Gardner Mayor Tom Wise plans to put in some phone calls about the treatment his corner of Grundy County received from the Democratic redistricting mapmakers.
His unhappiness stems from the fact that not only is the southeastern corner of Grundy County missing from the proposed new 38th Senate District, but it’s out of the proposed 75th Illinois House District as well.
The southeastern corner, including Gardner, South Wilmington and East Brooklyn, is being placed in the proposed new 79th District, which takes in a great deal of Kankakee County.
“It will be a big hurt on us,” Wise said Tuesday about the shuffle in the district maps, which he had not yet seen, following their release last Wednesday for the Senate version, and late Friday for the new 75th House District.
“You won’t even know where Gardner, South Wilmington, and East Brooklyn will be,” Wise noted. “Nobody will know where we’re at. I suppose I’ll contact the county board and see if we’ll still exist. I think I’ll make a couple of phone calls. Will we lose a couple county board members?”
Wise expects to have some answers by Friday. Meanwhile, the General Assembly expects to approve the new legislative districts — maybe with a bit of tweaking here and there — by the end of the month on Tuesday, May 31.
Morris Republican Pam Roth represents the 75th District, and Senator Sue Rezin, R-Morris, the 38th Senate District.
The redistricting process is not yet finished, a spokesman at Roth’s office in Springfield noted Monday.
“We won’t know until near the end of the month what the new district looks like,” she said. “Changes happen, minute by minute. That’s how it is, until the map is actually voted on.”
Roth got her first peek at the new proposed district late Friday. Meetings to give the public a chance to see the proposed district were conducted in Chicago Saturday and Sunday, with another meeting in Springfield on Monday.
“The southeast portion of Grundy County is out of my (75th) district, and its pushed into Kendall County to the Plano area,” Roth said of the district she currently represents.
“My district goes really far north. We lost Bourbonnais and Herscher to the 79th District in Kankakee County, and moved into Kendall County.”
According to the 2010 Census on which the new legislative district maps are based, the city of Chicago lost 200,000 people, with the suburbs gaining many of them. This meant the legislative districts in Chicago got bigger in the redistricting process, and those in the suburbs were reduced in size to compensate.
An example was the 84th House District headed by State Representative and GOP leader Tom Cross of Oswego. The census indicated a population of 200,000, which meant the size of the district had to be reduced to 180,000.
“The district north of me had to lose several thousand population as well,” Roth said. “It’s getting every district to the optimum number of constituents. I wasn’t involved in the redistricting process, and nobody saw the maps until they came out Friday.”
Some states, like Iowa, have the whole redistricting pr0cess administered by a third, uninvolved party. Roth noted that if she is still in office when the redistricting process rolls around after the 2020 Census, she will promote the third-party administrative process to the House.
“The thing is, Illinois is a political animal and they like to keep things political,” she said.
Roth thinks, however, that lawmakers will take the third-party idea into consideration next time.
Meanwhile, she said the new 75th District is significantly different from the current map in the loss of the southeast corner of Grundy County, and part of the area west of Seneca in Grundy County. That area west of Seneca in La Salle County west to DePue in Bureau County is in the proposed new 76th District. State Representative Frank Mautino, a Spring Valley Democrat, currently represents that district.
Gardner Village Commissioner Dick Heilman said Tuesday he knew nothing about the redistricting in the county’s southeast corner.
“We’d be in (Kankakee Democrat) Lisa Duggan’s 40th District. I’d have to say it’s going to hurt us. I’ve been on the village board here for 12 years, and we got about $25,000 from (former 75th District Democratic) Representatives Careen Gordon (Morris), and $150,000 from Mary Kay O’Brien (Coal City). When (Morris Republican) Jerry Weller was our Congressman, we never got nothing,” he said.
“I’ve never spoken to the woman (Roth), and we’ve never gotten any help at all since (former 38th District Republican Senator) Gary Dahl resigned. When we put in a new industrial Tax Increment Financing District, Dahl was supposed to help us, but he put it into another bill and it went down the tube.
“I had to get Senator A. J. Wilhelmi (Will County Democrat) and (former Democratic) Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson to introduce the bill and get it through. I couldn’t get any help from my own district.”
Roth noted the difficulty in trying to decipher from the maps posted on the Internet the actual lines of the proposed new districts and exact location of communities adjacent to the lines. Although the boundary lines are there, the numbers of the districts are not, she noted.
“Isn’t that by design?” she said. “Unfortunately, we were not involved in the process.”
The important thing is whether the redistricting has been a fair and transparent process, Roth noted.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “The first time we saw the map is the first time everyone in Illinois sees one. I would think we should have an input all along.”
The new districts should not affect such projects in the Gardner and South Wilmington areas as improvements to county roads, for instance. Even if state grants are involved, it is still a county project, not a legislative-district project.
The awkward situation for Roth is having to learn the area in the new district where she will be running for re-election in November 2012, while still representing the current 75th District.
“It could almost be a good thing in that they’ll have me representing them in those parts of the current district that will be going into new districts, while someone else running for election in the new district comes into those parts to campaign,” she said.
“That means (the public) will have two different people listening to you — your current representative and the other candidate who is trying to get your votes for 2012.”