Area Mayors, Will County Farm Bureau Take Issue with County Board Redistricting Plans

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A pair of proposals outlining Will County’s redistricting plans prompted dozens to speak out Monday during a public hearing.

Under a proposal, created by County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, the county board would be made up of 11 two-member districts. Another plan, put together by a county board committee, features a map in which representation is structured using a modified version of the existing 13 two-member districts.

The county is required by law to redraw its map every 10 years to coincide with the release of the latest U.S. Census data, which is used to inform how government representation and resources are divvied between communities.

What’s at Issue?

In a letter submitted on behalf of the Will County Farm Bureau, Board President Steve Warrick shared a concern about the county executive’s proposal and how it could impact farmers who believe reducing the number of districts leads to a weakening of county board representation.

“Any shift away from a 13-district map to an 11-district map will basically make it extremely hard, if not impossible, to have any rural or unincorporated representation,” Warrick wrote.

Several area mayors and village presidents shared that sentiment, saying communities like Frankfort, New Lenox and Mokena share little in common with those in the more rural eastern part of Will County, such as Crete, Monee and Steger.

Bertino-Tarrant issued a statement, saying that county board representation will not be weakened under her proposal.

“From the beginning, I outlined my principles for redistricting-reduce the size of the board, keep communities of interests together and keep municipalities intact to the best of our abilities, all while working within population deviations,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “The boundaries were drawn based on those principles and, in turn, reduced two members of the current board from both parties for a total of four seats. The argument that representation of individuals will be reduced because of less board members is unfounded. Twenty-six board members is a large board, especially in comparison to our neighbors who have much higher populations and fewer board members.”

County Board Comments

Board member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, said she believes both maps will benefit those who may feel neglected by the county board.

“I believe in keeping our farm land and making sure we have fair representation for everyone, including our farmers,” Ventura said. “I do think that these maps both are fair for farmers. But indeed, it is the 11-district map that strengthens the representation for farmers the most.”

Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, urged the county board to get behind the 13-district map.

“The map was a fair map and done in open session with the public,” Moustis said. “The executive’s map is a map that is written in the backroom by a person with no input from county board members that I’m aware of.”

Community Feedback

Each redistricting proposal saw its share of support and opposition expressed by residents during the public hearing.

Anthony Granata of Frankfort urged the county to reject the county executive’s plan, saying he believes it’s an attempt to reduce Republican representation on the board.

“What [the county executive] is doing is she’s taking what she learned in the state senate and she’s bringing it right here to Will County,” Granata said. “I’ve always prided myself to say I was from Will County because we weren’t corrupt like Cook County and the state of Illinois. She’s coming from the state senate becoming our executive and she’s bringing the exact thing that all of us disagree with to Will County.”

Ellen Moriarty of Homer Township disagreed.

“All the board seats will be open in 2022 and everyone will have the opportunity to run an honest race to keep their seat,” Moriarty said. “That sounds fair to me.”

Moving Forward

The redistricting plan, whichever the board approves, is required to be filed with the county clerk by Nov. 3. At that point, officials are also required to set the number of districts the county intends to have.

Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead.

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