McLean County Board To Keep 10 Districts With 2 Members Each
The McLean County Board voted 17-3 in a special meeting Tuesday evening to keep the board's existing structure of 10 county board districts with two members per district.
The decision followed weeks of maneuvering and sometimes strident rhetoric about the effects of proposals to either expand the number of districts, or to reduce the number to five. Republicans Jim Soeldner, George Wendt, and Lyndsay Bloomfield voted against the resolution.
During discussion, Wendt portrayed the five-district proposal not as Democrats had claimed — a way to create districts with higher percentages of Republican votes — but rather as having rural issues heard and understood because constituents from both areas would be part of the districts.
“We have had several instances where the six members that have voted 'no' on an issue that affected the rural area where the 14 members that live in the cities voted against the six of us,” said Wendt. “In one meeting, they were voting against us on a wind farm that was not wanted in a township, absolutely not wanted. If the six of us had the power to put a dump in the middle of the city of Bloomington, the 14 would scream like hell.”
Republican Susan Schafer voted to keep the same number of districts and board members in each district, but acknowledged Wendt’s point about representation.
"We have to look at ourselves to be representative of every single person in this county. And yes, we all have our districts that have possibly various differences in who we are representing, but it’s still one county in the end,” she said.
The rancorous dispute, Democrat Lea Cline said, prompted citizen comment to her that she believed to be sincere.
“Most of the people that I have spoken to have expressed a sincere deficit of trust,” said Cline.
And she noted now that the board has settled the question of the number of districts and board members serving those districts, the actual redistricting has yet to happen.
“We do not want to feel or to appear as though we have jerry rigged or played around with, or done dirty things with this process,” said Cline
She said the new map will affect the county for a decade, and asked that the map-making not be done in secret, but by a bipartisan commission chosen not by one member, but by the full board.
“Let’s please try to proceed in a scientific manner, a mathematical manner, a statistical manner, a way that will make sure that our county can be proud of this process and not walk around for the next 10 years claiming some sort of grievance,” said Cline.
McLean County Board Chair John McIntyre acknowledged a high level of public criticism so far, but said there is virtue in the high level of public interest.
“I want you to know that’s the most input we have had as a county. I’m sure there are many counties that have not had this much. I’m hoping this has been a good thing. There has been a lot of heightened interest in our county board, more so than ever, and that will encourage (people) to have that public participation as we go on through the rest of our process,” said McIntyre.
He said the precise remapping process has yet to be determined, but noted the board, unlike municipalities, has a committee legislative structure.