probably get [enactment of] a change in the [state] Senate [but]
I don't think we could do it in the House [of Representatives],"
he told a meeting of Council's executive committee on Mar. 11.
He explained that a strong Republican majority in the lower
house "which won't even discuss it in caucus" would be all but
impossible to overcome. Democrats control the Senate.
voter registrations would seem to indicate that dividing present
districts, as required by the law, would create seats for at
least three new Republicans and possibly as many as five, that
division is not explicable by partisan politics. Council, which
presently consists of six representative districts and a
president elected at-large, has five Democrats and two
said that when he attempted in 2001 to lobby the General
Assembly on behalf of a Council resolution asking that the law
be amended to provide for a nine-member Council, in lieu of the
present seven-member body, he had "a polite, brief exchange
[and] the answer was 'no'." The law was enacted five years ago
and takes effect for the November, 2004, general election.
neither Delaware's three counties nor its incorporated
municipalities, including Wilmington, Newark and Dover, have
home rule, the state legislature controls the shape of their
governments and sets the groundrules for how they are to
member William Tansey said a more recent conversation with
Representative Wayne Smith, majority leader in the House of
Representatives had the same result. "He said 'no and that's the
end of the conversation'," Tansey said. Councilwoman Karen
Venezky said she "got the same response" when she attempted to
raise the issue with Smith at a recent breakfast meeting with
disputed Tansey's account saying that it neither reflected his
attitude toward receiving opposing views nor accurately
described their discussion of the issue. But the legislator told
Delaforum he remains opposed to changing the law. "I think the
current law is fine," he said. "We've talked about this several
times in [the Republican] caucus and there does not seem to be
much support at all for rolling back the expansion."
at the executive committee meeting to an effort by the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine
Hundred to have the law repealed in favor of further study,
Penrose Hollins said, "They're just kidding themselves. They
should stop wasting everyone's time."
Brandywine Council has enlisted the support of the Civic League
for New Castle County, a broader umbrella civic group, according
to William Narcowich, its president. He told the County Council
committee that his organization passed a resolution at its
January meeting adopting the Brandywine Council's position by a
vote of 20-to-4. The resolution, which he said had not
previously been made public pending preparation of a more
clearly worded one, superceded one passed in 2001 calling for
the law to be amended to provide for a nine-member County
said he still favors nine -- eight district representatives and
a president elected at-large -- so that Council members are in
"closer touch with the community" and to prevent the possibility
that a majority of them could live in incorporated areas rather
than the unincorporated areas in which 75% of the county's
population lives. Hollins, who lives in Wilmington, took issue
with the implication that such members do not act for the
benefit of the county as a whole.
Brandywine Council president Daniel Bockover, who did not attend
the executive committee meeting, previously has said his main
objection to a larger County Council is the additional cost that
it will incur.
Council member Robert Woods said he voted in favor of the 2001
resolution but no feels there has been enough change in the way
that county government handles land use matters -- by far the
bulk of Council's work -- to justify "taking a second look" at
the issue. Specifically, he referred to far fewer controversial
rezoning requests coming before Council following enactment of
the Unified Development Code.
said he now favors retaining the present seven-member setup but
accepts the fact that the law calls for expansion. "People are
confused," he said, but added that that "is the law; it has
who was elected to Council in November, said he is surprised by
the amount of time the position, which is considered a part-time
effort, entails. "I'm in here [several] hours a day," he said.
He agreed with Hollins that the law is not likely to be changed.
"I think we're wasting our time; we just have to accept it," he
not take a vote or poll of members' positions, but concluded
that the consensus of the committee meeting was that "seven
would be better than not expanding" but that Council will comply
fully and in good faith with the law if it is not altered
between now and June 30, when the General Assembly adjourns the
present session. All Council members are members of the
Dulin, its lawyer, said that Council by Aug. 1 will have to
establish an ad hoc commission, composed of representatives of
each of the present Council members, to set geographic
boundaries creating the additional districts. That will provide
the required 90 days to complete its work so that Council can
approve the new districts by Oct. 31, which is 60 days before
they are to become final by Dec. 31.
To a lay
observer, it would seem that the commission's work will be
simply a matter of drawing either north-south or east-west lines
across present districts, splitting them into two zones with
nearly equal population. The law requires that those populations
not deviate more than 15% from the average of all districts, but
Council set a plus or minus 5% as the standard when districts
were reapportioned for the 2002 election and the commission
established for that task was able to meet it.
said that present districts should simply be divided, rather
than requiring all-new districts, since 2000 U.S. Census data
remains the basis for the apportionment.
Nevertheless, Dulin said, the commission and Council will have
to be attentive to such details as assuring that candidates to
represent the additional districts are able to meet the one-year
residency requirement and that the new districts are numbered
appropriately. Presumably, the portion of the existing district
in which the present Council member lives becomes the 'old'
district and the other portion will be the 'new' one. Present
members will not stand for re-election in 2004. Electing the new
ones to four-year terms then will provide for a staggered
said that Dulin's timetable essentially gives Council until July
to begin the districting process. The Assembly is slated to
adjourn its present session on June 30. "If nothing is done [to
change the law] by then, we'll be ready to move forward," he