public an explanation, and she should not hide behind legalities or spokespeople.”