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Peoria City Council takes a first look at new district map possibilities

peoria_city_hall__side_view.jpg
Robert Lawon
/
Wikimedia Commons

Peoria City Council members have agreed to look at further changes to the city's five council districts in the remapping process, after initial reactions to the drafted maps for the next 10 years raised concerning neighborhood splits, demographic changes and district burden.

In the first of many scheduled special policy sessions*, council members will decide what new configuration will represent Peoria this decade.

Speaking before the council discussion on Tuesday, City Manager Patrick Urich and Senior Urban Planner Josh Naven broke down the necessary population changes and criteria.

These population changes are:

  • District 1 needs to grow by 3,938 people
  • District 2 needs to grow by 1,555 people
  • District 3 needs to grow by 1,113 people
  • District 4 needs to contract by 1,329 people
  • District 5 needs to contract by 5,568 people

The Committee as a Whole saw three map iterations using these five criteria items:

  • Districts need to be nearly equal in population.
  • Districts need to be compact.
  • Districts need to be contiguous.
  • Districts need to respect the geographical boundaries, political subdivisions, or communities with actual shared interests.
  • Preservation of incumbent districts.

“Also using existing neighborhood associations as provided by the Peoria Police Department,” Naven said. “Their data set for neighborhood associations to try to ensure as much as possible that we weren’t splitting up groups of neighborhood associations. Using existing thoroughfares just as the criteria has noted and just trying to be in that 5% deviation for the overall population to make sure we weren’t going over or under that specific item.”

Council members would find that maintaining the 5% deviation means the software would split up Moss Bradley, the East Bluff and other parts of the city.

“I certainly would be opposed to splitting up the Moss Bradley neighborhood association between two districts,” at-large council member Beth Jensen said. The association would be divided between the 1st District and 2nd District.

“Certainly, all of our attempts are made to try to keep those specific neighborhood associations in place. Sometimes the number may become the more important criterion at that point in time,” Naven said.

Mayor Rita Ali said it may come down to a matter of perspective with neighborhoods having multiple council members representing them.

“As the current 3rd District councilman, I would say map one gives me a little pause because it splits the East Bluff into three separate council districts,” council member Timothy Riggenbach said. “Taking into account what you just said , mayor, about perhaps allowing more representation that’s definitely a consideration, but it concerns me that the 1st District would have the South Side, the North Valley, and a big chunk of the East Bluffs. Those are three distinct neighborhoods … parts of town that need attention.”

Council member Riggenbach said map three does the same thing to the 1st District and creates a 3rd District he doesn’t recognize.

Later in discussion, Ali pointed out map three had an alcove with the 1st District absorbing part of the Bungalows development in the East Bluff.

“What I’m hoping to see is a version of the map that takes that out,” Ali said to Naven. “The west side of Prospect take that out of the 1st District. Because I think the 1st District is pretty challenged with having the South Side, the North Valley, and to add a dense population of the East Bluff I think it’s not doing justice for the representative as well as for the community to have such a large problematic area.”

Many of the council members would like to use the thoroughfares as much as possible to provide clarity to residents. Naven said his team will conduct number investigations to see what changes can stick in further map iterations.

4th District council member Andre Allen brought up concerns about his district’s decreasing diversity in the overall population.

Allen remarked the current district non-Hispanic Black population is 6,739 and map options one and two decreases the population demographic to 3,891 and 4,366, respectively.

“And then option three does creep back up a little bit at 5,992. So I wanted to point that out because I think it’s very important when I think of the diversity of the district that we try to maintain that in this next map,” Allen said.

In two weeks, the council will meet again to look over new iterations of district maps. Naven remarked the team will start at keeping the West Bluff together and see how it affects other districts. Each district should roughly contain 22,630 people.

“It is very clear over the past 10 years our population within the city is moving north,” Ali said to council members. “Of course, more affordable housing in certain districts like District One will hopefully create less loss of population.”

* Council had three prior policy sessions regarding redistricting (Sept. 28, Oct. 12, Dec. 14) and will continue on Feb. 1 with a virtual Zoom meeting. Ali remarked the decision came from the omicron spike in Peoria and hopefully by next month in-person discussions can be held on the topic.

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Brady Johnson is a correspondent at WCBU. He can be reached at bradyjohnson383@gmail.com.