Peoria City Council rejects additional policy sessions before Feb. 22 map adoption vote
After hearing some public opposition, council members divided on the redistricting process voted to deny new policy sessions before the map adoption vote on Feb. 22.
The scheduled public hearing, coming after last week’s second policy session on redistricting, had residents voicing concerns about the West Bluff split in map 2.3.
The Moss-Bradley Residential Association is divided between District 1 and 2 at the intersection of W. Fredonia Ave. and N. Glenwood Ave. where properties to the east are within District 2. Bradley University campus and the intersection at W. Main Street and N. University Street are the other dividing thoroughfares between districts one and two.
West Bluff Neighborhood Associations including Arbor and the Uplands will join the properties west of N. Glenwood Ave. in District 1.
1st District Councilmember Denise Jackson and At-large councilmember Beth Jensen said they received emails and some phone calls from concerned residents, some wanting another go at the pending district map.
West Bluff Council President Conrad Stinnett, during the public hearing, said all eight neighborhood associations were against splitting the West Bluff.
“We’re a diverse area of many people of various races, ethnicities [and] generations. Do we agree all the time…no, but I think we do agree that the West Bluff is a special place and should be maintained,” Stinnett said to council members.
West Bluff resident Joanne Bannon says the process seems rushed and would like the council to work towards keeping the bluff together. In Bannon’s remarks, she noted the attendance of Shari Wynn, President of the Moss Bradley Residential Association.
President of the Uplands Residential Association James Hinchee says connecting communities on the riverfront to communities up near W. Northmoor Rd. is problematic.
“It’s hard to reconcile how those communities can find common ground in their representatives,” Hinchee said to council members. “While I’m sure our representatives will do their best to represent everyone in their districts…the experiences [and] needs of those from the north to the south are going to be very different.”
Five other residents turned in four public comments sharing similar opposition to map 2.3.
“I think we owe it to the public to reconsider our proposal,” Councilmember Jensen said. “The map we ended up approving last week we received at 3:30 in the afternoon, before the policy session at 6’clock. The public was unaware of it unless they were tuning in at the meeting… they didn’t even have an opportunity to give input on it.”
The majority of the council was against any change as it would “undermine” the current process. Third District Councilmember Timothy Riggenbach says council members who are concerned about the map can vote against it in two weeks.
“I cannot support this motion that’s coming on the fly tonight,” Councilmember Riggenbach remarked. He said public input should digest for two weeks with a debate before the Feb. 22 map adoption vote - saying if it’s voted down the committee of the whole can take another look then.
Fourth District Councilmember Andre Allen says many constituents saw the map for the first time a day prior during the councilman’s virtual meeting: “Although we try our best to be transparent and promoted on various channels, sometimes people still just don’t see things,” Councilmember Allen said.
Councilmembers Chuck Grayeb, 2nd District and at-large councilmembers, John Kelly and Zach Oyler voiced their opposition to extending policy sessions - instead saying council members should stick with the scheduled plan.
“We’ve had some great conversation, I think we probably all have with citizens not only at the public here, but as we’re out in the neighborhoods. We’ve got a lot of really good feedback. ” At-large Councilmember Sid Ruckriegel said. “We’ve got nothing new that has really been added to be able to extend the conversation.” The councilman says they will consider the public comments when they vote at the next council meeting.
Corporation Counsel Chrissie Kapustka says she needs to double-check when the final map can go into effect - suggesting two weeks after the vote initially.
“If I thought another meeting would change the course of action I could support the motion, but I honestly don’t think another meeting will change the course of action,” Mayor Rita Ali said to Councilmember Jackson before her motion to retain new policy sessions failed by an 8-3 vote.
At-large Councilmember Kiran Velpula voted with Jackson and Jensen to retain additional policy sessions before the next regular meeting.