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Bloomington's mayor talks about redistricting, street renaming, and the anniversary of historic flooding

Charlie Schlenker

Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe appeared on WGLT's Sound Ideas on Wednesday to discuss redrawing the city's ward map, honorary street renamings, and the one-year anniversary of historic flooding in the city.


Mwilambwe said city council wards will need significant adjustments during redistricting, noting that Ward 8, which takes in the east side Grove subdivision area near the airport and Old Farm Lakes subdivision, had significant growth in the last decade and now includes more than 10,000 residents.

"If everything was to be divided equally, it should be in the 8,700 range or so. With 10,000, you are going to have a significant shift there," said Mwilambwe. “It's going to be very difficult to come to that exact number. You'll have some variations. But you want the least amount of deviation possible.”

Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe
Emily Bollinger
WGLT file
Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe.

Mwilambwe said Ward 7 on the northwest side had significant population loss and also will need an adjustment.

The mayor said public input on ideas for new maps will last through the end of the month and when staff draw new maps there will also be a public comment opportunity. He said no citizen has submitted a draft map yet.

“Not that I've seen. And actually I think that is a process that can be fairly complicated. When we did it in 2013, I don't remember seeing anyone from the public submit their map, but you never know. Things are different today. So, we'll see,” said Mwilambwe.

What's in a name

Twice in the last few years, the City of Bloomington has renamed streets for prominent people — one for a soldier who lost his life, Josh Rodgers, and another for civil rights workers Henry Gay Sr. and Merlin Kennedy.

Mwilambwe said the city decided each were special cases, but staff is now creating a process to consider future renaming proposals.

"We have to look at what those individuals have done as having played a significant role in bettering the community. For things like, that we may have to rely on historians," said Mwilambwe.

The mayor said people who gain national or world prominence in the arts also may deserve recognition, adding the process to consider renaming should be ready sometime in the fall.

Flood anniversary

One year ago, hundreds of Bloomington residents were flooding out, pumping out, and in some cases digging out after torrential rains caused widespread basement water problems and sewer backups. Some building foundations sustained damage or even collapsed. Antiquated combined storm and sanitary sewers added to the problems created by the rapid intense rainfall.

Mwilambwe said the city has done a lot in the last year to prevent a recurrence.

“One of the things we have done is to try to put in place a process to accelerate the completion of the Locust-Colton sewer separation project. We also have put together a process to have a (stormwater runoff detention) basin nearby the library. And we are working on putting together some hydraulic modeling to allow us in the future to determine what else is needed to prevent issues like this,” said Mwilambwe.

The city increased grant money available to people harmed by sewer backups and flooding. Mwilambwe said he does not think another round of grants will be needed.

“The numbers are not huge. There was about something in the neighborhood of $100,000 we set aside through the Community Development Block Grant process. I don't think we reached that,” he said.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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