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McLean County To Hold In-Person Hearings On Redistricting

McLean County Board virtual meeting
Eric Stock
The McLean County Board's Executive Committee plans to hold three in-person redistricting meetings in April and May.

McLean County government will soon hold its first in-person meetings in more than a year as the county begins its once-a-decade remapping of County Board districts.The board on Thursday unanimously approved a change to its rules to allow for the nine-member Executive Committee and the public to appear in person in the County Board room (Room 400 of the Government Center, Bloomington) or virtually during three meetings in the coming weeks.

They are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 20; 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 26; and 7 p.m. Monday, May 3.

“We think it’s more workable, somebody could come in and sit down and present their case,” said County Board Chairman John McIntyre, adding the county will closely adhere to COVID protocolsgiven the recent surge in coronavirus cases.

The board has approved keeping all other meetings virtual through the end of May.

McIntyre said the county plans to use U.S. Census data to guide how the county will establish its county board districts for the next 10 years, though he said the county doesn't have all the Census data it needs yet and it's not clear when the county will get it. 

Currently, the county  hastwo board members in each of 10 districts. Seven of the 10 districts include parts of Bloomington-Normal. Republicans hold 11 of the 20 seats, though Democrats have made gains in the last several elections.

McIntyre said he wants to ensure the process enables the county board to reflect the diversity of the county’s population, such as “representing university students, rural areas, representing impoverished areas versus affluent areas.”

The redistricting process is guided by the executive committee that has eight Republicans and one Democrat. The panel is comprised of chairpersons from each of County Board committees.

McIntyre, a Republican, said redistricting is inherently political, but noted the county should aim for fairness.

“It’s a reality of this whole political thing until the state passes a Fair Maps representation, but we do want to be objective,” he said. 

McIntyre said he allocates committee assignments and committee chairs based on experience. The turnover on the county board in recent years has been mostly among Democrats.

McIntyre said members of the public who want to address the board must submit their request to the county 24 hours in advance. He said the county will schedule additional hearings if needed to accommodate everyone.

McIntyre said the executive committee plans to present final redistricting plans to the full county board for a vote on May 13.

The county is required to have its redistricting done place by July 1 for the 2022 elections, though McIntyre indicated the state of Illinois may delay that since the state has not provided counties with all of its census data yet.

Asian-American support

In another matter, board member Sharon Chung called out McIntyre for not signing a statement she requested calling for the county to denounce violence against Asian Americans, in response to the murder of several Asian-American women in Atlanta last month.

“My faith has truly been shaken in this past year because if you can’t even respect a fellow county board member, the only person of color on this 20-person board, what does that mean for the rest of the marginalized people in this community,” Chung said.

McIntyre indicated he wasn’t aware of Chung’s request and said he wanted to speak with her about it to resolve the issue.

“I don’t know whether it was a proclamation submitted that our office missed, but I will guarantee you if there was something, but obviously we want to be fair to all different types of people in this country,” McIntyre said after the meeting, adding the county could take up the proclamation next month.

Chung also said she felt “shock and horror to her core” when she saw a recent social media post that featured an unnamed county board member that referenced offensive language directed toward Asian American women.

She said after she publicly raised concerns for herself and her elderly parents following the shootings in Atlanta, she was disappointed she has heard no “remorse or apologies” from five county board members who voted against removing a reference to China in a COVID-19 emergency ordinance the County Board approved last March.

Innovation Network

The board also unanimously approved the county’s participation in the Innovation Network, a collaboration among Bloomington, Normal, Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan universities.

The agreement provides a framework for the government bodies and the universities to build on technology improvements in the community and to attract and retain workers in technology fields.

The City of Bloomington signed off on the pact on Monday.

Editor's note: WGLT corrected this story to reflect the social media post Chung referenced was not from a County Board member.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.